Quick Overview of Leviticus. – –1-7 – –God's laws concerning
sacrifices. – – 8-10 – – God's ceremonial laws regarding the
priesthood. – – 11-22 – – God's ceremonial laws concerning
purification. – – 23-27 – – God's laws regarding the sacred
feasts and festivals, tithes, offerings, sabbatical and
jubilee years, vows, and more.
Hebrew Name - Vayyiqra "and He called"
Theme - God's Laws for the Hebrew Nation
Types and Shadows - In Leviticus Jesus is the High Priest
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Leviticus (Greek: Λευιτικός, "relating to the Levites") or
Vayikra (Hebrew: ויקרא, literally "and He called") is the
third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of
Leviticus contains laws and priestly rituals, but in a wider
sense is about the working out of God's covenant with Israel
set out in Genesis and Exodus-what is seen in the Torah as the
consequences of entering into a special relationship with God
(specifically, Yahweh). These consequences are set out in
terms of community relationships and behaviour.
The first 16 chapters and the last chapter make up the
Priestly Code, with rules for ritual cleanliness, sin-
offerings, and the Day of Atonement, including Chapter 12,
which mandates male circumcision. Chapters 17–26 contain the
Holiness Code, including the injunction in chapter 19 to "love
one's neighbor as oneself" (the Great Commandment). The book
is largely concerned with "abominations", largely dietary and
sexual restrictions. The rules are generally addressed to the
Israelites, except for several prohibitions applied equally to
"the strangers that sojourn in Israel."...
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).
I. General Data.
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).
The third book in the Pentateuch is called Leviticus because
it relates principally to the Levites and priests and their
services. The book is generally held to have been written by
Moses. Those critics even who hold a different opinion as to
the other books of the Pentateuch assign this book in the main
to him. One of the most notable features of the book is what
may be called its spiritual meaning. That so elaborate a
ritual looked beyond itself we cannot doubt. It was a prophecy
of things to come; a shadow whereof the substance was Christ
and his kingdom. We may not always be able to say what the
exact relation is between the type and the antitype; but we
cannot read the Epistle to the Hebrews and not acknowledge
that the Levitical priests "served the pattern and type of
heavenly things;" that the sacrifices of the law pointed to
and found their interpretation in the Lamb of God; that the
ordinances of outward purification signified the true inner
cleansing of the heart and conscience from dead works to serve
the living God. One idea --HOLINESS-- moreover penetrates the
whole of this vast and burdensome ceremonial, and gives it a
real glory even apart from any prophetic significance.
1. Against the Wellhausen Hypothesis:
As in the article ATONEMENT, DAY OF, sec. I, 2, (2), we took
a stand against the modern attempts at splitting up the
text, and in III, 1 against theory of the late origin of the
whole pericope, we must, after trying under II to prove the
unity of the Book of Leviticus, yet examine the modern claim
that the book as a whole is the product of later times.
Since the entire book is ascribed to the Priestly Code (see
II, 1 above), the answer to the question as to the time when
it was written will depend on the attitude which we take
toward the Wellhausen hypothesis, which insists that the
Priestly Code was not published until the time of the exile
in 444 BC (Neh 8 through 10).
(1) The Argument from Silence.
One of the most important proofs for this claim is the
"argument from silence" (argumentum e silentio). How careful
one must be in making use of this argument can be seen from
the fact that, e.g., the high priest with his full title is
mentioned but a single time in the entire Book of Leviticus,
namely in 21:10; and that the Levites are not mentioned save
once (25:32 ff), and then incidentally. As is well known, it
is the adherents of the Wellhausen hypothesis themselves who
now claim that the bulk of the entire literature of the Old
Testament originated in the post-exilic period and long
after the year 444 BC. Leaving out of consideration for the
present the Books of Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, all of
which describe the history of Israel from the standpoint of
the Priestly Code (P), we note that this later literature is
not any richer in its references to P than is the older
literature; and that in those cases where such references
are found in this literature assigned to a late period, it
is just as difficult to decide whether these passages refer
merely to a custom or to a codified set of laws.
(2) Attitude of Prophets toward Sacrificial System...
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
(3) Holiness shown in the holy convocations,
sabbaths, perpetual light in the tabernacle, shewbread,
(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
the third book of the Pentateuch; so called in the Vulgate,
after the LXX., because it treats chiefly of the
In the first section of the book (1-17), which
worship itself, there is, (1.) A series of laws (1-
sacrifices, burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and
(1-3), sin-offerings and trespass-offerings (4; 5),
the law of the priestly duties in connection with
of sacrifices (6; 7). (2.) An historical section (8-
an account of the consecration of Aaron and his sons
Aaron's first offering for himself and the people
(9); Nadab and
Abihu's presumption in offering "strange fire before
and their punishment (10). (3.) Laws concerning
purity, and the
sacrifices and ordinances for putting away impurity
interesting fact may be noted here. Canon Tristram,
the remarkable discoveries regarding the flora and
fauna of the
Holy Land by the Israel Exploration officers, makes
following statement:, "Take these two catalogues of
and unclean animals in the books of Leviticus 
Deuteronomy . There are eleven in Deuteronomy
which do not
occur in Leviticus, and these are nearly all animals
which are not found in Egypt or the Holy Land, but
numerous in the Arabian desert. They are not named
a few weeks after the departure from Egypt; but
after the people
were thirty-nine years in the desert they are named,
proof that the list in Deuteronomy was written at
the end of the
journey, and the list in Leviticus at the beginning.
the writing of that catalogue to one time and period
that when the children of Israel were familiar with
and the flora of the desert" (Palest. Expl. Quart.,
(4.) Laws marking the separation between Israel and
(17-20). (5.) Laws about the personal purity of the
their eating of the holy things (20; 21); about the
Israel, that they were to be without blemish (22:17-
about the due celebration of the great festivals
(23; 25). (6.)
Then follow promises and warnings to the people
obedience to these commandments, closing with a
section on vows.
The various ordinances contained in this book were
delivered in the space of a month (comp. Ex. 40:17;
the first month of the second year after the Exodus.
It is the
third book of Moses.
No book contains more of the very words of God. He
throughout the whole of it the direct speaker. This
book is a
prophecy of things to come, a shadow whereof the
Christ and his kingdom. The principles on which it
is to be
interpreted are laid down in the Epistle to the
contains in its complicated ceremonial the gospel of