Leviticus 4–6: Blood & Atonement

Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 25: Monday

“He shall lay his hand on the head of the male goat and slay it in the place where they slay the burnt offering before the LORD; it is a sin offering. Then the priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering; and the rest of its blood he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering. All its fat he shall offer up in smoke on the altar as in the case of the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin, and he will be forgiven.”

Leviticus 4:24–26

Monday’s Bible reading of Leviticus 4–6, gives instructions for sin offerings and guilt offerings. As you read Leviticus, you’ll probably noticed blood is a word used repeatedly, as is the phrase, the priest shall make atonement.

Gleason Archer writes:

“The basic principle underlying all the blood sacrifices (zebāḥīm) was atonement (kippūr) by the substitution of an innocent life for the guilty. In token of this substitution, the offerer laid his hand upon the victim’s head, thus identifying himself with it as his representative. To signify his acceptance of the just penalty of death, the offerer himself slew his victim and then turned it over to the priest for the completion of the ceremony. The priest usually sprinkled or smeared a portion of the blood upon the altar.”1

Of the word blood, in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Victor Hamilton writes:

“…blood in the OT denotes not life, but death, or more accurately, life that is offered up in death. Having said this, it should be pointed out that there is absolutely nothing in the OT akin to the morbid preoccupation with the sinister deities of the netherworld such as one finds in the blood rituals of Israel”s neighbors…”2

Of atonement, in the same volume, Laird Harris states kōper, ransom, is a parent noun of kāpar, make an atonement3:

“This word “ransom,” is parallel to the word “redeem,” …in Ps. 49:7.

“From the meaning of kōper “ransom,” the meaning of kāpar can be better understood. It means “to atone by offering a substitute.” The great majority of the usages concern the priestly ritual of sprinkling the sacrificial blood thus “making an atonement for the worshipper. There are forty-nine instances of this usage in Leviticus alone and no other meaning is there witnessed”4

The substitutionary death of the sacrifice is followed by a closing phrase in Leviticus 4–6: …and he will be forgiven.

Last week I quoted Oswald Allis: “…there is no book in the OT which more clearly sets forth the redemption which is in Christ than does Leviticus.”5

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption….

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…”

Hebrews 9:11–12, 24

Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, p. 243.
2, 3, 4R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, eds., Theological Wordbook of the Old
Testament, 1980, vol. I, pp. 191, 452, 453.
5Oswald T. Allis, “Leviticus,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie,
J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 142.

Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter

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