3rd book of the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses, rules for worship and
written : somewhere
about 1400 BC (Latter part of Moses' life)
Gets its name from the Levites (from whom
the priesthood came) who would be the main recipients of this book (to
both apply and teach it).
The first ‘half' is about worshipping
a holy God and the second is about living a holy life.
‘Holiness' is the key issue if this book
behind which must be the question, “How can a sinful people relate to
a holy God?” (The answer for them was by following the Law and by the
offerings indicating desire for fellowship or repentance)
1: Worshipping a holy God (Ch.1-16)
The Five Main Offerings
The ministry of the priesthood
The Distinction Between Clean and Unclean
The Annual Day of Atonement
2: Holy Living (Ch.17-27)
Eating Blood Prohibited
Unlawful Sexual Relations
Various Laws for Holy Living
Punishments for Sin (ch. 20)
Regulations for Priests
Acceptable and Unacceptable Sacrifices
The Annual Feasts
Rules for Oil and Bread in the Tabernacle & Punishment for Blasphemy
The Sabbath and Jubilee Years
Covenant Blessings and Curses
Regulations for Offerings Vowed to the Lord
He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and
it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him
Say to the Israelites: 'When anyone
sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's
commands …. he must bring to the LORD a … sin offering
for the sin he has committed.
When a person commits
a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the LORD's
holy things, he is to bring to the LORD as a penalty ….He must make
restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things…
If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands,
even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.
Then Aaron lifted his hands
toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering,
the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down. Moses
and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they
blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.
Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the
burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people
saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.
sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and
added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD,
contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD
and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Moses then said to
Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke of when he said: " 'Among
those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the
people I will be honoured.' "
I am the LORD your God;
consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.
Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the
ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God;
therefore be holy, because I am holy. " 'These are the regulations
concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves in the water
and every creature that moves about on the ground. You must distinguish
between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may
be eaten and those that may not be eaten.' "
"This is to be a lasting
ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins
of the Israelites."
"You must not eat
the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its
The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the LORD
your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt , where you used
to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where
I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws
and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God. Keep my
decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am
The LORD said to Moses,
"Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them:
'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. " 'Each
of you must respect his mother and father, and you must observe
my Sabbaths. I am the LORD your God. " 'Do not turn to idols
or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the LORD your
and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees
and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
These are the decrees,
the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai
between himself and the Israelites through Moses.
Leviticus is considered by many to have
little relevance to living today. For non-Christians is appears barbaric
and for Christians it is considered superseded by the death of Jesus
as The one-off sacrifice.
However, if we can put ourselves into
history three thousand years ago, in an age of superstition and barbaric
practices such as priestess prostitution and child sacrifices, of
worship of anything and everything that a superstitious mind can dream
up, we may catch the difficulty of raising up a new people who were
not barbaric and not superstitious and who could somehow relate to
a God who had just dealt the most powerful blow to one of the most
powerful nations on earth, a God who declared He was holy, and demanded
His people be holy.
Holy meant perfect, utterly different,
pure, and the one thing we can be sure of (because we are the same)
is that the Israelites did not feel perfect, utterly different and
pure. Yes, there were given a series of very down to earth (mostly)
laws to follow in terms of how they should live as individuals and
as a society, but even then they, like us, would get it wrong and
wander off the path that God had set them.
How could they possibly make it right
again, how could they possibly live as God's chosen people? The answer
is found in Leviticus. Here are rules for sacrifices, things laid
down by God which they should do when they got it wrong, things they
were capable of, things they would know they had done right when they
followed the rules of sacrifice and of the priesthood God had given
them. When they had performed the rituals, they were right with God
and they could relax.
One of the struggles that modern cultures
in the West in the twenty first century has, is the struggle to believe
in right and wrong. Having lost our foundation (God) every person
is left doing what they (or the national laws) think is right. But
the courseness of so much modern life shows us that it doesn't work.
Now consider what the Israelite experienced.
When they sinned in one of the ways prescribed in the early chapters
of this book, they did what was prescribed. They took they best bull
or oxen or goat or sheep to the Tabernacle and with the help of the
priest they put it to death. To be more precise the priest gave them
a long sharp knife and they, the sinner, held it by the head and cut
its throat and watched as it bled to death with their hand on it.
They were responsible for this life being taken. Suddenly they would
have felt terrible, suddenly they realised the significance of Sin
and suddenly they would almost certainly have decided, “I will never
let this happen again!” and a lawful community was established.
The Law (as you can see if you read
the Meditation series, “ Meditations
in Lessons from the Law of Moses”) gave straight forward guidance
and directions for how to live and how to respond when you broke the
us realise that God knows we are prone to getting it wrong and we
need ways back. For the Christian today, we have the simple teaching,
confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our
sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” (1
Jn 1:9) which is only possible because Jesus Christ died: “he
has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin
by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb 9:26).
For the primitive Israelite they simply
had to bring a sacrifice and that was it – and they would probably
never be the same again. A changed and holy community!
So often we tend to focus on sin and
guilt but the Law was much more than that. It also included feast
times, times of great joy. It also included years of Jubilee, times
of releasing people from their past debts and starting all over again.
A number of the laws appear strange to us today but the more we study
them the more we can see the practicality of them.
Leviticus is not an easy book to read
but it is worth reading sometime!
Studies on this site:
on this site: