Lessons from Leviticus?

In his preface to his commentary on Leviticus in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Gordon Wenham wrote,

Leviticus used to be the first book that Jewish children studied in the synagogue.  In the modern Church it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously (vii).

The first time I read that statement I did a double-take. Studying Leviticus first in synagogue? What did they see back then that might be overlooked today?

In my lecture at Florida College (entitled “Trusting in gods that Cannot Save,” 2010) I made reference to the above quote and then observed,

The real heart of Leviticus is contained in verses such as 20:26: “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Everything about how to approach God in worship, what to eat, wear, plant, along with all the other laws, had to do with that one principle: by all of these things God was teaching them that they were different from the world; they were His special people; they were to partake of His holiness.  Do you agree that this is not a bad idea, to teach a child from infancy that he is special to the Lord; that we are different from the world; that our concern is to be seeking and doing God’s will? (p.76).

The book of Leviticus was not just for the priests. In the opening verses, God said,

Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock (Lev. 1:2, NASB).

The instructions are to the sons of Israel. Re: “Any man of you” the NET notes,

It is the Heb “a man, human being” (‘adam), which in this case refers to any person among “mankind,” male or female, since women could also bring such offerings.

So here is a book that was for everyone during that dispensation, whether priests or other Israelites, men or women.

We are not contending that we are under the specific legislation of that time, but Romans 15:4 teaches,

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (ESV).

Perhaps you would like a brief outline and chapter content for the book of Leviticus:

Leviticus Outline and Chapter Content

I.          LAWS OF SACRIFICE 1-7

II.        HISTORICAL 8-10

III.       LAWS OF PURITY 11-15

IV.       ANNUAL DAY OF ATONEMENT

V.        HOLINESS OF PEOPLE 17-20

VI.       HOLINESS OF PRIESTS & LAWS RE: SACRIFICES 21-22

VII.     LAWS CONCERNING FEASTS 23-25

VIII.    PROMISES & WARNINGS 26

IX.       LAWS CONCERNING VOWS 27

1. Burnt offering

2. Meal offering

3. Peace offering

4. Sin offering

5. Trespass offering

6-7 Laws of Sacrifice given to priests

8. Consecration of priests

9. Priests begin to serve

10. Death of Nadab & Abihu

11. Clean & unclean foods

12. Purification after childbirth

13-14. Laws concerning Leprosy

15. Laws concerning normal & abnormal issues

16. Day of Atonement

17. Eating of blood forbidden

18. Laws of moral purity

19. Miscellaneous laws

20. Punishment for disobedience

21-22. Laws of holiness for priests; laws re: sacrifices

23. Sabbath, 3 annual feasts, day of atonement

24. Lamps, showbread; punishment for blasphemy

25. Year of Jubilee

26. Blessings of obedience; consequences of disobedience

27. Laws concerning vows

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One Response to Lessons from Leviticus?

  1. […] recently referenced the book of Leviticus and its theme of holiness here. Chapter 11 lists the dietary restrictions which Israel was to follow. The basic rule of thumb was […]

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