I plan to begin a slow pilgrimage through kâphar, which will at a minimum include surveying kôpher and kippûr. The first occurrences of kâphar and kôpher according to Strong’s Concordance are found in, Make rooms in the ark, and cover (kâphar, וכפרת; Septuagint: ἀσφαλτώσεις, a form of ἀσφαλτόω) it with pitch (kôpher, בכפר: Septuagint: ἀσφάλτῳ, a form of ἄσφαλτος) inside and out. But I’m going to set that aside.
The note (48) in the NET reads:
The Hebrew term כָּפָר (kafar, “to cover, to smear” [= to caulk]) appears here in the Qal stem with its primary, nonmetaphorical meaning. The Piel form כִּפֶּר (kipper), which has the metaphorical meaning “to atone, to expiate, to pacify,” is used in Levitical texts (see HALOT 493-94 s.v. כפר). Some authorities regard the form in v. 14 as a homonym of the much more common Levitical term (see BDB 498 s.v. כָּפָר).
I think homonym was used here as I have used homograph: “a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not, as bear ‘to carry; support’ and bear ‘animal’ or lead ‘to conduct’ and lead ‘metal;’ a homograph.” A table showing the translations of the occurrences of kôpher from Genesis 6:14 – Numbers 35:32 in the KJV, NET and the Septuagint follows:
Form of kôpher
|כפר||Exodus 21:30||If there be laid on him a sum of money…||If a ransom is set for him…||λύτρα, a form of λύτρον|
|Exodus 30:12||…then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul…||…then each man is to pay a ransom for his life…|
|Numbers 35:31||…ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death:||…you must not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death…|
|Numbers 35:32||…ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge…||…you must not accept a ransom for anyone who has fled to a town of refuge…|
|בכפר||Genesis 6:14||…and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.||…and cover it with pitch inside and out.||ἀσφάλτῳ, a form of ἄσφαλτος|
Clearly kôpher (כפר) in Exodus 21:30; 30:12; Numbers 35:31 and 32 is a homograph for kâphar (כפר) in Exodus 29:33 (NET): They are to eat those things by which atonement (kâphar, כפר) was made to consecrate and to set them apart, but no one else may eat them, for they are holy. I am more than content to assume that the homographs translated, and cover it with pitch, have next to nothing to do with atonement. John wrote (1 John 1:5-7 NET):
Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
I can appreciate that something like asphalt smeared inside and outside of a wooden vessel that preserved people through a judgment of water bears a vague similarity to atonement that will preserve people through a judgment of fire (2 Peter 3:5-7). But and cover it with pitch sounds more like Achan burying a nice robe from Babylon, two hundred silver pieces, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels in the ground right in the middle of [his] tent. It sounds like David calling Uriah home from the front and saying, “Go down to your home and relax.” When Uriah’s loyalty to his comrades-in-arms proved such that he was useless in David’s attempt to cover his sin with pitch, the king sent him back to the front carrying a letter to his commanding officer that read: “Station Uriah in the thick of the battle and then withdraw from him so he will be cut down and killed (nâkâh).”
In both circumstances yehôvâh brought these pitch-covered-sins to light (Joshua 7:10-26; 2 Samuel 12:1-14). Thinking atonement was a covering of pitch for sin probably had a lot to do with my conclusion that the Gospel was more a mind trick God played on Himself than something of value for me.
Achan and his family were stoned and burned for theft. David’s sins of adultery and murder were forgiven or passed over. I can’t pass by here without at least considering this moral calculus in some way beyond the obvious, that David was a king and Achan’s only claim to fame was the spectacle of his execution.
All the silver and gold, as well as bronze and iron items, belong to the Lord (yehôvâh, ליהוה), Joshua commanded. They must go into the Lord’s (yehôvâh, יהוה) treasury. If I hear this with an unbelieving heart it’s easy to see why Friedrich Nietzsche considered Judaism (and not only Judaism) a religion concocted by weak, power-hungry priests.
The ‘law’, the ‘will of God’, the ‘holy book’, ‘inspiration’ – All these are just words for the conditions under which priests come to power and maintain their power, – these concepts can be found at the bottom of all priestly organizations, all structures of priestly or philosophical-priestly control. The ‘holy lie’ – this is common to Confucius, the law book of Manu, Mohammed, and the Christian church: and it is not absent from Plato either. ‘The truth is there ‘: wherever you hear this, it means that the priest is lying.
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ (1888), 55.
