KIPPER (Heb. כִּפֵּר).
The customary rendering of kipper is "to atone for," or "expiate" but in most cases this is, at best, imprecise. In poetry its parallel synonym is maḥah ("to wipe away"; Jer. 18:23), or hesir ("to remove"; Isa. 27:9, cf. the passive, ibid. 6:7), suggesting that kipper means "to purge." Also, ritual texts regularly couple kipper with ṭiher ("to purify"), and hiṭṭeʾ ("to decontaminate"; Lev. 14:48, 52, 53). However, other poetic passages use in parallel kissah ("to cover"; Neh.3:37; cf. Jer. 18:23), as if kipper connotes smearing on a new substance rather than effacing an existent one. Linguists have been divided as to which is the basic meaning since evidence from Semitic cognates can be cited in support of both, mainly from the Arabic for "to cover" and from the Akkadian for "to wipe." But perhaps both these meanings go back to an original common notion of rubbing. Since a substance may either be "rubbed on" or "rubbed off," the derived meanings "to wipe" and "to cover" may be complementary rather than contradictory. This is especially clear in Akkadian where both usages are attested in medical/ritual texts and where "the step between 'rubbing off ' and 'rubbing on' is so short that one cannot distinguish between cleaning and treatment" (B. Landsberger). Akkadian kuppuru includes within its semantic range the purification of temples and other ritual cleansing (cad k, 179).
Ritual Kipper as "Cover"
It must be admitted, however, that while there can be no doubt that blood is "rubbed onto" the evidence of the house as an apotropaic in the Pesaḥ ritual (cf. the verb pasaḥ, "protect," in Exodus 12:23 (I will pasah over the entrance and will not let the destroyer into your house), 27; Isa. 31:5), the evidence that kipper can have this connotation is confined to Numbers 17:11, where it is not decisive.
Ritual Kipper as "Purge"
In Israel, however, it is important to note that the meaning "to rub off " predominates in the ritual texts, whereas that of "to cover" probably never occurs. This is best illustrated by the blood of the ḥaṭṭaʾt, the purification offering (see *Sacrifice). Its use is restricted to the sanctuary: it is never used on a person. The rites for the healed leper and for the consecration of the priest call for a ḥaṭṭaʾt, but the blood daubed on them does not come from the ḥaṭṭaʾt but from other animal sacrifices. Moreover, a study of the syntax of the kipper prepositions is decisive. It reveals that: (1) A non-human object of kipper is either direct or indirect through one preposition, ʿal or be, the direct object being that which is purged and the prepositional object that "on" which or "in" which purgation takes place and (2) a human object is never governed by kipper directly but only through either ʿal or beʿad, both signifying "in behalf of." This means that a human is not only the object but the beneficiary of the rite which is performed for him by a priest. There is an object, but it is the object that is sprinkled or smeared with the ḥaṭṭaʾt blood, and this is done not to the human beneficiary, but to the sanctuary and its sancta. By placing the blood upon the altar horns or bringing it inside the sanctuary (e.g., Lev. 16:14–19) the priest thereby purges the most sacred areas in behalf of the person(s) who caused their contamination either by physical impurity (Lev. 12–15) or by inadvertent misdemeanor against God (Lev. 4). Deliberate sins and impurities, however, cannot be purged by the offender's own ḥaṭṭaʾt (Num. 15:30–31) but must await the annual rite of purgation for the sanctuary and the nation (*Day of Atonement). Kipper undergoes further qualification in the context of the sacrificial system.
The net result of these deductions from the function of sacrificial kipper is that there is sufficient evidence to reconstruct the missing priestly doctrine of theodicy. It presumes that sin is a miasma which wherever committed is attracted to the sanctuary. There it adheres and accumulates until God will no longer abide in it. Hence, it is forever incumbent upon Israel, through the indispensable medium of its priesthood, to purge the sanctuary regularly of its impurities lest God abandon it and the people to their doom. Thus, evil is never unheeded by God, even when the individual evildoer is not immediately punished, but accumulates in the sanctuary until the point of no return: the sum of individual sin leads inexorably to the destruction of the community.
This priestly theology of kipper is easily traceable to older non-Israelite analogues, for the ancient Near East shared a common obsession with temple purification. Impurity is inherently dangerous to divinities and humans. The kipper rite effectively removes that danger.
Remaining Kipper Cases
The agents of ritual kipper, exclusive of the ḥaṭṭaʾt blood, which have not yet been discussed are: the scapegoat (Lev. 16:10, 21–22); the broken-necked heifer (Deut. 21:1–9); the money for the military census (Ex. 30:16); the levites (Num. 8:19); the human deaths by plague for people's idolatry (Num. 25:1–15); the priest whose death frees the homicide from exile (Num. 35:32–33); and finally, the blood of sacrifices other than ḥaṭṭaʾt. Their elucidation will establish a new meaning for kipper.
Kipper as "To Represent" or "To Transfer"
It has been noticed in Mesopotamian magic that "the dirt called kupirtu or takpirtu is absorbed by a medium, mostly dough which is thrown away, buried or carried away" (B. Landsberger). This leads to the phenomenon of "the representative," "carrier," or "transfer agent," the substance to which the evil is transferred and thereupon eliminated.
This notion of kipper-carrier is clearly represented in the Bible by the rituals of the scapegoat (*Azazel) and the heifer whose neck is broken, as shown by extra-biblical parallels (see *Day of Atonement). Though such evidence is not available for the remaining cases, the representative principle is nonetheless operative. The common denominator of all these cases is their avowed goal: to avert the wrath of God from the entire community (cf. respectively: Ex. 30:16; Num. 8:19; Num. 25:13; ii Sam. 21:1,3). This kipper must be sharply distinguished from that of the sanctuary. In the latter case, the impurities are purged lest they cause the indwelling God to leave; in this instance, however, kipper has the immediate goal of preventing the divine anger from incinerating innocent and guilty alike. Furthermore, in the case of the census money, lekhapper ʿal nafshoteikhem is related to kofer nafsho (Ex. 30:12, 15–16); the same combination is again found in the homicide law (Num. 35:31–33). The verb kipper is thus tied by the context to its kal (qal) noun kofer whose meaning is undisputed (i.e., "ransom"; Ex. 21:30). Therefore, there exists a strong possibility that all texts which assign to kipper the function of averting God's wrath have kofer in mind: innocent lives spared by their substitution by the guilty parties or their representative (already noted by Ibn Ezra for the levites of Num. 18:9). Thus, the above-mentioned cases are elucidated as follows: though no substitute is allowed for a deliberate murder, the accidental homicide is ransomed by the natural death of the high priest; similarly, the census money ransoms each counted soldier; and the levite guards supplant the Israelites when one of the latter encroaches upon the sancta (Num. 1:53; 8:19; 18:22–23).
Kipper as "To Expiate"
The final stage in the evolution of the root kipper yields the abstract, figurative notion, "expiate." Having begun as an action which eliminates dangerous impurity by absorbing it through direct contact (rubbing) or indirect (transference), it eventuates into the process of expiation in general. Thus, the kipper role of all other sacrifices – whose blood is not daubed on the altar's horns like the ḥaṭṭaʾt but is dashed on its sides – is to expiate sin. This is one of the functions of the ʿolah (Lev. 1:4) and the minhah (Lev. 14:20), and the sole function of the aʾsham (Lev. 5:16, 18, 26; for details, see *Sacrifice). So with the kapporet placed over the Tabernacle Ark (Ex. 25:17–22); being a feminine abstract noun from kipper, it probably means "that which expiates" or "the expiatory." And since it also designates the place where Moses "would hear the Voice addressing him" (Num. 7:89), it is the expiatory, par excellence.
