Propitiation for Sin: The Doctrine of Atonement in the Book of Exodus

When you think of “atonement,” what comes to mind? Many believers think of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world, and that is essential to the Christian faith: if Christ has not risen from the dead, then we are yet in our sins. Thus, in the atonement, the Father shows His love for the world and Jesus lays down His life, the righteous for the unrighteous, the godly for the ungodly, the just for the unjust.

In this study, we are going to take a look at the Doctrine of Atonement as it is revealed in the Word of God, the atonement bible verses. Now, we’re all familiar with atonement as it relates to Jesus being “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” as John says in John 1, but the concept of atonement in Scripture, including atonement in the Old Testament, shows that atonement was used not only to refer to the Crucifixion but was also used in a foreshadowing context to refer to the removal of sin and the wrath of God from the people of God. To see this, we’ll examine passages in Scripture that explicitly mention the word “atonement.”

Atonement in Exodus 12

Before the laws regarding sacrifices was written, while the Jews were in Egypt, the Lord mandated that they offer a sacrifice and apply its blood to their houses to avoid the deaths of their children – a punishment the Lord would bring upon the Egyptians:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3 Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4 And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6 Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8 Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9 Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. 10 You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11 And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover.

12 ‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

14 ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat—that only may be prepared by you. 17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’”

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb. 22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. 24 And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. 25 It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. 26 And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ 27 that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

The Lord tells the people that they are to keep the Passover by eating unleavened bread (no leaven, meaning that the bread wasn’t given any time to rise), along with bitter herbs. And they were to kill a lamb, sheep, or goat, and take the blood of the animal and put it on the lintel and doorposts of their homes (they were not to travel out that night). The Lord would strike the Egyptians and kill their firstborns, but he would spare Israel and the “stranger among them” if the blood of accepted animals was placed on the doorposts. Animals had to be slaughtered and blood applied to the lintel and doorposts for the Israelites to be spared the loss of their firstborn children.

Notice that the Lord told them to slaughter an animal, and take some of the blood and apply it to their homes. In Exodus 12:12-13, the Lord tells the Jews that the sign that will cause Him to pass over the Jews: 12 “‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. 13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” The blood would be the sign that would save the Jews. The blood would cause the Lord to pass over His people and not strike them by way of the plague. And the blood had to be applied to their homes in order to spare their lives.

There is a takeaway from Exodus 12: that is, that the lamb and the blood are indicative of the atonement Christ would provide as the Lamb of God who would be slain for the sins of the world (John 1:29). Next, the blood of the Lamb, shed for the remission of sins, had to be applied to their doorposts – and today, it must be applied to our hearts by faith. As Paul says in Romans 5, the gift of salvation must be received:

11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)

17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) (Romans 5:17)

In short, the Exodus from Egypt was a salvation experience. Moses and the people sing once the Lord rescues them at the Red Sea and drowns the Egyptians:

“I will sing to the Lord,

For He has triumphed gloriously!

The horse and its rider

He has thrown into the sea!

2 The Lord is my strength and song,

And He has become my salvation;

He is my God, and I will praise Him;

My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

3 The Lord is a man of war;

The Lord is His name.

4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;

His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.

5 The depths have covered them;

They sank to the bottom like a stone.

6 “Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power;

Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.

7 And in the greatness of Your excellence

You have overthrown those who rose against You;

You sent forth Your wrath;

It consumed them like stubble.

8 And with the blast of Your nostrils

The waters were gathered together;

The floods stood upright like a heap;

The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue,

I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil;

My desire shall be satisfied on them.

I will draw my sword,

My hand shall destroy them.’

10 You blew with Your wind,

The sea covered them;

They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

11 “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?

Who is like You, glorious in holiness,

Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

12 You stretched out Your right hand;

The earth swallowed them.

13 You in Your mercy have led forth

The people whom You have redeemed;

You have guided them in Your strength

To Your holy habitation.

14 “The people will hear and be afraid;

Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia.

15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;

The mighty men of Moab,

Trembling will take hold of them;

All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.

16 Fear and dread will fall on them;

By the greatness of Your arm

They will be as still as a stone,

Till Your people pass over, O Lord,

Till the people pass over

Whom You have purchased.

17 You will bring them in and plant them

In the mountain of Your inheritance,

In the place, O Lord, which You have made

For Your own dwelling,

The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.

18 “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.” (Exodus 15:1-18)

In Exodus 15, we see the Jews praising the Lord for their deliverance from Pharaoh and from Egyptian bondage after 430 years. In verse 2, they sing “the Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” The word “salvation” implies more than just being rescued from one incident. In Exodus 15:13 they sing, “You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed.” “Mercy” implies sin, the need to be pitied, and that describes the nation of Israel. God led them out of Egypt because He had pity on them, He sorrowed over His people being in bondage and grew tired of all they’d been through over 4 centuries. In verse 16, the Jews refer to themselves as “whom You have purchased.” The Jews are called the “purchased” people of the Lord. The Jews are called “the ransomed of the Lord” in Isaiah 35:10 and Isaiah 51:11:

A highway shall be there, and a road,

And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean shall not pass over it,

But it shall be for others.

Whoever walks the road, although a fool,

Shall not go astray.

9 No lion shall be there,

Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;

It shall not be found there.

But the redeemed shall walk there,

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

And come to Zion with singing,

With everlasting joy on their heads.

They shall obtain joy and gladness,

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:8-10)

“Mercy,” “you have purchased,” “salvation,” and even “wrath” in Exodus 15:7 all point to salvation as we know it, spiritual deliverance (not just literal here or physical deliverance from bondage). In Exodus 14, we’re given more insight into the salvation experience of the Jews:

30 So the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:30)

“The Lord saved Israel that day,” a reference to their salvation from physical and spiritual bondage. Then, “the people feared the Lord and believed the Lord,” these words in verse 31 referring not to terror but to faith and trust. They “believed the Lord,” and this faith language referred to salvation. After all, “Abraham believed God” in Genesis 15:6, and Paul uses this faith language to refer to Abraham’s salvation:

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, 15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. (Romans 4:1-4, 13-25)

Genesis 15:6 is quoted in Romans 4:3, but we see in Romans 4:13 that Abraham as the heir of the world was “through the righteousness of faith,” so here we see that Abraham’s faith was not just in an act but in God and in His salvation that He’d bring about through the lineage of Abraham by way of Jesus Christ. In Romans 4:23-24, we see that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness or the righteousness by faith will be imputed “to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.”

Abraham’s faith in God here and the gift of righteousness given to him by faith will also be given to those of us who believe in God who raised Jesus from the dead. In other words, Abraham’s faith in being the heir of the world was salvific in nature. So Paul quotes Abraham’s faith in God and the heir that was to come because he believed in the gospel. Paul doesn’t say Abraham believed in the gospel here, though he implies it. He does go on to say this in Galatians, however:

5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:5-9)

In Galatians 3:8, we see that the “Scripture…preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand,” a reminder that Abraham got the gospel too. He professed faith in the gospel, that Jesus would come as the Savior of the world through him, through his lineage, and he was saved by faith in the gospel. So, yes, the Jews “believed the Lord” and “feared the Lord,” and these phrases used after the Lord delivered them from Egypt points to spiritual salvation, that they belonged to the Lord, that they came out of spiritual bondage and were saved by faith in the work of God.

