I apologize but I do not know any Old Testament Hebrew so I'll have to rely on the responders to this post when it comes to analyzing the Old Testament Hebrew.

Leviticus 4:20 (NASB 1995)
20 He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.

4:20 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex וְעָשָׂ֣ה לַפָּ֔ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשָׂה֙ לְפַ֣ר הַֽחַטָּ֔את כֵּ֖ן יַעֲשֶׂה־לֹּ֑ו וְכִפֶּ֧ר עֲלֵהֶ֛ם הַכֹּהֵ֖ן וְנִסְלַ֥ח לָהֶֽם׃

ויקרא 4:20 Hebrew OT: WLC (Consonants Only) ועשה לפר כאשר עשה לפר החטאת כן יעשה־לו וכפר עלהם הכהן ונסלח להם׃

Genesis 6:14 (NASB 1995)
14 Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch.

6:14 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex עֲשֵׂ֤ה לְךָ֙ תֵּבַ֣ת עֲצֵי־גֹ֔פֶר קִנִּ֖ים תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה אֶת־הַתֵּבָ֑ה וְכָֽפַרְתָּ֥ אֹתָ֛הּ מִבַּ֥יִת וּמִח֖וּץ בַּכֹּֽפֶר׃

בראשית 6:14 Hebrew OT: WLC (Consonants Only) עשה לך תבת עצי־גפר קנים תעשה את־התבה וכפרת אתה מבית ומחוץ בכפר׃

Could someone please analyze the Old Testament Hebrew word for "atonement" in Leviticus 4:20 and tell me if it is similar in terms of semantics, "letter(s)/grammatical construction" and/or pronunciation to the corresponding Hebrew word for "cover" in Genesis 6:14?

If not, could someone please tell me if the nature of the semantics, wording/phrasing in Leviticus 4:20 and Genesis 6:14 are similar? If yes, could you please elaborate?


2 Answers 2


I'm not a Biblical Hebrew linguist at all but I hope this helpful.

All Hebrew words have a two or three letter root .

There are many Hebrew words with כפר as their roots. Some are listed below

• כופר - kofer: tar • כופר - kofer: ransom • כפורת - kaporet: the cover of the Holy Ark • כפור - kfor: frost • כפירה - kefira: to deny • כפיר - kfir: a type of lion • כפר - kfar: village

As is the case with English there are also homonyms where the same word could have a different meaning depending on the context.

Although in Genesis כפרת אתה מבית ומחוץ בכפר׃ clearly means tar and not atonement like it means in Leviticus, at least one medieval rabbinic opinion suggests that they share a similarity in that both tar and atonement cover up for something that had once been present.

Similarly some of the other words with the root of כפר listed above and other places that the word is used in the Bible indicates a covering up or making something no longer present in front of us.


They are similar in that they are different grammatical constructions of the same word, literally meaning “cover”, but often contextually used as “atone”.

The grammatical constructions are not the same. The first one, referring to atonement, is a strongly emphasized simple future verb—“and [the priest] will”. “Make atonement” is a grammatically incorrect translation.
The latter is a second-person command—“and you shall”.

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