One more ritual kipper remains: the crux of Leviticus 17:11. This verse states explicitly that the function of the altar blood is "to expiate for your lives," and it has been construed as a generalization defining the purpose of all sacrificial blood. But shelamim have nothing to do with sin and neither have votive and thanksgiving offerings (Lev. 22:17ff.; Ps. 116:17–18). The key to the nature of the "expiation" of Leviticus 17:11 is the context. Leviticus chapter 17 concentrates on the prohibition of ingesting blood, and therefore deals nearly exclusively with the shelamim. For the shelamim (of which the thanksgiving offering is a special variety) is the one sacrifice whose flesh is permitted to the laic and the consuming of flesh itself requires expiation. That is why Leviticus 17:4 makes the killing of sacrificeable animals except at the sanctuary tantamount to murder. The sanctuary altar, in the priestly code, legitimates animal slaughter by being the divinely appointed instrument which restores the life of the animal, symbolized by the blood, to God. Thus Leviticus 17:11 is to be translated: "And I have assigned it [the shelamim blood] to you upon the altar, to expiate for your lives; for it is the blood, as life, that can expiate." Of course Leviticus 17:3ff. is not unique in forbidding the consumption of blood (cf. Gen. 9:3–4; Lev. 3:17; 7:20–21 – all P), whereby animal flesh is conceded by God on condition that the blood is not consumed. It is not even the only source that requires slaughter at an altar for domestic cattle (i Samuel 14:32–35), though it is the only one that requires a sacrifice. (For the Deuteronomic change see Deut. 12:13–28.)
Ritual Atonement without Kipper
Whenever a sacrifice concludes the purification ritual for physical impurity it is always a ḥaṭṭaʾt, and its purpose is to kipper or purge the contaminated sanctuary. It is of interest that when a prophet or a psalmist resorts to a ritualistic metaphor in his call for moral purification, he never uses the term kipper but one which signifies lustration with water (e.g., Isa. 1:16; Ezek. 36:25; Zech. 13:1; Ps. 51:4,9).
Of the sources just cited, Isaiah 1 (cf. in addition to v. 16, vs. 19–20, and v. 27 ("Those in Zion who repent")) demands repentance as the proper atonement for moral wrongdoing, and so do many other non-ritual passages (see below). But the indispensability of repentance is a stipulation of the ritual texts as well. To begin with, the possibility of sacrificial atonement is explicitly denied to the individual who presumptuously violates God's law (Num. 15:30–31). This, however, does not mean, as many critics aver, that sacrificial atonement is possible only for involuntary wrongdoers. To cite but one exception, the asham offering is prescribed for that premeditated crime called by the rabbis asham gezelot (Lev. 5:20ff.; Num. 5:5–8). A more correct assertion, then, would be that the priestly system prohibits sacrificial atonement to the unrepentant sinner, for the one who "acts defiantly… it is the Lord he reviles" (Num. 15:30). This is an explicit postulate of post-biblical literature: "the ḥaṭṭaʾt, the ʾasham, and death do not atone except with repentance" (Tosef., Yoma 5:9; cf. Yoma 8:8). That it is also explicitly demanded by the ritual texts of the Bible can only be sketchily demonstrated here as follows: The phrase ve (we)-ʾashem, the leitmotiv of the two exclusive expiatory sacrifices, the ḥaṭṭaʾt and the ʾasham (Lev. 4:13, 22, 27; 5:2, 3, 4, 17, 23), can be shown to mean: "when he feels guilty" or "when he is guilt-stricken." Contrition, therefore, is an explicit sine qua non for expiation by sacrifice. Furthermore, it is precisely when the sin is deliberate, not accidental, that another penitential requirement is added, namely that the contrition must be openly declared; it must be supplemented by confession (we-hitwaddah; Lev. 5:5; Num. 5:7; cf. Lev. 16:21; 26:40). Even the annual purification rite for the sanctuary and nation requires that the high priest confess the deliberate sins of the Israelites (Lev. 16:21), while the latter demonstrate their penitence, not by coming to the Temple – from which deliberate sinners are barred – but by fasting and other acts of self-denial (Lev. 16:29; 23:27–32; Num. 29:7). Thus, contrition for involuntary sin and confession for deliberate sin are indispensable to the atonement produced by the sacrificial system, and they differ in no way from the call to repentance formulated by the prophets. Finally, the prescriptions of the asham offering ordained for cases of calculable loss to the deity stipulate that restitution must be made to the wronged party (man or sanctuary) before atonement by sacrifice is permitted. Indeed, the prophetic insistence that repentance is not an end in itself, but must lead to rectification of the wrongdoing (e.g., Isa. 1:13–17; 58:6–12; Micah 6:6–8), is only the articulation of a basic postulate of the sacrificial system.
Non-Ritual Kipper for Sin
Outside the sanctuary, kipper undergoes a vast change that is atonce made apparent by its new grammatical syntax. Whereas in ritual, the subject of kipper is invariably a priest, and the direct object is a contaminated thing, in the non-ritual literature, usually the subject is the deity and the direct object is a sin (e.g., Jer. 18:8; Ezek. 16:63; Ps. 65:4; 78:38; 79:9). Actually, this represents no rupture with ritual kipper; on the contrary, it gives voice to its implicit meaning. As for the object, though the cult concentrates on the purging mainly of sanctuary impurity, it, too, recognizes that its source is human sin. The subject implies even less change: though the priest performs the rituals, it is only due to the grace of God that the ritual is efficacious. Thus, non-ritual exhortations, requiring no priestly mediation, uncompromisingly turn to God, the sole dispenser of expiation. True, there are a few kipper passages with man assubject (e.g., ii Sam. 21:3; Isa. 47:11; Prov. 16:14), but all these exceptions are explicable by the representative kipper, i.e., man is required to provide the necessary ransom. The exceptional akhapperah panav (Gen. 32:20) is capable of similar interpretation, but the unique object "face" may go back to another facet of the Akkadian cognate, meaning "polish" (an aspect of "rub on"), hence "polish the face" or "propitiate," "appease." If rituals stipulate repentance as a precondition for atonement, moral exhortation will place a greater value upon repentance – and its vehicle, prayer – than upon ritual and sacrifice (e.g., Lev. 26: 40–41; Deut. 4:29; i Kings 8:28–30, 33, 35, 47–48; Ps. 51:19; 141:2; see also *Prayer).
It has been maintained that early Israel knew no forgiveness of sin because both kipper and salaḥ ("forgive") are mainly found in post-Exilic texts and because the pre-Exilic literature speaks exclusively of ve-niḥam al ha-raʿah and avar le, implying that "God overlooks mild sins but does not obliterate them" (K. Koch). At once, a statistical objection should be raised against the arbitrary assignment of all cultic passages (where kipper would chiefly occur) and all consolatory prophetic passages (where salaḥ would predominate) to the post-Exilic period. Moreover, this view suffers from a more serious fault: it blurs the distinction between two stages in the process of divine pardoning common to all the biblical sources. The first, involving the above-mentioned idioms, never occurs when God is just contemplating punishment but only when He hasactually decided upon it. The consequence is that before the guilty can implore God for forgiveness, they must prevail on Him to revoke His decree. This fundamental distinction is the touchstone that splits the story of Moses' intercession for the Israelites when they sinned with the golden calf (Ex. 32–34) into plausible divisions. His initial plea (32:11–13) fulfills the first stage: "God renounced the punishment He had declared He would bring upon His people" (32:14). Moses, however, is not content with the cancelation of the divine decree. After slaying many, presumably the most guilty, he presses for the complete obliteration of Israel's sin (32:30–32). This God does not grant (32:33–34), but when He reveals to Moses that His mercy can supersede His justice (34:6–7a), whenever He desires (33:19b), an opening is provided Moses whereby he can explicitly ask for forgiveness (salaḥ, 34:9).
