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3. Analysis And Synthesis Of Leviticus

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The analysis and synthesis approach to biblical studies applied here to Leviticus is a methodology developed by the author (DeCanio, 2007) in conjunction with his doctoral studies at the University of South Africa. An abbreviated version of this work entitled, Biblical Hermeneutics and a Methodology for Studying the Bible, will be posted as an article on bible.org.

The bibliography for this study of Leviticus is presented at the end of the article, Introduction to the Pentateuch.

Analysis Of The Context

The aim of this analysis is to consider aspects of the context in which the book of Leviticus was written, such as its authorship, recipients, time period of historical events and composition, and its biblical context, which may be useful in understanding the book as a whole.

Authorship

The Book of Leviticus, like all the other books of the Pentateuch, is anonymous, having no explicit indication of authorship. While the text makes it abundantly clear that the Law was given to Israel through Moses (see, for example, the many statements “Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 4:1;5:14; 6:1, 8; etc.), nowhere does it ever state that Moses wrote down what he heard. In view of Scriptural support for Mosaic authorship for whole of the Pentateuch (see the Introduction to the Pentateuch for a discussion of this issue), and in view of the intimately close association of Leviticus with the Book of Exodus where it explicitly states that Moses wrote down all that Yahweh said (Exod 24:4), it is reasonable to assume Mosaic authorship of Leviticus.

Recipients

The Book of Leviticus is specifically addressed to the sons of Israel (see, for example, 1:2; 4:2; 7:23; and 11:2), and Aaron and his descendants (see, for example, 6:9; and 8:2). In view of the fact that the covenant Israel entered into was not just for the Exodus generation, but for all succeeding generations, Moses’ wider audience must necessarily include later generations of Israelites as well.

Time Period Of Historical Events And Composition

Date Of Events

There are no chronological indicators in the Book of Leviticus and so the date of the events in this book must be determined from chronological data given in other books of the Pentateuch. The Book of Leviticus begins with “Then Yahweh called to Moses and spoke to him from within the tent of meeting, saying, . . . “(1:1). This statement shows strong continuity with the Book of Exodus with then connecting the instructions of Leviticus with the closing of Exodus (see, for example, Exod 40:34-38). From this perspective, it is known from Exodus 40:17 that the Tabernacle was erected on the first day of the first month of the second year from the Exodus. Further, it is known from the Book of Numbers that Yahweh spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai from in the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month of the second year (Num 1:1). This would date the giving of the instructions recorded in Leviticus in the first month of the second year from the Exodus, or in the Spring of the year 1445 B.C. (assuming a date of 1446 B.C. for the Exodus as argued for in the Introduction to the Pentateuch). Thus it would seem, that the giving of the Law recorded in the Book Leviticus occurred over a one month period of time.

Date Of Composition

Assuming Mosaic authorship, the Book of Leviticus would have to have been written sometime between the beginning of the second year from the Exodus and the end of the fortieth year when Moses died (Deut 34:5-7)—sometime between 1445 and 1406 B.C. More likely, Moses would have immediately written down the instructions from Yahweh as he had received them, even as he did for the instructions recorded in the Book of Exodus (Exod 24:4). Assuming this to be the case, Leviticus could have been written as early as 1445 B.C.

Biblical Context

The biblical context consists of three components; the historical element, the socio–cultural element, and the theological element. Before discussing these elements, it is important to consider the relationship with the Book of Exodus.

Relationship With The Book Of Exodus

The close relationship between the books of Exodus and Leviticus is seen in terms of their historical and theological relationships.

Historical Relationship

The Book of Leviticus is, from a historical perspective, a sequel to, or, more likely, a continuation of, the Book of Exodus (Lindsey 1985:163). This evident in several ways. First, the Levitical sacrificial system was a divine revelation to Israel through Moses as a part of the covenant obligation given at Sinai. In this sense it completes the revelation given in Exodus which details the Tabernacle in terms of its component parts and its construction. Leviticus completes this revelation by informing Israel the function of the Tabernacle in their covenant-relationship with Yahweh. Further, the Book of Leviticus opens with Yahweh calling to Moses from within the now completed Tabernacle (1:1). Thus the laws of sacrifice, worship, and holiness contained in Leviticus follows the historical narrative concerning the construction of the Tabernacle (Exod 25-40), and the subsequent indwelling of Yahweh in the Tabernacle (Exod 40:34-35). A consideration of Exodus 40:2, 17, and Numbers 1:1 and 10:11 indicates that the events of the Book of Leviticus took place over a period of one month, during which time Israel remained at Sinai. Therefore, historically, chronologically, and, as next discussed, theologically, Leviticus correctly follows Exodus and precedes Numbers.

