Wayyiqra' is the Hebrew name, from the initial word; the middle book of the Pentateuch. The laws "which the Lord commanded Moses in Mount Sinai, in the day that he commanded the children of Israel to offer their oblations unto the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai" (Leviticus 7:38). Given between the setting up of the tabernacle and its departure from Sinai, i.e. between the first day of the first month and the 20th day of the second month of the second year of the Exodus (Exodus 40:2; Exodus 40:17; Numbers 10:11). Two chief subjects are handled:
(1) Leviticus 1-16, the fundamental ordinances of Israel's fellowship with Jehovah;
(2) Leviticus 17-27, the laws for hallowing Israel in this covenant fellowship. Privilege and duty, grace conferred and grace inwrought, go hand in hand.
(1) The law of offerings, Leviticus 1-7.
(2) Investiture of Aaron and consecration of priests, Leviticus 8-10.
(3) Rules as to clean and unclean, Leviticus 11-15.
(4) The day of atonement, the summing up of all means of grace for the nation and the church, annually.
(1) Israel's life as holy and separate from heathendom, in food, marriage, and toward fellow men, Leviticus 17-20; the mutual connection of Leviticus 18; Leviticus 19; Leviticus 20, is marked by recurring phrases, "I are the Lord," "ye shall be holy, for I ... am holy."
(2) Holiness of priests and of offerings, Leviticus 21-22.
(3) Holiness shown in the holy convocations, sabbaths, perpetual light in the tabernacle, shewbread, Leviticus 23-24.
(4) Perpetuation of the theocracy by the sabbatical and Jubilee years, the perpetual tenure of land, the redemption of it and bond servants (Leviticus 25); and by fatherly chastisement of the people and restoration on repentance, Leviticus 26.
(5) Appendix on vows, which are not encouraged especially, yet permitted with some restrictions (Leviticus 27).
The only history in Leviticus is that of Aaron's consecration, Nadab and Abihu's death, and the doom of the blasphemer (Leviticus 8-10; Leviticus 24:10-23), a solemn exhibition of Jehovah's laws in their execution. Aaron's "holding his peace" under the stroke is a marvelous exhibition of grace; yet his not eating the sin offering in the holy place shows his keen paternal anguish which excused his violation of the letter of the law in Moses' judgment. As Jehovah drew nigh Israel in the tabernacle, so Israel drew nigh Jehovah in the offering. The sacrificial ordinances fall into three divisions, each division consisting of a Decalogue of directions, a method frequent in the Mosaic law. Many of the divisions are marked by the opening, "and the Lord spoke unto Moses" or such like, or by closing formulas as "this is the law," etc. (Leviticus 7:37-38; Leviticus 11:46-47; Leviticus 13:59; Leviticus 14:54-57; Leviticus 15:32-33).
The direction as to the people's offerings is distinguished from that as to the priests' by a repetition of the same formula (Leviticus 1:2; Leviticus 6:9; Leviticus 6:19-20; Leviticus 6:24-25; Leviticus 6:21; Leviticus 6:22). In Leviticus 5:6 translated not "trespass offering" which is the term for one kind of sin offering (Leviticus 5:14), namely, for an injury done to some one, "a fine offering" (Numbers 5:5-8), but "he shall bring as his forfeit," etc., asham. Also in Leviticus 23:2 for "feasts" translated "the appointed times." The Epistle to the Hebrew is the New Testament commentary on Leviticus, showing the correspondence yet superiority of the Antitype to the typical sacrifices. Peter (1 Peter 1:16) quotes Leviticus 11:44, "be ye holy, for I am holy;" but New Testament holiness rises above the restrictions as to meats, seasons, and places (John 4:20-24; Acts 10,15).
Psalm 89:15; "blessed is the people that know the joyful sound, they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance," alludes to the Jubilee year enjoined in Leviticus; Isaiah 61:1-3, and our Lord's application of the prophecy to Himself, show that the gospel dispensation is the antitype. The exhaustive consummation and final realization of the type shall be in the "times of restitution of all things," "the regeneration" of the heaven and earth," "the creature's deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," "the adoption, to wit the redemption of the body" (Acts 3:19-21; Romans 8:19-23; Matthew 19:28-29). Leviticus 16 is the grand center of the book. Previously it was shown that God can only be approached by sacrifice, next that man is full of "uncleanness" which needs cleansing.
The annual atonement now teaches that not by several cleansings for several sins and uncleannesses can guilt be removed. One great covering of all transgressions must take place to meet God's just wrath, and then Israel stands accepted and justified typically (Leviticus 16:16; Leviticus 16:20). Hebrew 9 and Hebrew 10, explains antitypically how Christ by one offering once for all and forever perfected them that are being sanctified. In Leviticus 18:18 the prohibition against marriage with a wife's sister is during the wife's lifetime. In Leviticus 17:11 translated "the soul (nephesh) of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood which makes atonement by means of the soul." The two reasons of prohibiting blood as food are:
1. It is the vital fluid.
2. It was the appointed typical mean of atonement.
It is not blood as blood, but as containing in it the principle of life, that God accepted. The division into Decalogues is frequent throughout the Mosaic code, based no doubt upon the model of the Ten Commandments, each subject being set forth in ten ordinances, as Bertheau has observed (for details see his Commentary). Leviticus 1-3, contain the first Decalogue, namely, the burnt offering in three sections, the meat offering in four, and the peace offering in three. The second decalogue is in Leviticus 4-5, the sin offering in four cases; three kinds of transgression needing atonement; the trespass offering in three cases. Then, Leviticus 6-7, five Decalogues. Thus, there are seven Decalogues in all as to putting away guilt. The next seven chapters are about putting away impurity, Leviticus 11-16. Then, Leviticus 17-20 contain seven decalogues as to Israel's holiness. Lastly, Leviticus 21 -26:2, contain the concluding seven decalogues.
This arrangement leaves unnoticed Leviticus 23:39-44 and Leviticus 24; because Leviticus 23:37-38, "these are the feasts," etc., evidently close chapter 23; Leviticus 23:39-44 are appended as a fuller description of the feast already noticed in Leviticus 23:34. And Leviticus 24 sets forth the duty of the people in maintaining public worship, and narrates the stoning of the blasphemer. The decalogues are closed with promises of rich blessing upon obedience, awful threats upon disobedience; the latter predominate, for already Israel had shown its tendency to disobey. The first division of the law, the covenant (Exodus 23:20-33), ended with blessings only; for there Israel had not yet betrayed its unfaithfulness: But now (Exodus 32-33) when Israel had shown its backsliding tendency, the second division of the law ends here with threats as well as promises. Leviticus 27, is an appendix, Leviticus 26 having already closed the subject of the book with the words "these are the statutes," etc. The appendix however is an integral part of the whole, as is marked by its ending with the same formula, "these are the commandments," etc.
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