Introduction to the Bible - 03 - Leviticus

Introduction to Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is like a user’s manual for the Lord’s Tabernacle and later the Temple.  This law was in use until the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Additionally, the book of Leviticus gives the Jews details of the daily law of the people including regulations about their diet, criminal law and civil law.

Background and Setting

·        Name of the Book - The Levites, or the tribe of Levi, were chosen by God to be the priests of Israel.  Leviticus bears their name since all of the details of how to conduct sacrifices to the Lord are spelled out clearly in this book. 

·        Purpose –The second half of the book of Exodus gives the details of how Moses was to build the Tabernacle, however, the book of Leviticus tells us in great detail how the sacrifices were to be conducted.  Additionally, Leviticus contains instructions for how to ordain the priests, how the people were to remain ceremonially clean and how business practices in the nation were to be affected by God’s law.

·        Date of Writing – The last verse in the book says “These are the commandments which the Lord commanded Moses for the children on Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 27:34).  So chronologically and geographically, Leviticus doesn’t move the story of Israel any further along in their story since they arrived at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19

Details of the Book

·        Outline

o       Chapters 1-7 give us the details of the five main sacrifices used in the temple – the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering and the trespass offering.  These are explained in more detail later on in this article.

o       Chapters 8 to 10 explain the regulations about the priesthood.

o       Chapters 11 to 16 explain the details of sanctification, which means to be ceremonially clear or set apart to God.

o       Chapters 17 to 27 explain the laws about the details of law that affect the daily lives of Israel including food, sexual behavior, relations with neighbors, crimes and holidays.

·        The Offerings – One of the most outstanding themes of the Moses Law was that the people of Israel had a relationship with a holy God illustrated by their use of animal sacrifices.  The first five chapters describe each type of offering.  An offering could be for atone for sins or to offer worship.  Sometimes the priest was allowed to take a portion for himself.  All of the offerings give us an understanding of the greatest offering ever made, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross – to put away sins as well as provide a pleasing sacrifice to God.  Numbers 6:12-83 gives us specific examples of people who brought offerings in groups.  That is, a person may offer more than one type of offering at each session at the tabernacle.  Each offering had its own specific significance both in that day as well as is seen in the life of Christ.

Chapters

Offering Name

Details

Similarity with the Death of Christ.

1

6:8-13

Burnt Offering

·        A worshiper would offer a burnt offering voluntarily as an act of devotion.

·        A bull, sheep or turtledove depending on the wealth of the worshiper.

·        100% of the animal was consumed by the fire.  The priest and worshiper received nothing.

Christ’s life and death were 100% dedicated to his father as an act of devotion.

2

6:14-23

Grain Offering

·        A worshiper would offer his grain offering voluntarily as an act of thanksgiving.

·        The offering was a cake made with wheat flour or barley in several forms: oven-baked, on a pan, or on a griddle.

·        A portion of the cake was burned on the altar and the remainder was given to the priest and his family.

The ingredients represent the absolute purity of Christ.  The dough was made without yeast or honey to avoid fermentation which throughout the Bible is symbolical of sin.  The cakes were made with fine flour and with some incense which represent an evenness and fragrance of the life of Christ before God.

3

7:11-36

Fellowship Offering or Peace Offering

·        A worshiper would offer his peace offering as an act of fellowship with God or to express gratitude.

·        The offering was either a lamb or a goat.

·        This is the only sacrifice in which the worshiper was allowed to eat some of the meat.  The act of sharing a meal between the worshiper, the priests and with God gives us the two commonly used named – the fellowship offering and the peace offering.

·        The peace offering was used on special occasions in great quantities (Exodus 23:14-17; Numbers 29:39; 1 Kings 8:63-65)

The peace and fellowship we enjoy with God on the basis of Christ’s death is pictured in these generous offerings to God.

4:1-5:13

6:24-30

Sin Offering

·        A person who sinned was required to atone for his unintentional act through a sacrificial death.

·        Depending on the leadership position of the sinner, the sacrifice would be either: a bull for the priests or for the entire nation (4:3), a goat for a community ruler (4:23), a goat or lamb for a common person (4:27), two turtle doves for the poor (5:7) or even fine flour for the very poor (5:11)

·        The emphasis on offering putting his hands on the head of the animal and the “shedding of blood” shows that the sinner took personal identification with the sacrifice and that his death was deserved.

This sacrifice is the clear picture of salvation of a guilty sinner.  The substitution death of the animal, his spilled blood and the fire of the altar tell us that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15) taking our personal punishment.  Shedding the blood of Christ means his death was forfeited for mine (Hebrews 9:22; 10:1-18).

5:14-6:7

7:1-7

Trespass Offering or Guilt Offering

·        A person who sinned was required to atone for his unintentional act through a sacrificial death. 

·        The sacrifice for a trespass offering was always a ram, plus the restoration to the offended person, plus a 20% penalty.

·        The difference between the trespass offering and the sin offering is that it was possible to make restitution for the sin in the case of the trespass offering (5:16).  A sin in which no restitution was possible required the sin offering.

Understanding salvation through Christ’s death includes the knowledge that God has been offended by our actions and that Christ has provided satisfaction to the offended justice (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 3:21-27)

·        The Yearly Calendar

God invited the people of Israel to meet with him on special occasions throughout the year.  The holidays of the nation of Israel were specified in Leviticus 23.  Each holiday, or feast of Jehovah, had special rituals associated with it giving us not only another set of illustrations of the person of Christ, but also a view of the prophetic calendar of God.

Feast Name and ChapterDateDescription and DetailsWhat it symbolizes in the New Testament

Passover

Leviticus 23:4-5; Exodus 11-12; Numbers 9:1-14; 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1-7

14th day of the 1st month (Abib).March or April

Each family kills a lamb in memorial of the rescue from Egypt. They eat it with bitter herbs.Since the destruction of the temple 70 AD, the lamb is left out of modern day celebrations.

The lamb provided salvation from the dominion of Egypt.  Christ saved us from sin by shedding his blood.Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12-26; John 2:13; 11:55; John 19:31-36; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:28

Unleavened Bread

Leviticus 23:6-8; Exodus 12:15-20; 13:3-10; 23:15; 34:18; Numbers 28:17-25; Deuteronomy 16:3-8

15 to 21 of the 1st month (Abib).March or AprilFollowing the Passoever supper, the Jews were to remove all leaven from the house as a reminder that the leaven of Egypt was to be left behind.The immediate result of salvation through the death of the Passover lamb shows in the life of a believer in leaving sin behind.Mark 14:1; Acts 12:3; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
FirstfruitsLeviticus 23:9-1416th day of the 1st month (Abib)March or AprilPresent the first sheaf of the barley harvest to the Lord as a grain offering.Symbolizes resurrection of Christ – the first fruit from the dead.Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks

Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:15-21; Numbers 28:26-31; Deuteronomy 16:9-12

6th day of the 3rd month (Sivan).  50 days after the Feat of First Fruits.May or JunePresent the first sheaf of the wheat harvest to the Lord as a grain offering.Additionally, two other offerings are presented – the sin and peace offerings.The Holy Spirit came to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost, giving birth to the Church (Acts 2).Acts 2:1-4, 20:16; 1 Corinthians 16:8

Trumpets

Leviticus 23:23-25; Numbers 19:1-6

1st day of the 7th month (Tishri)September or October This was the first of three feasts of the fall season.  The priests blew trumpets as an announcement of the beginning of the fall harvest.The modern name for the feast is Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish New Year’s Day.  Two calendars existed in Israel – a civil and religious calendar.  The civil calendar marks the new year at the beginning of the fall harvest.The trumpet call to re-gather God’s people is pictured in either the re-gathering of the nation of Israel or in the rapture of the church.

Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16; 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11

10th day of the 7th month (Tishri)September or OctoberThe high priest would make a sin offering of a scapegoat for the entire nation.Christ is pictured as the sin bearer, taking the guilt of the entire world on himself as a sin offering.Romans 3:24-26; Hebrews 9:7; 10:3, 19-22

Tabernacles or Feast of Booths

Exodus 23:16; 34:22; Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-34; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Zechariah 14:16-19

15th to the 21st day of the 7th month (Tishri)September or OctoberThe people were to move into temporary shelters, or booths, for an entire week to commemorate the journey from Egypt to Canaan.Symbolizes the rest of a believer in Christ.John 7:2,37

The feasts of Jehovah are primarily two groups of festivals – one in the spring and the second in the fall.  The symbolic prophecy of these events aligns roughly with the age of the church and the future that awaits us:

Name of the Feast

Historical Event

Passover

Death of Christ

Unleavened Bread

 

First fruits

Resurrection of Christ

Feast of Weeks (Pentecost)

Birth of the Church

Long gap of summer.  No feasts celebrated.

Age of the church.

Trumpets

Rapture of the Church

Day of Atonement

Israel is saved at the close of the tribulation realizing “but He was wounded for our transgressions…”

Booths

The Millennium.  The earth is at rest under the rule of Christ the King.