LEVITICUS Anne O’BrieN
A Bible Study on Leviticus. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds.
An Introduction to Leviticus The Name of the Book The name means “relating to the Levites” and the emphasis in the book is on what is required of the priests. Although the ordinary people are addressed, they must always come through the priest. How can it be relevant to us three and a half thousand years later? The answer is in 1 Peter 2v9. As Christians, we all belong to the Holy Priesthood and can offer living sacrifices to God. The Author of the Book It is commonly accepted that Moses wrote the first 5 Books of the Bible, including Leviticus. Having been brought up in Pharaoh’s household he would have learned the skill of writing hieroglyphics, but it is not known whether Hebrew was also a written language at that time. There was also a very strong and reliable oral tradition of passing on information. Moses was a man led and inspired by God and wrote the Book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Part of the Pentateuch Leviticus is closely related to Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. So, for example, in Exodus the design for the Temple is given – and in Leviticus we have the instructions for how to use it, and how to separate the clean from the unclean, the holy from the worldly. Key Words and Themes in the Book Leviticus is all about how man can have access to God, how a sinner can approach God’s throne. God’s holiness is the central theme (the word Holy is mentioned over 80 times). This theme is just as relevant today as when it was written. Read 2 Timothy 3v16. All of the Bible was written for us, but we have to interpret it within the context of the New Testament. Subject matter On the surface, the Book is about God’s Law – rules and regulations, most of which have the purpose of providing the access to God, mentioned above. The New Testament writers quoted from Leviticus 16 times, and Paul writes on the subject of access to God in many of his letters. Read 2 Corinthians 6v16 The Central Person in the Book The Central person in Leviticus is The High Priest. But when we study it we must bear in mind that the High Priest of the Old Testament was merely a shadow or picture of The Great High Priest – Jesus – in the New Testament. Read Hebrews 4v14-16. Again, we see that the central person embodies the central theme of the book – access to God. New Testament Companion Book Paul dedicates the whole of the Book of Hebrews to Jesus, our great High Priest. Hebrews was written to the Jews to show them how Jesus fulfils the ministry of High Priest in every way. Hebrews 1v1,2 Why is Leviticus difficult to read? • It is not in story form, it is not exciting. But, Just as we need to read and understand the Highway Code to pass our driving test so that we can drive to our destination, in the same way we need to read God’s code for life so that we know we are on the right track for reaching our heavenly destiny.
It is rather gory, there is blood everywhere. But, if you want to understand why we sing about “cleansing in the blood”, “power in the blood”, and “forgiveness in the blood” you need to read this Book. It is quite difficult to understand and so we need to pray for enlightenment. Read 2 Corinthians 2v10-16 At first sight it seems irrelevant to us. But we will find that is not so if we approach it as a way of understanding the atoning death of Jesus Christ. A Brief Overview of the Book of Leviticus (Taken from Thompson’s chain reference Bible)
A. The way of access to God: i. Through sacrifices and offerings: Burnt offerings, Meat offerings, Peace offerings, Sin offerings, and Trespass Offerings ii. Through priestly mediation B. Special laws for the good of Israel i. Laws about food ii. Laws about cleanliness iii. Laws about the purity of priests and offerings C. The annual Feasts i. The Feast of Passover ii. The feast of Pentecost iii. The Feast of Trumpets iv. The Day of Atonement v. The Feast of Tabernacles D. General laws and instructions i. The Sabbatical Year – rest for the fields ii. The Year of Jubilee iii. Conditions of blessing iv. The Law of Vows Outline plan of the Tabernacle and Surroundings Bronze Altar: Sacrifice and Confession Bronze Laver/Washing bowl: Cleansing and Forgiveness Table of Showbread, Golden Lampstand, Altar of Incense: Holy Place (The Holy Place is a place of fellowship and worship for the priests) The Veil: Heavy curtain preventing entry into the Most Holy Place The Most Holy Place/Holy of Holies: Home of the Ark of the Covenant and the place of God’s Presence. Only the High Priest could enter – and only once a year on the Day of Atonement. 2
Leviticus – STUDY 1 - Sacrifices and Offerings It is important to note that Leviticus follows on immediately after Exodus – there is no break time-wise. In Exodus Chapters 37&38 we read the instructions that God gave to Moses for how the Tabernacle ‘furniture’ was to be constructed in readiness for the sacrifices. (Exodus also contains the instructions for the size and making of the Tabernacle and all the priestly clothes.) Refer to the plan in the introduction. Leviticus, then, is an explanation of how those sacrifices should be offered; when, where and by whom. These first seven chapters deal with the sacrifices and how the priests were to carry them out. We should remember that the content of Leviticus is for God’s people – Jews back then, and Christians now and the purpose is to teach us how to come into God’s presence with worship and thanksgiving. We should also remember what the words ‘offering’, ‘sacrifice’ and ‘worship’ mean. An Offering: A gift brought willingly A Sacrifice: A costly surrender (always reminding us of Jesus) Worship: To show reverence and adoration with thanksgiving In Leviticus, the word ‘LORD’ in our Bibles is in capitals letters, which shows it means more than just ‘Lord’ in lower case. In Hebrew the word is YHWH – pronounced Yahweh in English, but if you try to say it without the consonants they are all ‘breathy’ letters. And YHWH means always breathing – eternally there – the great “I AM” – the Breath of God. Leviticus is about our connection to the ever-present God. Below, is a summary chart of the 5 main sacrifices plus 2 supplementary ones found in chapters 1-7.
