What is Atonement? Atonement is a Reconciliation resulting in Forgiveness for Past Infractions against God's Commandments. The word in English is the translation of the Hebrew word Kipper (singular) and Kippurim (plural) found in the Torah. Other English sinonyms for Kipper/Kippurim that are sometimes used are: "Expiation" and "Propitiation"
The Torah recognizes various kinds of Atonements, the most important of which are Atonement with God, and Atonement with Neighbor. The vast majority of provisions in the Torah regarding Atonement (e.g. Intercession, Rituals, personal attitude) are specific to the Sinai Covenant between God and Israel (and sometimes applying also to Gentiles living in the midst of Israel) and are specified mainly in Leviticus and Numbers (although clarifying references to Atonement and Salvation also appear elsewhere in the Torah).
It is also important to distinguish Atonement from Salvation. Salvation is Securing Entrance into the Kingdom of God (aka "The Kingdom of Heaven", "The World to come"). Succesful Atonement resolves past infractions, but to attain Salvation the person must subsequently continue to strive for behavior according to God's Commandments. At the End of Days, God (and ONLY God) will judge and decide whether or not someone is saved. Recall Hosea 13:4 : "And I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt, and gods beside Me you should not know, and there is no savior but Me."
Intercession, Repentance, and Atonement Rituals.
Intercession, Repentance, and Atonement Rituals (Sacrifice, Fasting, Prayer, special vows, etc.) are all important components of how one addresses the Lord to seek Forgiveness.
Intercession is a effort of someone on behalf of other(s) for the purpose of obtaining Atonement. There is ample precedent in the Torah for Atonement being facilitated thru intercession (e.g. as when Abraham asks God to forgive the inhabitants of Sodom & Gomorah, or when Moses intercedes with God on behalf of Israel after the incident of the Golden Calf, or as when the Levitical High Priest performed the Atonement services on Yom Kippur), however the act of Forgiving is always ONLY performed by God, AND it almost always requires Teshuva (Repentance) on the part of the person.
No amount of intercession or sacrifical offering can achieve Forgiveness if there is no sincere Teshuva. The book of Leviticus consistently calls the person who would receive atonement to first admit their guilt. The sacrificial offering is provided as a second action, as a gesture of Repentance rather than a action guaranteeing forgiveness.
Salvation (i.e. admittance into life in the World to Come) is only determined by God at the End of Days (or perhaps at the end of one's earthly life) and there is no such thing as granting ultimate Salvation "today" and dismissing one's need to still uphold the Commandments going forward. There is no escaping from doing our part, striving to live by God's Commandments until we die.
Finally, a word regarding "Faith" versus "Works". The Torah is very clear that there is no Forgiveness without Repentance, which is essentialy the act of Faith, or "Believing in God and Asking for God's Grace and Trusting that God will be Merciful". Much has been said in Christian circles that Judaism is legalistic, and encourages people to robotically follow the Commandments so as to 'score points' with heaven (as if God couldn't see what's in our heart). The Torah is very clear that without a Circumcised Heart (i.e. a Humble and Repentant Heart) there is no forgiveness. But the Torah is also very clear that the proof "is in the pudding", in other words, that the proof regarding one's repentance is in our subsequent actions. If we say that we repent and continually disregard the commandments, then we should not expect forgiveness. Hence, Torah is very much a teaching of Faith proven by Works.
And just in case someone might object that by "Works" the Jewish Torah emphasizes rituals over love of God and righteousness toward neighbor, let us recall the important quote from Prophet Micah: Micah 6:6-8 " 'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' [Micah responds:] He has told you, oh mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? ". Also Proverbs 21:2-3 : "All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice."
In summary, the mission of Israel is to follow God's commandments (with priority on righteousness, justice, loving kindness) and to come to God primarily with Humbleness (i.e. Repentant heart) to seek Forgiveness. All other mechanisms (i.e. intercession, sacrifices) are secondary. At the end of this section (below) we have provided a number of Torah passages relating to this topic. Enjoy!
