Understanding the Biblical Concept of Atonement

Numbers 31:50, Make atonement. 

Exploring the Concept of Atonement as It Relates to the Tabernacle and Salvation

In Numbers 31:50 we read,

We have therefore brought an oblation for YHVH, what every man has gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before YHVH.” In a similar passage in Exodus 30:15–16, we read, “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto YHVH, to make an atonement for your souls. And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before YHVH, to make an atonement for your souls (emphasis added).

The question before us is this: Do these passages in the Torah imply that YHVH grants man absolution based something other than the shedding of blood, and by logical extension, does this call into question our redemption from sin through our faith in Yeshua the Messiah’s blood atonement?

The concept of atonement can be a confusing one. Some in rabbinic Jewish circles teach that the Torah (i.e. the first five books of the Bible) does not require the shedding of blood for atonement of one’s sin to occur. According to the above scripture, this could appear to be the case. Before briefly discussing the subject of atonement, let us not forget the stern warnings of the Apostle Peter when he warned end-time saints against false teachers who would lure people away from the simple truth of the gospel:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not…. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly Continue reading

 

Are Humans Equal in the Eyes of the Creator?

An genuine 2,000 year old holy half-shekel.

Exodus 30:15, Rich…poor. This passage teaches the equality of all believers. In YHVH’s eyes, each redeemed Israelite saints are equal. To the Creator of all things and who owns everything, no one is worth more than a half-shekel, and no one is worth less than a half shekel. The rich aren’t better than the poor and vice versa. This is also the moral of Yeshua’s Parable of Lazurus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19–21). Contrary to what many Christians have been taught, this parable isn’t a doctrinal statement about the state of the dead and the afterlife. To many people, including the rich Scribes and Pharisees of Yeshua’s day, material success denotes superiority and even divine favor. The Bible dispels this false notion. YHVH looks at the heart and character of a person and the righteous fruits of their lives, and not at the outward, physical trappings—the proverbial cover of the book. The Scriptures address this issue in several places:

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24)

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matt 7:19–20)

But YHVH said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for YHVH seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but YHVH looketh on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)

Now the Torah and the rest of the Scriptures teach that all the saints are equal. But what about the rest of humanity? Are all humans created equal?

There are many ways to look at this equality issue. But let’s see what the Bible teaches.

The Bible states in several places that all humans are created in the image of Elohim. This implies equality among all humans.

The Bible also states that all humans are sinners, that all deserve death and that none are righteous of themselves. This also implies equality.

The Bible states that Elohim so loved all the world that he sent his Son to die for all humanity. This implies equality among humans.

The Bible also state that Elohim loved us while we were still sinners. This implies equality among all humans.

Elohim desires all humans to be saved. This also implies equality among humans.

The Bible furthermore states that Elohim isn’t a respecter of persons. This implies equality among humans.

The Bible teaches that there is one Torah-law standard of righteousness for all people—Israelites and non-Israelites. This implies equality.

Moreover, the Bible states that Elohim will judge all humans by that law. All humans will come before his judgment seat. Thus all are equal before the law and before the Judge of the universe.

Conversely, there is no question that the Bible teaches that Elohim favors those who love and serve him. He favors them with a special love and enters into a personal relationship with them. He blesses then in a special way (salvation, healing, answered prayers, special protection, guidance, wisdom the Set-Apart Spirit, etc.) and eventually will reward them with eternal life, glorification and inclusion into his eternal kingdom as his adopted children. So in this sense, Elohim starts out loving and treating everyone equally, but those who choose to love and obey him he favors them and extends his grace to them. In this case, not everyone is treated equally. But this is not based on favoritism on YHVH’s part, but upon the choices that humans make with regard to his initial equal treatment of all. In the end, all humans will reap what they sow. If they obey Elohim they will be blessed with immortality. If they disobey him, with eternal death.

 

The Holy Half Shekel—Another Pointer to Yeshua!

Exodus 30:15 and 16, To make atonement for your souls. Some will read these verses and conclude that one can buy their redemption through charitable giving and therefore circumvent the need to place one’s faith in Yeshua’s atoning death on the cross. Does this passage suggest a theology where man can save himself from his sins by acts of charity? Let’s dig a little deeper to see what these verses are really teaching us.

In this passage, YHVH instructed the Israelites to pay an annual half-shekel temple tax. This money went, in part, toward, the service (verse 16) and constructing of the Tabernacle of Moses (e.g. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the OT, vol. 1, p. 459; Exod. 38:21–31), and later toward the purchase of the animals the priests sacrificed (The Temple and Its Service, by Alfred Edersheim, p. 48). In this way, the people were participating vicariously in the act of sacrificing an innocent animal as an offering or atonement for their sins. Again, the Scriptures reveal that this sacrificial system merely pointed prophetically toward the Greater Sacrifice that would come later in the Person of Yeshua, the Redeemer of Israel. (Read Isa 53.) On the point that the paying the half-shekel was a merely a temporary solution to the problem of man’s sin, Keil and Delitzsch say in their commentary on this passage,

As an expiation [atonement] for souls, it pointed to the unholiness of Israel’s nature, and reminded the people continually, that by nature it was alienated from God, and could only remain in covenant with the Lord and live in His kingdom on the ground of His grace, which covered its sin (ibid.)