Name of the Sacrifice
Where to find it in Leviticus
Burnt offering or Whole offering
Ch. 1 v1-17
Corn or grain offering
Ch. 2 v1-16
Peace or Fellowship offering
Ch. 3 v1-17
Guilt or Trespass offering
Ch. 2 v13
Purpose of the Sacrifice
What was to be offered
What was done with it
To give oneself humbly and wholly to God and seek his favour To thank God and seek his favour, to give of your substance to God. To make peace with God and with other people. To express love and happiness together To ask for forgiveness for unintentional sins
A perfect bull, sheep, goat or birds (pigeons or doves) Cake or bread with no honey or yeast. But salt must be added. A perfect male or female animal that you can afford
Everything was burned and given to the Lord
To ask for forgiveness for sinning against God or his people
Different animals for different people (priests, laity, male or female) A perfect male sheep was the only atonement for unintentional sin
The fat was burned to the Lord. The rest was burnt outside the camp. The fat was burnt for the Lord and the rest was eaten by the priests.
To signify the giving of the sacrifice to the Lord
Specific parts of the animal were waved
To purify and savour fellowship. Signifies the salt of the Covenant. (No yeast, which is a symbol of impurity)
For grain offerings of bread or cake.
Some was for the Lord and some was for Aaron and his sons. Some to the Lord and the rest for the priests.
Some was burned, and some was eaten by the priests. The fat was burned to the Lord. The priest and the offerer ate the rest.
Note: the first 3 are fellowship offerings, the second 2 are sin offerings and the last 2 are supplementary offerings. 3
1.The Whole Burnt Offering: Chapter 1 This was the most common offering and often brought with another offering. (The offerer could offer a bull (v3), a ram or billy goat (v10) or 2 birds (v14) depending on their circumstances.) The sacrifice could be offered any day – morning or evening; on the Sabbath; the beginning of each month; Passover; and or Feast Days. Note the important points: 1. They were to come into the Tent of Meeting. When we want to bring an offering of praise we join with God’s people to do so. God loves fellowship with his people. Following the rituals at home is not what God has required of us – we are to come to the ‘Tent of Meeting’ (v3) 2. They were to lay their hand on the head of the Burnt offering (v4) thereby identifying themselves with the sacrifice, so that the sacrifice could be accepted on their behalf. This is a whole burnt offering (the whole animal would be burnt, unlike the other sacrifices), so they were indicating they were giving their whole self to the Lord. This expensive bull (or the best of their flock) was to be offered in their place so they had to really mean what they were doing. We can only experience this same fellowship with God when we remember that Jesus gave himself in our place. 3. When the offering was accepted by the priest it brought atonement (v4). Atonement means that we are not apart from God, we are at-one-ment with him. (Here the word atonement is not speaking about the Day of Atonement and cleansing of sin).This is the Christian’s privilege of fellowship with God, we know we are accepted and at one with him. 4. The priests then took the sacrifice (animal or birds) and slaughtered it on one of the many slaughter tables at the sides of the courtyard, underneath which were drains to take away the ‘rivers’ of blood. This process must have been very bloody and messy and heavy work; and would have taken several people to carry it out (even a young bull could weigh about half a ton!) Once again, we are reminded that Jesus didn’t die an easy, clean, convenient death. It was slow and painful and ugly. 5. Then Aaron’s sons had to splash the blood on the sides of the Bronze altar (v5) – bronze because it came into touch with the things of the world. This altar was large – 7’6” square and 4’6” tall, made of acacia wood and covered with bronze to withstand the fire. There were two poles to carry it. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, allowed himself to be like the Bronze altar by living with us and amongst us. God could not come into contact with sinful man – only by sending his son Jesus. 6. And the animal itself was to be cut up (v6) and burned on the fire (v7), which was thereafter kept burning so that man could always approach God. When Jesus replaced the Old Covenant with the New, he did not do away with the Old, he just shifted the emphasis (and replaced) from the animals to himself, so that he was the true fulfilment of sacrifice. The way to atonement and fellowship is still open. 7. Notice, the inside parts of the animal had to be washed too. And we must remember that we don’t just come in our ‘Sunday best’ to worship in church, more importantly, those things inside our mind and our brain cannot be seen, but they must also be purified and offered to God. Note: the outer part, the skin was not offered anyway! The animal’s skin became the property of the priest and could be used for a variety of leather goods.. 8. When the sacrifice burnt on the altar, it made smoke and the pleasing aroma ascended to the Lord (v9). God is pleased with genuine, heart-meant sacrifice, and he is pleased with our worship. Even though The Lord prescribed these rituals, the most important thing was a pure, contrite, worshipful, thankful heart. Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of the Burnt Offering – the perfect Lamb. John the Baptist prophesied: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1v29). Jesus Christ was the offerer: he offered himself voluntarily Jesus Christ was the offering: he was the pleasing sacrifice for us 4
Jesus Christ was the priest: he was a special priest, ordained way before Aaron ‘after the order of Melchizedek’. (Hebrews 5v10) Principles of the Whole Burnt Offering: • We are sinners in a sinful world • God is Holy and very specific about how we can come into his presence • Nevertheless, God provides a way for us to come • The shedding of blood (by animal – or ultimately by Jesus Christ) atones for our sin, by transference • We have to identify with the sacrifice • The sacrifice has to be perfect and wholly given to the Lord Praise God, Jesus fulfilled all these criteria.