Let us now turn to how the concepts of Atonement and Salvation in the Torah differ from how they are conceived in other faiths. we focus first on normative Christianity (especially since Christianity includes the entire Torah in its scripture, it is especially incumbent on Israel to assist Christians in their interpretation of Torah). Eventually we will also add a section on Islam's conception of Atonement and Salvation.
With respect to Christianity, there are three areas in particular where we have misperceptions and inconsistencies vis a vis the Torah:
a) Christianity (particularly the school of Saint Paul, rather than the teachings of Jesus) has introduced the idea that one can receive from Jesus Salvation "today" (e.g. Romans 10:9 "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.") This implies a "forward looking atonement", i.e. that one can be forgiven today for our past AND FUTURE infractions so as to guarantee today that we will gain entrance into the Kingdom of God tomorrow, regardless of our future conduct. There are quite a number of Christians today that walk around believing that they have gained salvation regardless of their future conduct. Such a attitude trivializes the need for Repentance and for following God's Commandments. The issue here is not about the idea of Jesus making intercession on someone's behalf (as we indicated above, there is ample precedent for God allowing humans to intercede on behalf of others for Atonement purposes). Rather, the issue is that Christianity pretends to remove God's ultimate decision making power regarding our Salvation (delegating it to Jesus) AND it also pretends to remove the fact that after atonement our future conduct must strive to abide by the Commandments of our Covenant with God. The Torah is very clear that the covenants that God has established (e.g. the Sinai covenant with the Jews, or the Noachide covenant with all humans) are covenants WITH GOD (not with anyone else, even Messiah) AND that they can not be abrogated by Atonement (i.e. Atonement enables forgiveness for past infractions, but does not cancel your need to abide by the Commandments going forward). Recall Hosea 13:4 : "And I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt, and gods beside Me you should not know, and there is no savior but Me." . Also, according to the Torah, the Commandments are a eternal covenant (i.e. until the end of time), therefore one can not say that it is possible to carry on with one's life in absence of trying our best to fulfill the Law. To this, Saint Paul (and the author of the Epistle to Hebrews) will argue that the old covenant has been replaced since Jesus' death by a new covenant (of Jeremiah 31:31) and that the new covenant is different than the old covenant. Saint Paul takes it upon himself to claim knowledge of what exactly the new covenant laws are (essentially "Confess Jesus as your Savior" and "Love your Neighbor as yourself"). However this ignores that Jeremiah 31:31 explains exactly what is new about the New Covenant: that it will no longer be necessary to teach it because it will be implanted by God in people's hearts. It is not saying that the actual commandments will be different (rather, as we've seen above, the Torah says that they are eternal): Jeremiah 31:31-34: "Behold, the days come", saith the LORD, "that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them;", saith the LORD, "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days", saith the LORD, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them", saith the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more". Now, even to this argument, Saint Paul might argue "the Commandments may be eternal, but 'eternity' finishes when Messiah comes; and now that Jesus has come, we are in the 'Last Days' and are no longer under 'regular time'.". Well, to this the Torah says that even in the Messianic age (what Paul might call "The Last Days") the Commandments are still applicable. Just a few examples (showing that even ritual commandments are still in use during the Messianic age):
Isaiah 56:1, 56:3, 56:6-8: "Thus says the Lord: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance revealed. ... Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say "The Lord will surely separate me from his people" ... And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant - these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God who gathers the outcasts of Israel: "I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.""
Zechariah 14:16 Then all who survive of the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the festival of Booths.
Interestingly, in these two examples, not only do we see that things like Sabbath, Burnt Offerings, Festival of Booths are still valid in the Messianic Age, BUT ADDITIONALLY those Commandments are even being extended to Gentiles!! Evidently Paul did not think of these passages when he was reprimanding the Galatians (e.g., "For if justification comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing.", Galatians 2:1-21 NRSV).
