Summary of The Book of Leviticus

In the Septuagint (The Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament), the third book of the Pentateuch bears the title "Levitikon" ("pertaining to the Levites"), an adjective modifying the word "book." The Levites were the tribe from which the priests and others prominent in the worship services were chosen, in lieu of the firstborn sons of all the tribes (Num. 3:45). Leviticus fills an integral role in the Pentateuch. Just as it is necessary to be familiar with Exodus in order to understand Leviticus, some knowledge of Leviticus is necessary if one is to understand the religious activities of the Jews as portrayed in Numbers, Deuteronomy, and the rest of the Old Testament. The purpose of Leviticus may be defined as calling attention to the disparity between God's holiness and man's sinfulness and providing concrete steps whereby man might restore the fellowship which has been lost as a result of his own defilement. The laws connected with this restoration are varied. They are both general and specific; they seek, in one way or another, to govern the whole life of the people of God. In this sense, Leviticus is the most thoroughly legalistic book in the entire Old Testament. Throughout its laws is seen the unyielding demand: "Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." On the other hand, the climax of the book is clearly ch. 16, in which instructions are given for the Day of Atonement. On this day, God provided his people with a ceremony by means of which all of their sins for the previous year were counted as forgiven. The mercy which God displays in this service so foreshadows the work of Christ that the 16th chapter has been called "the most consummate flower of Messianic symbolism." In addition to the laws, there are also some historical sections, but these, too, are closely connected with the priesthood. They include the consecration of the priests in chs. 8 and 9, the sin and punishment of Nadab and Abihu (ch. 10), and the stoning of a blasphemer (24: 10ff'). In this connection, it is interesting to note that only one mention is made of the Levites and that in an incidental manner (25:32ff). The book may be divided as follows : 1 ) Laws concerning Sacrifice (1-7). In this section five types of offerings are discussed: burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings. This is filled out by a discussion of the sin offering as it is to be observed by various classes of individuals. 2 ) An historical section featuring the consecration of the priests (8-9) and the sin of Nadab and Abihu (ch. 10). 3 ) A section on laws of purification from ceremonial uncleanness (11-15). These furnish instructions as to the appropriate sacrifices and ordinances for ridding oneself of impurity. 4) The Day of Atonement (ch. 16). 5 ) Laws dealing with the conduct of God's people (17-20). These include various religious and ethical laws designed to accent the separation between Israel and the heathen nations. 6) Laws concerning the holiness of the priests (21-22). 7 ) A discussion of holy days and feasts (23-24). Included in this section are the Sabbath, Passover, the feasts of first fruits and harvest, Pentecost, the Day of Atonement and the feast of Tabernacles. 8 ) The Sabbatical and Jubilee Years (ch. 25). 9 ) Promises and threats connected with obedience to the laws (ch. 26). 10) An appendix containing the laws concerning vows (ch. 27).