2. The Corn or Grain Offering (cooked and uncooked) – Chapter 2 There is one thing which we should not lose sight of, however. While grain was not unfamiliar to the Israelite, it was not a common commodity, either. Remember, the Israelites are not living in Egypt, where grain was common, nor are they yet living in Canaan, where they would grow grain. The Israelites were currently camped at the base of Mt. Sinai. They were in the desert, where grain could not be grown, and where it could not be purchased, either. Thus, the sacrifice of grain was either impossible to do until reaching Canaan, or it was something not easy to do. Offering manna, on the other hand, would have been easy, but this is not what God commanded. (Bob Deffinbaugh bible.org) This offering could be in the form of finest flour and olive oil (v1); baked or prepared on a griddle or pan (v5,7); seasoned with salt (v13) and infused with incense, but with no yeast or honey added (v11). • • • •
Finest flour – extra work was to go into the grinding of the flour, it was an offering of labour, as well as cost Olive oil – had to be made by crushing the olives The offering could be uncooked, or cooked in a variety of ways, the contents were more important No yeast or honey was allowed. Yeast fermented the bread and is a symbol of unseen evil in the Bible. Honey makes yeast work even better! Also, unleavened bread would remind them of their hurried departure from Egypt when the Lord gave them liberty. The bread was to be seasoned with salt. A large amount of salt would cancel out the action of yeast. Enough to flavour the bread would be symbolic of its purity as a sacrifice. It was also symbolic of the Salt of the Covenant of Moses, in which God promised to be with his people. The incense was probably frankincense, provided by the priest – this provided the sweet smell which arose in the smoke to please the Lord.
Like the Whole Burnt Offering, this offering was also for fellowship with God. But, instead of an animal, people gave a gift from their harvest. Unlike the first offering, the whole sacrifice was not given to the Lord. A portion was burnt on the altar and the rest was eaten by priests. And usually, people gave the Grain Offering with one of the other offerings. Like the Whole burnt Offering, the purpose was for worship and fellowship. Verses 2,9&16 talk about a portion of this offering as a ‘memorial offering’. A memorial is something that is a perpetual reminder. Every time they brought their gift of grain or bread to the altar it was to remind them 5
of the fellowship that God wanted to have with them through his Covenant. This reminds me of when we come to the altar of communion; and, as priests (Christian believers), we break the bread and share it as a perpetual ‘memorial’ of what Jesus did for us in the New Covenant that he established through his sacrifice on the Cross. It is a reminder of the fellowship we have with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Grain offering was for Jews, those who belonged to God. The Communion table is where Christians share the emblems in fellowship, it is not for unbelievers. Jesus Christ is our Bread of Life – he was our grain offering, given that we might share in his inheritance, i.e. to be in his presence forever. 3. The Peace or Fellowship Offering – Chapter 3 (also ch 17&19) This is the third of the trio of offerings and sacrifices for being in fellowship with God, and was most often used as an act of thanks-giving . The question has been asked, “Why so many different offerings?” The answer is found, once again in Jesus. Jesus fulfilled and accomplished so many things by his death on the cross, and each of these offerings reflects different aspects of what Jesus did. In the wilderness (where these instructions were received) the Israelites ate manna – and complained about it. The question begs to be asked: “If they had flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, why did they eat only manna?” They obviously had flocks because they brought them out of Egypt, and they still had them for the newly introduced sacrifices. It would appear that (and the Bible doesn’t tell us the answer) maybe God had already told them not to eat their animals for some reason? But now, they were given instructions on how to enjoy them as a fellowship meal that has been dedicated to the Lord. I’m guessing there would have been great rejoicing at this! In this offering, the offerer identified with the animal by laying his hands on the animal’s head, the animal was slaughtered and the fat would burn on the altar (fat was considered the best part and for God alone). The priest received part of the meat (breast and right thigh); and the person who brought the offering received the rest of the meat which he ate with his family and friends. It was very special and brought great rejoicing – especially as they ate manna every other day of the week!! It would have been a real feast as all of it had to be eaten on the day of the offering. The only meat which an Israelite ate from their cattle was that which was offered as a Peace Offering. (Leviticus 17v4) The death of the sacrificial animal meant that they could approach God as friends. When Jesus died he didn’t just atone for our sin he made us ‘friends of God’ – in fellowship with him, at peace with him. Verses 1-5 tell us that the priest followed a similar procedure as with the burnt offering (see chapter 1). But this animal to be sacrificed could be male or female, without defect (v1). It could be a cow/bull, a sheep or a goat (v1,6,12). The fat, kidneys and liver would burn on the altar and it would please the Lord. (In those days, amongst the heathen cultures, kidneys and liver were a way of predicting the future – by giving these to the Lord the future was entrusted to The Lord.)
One last stipulation: “You must not eat any fat or any blood” (v17). Blood was the only atonement for sin and was seen as sacred. The blood represented the life of an animal. The animal was not considered dead until the blood had left its body. By not eating the blood it showed respect for the life of the animal. 6
John 19v34 says: “One of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water”. On the Cross, the blood of Jesus flowed from his body. His sacrifice was complete. (The fact that it was ‘blood and water’ – in other words it had started to coagulate, shows that Jesus had already died, given up his spirit voluntarily; it was not the Romans who had killed him.) Read Hebrews 9v11-16 This offering reminds us a) To eat our meals with thanks in our heart and on our lips (grace) b) To thank Jesus for becoming the fellowship offering, that we might have fellowship with him But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. and He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph. 2:13-18).
4. The Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering – Chapters 4-6 Unlike the first three offerings these were not about fellowship and having access to God. These were specifically about unintentional sins. They appear to be similar, but there are differences between the two. See the table below. Broadly speaking the sin offering deals with original sin and sins against our fellow men. And the guilt offering deals with sins against God and his commandments.
