Students of the Bible have discovered something called the “Law of First Mention.” It’s not really a law, it’s more a rule of thumb. It suggests that the first time a word is used in the Bible, there is something powerful and wonderful to be gleaned from the passage. Often these occurrences, usually in the book of Genesis, reveal an important key to understanding how the word is used throughout the Biblical record.
I truly believe that the Word of God is “living and active” and hidden within it are treasures for us to uncover. I pray that as you read these daily offerings, the Lord would whet your appetite for the mysteries and wonders of His Word.
Though some scholars have scoffed at the theory, I believe that there’s something to the idea. Certainly, it’s worth consideration. So, this week, I’d like to devote the morning’s blogs to the Law of First Mention.
Let’s start with the word atone ... or atonement.
The concept of atonement first appeared in the Garden of Eden following the fall. Religion was born when Adam and Eve attempted by their own efforts to cover their nakedness, but atonement was pictured when God sacrificed an animal that the sin of His creatures would be covered.
The Hebrew word kapar (pronounced ka-far), found in the Old Testament over 100 times, means the reconciliation of the guilty by payment of a sacrifice... atonement. God cancels our debt (Colossians 2:14) and forgives our sin (Psalm 78:38), thus reconciling sinners to Himself by the substitutionary sacrifice of His Son.
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, Leviticus 16-17), Israel’s most solemn holy day, foreshadowed New Testament salvation provided by the sacrifice of God’s sinless Son. On the Day of Atonement, among the many other sacrifices, two goats were sacrificed, symbolizing both the atoning sacrifice and the complete forgiveness of sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Leviticus 17:11).
Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) by giving His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) or an atoning sacrifice to appease (Genesis 32:20) God’s holiness and justice.
So... where’s the first mention? When is the word first used?
The word first appears when God tells Noah to build the ark and “cover it with pitch inside and outside” (Genesis 6:14, CSB). The word “pitch” in Hebrew is “kapar.” Elsewhere in the Old Testament, “kapar” is almost always translated atone.
When Noah and his boys pitched the giant wooden boat, they must have used asphalt or some other slime. Imagine them mopping on the goo! Noah said, “boys, don’t miss an inch! We want this barge to float! We don’t want to die!”
To atone is to cover. At the cross Jesus covered our sin with His blood – He made atonement. He covered us with His precious blood. We’re secure, because He covered us with His blood!
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor