LEVITICUS - THE BOOK OF WORSHIP

You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes and practice them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you. (Leviticus 20:7-8).

ABOUT THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS

1. The Name of the Book.

a. Hebrew Name:

The names of the first five books of Moses are taken from the first words which open the book.

In this case, the opening word is wa-ayiqra, "and he called."

b. Greek Name:

The Greek Septuagint uses the title Leuitikon, meaning "that which pertains to the Levites." This title was given because so much of the book deals with the ministry of the priesthood which descended from the tribe of Levi.

2. Theme of Leviticus.

The book of Leviticus is a book about the rituals of WORSHIP and HOLINESS. In this, it is a continuation of the Law which is set forth in Exodus.

Exodus ends with the construction of the Tabernacle.

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Leviticus tell us about the worship which takes place within that Tabernacle.

Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting... (Leviticus 1:1).

Exodus ends with the glory of the Lord moving into the Tabernacle. Leviticus picks up with the presence of the Lord calling out to Moses from inside the Tabernacle.

Leviticus teaches God's people how they are to approach Him and live pleasing in His sight. Its central command is to "be HOLY."

"...You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).

GENESIS

EXODUS

LEVITICUS

Origins

of the Nation

Deliverance

of the Nation

Life

of the Nation

Theocracy

Born

Theocracy

Established

3. Structure of the Book.

Leviticus is written in the form of a large Chiasm - a parallel.

Laws of the Offerings (1-7).

Laws of the Priests (8-10)

Laws of Purity (11-15).

Day of Atonement (16).

Laws of Holiness (17-20).

Laws of the Priests (21-22).

Appointed times (23-25).

  • Penalties for Disobedience (26)
  • Making vows before the Lord (27)

The last two chapters dealing with the penalties for disobedience (chapter 26) and with the making of vows before the Lord (chapter 27) have been described as an appendix; something that was added on at the end of the book because there was no better place for it to go. I have come to think differently about these chapter. Rather than seeing them as a parenthetical appendix, I believe them to be the climactic portion of the book. They describe what is to take place if the people do not pursue a course of holiness.

As such, these chapters form the "so what?" of the book. They deliver the punch line. They tell us what Godís response will be if they fail to follow the path of holiness.

Furthermore, the remainder of the Old Testament is the story of how these warnings were fulfilled in the history of the nation of Israel. It will be virtually impossible to read and to understand the prophets without understanding that the warnings they issued to the people in their day were a virtual repeating of the warnings of these two chapters.

 

LAWS OF OFFERINGS (LEVITICUS 1-7)

There are five specific types of offerings outlined in Leviticus.

 Offering

Purpose

God's Portion

Priest's Portion

Symbolism

Burnt Offering (1:1-17).

Worship toward God.

Described as a soothing aroma to the Lord.

All that is burned.

Skins (7:8).

Christ was offered up for us.

Grain Offering (2:1-16).

All except when it is first fruits.

Remainder (6:16-18).

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Peace Offering (3:1-17).

All that is burned.

Breast & right shoulder (7:31-32).

Jesus has a ministry of reconciliation to bring us back to God.

Sin Offering (4:1-5:13).

Sacrifice for Sin.

Fat burned outside the camp.

Only eaten by the priest if it has not entered the Tabernacle (6:30).

Sin is not permitted into the presence of God. But Jesus died "outside the camp" (Hebrews 13:11-13).

Guilt Offering (5:14-6:7).

Fat, kidneys & liver.

Eaten by males in priest's family.

Sin requires death.

In all cases, the offering was to be spotless and without blemish. Furthermore, it was always an animal which had been domesticated and raised by men. Wild animals were never used as offerings.

The word for "offering" is corban. It comes from a root word meaning "to bring near." In New Testament times, it came to describe that which was given or dedicated to the Lord (Mark 7:11-12).

1. The Burnt Offering.

The word used to describe the "burnt offering" is `olah and is taken from the root verb meaning, "to go up" or "ascend." It is an offering of ascension. This referred to the fact that the entire offering was burned and "ascended to God."

