Propitiation for Sin: The Doctrine of Atonement in The Books of 2 Samuel and 2 Chronicles

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Atonement in the Book of 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 21
In 2 Samuel 21, David is appealing to the Gibeonites because of the famine in the land for 3 years. David prayed to the Lord as to why the famine was in the land, and the Lord told David that Saul was the reason why the famine was in the land: “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites” (v.1). David called the Gibeonites to see what he could do in order to atone for Saul’s sin: “What shall I do for you? And with what shall make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord?” (v.3), David asked. The word to “make atonement” here is the same one we’ve been seeing throughout our study of the Old Testament, ἐξιλάσομαι, a word that stems from hilaskomai, meaning “to propitiate,” to appease, to please, to still wrath. The word still means to eliminate the wrath; in this case, the wrath of God was upon the land because Saul murdered innocent blood.

Atonement in the Book of 2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 30

In 2 Chronicles 30, Hezekiah sends runners throughout the land to find those who escaped from the hand of the Assyrians, the remnant, and reminds them to keep the Passover and turn back to their God. Here’s the text:

And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. 2 For the king and his leaders and all the assembly in Jerusalem had agreed to keep the Passover in the second month. 3 For they could not keep it at the regular time, because a sufficient number of priests had not consecrated themselves, nor had the people gathered together at Jerusalem. 4 And the matter pleased the king and all the assembly. 5 So they resolved to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem, since they had not done it for a long time in the prescribed manner.

6 Then the runners went throughout all Israel and Judah with the letters from the king and his leaders, and spoke according to the command of the king: “Children of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel; then He will return to the remnant of you who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 And do not be like your fathers and your brethren, who trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, so that He gave them up to desolation, as you see. 8 Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.”

10 So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them. 11 Nevertheless some from Asher, Manasseh, and Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. 12 Also the hand of God was on Judah to give them singleness of heart to obey the command of the king and the leaders, at the word of the Lord.

13 Now many people, a very great assembly, gathered at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month. 14 They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away all the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. 15 Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought the burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 16 They stood in their place according to their custom, according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood received from the hand of the Levites. 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. 18 For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:1-20)

Verse 17 says that “there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves,” so the Levites were there to sanctify them. They were many who had not purified themselves by washing their clothes, taking a bath, etc., so as to prepare to be physically sanctified for the Passover. And yet, they still ate the Passover. Now, surely, if the Law was all about the strict nature of the letter, those who ate the Passover without washing their bodies should have been destroyed and killed. And that appears to be what would have happened if Hezekiah hadn’t prayed for the people. Verse 20 says “the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people,” so it appears as though they were ceremonially unclean by eating the Passover without physical cleansing. And yet, Hezekiah prays that their hearts are acceptable to God and that their heart condition, not the ceremonial washing, becomes the standard by which they are judged before the Lord: “May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary” (2 Chronicles 30:18-19).

What Hezekiah prays here is that the Lord would overlook the purification rules and focus on the nature of the hearts of His people: that is, those who were seeking the Lord, those who were God-seekers, those preparing their hearts to seek the Lord. The Lord answered Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people so that they weren’t killed eating the Passover but were spared. The prayer of Hezekiah, according to the will of the Lord, was answered in the affirmative and the heart condition, those who were seeking God after their time of separation from him, those of contrite heart, were approved by the Lord. David realizes that the best sacrifice from man to God is not an animal offering or temple ritual, but a broken and contrite heart that acknowledges the sovereignty and power of God:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me.

6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,

And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

8 Make me hear joy and gladness,

That the bones You have broken may rejoice.

9 Hide Your face from my sins,

And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,

And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,

And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners shall be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

The God of my salvation,

And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,

And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.

16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;

You do not delight in burnt offering.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and a contrite heart—

These, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:5-17)

Notice that David says early in Psalm 51 that “you desire truth in the inward parts” (v.6). In verse 10, David says “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” In verse 16, he says that the Lord does not desire sacrifice, but instead, “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, you will not despise,” (v.17). A heart that is broken before the Lord over his or her sin and is sincere about getting it right with the Lord, coming clean, and finding the forgiveness of the Lord is a heart that is a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. Burnt offerings given without the sacrifice of the heart first are unacceptable to the Lord. In the case of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 30, though, he prays that those with a contrite heart would be received apart from the ceremonial washing. The Lord accepts his prayer and heals the people because ultimately, the sacrificial system involving the blood of lambs, rams, bulls, and goats would give way to the sacrifice of the heart and the plan of God in salvation. As Paul tells us in Hebrews, the Lord says the latter (the sacrifice of the heart) to do away with the former (the animal sacrificial system):

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. (Hebrews 10:1-10)

In the words of Paul’s quotation of Psalm 40:6-8 from the Old Testament, Paul says that the passage of Psalm 40 shows that the sacrificial system wouldn’t last forever, wasn’t designed to last forever, wasn’t meant to be the all of God’s expectations. Rather, animal sacrifices, like all of the purification and atonement laws, were designed to point to the sacrifice of the human heart toward God. Remember, in the New Covenant, we live by the spirit of the law and not the letter of it, for “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:6. With the heart being brought into the picture, the sacrificial system as the Jews knew it (rule and ritual) would be ruled obsolete:

Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, 2 a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” 6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:1-13)

If the first Covenant had been perfect, there would’ve been no need for a second one. The second one comes along and supplants, overtakes the previous Covenant because God enters into a relationship with His people that is on another level. In the first covenant, animal sacrifices were offered daily for the sins of the people, though the animal sacrifices never effectively dealt with the sin. In the second Covenant, though, God the Father gives His Son, Jesus, to die in humanity’s place because of the sins of the world, so that, when we sin now, instead of offering an animal sacrifice at the tent of the Tabernacle of Meeting, we can now go into “the Holy of Holies” as members of “a royal priesthood” and offer spiritual sacrifices to the Lord on our own behalf and ask the Lord to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness:

4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion

A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

7 Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient,

“The stone which the builders rejected

Has become the chief cornerstone,”

8 and

“A stone of stumbling

And a rock of offense.”

They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 1:4-10)

Table of Contents:
Propitiation for Sin: The Doctrine of Atonement
1. Atonement in the Book of Exodus
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 <-- You are here
5. Atonement in the Book of Ezekiel
6. Atonement in the Book of Leviticus and a Conclusion


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