Isaiah 63 says that the Israelites had the Holy Spirit:

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord

And the praises of the Lord,

According to all that the Lord has bestowed on us,

And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,

Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies,

According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.

8 For He said, “Surely they are My people,

Children who will not lie.”

So He became their Savior.

9 In all their affliction He was afflicted,

And the Angel of His Presence saved them;

In His love and in His pity He redeemed them;

And He bore them and carried them

All the days of old.

10 But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;

So He turned Himself against them as an enemy,

And He fought against them.

11 Then he remembered the days of old,

Moses and his people, saying:

“Where is He who brought them up out of the sea

With the shepherd of His flock?

Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,

12 Who led them by the right hand of Moses,

With His glorious arm,

Dividing the water before them

To make for Himself an everlasting name,

13 Who led them through the deep,

As a horse in the wilderness,

That they might not stumble?” (Isaiah 63:7-13)

The Lord calls the Jews “My People,” and “He became their Savior,” again pointing to a spiritual relationship between the Lord and the Israelites. In verse 9, “the Angel of His Presence saved them,” with the Angel being likely a referent to God Himself. He saves His people. In verse 10, the Jews “rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit”; how would they rebel and grieve the Holy Spirit if they didn’t have the Holy Spirit, if He only came on people in the Old Testament but didn’t live in them?

The distinction of “He came on people in the Old Testament but lives in believers now” is a false dichotomy, a distinction without merit, if Isaiah 63:10 means anything. The same thing is said, but more explicitly, in Isaiah 63:11: “Where is He who put His Holy Spirit within them,” a reference to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with the Israelites. Yes, the New King James Version says “who put His Holy Spirit within them” — not “on” them, or “around” them, but “within” them. The text is clear enough.

The blood of the lamb on their lintel and doorposts saved them in Egypt, and the Lord put His Holy Spirit within the Israelites (not merely on them, as some theologians have stated).

Psalm 78 tells the same story about the Israelites belonging to the Lord and being His people, in relationship with Him, saved:

For He established a testimony in Jacob,

And appointed a law in Israel,

Which He commanded our fathers,

That they should make them known to their children;

6 That the generation to come might know them,

The children who would be born,

That they may arise and declare them to their children,

7 That they may set their hope in God,

And not forget the works of God,

But keep His commandments;

8 And may not be like their fathers,

A stubborn and rebellious generation,

A generation that did not set its heart aright,

And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

9 The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows,

Turned back in the day of battle.

10 They did not keep the covenant of God;

They refused to walk in His law,

11 And forgot His works

And His wonders that He had shown them.

12 Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers,

In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through;

And He made the waters stand up like a heap.

14 In the daytime also He led them with the cloud,

And all the night with a light of fire.

15 He split the rocks in the wilderness,

And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.

16 He also brought streams out of the rock,

And caused waters to run down like rivers.

17 But they sinned even more against Him

By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.

18 And they tested God in their heart

By asking for the food of their fancy.

19 Yes, they spoke against God:

They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?

20 Behold, He struck the rock,

So that the waters gushed out,

And the streams overflowed.

Can He give bread also?

Can He provide meat for His people?”

21 Therefore the Lord heard this and was furious;

So a fire was kindled against Jacob,

And anger also came up against Israel,

22 Because they did not believe in God,

And did not trust in His salvation.

23 Yet He had commanded the clouds above,

And opened the doors of heaven,

24 Had rained down manna on them to eat,

And given them of the bread of heaven.

25 Men ate angels’ food;

He sent them food to the full.

26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens;

And by His power He brought in the south wind.

27 He also rained meat on them like the dust,

Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas;

28 And He let them fall in the midst of their camp,

All around their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

For He gave them their own desire.

30 They were not deprived of their craving;

But while their food was still in their mouths,

31 The wrath of God came against them,

And slew the stoutest of them,

And struck down the choice men of Israel.

32 In spite of this they still sinned,

And did not believe in His wondrous works.

33 Therefore their days He consumed in futility,

And their years in fear.

34 When He slew them, then they sought Him;

And they returned and sought earnestly for God.

35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,

And the Most High God their Redeemer.

36 Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth,

And they lied to Him with their tongue;

37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him,

Nor were they faithful in His covenant.

38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity,

And did not destroy them.

Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,

And did not stir up all His wrath;

39 For He remembered that they were but flesh,

A breath that passes away and does not come again.

40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness,

And grieved Him in the desert!

41 Yes, again and again they tempted God,

And limited the Holy One of Israel.

42 They did not remember His power:

The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,

43 When He worked His signs in Egypt,

And His wonders in the field of Zoan;

44 Turned their rivers into blood,

And their streams, that they could not drink.

45 He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them,

And frogs, which destroyed them.

46 He also gave their crops to the caterpillar,

And their labor to the locust.

47 He destroyed their vines with hail,

And their sycamore trees with frost.

48 He also gave up their cattle to the hail,

And their flocks to fiery lightning.

49 He cast on them the fierceness of His anger,

Wrath, indignation, and trouble,

By sending angels of destruction among them.

50 He made a path for His anger;

He did not spare their soul from death,

But gave their life over to the plague,

51 And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt,

The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.

52 But He made His own people go forth like sheep,

And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;

53 And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear;

But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

54 And He brought them to His holy border,

This mountain which His right hand had acquired.

55 He also drove out the nations before them,

Allotted them an inheritance by survey,

And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.

56 Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God,

And did not keep His testimonies,

57 But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers;

They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places,

And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.

59 When God heard this, He was furious,

And greatly abhorred Israel,

60 So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh,

The tent He had placed among men,

61 And delivered His strength into captivity,

And His glory into the enemy’s hand.

62 He also gave His people over to the sword,

And was furious with His inheritance.

63 The fire consumed their young men,

And their maidens were not given in marriage.

64 Their priests fell by the sword,

And their widows made no lamentation. (Psalm 78:5-64)

The words “they did not keep the covenant of God,” “refused to walk in His law,” “they sinned even more against Him,” “rebelling against the Most High,” “they tested God in their heart,” “they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation,” “in spite of this they still sinned,” “did not believe in His wondrous works,” “the Most High God their Redeemer,” “their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant,” “forgave their iniquity,” “they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert,” “again and again they tempted God,” “when He redeemed them from the enemy,” “they tested and provoked the Most High God,” “turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers,” and others remind us that the issue in Psalm 78, as was the issue in Isaiah 63, was covenant agreement and faithfulness/unfaithfulness. God doesn’t covenant with anyone unless he or she accepts Him as their Lord, their God, and is spiritually saved. So, the Israelites had the atonement blood applied to their homes, which was symbolic for their lives, back in Exodus 12, in order to be rescued from the divine wrath in Egypt.

