The Atonement Money

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"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, when thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they 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.
"This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord.
" Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord.
" The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls.
"And 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."-Ex. 30 x I-15.
We have another metal presented to us, in the construction of the tabernacle-Silver.
The word in the Hebrew is frequently translated Money. It was indeed, the precious metal ordinarily in use, in all transactions of buying and selling: and even at this day, in many countries, it is the current money of the merchant. Francs, dollars, thalers, scudi, are all coins of silver: and mercantile transactions are generally calculated in one or other of these coins, in most of the countries of Europe, and indeed of the world.
We have two memorable instances in Scripture, where life was bartered for silver; Joseph for twenty, and the Son of God for thirty pieces. The idea therefore, of price or value, especially attaches to this metal. It ranks also with us, as one of the precious metals: and though not displaying the brilliant glory of the gold, it is yet especially beautiful, by reason of its soft purity and unsullied whiteness: and like the gold, it corrodes not, and wastes not in the fining pot, though subjected to the intense heat of the furnace. The silver, used in the construction of the tabernacle, was all derived from the Atonement money. The whole range of God's truth rests upon two great verities:-the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man-and His work of atonement on the cross. Throughout the history of God's ancient people, type after type, and shadow upon shadow, reiterated the absolute necessity of atonement. And while the Law prescribed commandments, to obey which, Israel fatally pledged themselves, it at the same time, contained abundant ritual observances, which testified to man's incapability and need, and prophesied of One, who while they were yet without strength, should, in due time, die for the ungodly. As a covenant of works, it was a ministration of death. But to one who was really a child of Abraham, it must have shone out, like the face of Moses, with a prophetic glory; and have pointed onwards to the Lamb of God; in whom all the shadows of good things to come passed into substance.
This type before us, of the atonement-money, preached a very clear and blessed Gospel. It told out the great truth, that birth in the flesh availed nothing. An Israelite might trace up, in unbroken succession, his descent from Abraham, or from one of Jacob's sons. Still, that sufficed him not, if he desired to be entered on the roll as one of God's soldiers and servants. The Jews, in the time of the Lord, could say, " We be Abraham's seed:" and the Samaritan sinner claimed Jacob as her father. But they were captives of the devil, and of fleshly lusts; and their human pedigree had not raised them out of the dominion of sin. God had therefore enjoined, that, whenever Israel were numbered as His people, every man must give a ransom for his soul. The price was fixed by God Himself. Each man, whether poor or rich, must bring the same. One could not pay for another; but every one must tender his own ransom-money, of pure silver, and of perfect weight. "Half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, (a shekel is twenty gerahs,) a half-shekel shall be the offering of the Lord." (Ex. 30:1313This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. (Exodus 30:13).) Other Gospel truths here shine out. When the question came to be one of ransom; the poor and the rich, the foolish and the wise, the ignorant and the learned, the immoral and the moral, stood on the same level. Each person was estimated by God at the same price. He proved Himself no respecter of persons. And so it is still. The third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans defines the state of every one in the whole world, and levels the way for the Gospel. John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord by his voice, calling all to repentance, declaring all to be in one condition, needing change of heart. And the Lord Jesus began to speak of the great salvation to hearts thus prepared. The chapter above referred to makes the path straight for the proclamation of justification through faith in Christ, by pronouncing that all are under sin; that every mouth must be silent; that all the world is guilty before God; and that there is no difference between the religious Jew, and the irreligious Gentile: for, "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
Another truth enunciated in this type is, that salvation must be an individual, personal matter; between the soul and God. Every man has to bring his own half-shekel. One of the devices of Satan, at the present day-and it is spread far and wide-is the way in which he obscures this truth, by inducing whole communities to believe they are Christians; made such, either by baptism, or by some formal profession of religiousness; and placing, in the lips of thousands, " Our Savior," and " Our Father;" and thus beguiling them into the thought, that they are included in a general redemption of mankind, which affects the whole human race. Constantly therefore, in speaking to persons, we find the reply:-O yes, we are all sinners: and Christ has died for us all.
Each individual Israelite had to present himself to the priest, bringing with him his own piece of money as a ransom: and his name would then be entered in God's book. The Lord Jesus, in the 6th of John says: Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." Eating and drinking are actions which one cannot perform for another. The food, taken into the mouth, becomes one's own, and ministers strength and nourishment to the body. So, the death of Christ must he appropriated by each to himself. The soul has to say, My Savior; My Lord; My God. I have been crucified with Christ. Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me. Just as assuredly as the Israelite of old, had to eat the manna he had collected for his own sustenance; or according to his eating, to make his count for the lamb.