That the renunciation of punishment must be distinguished from forgiveness of sin is also clear from another instance of prophetic intercession (Amos 7:1–8; 8:1–2). Amos wants forgiveness (7:2); God only concedes the cancellation of punishment (7:3, 6). Even this He will not do more than twice (7:8), and finally Israel's sins drive Him to declare "the end has come" (8:2). With Amos as with Moses, the language is crucial: God concedes partially to the prophet's plea; he suspends punishment but does not grant the complete remission of sin.
Finally, it should be noted that the idiom nasaʾ ḥetʾʿavon (ʿawon) peshʿa can have the meaning "remove sin," implying forgiveness. Moreover, it is used synonymously with maḥah and kipper, heʿevir ʿawon (Job 7:21), and salaḥ itself (Num. 14:18–19). So many early sources illustrate this usage (e.g., Ex. 34:7; i Sam. 15:25; Isa. 33:24; Hos. 14:3; Micah 7:18; Ps. 32:5) that it cannot be denied that the consciousness and absolution of sin were moral realities in all periods of Israel's history.
non-ritual kipper for the land
The holiness of the sanctuary is complemented in the Priestly Source by the notion of the holiness of the Land of Israel. Correspondingly, the land too is capable of defilement (e.g., Lev. 18:25, 28, for sexual misconduct; Num. 35:33–34, for murder; cf. also Ezek. 36:17 and Deut. 21:23), and just as the sanctuary needs kipper so does the land (expressly, Num. 35:33). Furthermore, the implications are likewise identical: defilement of the land will vomit out Israel as it vomited out its previous inhabitants (Lev. 18:28; 20:22) for God can no longer abide in it (Sif. Num. 161). In this case, however, the parallels end, for there is no ceremony by which the land is purged; kipper, therefore, is not used ritually, but refers to general moral expiation. Atonement for the land becomes a more important concept in post-biblical times (e.g., lxx, Deut. 32:43; Jub. 6:2ff., where it is sacrificial!). The Dead Sea sectarians believed that their consecrated life was an atonement not just for themselves but also for the entire land (1QS 8:6, 10; 9:4).
Another postulate of the biblical doctrine of atonement is that God will spare the community by virtue of the merit of its just, e.g., Abraham's intervention on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16–33). However, intercession is chiefly the vocation of the prophet. The Psalmist eulogizes Moses for interceding on behalf of the worshipers of the golden calf (see Ex. 32:9–10) in these words: "He said He would destroy them had not Moses, His chosen one, stood in the breach before Him" (Ps. 106:23). To intercede at the risk of one's life is to "stand in the breach." (It should be recalled that though there are gentile analogues to the prophet as the deity's messenger to humans (see *Mari, *Prophets), there is still none which demonstrates that the prophet is also man's intercessor to the deity.)
It has been thought that Ezekiel refutes this doctrine of the atonement by the righteous, for he does say repeatedly and forcefully that the righteous will not save his generation, but that each man will be judged according to his sins (Ezek. 18:3–4). This is not so. Ezekiel, a priest as well as a prophet, is expatiating on a corollary of the priestly theology of the Temple (above). The reason why God abandons His sanctuary is that the level of impurity rises to a point beyond toleration. Beyond this point, God will neither seek man's repentance nor allow the prophet to intercede for him: the decree of doom becomes irrevocable. This postulate is found beyond the confines of the Priestly Source; it informs all biblical teaching on evil: the hardening of Pharaoh's heart (Ex. 7:3, 14; 8:11, 15, 28, etc.); Isaiah's harsh commission (Isa. 6:10); and the prohibition placed on the prophet to intercede (Jer. 14:11; 15:1–2). This latter Jeremian passage illuminates Ezekiel's message as well, for both prophets experienced the destruction of Judah, and both had taught that their generation was doomed. However, Ezekiel never abandoned his belief in the efficacy of prophetic intercession, as demonstrated by his wistful comment on the Psalmist's allusion to Moses' self-sacrifice: "I sought a man who would plug up the wall and stand in the breach before Me on behalf of the land that I should not destroy it; but I found none" (22:30).
