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An Argument of the Book of Leviticus

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MESSAGE STATEMENT:1

In order for Israel to live with their Holy God as an individual in the community or as a nation in the land they must approach him through sacrifice, through a holy priesthood who honors him and does not presume upon him and through established cultural patterns of separation from uncleanness and morality which are in distinction to the life of their pagan neighbors

I. APPROACHING GOD THROUGH SACRIFICE: Israel, who is in covenant relationship, can continue to walk with their righteous God through a sacrificial approach to Him 1:1--7:38

A. Instructions for the People:2 The Lord provides Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Sons of Israel concerning the burnt offering, meal offering, peace offering, and occasions for atoning sacrifices for unintentional sin 1:1--6:7

1. The Burnt Offering (hl*u)):3 The Lord provides Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Sons of Israel to offer male whole-burnt offerings form the herd (young bulls), male whole-burnt offerings from the flock (sheep or goats), and whole-burnt offerings from the birds (turtledoves or young pigeons) 1:1-17

a. Whole Burnt Offerings from the Herd: 1:1-9

b. Whole Burnt Offerings from the Flock: 1:10-13

c. Whole-Burnt Offerings from the Birds: 1:14-17

2. The Meal (Cereal) Offering (hj*g=m!):4 The Lord provides Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Sons of Israel to offer a grain offering of flour, oil, & frankincense, of unleavened cakes or wafers, of first fruits, and of early ripened things from which a memorial is to be offered up to the Lord (except for the first fruits) and the remainder belongs to the priests (Aaron and his sons) 2:1-16

3. The Peace Offering (<ym!l*v= jb@z#):5 The Lord provides Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Sons of Israel to offer peace offerings be they male or female from the herd or from the flock (sheep or goat) offering the fat to the Lord and as a perpetual statute not eating any fat or blood 3:1-17

a. Peace Offerings from the Herd: 3:1-5

b. Peace Offerings from the Flock: 3:6-15

1) Statement: 3:6

2) A Lamb: 3:7-11

3) A Goat: 3:12-15

c. Prescriptions: 3:16-17

4. Occasions for Atoning Sacrifices:6 The Lord provides for Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Israelite people concerning how to deal with unintentional sins, sins of omission, sins against the sanctuary, and sins of deception against another which require atoning sacrifices and in the last two cases restoration and a one-fifth restitution 4:1--6:7

a. The Purification (Sin) Offering (af*j*): The Lord provides for Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Israelite people (Chief Priests, congregation, leaders and individuals) concerning how to deal with guilt from unintentional sins and sins of omission through confession and appropriate sacrifice 4:1--5:13

1) For Unintentional Sin: The Lord provides for Moses from the Tent of Meeting prescriptions for the Israelite people if they unintentionally do any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done 4:1-2

2) Sin of Chief Priest or Collective Community--A Bull: The Lord provides for Moses prescriptions for an anointed priest or the congregation who commit unintentional sin to sacrifice a bull to the Lord as a sin offering of which part is to be brought before the Lord and part is to be burnt in a clean place outside the camp 4:3-21

a) Anointed Priest: The Lord provides for Moses prescriptions for an anointed priest who sins so as to bring guilt upon the people to sacrifice a bull to the Lord as a sin offering of which part is to be brought before the Lord and part is to be burnt in a clean place outside the camp 4:3-12

b) Congregation: The Lord provides for Moses prescriptions for the congregation when they commit unintentional sin to sacrifice a bull to the Lord as a sin offering of which part is to be brought before the Lord and part is to be burnt in a clean place outside the camp 4:13-21

3) Sin of Individual or Tribal Chief--Flock, Birds or Grain: The Lord provides Moses with prescriptions for dealing with the unintentional sin of omission by leaders and a common person which include confession and an appropriate offering to the Lord depending upon ability (e.g., from the flock, birds, or grain) 4:22--5:13

a) Unintentional Sin of Omission by a Leader--a Male Goat: 4:22-26

b) Unintentional Sin of Omission by a Common Person--a Female Goat or Lamb: 4:27-35

c) Reasons for Sin and Prescriptions: The Lord provides Moses three specific reasons for sin (not testifying, touching the unclean, and false oaths) and then prescribes the way one is to deal with one’s guilt (through confession and appropriate offering to the Lord)

