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Old Testament Survey

Leviticus




Key Verses

17:11
19:18
20:7, 8


Key Chapters

Chapter 16


Key Concepts

Holiness
Atonement
Sacrifice


Thoughts for Reading

How does one become holy in this day and age?


This is the book about the cultic or ritual worship of the Nation. Here God sets forth the structure under which the Israelites will offer worship to Him. This ritual includes a structure of priests as well as a series of sacrifices and festivals.

Title

Our English title actually comes form the Latin Vulgate. It means “of or pertaining to the Levites.” The title is similar to that of the Septuagint which comes from an adjective meaning essentially the same thing. Again, the Hebrew title comes from the first few words of verse 1:1, "and he called."

The Vulgate is a translation of the Scriptures into Latin undertaken by Jerome about A.D. 400. While not the first Latin translation, it is one which was generally based upon both the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, rather than using all Greek as the earlier Latin translations had done. The Vulgate remained the only Bible used by the Roman Catholic Church until well into this century.

The book is really about cultic service which the descendants of Levi would participate in. The principle people in the book are Aaron and the priests to whom was committed the Aaronic priesthood. Later a distinction was made between the Levites and the Priests. Only the descendants of Aaron would be priests while the other Levities would assist in the Temple.

The book is designed to answer the question, “How can a sinful people come before a holy God?” The book is a contrast between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Yet, the statements of Leviticus cause us to understand that God wants us to be holy as well.

Leviticus 19:2
Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.

Not only does Leviticus frequently call upon Israel to be holy, but it also frequently reminds the people of who God is. I am the LORD your God.(19:3).

The Date of Leviticus

The Passover occurred on the first day of the first month of the year (Ex 12:2). The tabernacle was erected at Mount Sinai exactly one year after the Exodus (Ex 40:2, 17). One month later the nation prepared to leave Sinai for the Promised Land (Num 1:1). It seems that the book of Leviticus was given to Moses during the one month period between the erection of the Tabernacle and the departure of the people for the Promised Land from Mount Sinai.

With the erection of the Tabernacle, God now lived and dwelt amongst His people. It was only proper that the people be instructed in the correct method of approaching a Holy God. The events at Mt. Sinai, such as the golden calf, had clearly demonstrated the difference between the holy God and the unclean people. God now set forth the conditions by which the latter could approach the former.

There is a recurring theme that commences at Mt. Sinai and continues throughout the balance of the Bible, but has particular emphasis in the final three books of the Pentateuch. This is the basis for the cultural differences between Israel and all of the nations around her. God demanded a “holy” people. In order for the people to be holy, they must separate themselves to God and away from the ways of their neighbors. The laws, ordinances, statues, and teachings of these books are the foundation for accomplishing this task. That Israel failed to live up to these standards time and again does not invalidate the purpose behind them.

Jesus in Leviticus

The real point of this book is the manner in which it looks forward to the redemptive work of Christ. While major parts of the book deal with the details of the cultic worship and with the civil law of the theocracy, the real emphasis of Leviticus is on atonement and redemption. It is the Atonement which points to the Cross where the complete atonement for sins is given. The Day of Atonement (Lev 16:3-34) was the one day of the year when the High Priest, and only the High Priest, could enter into the Holy of Holies – into the presence of God – to offer the atoning sacrifice for the people. The book of Hebrews makes it clear that the entire sacrificial system is a picture of the atoning work of Christ. The author of Hebrews stresses the failure of the blood of bulls and goats to remove sin (Heb 10:4). At the same time, Jesus was success in His blood offering.

Hebrews 9:22
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Hebrews 10:12
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God

This work is foreshadowed by Leviticus.

Leviticus 17:11
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Jesus is also seen in the precepts of the law. The righteous judgment of God is foreshadowed in the penalties set forth in Leviticus 26:1-46.

Leviticus 18:5
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.

Jesus is the life (John 6:35, 11:25; 14:6). Only through Christ may the sinner find life. The entire law is fulfilled in Jesus because the law pointed to life and Christ is that life.

John 10:10
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

As mentioned earlier, the Jewish sacrifices, the Jewish holidays and festivals, are all pointers to Christ. In closing this chapter, here is a brief review of these events.

The Holidays or feasts

The Feasts of Israel
Event Reference Commemorates Christ is
Passover Exod 12; Lev 23:4-8 Deliverance from Egypt Death of Christ - 1 Cor 5:7
Unleaven bread Lev 23:6 Memorial feast for deliverance Holy Walk of believers - 1 Cor 5:8
First Fruits Lev 23:10 Offering of first harvest Resurrection - 1 Cor 15:23
Pentecost (Weeks) Deut 16:9-12 Spring Harvest Descension of the Holy Spirit - Acts 2:4
Trumpets Lev 23:23 Sabbath Memorial Regathering of Israel - Matt 24:31
Day of Atonement Lev 16; 23:26-32 Sacrifice for sins of the nation National cleansing - Rom 11:23
Tabernacles Lev 23:33-36 Wilderness wanderings Messanic Kingdom Rest - Zech 14:16; Matt 17:4

Notice there are other feasts celebrated by the Jewish people. One of these is from the Old Testament and is still celebrated today. This is Purim, or the feast of lots. It is based upon Esther 9 and celebrates the failure of the plot against the Jews by Haman. A second comes from the “400 years of silence,” the period between the end of the Old Testament and the coming of John the Baptist. This is the Feast of Lights, better known as Hanukkah. It is probably the feast of John 10:22 and is the celebration of the dedication of the Temple at its restoration and cleansing in 164 B.C. A third feast celebrated has no biblical support. This is the 9th of Ab, which is the date of the destruction of the Temple. The feast may refer to either the original destruction in 586 B.C. or to the final destruction of the Temple by Titus in A.D. 70.

The Sacrifices

The Sacrifices
Event Reference Commemorates Christ is
Burnt Offering Leviticus 1 Sweet Savior, Voluntary An offering without spot Heb 9:14 – The Cross
Meal Offering Leviticus 2 Sweet Savior, Voluntary Manhood of Christ Heb 2:17, 18
Peace Offering
Thank Offering
Leviticus 3, 7:11, 12 Sweet Savior, Voluntary Restored Communion with God Eph 2:14
Sin Offering Leviticus 4 Non-sweet Savior, Compulsory Christ our sin bearer

2 Cor 5:21

Trespass Offering Leviticus 5 Non-sweet Savior, Compulsory Atonement for the damage of sin – restitution – 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 2:1

Jesus is also seen in Leviticus in the work of the High Priest. We have made reference of this before (Heb 9:11-15).

A Special People

The idea of the people of God being special and set apart cannot be emphasized enough. This is a major fault of the modern church which has fallen too far into the ways of the world. Leviticus devotes several chapters to this need to be different, to be a special people, a people separated (2 Cor 6:14-17).

God’s people must be clean –

Holiness and Sanctification

We spoke earlier of the fact that the same Hebrew and Greek word is translated both ways – holy and sanctify. Leviticus is a book about these two English concepts. The first seventeen chapters are on the sacrifices as a means of becoming holy -- HOW TO FIND GOD. Then the balance of the books is on the process of sanctification – HOW TO LIVE ONCE WE HAVE FOUND GOD.

That these concepts apply to Christians is made very clear by Scripture. Christians are the priests of God.

1 Peter 2:5
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. . . . 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Christ is our High Priest, the One we want to obey and please.

Hebrews 2:17
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 10:12
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God

Do you follow a ritual or a Person?

 

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