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Old Testament History 102
Nature of the Book: Leviticus is a rule book: a book of laws which is given by God to His people through at Mount Sinai. The word Leviticus means "pertaining to Levites." The book contains the system of laws which are administered by the Leviticus Priesthood. The Levites, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, were set apart for the work of God. God claimed the firstborn, both of men and flocks. God took the one for special service to Him in lieu of firstborn sons. This tribe was supported by the tithes of the other tribes, and they had forty-eight cities. One family of the Levites, Aaron and his sons, was set apart to be the priests; the other Levites being assistants to the priests. Their duties were to take care of the tabernacle, and later, the temple. They were teachers, scribes, officers, musicians, and judges. Only those of the family of Aaron, however, were priests.
Genesis is a book of beginnings; Exodus is a book of redemption; Leviticus a book dealing with atonement and a holy walk. God instructs the redeemed: be ye holy as I am holy" (11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7, 26). This book emphasizes that the redeemed must be holy. One's walk with God is on the basis of holiness, with emphasis on sacrifice and separation. Leviticus pictures Jesus as our sacrifice sin, and the things emphasized in this book foreshadow the person and work of Christ.
Various Kinds of Offerings and Sacrifices (Chapters 1-7):
(1) The burnt offering (Lev. 1:3-17; 6:8-13). The burnt offering pictures Christ offering Himself spotless to God (Heb. 9:11-14; 10:5-7). The Lord Jesus Christ was a servant "obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:5-8). This is pictured by the bullock or young ox, which is the first burnt offering mentioned. The second burnt offering is the sheep or goat. Jesus was the Lamb of God, and He yielded Himself to the death of the cross (Isa. 53:7; John 1:29) which is portrayed by this offering. The third burnt offering is the turtledove or pigeon. This speaks of His sorrowing innocence (Isa. 38:14; 59:11; Heb. 7:26), and relates to His poverty (Lev 5:7), for Jesus became poor that we through His poverty might be rich (II Corinthians 8, 9).
Fire consumed the entire sin offering, and that which displeased God was burnt up. The offering was then approved and became the fragrance of the sweet-savor offerings.
(2) The meal or cereal offering (Lev. 2:1-16; 6:14-18). These offerings were non-blood offerings and picture the sinless humanity of Christ, for He was the perfect man. Fine, evenly milled flour was used in the meal offering, with oil poured upon it.
The meal offering was baked in an oven. There was no leaven; leaven being a type of insincerity and untruth (I Cor. 5:8). This type of sacrifice pictures the character of our Lord as being truth (John 14:6). Being mixed with oil related to Christ's conception by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-22, Luke 1:35) and His being anointed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22.) The meal offering was often an accompaniment to the burnt offerings and the peace offerings. A handful of the meal offering was burned, and the rest was given to the priests.
(3) The peace offering (Lev. 3:1-17; 7:11-36). The peace offerings were of cattle, sheep, or goats. The fat was burned, with the remainder eaten by the priests and by the one making the offering. Christ is our offering, as He died on the cross to procure peace for the sinner. Christ has made peace (Col. 1:20), proclaimed peace (Eph. 2:17), and is our peace (Eph. 2:14). The Lord is also typified as providing this "peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). He acquired this peace through the terrible cost of suffering and testing (fire) and by His shed blood through His atoning death. This offering is related to the burnt offering since it was offered upon the altar.
(4) The sin offering (4:1-5:13; 6:24-30). The sin offering was made in order to obtain forgiveness. The relationship between this and the guilt offering is not completely clear. There were different offerings for different sins. During the sacrifice, the fat was burned. In some cases, the remainder was burned outside the camp; in other cases, it was eaten by the priests.
The sin offering pictures our Lord as being the offering for the sins of His people. He was "made to be sin for us" (II Cor. 5:21).
(5) The guilt or trespass offering (Lev.5:14-6:7; 7:1-10) consisted of an unblemished ram (Lev. 5:15, 18; 6:6), portraying Christ's atonement for the harmful effects of sin and for the injury caused by it. There was a standard pattern or ritual performed for the offering: The worshiper brought a physically perfect animal from his herd or flock. In the case of a poor man, it might be a dove or a pigeon. The individual laid his hand on it, implying that it represented him, and the animal or bird was slaughtered. The priest took the basin of the blood and sprinkled it on the altar.