(1) Guilt for Not Testifying: 5:1

(2) Guilt for Touching the Unclean--beast or Human: 5:2-3

(3) Guilt for False Oaths: 5:4

(4) Prescription for Dealing with Guilt: When one commits unintentional sin he is to confess it and bring a guilt offering for the Lord in accordance with his ability--Lamb, Goat, Two Turtledoves, Two Young Pigeons, or Flour 5:5-13

b. The Reparation Offering: The Lord explained to Moses that when one commits unintentional sin against the sanctuary or sins against another through deceptive robbery, then he is to provide restoration and a one- fifth restoration as well as a guilt offering of a ram to the Lord 5:14--6:7

1) Unintentional Sin Against the Sanctuary--A Ram and Restitution of One Fifth: 5:14-19

2) Sin of Robbery through Deception--Restoration of All, Restitution of One Fifth More, a Ram guilt offering to the Lord for Forgiveness 6:1-7

B. Instructions for the Priests:7 The Lord gave Moses commandments for Aaron and his sons concerning the ritual care of the burnt, meal, priests’, atoning, and peace offerings as well as the portions which they may and may not partake of 6:8--7:38

1. The Burnt Offering: The Lord gave Moses commandments (tr~oT) for Aaron and his sons concerning the ritual care of the burnt offerings including that the fire be burning continually on the altar 6:8-13

2. The Meal (Cereal) Offering: The Lord gave Moses commandment for Aaron and his sons concerning the ritual care of the meal offering including its sacrifice to the Lord and the portion for the priests to be eaten in the court of the tent of meeting 6:14-18

3. The Priests’ Meal (Cereal) Offering: The Lord gave Moses commandment for Aaron and his sons concerning the ritual care for the Priests’ meal offering including the stipulation that it is to be burned entirely and not eaten by the priests8 6:19-23

4. Occasions for Atoning Sacrifices: The Lord gave Moses commandment for Aaron and his sons concerning the ritual care for atoning sacrifices (both purification and Reparation) which they eat in a holy place except for those whose blood was brought into the tent of meeting9 6:24--7:10

a. The Purification Offering: 6:24-30

b. The Reparation Offering: 7:1-10

5. The Peace Offering: The Lord gave Moses commandment for Aaron and his sons concerning the ritual care for peace offerings (thanksgiving and votive) emphasizing the consequences of impurity through the Israelites who brought in the sacrifice and the portions which belong to the priests 7:11-36

a. Thanksgiving Offering: 7:11-15

b. Votive Offering: 7:16-18

c. Matters of Impurity and Disobedience for Which One May Be Cut-Off:10 7:19-36

1) Impurity: 7:19-21

2) Eating Fat and Blood: 7:22-27

d. The Priests’ Portion: 7:28-36

6. Summary: Moses proclaims that the above are the law of the burnt offering, grain offering, sin offering, guilt offering, ordination offering11 and peace offing which the Lord commanded Moses at Mount Sinai in the day that He commanded the sons of Israel to present their offerings to the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai 7:37-38

II. APPROACHING GOD THROUGH CONSECRATION AND ORDINATION: A proper approach to YHWH requires a holy priesthood who honors Him and does not presume upon Him leading to judgment in righteous indignation 8:1--10:20

A. Ordination of Aaron and His Sons: Through anointing and sacrifice, Aaron and his sons are ordained to holy service 8:1-36

1. Preparation for Anointing: 8:1-5

2. The Ceremony: 8:6-13

3. Consecration Offering: 8:14-36

B. YHWH’s Approval: In YHWH’s acceptance of sacrifice by the holy priest for himself and the people, He approved the priest 9:1-24

1. Rules for Offerings: 9:1-7

2. Aaron’s Sacrifices: 9:8-24

C. Need to Honor YHWH: In YHWH’s consuming of Aaron’s sons, the need for holy priests to treat Him as holy is stressed 10:1-20

1. Nadab and Abihu: 10:1-7

2. Drunken Priests Prohibited: 10:8-11

III. LIVING WITH GOD THROUGH ESTABLISHED CULTURAL PATTERNS: Living with a holy God requires established cultural patterns of separation from uncleanness and morality which are in distinction to the life of their pagan neighbors 11:1--27:34

A. Separation from Uncleanness: Living with a holy God requires an established cultural pattern of separation from uncleanness 11:1--17:16

1. Uncleanness: Living with a holy God requires separation from all that is unclean and atonement for defilement 11:1--15:33