Keil and Delitzsch’s point is further strengthened in Exodus 30:16, which says,

And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before YHVH, to make an atonement for your souls. (emphasis added; ibid.)

The giving of the half-shekel was a memorial to what? The Hebrew word for memorial is zikrown (Strong’s H2146) meaning “reminder, token, record.” According to The TWOT, a zikrown is an object or act which brings something else to mind or which represents something else. It reminded them of their sinfulness and pointed prophetically to a Redeemer—Yeshua the Messiah— who would come and take away their sins once and for all (Heb 10:10). For a more detailed study of this subject, please see our teaching article entitled, “The Atonement: Bloody or Bloodless? Understanding the Concept of Atonement in the Torah” located on the Hoshana Rabbah website at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/atone.pdf.

 

A Tithe on War Booty and the Holy Half Shekel — A Memorial Pointing to Yeshua’s Atoning Death

Numbers 31:50, Make atonement. 

Exploring the Concept of Atonement as It Relates to the Tabernacle and Salvation

In this verse we read, “We have therefore brought an oblation for YHVH, what every man has gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before YHVH.” In a similar passage in Exodus 30:15–16, we read, “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto YHVH, to make an atonement for your souls. And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before YHVH, to make an atonement for your souls(emphasis added). The question before us is this: Do these passages in the Torah imply that YHVH grants man absolution based something other than the shedding of blood, and by logical extension, does this call into question our redemption from sin through our faith in Yeshua the Messiah’s blood atonement?

Natan holding an actual 2000 year old silver half-shekel from his biblical antiquities collection. This actual coin likely passed through the temple treasury in Jerusalem.

Natan holding an actual 2000 year old silver half-shekel from his biblical antiquities collection. This actual coin likely passed through the temple treasury in Jerusalem. YHVH commanded the Israelites to a pay yearly temple tax of a half-shekel of silver to help fund the sacrificial system that  was a prophetic picture of Yeshua’s atoning death on the cross.

The concept of atonement can be a confusing one. Some in rabbinic Jewish circles teach that the Torah (i.e., the first five books of the Bible) does not require the shedding of blood for atonement of one’s sin to occur. According to the above scripture, this could appear to be the case. Before briefly discussing the subject of atonement, let us not forget the stern warnings of the Apostle Peter when he warned end-time saints against false teachers who would lure people away from the simple truth of the gospel:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not…. But these, as natural Continue reading

 

Is there a back door around the bloody cross?

Exodus 30:15 and 16, To make atonement for your souls. Some will read these verses and conclude that one can buy their redemption through charitable giving and therefore circumvent the need to place one’s faith in Yeshua’s atoning death on the cross. Does this passage suggest a theology where man can save himself from his sins by acts of charity? Let’s dig a little deeper to see what these verses are really teaching us.

Cross, nailed hand 15210507

In this passage, YHVH instructed the Israelites to pay an annual half-shekel temple tax. This money went, in part, toward, the service (verse 16) and constructing of the Tabernacle of Moses (e.g., Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the OT, vol. 1, p. 459; Exod. 38:21–31), and later toward the purchase of the animals the priests sacrificed (The Temple and Its Service, by Alfred Edersheim, p. 48). In this way, the people were participating vicariously in the act of sacrificing an innocent animal as an offering or atonement for their sins. Again, the Scriptures reveal that this sacrificial system merely pointed prophetically toward the Greater Sacrifice that would come later in the Person of Yeshua, the Redeemer of Israel. (Read Isa 53.) On the point that the paying the half-shekel was a merely a temporary solution to the problem of man’s sin, Keil and Delitzsch say in their commentary on this passage,

As an expiation [atonement] for souls, it pointed to the unholiness of Israel’s nature, and reminded the people continually, that by nature it was alienated from God, and could only remain in covenant with the Lord and live in His kingdom on the ground of His grace, which covered its sin (Ibid.)

Keil and Delitzsch’s point is further strengthened in Exodus 30:16, which says,

And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before YHVH, to make an atonement for your souls. (emphasis added)

The giving of the half-shekel was a memorial to what? The Hebrew word for memorial is zikrown (Strong’s H2146) meaning “reminder, token, record.”

According to The TWOT, a zikrown is an object or act which brings something else to mind or which represents something else. It reminded them of their sinfulness and pointed prophetically to a Redeemer—Yeshua the Messiah— who would come and take away their sins once and for all (Heb 10:10). For a more detailed study of this subject, please see our teaching article entitled, “The Atonement: Bloody or Bloodless? Understanding the Concept of Atonement in the Torah” located on the Hoshana Rabbah website at http://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/atone.pdf.