Book of Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus, written by Moses, contains some of the teaching that God gave to His People while they were camped in Sinai. The religious system for the covenant people was created – and a couple of things were noted very importantly, which was atonement and holiness.
The book begins with identifying atonement, which was a way to have access to God. This was through sacrifices, such as the burnt offering, the grain offering, the fellowship offering, the sin offering of unintentional sins, and the guilt offering. The burnt offering was the most classic or ancient of all. Through this sacrifice, people would give thanksgiving, devotion, and make atonement for their sin. The Law didn’t specify a type of animal for the burnt offering, it just depended on what the family could afford or find. More expensive animals, nonetheless, had regulations set like the less expensive animals. When the animals would be sacrificed, as we find out in chapter 6, the fire was never to go out for it. So, the sacrifice would be kept burning on the altar and renewed each morning and evening. The pieces of the sacrifice would be arranged so they fed the fire all night long. The ashes would be removed in the morning sacrifice. During the day, the fire didn’t go out probably because of all the sacrifices that would come in.
Common food would be offered as a grain offering, which was acknowledgement unto God for provision. Usually, these were offered with burnt offerings. The ritual involved the priest burning a handful of the food with the sacrifice. Any food that remained would belong to the priests. The fellowship offering was with any animal without defect from a flock or herd, as well as a variety of breads. It served as a voluntary act of worship, as well as thanksgiving and fellowship. The sin offering involved taking a young bull for the high priest and congregation, a male goat for the leader, a female goat or lamb for the common person, a dove or pigeon for the poor, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for the very poor. This is for mandatory atonement for specific unintentional sins, the confession of sins, forgiveness, and cleansing of defilement. Lastly, for the guilt offering, a ram or lamb was offered – which was a mandatory atonement for unintentional sin unto restitution, which would cleanse from defilement.
Through all of the processes of offerings, sin had to be dealt with, the worshipper committing himself completely to God, and the fellowship between the Lord, the priest, and the worshipper be established. The Law of the offerings and the limitations were given, before the priesthood was to be established. Moses put into practice God’s command for ordination of the priests. The entire ceremony would be done for ordination as laid out in chapter 8. In chapter 9, we see the duties beginning for the priests, and Moses took Aaron to the tabernacle. It was probably to transfer responsibility.
Later, we see the Laws of purification being outlined. Those who broke any of the laws of cleanliness were considered unclean and had to be ceremonially cleansed before they could join once again in the religious life of the nation. Other information, such as concerning childbirth, menses, and leprosy was told – as uncleanness was to be reported. Next, we see a way before living before God, which would be holiness. The blood ritual of the Day of Atonement shows importance of animal blood in God’s sight. The blood signified the death of an animal. The Israelites would have to acknowledge God in the act of sacrifice, because God is the rightful owner of that life. Because the blood of the animal signified the death of the animal, it was not to be consumed. Shed blood was not to be used for anything else, because it was symbolic of atonement.
After that, moral standards were created so that people could maintain holiness. First was addressed was sexual relationships, because perversions among the Israelite people were obviously a problem. Unnatural and uncontrolled lust would be frowned upon, and other perversions such as incest or homosexual acts were strictly forbidden. Other matters of the Law were stated as well as any penalties for wrongdoing were stated. Laws were created concerning priests, because they carry such hefty responsibility in offering people’s sacrifices, so they had to guard against ceremonial uncleanness. Therefore, they couldn’t do a lot of things, such as burying the dead, because it would make them unclean. Rules even were stricter for the high priest. Cleanliness was highly regarded!
Next, we learn that all animals offered in sacrifice to God had to be the best available, except for the freewill offering, because it was an indication of the offerer’s state of heart. Animals for sacrifice needed to be at least a week old, and people should have sympathy for them. Many occasions, God’s Holy Days that is, were created to worship unto God regularly. Passover-Unleavened Bread and Pentecost-Harvest Firstfruits were done at the beginning of the year. The Tabernacles-Ingathering was done halfway through the year. On these occasions, all men of Israel would assemble at the place of worship.
Now, during the Passover, God would have an act of “passing over” the houses of Israel when the firstborn through Egypt would be killed. Other objects of fulfillment of these festivals were outlined. Further instructions were given to remind the Israelites of their daily and weekly responsibilities for the Holy Place. God also laid out the basis of judgment. But, the overall idea of it all would be reverence for God. Sabbatical and jubilee years would be laid out, as we see in chapter 25.
After this, we see different things in Scripture expressed, especially in the sympathetic treatment of others, because Israel existed in a distinct relationship with God. He didn’t want them taking advantage of each other, and they should be free to lend money and help those in need. In lending money, they weren’t to charge interest. Later, God sent reminder unto the people that they needed to practice all that they were taught concerning Him, for if people obeyed, prosperity would come along with victory over enemies. But, if they disobeyed, widespread disease would occur, defeat by enemies, drought, etc. would occur.
Lastly, in this Book, we see vows that were to be valued. People would often vow things before God, which was out of gratitude for God’s goodness unto them. Priests estimated the amount to be paid. Rules were given on vowing clean and unclean animals, land, and other sacrifices were given. The tithe (10%) of all provisions would belong to God and be kept for personal use only by payment of its value to the sanctuary with the usual fine. Once again, all these things would be reverence to God!