An article, “The Hebrew Bible in Nietzsche’s philosophy of religion,” by Jaco Gericke offers an interesting overview on this subject. My affection for Nietzsche comes from long hours spent with him and Jesus. Nietzsche, of course, is dead and had no opportunity for rebuttal. It’s difficult to say how much that difference alone encouraged and maintained my faith in Jesus. Still I hesitate either to censor Nietzsche’s writings or to promote them as a test of spiritual manhood. Consider Jaco Gericke.
In “Confessions of a Died-Again Christian,” an interview hosted by Robert M. Price online, Professor Gericke gave his testimony, a born-again Christian who became first a “died-again” Christian then an atheist while studying to become a missionary. After I listened to it I spent the rest of the day pouting. That’s what I do now rather than throwing a hissy fit or trying to muscle on in my own strength.
“Either one of these men,” I prayed, “could have been better at this than I am.”
Professor Gericke never described the Bible as the product of lying priests (or preachers, as the case may be). He described “the system”:
The system has everything covered. So whatever your problem is, there’s an answer for that somewhere out there…
And you recognize how religion, how the system has controlled you and told you stories about the way things work, and you see the system for what it is…
You also understand how the system, with apologetics, has everything covered. So to get out is really as close to a miracle as you can get.
He went to the university originally “to become a missionary to share the joy I found [after a conversion experience] with other people.” Over time that desire was replaced by another, to be “academically respectable.” Eventually he read Beyond Fundamentalism by James Barr. “It focuses so much on the Bible and the text,” he described the experience of reading Barr, “that in the end what happens is that your Christian ethics destroys your Christian dogma because you just follow the truth and you do introspection.” Mr. Price concurred: “The all important personal relationship with Jesus, the sole point of the Bible according to most of these guys [e.g., top notch evangelical…scholars], never occurs in the Bible.”
True enough, the words personal relationship with Jesus do not occur in the Bible. The hope and promise of the new covenant reads (Jeremiah 31:34 NET):
“People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה). “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”
Judas (not Iscariot) said to [Jesus] (John14:22-24 NASB):
“Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep (τηρήσει, a form of τηρέω) My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep (τηρεῖ, another form of τηρέω) My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”
Professor Gericke’s testimony wasn’t a tale of following Yahweh/Jesus through the scriptures to know Him and his Father. Rather, it was a proxy war he conducted in his own mind between his favorite fundamentalist apologists and the writings of Julius Wellhausen, David Strauss, biblical criticism, the philosophy of religion and the history of Yahweh, along with James Barr. His fundamentalist champions didn’t measure up, so the “truth” set him free (John 8:31, 32 NET).
Then Jesus said to those Judeans who had believed him, “If you continue to follow my teaching, you are really my disciples and you will know the truth (ἀλήθειαν, a form of ἀλήθεια), and the truth (ἀλήθεια) will set you free.”
Even if Jesus alluded to a stoic maxim (as Mr. Price asserted) truth was not an abstract concept to Him, certainly not the writings of Julius Wellhausen, David Strauss, biblical criticism, the philosophy of religion and the history of Yahweh, along with James Barr. Set them apart in the truth (ἀληθείᾳ, another form of ἀλήθεια), He prayed to his Father, your word is truth (ἀλήθεια). By word (λόγος) Jesus may have alluded to Himself—I am the way, and the truth (ἀληθείας, another form of ἀλήθεια), and the life—but He was born a human baby and socialized into all of the rabbinic lore of his time. He grew to become the person I know and love by preferring a collection of writings remarkably similar to the Old Testament I read today, which He called τὸν λόγον τοῦ θεοῦ (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13; Luke 8:21; Luke 11:28) or ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ (Luke 8:11; John 10:35). Both were translated the word of God.
After his resurrection He said to his disciples (Luke 24:44-49):
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
His devotion to the truth of those writings was so fierce it terrified Peter and the other disciples (Matthew 26:52-56 NET):
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place! For all who take hold of the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and that he would send me more than twelve legions of angels right now? How then would the scriptures that say it must happen this way be fulfilled?” At that moment Jesus said to the crowd, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw? Day after day I sat teaching in the temple courts, yet you did not arrest me. But this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Unqualified or not I will get up each morning, take whatever faithfulness I am given and follow Jesus through the scriptures. I desire to do this to know Him and his Father. He has given me a hunger and thirst for his righteousness. And I need to do this lest the sin in my flesh overtake me. Who would have thought of my sinfulness, my utter inability to do righteousness apart from the fruit of the Spirit, as my advantage over Jaco Gericke or Robert Price? I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance, Jesus answered the Pharisees and their experts in the law.