Theological Relationship

The Levitical sacrificial system was instituted by God for a people he had redeemed from Egypt at the time of the Passover and brought into covenant-relationship with himself at Sinai (Lindsey 1985:164). Thus to offer a sacrifice to Yahweh was not human effort seeking to obtain favor with a hostile God, but a response to Yahweh who had first given Himself to Israel in covenant-relationship. Rather the function of the Levitical sacrifices is to restore fellowship with Yahweh whenever sin or impurity, whether moral or ceremonial, disrupted this fellowship. The individual or the nation (whichever was the case) needed to renew covenant fellowship through sacrifice, the particular sacrifice depending on the exact circumstance of the disruption.

Further, while Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Yahweh (Exod 19:6), the people needed to be instructed on how to achieve this lofty goal. The Book of Leviticus informs Israel in practical terms what it means for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Thus Leviticus provides the practical theology that is missing in the Book of Exodus. For all practical purposes there should be no division between the Books of Exodus and Leviticus; they form one book.

Historical Element

The Book of Exodus ends with the erection of the Tabernacle which was constructed according to the pattern God gave to Moses. The question that now needed to be addressed was, “How was Israel to use the Tabernacle?” The instructions given to Moses during the one month and 20 days between the setting up of the Tabernacle (Exod 40:17) and the departure of Israel from Sinai (Num 10:11) and recorded in the Book of Leviticus answers that question. Thus, both historically and theologically, the Book of Leviticus completes the Book of Exodus and forms a historical and theological bridge to the Book of Numbers, and beyond that to the Book of Deuteronomy, for the historical and theological presuppositions found in the last two books of the Pentateuch are rooted in the Books of Exodus and Leviticus.

Historically, it is significant to note that at the beginning of the Book of Leviticus Moses is outside the Tabernacle (Lev 1:1), while at the beginning of the book of Numbers he is inside the Tabernacle (Num 1:1). It is important to note here that the “tent of meeting” referred to in Exodus 33:7-11 is not the Tabernacle which was constructed later. Further, only Moses was inside the tent, for the presence of Yahweh, localized in the pillar of cloud, would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent. The Book of Exodus ends with Yahweh on the inside of the Tabernacle/tent of meeting and Moses outside not able to enter because the glory of Yahweh filled the Tabernacle (Exod 40:35). The Book of Leviticus begins with Yahweh on the inside of the Tabernacle calling to Moses on the outside (Lev 1:1). One month later (see, for example, Exod 40:2, 17 and Num 10:11 for chronological data) Moses was on the inside speaking with Yahweh (Num 1:1). This is representative of the historical fact that there is progression in relationship as a result of the Law given in Leviticus.

Socio-Cultural Element

The socio-cultural aspect of the biblical context for Leviticus does not change from beginning to end as Israel is camped at Mount Sinai for the entire month that this book deals with chronologically. Thus, in effect, the socio-cultural context for Israel is the same as it was at the end of Exodus. However, it was now be recognized that the laws for worship and personal and national holiness revealed in Leviticus establishes a unique culture which serves to separate Israel to Yahweh to be for him a kingdom of priests and holy nation. From this point on, this is the dominant aspect Israel’s socio-cultural context by which all the other writings in the Old Testament as well as the Gospels must be understood.

Theological Element

The theological element for Leviticus looks back on Genesis and Exodus and subsumes all of their theological revelations as its context. However, major additions to this context must be made as Yahweh reveals Himself through the laws of what is acceptable for approaching him in the Tabernacle, and through the laws of personal and national holiness. These laws not only provide theological insight into the person and nature of God, but also establish the theological framework in terms of the Levitical sacrificial system and priesthood within which the Tabernacle is to function. Thus they add significantly to the theological context within which the rest of the Old Testament, and the Gospels as well, must be understood.

