As soon as you hear the word Leviticus you break out into a yawn. In my opinion, this is the book that causes many people’s yearly reading plan to crash and burn. If not, its the one that most people will either skip or skim through. I get it. Even the title is boring. Leviticus is the Latin word used for the Hebrew, meaning “pertaining to the Levitical priests.” Seriously, why is this even in here?
Once you peel back the blood, smoldering dead carcasses and what appears to be some very strange laws, you discover something very important. This book is about the holiness of God.
Leviticus 19:1-2, The LORD spoke to Moses: “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” (emphasis mine)
All twenty-seven chapters are dedicated to show Israel how to live with a holy God and fulfill their part of the covenant. When Moses first climbed Mount Sinai, the covenant was announced (Ex. 19) and Yahweh demanded obedience. But this was not about the LORD dominating His subjects as the Egyptian god (Pharaoh) had enslaved them. It’s purpose was to set Israel apart from the other nations and make them into a special people.
Exodus 19:5-6, “Now if you will listen to Me and carefully keep My covenant, you will be My own possession out of all the people, although all the earth is Mine, and you will be My kingdom of priests and My holy nation.” (emphasis mine)
Leviticus is a continuation the covenant commands first given (Ex. 20) to show Israel how to fulfill their covenant responsibilities.
Many do not know Leviticus contains more of the exact words of God than any other book in Scripture. Yahweh is a holy God and every generation and culture needs to be reminded of that fact. The narrative from my last blog gave a glimpse into the type of holiness that comes from God.
But there’s more.
Leviticus 11:44-45, “For I am Yahweh your God, so you must consecrate yourselves and be holy because I am holy… For I am Yahweh, who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, so you must be holy because I am holy.” (emphasis mine)
Violating any of the instructions of God would make one unclean and unable to enter into community worship. We may think this book is a waste of paper, but these rituals and priests were necessary to maintain the LORD’s presence among His people.
If nothing else, reading through Leviticus should bring a greater appreciate of the Messiah who came to be the last and greater High Priest and sacrifice for Israel and the nations. Leviticus pointed to Jesus and His kingdom. If you really want to understand its real power, read it along with the Book of Hebrews.
We may find this book monotonous and boring, but it is quoted and alluded to by Jesus and the New Testament writers. For example:
- Jesus mentioned as one of the most important commands – love your neighbor (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39).
- Paul uses Leviticus 18:5 to show why faith is necessary for Gentiles (non-Jews) to receive the blessing of Abraham by Christ (Gal. 3:10-18; esp. v. 12).
- Leviticus 26:12 is quoted in II Corinthians 6:16 to say we are the Temple of God.
- We already mentioned Leviticus 11:44-45, which Paul uses to say we are called to holiness (I Pet. 1:16), as also stated in Leviticus 19:2; 20:7).
And yes, Leviticus provides hyperlinks to Genesis 1-3 and even Noah’s ark. I will take the next couple of blogs to share those ideas. I realize this is a difficult book to go through. Also, the Levitical priesthood has been replaced by Jesus Messiah, as well as the animal sacrificial system. However, if you pay attention, you can discover hyperlinks and themes that are important for us today.
For a better overall understanding of Leviticus watch both of the Bible Project’s videos on the book.
*All Scripture quoted from the Holman Christian Standard Bible
*Blog resources: The Pentateuch as Narrative by John H. Sailhamer; Easton’s Bible Dictionary;