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כּפר

(Kapar)

“You’re covered”

 

By: David Deschesne

Going out to eat with a friend is nice and when the check arrives, your friend says, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered,” is even nicer. How about insurance. When we buy insurance, we are buying “coverage” - that is, we are “covered” for any expenses that may be incurred in an accident. These idioms are the spirit of the meaning of the word כּפר (kapar), which means to “cover ” or to “pay as a ransom.” Other words that share its root are koper (ransom) and kippur (atonement).

“Atonement, in the religious sense, means a reversal of the alienation caused by sin whereby the offending party is restored to spiritual “at-one-ment” (i.e., unity) and ultimately forgiven…Furthermore, the exercise of human freedom is central to atonement. Just as man is free to sin, so he is free to repent...there is no concept of ‘prevenient grace’ whereby God takes the first step. Atonement depends first on the sinner’s genuine, wholehearted repentance. Only when that becomes evident in the sinner’s conduct does God proceed to the stages of granting atonement and pardon.”1

In old Testament times, the Day of Atonement יום כּפר - or Yom Kippur - was the climax of the Ten Days of Penitence where the Israelites set aside ten days at the beginning of the year so that more deliberate attention could be paid to the exercise of spiritual renewal.

In Leviticus 16, there are two goats. One, the scapegoat, was kept alive, all placed their hands in it and he was sent into the wilderness, symbolically carrying the people’s sins of that year with him. The second was the blood sacrifice that was slaughtered and offered to the Lord for atonement, or as a ransom, to pay the price for the people’s sins.

The goats typify Christ, who carried away the sins of the world and was symbolized by the slain animal; Christ was the only one worth enough to die for the sins of the entire world.

An animal’s blood is not worth enough to actually pay for man’s sins, it was merely a substitute. Like spending silver certificates, which are nothing more than pieces of paper representing a claim against silver, the Israelites were shedding the blood of animals to atone for their sins until the day would come when Jesus (the) Christ would, like the pure silver, redeem all of those past transactions with His shed blood at Calvary.

The whole idea of Atonement, according to the rabbinical view, [editor: as well as the Christian view] is regeneration - restoration of the original state of man in his relation to God called tekanah.2

Atonement, meaning to cover, does not really mean to mask over sins, but rather to pay for them as a ransom. It doesn’t do a man any good to jump in a bath while holding the soiling item in his hand. Atonement pays the ransom, which is what Christ’s blood did - it paid for all the sins of the past, by buying up all the blood from the animal sacrifices and “covers” - or pays - for all of the sins of man in the future. The way at-one-ment was accessed prior to Jesus was with animal sacrifice; in Christianity, we become “at one” with God by entering into a faithing, trusting relationship with Him the same way we would culture and mature a relationship with a new friend. Jesus became the access to reconnect us with God and allowing us salvation - which is being what God wants us (individually) to be.

In addition to the goats in Leviticus, there are other types of Christ found in the Bible. One is the animal skin that God used to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). God is a “man of his word.” If He said transgressions against him are payable in death (Genesis 2:17) then He has to keep His word. The lesson of death for sin was typified in Genesis 3:21 by slaying the animal for Adam and Eve’s transgressions and covering them with its skin.

Another very interesting type of Christ in the Old Testament is in Noah’s Ark. The Ark was built of Acacia wood and sealed on the inside with pitch. In Genesis it says of the ark, “...pitch it within and without with pitch.”3

The first time ‘pitch’ is used, its Hebrew word is (kapar) which is to cover, the second ‘pitch’ shares the exact same root as kapar, it is (kopher) which means: pitch, bitumen, asphalt which was used in early antiquity as an adhesive and to caulk and seal.

The pitch typifies Christ’s covering our sins. As the pitch kept the water out of the ark and brought its inhabitants to safety, so too does Christ’s blood cover and protect us from the tyranny of sin and delivers those who have called on Him to be “covered” by it safely to the other side. Though the storm outside is rough and our lives can get pretty hectic, the typology being taught with the pitch and the ark is: the same way Noah and his family made it through some very harsh times, those covered by Jesus’ blood today will get through the tough times in their lives and be freed from the death of their soul in Hell, which arises from sin. The same way Noah trusted in the Lord for his “covering” and “protection” - we may voluntarily enter into that trusting, faithing relationship, too, with the Blood of Jesus Christ covering our sins and thereby granting access to our Heavenly Father.

 

Notes

1. The New Encyclopedia of Judaism, ©2002 G.G. The Jerusalem Publishing House, p. 89

2. see Talmud, Rosh ha-Shannah, 17a; Arakin 15b

3. Genesis 6:14 KJV