Admittedly, it takes some faith to find any coherent knowledge of God in his seemingly disparate judgments of Achan and David, but I think they are consistent with Jesus’ command: Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.
Achan was part of the army that had judged/condemned Jericho: They annihilated with the sword everything that breathed in the city, including men and women, young and old, as well as cattle, sheep, and donkeys. David sent out Joab with his officers and the entire Israelite army. They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Both were judged accordingly.
“This is what the Lord (yehôvâh, יהוה) says,” Nathan said to David, “‘I am about to bring disaster on you from inside your own household! Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companion. He will have sexual relations with your wives in broad daylight! Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.’”
Despite Nathan’s warning David was merciful to his sons Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-21) and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:21-33), though that mercy was perhaps the most immediate cause of the prophecy’s fulfillment. Absalom parlayed Amnon’s death (2 Samuel 13:23-37) into a credible political argument that he was the law and order choice for king (2 Samuel 15:1-6). I have thought at times that David—the chief law enforcement official in Israel—if he had been strict with his sons, if he had at least left Absalom in self-imposed exile, may have avoided the consequence of Nathan’s prophecy. But Jesus said in a parable (Matthew 18:32-35 NET):
“Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, ‘Evil slave! I forgave (ἀφῆκα, a form of ἀφίημι) you all that debt because you begged me! Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?’ And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed. So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive (ἀφῆτε, another form of ἀφίημι) your brother from your heart.”
Paul quoted David from the Septuagint: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered… The original word in Hebrew was not kâphar or kôpher from Genesis 6:14, and cover it with pitch. David chose kâsâh (כסוי): The waters completely inundated the earth so that even all the high mountains under the entire sky were covered (kâsâh). Two forms of kâsâh occur in this Psalm (32:1-6 Tanakh):
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (kâsâh, כסוי). Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid (kâsâh, כסיתי). I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Therefore you are without excuse, Paul wrote believers in Rome, whoever you are, when you judge someone else (Romans 2:1-8 NET):
For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth (ἀλήθειαν, a form of ἀλήθεια) against those who practice such things. And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed! He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey (ἀπειθοῦσι, a form of ἀπειθέω) the truth (ἀληθείᾳ, another form of ἀλήθεια) but follow unrighteousness.
Near the end of the interview with Jaco Gericke, Robert Price described what he called “Practicing the Absence of God”:
What you use to say was the leading of the Holy Spirit, this internal voice—“Oh, don’t you want to come back? Aren’t you really just trying to escape the implications of the truth?”—you have to eventually regard that as you once did temptations to sin, because intellectually that’s what’s going on. That’s what it is. You have to say, “No, I’m sorry, I know better than that. I’m not going to listen to that. I’m going to go ahead and make a new start.”
Once you have Nietzsche in your head it’s easy to argue that Jesus’ command, Do not judge, was given, not because He is Yahweh come in human flesh but, because He was as desperate for the scriptures to be true as I am, and so, reasoned and argued in a similar manner. He was ignorant of, or confused about, the esoteric knowledge that Jaco Gericke and Robert Price possess. Of course, if Jesus was ignorant or confused, please grant me his ignorance and confusion. For once you have Nietzsche in your head, it’s just as easy to see that Nietzsche raised unbelief to a high art and faithfully followed that art as its reductio ad absurdum.
A table comparing Romans 4:7 and Psalm 32:1 in the Septuagint follows.
|Parallel Greek||Psalm 32:1 (Septuagint)|
|Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered…||μακάριοι ὧν ἀφέθησαν αἱ ἀνομίαι καὶ ὧν ἐπεκαλύφθησαν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι||μακάριοι ὧν ἀφέθησαν αἱ ἀνομίαι καὶ ὧν ἐπεκαλύφθησαν αἱ ἁμαρτίαι||Happy are those whose lawless behavior was forgiven and whose sins were covered over.|
 It is not the same Hebrew word as Exodus 20:13, but Nathan said, You have killed (hârag, הרגת) him with the sword of the Ammonites (2 Samuel 12:9b NET). But if a man willfully attacks his neighbor to kill (hârag, להרגו) him cunningly, yehôvâh said, you will take him even from my altar that he may die (Exodus 21:14 NET).
 I have written some on this topic: David’s Forgiveness, Part 5; David’s Forgiveness, Part 6; David’s Forgiveness, Part 7; David’s Forgiveness, Part 8; David’s Forgiveness, Part 9; David’s Forgiveness, Part 10 ; David’s Forgiveness, Part 11; David’s Forgiveness, Part 12; David’s Forgiveness, Part 13