2. The Grain Offering.

It looked to the time at creation when God had given to man "every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed" (Genesis 1:29).

We are not given the reason for this prohibition (leaven was also forbidden); it is notable that burnt honey does not smell very nice but frankincense receives its highest degree of fragrance after it had been burned.

3. Peace Offering.

Everyone ate a portion of the peace offering (Offerer, the Lord, the priest, even the priest's children).

In the Burnt Offering and the Grain Offering, the Lord and the Priest had a portion, but not the one making the offering.

This signified communion with God. When you sit at a table and eat with someone, it signifies that you are at peace with him. Christ has become our peace offering. In Him both God and man find common food.

It is noteworthy that the Peace Offering was generally accompanied by a libation of wine - bread and wine at the table of the Lord.

4. Sin Offering.

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people though His own blood, suffered outside the gate. (Hebrews 13:12).

5. Guilt Offering.

This offering is the only one which is NOT described as a soothing aroma (even the Sin Offering is so described in Leviticus 4:31).

This offering is closely aligned to the sin offering; and yet there are a few subtle differences.

 

LAWS OF THE PRIESTS (LEVITICUS 8-10)

Chapters 6-7 have a gradual shift to the part of the priesthood in the various offerings and this in turn brings us to the Laws of the Priests.

Laws of Offerings (1-5).

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Priest's part in Offerings (6-7).

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Laws for the Priesthood (8-10).

1. The Anointing of the Priest.

Moses then took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them.

And he sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times and anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, to consecrate them.

Then he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him, to consecrate him. (Leviticus 8:10-12).

There were only three groups of people who were commonly anointed in the Old Testament.

a. Priests.

b. Prophets.

c. Kings.

Jesus filled each of these positions. And because He did, He is HaMeshiah - the "anointed One."

2. Made Holy.

After having been cleansed and anointed, Aaron and his sons were required to stay at the door of the Tabernacle for seven days (8:35).

They were being set apart for the work of the Lord. They were HOLY. And this meant that they must be separate and distinct from the rest of the people.

On the eighth day, another sacrifice was made and Aaron blessed the people.

Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.

And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, THE GLORY OF THE LORD APPEARED to all the people.

Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. (Leviticus 9:22-24).

3. The Sin of Aaron's Sons (10:1-5).

The offering had been consumed by the supernatural fire of God (9:24). The sons of Aaron took it upon themselves to use a "strange fire" upon the altar - that is, a fire which was different from the flame which the Lord had sent.

The result was that fire came out from the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle and killed them.

What is the lesson here? There are several lessons.

While Jesus will be Judge when He sits "as a smelter and purifier of sliver (Malachi 3:3; 4:1), He will also be the "Sun of Righteousness... with healing in His wings" (Malachi 4:2).

It is not that these sons of Aaron were trying to do evil. They seem to have been acting on good motives. They were seeking to worship the Lord. Like Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:7) they try to do a service for the Lord, but they do it improperly.

 

LAWS OF PURITY (LEVITICUS 11-15)

This section begins with a general chapter on unclean foods (both animals and water). It has been noted that many of these dietary requirements had value with regard to the kinds of diseases which could be caught. However, the purpose given for these laws was that God's people might be HOLY (11:44).

Uncleanliness was not limited to that which could be eaten or drunk. There were other aspects of ceremonial uncleanliness which were maintained within a person's body.

Uncleanliness in Childbirth (12).

Varied Seminal Discharges (15).

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Tests for Leprosy (13).

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The Law of the Leper (14).

 

THE DAY OF ATONEMENT (LEVITICUS 16)

Occupying a central place in the book of Leviticus is the most holy day of the year - Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement.

1. This Service was Performed by the High Priest Alone.

The Tabernacle was to be emptied of all other inhabitants upon this day. The High Priest would be completely alone as he performed those parts of the ritual which took place within the Tabernacle.