Atonement in Exodus 29

“And this is what you shall do to them to hallow them for ministering to Me as priests: Take one young bull and two rams without blemish, 2 and unleavened bread, unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers anointed with oil (you shall make them of wheat flour). 3 You shall put them in one basket and bring them in the basket, with the bull and the two rams.

4 “And Aaron and his sons you shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall wash them with water. 5 Then you shall take the garments, put the tunic on Aaron, and the robe of the ephod, the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the intricately woven band of the ephod. 6 You shall put the turban on his head, and put the holy crown on the turban. 7 And you shall take the anointing oil, pour it on his head, and anoint him. 8 Then you shall bring his sons and put tunics on them. 9 And you shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and put the hats on them. The priesthood shall be theirs for a perpetual statute. So you shall consecrate Aaron and his sons.

10 “You shall also have the bull brought before the tabernacle of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 12 You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour all the blood beside the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull, with its skin and its offal, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering.

15 “You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head. 18 And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord.

19 “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram. 20 Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. 21 And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

22 “Also you shall take the fat of the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration), 23 one loaf of bread, one cake made with oil, and one wafer from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and you shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord. 25 You shall receive them back from their hands and burn them on the altar as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma before the Lord. It is an offering made by fire to the Lord.

26 “Then you shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s consecration and wave it as a wave offering before the Lord; and it shall be your portion. 27 And from the ram of the consecration you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering which is waved, and the thigh of the heave offering which is raised, of that which is for Aaron and of that which is for his sons. 28 It shall be from the children of Israel for Aaron and his sons by a statute forever. For it is a heave offering; it shall be a heave offering from the children of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, that is, their heave offering to the Lord.

29 “And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed in them and to be consecrated in them. 30 That son who becomes priest in his place shall put them on for seven days, when he enters the tabernacle of meeting to minister in the holy place.

31 “And you shall take the ram of the consecration and boil its flesh in the holy place. 32 Then Aaron and his sons shall eat the flesh of the ram, and the bread that is in the basket, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 33 They shall eat those things with which the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them; but an outsider shall not eat them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh of the consecration offerings, or of the bread, remains until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Seven days you shall consecrate them. 36 And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and sanctify it. And the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar must be holy. (Exodus 29:1-37)

The Lord tells Moses what to do to “hallow” the priests. The word “hallow” is hagiasai, a word that means “to consecrate” or “to set aside as holy.” The word “hallow” means “to set aside as holy.” It is the same word used when Jesus refers to God the Father in the Lord’s Prayer, when He says “Hallowed be Your Name” (the word “hallowed” in the Greek is hagiastheto, which comes from the same parent word as the hagiasai of Exodus 29.

To consecrate Aaron and his sons, the Lord told Moses that the food offering should consist of one young bull without blemish or spot, two young lambs without spot or blemish, unleavened bread (bread with no yeast), unleavened cakes with oil, and unleavened wafers with oil. The offering (Grk mosxarion) was to be taken, consisting of a “Bown” (pronounced Bo-own) a cow or an ox without blemish (Grk. amomous) and two rams without blemish. In verse 2, the bread, cakes, and wafers are all unleavened (Grk azoumous), the parent adjective of azumous being azumos, referring to that which is unfermented or doesn’t have yeast. The bread, cakes, and wafers were not to have any yeast in them, yeast being a sign of contamination or pollution. Paul used the Passover feast as an analogy in his letter to the Corinthian church to tell them about purging the corruption and sin from their midst:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:1-8)

“Purge out the old leaven,” Paul says, and keep the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” in light of the Passover. What’s interesting about the analogy is that the Passover refers to an Israelite deliverance experience in the people’s history. The Lord delivered the Israelites out of bondage by way of the Passover. He told the nation to kill a Lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts of their houses. If they did this, the death angel would “Pass Over” them – which is the reason behind why the Passover was aptly named. The Israelites were too busy getting prepared to flee Egypt at that time, which is why they didn’t have time to eat leavened bread but could only eat unleavened (bread in which the yeast hadn’t risen). The unleavened bread of “sincerity and truth” is contrasted in 1 Corinthians 5 with the “leaven of malice and wickedness,” a statement that says that leaven was bad and unleavened bread was good.

10 “You shall also have the bull brought before the tabernacle of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the bull. 11 Then you shall kill the bull before the Lord, by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 12 You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour all the blood beside the base of the altar. 13 And you shall take all the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But the flesh of the bull, with its skin and its offal, you shall burn with fire outside the camp. It is a sin offering.

15 “You shall also take one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram; 16 and you shall kill the ram, and you shall take its blood and sprinkle it all around on the altar. 17 Then you shall cut the ram in pieces, wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and with its head. 18 And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord.

19 “You shall also take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall put their hands on the head of the ram. 20 Then you shall kill the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the tip of the right ear of Aaron and on the tip of the right ear of his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. 21 And you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar, and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments, on his sons and on the garments of his sons with him; and he and his garments shall be hallowed, and his sons and his sons’ garments with him.

22 “Also you shall take the fat of the ram, the fat tail, the fat that covers the entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, the two kidneys and the fat on them, the right thigh (for it is a ram of consecration), 23 one loaf of bread, one cake made with oil, and one wafer from the basket of the unleavened bread that is before the Lord; 24 and you shall put all these in the hands of Aaron and in the hands of his sons, and you shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord. 25 You shall receive them back from their hands and burn them on the altar as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma before the Lord. It is an offering made by fire to the Lord.

26 “Then you shall take the breast of the ram of Aaron’s consecration and wave it as a wave offering before the Lord; and it shall be your portion. 27 And from the ram of the consecration you shall consecrate the breast of the wave offering which is waved, and the thigh of the heave offering which is raised, of that which is for Aaron and of that which is for his sons. 28 It shall be from the children of Israel for Aaron and his sons by a statute forever. For it is a heave offering; it shall be a heave offering from the children of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, that is, their heave offering to the Lord. (Exodus 29:10-28)

In verse 10, Aaron and his sons are to place their hands (Grk Ααρων καὶ οἱ υἱοὶ αὐτοῦ τὰς χεῖρας αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν τοῦ μόσχου) upon the bull, the offering. This action was to show that their sins, the sins of Aaron and his sons that they’ve committed in their sinful humanity, are transferred to the bull, who takes on the sins of Aaron and his sons and whose life is sacrificed for them. This is to happen by τὰς θύρας τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου, a phrase referred to as “the doors of the tabernacle of testimony,” though the New King James Version refers to the tabernacle as “the tabernacle of meeting.”

In verse 11, the Lord God tells Moses to “kill the bull before the Lord,” the word “kill” here in the Greek Old Testament (known as the Septuagint) being the word sphakseis. The Greek command here is σφάξεις τὸν μόσχον ἔναντι κυρίου, the word sphakseis coming from the Greek word sphadzo or σφάζω meaning “to slaughter, slay, or wound.” In context, we know that the bull is killed because the Lord tells Moses to take some of the blood and put it on the horns of the altar, and at the altar base, and to take the kidneys, entrails, the fatty lobe attached to the liver, and the fat that covers the entrails and cook it, while burning the skin of the bull and “its offal” outside the camp (Aaron and his sons are not to eat these portions because “it is a sin offering,” the Lord says in Exodus 29:14).