The half-shekel was to be of silver; the unalloyed, unadulterated metal. Three things are probably here presented to us in type: the Lord Jesus as God-as the pure and spotless One-and as giving His life a ransom for many. The silver, being a solid imperishable precious metal, may have this first aspect: its chaste whiteness representing the second; and its being ordinarily employed as money or price, may point out its fitness as a type of the third.
The weight was also defined by God: -" the shekel of the sanctuary;" kept as a standard in the tabernacle; and perhaps bearing some stamp or inscription to authenticate it. Its weight was twenty gerahs. The half-shekel, brought by each man who desired to be numbered, was to be compared with this. God kept the just weight and the just balance; and his priest would neither take dross instead of silver, nor receive less weight of the precious metal than was required by the Lord. With confidence the true-hearted Israelite, would ring out the silver sound, from his half-shekel before the priest: with confidence would he see it put into the balance. And, in the blessed antitype, with confidence does the believer sound out, in the ears of God, and of the great High Priest of His sanctuary, his full dependence on Christ and His precious blood. He knows that that price is up to the full estimate demanded by God. He has one standard of perfection and purity, against which He weighs the hearts, spirits, and actions of men. Everything short of this standard, every one who fails to reach this sterling value, will be condemned; like the Babylonian prince, who was weighed in the balances, and found wanting. To come short of the glory of God, is to be in the distance and darkness of corruption and death. How wondrous the grace, which has provided One, in whom we are raised from the depth of human misery, degradation, and ruin, to the height of the throne and glory of the Most High! How passing knowledge, that love of God, which has not hesitated to plunge into judgment and wrath, His only-begotten Son, and to shed the blood of Christ like water, in order to redeem, from filthiness and sin, the worthless and the vile; and to number them among the hosts of light and glory, in the courts above!
There is a manifest allusion to the atonement-money in 1 Peter 1:1818Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; (1 Peter 1:18). " Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot." An allusion, by way of contrast. What men consider precious metals, and free from impurity and corrosion, God calls " perishable" and " corruptible." He says, that gold and silver " canker" and " rust.''
The man who amasses wealth is an object of praise and envy. " Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself." (Psa. 49:1818Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself. (Psalm 49:18).) But in this epistle, gain is denominated filthy lucre, The redemption, which God has paid for us, is no amount of corruptible things, as silver and gold. Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt-offering. Nothing less than the precious blood of Christ would avail. God has valued our salvation at no less cost, than the pouring out of His soul unto death.
The Hebrew word, from which the words ransom and atonement are derived, has a variety of senses all bearing on the same truth. Thus, we find, the word includes the thought of covering over our sin; as a covering of pitch covers over the wood on which it is spread. (Gen. 6:1414Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. (Genesis 6:14).)
The blood of atonement blots out the page of sin, and hides it from the eye of God. The secret sins, which have stood out in their glaring evil, in the light of His countenance, are hidden by the blood sprinkled on the mercy-seat. It also means, to appease or pacify. Thus Jacob sent a present to (atone or) appease his brother Esau. (Gen. 32:2020And say ye moreover, Behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us. For he said, I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me. (Genesis 32:20).) " The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will (atone or) pacify it." (Prov. 16:1414The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it. (Proverbs 16:14).) " That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am (atoned or) pacified towards thee." (Ezek. 16:6363That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 16:63).)
This is the sense of the word in the New Testament-propitiation; God's wrath being appeased in Christ through the shedding of His blood. 1 John 2:22And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) and 6: 10.
In the New Testament also, the word atonement is synonymous with reconciliation.
By Him, to reconcile all things to Himself." Col. 1.20. To put of, or expiate.-" Mischief shall fall upon thee: thou shalt not be able to put it off." (Margin-Expiate.) Isa. 47:22Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers. (Isaiah 47:2).
Ransom, or, satisfaction.-" Deliver him from going down into the pit: I have found a ransom." Job 33:2424Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom. (Job 33:24).
We shall perceive, from these various quotations, that the same Hebrew word translated Atonement, signifies also, Covering over; Appeasing; Forgiveness; Reconciliation; Expiation; Disannulling; Ransom or Redemption; Satisfaction; and Cleansing.
