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Leviticus, The Message of.handout

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The book of Leviticus consists primarily of laws and legislation and contains very little                                                 (10:1-20; 24:10-23).  In fact, it refers to only nine people by name.[1] 

Leviticus begins with                              (a Hebrew waw consecutive) and is a continuation of Exodus.  In some ways, Leviticus functions as a how-to-manual for Exodus.  In other words, if the message of Exodus is “Saved to Serve,” as one writer has suggested,[2] then the message of Leviticus is “thus shalt thou serve.”[3]  

Leviticus                                                  serves as the key passage of the book and gives the chief imperative of the book:  Be ye holy, for I am holy.  Above all else, a redeemed people must be holy.  Six motifs in the book of Leviticus then expand, underscore, and delineate how a redeemed people are to serve and worship a holy God.   Thus, Leviticus sets forth those things that are requisite for holiness.

I.           The Person and Character of God:  The Underlying Principle (11:44-45)


A.    God’s identity as                                    

1.       Connected with the deliverance from Egypt (11:45; 22:33; 25:55; 26:13)

2.       Given as the basis for obedience to God’s laws (18:4-5, 30; 22:31)

3.       Guarantees the inviolability of His covenant with Israel (26:44)

B.   His chief attribute as                                          (11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7; 21:8)

·         Some form of the Hebrew word holy (qadash) occurs                         times in Leviticus.[4]

1.       God’s holiness is the basis for His people’s holiness (11:44-45).

2.       God will punish those who violate His holiness (10:1-10; 24:10-16, 23).



II.        Divine Revelation:  God’s Communication with Man


A.    Twenty of twenty-seven chapters in Leviticus begin with statements of divine revelation (e.g., 1:1; 4:1; 6:1; 8:1; 11:1; 12:1; 13:1; 14:1; 15:1).

·         Leviticus contains more “                          ” words of God than any other book of Scripture.[5]

·         God must reveal Himself if He and what He requires of us is to be known.

B.   Israel’s religion was of divine origin (Lev. 10:11).

·         The religion of the Bible does not originate in the native religious genius of a people but in the heart of a God who communicates Himself to His people.


III.     Sacrifice and Offering:  Propitiation, Consecration, and Communion (chs. 1-7)

A.    Sin and guilt (“trespass,” KJV) offerings:                                                             (4:1-6:7)

1.       Offered                             procedurally (Lev. 9:22).

·         Man’s approach to God must begin with blood atonement. 

2.       Emphasized the manipulation of the                       (contrast 1:5 with 4:5-7).[6] 

3.       Expressly made an                                       (kaphar; 4:20, 26, 35; 5:10, 16; 6:7).

Kaphar (rpk) means to “                           ” or “appease” (cf. Gen. 32:20; Prov. 16:14; II Sam. 21:3)—our theological term is propitiation.

·         Christ was our sin/guilt offering—“thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10); lit. “thou shalt make His soul a guilt offering”(~v'a'; asham).  The author of Hebrews also speaks of Christ’s role as our sin offering when he describes Him as dying without the camp (Heb. 13:11-13).  God made Him, Paul says, a propitiation through faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25).

4.       Resulted in                                                of sins (4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18).

·         Propitiation results in complete and full forgiveness of sin.  (“I believe in the forgiveness of sins”—Apostles’ Creed.)


B.   Burnt, cereal (“meat” or “grain”), and drink offerings:                                            (chs. 1-2; 6:8-23)

1.       Normally preceded by a sin or guilt offering.

·         All consecration must rest upon the foundation of                                atonement.

2.       Emphasized the                                         of the sacrifice to the flame (compare 4:10 with 1:7-9).

·         Christ was our burnt offering—“…as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:2)He offered Himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14).  His body was the substitute for the OT burnt offering (Heb. 10:6-8). 

3.       Symbolized the complete consecration of the offerer (burnt offering) and all that he had (grain and drink offerings).

·         NT believers are to be a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1).  Like Christ, our response should be:  “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:9).

·         Paul likens his labors for the Philippians to being poured out as a drink offering (Phil. 2:17).

4.       Resulted in a                                                          to the Lord (1:9, 13).

·         Our “sacrifice” for others is a “sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18).  We are a holy priesthood, offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (I Pet. 2:5).

C.  Peace, wave, thank, and votive or freewill offerings:  Communion (3:1-17; 7:11-34; 22:17-24)


1.       Offered voluntarily.

·         Fellowship or communion with God is a voluntary matter.

