Propitiation and the Merciful Covering

by | Jan 8, 2024

In my studies I came across something interesting. When Yahweh instructed Moses to fashion the ark of the covenant, the instructions included the fashioning of the Mercy Seat.

The word translated mercy seat comes from the Hebrew word Kaporet. Kaporet is derived from a root word meaning cover. There is actually no seat, as we think of a seat. It was not intended to be used as a place to sit. Mercy seat, I believe would be more accurately translated as covering, or merciful covering. It was upon the mercy seat that the blood was to be applied by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. We see then that the Merciful Covering and Atonement are tied together.

On the Day of Atonement, the blood of a goat was to be sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat as a sin offering.

Leviticus 16:14-15
“Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat.”

This of course finds a correlation in the Passover, as the blood of a lamb from among the sheep or the goats could be used, and the blood applied to the doorway. We understand then that Christ is the one being foreshadowed as being slain for mankind, and His blood becomes the merciful covering, or the atonement for our sin. It is mercy, for the Law did not demand that God provide an atonement for mankind. Yahweh chose to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

This thought is brought forward into the New Testament through the use of the word we find translated as propitiation.

Romans 3:21-25
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.

The Greek word translated as propitiation here is hilasterion. Strong’s states this of it:

Hilasterion (hil-as-tay’-ree-on); neuter of a derivative of NT:2433; an expiatory (place or thing), I.e. (concretely) an atoning victim, or (specially) the lid of the Ark (in the Temple):

Young’s Literal Translation renders Romans 3:25 in the following manner:

Romans 3:25
Whom God did set forth a mercy seat, through the faith in his blood, for the shewing forth of His righteousness, because of the passing over of the bygone sins in the forbearance of God…

We see then that both the sprinkling of the blood on the mercy seat, and the Passover, both point to the work of Christ and the shedding of His blood. Christ literally became the merciful covering for mankind, and we were therefore passed over by death, receiving life through Christ.

The next verse also reveals that this merciful covering was not just for our sins only, but for those of the whole world, and this finds a wonderful harmony in what was signified through Adam and Eve receiving coverings from God after their sin in the Garden.

I John 2:1-2
And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Yahshua Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation (merciful covering) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

I have always seen the atonement referenced in all of these things as a separate thing from the blood covenant. The atonement seems to me to be focused upon sin, while the blood covenant is concerned with inheritance. Genesis 15 is the first place that we see this blood covenant being made.

This section begins with Abraham asking God what He would do for him, since he was childless. Yahweh then gives Abraham an exceedingly great promise, telling him that his seed will be as numerous as the stars in the heaven and the sand of the shore. Abraham then asks:

Genesis 15:8
And he said, “Yahweh God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”

It is at this point that God instructs Abraham to take the animals and cut them up and lay them out, and the covenant is made.


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