One sense of our word Atonement is, At-one-ment; two opposing parties being brought together in agreement as one. And the means whereby this is effected, the payment of a price, ransom or satisfaction. So, this beautiful type of the half-shekel of silver, shadows forth the precious blood of Christ, as the redemption price provided by God. And, when the sinner estimates its all-sufficient value in the presence of God, he answers the action of the Israelite in paying down the silver half-shekel; as it is beautifully expressed in 1 Peter 2:77Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, (1 Peter 2:7): " Unto you which believe, He is precious:" or, as it might be rendered, " He is the preciousness;" your full satisfaction, and value also before God, We have also another important aspect of truth portrayed in this type-viz. that redemption brings us to, and fits us for God. The Israelite, who paid his ransom-money, was numbered as a soldier and a servant for God. A place was assigned him in the battle-field: and he had his position in the camp, appointed with reference to the tabernacle, the dwelling-place of God in the midst of the hosts. From henceforth Jehovah was his Leader, his Lord, his King. In like manner, the believer is redeemed to God, by the blood of Christ, from the world, and from slavery to sin and Satan; that he may be a soldier and a servant of the Most High; to be led, guided, and sustained by Him, who has called him out of darkness, into His marvelous light.
Two other words deserve our notice in this passage. Ex. 30:13,1413This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. 14Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. (Exodus 30:13‑14). "Every one that passeth among them that are numbered." and the word "offering," 13-15. The allusion, in 13, 14, is to the sheep passing under the rod of the shepherd, as he numbers them. Ezek. 20:3737And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: (Ezekiel 20:37). "I will cause you to pass under the rod: and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." The priest took the place of a shepherd, counting the sheep of God's hand. And as the true mark of the sheep came under his eye, in the ransom-money offered by each, he entered each in the book of the covenant. So the good Shepherd has laid down His life for the sheep; and they are entered in the Lamb's book of life, because the atonement-price has been paid for each.
The word Offering is a peculiar word in the Hebrew, signifying something that is lifted off the ground, and presented on high; and is the word translated heave-offering. All the various offerings brought by the Israelites, as contributions for forming the tabernacle, and enumerated (Ex. 25:2 -72Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. 3And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, 4And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, 5And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood, 6Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, 7Onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. (Exodus 25:2‑7)) are called heave-offerings. This atonement-money was a peculiar piece of silver, separated off to God, and lifted, as it were, from the earth, with the special object of being paid into His treasury, as a ransom for the soul. So has the Lord Jesus been lifted up, first on the cross, to pour out His blood a ransom for many; and secondly, He has been exalted, and made very high, "to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:3131Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:31).
This ordinance was transgressed by David, as related in 2 Sam. 24., 1 Chron. 21. Israel had settled down in self-contentedness and pride; David their king and shepherd, himself drinking into the same spirit. Satan, by God's permission, was allowed to tempt the king, and provoke him, by whisperings of vanity and self-exaltation, to number Israel. The desire in David's heart was, not that God might be glorified, and His promise made manifest, in the vast increase of His people; but that he, the king, might congratulate himself on the number of his subjects. "Number ye the people, that I may know." "Bring the number of them to me, that I may know it." Joab, to whom the command was given, though himself an ambitious worldly-minded man, yet was keen-sighted enough to perceive, that this desire of his master was not of God. He even had some insight into David's sin. He looked upon Israel as a people belonging to Jehovah; and on David, as committing a trespass in having them numbered for himself. But, like all unbelievers, though he could point out the fault, he was not able to direct David to the remedy. He did not allude to the atonement-money. One result of this numbering was, that even cities of the Hivites, and the stronghold of Tire, were included in the tale: which could never have been the case, had the silver half-shekel been required. At the present day, unconverted inhabitants of earth are too often classed as of the Church of God, by reason of the same neglect, viz: that they are not required to confess openly their confidence in the precious blood of Christ, before being reckoned among the hosts of God.
David's heart soon smote him, after the numbering was completed: he fully confessed his own sin and folly; he at once cast himself on the mercies of God for pardon, and preferred being dealt with in chastisement immediately from the Lord, rather than fall into the hands of men. Accordingly, the plague, (which had already been threatened, in Ex. 30:1212When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they 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. (Exodus 30:12).) broke out amongst the people: and the destroyer stayed not his hand until the Lord, listening to the humiliation of David, and appeased by the burnt-offering presented at the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite, said-"It is enough." David, in his intercession, manifests a soul restored to the Lord; and proves that he has discovered his former error: for, he speaks of Israel as sheep, and as the people of the Lord; whereas he had numbered them as fighting-men, and for his own glory.