The trespass offering was a "most holy" offering, like the sin offering, and required the shedding of blood. Certain specified parts were burned (portions of fat, or the entire animal in the case of the burnt offering). The remainder was then eaten by the priests and their families; or, in the case of the peace offering, it was eaten by the priests and the worshipers together. Where wrong had been done to another person, restitution with a fifth part added had to be made before the offering (Lev. 6:4-6).
The frequency of the sacrifices included daily burnt offerings. There were additional offerings on the first of each month and special offerings at the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles; and on the Day of Atonement, plus special offerings of various kinds at other times.
The Consecration of Aaron and His Sons (Chapters 8-9): Prior to the time of Moses, sacrifices were offered by the heads of families. With the nation now organized, a place was set apart for sacrifice, and prescribed rituals were established. Also a special hereditary order of men was created, in a solemn ceremony for service. Aaron and his firstborn son, in succession, were high priests. They were consecrated and set apart for this purpose. The tithes which the Levites received took care of the priesthood, and they also received parts of some sacrifices. The tribe of Levi did not have a special area of land, but had a number of cities. There were thirteen cities given to the priests.
The vestments worn by the high priests were made according to specific instructions by God (Exodus 28-29). The outstanding garment was a robe of blue, with bells at the bottom. It also had an ephod, which was a type of cape, with two pieces joined on the shoulders, with one hanging over the front and the other over the back, with an onyx stone on each shoulder. Each of the two pieces of the ephod bore six names of the tribes and was made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen. The high priests also wore breastplates which were about ten inches square. They were of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and also fine linen. They were double, open at the top and fastened with gold chains to the ephod, and adorned with twelve precious stones. Each of these stones bore the name of a tribe and contained the Urim and Thummim, which were used to learn the will of God. Just exactly what they were is not fully known. The sacrificial system was ordained by God and was at the heart of Jewish national life. There was unceasing sacrifice of animals and the never-ending glow of altar fires. Man was made conscious of his need for a sacrifice. The sacrifices pictured the coming sacrifice of Christ, who, as the spotless Lamb of God, died once and for all for the sins of mankind.
Nadab and Abihu (Chapter 10): Aaron's sons offered the "strange fire" (either ignorantly or presumptuously) they kindled the fire that burned the incense. They did not seek God's will or His directive in the matter, and burned it in self-will. Their sin was official and, consequently, extremely serious. The punishment was swift and terrible, and a warning against any kind of high-handed treatment of God's ordinances. The reference to intoxicating liquor in this context indicates that they were perhaps under the influence of drink (vs. 9). Whatever the reason, God in His holiness could not allow that type of disobedience in those who were dedicated to His service, The commands of God are absolute.
Laws Relating to Purity (Chapters 11-15): God requires holiness for His redeemed people. He said, "Be ye holy; I am holy" (I Pet. 1:16; cf. Lev. 11:44-45). Our bodies are to be presented as a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1). Paul declares that, for the believer, one's body is "the temple of the Holy Ghost" (I Cor. 6:19). There are a number of things that were considered unclean. First of all, there was distinction between clean and unclean animals (Gen. 7:2). This was a pre-flood distinction, and it was included in the Mosaic law for reasons of physical health and religious scruples. It also indicated Israel’s separation from other people. For the Christian, in the Dispensation of Grace, these particular distinctions have fulfilled their symbolic significance and have been abrogated (Mark 7:19; Acts 10:9-15).
The next section deals with defilement by a dead body (Lev. 11:24-47): The touching of a dead body was considered defilement and required cleansing.
Special instructions were given concerning purification of the mother following childbirth (Lev. 12:1-8): a period of separation of forty days after the birth of a boy baby and eighty days after the birth of a girl baby.
Leprosy was a most dreaded disease, and a leper was excluded from the camp (Lev. 13:1-59). If a leper was healed, there was a special purification rite and ritual (Lev. 14:1-32). Sin is likened unto leprosy, which destroys a person.