In summary, only God will be the ultimate arbiter on whether a person has fulfilled his/her side of the covenant (and the terms of the covenant are eternal until the end of time and into the Messianic age, and they can be found in the Torah today). Although one may believe that Atonement is enabled by delegates who can intercede (e.g. Abraham, Moses, the High Priest, Messiah), actual Forgiveness today and ultimate Salvation tomorrow can only come from God. Even Messiah can not provide Forgiveness or Salvation. Messiah will point the way to Salvation (Repentance before God, and Following God's Commandments), and he also may intercede on our behalf for Atoning purposes, but ultimately we are alone in front of God for Atonement today, and for Salvation tomorrow. It is to God that we must address our ultimate prayers.
b) A second inconsistency between Torah and normative Christianity is the doctrine that Jesus' ability to intercede for Atonement purposes is made possible specifically because Jesus offered his blood as atoning sacrifice. This dogma is specifically a Pauline concept, and not part of the original Jewish-Christian movement led by Jesus and subsequently by Jesus' brother James. Normative Christianity today argues that a necessary condition for Atonement in the Torah is a blood sacrifice and a qualified High Priest to perform it. Accordingly, the Epistle to the Hebrews sets forth the idea that Jesus offered his own blood (to pacify God) and also has the qualifications of High Priest. There is a blatant Torah violation in this dogma: Human sacrifice is strictly forbidden by God: Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person's blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind. Thus even if we argued Jesus to be a qualified High Priest, offering his own blood for Atonement purposes is a grotesquely unkosher action and would not be acceptable, according to the Torah. Note that we are not precluding that God can decide to enable any righteous or holy person to intercede on behalf of others, and for that matter much of Jesus' message of Repentance and Adherence to the Commandments can conceptually gain him that position. The point rather is that for God to allow intercessors, human blood sacrifice is neither necessary nor acceptable! Human blood can never constitute valid sacrifical offering. Even more important however, is that, it turns out that even animal blood sacrifice is NOT a pre-requisite for Atonement in many circumstances (especially in circumstances, like today, where the Temple and High Priest functions are not available, destroyed by Rome in 70 CE). The quote normally offered, to say that [animal] blood is always required, is Leviticus 17:11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement." However the full passage (Lev 17:10-11) is talking about why it is forbidden to eat blood (Lev 17:10 "If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people."). God is saying that blood should not be ingested because blood carries life and atonement power. But the Torah still teaches that there are also means of atonement without blood (especially when earthly Temple and Levitical Priesthood are unavailable). We are providing some several quotes on this at the end of this essay. In particular the Torah teaching is that (especially when earthly Temple and Levitical Priesthood are not accessible), instead of Repentance (Teshuva) AND Sacrifice, it is sufficient to have Repentance and Good Works (Teshuva and Zedaka), or even Repentance alone.
c) Lastly, Christianity teaches that ONLY Jesus can intercede on our behalf for Atonement purposes. The Epistle to Hebrews (written after the destruction of the Temple) attempts to take advantage of the fact that the High Priest is no longer in place and able to provide Atonement sacrifices. It sets forth the idea that since Jesus' death, Jesus is the only remaining qualified High Priest and that his human-blood sacrifice was valid and good forever. The concept that without Jesus there is no Atonement (or Salvation) is also found in 1 John and 2 John. Here again we have a Pauline concept developed to rally Greeks and Jews into a single, universal, (btw, "catholic" is Greek for "universal") religion developed by Saint Paul. A religion with the un-Torah belief that Messiah is God's exclusive intermediary with humankind. At any rate, in contradiction to the concept that Temple and Priesthood have been replaced by Jesus, we have the simple fact that after Jesus' death, the leader of Jesus' movement in Jerusalem (James, the brother of Jesus) was extremely devoted to Temple attendance and participated in the Temple services. We know this from Hegessipus, Eusebius, and Josephus. Ironically, even Paul, in his last public act before being imprisoned and taken to Rome, visited Jerusalem to make amends with Torah observant James and jointly offer sacrifices at the Temple (after all Paul couldn't totally act with disregard to the Jerusalem-based movement, despite his teachings in Greece that the Law is "a curse" and "a slave master"). If Jesus' death rendered the Temple and High Priest useless, why would Jesus' own brother make use of it? Because the original Jesus movement in Jerusalem (as opposed to Pauline doctrine developed and taught in Greece) did not consider Temple and Priesthood obsolete. In summary, we have already established (in "b", above) that human blood sacrifices are not valid offerings, but EVEN if we remove that fact, we also have the fact that Jesus' own followers (even Paul, who tries to "behave" when in the company of James) made use of the Temple services, contradicting the argument set forth in Hebrews that Jesus' death made Temple and Priesthood obsolete.