Let’s break apart the instructions here. Moses was to sprinkle some of the blood of the bull on the horns of the altar with his finger (τῷ δακτύλῳ σου is “your finger” in Greek). Verse 13 is one worth breaking apart because it tells us just what Aaron and his sons could keep as a meal from the sacrifice: τὸ στέαρ τὸ ἐπὶ τῆς κοιλίας καὶ τὸν λοβὸν τοῦ ἥπατος καὶ τοὺς δύο νεφροὺς καὶ τὸ στέαρ τὸ ἐπ᾽ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπιθήσεις ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον. The stear refers to animal fat, “that which is upon the entrails” or “belly” (koilias).

The hepatos refers to the liver, and tous duo nephrous refers to “two kidneys,” the two kidneys of the bull. Along with the kidneys, the Lord also told them to take the fat of the kidneys, and “sacrifice it upon the altar” (to cook the offering). The skin mentioned in Exodus 29:14 is derma, from which we get the English word dermatology. The word kopron refers to the internal organs and entrails of the animal; the internal organs and entrails outside of the two kidneys, liver, and fat surrounding them, were to be burned outside the camp, outside the tabernacle and city.

After killing the bull as the offering for sin, Aaron and his sons were to offer a ram as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to the Lord. The ram’s blood was to be sprinkled and placed on the altar, but all of its parts were to be washed and placed together and cooked on the altar as an offering to the Lord. Aaron and his sons were to place their hands on the ram as well, a sign of transference (in this case, a transference of acceptance of the sacrifice as the offering to God, a transference of a sweet-smelling sacrifice). While Aaron and his sons could not give themselves for their sin, humanity, like these, should have suffered for its own sin according to the divine law. And yet, the Lord had Aaron and his sons slaughter a bull and ram in their places.

In verses 19-21, after the Lord has received His ram offering, a sweet-smelling aroma, and the sacrifice for sin has been offered (bull), the second ram is used to consecrate Aaron and his sons and their priestly garments: some of the blood of the second ram killed is to be used upon the tip of the right ear, the right thumb, and the right big toe of Aaron and his sons, while some of the blood and the anointing oil are to be sprinkled upon the garments of Aaron and his sons. The second ram is referred to in the text as τὸν κριὸν τῆς τελειώσεως, or rather, as “the ram of completion” or “the ram of consecration” (this ram was used as a sweet-smelling aroma for the Lord) in verse 31.

Verses 33, 36, and 37 of the chapter mentions “atonement”:

33 They shall eat those things with which the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them; but an outsider shall not eat them, because they are holy. 34 And if any of the flesh of the consecration offerings, or of the bread, remains until the morning, then you shall burn the remainder with fire. It shall not be eaten, because it is holy.

35 “Thus you shall do to Aaron and his sons, according to all that I have commanded you. Seven days you shall consecrate them. 36 And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to sanctify it. 37 Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and sanctify it. And the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar must be holy. Exodus 29:33, 36, 37.

In verse 33, the word for the phrase “with which the atonement was made” is similar to the parent words consecrated or “made holy” or “hallowed” (Grk ἡγιάσθησαν) or “were set aside,” but it’s interesting that they must eat the sacrifice that consecrated them. They must eat the ram of consecration and digest it. Remember Jesus’ words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, that His flesh and blood were also for atonement?

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”

52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”

53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:43-58)

Jesus says that He is “the bread of life,” a phrase that would have made sense to the Jews, whose fathers “ate manna” in the wilderness. Jesus doesn’t stop there, though; He continues with an analogy of sacrificial animals, saying that the Jews had to “Eat His flesh” and “drink His blood” to have eternal life. Eating was synonymous here with partaking of the salvation Jesus was to deliver to the world.

Jesus says that you can “eat His flesh and drink His blood,” though this phrase was used by some in the earliest days of the church to imply that Christians were “cannibals” and ate humans. What is interesting is that the Lord God said in the Old Testament that you couldn’t drink the blood of an animal because the life was in the blood of the animal:

2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.

6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,

By man his blood shall be shed;

For in the image of God

He made man.

7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;

Bring forth abundantly in the earth

And multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:2-7)

The Lord would hold man responsible for killing man, but He would also hold man responsible if he drank the blood of the animals: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Genesis 9:4). And yet, we see Jesus in John 6 telling the Jews to “eat My flesh” and “drink My blood,” an interesting analogy when you look at how drinking the blood of any animal was forbidden. Of course, “drinking Jesus’ blood” is what it means to partake of the Holy Spirit, to have eternal life, to be saved.

Eating the sacrifices was a responsibility given to Aaron and his sons (limits on the sacrifice for sin, though) to show that, like laying hands on the animals, they accepted the penalty of death that was being placed upon the animals in order to consecrate them and “make them holy.” The animals were to make atonement, to not only satisfy the penalty for the sins committed by Aaron and his sons, but also to deliver a sweet-smelling aroma to God.

In verse 36, the Lord says, “You shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement.” The word “atonement” is not found in the verse as it has been used earlier, but the bull is simply called “the sacrifice,” or mosxarion, and it is offered for sin “to the day,” which I’m assuming here means each day (the work hekastos meaning “each” is not used here, simply the dative form of day, “to the day”). In verse 36, one must also “sanctify,” or hagiadzein, from hagiadzo, meaning “clean,” when you offer the bull for sin each day, and the word “sanctify” returns at the end of verse 36 in the verb hagiasai.

The consecration of Aaron, the high priest, and his sons, lower priests, will take seven days, or ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας, “hepta hey-meras,” and the altar will need to be cleansed after offering bulls for sin to sanctify them.The altar will need to be cleansed after Aaron and his sons are cleansed for the priesthood. The altar, like the priests, is to be sanctified, the Greek word hagiaseis, for seven days, and the altar is to be “holy of holy,” meaning that it is to be so consecrated that “whatever touches it,” or the one touching it, or all those touching it, will be sanctified (Grk hagiasthesetai).

The word “sanctified,” or “cleansed,” or “holy-fied,” as I say, permeates the passage. And with all the consecration and holiness being discussed, it’s safe to say that sin required an offering because it made the priests unclean, and that offering the sin offering upon the altar made the altar unclean; the altar, like the priests, had to be consecrated, too. The atonement discussed here is for sin, and the sacrifice mentioned in Exodus 29 is for the priests who themselves had to offer sin offerings. The word “sanctify” or “cleanse” or “make holy” is present in the text repeatedly, showing that it is the emphasis of making atonement here. The Lord tells us to be clean, not unclean, holy, not unrighteous, and the priests had to be consecrated in order to do the work of the Lord.

Exodus 30: Atonement on the Altar of Incense and with Ransom Money

Exodus 30 is another passage containing atonement bible verses. The Lord tells the people to make an altar of incense for Aaron, the high priest, to offer atonement on:

“You shall make an altar to burn incense on; you shall make it of acacia wood. 2 A cubit shall be its length and a cubit its width—it shall be square—and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. 3 And you shall overlay its top, its sides all around, and its horns with pure gold; and you shall make for it a molding of gold all around. 4 Two gold rings you shall make for it, under the molding on both its sides. You shall place them on its two sides, and they will be holders for the poles with which to bear it. 5 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 6 And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.