Human nature is defiled. The fifteenth chapter gives an elaborate system of specifications regarding a person becoming ceremonially "unclean" and the requirements for cleansing. This was designed to promote personal cleanliness. But it was ceremonial as well, recognizing God in all of one's life.
The Annual National Atonement (Chapter 16): The most solemn day of the year for the people of Israel was the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. It was a fast (Acts 27:9), which occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month (September/October). The high priest went into the Holy of Holies to make annual atonement for the sins of the nation (cf. Ex. 30:10; Heb. 9:7-8; 10:19). The removal of the sins was pictured by the "scapegoat" being sent out in the wilderness to bear away the sins of the people. This was done after the sacrificial goat had been offered and the high priest had laid his hands on the head of the scapegoat. It prefigures the coming atonement for human sin by the death of Christ.
Reverence for Blood (Chapter 17): The life of the flesh is in the blood. The blood has special sanctity because it represents life which God the Creator made. Also, it has to do with atonement, pointing to Jesus who shed His blood for the sins of man as our Redeemer. There was a prohibition against the eating of blood. Animals were slain according to the prescribed manner and their blood shed.
Forbidden Acts of Immorality (Chapter 18): The Israelites were forbidden by God to practice the abominable customs of the Egyptians and the Canaanites. He commanded that heathen worship be put away. Prohibitions placed on the people of Israel are detailed in Chapters 18-20.
Molech was the detestable god of the Ammonites (vs. 21). The gruesome sacrifice of children was a part of the Ammonite worship; with infants being placed on the heated arms of the idol and slowly burned to death. Israel was not to make human sacrifices, though there were times when they did (II Kings 3:27; 16:3; 17:31; 21:6; II Chron. 33:6; Ezek. 16:20-21).
Separation and Holiness (Chapters 19-20): One of several key verses in Leviticus emphasizing holiness is found in Lev. 19:2: "... Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy."
God's people are to be holy and separated from sin, for God is holy. Chapter twenty details penalties for acts of immorality. Several activities were to result in the death penalty: for example, adultery (20:10), and homosexuality (20:13).
Holiness for Priests and Offerings (Chapters 21-22): Regulations for the priests were outlined. The priests were to be holy and totally separated unto God. The offerings also were holy (ch. 22).
Holy Feasts (Chapter 23):
(1) The weekly Sabbath (vs. 1-3). The Sabbath was very important to the Hebrews and was given a foremost place in their lives. It was not one of the annual feasts enumerated in this chapter, but it was a very basic part of the festive cycle. For Israel, it was a very serious and important day for worship and rest. This discussion on the Sabbath introduced the description of the sacred seasons and special times of celebration for the people of Israel.
(2) The feast of the Passover (vs. 4-5). The Passover speaks of redemption. It goes back to the time of the exodus when the death angel passed over the homes of the Israelites that had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. The Israelites were getting ready to leave Egypt, and this event of the firstborn of the Egyptians being killed would result in their freedom from bondage and their deliverance from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh. This feast has been special for the children of Israel, and it was celebrated every spring at our Easter time. Every Jew that was able would go to Jerusalem for that celebration. This very special day was followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted for seven days. This was an important feast when our Lord was here on earth (Luke 2:41-52; Matt. 26:19; John 13). The Jews still celebrate it, looking for their Messiah.
(3) The Feast of Pentecost (vs. 15-22). Fifty days after the Passover came the Feast of Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks. Being a time when the first ripe ears of grain were presented, it was considered the feast of the first fruits and of the harvest. The priest made an offering using two loaves made of the best of the crop of fine flour.
(4) The Feast of Trumpets (vs. 23-25). This was the New Year's Day (Rosh Hashanah) celebration for the children of Israel. It occurred on the first of the seventh month, near our October. The blowing of the trumpets signified many things: a symbol of the mighty voice of God, and a picture of Israel's regathering at the end of the age from her long worldwide dispersion (Matt. 24:31; Isa. 18:3, 7; 27:12; 58:1-14; Ezek. 37:12-14).