There is a second point to be made here: EVEN if blood were always mandatory (which it isn't), and EVEN if Jesus very human blood were acceptable (which it isn't), and EVEN if Temple and Priesthood had been made obsolete by his death (which it hasn't been), the Teaching from the Torah is that Intercession and Sacrifices are only enablers, and that it is Repentance before God which is not only necessary but, in absence of access to earthly Temple and Priesthood, also sufficient to attain God's Grace and Forgiveness.
Last but not least, it is also important for Gentile Christians to remember that the sacrificial system was never meant to apply to Gentiles. The entire discussion relating to whether or not sacrifices are necessary and under what circumstances are they effective, is strictly within the provisions of the Sinai Covenant, which is only applicable to the seed of Jacob (and resident aliens living among Israel). This is very ironic because Gentile Christians following Pauline doctrine have been so eager to establish their access to salvation by attempting to prove that there is a sacrificial offering available to them. The Torah, thru the Noachide Covenant, never establishes sacrifical blood offerings as Commandments or as enablers for Atonement. This is doubly ironic when we consider the fact that Saint Paul went to such great lengths to dissuade Gentiles from participating in any kind of rituals whatsoever. It is Saint Paul's own doctrine that 'cherry picks' rituals when it thinks it furthers its objective of establishing Jesus as a exclusive intermediary between humankind and God.
Christians instead should rejoice in the Torah-compliant messages of Jesus, whose original message for Atonement and Salvation was very simple: Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-15 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." and Mathew 19:16-17 and Mark 10:17-19 "If you wish to enter into life, keep the Commandments".
Below we have listed quotes indicating when blood sacrifice is not necessary and also about the importance of Teshuva. The reader must keep in mind that these are Sinai Covenant regulations, i.e. applicable to Israel (and sometimes to aliens living among Israel), not to all of humankind.
The yearly atonement requires fasting, does not utilize blood sacrifice: Lev 16:29-31 " This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins. And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him."
Financial inability is valid dispensation from blood offering: Leviticus 5:11-13 "But if you cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, you shall bring as your offering for the sin that you have committed one-tenth of an ephah of choice flour for a sin offering; you shall not put oil on it or lay frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering. You shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall scoop up a handful of it as its memorial portion, and turn this into smoke on the altar, with the offerings by fire to the LORD; it is a sin offering. Thus the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for whichever of these sins you have committed, and you shall be forgiven. Like the grain offering, the rest shall be for the priest."
Justice and Kindness constitutes atonement for past infractions: Micah 6:6-8 "'With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?' [Micah responds:] He has told you, oh mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? ".
Sacrificial system not required for atonement of Jews in the diaspora: Deuteronomy 4:27-31 " The LORD will scatter you among the peoples; only a few of you will be left among the nations where the LORD will lead you. There you will serve other gods made by human hands, objects of wood and stone that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. From there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the LORD your God and heed him. Because the LORD your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them. "
Obeying the Commandments if preferable to Sacrifice: 1Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Surely, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
Sacrifical system not required for atonement of Jews in the diaspora 1Kings 8:22-52 :" Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. He said ... Regard your servant's prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, 'My name shall be there,' that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place. Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; O hear in heaven your dwelling place; heed and forgive. If someone sins against a neighbor and is given an oath to swear, and comes and swears before your altar in this house, then hear in heaven, and act, and judge your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing their conduct on their own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding them according to their righteousness. When your people Israel, having sinned against you, are defeated before an enemy but turn again to you, confess your name, pray and plead with you in this house, then hear in heaven, forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land that you gave to their ancestors. When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, and then they pray toward this place, confess your name, and turn from their sin, because you punish them, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk; and grant rain on your land, which you have given to your people as an inheritance. If there is famine in the land, if there is plague, blight, mildew, locust, or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; whatever prayer, whatever plea there is from any individual or from all your people Israel, all knowing the afflictions of their own hearts so that they stretch out their hands toward this house; then hear in heaven your dwelling place, forgive, act, and render to all whose hearts you know--according to all their ways, for only you know what is in every human heart-- so that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our ancestors. If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the LORD toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. If they sin against you--for there is no one who does not sin--and you are angry with them and give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; yet if they come to their senses in the land to which they have been taken captive, and repent, and plead with you in the land of their captors, saying, 'We have sinned, and have done wrong; we have acted wickedly'; if they repent with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies, who took them captive, and pray to you toward their land, which you gave to their ancestors, the city that you have chosen, and the house that I have built for your name; then hear in heaven your dwelling place their prayer and their plea, maintain their cause and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions that they have committed against you; and grant them compassion in the sight of their captors, so that they may have compassion on them (for they are your people and heritage, which you brought out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron-smelter). Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant, and to the plea of your people Israel, listening to them whenever they call to you. "
God responds to Solomon in 2Ch 7:12 : "Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer... When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
Steadfast Love is better than burnt offerings, for atonement Hosea 6:6 " For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. "
Loyalty and Faithfulness and Fear of God suffice for atonement: Proverbs 16:6 : " By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one avoids evil. "
Sacrifices not sufficient for atonement against idolatry: Jeremiah 7:16-25 " As for you, [Jeremiah] do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? ... they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. ... Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: My anger and my wrath shall be poured out on this place, on human beings and animals, on the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you." Yet they did not obey ... but ... they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. From the day that your ancestors came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. "
Proverbs 21:2-3 " All deeds are right in the sight of the doer, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. "
Neither Sacrificial system nor any mechanism suffices for atonement for ignoring the poor: Proverbs 21:13 " If you close your ear to the cry of the poor, you will cry out and not be heard. "
Even when Sacrifice would have been mandated, it is abominable to God when there is no Justice and Repentance : Isaiah 1:11-28 " What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation-- I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. ... Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan, and the widow's cause does not come before them. Therefore says the Sovereign, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes! ... I will turn my hand against you; I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together, and those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed. "
No atonement for desecrating the Holy Name: Isaiah 22 12:14 " In that day the Lord GOD of hosts called to weeping and mourning, to baldness and putting on sackcloth; but instead there was joy and festivity, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating meat and drinking wine. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you as long as you live, says the Lord GOD of hosts. "
Jewelry as atonement offering when coming back from a war commanded by God: Numbers 31:50-54 " And we have brought the Lord's offering, what each of us found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and pendants, to make atonement for ourselves before the LORD." Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from them, all in the form of crafted articles.And all the gold of the offering that they offered to the LORD, from the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, was sixteen thousand seven hundred fifty shekels. ...So Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD. "
Jacob's idolatry atoned by removal of idols: Isaiah 27:9 " Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be expiated, and this will be the full fruit of the removal of his sin: when he makes all the stones of the altars like chalkstones crushed to pieces, no sacred poles or incense altars will remain standing. "
Punishment serving as atonement: Isaiah 40:2 " Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins. "
Psalms 51:17 : The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Regarding atonement for Gentiles:
Jonah 3:5-10 " And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish." When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it. "
Daniel 4:24 (27 in Christian bibles): " Therefore, O king [Nebuchadnezar, a gentile], may my counsel be acceptable to you: atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged. "
Even the righteousness of a few can cause forgiveness of many: Genesis 18:20-32 " Then the LORD said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! ... Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" And the LORD said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake." Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it." "
For Christians, we also provide Jesus' sayings on atonement. Unlike Saint Paul's graeco-roman doctrines, Jesus' sayings as well as those of his brother James, are consistent with Torah.
Jesus in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-15: " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. " Note that he does not say "Repent and take care to make your sacrifices". Rather, Teshuva is sufficient.
Faith is sufficient : Mark 2:5 " When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." ". Note that Jesus is not attributing Forgiving power to himself; rather he is stating his belief that God is forgiving this faithful paralytic.
Love is sufficient : Luke 7:47-48 " Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." "
There is no atonement for blasphemy against God: Jesus according to Mathew 12:32 " Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. " Note amazingly also that forgiveness is also possible even in spite of not believing in Jesus as Messiah, according to Christianity. This is in Jesus' own words.