In Exodus, Moses instructed the Israelites where to worship, but Leviticus tells them how to worship. Exodus begins with enslaved sinners, but Leviticus begins with saved saints. In Leviticus, we encounter the doctrine of holiness: holy clothing, holy sacrifices, holy places, holy days, holy law, and a holy nation.
There are two kinds of holiness: personal holiness relating to sin, illustrated by the sacrifice of animals for the forgiveness of sin, and personal holiness relating to lifestyle, illustrated by living differently from neighboring nations to signify their separateness as a chosen nation.
In Leviticus, God is glorifying Himself as holy so that He might demonstrate His superior goodness in the salvation sinners, the damnation of the wicked, and for the preservation of His people for His eternal glory, and their eternal joy.
The clear and consistent teaching of Scripture is that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). For more information on Pentateuchal authorship, see the authorship section for Genesis.
Leviticus was written sometime between Israel’s Exodus from Egypt
(1445 B.C.) and Moses’ death (1405 B.C.).
“And Moses said to Aaron, ‘Go to the altar, offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people. Offer the offering of the people, and make atonement for them, as the Lord commanded.’ ”
“Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.”
“For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”
In Leviticus 16, the Lord gave Moses very detailed instructions about how the high priest would atone for the sins of the people. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would enter the Holy Place with sweet incense and the blood of sacrificed animals. The author of Hebrews explained the fulfillment of this picture in Christ: “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come ... For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another—He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:11, 24–26).
The five sacrifices which the Israelites were commanded to offer—the burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the trespass offering—were all given as symbols of Christ’s sacrifice for the elect. The Apostle Paul taught this when he encouraged the Ephesians to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:2).
The Seven Feasts
The seven feasts which the Israelites were commanded to observe—the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles—are all symbolic of the spiritual feast that Christians have in Christ. Jesus Himself said, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
What is the theme of Leviticus?
Holiness. There are two kinds of holiness spoken of in Leviticus:
When did Moses write Leviticus?
Sometime between 1445 and 1405 B.C.
What does Leviticus teach us about sin?
The death of a substitute is necessary for the forgiveness of sins.
What does Leviticus teach us about the worship of God?
Only God’s laws and standards can regulate His worship.
What is the emphasis of chapters 1–10?
Holy worship inside the tabernacle.
What is the emphasis of chapters 11–27?
Holy living outside the tabernacle.
When did the events in Leviticus occur?
After the building of the tabernacle (Lev. 1:1; cf. Ex. 40).
What were the five kinds of sacrifices that God commanded the Israelites to offer?
How were the people instructed to make restitution with the trespass offering?
Anyone who committed a trespass was to offer a ram without blemish, and make restitution for the harm that he had done, with one-fifth added to it. (Lev. 5:15–16).
Who were Nadab and Abihu?
Sons of Aaron (Lev. 10:1).
What did Nadab and Abihu do, and what was the consequence for their actions?
They offered profane fire before the Lord, and were consumed by fire that went out from Him (Lev. 10:1–2).
What happened on the Day of Atonement?
The high priest would make atonement for the people by offering sacrifices to God (Lev. 16).
Besides the Sabbath, what feasts did God command Israel to observe?
What was the sin of the son of Shelomith, and what was his punishment?
His sin was blaspheming the name of the Lord, and his punishment was death by stoning (Lev. 24:10–23).
When the year of Jubilee arrived, what happened to land that had been sold?
It was returned to the original owner (Lev. 25:23–34).
What is the significance of the ritual states described in Leviticus?
In Leviticus, there are three ritual states described: unclean/impure, clean/pure, and holy. It is important to note that ritual states are distinct from moral states in that ritual states cover things that are not sinful. For instance, a person would be unclean if they touched a corpse or gave birth to a child but they would not be sinning. These classifications were meant to teach us that we are set aside for holiness.
Leviticus makes it clear that there is a distinction between pure and impure, holy and unholy. Every activity is either holy or unholy. In fact, there is no situation in life where you do not need reconciliation with God because everything is affected by the fall. We should see our need for Christ in all things and be grateful for God’s mercy.