The Sin Offering
The Guilt Offering
Instructions vary for priests, laity, leaders, members of the community, males and females. Ch. 4v3, 13, 22, 27 The offering is made to atone for unintentional sin, and for the state of bring a sinner. The fat was burned to the Lord, the rest of the body was burned outside the camp (where the ashes were thrown out) Ch.4v12 The sinner can be forgiven, no restitution is necessary.
The same instructions for everyone – the offering of a perfect lamb. Ch. 5v15 For unintentional, non-premeditated, specific sins against God or his people. The fat was burned to the Lord and the rest was eaten by the priests.
Ignorance is no excuse for sin – even when committed by others in the community. (Ch. 4v13,14) Examples of sin: • Not speaking up if you see something wrong happening (Ch.5v1) • Unwittingly touching something that is unclean (Ch.5v23) • Thoughtlessly taking an oath and not keeping it. (Ch.5v4,5)
As these sins harm others, the offerer must also make restitution (a penalty payment). One fifth of the value of the animal was to be given to the priest. (Ch. 6v4,5) Even if an individual breaks the Law of God without realising it he is still guilty. (Ch. 5v17) Examples of Guilt: • Unfaithfulness to God (Ch.5v14) • Breaking any of the 10 Commandments (Ch.5v17) • Deceiving, cheating or lying to (or about) a neighbour (Ch.6v1-3)
Leviticus – Study 2, The Priesthood Leviticus – chapters 8-10 Read 8v1-9 In chapter 8 we read about the ordination of Aaron as High Priest and his sons as priests. Aaron had 4 sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eliazar and Ithamar. These 5 men were to come to God’s house with offerings (which they left at the entrance) and then they were to be physically cleansed (8v1-6). Then, Moses made sure that Aaron was dressed according to the instructions that God had given him (Exodus 28v6-43).
The High Priest’s robes – for full details see Exodus 28 Next to his skin the priest wore a white linen head covering and long, white tunic. On top of the head covering was a ‘mitre’ holding the golden plate with words ‘Holiness unto the Lord’ embossed on it. Over his white tunic he wore a blue robe which had a border of woven pomegranates, alternating with small bells. And over the blue robe he wore a very heavily embroidered brocade tunic which had a special top. Joined to the brocade tunic was the Breastplate which was a long piece of cloth doubled over to make a square and at the same time forming a pocket. Inside this pocket was the Urim and Thummim – means ‘lights and perfections’ – which were a means of Aaron having enlightenment on God’s perfect will. On the front of the Breastplate were 12 stones – one for each of the 12 sons of Israel. The stones were worn over Aaron’s heart and he was responsible to God for the people. 8
The names of the 12 sons were also embroidered into the two shoulder straps (6 each side) signifying that Aaron carried them on his shoulders.
Anointing of the Tabernacle When the robing was done according to God’s instructions, Moses took the special anointing oil (made to God’s given recipe in Exodus 30v22-33) and anointed everything in the Tabernacle, so that everything the priests touched was already made sacred to the Lord. Sacrifices of the Priests for ordination Then the priests brought their offerings: • A bull for the sin offering • A ram for the burnt offering • A ram for the ordination offering • The basket of bread (without yeast) for the grain offering The priests had identified with the sacrifice by laying their hands on the head of the animal, thus showing that they were repenting of sin and seeking to be in fellowship with God. After this some of the blood was put on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, the thumb of his right hand and the big toe of his right foot. This signified that he priest must listen to God, he must use his hands for God’s work, and he should go where God sends him. A priest must be cleansed, forgiven and committed to doing God’s will – and we are priests too ……. After the priest had joined in the wave offerings – lifting the best parts of the animal to the Lord, signifying they would give of their best – they then enjoyed a meal together of bread and meat. They were to stay in the Tabernacle for 7 days before their ordination was complete. The first sacrifice – and a miracle Now came the time to make sacrifices for the first time without Moses’ intervention. First, the priest made a sin offering and a burnt offering for himself. (Chapter 9v8,12). Second, The priest made a fellowship offering and a grain offering for the people (9v15,17). Read chapter 9v22-24 Aaron pronounced a blessing on the people – and then, the miracle happened! Fire came out from the Presence of the LORD (from over the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place) and burnt up the offering. The people were so in awe of what had happened that they fell on their faces, with great joy. Their obedience and commitment brought great blessing. Chapter 10 Here is the other side of the coin! All of Aaron’s sons had trouble with obedience. Nadab and Abihu – read chapter 10v1&2 Nadab and Abihu didn’t just make mistakes – they did it their way, they thought they knew better than God. What they did wrong: • It was actually Aaron’s job to handle the incense • They used their own censors that hadn’t been anointed • They acted on their own will, not the directions God had given to Moses • They used their own fire to light the censors instead of fire from the brazen altar 9
Verse 9 infers that they may have been drinking
This is a stark reminder to us about how important it is to make sure we are doing things according to God’s will and not for our own benefit and pleasure. Eleazar and Ithamar – Read verse 16-18 Aaron’s other two sons also did something wrong, but this time it seems to be a mistake and is forgiven. However, it does just remind us of how Holy God is. And although we now come to him as a loving Father, we must still remember when we come into his presence that he is Holy and Perfect. Again, we are reminded that it was only the perfect sacrifice of Jesus - that satisfied the wrath of God, and paid the price in full – that enables us to come into his presence without fear, and with great rejoicing.
