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Introduction to Leviticus

An Introduction to Leviticus

If we examine the context of the books of Exodus and Leviticus, we can see that Leviticus was probably written about the same time as the latter half of Exodus. At this time there was no movement of Israel’s camp. This was training time, a time to learn how to offer the sacrifices the LORD required.

The name, Leviticus, was probably derived from Levi, the tribe appointed to serve as priests and ministering servants to the Israelites.

The theme of Leviticus is holiness— sacred reverence for anything in God’s realm, absolutely righteous, without sin or anything impure or unclean. How could that be achieved? We will soon see that the Israelites are accepted by God when they demonstrate their faith bringing unblemished sacrifices to him as they are required. When they do this, they are meeting God’s demands for holiness and drawing near to him in a personal relationship. .

A noted theologian, A.F. Rainey, observes that the Levitical sacrifices were separated by three different orders.

  • Leviticus 1:1–6:7 was the didactic order, the order taught to the individuals who brought the offerings (Leviticus 1:2; 4:2). The primary emphasis of this order was the responsibility of the individual regarding his offerings.
  • Leviticus 6:8–7:38 was the administrative order for the priests (6:9), and it answers the question for the priests, “what do we do with the offerings when we receive them?”
  • Leviticus 8:14-32 and 9:1-24 deal with the normal procedural order for offering sacrifices. The normal procedural order was sin and guilt offerings, followed by burnt, grain, and fellowship offerings or peace offerings.

The last half of Leviticus deals with the practical application of holiness. (see “Sacrifice and Offerings, ” The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible , © 1975, vol 4, pp. 201-3).

The offerings to the Israelite God (LORD or Jehovah), were not for the primary purpose of appeasing anger or currying favor with him. In most cases, the offerings were required for making amends (atonement) for the sins of the Israelites. This was done by substitution—an animal’s blood was shed for their lives. Because God is holy, he wants his people to be holy (although most of us are not Israelites, this also includes us 1Peter 1:16). The animals which were brought, therefore, had to be worthy of God, perfect, without blemish and without spot because the LORD is that way. The perfect sacrifice also typified Christ, the perfect Lamb of God (John 1:29; 1Peter 1:18-19). When the sacrifices were offered in obedience, their sins were forgiven and wiped out (atoned for) by God, and they were restored in their relationship to him.

Also included in the theme of holiness in Leviticus are the teachings of being clean or pure. The Israelites were to eat clean animals (those approved by God). The people themselves were to be clean or free from disease, bodily discharges, and other contaminations which might come into contact with them. Even their homes and clothing were to be free from the contamination of mildew. Why? These guidelines and restrictions were given for their health and their holiness. God said,

You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them. (Leviticus 15:31, NIV).

The Israelites were to be a holy people, separated from all evil and uncleanness and separated to their most holy God, especially because the LORD was going to dwell among them.

How do we view God and our relationship with him? Although today we do not have the stringent requirements of clean food, bodies, houses, and clothing, God is as holy now as he was then. He is set apart as completely pure and undefiled, and yet he desires to dwell within us (John 1:14). In fact, the Lord is preparing a perfect place for us to live in heaven (1Peter 1:4), and some day he will come to dwell with us on a new or newly restored earth (Revelation 21:1-3).

How can we be holy? The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Jesus became a high priest to offer himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26, NIV). If we accept his perfect sacrifice for our sins, believing that Jesus died in our place, was buried, and rose again from the dead for our salvation, God makes us righteous, spiritually clean and pure (holy). (more...).

How do we stay holy? As Christians we must be separated from evil practices and even the appearance of evil (1Thessalonians 5:22), and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must live righteous and pure lives separated to the Lord. We should “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1, NIV). The Apostle Peter instructs, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” 1Peter 1:15, NIV). No one is perfect, of course, so when we mess up, we must confess our sin to the LORD to receive cleansing and forgiveness(1John 1:9). Being separated unto God, we are in his realm and experience his joy! .

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