7 “Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.” (Exodus 30:1-10)

The Lord tells the Jews to make an altar of incense out of acacia wood, to overlay it with gold, and have two golden poles under the moulding to carry it. The poles, like the altar of incense itself, are to be made out of acacia wood. Acacia wood was one of the only types of wood available to the Jews at that time, but it was a durable, decay-resistant wood that would last for a long time – making it ideal on which to build the altar of incense.

In verse 6, we see that the altar of incense on which the high priest was to burn the sin offering (once a year, we are told in verse 10) was to be placed before the Ark of the Testimony in front of the mercy seat. The mercy seat was over the Ark of the Testimony, so the altar of incense was to go in front of the mercy seat. The Lord told the Jews “I will meet with you” at the Ark of the Testimony. The priest was to burn incense, not drink, grain, burnt, or sin offerings. The incense was to be the sweet aroma to the Lord, and the high priest (Aaron) was to take the blood from the sin offering of the atonement and “make atonement” by placing the blood from the sin offering on the horns of the altar. This was done once a year, and was to never cease.

The altar of incense would burn a sweet fragrance every morning and every twilight (Grk ὀψέ, meaning “late in the evening” or “twilight”), Aaron was to offer incense when the lamps would be lit to provide light in the temple. The “morning” and “evening” here when Aaron would light the lamps reminds us of the “evening and morning” pattern for a unit of day we find in Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 So the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

29 And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. 30 Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:1-31)

The word for “make atonement” in Exodus 30:10 is “exilasetai,” the word being a compound of two words: ex, meaning “out of,” and hilasetai, from the parent verb hilaskomai, meaning “to appease,” “to make propitiation for,” “to make reconciliation for,” and so on. Now these verb meanings, “appease,” “reconciliation,” and “propitiation” all tell us that 1) God needed His anger or wrath stilled, calmed, quieted, removed; 2) reconciliation implies that the relationship between God and His People had been broken; and 3) God needed to be appeased, pleased in some way. And above all, the high priest would only go in and offer this sacrifice once a year (Grk ἅπαξ τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ, meaning “once of the years” or “once a year”). The high priest offering this atonement for the people consisted of the blood of the sin offering and incense. The blood offering and the sweet-smelling fragrance would please the Lord, and His wrath or anger would not be kindled against the people for their sin. In Exodus 30:10, we see where the name “Holy of Holies” is derived from: “It is most holy to the Lord,” the Lord saying this about the altar of incense. The phrase for “most holy” in the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) is ἅγιον τῶν ἁγίων, meaning “holy of the holy.” This offering on the altar of incense would be the holiest of all the Lord’s holy offering mandates for the people.

Paul used the layout of the tabernacle to help the Jewish Christians understand that the layout of the temple was a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ who was to come:

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:1-15)

In Hebrews 9:3, Paul calls it “the Holiest of All,” or, “Holiest of Holies” (Grk hagia hagion) the second veil that only the high priest could enter behind and only once a year (only one day a year). The priest could only enter into it once, not often, just once, while he continually offered sacrifices for sin daily on the altar. What Paul says is that all the temple and the sacrifices are symbolic: “It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience — concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:9, 10). The “various washings” relate to cleansing the bulls, lambs, goats, and other sacrifices as well as cleansing the altar after offering sacrifices upon it. These, along with food, drink, and other ordinances could never cleanse the conscience or body from dead works and make one holy or righteous before the Lord. In other words, these rituals and commands by the Lord were designed to show God’s holy demands, but they were never meant to bestow righteousness or holiness, in and of themselves.

The word for symbolic in Hebrews 9:9 is parabole, from which the English word parable comes. Yes, the tabernacle and its rituals and washings were a “parable” of Jesus and His Crucifixion and resurrection. A parable is defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The whole purpose of parables was to tell people about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, by using something with which they were familiar. We see this in Matthew 25, an example chapter, where Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to 10 virgins (5 wise, 5 foolish) and servants with varying levels of money to invest on behalf of their Master while He’s away on business in a far off country. First, the Parable of the Ten Virgins:

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:1-13)

From the beginning, we see that the Kingdom of Heaven “is likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” This comparison is just that, for at its end, Jesus says that those to whom He was speaking should “watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt. 25:13). The ten virgins are those waiting for the bridegroom; we, today, believers, are “the virgins,” those dressed in white, those who’ve been washed in the blood of the Lamb and have come to Jesus by faith; we are waiting for the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, “the Head of the church” (Ephesians 5 ), to come and bring us back with Him to the marriage feast or marriage supper in heaven (which stands for eternal life, eternity with Christ). As the 5 foolish virgins are unprepared Christians, those who sleep on their salvation, while the 5 wise virgins are those believers who are vigilant, sober, awake, anxiously awaiting the Lord’s return.

The same can be said for the Parable of the Talents, where each servant gets a certain quantity of money:

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30)

The Parable of the Talents teaches us that we, like these servants, are servants of the Master, who is Jesus. Jesus is “gone away to a far country” as of now: He’s gone to Heaven, “on business,” preparing heaven for us, as He told the disciples in John 14. In the Master’s absence, the servants, who have been given “talents” by God (this word, in our context, refers to abilities and the work of the Lord, the work of ministry), are commanded to put these “talents” to good use to bring more of a yield, more of a harvest for God, to multiply what He’s given us for His glory.

When He returns, He will judge every servant for what he or she has done with his or her abilities and God-given work. We must given an account to the Master for what we’ve done with what He’s given us. Those who have persevered and grown more fruit (produced more for the Master) will be rewarded with eternal life; those who bury their God-given work, as the lazy servant did his, will be “rewarded” with eternal damnation, will be cast out of God’s sight into a place where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, this outer darkness, is Hell itself, for the darkness remains outside of the city, as John states it in Revelation:

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. 15 But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Revelation 22:12-15)

The city has light, for God is its light and there is no night there, but the outer darkness is “outside the city,” and those outside of the city of heaven are “dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Rev. 22:15).

These two parables are earthly stories with spiritual significance for believers; the same can be said for the temple and its sacrifices as described in the Old Testament. The temple and its sacrifices are earthly elements with a heavenly meaning, one that applies to Jesus, for, as Paul says in Hebrews 9:

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:11-15)

The “greater tabernacle” here refers to the eternal heavens, where Christ has gone as our High Priest after having offered Himself once for the sins of the world. “How much more” Paul asks in Hebrews 9:14, a phrase that Paul will use with some modification throughout his epistle to the Hebrews, to show that earthly instruments and punishments pale in comparison to the heavenly instruments and punishments (or the eternal punishment, rather) for those who fall away from Christ and the doctrine of the faith (see Hebrews 6:4-6ff).

