Many people find Leviticus to be a very difficult book to read, and are left wondering what relevance its content has for their lives. In this blog post, I share how to approach this book and understand its contemporary application.
What follow are mainly notes from I Bible study I gave on the book of Leviticus.
1. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
A. Third book of the section of the Bible called the Torah / Pentateuch
B. "Leviticus" means "relating to the Levites". However, the books is not just for the Levites - it contains laws for all Israelites. The the Levites were an Israelite tribe. Some of them were also priests (those who descended from Aaoron). The rest of the Levites were their assistants and were responsible for the Tabernacle.
C. Written by Moses (see Romans 10:5 which quote Leviticus and attributes it to Moses)
D. The events in Leviticus occur around 1445 BC
E. The narrative of Leviticus picks up where Exodus left off - the Israelites have left Egypt and are at Mount Sinai.
F. Holiness is a major theme
A. Leviticus gives Israel various laws including instructions on ceremonial cleanness, moral laws, holy days, the sabbath year and the Year of Jubilee
3. HOW TO READ AND APPLY THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS
A. Realise we are not under the law of Moses
i. John 1:17; Romans 6:14; Galatians 2:16; Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24-25; Hebrews 8:7-8,13; Romans 7:4-6; Galatians 5:4; Colossians 2:16-17
ii. This does not mean we discard the law. When we were at school, we were under the laws of the school (e.g. uniform, the timetable etc.). Now we have graduated, we are not. Yet, till this day, we are still using things we learned at school e.g. English, maths, science etc. So it is with the law.
B. Ask the right questions as you read Leviticus:
i. Is this a moral law for all time? Or is this a civil of ritual law?
ii. If a moral law for all time, abide by it! (e.g. 1 Peter 1:15-16; Matthew 22:37–40 – both quote from Leviticus). The eternal laws of God become part of the new covenant.
iii. If it is a civil or ritual law, ask:
a. Is there a way that the ritual law is fulfilled in Christ?
b. What is the point or general principle being expressed by the law? And how does that apply to my life?
C. Examples of reading Leviticus in this way
a. Burnt offering, in which all but the skin was consumed, points to total consecration of Christ and the believer
b. Grain offering points to the perfect humanity of Christ. The absence of yeast perhaps typifies the sinlessness of Christ. The presence of oil may be emblematic of the Holy Spirit upon Him.
c. Peace offering (the only offering the offeror was allowed to partake of) foreshadows the peace that the believer has with God through Jesus Christ
d. Sin and Trespass offerings prefigure Christ as the offering for our sins (Hebrew = wickedness) and trespasses (Hebrew = unfaithful acts).
ii. Law of the leprous garment
a. When a garment had mould, if the mould did not spread, it would be cut out, and the garment washed twice. If the mould spread, the garment was then to be burned with fire (Leviticus 13:47-59)
b. Lesson: When there is sin in our life, God gives us the opportunity to repent and be cleansed through the washing of the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26). But if we refuse to repent, and stubbornly stay in our sin, then our end is to be burned with the fire of hell.
iii. Clean and unclean animals
a. This served as a continual and visible reminder that God had separated the Jews from the other nations (Leviticus 20:24-26)
b. Jesus declares all foods clean (Mark 7:14-23 NIV, ESV). This passage shows us that what truly makes us "unclean" is the sin in our heart. Also see Romans 14:14 and 1 Timothy 4:1–5. As we read about unclean animals in Leviticus, let us remember to stay away from what truly defiles - sin in our heart.
c. In Leviticus, becoming “unclean” does not necessarily mean you have sinned. For example, touching a dead body made you ceremonially “unclean”. A discharge from your body made you unclean. After intercourse, a man was unclean until evening. During a her time of the month, a woman was unclean. Designating these things as “unclean” was perhaps a symbolic reminder of our sinfulness.
iv. Death penalties
a. The death penalties in Leviticus remind us that we are to put to death the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13) and of the necessity of our old man being crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6)
v. Perfect priests
a. Lev 21:1-15 reminds us that spiritual leaders can't live like everyone else. There is a price to pay
b. Lev 21:16-24 reminds us how perfect Jesus is to serve as our high priest
a. Those with leprosy were to be quarantined
b. Perhaps reminds us that we should not encourage the spread of contagious diseases?
c. If someone is unwell with a contagious virus such as a cold, flu or worse, shouldn't they ideally, as far as possible, stay at home until better, instead of spreading it to others?
d. Leviticus reminds us that hygiene is very important - as the saying goes, "cleanliness is next to godliness".
a. "When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof." (Lev 22:8 NIV)
b. In those house roofs were flat and used for fellowship. We live in a different context. But what is the principle being expressed? Health and safety! That must be important to us.
D. Gender issues
i. Amongst other things, discharge from either a man or woman makes them ceremonially unclean
ii. Whilst this affected both men and women, it obviously affected woman more, which also helps to understand the distinction in Lev. 12:1–8
iii. In chapter 27, the value of persons dedicated is based on age and gender. Clearly this is not to do with one's intrinsic value, but perhaps has to do with the economic value each could bring in that time period.
i. Read Leviticus from a good translation that you understand and enjoy reading!
Verses marked NIV are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Verses marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. Verses marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Verses marked NLT are from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Quotations marked NEB are from The New English Bible: The New Testament © ‘The
Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1961, 1970.