This was a picture of Jesus who was forsaken by all when He became the covering for our sins (Psalm 22:1).

2. This Service Involved Passing within the Veil.

The priests were required to minister within the Tabernacle each morning and each evening. But the one thing they were never permitted to do in any of their ministry was to pass beyond the veil which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.

And the Lord said to Moses, "Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat." (Leviticus 16:2).

The one exception to this rule took place on the Day of Atonement. On this day (and only on this day), the High Priest was permitted to pass beyond the veil into the very presence of God.

3. The Clothing of the High Priest.

On this special day, the High Priest would be clothed in simple linen. The breastplate and the tunic and the gold and the blue and the scarlet would all be put aside.

It was a picture of the Messiah who would lay aside His glory (Philippians 2:7).

4. Offering for the High Priest.

Before he could act as mediator between God and the people, the High Priest first had to offer up a bull as an atonement for his own sins and for those of his family.

5. The Two Goats.

Two goats were then to be taken and presented before the Lord. Lots would be cast.

And Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.

Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a sin offering.

But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:8-10).

Two goats were brought before the presence of the Lord. There was nothing to distinguish them apart. Lots were cast. These lots would determine which goat would live and which would die. The goat on whom the lot fell was killed and used as a sin offering. The other goat is referred to as the "scapegoat."

The phrase translated "for the scapegoat" is the Hebrew (LaAzazel). This is a compound word made up of the joining of two Hebrew words. The problem is that we are not entirely sure which words are indicated

a. (Az) is the Aramaic word for a "goat," but this is normally used to refer only to a female goat. (Az) can also be used in Hebrew as an adjective describing that which is "strong" or even the quality of "ferocity."

b. (Azel) is the verb, "to go."

Thus, this can refer either to the "goat of sending away" or "the sending away of ferocity." Either one is possible and both would seem to fit the context. Aaron was to take this goat and place BOTH his hands upon it as he confessed all of the sins of Israel (for most sacrifices he only placed one hand upon the animal).

Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the sons of Israel, and all their transgressions in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. (Leviticus 16:21).

The sins of the nation would be identified with the goat. And then the goat would be led away into the wilderness, signifying that the sins of the people had been carried away.

The language used here is later repeated to speak of how the Lord would lay upon Messiah the sins of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews sets forth a series of contrasts and comparisons between the ritual sacrifices of the Day of Atonement and the work of Christ upon the cross.

The Old Covenant

The New Covenant

Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these" (9:23).

But the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (9:23).

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one (9:24).

But into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (9:24).

Nor was it that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood not his own, otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world (9:25-26).

But now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifices of Himself (9:26).

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (9:27).

So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him (9:28).

The rituals of the Day of Atonement were to be repeated each year. For over a thousand years, this drama was acted out, first within the Tabernacle, and later within the Temple.

The ritual found its fulfillment on a spring day in the first century A.D. The Romans had set aside three crosses. Three thieves were destined to hang upon those crosses. They had been apprehended, judged, and found to be guilty. They were placed under the sentence of death. But one of those thieves missed his appointment. He never went to the cross. His name was BARABAS.

Another man went to the cross in his place. Jesus died upon the cross of Barabas and Barabas was set free. We have been set free, too. And it was not because we were any more deserving. It was a gift of GRACE.

 

LAWS OF HOLINESS (LEVITICUS 17-20)

These laws were designed to make the people of God different that the rest of the peoples of the world.

1. Laws of Blood (Leviticus 17).

There was a definite injunction against eating or drinking blood. The reason for this was because blood symbolized LIFE.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement. (Leviticus 17:11).

2. Laws of Sexual Morality (Leviticus 18).

The 10 commandments had forbidden adultery. Now the Law goes on to specify the various forms of sexual immorality which are forbidden in that general law. It includes such issues as incest as well as adultery and homosexuality.

3. General Laws (Leviticus 19-20).

The general laws follow a varied pattern of subjects as we move from law to law.

Be Holy

Sabbaths, Idols, & Sacrifices (19:3-8).