The sweet-smelling aroma here with the incense is given more detail a few verses later in Exodus 30. The incense to be burned on the altar was to be done exactly as the Lord commanded it:

34 And the Lord said to Moses: “Take sweet spices, stacte and onycha and galbanum, and pure frankincense with these sweet spices; there shall be equal amounts of each. 35 You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure, and holy. 36 And you shall beat some of it very fine, and put some of it before the Testimony in the tabernacle of meeting where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you. 37 But as for the incense which you shall make, you shall not make any for yourselves, according to its composition. It shall be to you holy for the Lord. 38 Whoever makes any like it, to smell it, he shall be cut off from his people.” (Exodus 30:34-38)

In Exodus 30:34, Moses is told to take stacte (Grk. στακτήν), onycha (Grk. ὄνυχα), galbanum (Grk. χαλβάνην), and pure frankincense (Grk. λίβανον διαφανῆ) and make a sweet incense from them. Stakten in the Greek means “oozing substance,” which could refer to myrrh, and this is referred to as the Hebrew word nataf. Myrrh drops slowly, as does this gum resin here, so we see that myrrh is used as part of the incense.

Onycha, or onuxa (from the parent word ὄνυξ or onux) pertains to “the opercula of marine molluscs.” It refers to “The lid” of marine molluscs, that part of the anatomy belonging to squid, octopus, and snails and oyster, to name a few underwater creatures. The opercula is often made of the same such as oyster, snails, and clam shell creatures, among others and it is made from the same material as their shells: calcium carbonate. Galbanum is a bitter resin, a bitter material that is slowly viscous that has a “musky odor” and “an intense green scent” to it. Galbanum can be found with its light brownish, yellowish, or greenish-yellow color. The fact that it was bitter is important: it must have been used to refer to something bitter at the time, perhaps to refer to unrepentant sinners since the temple and all its ingredients and sacrifices are representative of the heavenly and spiritual. Perhaps Israel’s use of galbanum was to show how unrepentant they’d been toward the Lord who had brought them out of Egypt.

The next ingredient is “pure frankincense,” or libanon diaphane. The word “pure” here shows that the frankincense was not to be mixed with anything. Mixed frankincense was treated like leavened bread: corrupted and of no good use. The Lord wanted pure frankincense as a sweet savor, something unmixed. Now, keep in mind that we’ve already discussed myrrh being used here (stacte), now frankincense (libanon), and then there was the gold that was the overlay placed on the altar of incense as well as the two poles that were used to carry it (Exodus 30:3-5). These three elements, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, were given by the three astronomers (known as the wise men) when they came to see Jesus in Bethlehem:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;

For out of you shall come a Ruler

Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him,bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-11)

These three gifts in Matthew 2:11 given by the wise men or the Magi, have been deemed to be gifts for a King, and gifts related to a royal burial. While the frankincense and myrrh were spices used for burial, it doesn’t appear to be the case that these gifts are merely connected to royalty. They are connected to burial, though, as Jesus would need them later on for His bodily anointing. But where does the gold fit in? It fits into the burial as well, for, in the same way that the altar of incense consisted of acacia wood with a gold overlay, as well as the incense perfume made of frankincense and myrrh, so Jesus is surrounded by wood when He’s on the Cross, the gold becomes the “overlay” of the wooden cross, and then the frankincense and myrrh become spices by which His body is prepared for burial. In other words, in the suffering and death on the Cross (and subsequent burial) of our Lord, Jesus becomes the sacrifice for sin that “makes atonement” for humanity. His blood, shed on the Cross, serves as the “blood sprinkling” on the “altar” whose body, anointed with frankincense and myrrh, becomes a “sweet-smelling aroma” unto God!

The apostle Paul, one who was a good Pharisee and knew his Old Testament Scriptures, makes the connection between Jesus and the sin sacrifice on the altar of incense of Exodus 30 in his letter to the Ephesians:

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Paul connects Jesus’ love and sacrificial death to “offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma,” which is a clear reference to the sin sacrifice and the altar of incense in Exodus 30. The Lord Jesus’ sacrifice of His life was a “sweet-smelling aroma” to God. This is why Jesus was given frankincense and myrrh when the Magi came into the house where He was as a baby and worshipped Him. Since they saw “His Star” in the East and came to “worship Him,” perhaps it’s also the case that they knew what the Old Testament said and brought gifts in accordance with it. We don’t know if they knew their Old Testament that well, but the events of Matthew 2 certainly seem interesting when we take into account that the Magi knew that He would have a star in the sky, that they knew this “King of the Jews” was deity, to be worshipped. How would they have known if they hadn’t read the old Messianic prophecies contained in the Jewish Scriptures?

Exodus 30, the sin offering, the shed blood on the altar, the acacia wood altar with blood sprinkling and the golden overlay (gold), with the sweet-smelling aromatic spices of frankincense and myrrh, shows us the picture of Jesus as the spotless Lamb of God whose blood, gushing out for the sins of the world, is sprinkled upon the altar of incense that burns an aromatic scent that is well-pleasing to God.

Paul uses the analogy of Jesus as the incense-burning altar sacrifice from Exodus 30 in his letter to the Philippians about their support of his ministry:

14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:14-20)

Paul calls the Philippians’ financial gift “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God,” a sign of endearment and reminder to them that they were supporting him in the work of the Lord and that God is pleased with it, offered to Paul so that the gospel of Jesus Christ would spread even further. That message involved the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, who gave His life as the sin atonement so that the wrath of God would be stilled; by His death, the Lord received that sweet-smelling, incense-burning, blood-shedding sacrifice once and for all:

For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

5 Therefore, when He came into the world, He said:

“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,

But a body You have prepared for Me.

6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin

You had no pleasure.

7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come—

In the volume of the book it is written of Me—

To do Your will, O God.’”

8 Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), 9 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:1-18)

What we see is that, with the priests of the Old Testament, they offered animal sacrifices daily, which shows the inability of those animal sacrifices to remove sin effectively. But Jesus’ atonement, Jesus crucifixion, death, and resurrection, took care of sin “once for all,” meaning that He only needed to die once for mankind. He doesn’t need to die any more for sin because, contrary to the temple animal sacrifices, His death and shed blood are efficacious, effective in blotting out the sins of the world. He is the only solution for the removal of sin and its blotting out. Only Jesus. Only Jesus saves.

The Lord God didn’t want burnt offering and sacrifice in the traditional sense of animals and blood sprinkling; what He wanted was a voluntary action to “do His will.” Jesus agreed to do the will of His Father, to offer up Himself as the sacrifice instead of another bull, lamb, and goat offering for sin that could never satisfy. As our High Priest, He has now offered the only solution for sin, Himself, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He lives to make intercession for us.

Paul in his letter to the Hebrews uses the discussion of the sacrificial system, the earthly, to do as Jesus did – speak of heavenly things:

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. 15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. (Hebrews 13:10-16)

First, the sacrifices are burned “outside the city,” as we’ve seen in Exodus 29 with the sin offering at the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood; they could eat the ram of consecration, though, but they couldn’t eat the flesh of the sin sacrifice because it was offered “for sin.” Paul is saying here that, in the same way that the animal sacrifices suffer outside the city, so did Jesus: He suffered outside the city of Jerusalem because the Jews were under Roman rule. Paul uses this to say that “therefore let us go forth to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 10:13). Since Christ has born His reproach, as followers of His, we are also to bear reproach and suffer for His name. “Let us go forth to Him outside the camp” is Paul’s way of saying, “let us go forth into the world, bearing His shame, because He bore our shame on the cross.” The issue with the Jewish Christians to which Paul writes is that they fear persecution, have had bad things happen to them, and seem to be fearful enough to want to go back to Judaism out of a desire and longing for safety. Here’s some context for us to consider:

32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37 “For yet a little while,

And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.