2. National Cleansing--Day of Atonement: Living with a holy God requires an established cultural pattern of national cleansing through the Day of Atonement 16:1-34

a. Priestly Preparation: 16:1-4

b. The Two Goats: 16:5-10

c. The Sin Offerings: 16:11-22

d. Rituals for Cleansing: 16:23-28

e. Enactment of the Day of Atonement: 16:29-34

3. Sacrificial Blood: Living with a holy God requires that the blood of sacrifice be for the altar representing the life given for atonement 17:1-16

B. Morality in Life and Ritual: Living with a holy God requires an established cultural pattern of morality in life and ritual for one to continue in the community and for Israel to continue in the land 18:1--27:34

1. Characterized by Holiness: Living with a holy God requires each individual and priest to be characterized by holiness in their daily life: 18:1--22:33

a. Various Laws and Punishments: 18:1--20:27

1) Basic Principles of Sexual Behavior: 18:1-30

2) Principles of Neighborliness: 19:1-37

3) Capital and Other Grave Crimes: 20:27

b. Rules for Priestly Holiness: 21:1--22:33

1) The Holiness of Priests: 21:1-24

2) The Holiness of Cultic Gifts and Offerings: 22:1-33

2. Required Convocations of Scheduled Worship for the Nation--Consecration of Seasons: 23:1-44

3. Holiness in Ritual--Rules for the Tabernacle: 24:1-9

4. Death in Blasphemy--A Test Case: 24:10-23

5. Treatment of the Land and Consequences--Sabbath Years: 25:1--26:46

a. Sabbatical and Jubilee Years: 25:1-55

b. Announcement of Blessings and Cursings: 26:1-46

1) Blessings: 26:1-13

2) Cursings: 26:14-39

3) The Rewards of Contrition: 26:40-46

6. Dedicatory Gifts: The possessions of YHWH, designated by gift or divine right, are to be treated as Holy 27:1-34

a. Persons: 27:1-8

b. Animals: 27:9-13

c. Property: 27:14-29

d. Redemption of Tithes: 27:30-34


1 The outline is developed with the use of the following sources: R. K. Harrison, Leviticus An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1980); Gordon Wenham The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979); Martin North, Leviticus: A Commentary (Translated by J. E. Anderson, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962, 1965, 1977); Philip E. Powers, Analysis of Leviticus (a paper presented in 371 Seminar in the Pentateuch, DTS, Fall 1989); Elliott E. Johnson, Analytical Outline of Leviticus (notes given in 371 Seminar in the Pentateuch, DTS, Fall 1989).

2 These chapters are addressed to the people in general (including the priests) prescribing the basic modes of sacrifice to be presented to God in the sanctuary. The sacrifices prescribed in chapters 1--3 could be offered on a variety of celebrations be they public, private, voluntary and obligatory.

3 Baruch A. Levine writes, Chapter 1 deals with the sacrifice called ‘olah which was burned to ashes on the altar of burnt offerings. No part of it was eaten, either by priests or donors. The ‘olah could consist of male herd cattle (vv. 3-9), or male flock animals (vv. 10-13), or of certain birds (vv. 14-17). Despite some differences in detail, the procedures for all burnt offerings, or holocausts, were quite similar: The sacrifice was presented at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting; the donor laid his hand on the victim, thereby designating it for a particular rite; and blood from the sacrificial victim was dashed on the altar in appropriate ways (Leviticus hrqyw The JPS Torah Commentary: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation. [Philadelphia: The Jewish Publiication Society, 1989], 3-4).

4 This offering could also be used for a number of occasions and was less costly than the burnt offerings above. Levine writes, Chapter 2 outlines the different types of minhah, listing them according to their different methods of preparation. The ingredients were usually the same for the various offerings: The minhah was made of semolina, the choice part of wheat that was taken from the inner kernels; olive oil was mixed into the dough or smeared on it; and frankincense was applied to it, enhancing the taste. The minhah could be prepared on a griddle, in a pan, or in an oven. A fistful of the dough, with the oil and frankincense added, was burned on the altar. The rest was prepared in one of the accepted ways, to be eaten by the priests in the sacred precincts of the sanctuary. Since the first of dough was burned on the altar, grain offerings could not be made with leavened dough, as is discussed further on, and they had to be salted.