(5) The Day of Atonement (vs. 26-32). This time was a spiritual highlight in the Jewish calendar year. On this day, the sins of the nations were confessed. The sin, failure, and weakness that separates man from God must be atonement. On this day, the high priest was permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, to make an offering for the atonement of the sins of the people. As previously mentioned, the scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness, indicating the removal of the sins from the people after a sacrifice had been made.
Jesus is our sacrifice since He shed His blood on Calvary's cross and made atonement for our sins.
(6) The Feast of Tabernacles (vs. -36). This was the last feast of the year, a great harvest festival, commemorating the time when the children of Israel lived in tents during their journey through the wilderness. It reminded them that they wandered forty years in the wilderness because of unbelief. It also foreshadows Israel's rest after regathering. Israel was redeemed out of Egypt and this not only commemorated that great event, but it was also prophetic of the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.
There were twelve cakes of shewbread the table of shewbread in the tabernacle. The word "shewbread" (or showbread) literally means the "bread of the presence." It represented the twelve tribes Israel in God's presence and under His watchful care. The fine flour used to make the bread was to be free of impurities, foreshadowing the perfect humanity of Christ (Lev.24:5-9; cf. John 6:30-59).
Sabbatical Year and the Year of Jubilee (Chapter 25): The Sabbath Year was every seventh year. During that time, the land would lie fallow with no sowing, no reaping, no pruning, or other work in the fields and vineyards. Whatever would grow up spontaneously was left for the poor and the sojourner. God had promised that in the sixth year there would be enough surplus crops to carry over for the next year. At this time, debts of fellow Jews were to be cancelled.
The Jubilee Year took place every fifth year, following a period of seven sabbatical years. There would then be two rest years that came together. It began on the Day of Atonement. At this time all debts were cancelled, and slaves were set free. Another outstanding event during this time was the restoration to the original owner of all land that had been taken away from him. (It was returned to the family that had received it originally.) Every tribe and family kept careful records to insure that their rights would be protected.
Promises and Warnings (Chapter 26): This chapter is a prophetic history concerning Israel. Blessings are promised for obedience (vs. 1-13), and punishment will follow disobedience (vs. 14-46).
Laws Concerning Dedications and the Tithe (Chapter 27): In recognition of God's ownership, a tithe of the increase of the produce of the land and of the cattle was to be given to the Lord. Further specifications regarding the tithe are given in Numbers 18:21-32 and Deuteronomy 12:5-18; 14:22-29; 26:12-15.
OFFENSES THAT WERE PUNISHABLE BY DEATH. There are numerous laws and directions given in the book of Leviticus. There were certain offenses punishable by death. There are additional references in the Pentateuch to actions which were to receive capital punishment. The following is a list of things which were considered capital offenses:
Murder—Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:12; Deut. 19:11-13
Kidnapping—Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7
Death by negligence—Ex. 21:28, 29
Smiting or cursing a parent—Ex. 21:15-17; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 21:18-21
Idolatry—Lev. 20:1-5; Deut. 13; 17:2-5
False prophecy—Deut. 18:10, 11, 20
Blasphemy—Lev. 24:15, 16
Sabbath profaning—Ex. 31:14
Adultery—Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22
Ante-connubial immorality—Deut. 22:13-21
Animal cohabitation—Lev. 20:15, 16
Incestuous marriages—Lev. 20:11, 12, 14
Using the study notes and after reading the Book of Leviticus, please answer the following questions.
1. What does the word Leviticus mean?
2. The Levites were set apart for the work of God. How were they supported?
3. What were the duties of the tribe?
4. What family of the tribe of Levi was selected to perform the priestly occupation?
5. We have listed five principle offerings and sacrifices. Please list these five.
6. When studying chapters 11-15, one finds a requirement of God. What is that requirement and needed characteristic of the redeemed people of God?
7. What is the Day of Atonement?
8. Please list the Holy Feasts from Chapter 23.
9. How often was the Sabbatical Year remembered?
10. What events took place during the Year of Jubilee?
11. The Book of Leviticus has numerous laws and directions and certain offenses were punishable by death. Others are mentioned throughout the Pentateuch. List at least five of these capital offenses.
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Instructor: Carol Oakes