38 Now the just shall live by faith;

But if anyone draws back,

My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:32-39)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,

Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,

And scourges every son whom He receives.”

7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears. (Hebrews 12:1-17)

From these two excerpts of Scripture, we can gather that these Jewish Christians had seen their goods taken from them (they were robbery victims), and that they had been persecuted (“made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations,” and “joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods,” see Hebrews 10:33, 34) for the cause of Christ. They even had compassion on Paul in his chains, “knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (v.34). And yet, they seemed to be discouraged with all that was happening, which explains why Paul warns them in his letter against “shrink[ing] back to perdition” (Heb. 10:39) and tells them “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin” (Hebrews 12:3-4).

And, a little later on, Paul says, “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13). The language here from Paul does not pertain to physical ailments, but to the Jewish Christians who are discouraged in their souls, who are depressed, who are feeling the effects of the chastening of God. Paul says that the Scriptures call them “sons” and that God’s chastising doesn’t feel good at first but that it eventually works righteousness. In other words, the Jewish Christians are being persecuted and are down and depressed about it, that they are struggling with sin and morale. Paul tells them to see to it that a “root of bitterness” does not “spring up” and cause trouble, defiling many (see Hebrews 12:5-11).

These Jewish Christians are being encouraged to bear reproach as children of God, sons of the Lord, and to remain encouraged and joyful even in their tribulations and reproaches. It’s too easy to go back to the comfort of Judaism, but to go back to Judaism is to fall away from Christ and the true doctrine of the faith. If one, being enlightened (in this case, the Jewish Christians who have already come to the knowledge of the truth), falls away, then “it is impossible to renew them again to repentance” because they would re-crucify the Son of God, Jesus. And Jesus has only been crucified once for all sin; He will never die again. Rejecting His sacrifice, His atonement for sin, the first time is to permanently throw away the only solution for sin. To throw away the solution for sin permanently is to be lost forever, to be doomed to Hell forever, to be irremediably, eternally, lost.

Jesus as Ransom Money (Exodus 30:11-16)

Yes, we see Jesus clearly in Exodus 30 when referring to the sin sacrifice, the blood that was to be sprinkled on the altar of incense, the gold overlay of the acacia wooden altar and its poles, and frankincense and myrrh sweet spices used to burn a sweet-smelling aroma with the body of the sin sacrifice used for atonement. The worshipping moment of the Magi in Matthew 2 and Jesus’ own death on a wooden cross and the anointing of His body with frankincense and myrrh shows us the Savior of the world, dying on the Cross for us, on our behalf. This is one of those moments in theology when the gospel is so clear in heart and mind for so many believers and unbelievers alike.

While Jesus as the sin sacrifice whose incense is a sweet-smelling aroma to God is enough to excite any believer and make him or her break forth into song and praise of Jesus, there’s more to see about Jesus than just Jesus as the sin sacrifice. In Exodus 30:11-16, we also see Jesus as the ransom for the world, the one who gave His life a ransom for many, to use Jesus’ own words. First, let’s see the passage:

11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12 “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. 14 Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves. 16 And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.” (Exodus 30:11-16)

Remember what happened to David when he numbered the children of Israel (2 Samuel 24:1-25)? When it comes to numbering the people, those in Israel were not to take a census of the people because the nation was not to trust in their numbers nor in man, but in the Lord. So, the Lord tells the people now that they are to number the people, to “take the census of the children of Israel for their number” (v.1). Along with this numbering, though, comes a ransom, “that there may be no plague among them when you number them” (Exodus 30:12), the Lord said. In other words, without the ransom, there would be a plague in the land because numbering themselves is sin, that they not fall under wrath by numbering themselves.

And yet, the Lord tells them to number themselves and pay “a ransom” (v.12), half a shekel, or 10 gerahs (a half-shekel). Each (Grk. hekastos) will give a half-shekel to the Lord as a ransom. Additionally, the rich and the poor will give the same amount, a half-shekel, “to make atonement for yourselves.” The Greek sentence phrase is ἐξιλάσασθαι περὶ τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν, or exilasasthai peri ton psuxon humon, a phrase that means “to make atonement concerning your souls.” The atonement, the “exilasasthai,” is to propitiate or to “offer a sacrifice out of” oneself, in this case, for the purposes of atonement (to appease, propitiate, or free oneself from wrath). This ransom money was commanded by God for every Israelite age 20 years and above (the adult generation). Remember, the Lord condemned the Wilderness Generation to die in the wilderness, all Israelites aged 20 and up, because they didn’t have faith and rebelled against the Lord and His Holy Spirit at every turn.

The ransom money was for their souls, their lives, to avoid a plague sent from God that would kill them. The Lord used plagues to kill the Israelites when they disobeyed Him:

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

11 Then Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, and said: “Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

15 And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written. 16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God engraved on the tablets.

17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”

18 But he said:

It is not the noise of the shout of victory,

Nor the noise of the cry of defeat,

But the sound of singing I hear.”

19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”

22 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”

30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”

33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”

35 So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made. (Exodus 32:7-35)

13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves;

I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright.

14 ‘But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments,

15 and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant,

16 I also will do this to you:

I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.

And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.

17 I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies.

Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.

18 ‘And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.

19 I will break the pride of your power;

I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze.

20 And your strength shall be spent in vain;

for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.

21 ‘Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.

22 I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number;

and your highways shall be desolate.

23 ‘And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me,

24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins.

25 And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant;

when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you;

and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.

26 When I have cut off your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall bring back your bread by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.

27 ‘And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me,

28 then I also will walk contrary to you in fury;

and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins.

29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.

30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols;

and My soul shall abhor you.

31 I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas.

32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.

33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you;

your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.

34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land;

then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.

35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest—

for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it. (Leviticus 26:13-35)

Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. 2 Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. 3 So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them.

4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!”

7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color like the color of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it, ground it on millstones or beat it in the mortar, cooked it in pans, and made cakes of it; and its taste was like the taste of pastry prepared with oil. 9 And when the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna fell on it.

10 Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased. 11 So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,’ to the land which You swore to their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!”

16 So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 Then you shall say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the hearing of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?”’”

21 And Moses said, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?”

23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord, and he gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tabernacle. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud, and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders; and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.

26 But two men had remained in the camp: the name of one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them. Now they were among those listed, but who had not gone out to the tabernacle; yet they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

28 So Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, one of his choice men, answered and said, “Moses my lord, forbid them!”

29 Then Moses said to him, “Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 And Moses returned to the camp, he and the elders of Israel.

