Leviticus: The Holiness of God
The Holiness of God
Approaching God and Maintaining Fellowship with God.
Background: Written by Moses at Sinai, immediately following the Exodus (1446 BC) Theme: The Israelite';s Worship and Walk with God in Holiness Outline: Approaching God and Maintaining Fellowship with God Key Verse: "I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Lev 11:45, NIV)"
Title: Leviticus is from the Greek title, refering to the laws of the priests and Levites. The Hebrew title is 'Wayiqrah', 'And he called' from the first Hebrew word in the book. Neither title indicates much to the modern layman, and I have subtitled this book "The Holiness of God" to indicate the main theme.
Author: Moses probably wrote this book following the Exodus, perhaps while encamped at Mt. Sinai around 1445 B.C. or shortly after.
Time: All of the action in this book takes place during the encampment of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, around 1445 B.C.
Leviticus Chapter Index
Walking in Holiness
Sacrifice and Eating of Meat
Restrictions for Priests
Ordaining of Aaron and Sons
Ceremonial and Moral Regulations
Beginning Public Sacrifice
Blessings and Curses
Laws of Food and Animals
Vows, Gifts, and Tithes
Laws of Childbirth
Day of Atonement
I. Approaching God by Sacrifice (1-16)
An important principle to be learned here is that God determines in what manner we may approach Him. The sacrifices and methods are specifically addressed to the nation of Israel. The sacrificial system described here is not the method for Christians today, but the Israelites of that time could not presume to come into the Lords presence in any other way.
Men of all ages have imagined that God is ready to accept our worship and fellowship regardless of our spiritual state (sinful) and on our own terms (the places and times of our choosing). Nothing is farther from the truth as described here for Israel.
A. Laws concerning Sacrifices (1-7)
1. General rules for the people (1:1-6:7)
3:17 "All fat is the LORD'S" is a good command for health as well as worship! The prohibition on the eating of blood is taken to extremes by some modern cults, who prohibit blood transfusions on this basis. Modern kosher laws ensure animals are carefully drained of blood, and broiling is the preferred cooking method.
Kosher meat inspections pre-date our USDA inspections, but for a different purpose. Whereas the USDA looks for a variety of diseases, the Kosher inspector is concerned primarily with proper slaughter methods and draining of blood. Many animals fail Kosher inspection but pass USDA inspection; the meat is then sold to 'goyim', any non-Jew. In other cases meat may pass Kosher inspection but fail USDA, then the offending portion of meat may be sliced off or the whole piece or animal condemned and used for animal food.
4:1-2 Note that unintentional sin is by definition not done on purpose nor is it pre-meditated. It may be committing a sinful act or not doing what one should. The modern sense of right and wrong is different from this Biblical concept. One sin most of mankind is guilty of is not honoring or respecting the Creator, giving Him the honor due his Name, yet it is hard to convince an unbeliever that he is guilty of this sin. Note also that there is NO sin sacrifice for intentional sin, where we know we are doing wrong but do it anyway. Some of these cases may be covered under guilt offerings.
4:1-2 The sin offering may be flour for the very poor. The very poor could also offer grain as a guilt offering. This is not a blood sacrifice, and is permitted by the mercy of God who did not impose undue economic hardship on a very poor family.
2. More rules for the priests (6:8-7:38)
B. Inauguration of priesthood and sacrificial system (8-10)
1. Ordination of Aaron and Sons (8)
2. Beginning public sacrifice (9)
3. Priestly deviation (10)
10:1-2 Nadab and Abihu did not worship the LORD properly and were killed. Perhaps they were drunk (see v.9), but we do not know exactly what the violation was other than it was "unauthorized fire". Here at the initiation of worship, the line of priests (two oldest sons of Aaron) was threatened. This is a warning to all who serve the LORD, we serve Him at His pleasure in His way.
C. Uncleanness laws (11-15)
1. Food and animals (11)
11:39-40 Note again that the only method of eating meat and remaining clean during the wandering years was to have the animal sacrificed at the tabernacle. Although they were allowed to hunt and eat some wild animals, they could not be sacrificed and the handling and eating of the meat would make one unclean until sundown (the new day started with the setting of the sun).
It is seen that manna was not the only food eaten, as sacrificed/slaughtered clean animals were also food. Fellowship offerings could only be eaten for one day and freewill sacrifices for two days. Meat did not keep in the hot climate, and apparently the sacrificial meat was not to be preserved by salting or drying, but the leftover portions burned. The fellowship offering was probably eaten by a large group of extended family, not by four or five people as we think of a family meal.
The sacrifices were not only worship, but the means of slaughtering domesticated clean animals and a means of providing food for the Priests.