The concept of atonement developed among the Dead Sea sectarians takes a unique turn. Without the Temple, they were forced to concentrate upon non-sacrificial expiation (e.g., 1qs 9:4–5), and they developed a lofty spiritual doctrine which taught that purity of thought and deed were necessary preconditions of all ritual acts and that the virtuous life of the individual effects atonement for others. However, the circle of the latter was restricted to members of the sect (perhaps also the like-minded, 1QS 5:5–7), and the rest of Israel was uniformly excluded. This insularity is not surprising in view of the teaching of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Like these prophets, the sect also felt that universal doom was at hand, from which the righteous would save only themselves. This will also help explain the sectarians' insistence that their atonement also extended to the land (see above). Since they envisaged for themselves no additional exile (1qm 1:2f.; cd 4:2f.; 7:13f.) – as did the prophets – the Land of Israel was therefore in need of atonement so that the righteous survivors of the impending cataclysm could settle on it immediately (1qsa 1:3).
The atoning power of the righteous reaches out not only horizontally to the community but also vertically to posterity. This principle undergirds all of God's covenants with Israel: with the Fathers for offspring and the Promised Land (Gen. 15; 17:1–8; 22:17–18; 25:23; 35:9–12; Ex. 32:13); with Phinehas for a priestly line (Num. 25:13); and with David for a royal dynasty (ii Sam. 7:12–16).
In the wisdom literature the suffering of the righteous is rationalized into a theological postulate: suffering is a test whereby God enables the righteous to merit an even greater reward (e.g., Ps. 66:9–12; Job 5:17–18; 33:9–12; 36:8–10). This idea also informs the narratives of the Wilderness (Ex. 16:4; Deut. 8:2, 16) and of the Fathers (e.g., Gen. 22:1, 16–18). A logical extension of this theodicy is that suffering can serve as an atonement for society. However, it is not an explicit biblical doctrine, for nowhere do the innocent suffer to atone for the guilty. It may be adumbrated by the final Servant poems (Isa. 50:4ff.; 53), but its unfolding is realized in post-biblical times (see Deutero-Isaiah in *Isaiah).
Médebielle, in: dbi, Supplément, 4 (1938), 48–81; H.H. Rowley, Worship in Ancient Israel (1967); Landsberger, in: afo, 17 (1967), 30–34; L. Moraldi, Espiazione sacrificiale e riti espiatori nell' ambiente biblico (1956), 109–81; R. de Vaux, Studies in Old Testament Sacrifice (1964), 91–112; J. Milgrom, Studies in Levitical Terminology, 1 (1969), §28; idem, in: JQR, 58 (1967/68), 115–25; Extreme opposing positions are taken by: A. Buechler, Studies in Sin and Atonement (1928), and K. Koch, in: Evangelische Theologie, 26 (1966), 217–39. add. bibliography: B. Levine, in: ErIsr, 9 (1969), 88–95; idem, JPS Torah Commentary Leviticus (1989); J. Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16 (AB; 1991); idem, Leviticus 17–22 (AB; 2000); idem, Leviticus 23–27 (AB; 2001).
kip·per / ˈkipər/ • n. a kippered fish, esp. a herring. • v. [tr.] [usu. as adj.] (kippered) cure (a herring or other fish) by splitting it open and salting and drying it in the open air or in smoke.
A. (?) male salmon in the spawning season OE.;
B. salmon, herring, etc., cured by rubbing with salt and drying XVIII. Of obscure history; identical in form with OE. cypera (-e?) (once, in collocation with leax salmon), ME. kypre, kiper (XIV), kepper (XVI), used app. in sense B.
Hence vb. cure (fish) in the above manner. XVIII.