Atonement in the Pentateuch

Paul Zellmer zellmer at
Sun Sep 27 11:15:23 EDT 1998

Tony Calman wrote:

> I have been doing some study into atonement found in the Pentateuch. I have
> looked at the verbal root kaph pe resh and found the application to be
> rather surprising.
> The atoning can be between a Priest and God (Exod. 29:33; Lev. 16:6; Num.
> 8:12; 8:21), a Human and Human (Gen. 32:21; Exod. 21:30; 30:12; Num. 5:8;
> 35:31; 35:32); God and Man (Exod. 30:15; Lev. 8:34; Num. 8:19; Deut. 21:8)
> or God, a mediator and a person (Exod. 32:30 Lev. 1:4; 4:20; 4:26; 4:31;
> Num. 15:25; 15:28). The surprising application is that it can be a thing,
> eg. an Ark (Gen. 6:14); The Land (Num. 35:33; Deut. 32:43); the Altar (Lev.
> 8:15; 16:18); the Sanctuary (Lev. 16:16) and other Holy Places (Lev. 16:20;
> 16:33), even the house of a Leper (Lev. 14:53).
> Is there any thoughts on how this verbal root is to be applied in the
> Pentateuch, especially to the non-human articles?
> Tony Calman
> tcalman at


First of all, let's handle the Gen 6 usage.  The ark that Noah built was covered,
coated with pitch inside and out.  That is what KPR refers to here.  Atonement really
isn't a good translation.

For the other inanimate objects, they have each been defiled by the sin of the
people.  This is not so different from the curse on the land as a result of Adam's
since, although the Genesis 3 passage does not refer to the solution for that
problem.  Remember that the law indicated that holy things become tainted when they
touch the profane.  The atonement would be the process that would bring them to the
untainted state in God's eyes.  To keep the image of covering that KPR seems to carry,
the stain is covered up, or atoned for.



Paul and Dee Zellmer, Jimmy Guingab, Geoffrey Beltran
Ibanag Translation Project
Cabagan, Philippines

zellmer at

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