What is the meaning of the atonement? To answer that question is to explain the purpose of His sacrifice.
The first purpose is to cover our sin. “And you shall offer a bull every day as a sin offering for atonement [kippur]. You shall cleanse the altar when you make atonement [kapar] for it” (Ex. 29:36, NKJV). In the Jewish calendar, there is Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement. (Yom is Hebrew for “day,” while kippur means, atonement.) “Atonement” is from the Hebrew plural noun, kippur. “Make atonement” is from the verb, kapar.
How do you cover your sin? In the Old Testament, it is by a bloody offering or sacrifice. God commanded the Levite priest to get a young bull, kill it, and sprinkle its blood on the altar as a ransom price for the sins of the people (Ex. 29:36).
The bloody sacrifice here has a dual meaning and purpose. The verb, kapar here means, “To cover over, atone for sin, make atonement for” in the Piel stem (BDB). The equivalent English word for kapar is expiation, which means, “to make amends” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Expiation is to make amends with God, by covering your sin through a bloody sacrifice. That is the first meaning of the atonement. You get a bull, kill it, and then sprinkle its blood on the altar. That’s expiation—making amends with God by covering your sin.
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