Leviticus – Study 3, Clean and Unclean Chapters 11-15 These chapters deal with keeping Israel holy, separated and pure – untainted by surrounding people groups. Israel was to be a special people dedicated to the Lord and undefiled by the world. The words ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ are repeated many times. It is important to note that ‘unclean’ does not mean ‘sinful’, but ‘impure’. These laws were a way of defining differences between bad practice in the foreign cultures which surrounded them, but they were also very important in ensuring the physical health of the Israelite nation. The implementation of them was done by the Priests who were the only ‘physicians’ in the group. Role of the priest: • To know which animals were safe/clean to eat • To identify infectious disease and prescribe isolation • To check them and restore those with disease to fellowship when they were deemed clean With no running water or proper sanitation, if the people weren’t meticulously careful then there would always be a threat of contagion and death. So, these five chapters are God’s good advice on clean, healthy living – synonymous with holiness. We can see them as a metaphor for ourselves in our culture three and a half thousand years later, living under the New Covenant. We have to bear in mind that, whilst these laws were practical advice about physical things they also speak to us about keeping ourselves pure and holy spiritually, and challenge us to look at what things might affect our ‘spiritual’ health. As John Wesley once said: Cleanliness is next to Godliness. But also bear in mind what Jesus said: It’s no good whitewashing the outside of the tomb. Cleanliness must be more than skin-deep. Discuss Leviticus chapter 11 – Clean and Unclean food Today we would refer to these as Kosher foods, and Jews still follow these guidelines. These foods were put into different categories: 1. Although not mentioned here, fruit, nuts, vegetables and dairy products were clean. 2. Land animals (Verses 1-8): they must have cloven hooves (i.e. split into two parts) and they must chew the cud. They must NOT be scavengers or predators. So, they could eat: mutton, goat, beef, venison, but the could not eat: camels, badgers, pigs & rabbits. 3. Sea creatures (Verses 9-12): they must have fins and scales and not be scavengers or predators. So they could eat trout, salmon, cod etc (or similar at the time) but they could not eat dolphins, squid, or crabs, shrimps etc. 4. Birds (Verses 13-19): All birds that are predatory are not to be eaten. Domestic chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys are deemed clean (by inference). 5. Insects (Verses 20-25): All flying insects are deemed to be unclean, with the exception of those that have jointed legs for hopping. So, Locusts, crickets and grasshoppers are clean to eat. 6. Ground animals (Verses 29-38): Rodents, Lizards and snakes are unclean animals. They must not be eaten, but also they will make anything unclean that they come into contact with – particularly water supplies and cooking utensils. These things must be purified if they are tainted by these animals. 7. Dead animals (Verses 39-40): Example – any dead animal, other than an animal which has been sacrificed in the Tabernacle, is unclean. So that, whilst a cow is a clean animal, if had been killed by another animal it would be unclean, and could not be eaten. 11
Cleanness is related to God’s holiness, and Israel is to observe it. It will keep them pure and healthy – wholesome. The Jews were kept pure by keeping apart. But Jesus changed all that under the New Covenant. He ate with sinners, he touched the sick and the dead. What was separated and divided in the Old Covenant was united in the New Covenant. In Acts 10 Peter, whilst praying, had a vision of unclean foods which God told him to eat. God said to him, “Do not call something unclean if I have called it clean”. Here we see the fulfilment of these Old Testament Laws. Yes, they were important for health and safety then, but they were also about holiness. And the great truth of the gospel is that we, as ‘unclean’ gentile sinners, are God’s holy nation in the same way as the Jews. Not by what we eat but by virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus. Chapters 12&15 – Clean and unclean bodies Read these chapters for a full account – here is a brief summary. Chapter 12: After the birth of a son, who is to be circumcised on the eighth day, the mother was considered unclean for 40 days. After the birth of a daughter, 80 days. Then, after this she was to bring two turtle doves or pigeons to the tabernacle (which is what Mary brought after the birth of Jesus). Chapter 15: Sex made the man and the woman unclean until evening and they had bathed. No sex was allowed during a woman’s menstrual period, during which time she was unclean. The general consensus for these rules is that God desired a separation of sexual issues (including childbirth) and the act of worship. Israel was to be a holy nation devoted and dedicated to God. The pagan, godless nations around them allowed sexual practices (including temple prostitutes and child sacrifice) as a part of their worship. If the people followed the laws in these two chapters it would be impossible for them to follow pagan gods. And when they did come to the tabernacle they would come with the right motives, and pure, and with desire only for God. So, keeping sexually pure helped to keep them spiritually pure – and that helped to keep the purity of the Tabernacle and worship. Chapters 13 & 14: Clean and Unclean skin Maybe today we would use the word hygiene. Again, the word ‘unclean’ is not connected to sin, but it signified that you may be, socially, a risk to health. (Note: The word translated as leprosy in some Bibles is not what we would diagnose as leprosy today.) Chapter 13 describes: Festering sores; fungal ringworm; eczema; scabies; rashes; warts; psoriasis; hives; boils; burns; etc – all on the skin. And it also describes diseases which can affect dwellings – mould, mildew and fungus. Separation from society was the prescription, a) so that the disease would not spread and b) so that what was unclean would not come into contact with what was holy. Chapter 14 describes: mould; mildew; and fungus in the house. This was in preparation for when they settled in the Promised Land. The mould was to be scraped off, any infected bricks had to be thrown out and any walls with persistent mould were to be taken down. Anything that was infected was taken away, outside the camp. The role of the priest (Chapter 14v1-32) • To give the diagnosis • To recommend isolation • To examine and restore • To supervise ceremonial cleansing and sacrifices (Note: Chapter 16 will be looked at with chapter 23) 12
