The Atonement Money -- By: Carl Armerding

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 115:460 (Oct 1958)
Article: The Atonement Money
Author: Carl Armerding


The Atonement Money

Carl Armerding

[Carl Amerding is Professor of Bible and Theology at Wheaton College and Visiting Lecturer in Bible Exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Among all of the sacrifices for sin prescribed in the Book of Leviticus there is never a hint that money would be acceptable as such. As little as a handful of meal, taken from “the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour” might be offered as a sin offering by one who could afford nothing more (Lev 5:11). But nowhere in the list of sin offerings found in that passage of Scripture is there any mention made of money except in the case of the trespass offering which was valued, or estimated, “by shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.” It was a ram, however, which was actually offered.

The general teaching of Scripture is that we are “not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:18–19). How then can we account for the fact that the Lord Himself said unto Moses: “Thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls” (Exod 30:16)?

To begin with it should be noted that the atonement money is never mentioned in connection with the day of atonement. Instead, it is introduced in connection with the taking of a census. “The LORD spake unto Moses, saying, When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them” (Exod 30:11–12). The fact that we have the numbering of the people mentioned three times in these verses, and twice in the verses 13–14, would indicate that it has some bearing on the interpretation of the passage, and on the significance of the atonement money to be paid at that time.

Inasmuch as there were several different kinds of

“numberings,” or censuses taken, we shall have to consider them to determine, if possible, which of them may be referred to here. From Exodus 30:14 we learn that the census referred to there applied only to “every one that passeth among them that a...

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