Also the price of the spot for the altar is paid in shekels of silver. There may be some reference in this, to the atonement-money. The apparent discrepancy, between the fifty shekels, mentioned as the purchase-money in 2 Sam. 24:2424And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. (2 Samuel 24:24), and the six hundred shekels of gold in 1 Chron. 21:2525So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. (1 Chronicles 21:25), may be reconciled on the supposition, that the former money was paid for the mere spot, on which the altar itself was erected; whereas the latter, was the purchase-money for the whole place of the threshing-floor.
The blessed words-It is enough-were again, in principle, uttered by Jehovah from heaven, when He raised the Lord Jesus from the dead. Satisfaction had been completely made: the sword of vengeance had been buried in the heart of God's own Son; the precious blood had been poured out; the full redemption-price had been rendered; and Jesus was raised from the dead; at once the proof of the perfect value of His own death, and to receive the due reward of His loving faithful obedience. " It is enough" may be a fitting superscription for the half-shekel ransom-money.
It appears that the question asked of Peter, (Matt, xvii. 24.) "Does not your Master pay tribute?" (or, according to the margin, the didrachma) had reference to this ransom-money. Probably the payment, which had been instituted in Ex. 30 of a half-shekel, when the Israelites were numbered; had in course of time, been converted by the Jewish rulers into a kind of poll-tax, payable for the uses of the temple. Peter, with his usual readiness, or rather rashness, answered the question in the affirmative, without referring, as he should have done, to the Lord Himself for a reply. And when he was come into the house, Jesus anticipated his request for the ransom-money, (to the payment of which, he had just committed the Lord) by putting the question, "What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers"?" The Lord thus addresses him as Simon, instead of Peter. The Apostle had relapsed into the natural man: and Jesus uses the name, which Peter had received from his earthly parents, instead of the new name, given him on his confession of faith.
Peter had forgotten the late glorious scene of the Transfiguration, when the voice had sounded from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son: hear ye Him:" and he had committed two errors. Instead of hearkening to Jesus, and learning of Him, he had acted on his own self-confident judgment: and instead of owning the Lord, as the Son of God, he had lowered Him down to the position of a stranger, or captive, from whom a ransom was demanded by God.
This serves to explain the Lord's question quoted above. Peter replies to it-to his own condemnation-" Of strangers." Jesus saith unto him, "Then are the children free." Jesus came to declare the Father. "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." He had come to redeem them that were under the law; that those who believed on Him might receive the adoption of sons. Liberty of sonship, and not the bondage of servant ship, not the slavery of bondmen confined under rigid commandments, was the liberty that Christ came to proclaim. The law, even in its type of the atonement-money, did not intimate the blessing of sonship. Grace and truth, which came by Jesus Christ, placed the believer in the freedom of new birth; as many as received Christ, were born of God. But Peter had not yet received the spirit of sonship. The Holy Ghost had not yet been sent from the risen Christ; and thus the apostle mingled up and confounded adoption and bondage, and lowered the Son down to the position of a stranger.
This is an instructive lesson to our souls: for the spirit of bondage is constantly working within us. It is of the flesh; of nature. It springs from Simon, the Son of Jonas; instead of from Peter, a child of God. If we have known God, or rather, are known of God, we are no longer aliens or strangers, but children and heirs; and the spirit of slavery cannot dwell with the spirit of the Son. Law and grace can never be united.
The Lord Jesus, having claimed for Himself and Peter the liberty of children, adds: " Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money, (a stater:) that take and give unto them for me and thee." Thus, one piece of silver, brought up from the depth of the sea, was paid into God's treasury; in which piece Jesus and Peter were both included. There seems to be a wonderful significance in this. The sea yielded up the precious ransom-money. The depths, with their billows and waves of wrath and death, were, so to speak, the birth-place of atonement. Jesus rose not alone, but inseparably linked on with His Church-one with Him in all His own preciousness-presented in Him to God in glory-laid up and hidden in God's treasury above.
Whatever God's demand against Peter, the blessed Lord was involved in the same demand: Peter's responsibility became Christ's:-" for me and thee:"-and thus is Jesus now in the presence of God for us, to answer every liability; to render payment in the full for all our infirmities and sins; to save, to the very end, all that come unto God by Him. He has bound us up with Himself, in one bundle of life: and we can never look upon Him now, without also beholding, in union with Him, the whole ransomed church of God, one precious piece of silver in God's temple above.