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A7. Confessing, Repenting, and Making Restitution for Our Sins.    [Make a Comment]

We are to confess and repent of our sins, and make restitution where possible and appropriate.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Leviticus 4:27-29 (Maimonides RP69; Chinuch C121)
If an individual among the people commits a sin inadvertently, doing something against any of the mitzvot of ADONAI concerning things which should not be done, he is guilty. If the sin he committed becomes known to him, he is to bring as his offering a female goat without defect for the sin he committed, lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter the sin offering in the place of burnt offerings.

Leviticus 16:29-31 (Maimonides RP164)
It is to be a permanent regulation for you that on the tenth day of the seventh month you are to deny yourselves and not do any kind of work, both the citizen and the foreigner living with you. For on this day, atonement will be made for you to purify you; you will be clean before ADONAI from all your sins. It is a Shabbat of complete rest for you, and you are to deny yourselves. This is a permanent regulation.

Leviticus 23:27-29 (Meir MP32; Chinuch C313)
The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI. You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before ADONAI your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people

Leviticus 26:40 (Maimonides RP73; Chinuch C364)
Then they will confess their misdeeds and those of their ancestors which they committed against me in their rebellion; they will admit that they went against me.

Numbers 5:6-8 (Maimonides RP73; Meir MP33; Chinuch C364)
Tell the people of Isra'el, 'When a man or woman commits any kind of sin against another person and thus breaks faith with ADONAI, he incurs guilt. He must confess the sin which he has committed; and he must make full restitution for his guilt, add twenty percent and give it to the victim of his sin. But if the person has no relative to whom restitution can be made for the guilt, then what is given in restitution for guilt will belong to ADONAI, that is, to the cohen - in addition to the ram of atonement through which atonement is made for him.'

Acts 3:19
Therefore, repent and turn to God, so that yours sins may be erased.

Acts 17:30
In the past, God overlooked such ignorance; but now he is commanding all people everywhere to turn to him from their sins.

Supportive Scriptures

Exodus 22:1-14(2-15)
If a thief caught in the act of breaking in is beaten to death, it is not murder; unless it happens after sunrise, in which case it is murder. A thief must make restitution; so if he has nothing, he himself is to be sold to make good the loss from the theft. If what he stole is found alive in his possession, he is to pay double, no matter whether it is an ox, a donkey or a sheep. If a person causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over or lets his animal loose to graze in someone else's field, he is to make restitution from the best produce of his own field and vineyard. If a fire is started and spreads to thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain or a field is destroyed, the person who lit it must make restitution. If a person entrusts a neighbor with money or goods, and they are stolen from the trustee's house, then, if the thief is found, he must pay double. But if the thief is not found, then the trustee must state before God that he did not take the person's goods himself. In every case of dispute over ownership, whether of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, clothing, or any missing property, where one person says, 'This is mine,' both parties are to come before God; and the one whom God condemns must pay the other one double. If a person trusts a neighbor to look after a donkey, ox, sheep or any animal, and it dies, is injured or is driven away unseen, then the neighbor's oath before ADONAI that he has not taken the goods will settle the matter between them - the owner is to accept it without the neighbor's making restitution. But if it was stolen from the neighbor, he must make restitution to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by an animal, the neighbor must bring it as evidence, and then he doesn't need to make good the loss. If someone borrows something from his neighbor, and it gets injured or dies with the owner not present, he must make restitution. If the owner was present, he need not make good the loss. If the owner hired it out, the loss is covered by the hiring fee.

Leviticus 5:5
A person guilty of any of these things is to confess in what manner he sinned ...

Leviticus 6:2-6(9-13)
Give this order to Aharon and his sons: 'This is the law for the burnt offering: it is what goes up on its firewood upon the altar all night long, until morning; in this way the fire of the altar will be kept burning. When the fire has consumed the burnt offering on the altar, the cohen, having put on his linen garment and covered himself with his linen shorts, is to remove the ashes and put them beside the altar. Then he is to remove those garments and put on others, before carrying the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. In this way, the fire on the altar will be kept burning and not be allowed to go out. Each morning, the cohen is to kindle wood on it, arrange the burnt offering and make the fat of the peace offerings go up in smoke. Fire is to be kept burning on the altar continually; it is not to go out.

Leviticus 16:11-22
Aharon is to present the bull of the sin offering for himself; he will make atonement for himself and his household; he is to slaughter the bull of the sin offering which is for himself. He is to take a censer full of burning coals from the altar before ADONAI and, with his hands full of ground, fragrant incense, bring it inside the curtain. He is to put the incense on the fire before ADONAI, so that the cloud from the incense will cover the ark-cover which is over the testimony, in order that he not die. He is to take some of the bull's blood and sprinkle it with his finger on the ark-cover toward the east; and in front of the ark-cover he is to sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. Next, he is to slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, bring its blood inside the curtain and do with its blood as he did with the bull's blood, sprinkling it on the ark-cover and in front of the ark-cover. He will make atonement for the Holy Place because of the uncleannesses of the people of Isra'el and because of their transgressions - all their sins; and he is to do the same for the tent of meeting which is there with them right in the middle of their uncleannesses. No one is to be present in the tent of meeting from the time he enters the Holy Place to make atonement until the time he comes out, having made atonement for himself, for his household and for the entire community of Isra'el. Then he is to go out to the altar that is before ADONAI and make atonement for it; he is to take some of the bull's blood and some of the goat's blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. He is to sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, thus purifying it and setting it apart from the uncleannesses of the people of Isra'el. When he has finished atoning for the Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he is to present the live goat. Aharon is to lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the transgressions, crimes and sins of the people of Isra'el; he is to put them on the head of the goat and then send it away into the desert with a man appointed for the purpose. The goat will bear all their transgressions away to some isolated place, and he is to let the goat go in the desert.

Deuteronomy 4:29-31
However, from there you will seek ADONAI your God; and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and being. In your distress, when all these things have come upon you, in the acharit-hayamim, you will return to ADONAI your God and listen to what he says; for ADONAI your God is a merciful God. He will not fail you, destroy you, or forget the covenant with your ancestors which he swore to them.

Isaiah 55:7
Let the wicked person abandon his way and the evil person his thoughts; let him return to ADONAI, and he will have mercy on him; let him return to our God, for he will freely forgive.

Ezekiel 18:21-23
However, if the wicked person repents of all the sins he committed, keeps my laws and does what is lawful and right; then he will certainly live, he will not die. None of the transgressions he has committed will be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done, he will live.

Psalm 32:1-5
By David. A maskil: How blessed are those whose offense is forgiven, those whose sin is covered! How blessed those to whom ADONAI imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit! When I kept silent, my bones wasted away because of my groaning all day long; day and night your hand was heavy on me; the sap in me dried up as in a summer drought. (Selah) When I acknowledged my sin to you, when I stopped concealing my guilt, and said, "I will confess my offenses to ADONAI"; then you, you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Selah)

Proverbs 28:13
He who conceals his sins will not succeed; he who confesses and abandons them will gain mercy.

2 Chronicles 7:14
... then, if my people, who bear my name, will humble themselves; pray, seek my face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.

Matthew 4:17
From that time on, Yeshua began proclaiming, "Turn from your sins to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!"

Matthew 5:23-24
So if you are offering your gift at the Temple altar and you remember there that your brother has something against you, leave your gift where it is by the altar, and go, make peace with your brother. Then come back and offer your gift.

Luke 13:3
No, I tell you. Rather, unless you turn to God from your sins, you will all die as they did!

Acts 2:38
Kefa answered them, "Turn from sin, return to God, and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of Ruach HaKodesh!"

Romans 2:5
But by your stubbornness, by your unrepentant heart, you are storing up anger for yourself on the Day of Anger, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed

2 Corinthians 7:9-10
... now I rejoice not because you were pained, but because the pain led you to turn back to God. For you handled the pain in God's way, so that you were not harmed by us at all.

James 5:16
Therefore, openly acknowledge your sins to one another, and pray for each other, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins.

1 John 1:9
If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.


It is the general rule that we are to confess our sins, repent, and make restitution. Confession is always to God but, according to James 5:16, we are also to confess our sins to one another. Confession alone is not adequate, however, and we are commanded to repent as well. Repentance involves regretting that we sinned, and soberly determining to not repeat the sin. A common definition of repentance is "turning away from sin and turning toward God."

Not all sins are of the kind that the making of restitution is wise, reasonable, or even possible. For that reason, we must rely on the Ru'ach Hakodesh to know if, when, and how repentance should be made. Regret and repentance, on the other hand, should always occur immediately upon realizing that we have sinned.

Matthew 5:23-24 requires that when we sin against a brother we are to go to him, confess, repent, and attempt to reconcile. Even if we do not think we have sinned but our brother does, we should go to him and try to reconcile. Although Scripture is not explicit on this point, it would seem that we should do so even if the one we sinned against is not a brother, but an unbeliever. When that is not possible or appropriate, Scripture still requires that we confess our sins to God and to one another, meaning to mature brothers and sisters in the faith who will hear us.

Commentary by Daniel C. Juster

Laws of restitution such as referred to in these passages were intended to guide the civil courts in ancient Israel. As such, the idea of paying damages beyond just restoring what was stolen has become part of most Western law systems; the civil laws in the Bible greatly influenced the legal systems of the west. On a personal level, the person who repents should restore what can be restored and, beyond that, should restore even more as the biblical texts suggest. This is so that the pain of the violation is felt by the one who has sinned, and is mitigated somewhat by the one who has been sinned against. The amounts of restitution specified in the Scriptures can guide personal acts of restitution as well as those of the civil courts. When personal restitution takes place, court actions can be avoided, keeping in mind that 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 prohibits a believer from suing a fellow believer in a secular court.

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch state that we are to confess our sins and repent, but they do not indicate to whom the confession should be given. Maimonides specifically requires that the confession must be given orally. The others do not specifically say that, but imply it through their use of the word "say" (translated of course). All three commentators reference the fast of repentance on Yom Kippur. Maimonides and HaChinuch reference the commandment in Leviticus 4:27-29 to make a sin offering after one sins, while Meir is silent on the matter.


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