A Summary of the OT Book of Leviticus

The Old Testament book of Leviticus has been a pain in my daily devotions for years. I struggled through its pages many times trying to understand all the rules and why they were important to me to no avail. Leviticus has honestly been the butt to more than one of my sermon jokes about struggling with the Old Testament as a Christian. 

I am very thankful that as my Bible course is wrapping up I took the time to read through Leviticus with a new understanding of the OT book of Law. I was tremendously blessed through its pages as I saw more clearly what God was orchestrating by giving these precepts to His people. I hope you enjoy, and I pray this summary encourages you to take a closer look at some of the more difficult texts of the OT.

Leviticus

The book of Leviticus is one of the five Jewish books known as the Pentateuch and is mostly a book of law. The writer is not named, but most believe the author to be Moses. The instructions contained in Leviticus were given to the writer directly from God with instructions to be given to His people. Since Moses was established as God’s voice to the people at this time, Moses is the most plausible author.

Leviticus begins one month after the instructions for the Tabernacle in Exodus. By now the Hebrew have completed the holy place where God will dwell among them, and they will be required to keep themselves holy for God to remain in their presence.  Leviticus provides the priests with instructions for the five major offerings, it establishes the priesthood, instructs rules of cleanness and uncleanness, details rituals for the Day of Atonement, instructs how Hebrews are to handle blood and why it is important, contains a call to holiness by the people, establishes holy holidays and festivals, explains blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience, and instructs the proper way to offer vows and dedications to God.

Leviticus contains mostly instructions for the Tabernacle priests, but also includes commands for the people. Leviticus begins by explaining God’s requirements for offerings. Then the writer tells of the ordination of Aaron (Moses brother) and his sons as the priests of Israel. A couple of chapters are dedicated to narratives about a pleasing offering to God by Aaron and the time his sons’, Nadab and Abihu, carelessly offered an unauthorized burnt offering and were instantly killed. Next the book establishes the notion of ritual uncleanness, cleanness, and holiness. It is important to note, ritual states are for ritual purposes and do not indict moral holiness. The priests were required to remain ceremonially holy to perform their duties, the people were expected to strive for ritual cleanness, but God provides provisions for uncleanness. No doubt the ritual states served the purpose to guide Israel to moral holiness, but these must not be confused. Next God instructs the priests on how to perform the Day of Atonement Ritual. This is the most important of all offerings and is to be performed once a year for all of Israel’s sins. After instructions for the Atonement Ritual, God explains the necessity and significance of blood in the offerings. There are guidelines for both priests and the people on how to handle sacrifices for offerings. Proceeding God’s instructions on the handling of blood, God calls all of Israel’s camp to pursue holiness. To remind the people, God creates the Hebrew calendar around harvest times. He presents holy celebrations and ceremonies to remind His people of their history and of His presence. As the book is beginning to wrap up, God offers conditions of blessings for compliance to the Law and punishments for disobedience. The book of Leviticus ends instructing the people how they should offer vows and dedications to God and emphasize the significance of funding the tabernacle and priests.

The book of Leviticus is important to the Christian because of its emphasis on God’s demands for wholehearted devotion. The people could not keep the laws found in Leviticus without the desire to keep God in their presence. Leviticus also underscores the fact that spiritual leaders have a greater responsibility to striving for inner holiness than do laypeople. The most important section of Leviticus for the Christian can be found in God’s instructions for the Day of Atonement ritual. The ritual requires the complete cleansing of sins and uncleanness by purifying the innermost part of the tent of meeting. The significance for the Christian is that atonement is impossible without the God’s gracious atonement that cleanses us of our sin.

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