2. Childbirth (12)
3. Skin disease and mildew (13-14)
14:8a A rare occasion for shaving as the Jews wore full beards (in contrast to the shaven Egyptians). It would be a considerable embarrassment for a woman to have her head clean shaven, as well as for the male to be beardless. This only indicated the importance of these rituals.
4. Bodily discharges (15)
D. Day of Atonement (16)
16 Important, apparently all sins, including those not covered by sin or guilt offerings, were covered by this annual event! Although there is no sin offering for deliberate sin, it is possible that a repentant sinner would be covered on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
16:20-22 This 'scapegoat' has led to the idiom in our language today. The events of a real goat taking the sin of the people into the wilderness is like the political scapegoat who, loosing an election, is blamed for everything that went wrong (whether it is his fault or not) and the 'sins' go away with him. Sometimes, when an employee is fired, we suspect he is a scapegoat - taking the blame for everyone else.
II. Walk of Holiness before God (17-27)
The first section primarily dealt with sacrifice for sin and preparation for meeting God. God is also interested in His people living a holy and distinct life in his presence. Faith is not simply believing certain things and preparing to come before God on an occaisional basis. As our Creator, God has a plan for our every day life. A New Testament equivalent describing the practical walk of the Christian is the Book of James.
A. Sacrifice and Eating of Meat (17)
B. Covenant Morality (18-20)
1. Sexual relations (18)
18:20 Note the existence of an actual double standard. The rational was perhaps that a married man, if caught, would be obligated to marry the woman or pay the bride's price. Men could have more than one wife (this was not God's good will, but His permissive will in that He allowed it) as they still can in some of the Arab nations of the Middle East. However, a woman could never have two husbands (at the same time, a widow could remarry).
18:21 The sale of children into prostitution exixts in some parts of Asia today (Thailand, India). It is a cruel and inhumane practice, certainly displeasing to God. Where I have seen this, the family is in severe poverty and the girls are sold at an early age. For some families it is an alternative to starvation for the family and the girl.
18:22-23 Our modern society shares the acceptance of homosexuality and other sexual sins with the ancient Canaanites. See Romans 1:26-27 to confirm this is not acceptable in the Church Age. The various sins of immorality, perhaps associated with Molech, were the final cause for God judging the Canaanites during the conquest of the land by under Joshua.
2. Practical Holiness (19)
19:31 Necromancy, raising the spirits of the dead, was expressly forbidden. This is sometimes practiced today as a seance, where attempts are made to communicate with the departed. Whether this is possible, or if it is a demonic delusion, is not clear, but clearly the practice is forbidden. Our culture tends to think of all things 'spiritual' as good, this is in stark contrast to the teachings of the Bible.
3. Capital Punishment (20)
20 The seriousness of God's law is shown by the required death penalty. Many of these are grievous sins, strongly displeasing to the Lord, yet are widely accepted and winked at in our society. Such things as continued rebellion against parents, adultery, and dabbling in the occult required capital punishment. For the Church Age the message is not about the death penalty, but about how displeasing these things are to God.
C. Priestly and Sacrificial Holiness (21-22)
1. Restriction for Priests (21)
2. Sacred Offerings (22)
22:10-13 The children of a widow or divorced woman were to care for her, therefore her father, a priest, would not provide for her from the offerings. If she had no one to provide for her (children), the responsibility goes back to her father.
D. Appointed Feasts (23)
23:1-4 Thinking of our own year, we pay special attention to Thanksgiving and Christmas, often traveling to be with family. Even so, for three of the feasts listed all male adults were required to go to the central sanctuary (sometimes brought their families) to worship. The year focused on these events. Two of these feasts followed harvests, and did not interfere with the busiest times of the farm year.
E. Ceremonial and Moral Regulations (24)
24:5-9 Notice that the loaves of bread were a week old when taken by the priests as food.
24:10-12 Punishment here contrasts sharply with the misuse of the Lord's name in our society. The question for us is not punishment, but the holiness of God's name and that of His son, Jesus. The death penalty demonstrates how serious respect for the LORD is.
F. Special years (25)
25:8-13 Counting the Year of Jubilee as a 50th year is the most obvious, although there are reasons for counting it as the seventh Sabbath year instead of two Sabbath years in a row (49 and 50).
The motto of the Jubilee Year is written on the Liberty Bell, located in Philadelphia, PA.
G. Blessings and Curses (26)
26:3-5 The blessings and curses were on the nation as a whole, those listed here were apparently not dispensed on individuals but on all of Israel (for instance, a drought or famine).
H. Vows, Gifts, and Tithes (27)
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Updated March 2012