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The ESV Study Bible Purpose, Occasion, and Background

Jews refer to the first five books of the Bible as “the Law” (Torah), and Christians call them the “Pentateuch” or “The Five Books of Moses.”


1. Intro

MEANING: The word “Leviticus” in Greek means “Concerning the Levites” and in Hebrew means “And He Called.”


The book is anonymous. But the exact words, “the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,” occur twenty-seven times in the KJV text. This is one basis for the belief that Moses wrote Leviticus

DATE: 1445 BC

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding the Bible When the Events of This Book Happened: About 1445 B.C.

The only historical events recorded in this book are the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests and what happened to them next (chaps. 8–10). This all occurred while Israel was still camped at Mount Sinai in the year after their exodus from Egypt.

2. Themes

LEVITES: Priests, Ministers, Musicians

Their duties were very broad—to see that the people understood and kept the Law of Moses and to take care of all the activities of the Tabernacle

HOLINESS: Laws, Morality, God’s Character

DIY Bible Study Leviticus—God Shows the High Cost of Sin

The holiness, or separateness, of God is so great that it cannot be in the company of unholiness, the common. Therefore, in order for Israel to remain in God’s presence, the people must also be holy—at both the individual and societal level

WORSHIP: Tabernacle, Courts, Holy Place

The holy Lord is present in the midst of his people (Ex. 40:34; Lev. 1:1). The people of Israel must therefore properly address their sin and impurity and must strive for personal holiness.

2. In order to approach God, worshipers must be wholehearted in their devotion (1:1–6:7; 22:17–30).

OFFERINGS: Rituals, Sacrifices, Festivals

Ryrie’s Concise Guide to the Bible What are Some of the Highlights of Leviticus?

The burnt offering

BLOOD: Goats, Bulls, Lambs, Doves, Rams

“Blood” occurs more than sixty times in Leviticus. Readers are overwhelmed with the truth that in God’s design, blood outpoured through ritual sacrifice is the key to atoning for sins (17:11). This is critical for understanding the necessity of Christ’s violent death as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of people.

3. Occasion

Instructions for Israel...

Apparently what prompted Leviticus to be written was the need to preserve permanently for Israel the oral commands God gave Moses

4. Outline

: The Five Offerings

: The Priesthood

: The Laws of Cleanliness

: The Day of Atonement

: The Laws of Morality

: The Seven Festivals

: The Two Important Years

Leviticus 11:45 ESV
For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

5. Controversy

DOCTRINE: What laws apply to the church?

Of all the books of the Old Testament, Leviticus is the most challenging for Christians to apply

Laws that are practiced by the early church should be practiced by every church


1. Intro

MEANING: The English word “Numbers” refers to the two “Censuses.” The Hebrew title means “In the Wilderness.”

Ryrie’s Concise Guide to the Bible Why is the Book Called Numbers?

The first one, in chapter 1, was taken a month after the Tabernacle was set up, so it listed those who came out of Egypt. The second one, in chapter 26, taken thirty-eight years later, recorded those who grew up during the wilderness wanderings and who would capture Canaan.


The book is anonymous, but like Exodus and Leviticus, Moses is the central human character. Further, 33:2 notes that Moses kept a journal of the Israelite travels

DATE: 1444-1405 BC

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding the Bible When the Events of This Book Happened

The events covered by Numbers took almost thirty-nine years

2. Themes

UNBELIEF: Spies, Golden Calf, Food, Rock

Israel was expected to trust God’s promises and obey his laws. Failure to do so resulted in death for the individual and sometimes for large groups (e.g., 15:32–36; 25:6–9). Even Moses forfeited his right to enter the land because of disobedience

WILDERNESS: Plaugues, Wanderings, Complaining

The term “wilderness” appears more than forty times.

NUMBERS: Lists, Genealogies

DIY Bible Study Numbers—Even in the Wilderness, God Is with His People

They are often included in the Bible at major moments in Israel’s history, or when there is a large gap in time. When you come across a list in the Bible, think about how it fits into the context of that particular book. The long lists in Numbers emphasize the importance of humankind in the story of God, and his care for all who were present at its critical moments

3. Occasion

Leaving a legacy...

Israel needed a permanent historical record of the events that continued their national existence from the time of the covenant ratification at Sinai to the edge of the promised land

4. Outline

: Mount Sinai to Moab

: Wilderness Wanderings

: Moab to Canaan

Numbers 9:17 ESV
And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.

5. Controversy

DESCENDANTS: How did 70 people become over 2 million in a few generations?

The problem of the large numbers has not been satisfactorily resolved


1. Intro

MEANING: The word “Deuteronomy” means “Second-Law” in Greek and “These are the Words” in Hebrew

Ryrie’s Concise Guide to the Bible What Does the Title Mean?

Deuteronomy means “second law-giving” and records many of the laws that are found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers


The book refers to Moses’ involvement in writing it (1:5; 31:9, 22, 24). Later Scripture refers to Mosaic authorship (1 Kings 2:3; 8:53; 2 Kings 14:6; 18:12).

DATE: 1406 BC

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding the Bible When the Events of This Book Happened

Using the traditional early date for the exodus, Israel crossed the Jordan River and began the conquest of the promised land about 1406 B.C.

2. Themes

REMEMBRANCE: Ancestors, Laws, Covenants

DIY Bible Study Deuteronomy—God’s People Prepare for the Promised Land

Many of the regulations in Deuteronomy are second tellings or elaborations on earlier laws, especially the commands related to worshiping God alone, and without the use of images.

COMMANDMENTS: Instructions, Decrees, Statues

Forms of the noun or verb “command” occur almost a hundred times in the book.


DIY Bible Study Why You Should Care about Deuteronomy

One of the great themes of Deuteronomy is that the land Israel is about to enter is a promised gift from God. There are 66 references to the land as God’s gift, and Israel is told 69 times to go and “possess” and “inherit” the land

3. Occasion

A new generation...

According to its own testimony, Deuteronomy originated as farewell messages from Moses to a new generation of Israelites. He pleaded passionately for them to keep God at the center of their national life once they settled in the land. The book is essentially a covenant-renewal document.

4. Outline

: Remember Your Ancestors (Speech 1)

: Remember The Laws (Speech 2)

: Remember God’s Covenant (Speech 3)

: Remember Your Leaders

Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Deuteronomy 6:4–5 ESV
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

5. Controversy

Moses’ Death: Who recorded it?

Ryrie’s Concise Guide to the Bible How Could Moses Write the Account of His Own Death?

What they do not know (or conveniently forget) is that it was quite customary in those days to add an obituary to the final work of a great man


From Leviticus, remember to be thoughtful...

DIY Bible Study How Leviticus Can Transform Your Life

When you come back to God for pardon and salvation, come with all you have to lay all at His feet. Come with your body, to offer it as a living sacrifice upon His altar. Come with your soul and all its powers, and yield them in willing consecration to your God and Savior. Come, bring them all along—everything, body, soul, intellect, imagination, acquirements—all, without reserve.

From Numbers, remember to be thankful...

DIY Bible Study Reflections on Numbers: Finding Help

For as thankfulness is an express acknowledgment of the goodness of God towards you, so repinings and complaints are as plain accusations of God’s want of goodness towards you.

From Deuteronomy, remember to be tender...

DIY Bible Study Reflections on Deuteronomy: Remembering to Remember the Goodness of God

The motive for loving God, is God. No title can be stronger than this: God gave Himself to us in spite of our unworthiness, and, being God, what could He give us of greater worth than Himself? If, then, by asking why we are bound to love God, we mean, what is His claim, the answer is: Especially this, that He first loved us.

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