In searching the words I am going to search you need to realize I will be sticking mostly with the New American Standard (NASB). I do search other Bibles but for the sake of a little continuity in this study I will stick with this one. The first place you really see the term ‘atonement’ is of course in the Law of Moses.
At first there is the verses that talk about how the priests are allowed to eat of the sacrifices offered for atonement then there is some talk about the altar of incense and how the sons of Aaron will make atonement on it once each year. My point is that I also have to sift through when the concept is actually being discussed rather than just mentioned on atonement’s relationship to priests and religious artifacts. That said there is an early concept in Exodus 30 where money is given to make atonement to the Lord where everyone has to give in order to have atonement for them. This might cause us to think atonement is nothing more than a price paid and you could even just use money but that is not where the text of the Bible stays. In fact it escalates quickly to something far more valuable.
When we really get to see atonement in action though is after Israel sins with the golden calf and Moses tells the people that he will go up to God and hopefully he can make atonement on their behalf. (Exodus 32) What is interesting is the this whole episode contains basically a desire by God to burn his people in his wrath but his respect for Moses cause him to listen to Moses’ prayer. Even though, in my opinion Moses’ arguments are weak at best, God still respects Moses enough to let him handle the discipline of his people. Moses enlists the Levites to slay all those who worshiped the golden calf although God acts as well and swallows up some of them. The fact is atonement is more of respect and relationship in this case than anything else. There is blood spilt but it is certainly not innocent blood that is for sure.
Moses ends up having to put his own salvation on the line for all the people. It is really only this that stops God’s ultimate wrath and something I think we can take away about atonement. To restore relationship with God requires more than just nice words and promises but a willingness to lay down one’s own life for others. Even at this early stage we can conclude that using Moses himself as an example.
Next: Atonement – Part Two