Fields & the Needy (19:9-10).

Dealing with Neighbors (19:11-18).

Statutes & Sacrifices (19:19-22).

Fields & Fruit (19:23-25).

Avoid occult practices (19:26-31).

Honor the Aged (19:32).

Dealing with strangers & neighbors (19:33-37).

Avoid occult practices (20:1-6).

Be Holy

Honor your parents (20:9).

Laws of sexual morality (20:10-21).

Be Holy

As can be seen from the above chart, the main theme of this section (if not of the entire book) is to BE HOLY (19:2; 20:7; 20:26).

There is an important principle here. The foundation for all true morality rests upon the existence of a holy God. These laws included the treatment of one's neighbor.

You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. (Leviticus 19:13).

One of the commands given to this section is to "love your neighbor as yourself" (19:18). We normally think of this command as having come from Jesus, but it had its origins in the Old Testament.

This command is also extended to strangers and aliens who reside among the Israelites.

The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. (Exodus 19:34).

 

LAWS OF THE PRIESTS (LEVITICUS 21-22)

The priests had a great privilege. They were permitted to serve in the Tabernacle and to partake of the holy things. With that increased privilege came increased responsibility.

The ordinary Israelite could touch his parent's corpse at the funeral. The priest could not do this (21:1-4).

The ordinary Israelite could marry whomever he chose. The priest could not (21:7).

An immoral Israelite was punished, but a member of a priest's family who committed an immoral act was burnt with fire (21:9).

There is a principle here. For every liberty there is a corresponding responsibility. For every privilege there is a corresponding duty.

This has an application today when we realize that ALL believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9). We have the privilege of entering into the Holy Place (Hebrews 10:19-22). But with that great privilege comes a great responsibility. It is the responsibility to be holy.

APPOINTED TIMES (LEVITICUS 23-25)

1. The Seven Convocations.

The Book of Leviticus started the setting forth of five types of offerings. Now as we near its close, we have set forth for us seven appointed convocations.

a. The Weekly Sabbath (23:3).

The Sabbath serves as the foundation for all other memorials. It is foundational because it was established at Creation.

(1) The day was counted as the beginning of sunset (23:32).

(2) The Jews observed a lunar month of 28 days each.

The first day of the month could not be determined until the appearance of the new moon (after sunset), although by the time of David the Jews had learned to calculate the day of the new moon (1 Samuel 20:5).

(3) The Jewish year consisted of 12 lunar months (354 days, 8 hours, 45 minutes, 38 seconds).

(4) An extra month was added to the year periodically to keep the year in conformity with the solar year (four times every 11 years).

If no adjustment had been made, the Feasts would have made a complete cycle of the seasons once every 34 years. This was not possible among a people who were geared to an agricultural economy.

Thus, a second month of Adhar was added whenever the 12th month ended more than 4 weeks before the Spring Equinox.

(5) The Jews also observed a civil year which began in the seventh month of the religious year (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). The Year of Jubilee began in the seventh month of the ritual year (Leviticus 25:8-10).

b. The Passover (23:5).

The Passover is only mentioned briefly, since it had been fully described in Exodus.

Notice that the Passover was to be held on the 14th day of the month. The Jews followed a lunar calendar. Their month would begin with the New Moon. This means that the 14th day of the month would be the time of the Full Moon.

Some have wondered if the darkness of the sun at the death of Christ could have been caused by a solar eclipse. But this could not be the case, for it took place in the season of Passover - the time of the Full Moon.

c. The Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:6-14).

The day following the Passover was to begin a week of feasting. For this entire week, God's people were to eat unleavened bread. On each day an offering was to be presented to the Lord. Once the Israelites were in the Land, they would further celebrate this feast by bringing a sheaf of the firstfruits of their harvest. It was to be brought before the priest at the Tabernacle.

On the first day of the week, he would take the sheaf and wave it before the Lord. Accompanying the sheaf would be the offering of a lamb and a grain offering with a libation of wine.

- The First Day of the Week.

