2 minutes

Pitching Atonement

When we think of pitch, we usually think of baseball, camping or music. It would be odd for us to think of pitch as the sticky stuff that is mentioned in the Bible. Instead, we might think of tar or asphalt. It’s probably been a long time since someone in America has said, “I think I’ll put some pitch on my boat,” or roof or wherever else pitch might have been used in the past.

However, the Bible does use the word several times and one of those times is in Genesis 6:14.

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. – King James Version

In the KJV, this verse actually uses the term twice in the same sentence. The first time, it is used as a verb: pitch it within and without. Today, we would use the term “cover”, like the New King James Version and most of our English language translations do.

 and cover it on the inside and the outside with pitch.

The second time the word pitch is used it means the sticky stuff. God told Noah to cover the ark, inside and out, with pitch. He wanted to make sure there were no leaks; no water would get in. It is fully covered.

Hebrew for “Pitch”

Now the fun part begins. The Hebrew word for “pitch” is kopher. This word is derived from the Hebrew word kaphar. Kaphar is the word used for “cover”. So Genesis 6:14 might look like this:

And kaphar it on the inside and the outside with kopher.

Let’s quickly look at these words.

Kopher is found 17 times in the Old Testament. It is translated as pitch here alone. It is translated as ransom eleven other times.

Kaphar is found 102 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “atone” or “make atonement” 73 of those times. It is translated “forgive” ten times. It is translated “appease” twice. It is translated “pitch” or “cover” only in this verse.

God gave us the book of Genesis through Moses. Moses wrote this over 1,400 years before Christ was born. He had no idea why he used the term kaphar for “cover”, though he would use the same word 67 other times to mean “make atonement”. He probably wondered why he used the word kopher for pitch, though he would use the same word four other times to mean ransom. However, he doesn’t use “kopher” for the pitch that his mother used in his own basket to save him on his trip down the Nile as an infant. There, he uses the word “zepheth”.

Genesis 6:14 – Redux

So, in essence, Moses writes in Genesis 6:14 – Make atonement on the inside and the outside with ransom.

God used Moses to teach those who knew Hebrew about “ransom” and “making atonement”. Atonement is slathered inside and outside of the ark. The Ransom covers the ark and therefore all who go into it. The ark is the Salvation for those who would escape death from the upcoming judgment God was bringing upon all mankind.

Hence, the ark becomes an obvious type of Christ. It gives us a picture of what Jesus did for us. He made atonement, completely covering our sins, inside and out. He paid the ransom that covers our sin. When we receive him, we step onto the ark and we are saved from the death that would otherwise come from the judgment of God.

Neither Noah nor Moses recognized the part they played in God’s salvation story. Yet, we can see it thousands of years later. What a picture of Romans 8:28 – God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose! God has been weaving His salvation story throughout history since Adam fell. He will complete what He started.

Your Turn

Let me know in the comments section if you have ever heard this before. Just a Yes or No is sufficient. Feel free to leave any other comment as well. Thanks! God bless…