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Introduction to the Books of the Bible

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BOOK : Leviticus

Description : 3rd book of the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses, rules for worship and holy living.

Author: preobably Moses

Date written somewhere about 1400 BC (Latter part of Moses' life)

Chapters : 27


Brief Synopsis:

•  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)


Outline :

Part 1: Worshipping a holy God (Ch.1-16)
Ch.1-7 The Five Main Offerings
Ch.8-10 The ministry of the priesthood
Ch.11-15 The Distinction Between Clean and Unclean
Ch.16 The Annual Day of Atonement
Part 2: Holy Living (Ch.17-27)
Ch.17 Eating Blood Prohibited
Ch.18 Unlawful Sexual Relations
Ch.19 Various Laws for Holy Living
Ch.20 Punishments for Sin (ch. 20)
Ch.21,22 Regulations for Priests
Ch.22 Acceptable and Unacceptable Sacrifices
Ch.23 The Annual Feasts
Ch.24 Rules for Oil and Bread in the Tabernacle & Punishment for Blasphemy
Ch.25 The Sabbath and Jubilee Years
Ch.26 Covenant Blessings and Curses
Ch.27 Regulations for Offerings Vowed to the Lord


Key Verses :



1:4   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
4:2,3 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.
5:15,-17   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.


Priestly Ministry

9:22-24 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.


Wrong Ministry

10:1-3   Aaron's 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.' "  
11:44-47 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.' "
16:34 "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites."
17:14 "You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood
18:1-5 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.  
19:1-4 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 God.
20:7,8 Consecrate yourselves   and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. Keep my decrees   and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
26:46 These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established on Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.



Concluding Comments

•  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 laws.

•  Leviticus helps 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, “If we 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!


Bible Studies on this site:


Lev 1-7 - "Laws of Sacrifices"

Meditations on this site:

Other reading on this site:

Chapter 22 – "The Reasonableness of the Law of Moses" from the book, “God's Love in the Old Testament”