The book of Leviticus

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Leviticus used to be the first book that Jewish children studied in the synagogue. In the modern Church it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously. … In practice then, though not in theory, Leviticus is treated as though it does not really belong to the canon of Scripture.
~Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), p. vii.

That rings so true. When I was younger, I would start reading the bible chapter by chapter in January and by the time I reach the Chinese New Year holidays, I would find myself in the book of Leviticus and there the goal of completing the bible in a year would go down the drain! Thankfully, by God's grace I did manage to read the entire bible several years ago, though there still much, much more to read.

The book of Leviticus now holds a very high priority in my study of His word, but there is so much to do, so much to read and so much to learn. In preparation for my sermon this Sunday though, I must at least read up some. I downloaded a bible study on the book from which turns out to be a 214 pages long pdf file!

The Book of Leviticus
Source: Robert L. Deffinbaugh, Th.M.

Some characteristics:

(1) Leviticus is largely a code book, a book of regulations.

(2) The Book of Leviticus is, to a great degree, a book of priestly regulations.

(3) The Book of Leviticus contains many regulations pertaining to the laity, as well as to the priests.

(4) The Book of Leviticus is a book of regulations which is given by God through Moses, spoken to him from the tent of meeting.

(5) The Book of Leviticus is essentially a narrative form of literature.

(6) Leviticus is closely connected with the entire Pentateuch, and especially with Exodus and Numbers.

(7) Essentially, Leviticus can be divided into two major divisions, separated by chapter 16, which deals with the annual day of atonement.

(8) Leviticus is quite frequently quoted or referred to, but in the Old Testament, perhaps no other book is more influenced by Leviticus than the prophecy of Ezekiel.

(9) Leviticus makes a great deal of some distinctions.

(10) Leviticus does not press the distinction between ceremonial holiness and civilian holiness.

Burnt Offerings

Some observations:

(1) The burnt offering does not originate in Leviticus, but is found early in the Book of Genesis.

(2) The burnt offering regulated in Leviticus chapter 1 was viewed primarily a personal offerings, done voluntarily by the individual Israelite.

(3) The burnt offering is one of the most common offerings, which is offered on a great variety of occasions, often in conjunction with another sacrifice or offering.

(5) The regulations for the burnt offering (as well as the other offerings) are very important, and violations are taken very seriously.

(6) There are three types of animals to sacrifice in the burnt offering.

(7) The animal to be offered in the burnt offering was always to be of the highest quality.

(8) There is an alternation between the activity of the priest and the offerer.

What it means to us based on 4 principles:

(1) The principle of man’s depravity
The burnt offering is not an offering for a specific sin but in association with other offerings. It is a reminder to the Israelites of man's depravity, to acknowledge and make provision for their sinfulness. Only through Christ, the Son of God who can take away the sins of the world.

(2) The principle of particularity
If the Israelite learned anything from the meticulous rules and regulations which God laid down for the burnt offering and all of the rest, it was that He is very particular about the way men approach Him. We can only come to God his way, Christ's way not our own.

(3) The principle of acceptance with God
God accepts us when we come to him in nothingness, in humility.
The bottom line is that the Bible portrays God’s acceptance as the highest good of all, and that making great sacrifice is worth the price to attain God’s favor. Let us see God’s approval as our highest good, and let us forsake all, including self-seeking and self-love to attain it. It is in our death, in Christ, that God is well pleased. It is in giving up our life that we gain life. And as Christians, no motive should be stronger than that of pleasing God, of hearing Him say to us in that day, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

(4) The principle of atonement through the shedding of blood
The sinful state of man is dealt with by the shedding of innocent blood, the blood of a sacrificial victim. The burnt offering communicates and illustrates this principle of atonement.

(5) The principle of identification
The one who was to benefit from the death of the sacrificial victim had to identify with that animal. It was, first of all, his animal, one that he had either raised or obtained at a price. The offerer places his hand on the victim as a symbol of identifying himself with it, which he killed in his place. In the same way, Christ died for us, an atonement.

(6) The principle of sacrifice
One of the unique contributions of the whole burnt offering is that it illustrates sacrifice in its purest form. A very valuable animal is given up wholly to God. Neither the offerer nor the priest gains much from the offering, other than the benefit of being found acceptable to God, which, in the final analysis, is the ultimate benefit.

Picture from Brian Nelson's Bible Audio Visual

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2 comment(s)

  1. More quality stuff. Thanks, Maeghan, for the overview/refresher!

    I was just talking to my son Sunday about how many people get lost in Leviticus. It is so hard and so easy to see Jesus all through the book. I had no idea about the connection to Ezekiel. Cool

    I am thinking about a study of a harmony of the old testament. I want to try to tie all the kings, events, and prophets together in my head. The way things are scattered and preached it seems like Isaiah was prophecying from an ivory tower, instead of directly to Ahaz. I just read Gods and Kings by Lynne Austen, and it has got my juices flowing.

  2. So true, we always get stuck when we get to Leviticus - hard one to read aloud with the family! It's probably better to study in view of the whole Bible.