·         We are to offer the voluntary sacrifice of praise or thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15).

2.       Usually preceded by the propitiatory and consecratory offerings.

·         Fellowship with God is the intended result of propitiation and consecration.

3.       Emphasized the                                         of the offerer’s portion (3:11, 16, 17; 7:15-27).

·         Christ is our Passover Lamb (the Passover was probably a type of peace offering).

·         The eating of the meal symbolized sweet fellowship with God.

·         We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

IV.      The Priesthood:  Mediation (chs. 8-10; 21-22)


A.    The centrality of the priesthood

1.       The word priest occurs almost                                  times in Leviticus.

2.       Their presence was necessary in order to offer sacrifices, celebrate festivals and holy days, dedicate one’s life or substance, and satisfy requirements for ritual uncleanness.

·         Everything in Israel’s relationship with God hinged upon a mediator who would represent them before Him.  So does everything in our relationship with God—Praise God for our Daysman (Jb. 9:33)!

B.   The consecration of the priesthood

1.       They were set apart to the Lord in a special ceremony (8:1-36).

2.       They had stricter laws governing their behavior (e.g., 21:1-7).

3.       Those with physical blemishes could not offer sacrifices (21:17-23).

·         No priest with moral, physical, or ceremonial uncleanness could represent the people before God.  Theologically, this demonstrates the need for a perfect priesthood.  Our High Priest had to be holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners!

V.         Separateness and Cleanness (10:10; chs. 11-15; 20:22-26)


TERMINOLOGY                        “Sanctify”Profane                                                  Holy                              Unclean                                                 Clean“Defile” |

Separateness (20:22-24, 26)


Key Terms: 

1.       | “Cleanse” |

The Hebrew root holy (qadash) simply means “separateness.”[7]

2.       Being “separate” (holy) had a two-fold application for Israel.

a.        Israel was to be distinct from the heathen around them (e.g., Lev. 19:27).

b.       Israel was not to profane those things holy or set apart (e.g., God’s name, the Sabbath, etc.).

·         Holiness is twofold:  keeping ourselves distinct from the world and setting apart all that pertains to God as holy.

B.   Cleanness (chs. 11-15; 20:25)


Key Terms: 

1.       Uncleanness automatically disqualifies a person from being set apart unto the Lord as holy.

2.       Many things could make Israel unclean:  eating certain animals (11:1-23), the birth process (12:1-8), leprosy (chs. 13-14), and bodily discharges (15:1-30).

·         Many things in the daily affairs of life can render a person unfit for fellowship with God.

3.       Distinguishing between things clean and unclean requires                              (20:25-26).

·         It requires great discernment to approve things that are excellent (Phil. 1:10) and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27).


VI.      The Holiness Code:  The Required Lifestyle of the People of God (chs. 18-26)

A.    God demanded of His people certain moral and ethical standards (18:1-23; 19:9-18, 32-37; 20:10-21).

·         Holiness is not attained in the abstract but through faithful adherence to the moral and ethical lifestyle required of the people of God.

B.  God required proper observance of the feasts, the year of Jubilee, and His Sabbaths (19:3; chs. 23, 25).


C.   God expected love for one’s neighbor and a steadfast allegiance to Himself (19:4, 18, 31).


D.    The phrase “                                        ” occurs fifty times in the Holiness Code (e.g., 19:9-37).

·         The foundation of all moral, ethical, and religious regulations is God Himself.


[1] Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s four sons, and Aaron’s uncle (Uzziel) and his two sons (Mishael and Elzaphan).

[2] Royce Short, “Saved to Serve:  A Theology of the Book of Exodus” (Ph. D. diss., BJU, 1980).

[3] Charles W. Slemming, Thus Shalt Thou Serve (Worthing:  Henry E. Walter Ltd., 1966).

[4] Our English translation veils somewhat the frequency of this term.  “Sanctify” and “Hallow” are also from this Hebrew root.

[5] “[T]here is no book, in the whole compass of that inspired Volume which the Holy Ghost has given us, that contains more of the very words of God than Leviticus.”  Andrew Bonar, A Commentary on Leviticus, 4th ed. (1846; repr., Carlisle, Penn.:  Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), p. 1.

[6] Technically, this is true only of the sin offering.  The trespass offering emphasized the need to compensate a wrong committed.

[7] J. Barton Payne, Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), p. 123.

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