Verses 14-16 digress somewhat from the pattern of the chapter as a whole. They ordain a special minhah of first fruits (bikkurim), which consisted of nearly ripe grain from the new crop. The grain was roasted and then made into grits (Leviticus, 9).

5 Levine writes, Whereas the ‘olah of chapter 1 was completely consumed by the altar fire, an in this way given over to God entirely, the zevah was a sacred meal in which sections of the sacrifice were shared by the priests and donors of the offering. Only certain fatty portions of the animal were burned on the altar as God's share. Continuing, Whereas the minhah could be eaten only by priests, the eating of the zevah was not so restricted. Thus it clearly represents a distinctive mode of sacrifice whose presentation expressed its purpose: to afford the worshipers the experience of joining together with the priests in a sacred meal at which God Himself was perceived to be the honored guest (Leviticus, 14).

6 Levine writes, Offered for the purpose of securing God's forgiveness, their presentation was obligatory, pursuant to transgressions of religious law, committed either by omission or through inadvertent violations. In most cases, the sacrifice served to remove the charge against the offenders and to restore them to a proper relationship with God and to fit membership in the religious community.

It should be emphasized here, as the workings of the sacrificial system are introduced to the reader, that the laws of the Torah did not permit Israelites to expiate intentional or premeditated offenses by means of sacrifice. There was no vicarious, ritual remedy--substitution of one's property or wealth--for such violations, whether they were perpetrated against other individuals or against God Himself. In those cases the law dealt directly with the offender, imposing real punishments and acting to prevent recurrences. The entire expiatory system ordained in the Torah must be understood in this light. Ritual expiation was restricted to situations where a reasonable doubt existed as to the willfulness of the offense. Even then, restitution was always required where loss or injury to another person had occurred. The mistaken notion that ritual worship could atone for criminality or intentional religious desecration was persistently attacked by the prophets of Israel, who considered it a major threat to the entire covenantal relationship between Israel and God (Leviticus, 3).

7 Whereas the earlier chapters provided the people with the mechanics of preparation and ingredients for the sacrifices, these verse provide the priests with the ritual for each of the sacrifices so that they may not be defiled. They also delineate which portions of the sacrifices are for the priests as their share (except for the whole burnt sacrifices). Levine writes, it should be remembered that--except for the burnt offering of chapter 1, the priestly minhah of 6:12-16, and the priestly hatta't of 4:1-21--most sacrifices were meant to be eaten, usually by priests and on occasion even by the donors (Leviticus, 34).

Elsewhere Levine says concerning the logic of this unit, We observe in chapters 6-7 an administrative order that begins with the most sacred public offerings that are usually relegated to private worship. The law then proceeds to outline offerings of lesser sanctity that also fall within the category of private worship. Finally, 7:35-38 summarizes the allocations of parts of the sacrificial offerings as the share (mishhah) of priests, their portions of the Lord's offerings by fire (Ibid., 35).

8 Levine writes, The priests received their emoluments in several forms, all in return for their services on behalf of the Israelite people. This principle is reflected in the provisions of 6:12-16 [Hebrew], namely, the law governing the High Priest's grain offering, which was completely burned on the altar. This passage illustrates the rule that priests may not be compensated for sacrifices performed on their own behalf but only for services rendered to others.

The occurrence of this law in chapter 6 has been viewed as a problem because it seems to interrupt the continuity of the rest of the chapter. It was most likely inserted here because of its general topical relationship to grain offerings, the subject of verses 7-11, which immediately precede it (Leviticus, 34).

9 See 4:1-21; 8:17; 16.

10 This was a matter of concern because so many parts of the peace offerings were handled by ordinary Israelites outside of the sanctuary (Leviticus, 44).

Concerning being cut off Levine writes, At some early stage karet probably involved actual banishment. Karet was often combined with more stringent punishments, even death. It is sometimes perceived as punishment meted out directly by God, in contrast to that imposed by the community and its leaders for offenses committed against God. Karet was inflicted for a variety of religious sins, such as desecration of the Sabbath, eating leaven on Passover, or committing adultery. Although this group excluded most crimes against persons, it included certain crimes 'between man and man' when those involved oaths taken in God's name or the misappropriation of sanctuary property. Even the withholding of testimony had a sacred aspect to it (Leviticus, 18).

11 See 8:22 where an offering was done for the investing of Aaron and his sons with their office.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines