Leviticus, 1 in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

LITERATURE I. General Data. 1. Name: The third book of the Pentateuch is generally named by the Jews according to the first word, wayyiqra' (Origen Ouikra, by the Septuagint called according to its contents Leuitikon, or Leueitikon, by the Vulgate, accordingly, "Leviticus" (i.e. Liber), sometimes "Leviticum"). The Jews have also another name taken from its contents, namely, torath kohanim, "Law of the Priests." 2. Character of Book: As a matter of fact ordinances pertaining to the priesthood, to the Levitical system, and to the cults constitute a most important part of this book; but specifically religious and ethical commands, as we find them, e.g. in Lev 18 through 20, are not wanting; and there are also some historical sections, which, however, are again connected with the matter referring to the cults, namely the consecration of the priests in Lev 8 and 9, the sin and the punishment of two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu (10:1 ff), and the account of the stoning of a blasphemer (24:10 ff). Of the Levites, on the other hand, the book does not treat at all. They are mentioned only once and that incidentally in 25:32 ff. The laws are stated to have been given behar Cinay (7:38; 25:1; 26:46; 27:34), which expression, on account of Lev 11, in which Yahweh is described as speaking to Moses out of the tent of meeting, is not to be translated "upon" but "at" Mt. Sinai. The connection of this book with the preceding and following books, i.e. Exodus and Numbers, which is commonly acknowledged as being the case, at least in some sense, leaves for the contents of Leviticus exactly the period of a single month, since the last chronological statement of Ex 40:17 as the time of the erection of the tabernacle mentions the 1st day of the 1st month of the 2nd year of the Exodus, and Nu 1:1 takes us to the 1st day of the 2nd month of the same year. Within this time of one month the consecration of the priests fills out 8 days (Lev 8:33; 9:1). A sequence in time is indicated only by Lev 16:1, which directly connects with what is reported in Lev 10 concerning Nadab and Abihu. In the same way the ordinances given in 10:6 ff are connected with the events described in 8:1 through 10:5. The laws are described as being revelations of Yahweh, generally given to Moses (compare 1:1; 4:1; 5:14; 6:19,24 (Hebrew 12,17); 7:22,28, etc.); sometimes to Moses and Aaron (compare 11:1; 13:1; 14:33; 15:1, etc.), and, rarely, to Aaron alone (10:8). In 10:12 ff, Moses gives some directions to the priests, which are based on a former revelation (compare 6:16 (Hebrew 9) ff; 7:37 ff). In 10:16 ff, we have a difference of opinion between Moses and Aaron, or rather his sons, which was decided on the basis of an independent application of principles given in Leviticus. Most of these commands are to be announced to Israel (1:2; 4:2; 7:23,19; 9:3 ff; 11:2; 12:2; 15:2; 18:2, etc.); others to the priests (6:9,25 (Hebrew 2,18); 21:2; 22:2, etc.); or to the priests and the Israelites (17:2; 22:18), while the directions in reference to the Day of Atonement, with which Aaron was primarily concerned (16:2), beginning with 16:29, without a special superscription, are undeniably changed into injunctions addressed to all Israel; compare also 21:24 and 21:2. As the Book of Exodus treats of the communion which God offers on His part to Israel and which culminates at last in His dwelling in the tent of meeting (40:34 ff; compare under EXODUS, I, 2), the Book of Leviticus contains the ordinances which were to be carried out by the Israelites in religious, ethical and cultural matters, in order to restore and maintain this communion with God, notwithstanding the imperfections and the guilt of the Israelites. And as this book thus with good reason occupies its well established place in the story of the founding and in the earliest history of theocracy, so too even a casual survey and intelligent glance at the contents of the book will show that we have here a well-arranged and organic unity, a conviction which is only confirmed and strengthened by the presentation of the structure of the book in detail (see under II, below).

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