Chapters 17-22 – Study 4 - Various other Laws Chapter 17 Rules about the blood The spilling of blood (killing the animal yourself in the field) was forbidden. Only the priest should handle the blood (the priest must slaughter the animal and sprinkle the blood on the altar). An ‘updated’ rule for when they entered Canaan can be found in Deuteronomy 12v20-25. This was necessary because in Canaan they could live a long distance from the Tabernacle. The eating of blood was also forbidden. Read verses 10-12. The blood is precious to God because it represents life. The blood of the sacrifice was symbolic of the blood of Jesus. How much more precious is the blood of Jesus! The communion cup represents the spilled blood of the sacrifice poured out on the altar for us. Eph 1v7 Chapter 18 – Rules about Sexual relationships Note again that it is God who is speaking through Moses. God has ordained these laws. It would appear, from the context, that people in Egypt and Canaan had sexual intercourse with their close relatives and this is the reason for the details in this chapter. Incest is wrong, it harms relationships and often harms children that are born as a result. People are to have control over their sexual urges. Verses 7-16 list the people for whom it is wrong: A man must not have intercourse with his mother or stepmother, sister or step-sister, granddaughter, aunt, daughter-in-law or sister-in-law. Verses 18 is about acceptable marriage partners. A man was allowed to have more than one wife, but not from the same family (remember the problems that were caused when Jacob married sisters Rachel and Leah!). Further laws relating to sex : No same sex unions (v22); no sex with an animal (v23); no offering of babies to Molek (v21. Or to any god). God calls these things detestable (v29). Egypt and Canaan (v25-27) were living like this, but the Jews were to be pure in their relationships, or they would be ejected from the Land (which of course, eventually happened 1,000 years later and Israel was exiled from its Land). Chapters 19&20 – we are ambassadors for Christ. Underlying these laws is the command of verse 2, “Be holy for I, the Lord your God, am Holy”. And Jesus repeated this in Matthew 5v48 (some translations read ‘perfect’ or pure’). Both the Jews, and ourselves, are God’s people chosen to represent him on earth. The ten commandments are described in this chapter and still stand for us today. • • • • • • •
Commandments 1&2 are in verse 4 (put God first, make no idols) Commandment 3 is in verse 12 (do not lie) Commandments 4&5 are in verse 3 (respect parents; keep the Sabbath) Commandment 6 is in verse 16 (do not murder or endanger life) Commandment 7 is in verse 29 (do not commit adultery) Commandments 8&9 are in verses 11-16 (Do not steal, do not lie) Commandment 10 is in verse 18 (Love your neighbour, do not covet)
These are to be our guidelines in everything we do. And, in case there are not enough guidelines – here are some more: Verses 9,14,13&32 Give equal respect to everyone, whether young, old or disabled, and do not show partiality or favour – and don’t gossip about people. Help the poor (v9) Verse 19&23 No genetic engineering or breeding different animals together; no growing 2 different plants in the field; don’t wear clothes made of two different materials. And don’t eat the fruit of a sapling tree. Bring the first fruits to the Lord in the fourth year, and after that it will crop abundantly. 13
Verses 26,28,31 No tattoos, no divination, mediums or spiritists were allowed. God wanted them, just as he wants us, to look to him for our future and to put our trust in Him. (See also 20v6&27) Verse 29 Parents have a duty to protect and teach their children, both sons and daughters about correct sexual behaviour – they shouldn’t just go along with what is culturally acceptable. Prostitution is not allowed. Verse 33-34 Foreigners: Foreigners residing in your land should be treated as anybody else and the Israelites (and us!) are told to love them as we love ourselves. The Israelites were to be a light to the nations, in the same way that Jesus told us to be light in this world. Chapter 20v2 No child sacrifices allowed – sound obvious, but the other nations were doing this. The reason for all these laws? Read chapter 20 verse 25&26 They were a chosen people going to a special destination. They were to be set apart as a light to the nations. They were to keep themselves separate (but not removed) by living pure lives and bringing glory to the Name of the Lord. Chapters 21&22 When we look at the purity and responsibility required of a priest we need to consider Jesus. But we may also stop and think about our leaders and the responsibilities that they carry to keep morally pure, to set the right example, and to practise what they preach. In these verses we see that higher standards are required of the priests. Rules for the Priests (Chapter 21 v 1-9) • The priest should not touch a dead person (except for close relatives). It would make him unclean and he would not be able to serve the Lord that day. • They were not allowed to mourn as other nations (cut their hair or tattoo their body). Any cutting of hair or body would make them unclean and unfit for service. • The exact meaning of verse 9 is not clear in the original text. It shows that the priest’s family life had to be in order too. Rules for the Chief Priest Chapter 21 v 10-15 The Chief Priest was The Anointed One and therefore the highest standard was required from him. • He must always remain holy and untainted from the world. • He was not allowed to mourn for the dead – not even for his mother or father (or even enter the room where there was a dead body). He was to show no signs of mourning (e.g. unkempt hair. • He must be pure and only marry a virgin from his own people • He must always bear in mind the sanctity of the priesthood • Service in the Tabernacle was the priority. Rules for priests who had something wrong with their bodies (Chapter 21 v 16-24) – An interesting list in these verses! They were allowed to partake of the sacrificial meat, they were allowed to work at the brazen altar, but their imperfection barred them from entering the sanctuary. The High Priest must not be in contact with anything imperfect when he approached the altar of incense. (As I mentioned last week, it was a bit like Barrier Nursing in our hospitals today where no germs are allowed to come into contact with the patient). God is Holy and Perfect Everything about the Tabernacle was done in order to proclaim God’s Holy Name to the nations and bring him honour. As Christians, we should be like the priests and bear a good witness to Christ. 14
Chapters 16 and 23 – Study 5: The Appointed Special Days Here is a brief overview of the Festivals and Special Days: The Jews worked from sunrise to sunset (one day), counted the months by the phases of the moon, and watched the seasons and harvests come and go. Their calendar represented these important things and encouraged them to put God first, with thanksgiving.