31 Now a wind went out from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. 32 And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was aroused against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very great plague. 34 So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.

35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people moved to Hazeroth, and camped at Hazeroth. (Numbers 11:1-35)

So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.

6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”

10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.

11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

13 And Moses said to the Lord: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are among these people; that You, Lord, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, 16 ‘Because the Lord was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’ 17 And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

20 Then the Lord said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; 21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— 22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.”

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 29 The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. 30 Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. 31 But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. 35 I the Lord have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’”

36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37 those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land. (Numbers 14:1-38)

On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” 42 Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting.

44 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”

And they fell on their faces.

46 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.” 47 Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. 50 So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped. (Numbers 16:41-50)

Back to Exodus 30:16. The ransom money, the half-shekel, that the people of Israel were to give to prevent the plague from coming among them when the census was taken, is referred to as “atonement money” in Exodus 30:16:

16 And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.” (Exodus 30:16)

The phrase “atonement money” in the Greek is τὸ ἀργύριον τῆς εἰσφορᾶς, a phrase that means “the silver tax,” a tax of silver coins to “make atonement” (Grk ἐξιλάσασθαι), to cover the sins of the people, to prevent the plague from coming on them. Notice that “atonement” prevents the plague, which is a sign of the wrath of God. And yet, the atonement offering, or the ransom money, would prevent the plague.

The Jews were not only commanded to pay a ransom fee, but they were also collectively called “the ransomed” or the ransomed people:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,

And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;

2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,

Even with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

The excellence of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

The excellency of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,

And make firm the feeble knees.

4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted,

“Be strong, do not fear!

Behold, your God will come with vengeance,

With the recompense of God;

He will come and save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer,

And the tongue of the dumb sing.

For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,

And streams in the desert.

7 The parched ground shall become a pool,

And the thirsty land springs of water;

In the habitation of jackals, where each lay,

There shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

8 A highway shall be there, and a road,

And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean shall not pass over it,

But it shall be for others.

Whoever walks the road, although a fool,

Shall not go astray.

9 No lion shall be there,

Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it;

It shall not be found there.

But the redeemed shall walk there,

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

And come to Zion with singing,

With everlasting joy on their heads.

They shall obtain joy and gladness,

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:1-10)

Isaiah 35:10 is the same verse in Isaiah 51:11 –

“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,

You people in whose heart is My law:

Do not fear the reproach of men,

Nor be afraid of their insults.

8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment,

And the worm will eat them like wool;

But My righteousness will be forever,

And My salvation from generation to generation.”

9 Awake, awake, put on strength,

O arm of the Lord!

Awake as in the ancient days,

In the generations of old.

Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart,

And wounded the serpent?

10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea,

The waters of the great deep;

That made the depths of the sea a road

For the redeemed to cross over?

11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

And come to Zion with singing,

With everlasting joy on their heads.

They shall obtain joy and gladness;

Sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 51:7-11).

The word in Isaiah 51:11 for “ransomed” is λελυτρωμένοις, the parent word being the word “ransom” or “lutra,” the ransom money being the sign of their ransomed nature in Exodus 30. Lelutromenois, the Greek verb above, is a perfect passive participle form of the verb lutroomai, meaning “to ransom” or “to redeem.” The double “l” in the Greek verb (or the double “lambda,” as some will recognize the Greek alphabet) indicates this verb points to something done in the past that continues to this point.

Another passage pertains to Israel as the ransomed of the Lord:

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,

And declare it in the isles afar off, and say,

‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,

And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’

11 For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,

And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.

12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,

Streaming to the goodness of the Lord—

For wheat and new wine and oil,

For the young of the flock and the herd;

Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,

And they shall sorrow no more at all. (Jeremiah 31:10-12)

Why would the Lord command His people to pay a ransom fee that would be used for the service of the tabernacle? The answer? To remind people of the ransom that would be paid for their souls. Paying a ransom reminded them of the price God would pay for their souls when He sent Jesus to die for the sins of the whole world. Scripture tells us that Jesus is the ransom:

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

24 And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

The word “ransom” here in Matthew 20:28 is lutron, a similar word used in Exodus 30 to refer to the ransom money (or atonement money) and a similar word used with other passages in the Old Testament and new (in some cases, the same, identical word).

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”

36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

37 They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

39 They said to Him, “We are able.”

So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; 40 but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. 44 And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45)

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

The word for “ransom” in 1 Timothy 2:5 is antilutron, which means a redemption that is granted by an exchange. In context, the text is saying that Jesus gave Himself in exchange for every person, since He died for the sins of the whole world. Under God’s divine law, every human deserves death because we all sinned in Adam and the wages of sin is death; nevertheless, God sent His Son Jesus, to die in the place of every person, and His death and resurrection purchased redemption or ransom for everyone in the world. The word antilutron is a compound noun that comes from the basic noun lutron, which tells us that the ransom of Jesus is given in exchange for the blood of humans. The same exchange occurs in Exodus 30 in the ransom money: the ransom money is paid, the plague is avoided from God upon His people. The ransom money is given in exchange for “your souls,” in Exodus 30.

The last reference to atonement we find is in Exodus 32, immediately after Moses has gone up to receive God’s Law. While he is gone, the people lose faith in God and decide to build a golden calf. They then proceed to worship it and claim that it “had led them out of Egypt.” While Moses is talking with God, the Lord tells Moses to go down to the people because of what they’ve done. After Moses’ anger cools, he tells the people that he will go up and atone for their sin, if possible:

19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”

22 So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”

25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”

30 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! 32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”

33 And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.”

35 So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made. (Exodus 32:19-35)

The word for “make atonement” in Exodus 32:30 is ἐξιλάσωμαι, with the word being a subjunctive (a verb of possibility; this is why Moses says “perhaps I can make atonement”; there’s a chance, but no guarantee). The verb here, exhilasomai, comes from two words, ex (out of) and hilasomai (to atone for). The verb also means “to propitiate,” to please, to appease, and Moses is signaling by the use of such a verb that the Israelites have angered the Lord and that His anger is kindled against them. It explains why the Lord is angry with them:

7 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” (Exodus 32:7-10)

The Lord’s anger is there, and when Moses goes to “make atonement,” He’s saying in essence that he will do what he can to “still the wrath and anger of God” so that the Lord doesn’t strike the people. The Lord wanted to destroy them here in Exodus 32, as He wanted to destroy them later on in Numbers 14, but Moses tells Him not to destroy the people and the Lord “relents” of His decision (Exodus 32:14).

Table of Contents:
Propitiation for Sin: The Doctrine of Atonement
1. Atonement in the Book of Exodus <-- You are here
2. Atonement in the Book of Numbers
3. Atonement in the Book of Deuteronomy
4. Atonement in The Books of 2 Samuel and 2 Chronicles
5. Atonement in the Book of Ezekiel
6. Atonement in the Book of Leviticus and a Conclusion

One Response to “Propitiation for Sin: The Doctrine of Atonement in the Book of Exodus”

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  1. Geoffrey Lwimba - September 19, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Thank you for these verses they are helping me to see the importance of atoinment through out the Bible.##Lwimba

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