- The Firstfruit sheaf.

- A sacrificed lamb.

- Flour mixed with oil.

- Wine.

This was a picture of the Resurrection of Christ. He is our Firstfruits. His resurrection is a promise of our resurrection which is to follow.

Because of that, we have a continuing observance. It is an observance of bread and wine. It remembers the Sacrificed Lamb. And it looks forward to the day when the Firstfruits will be joined by the rest of the Harvest.

d. The New Grain Offering - Pentecost (23:15-21).

The next observance was to take place 50 days after the first Sabbath of the Week of Unleavened Bread. It would also take place on the First Day of the Week. Several offerings were to be made on this day.

(1) A Grain Offering of two loaves of bread - but these loaves were to be baked WITH leaven.

(2) A Burnt Offering of...

(3) A Sin Offering of a male goat.

(4) A Peace Offering of two male lambs.

It was upon the celebration of this day following the death and resurrection of Christ that the Holy Spirit was given.

e. The Blowing of Trumpets (23:24-25).

The Fall Festivals were initiated with a blowing of trumpets. This Festival fell on the first day of the month (the day of the New Moon).

Today the Jews celebrate Rosh HaShanah on this date (the New Year).

f. The Day of Atonement (23:26-32).

We have already seen the Day of Atonement at length in Leviticus 16. This was the day on which the High Priest would enter into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the nation.

It was different from all of the other Festival Times in that this was a day of FASTING and a day when you were to "humble your souls" (23:27).

g. The Feast of Booths (23:33-44).

This was the last of the Festivals (Purim and Hanukkah would be added much later). For an entire week, the people were to live in Booths. They were to "camp out."

The weather in Palestine was suited to this at this time of the year. The heat of summer had passed and the "early rains" were still a month away.

2. Ordinances of Light & Bread (24:1-9).

3. The Holiness of God's Name (24:10-23).

Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the sons of Israel; and the Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel struggled with each other in the camp.

And the son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses... (Leviticus 24:10-11a).

The trouble started with a mixed marriage (this was later forbidden in Deuteronomy 7:3-4 and Nehemiah 13:25).

This was not to be the last time that the "Mixed Multitude" would be the cause of trouble in the Camp (Numbers 11).

An altercation took place between this young man and an Israelite. e source of the altercation is not important. What IS important is that it resulted in the sin of blasphemy against the name of the Lord.

This sin called for death on the part of the guilty. It was the responsibility of the entire congregation to carry out the sentence so that no one person would be the executioner.

4. Sabbatical Year & Jubilee (25).

Just as the Israelites were to rest each seventh day, so also, they were to observe every seventh year (they were also to observe the seventh week and the seventh month). The seventh cycle of sabbatical years was to be a most special year.

On the Day of Atonement (the 7th month) of the 7th cycle of sabbatical years, the Year of Jubilee was to be ushered in.

You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. (Leviticus 25:10).

This was to be a time of great rejoicing. The fasting of the Day of Atonement was over. Sins had been proclaimed forgiven. Now there was to be a time of rest. It was to last an entire year.

In addition to the rest, all debts were to be wiped out. Slaves were to be freed. All land was to revert to its original owners.

The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently; for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. (Leviticus 25:23).

Notice the principle of divine ownership. The land did not belong to the people. It was the Lord's land.

 

BLESSINGS AND CURSINGS (LEVITICUS 26)

The Lord sets forth the results of both discipline and of obedience. Obedience brings blessing. Disobedience brings cursing. The result of this blessing of obedience would be that Israel would enjoy the blessings of the covenant relationship.

I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. (Leviticus 26:12).

We have the same blessings today. Paul quotes this passage in his second epistle to the Corinthians.

Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (2 Corinthians 6:16).

This has been the message of Leviticus. It is the big "so what" of the entire book. It has been that God is going to dwell with Israel. He will be their God and they will be His people.

This covenant relationship continues even today. It is a relationship which is found in the CHURCH. We have entered into the promise which was initially given to Israel.

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