Time and reference in Chapter 23 Sabbath Day Verse 3
Date in our Calendar
Passover Verses 4,5
The day of the full moon, in March or April (Our Easter)
Unleavened Bread Verses 6-8 First (early) Harvest Verses 9-14
The week after the Passover During the week of Unleavened Bread
Second (main) Harvest Pentecost. (Also called Festival of weeks) Verses 15-22 Day of Trumpets (Also called Rosh Hashana or the Jewish New Year’s Day). Verses 23-25
50 days after the Passover (so, during May or June)
Day of Atonement (Also called Yom Kippur) Verses 26-32 Tent Parties and Final Harvest (Also called Tabernacles, Sukkoth, or the Feast of Shelters) Verses 33-44
9 days after the Day of Trumpets
7th day of every week (our Saturday)
The day of the new moon before the Tent Parties and Final Harvest (during September or October)
6 months after the Passover (so, during September or October)
What it was for
Connection with Jesus A day of rest and sacred A chance to assembly worship him and rest. To remember the Angel “Christ our of Death passing over Passover is them in Egypt sacrificed for us” 1 Cor 5v7 To remember leaving We should not Egypt sin knowingly To be given with the God accepted burnt offering and wine Jesus, & we are offering in thanksgiving accepted in him Offerings for atonement Jesus sent the and celebration. Holy Spirit to crown the offering A day of rest and We await the celebration trumpet of the Lord, when Jesus will come again to make all things new. All Israel must Everyone must participate or be cut off. make a decision (Verse 29) about Jesus Rest from harvest. One day, Jews Opportunity for and gentiles will offerings and celebrate Jesus celebrations – 7 days in Heaven
The most important day of the year was the Day of Atonement: Leviticus chapter 16 Verse 29
Verse 3 Verse 4
What they had to do
Why did it happen?
On the Day of Atonement, the Israelites do not work. They do not eat food. The chief priest brings a bull and a ram. The chief priest puts on linen clothes and washes himself.
A day when they must be humble before the LORD.
The Israelites bring 2 goats and a ram. The two goats constituted one sin offering.
The chief priest chooses which goat must take sin away. (Prob used the Urim and Thummim) The chief priest kills the bull as a sin offering.
Verses 12-14 Verse 15
The chief priest puts some of the blood of both the bull and the goat onto the altar. The chief priest puts his hands on the other goat. He confesses all the Israelites’ sins. A man literally takes the goat and leaves it in the desert.
The chief priest takes off his linen clothes. He bathes, then he puts on special clothes. Then he offers the 2 rams. Another man takes the dead bull and the dead goat. He burns their bodies outside the camp. The two other men must bathe before they return to the camp.
Verses 26 and 28
This goat becomes an offering for the people’s sin. It makes atonement for himself and his family enabling him to go into the Most Holy Place He splashes the blood in front of the ark. An atonement for the sins of all Israel. He splashes blood in front of the ark.
The chief priest takes the bull’s blood into the most holy place. The chief priest kills one goat and he takes its blood into the most holy place.
These are his own offerings He became the mediator between God and the people The ram is their whole burnt offering. The goats are the sin offering, two parts of the same thing.
Prefiguration of Jesus
Jesus was to become the sacrifice Jesus humbled himself to become a man like us Jesus was the slain goat, he died to absolve our sin. He was the scapegoat for our sin too, he took our place. This was not chance. Jesus offered himself Jesus made it possible for us to come into God’s presence
God looked on the blood and forgave, it was the “Precious blood of Jesus”
This makes the altar clean.
That goat (which is still alive) must carry the Israelites’ sins away (into the desert) It is the ‘scapegoat’ for our sins which are completely removed. The rams are the whole offerings from the chief priest and the Israelites. These animals were the sin offerings.
Jesus paid for our sins and took them away to be remembered no more.
Jesus, rose to life and was re-clothed in glory
Leviticus – Study 6:Jubilee! Chapters 24-27 Chapter 24 – The Hidden trinity of God In this chapter the Lord gave Moses instructions about three HOLY things, which were the Oil, the Bread and the Name of God. At first glance they seem a bit random, but not when we realise that the oil symbolises the Holy Spirit, the bread symbolises Jesus Christ and the Name represents God the Father and all that He is. Read verses 1-4 The oil was necessary to keep the lampstand in the Holy Place burning – continually, day and night, without stopping (emphasised 3 times!). This was talking about eternal things. The Holy Spirit is our enlightenment and helps us to understand, and often speaks to us through the Scriptures. David said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path”. Failure to keep the lamps burning would be disobedience and would result in lack of God’s guidance. Read verses 5-9 The bread, arranged on the golden table in two piles of six, was an offering to the Lord. Jesus Christ offered himself to the Lord for our sakes. He was the Bread of Life to us (John 6v51, “Whoever eats of me will live forever”). It was a lasting covenant that found fulfilment in Jesus. Verses 10-23 describe what happened when someone blasphemed and cursed the Name of the Lord, and the resulting penalty of death by stoning. It seems harsh to us in this day and age. However, the purpose of this story is to stress the holiness of God and the consequence of breaking the third commandment. God the Father was a God of Love, but he was/is still Lord above all – not to be deliberately blasphemed. Incidentally, these harsh punishments in these verses were turned on their head by Jesus in Matthew 5v3842. Chapters 25&27 These chapters describe society which is run as a theocracy. In other words - government by God and the Priests. They describe • a society where everyone serves and obeys a holy and loving God, who has their best interest at heart • a society where everyone is equal and any who are disadvantaged can be provided for • a society where the land must be looked after for the benefit of all, and must remain as their allocated possession. First, the Sabbath Year – 25v1-7 These Laws are for when they took up residence in Canaan, the Promised Land of Israel. The people had to keep the Sabbath every 7th day, but the Land was to have a Sabbath every 7th year – a time when the land would rest. Obviously, this would call Israel to a great deal of faith. They had to trust God that He would provide enough in the 6 years to see them through the seventh. Instead of Harvest and the Feast of tabernacles the time would be spent in listening to the priests reading the Law and giving teaching. Second, The Year of Jubilee, every 50th Year What a wonderful idea! The people would count 7 lots of 7 years, 49 in all, and the following year would be designated a whole year of rest and celebration for both the Land and the people. Again, it would have required a lot of faith on behalf of the people, that God would provide. It was also a special year of liberty and freedom from bondage and debt. Isaiah talked about it in chapter 61v1-3 and Jesus read this passage in a synagogue at the beginning of his ministry. Read Luke 4v18&19 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. 17
Both Isaiah, and Jesus, were referring to the Year of Jubilee. As we go on to look at what the year of Jubilee promised we will see that Jesus was the fulfilment of all those promises (which can be seen in Lev 25 and in the prophetic words of Isaiah, and the actual words of Jesus). Laws and promises for the Year of Jubilee: • (Verses 8-12) All things were to return to God’s plan every 50th year • (Verses 13-17) The Land went back to its original family. The land of each tribe was their permanent possession. Land could not be sold, only ‘leased’. The lease would be set according to how many years were left until Jubilee. This meant no family could permanently lose their land through poverty. Every 50 years there was the opportunity to start again. • (Verses 18-22) Obedience would bring blessing. They were to trust God for the year of no harvest. If they obeyed his commands he would provide sufficient from the year before to tide them over. Jesus told us that if we “seek first God and his righteousness” then all the rest would be provided for us (Matthew 6v33). • (Verses 23-28) How to redeem (buy back) your property if it had been taken to pay tour debts, and if it could be redeemed before the Year of Jubilee. A kinsman-redeemer, i.e. a relative from the same tribe had the right (and the responsibility) to buy back the land at any time. A good example of this is found in the story of Ruth. And Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer who bought us with the price of his own blood, reconciling us to God the Father. • (Verses 29-34) There was an exception made for houses built within city walls, where land was not an issue. Only the Levites could expect to keep their property forever (remember they had no allotment of land – there were 48 designated cities for the Levites, Joshua 21). If they lost their house through poverty they could redeem it at any time. • (Verses 35-38) Lending money to the poor. This command specifically prohibits making money out of the misfortune of another. They should not charge interests on loans, but they should help them. • (Verses 39-46) What happens when a Hebrew becomes a slave because of their debt. He is a slave only insofar as he is working off his debt and should be treated justly and fairly. The man was to be released when he paid his debt – or in the year of Jubilee – whichever came first. • (Verses 47-55) Redeeming a Hebrew slave from a foreigner. As in the redemption of land, the kinsman-redeemer would buy the Hebrew slave out of servitude if it was possible. But there still remained freedom for everybody in the year of Jubilee, for the people – as well as the land – belonged to God. Sadly, there are no records to show that the Israelites actually kept the Year of Jubilee as God stipulated in these verses. Maybe there would not be all the fighting over the land today, if they had kept to his commands. Read again Luke 4v18&19. The year of Jubilee was a year of Grace. We now live in the Age of Grace when we can experience the spiritual fulfilment of all these things. Praise God. Chapter 27 also speaks of redemption. But this is about buying your way free from a promise or a vow. If someone promised to dedicate a person, an animal, their house or their land and was unable to keep that promise, a redemption tax could be paid and they could regain their possession. But, because they had broken their vow they would have to pay back one fifth more than the worth of what had been dedicated. God loved service, but he also loved the poor. Chapters 25 and 27 demonstrate how he made provision for them.
Chapter 26 – IF … THEN … BUT Reward for obedience If you obey all my commands (the first verses of this chapter refer to the 10 commandments) God promises his people: PEACE (v6), FAVOUR (v9), FAITHFULNESS (v9), and HIS PRESENCE (v11,12). Punishment for disobedience If you do not obey my commands THEN … (here follows what did happen in their future years when they forsook God’s laws) I will … Let sickness afflict you (v16), you will be defeated by your enemies (v17), your soil will not yield its crops (v20), wild animals will turn on you and your cattle (v22), lay waste your cities (v31) and give the land rest myself (vv35). You only have to read verse 29 to see how depraved they would become. BUT … If you come back to me in repentance Read verses 40-42. And then read 1 John 1v9. Praise God there is always a Year of Jubilee, a time when we can know our sins forgiven, a time of liberty and freedom, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God he always accepts the repentant sinner. The Israelites were given choices and often made the wrong ones. But we all have to make a choice of whether to accept the salvation that Jesus paid for. And the result of that choice will have eternal consequences.
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ€™s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to email@example.com and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)
A Bible study on the book of Leviticus by Anne O'Brien