Analysis Of The Text

Broad Descriptive Overview

Chapter

Descriptive Summary

1

Instructions for the burnt offering

2

Instructions for the grain offering

3

Instructions for the peace offering

4

Instructions for the sin offering for priests

 

Instructions for the sin offering for the whole congregation

 

Instructions for the sin offering for a leader

 

Instructions for the sin offering for a member of the community

5

Instructions for the sin offering for an individual

 

Instructions for the trespass/Guilt offering

6

Instructions for the trespass/Guilt offering

 

The law for the burnt offering

 

The law for the grain offering

7

The law for the guilt offering

8

Consecration of priests

9

Inauguration of priesthood/priestly service

10

Failure of priests to obey the laws of offerings

11

Laws pertaining to clean and unclean food

12

Laws pertaining to the uncleanness of childbirth

13-14

Laws pertaining to skin diseases and mildew

15

Laws pertaining to bodily discharges

16

Laws pertaining to national cleansing on the Day of Atonement

17

Laws pertaining to the holiness of blood as the agent that effects atonement

18

Laws pertaining to the restriction of sexual relations

19

Laws pertaining to practical holiness before God and man

20

Laws pertaining to offenses which necessitate severe punishment

21

Laws pertaining to priestly holiness

22

Laws pertaining to sacrificial holiness

23

Laws pertaining to holy convocations/feasts

24

Laws pertaining to the holiness of the sanctuary and Yahwehs name

25

Laws pertaining to special observances

26

Laws pertaining to covenant blessings and curses

27

Laws pertaining to things consecrated/set apart to Yahweh

Major Theological Themes

According to Wenham (1992:16), the theology of Leviticus cannot be discussed apart from the other books of the Pentateuch. This is particularly so for those most closely related to it, namely, the books of Exodus and Numbers which come, respectively, before and after Leviticus both in canonical and chronological order. For instance, Wenham says, Exodus describes the cutting of the Sinai Covenant and the erection of the Tabernacle, both of which are fundamental to the theology of Leviticus. In addition, some of the theological presuppositions of Leviticus and Numbers stand out clearly.

Thus it is that within the context of a covenant-relationship between Yahweh and His redeemed people, and with Yahweh dwelling among His people in the Tabernacle, that the details of worship, the worshipper’s approach to Yahweh, and the requirements of dwelling in the presence of the holy God are presented. From this perspective, the two most important themes in the Book of Leviticus are the demands of worship, involving the sacrificial offering system and the observance of the holy convocations administered by the Aaronic priesthood, and the demands of practical holiness.1

Worship: The Sacrificial Offering System

The language of worship pervades the book, with the various components of worship expressed in key terms: the term sacrifice occurs about 42 times, priest about 189 times, blood about 86 times, holy about 87 times, and atonement about 45 times.

The very heart of the covenant-relationship—fellowship between Yahweh and His people—and the means of achieving it are spelled out in the opening statement of Leviticus where, with respect to the burnt offering, Yahweh says, “He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that he will be acceptable to Yahweh” (Lev 1:3). The fact that the covenant between Yahweh and Israel was modeled after those of the ancient Near East in both form and function allows one to understand the many cultic details recorded in the Pentateuch. In the case of the Book of Leviticus, the sacrificial offerings were designed to demonstrate the subservience of Israel to her Sovereign, to atone for her offenses against Him, and to reflect the harmoniousness and peaceableness of the relationship thus established or reestablished. In this regard, the burnt offering (Lev 1) and the grain offering (Lev 2) serve to identify the offerer as a servant (vassal) of the King (Suzerain), and as one who dared not come before his king empty-handed. The sin offering (Lev 4) and the trespass, or guilt, offering (Lev 5) serve to restore a relationship that had become disrupted because of the servant’s disobedience. They were his recompense to an offended lord. The peace, or fellowship offerings (Lev 3) constituted an expression of thanksgiving by the vassal for a state of fellowship that currently existed. They were freewill, non-obligatory testimonies to a heart filled with thanksgiving and praise for the benevolence and goodness of Yahweh.

Important from the New Testament’s perspective is the fact that it describes Christ’s death in terms of Old Testament sacrifices. For example, 1 John 1:2 declares that Christ is “the atoning sacrifice for our sins,” and Hebrews 9:22 states that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Further, significant sections of the Book of Hebrews draws upon the ceremonies and rituals of Leviticus to explain the work of Christ, including specific reference to the sin offering (see, Heb 13:11-12).

The role of the priests in mediating these sacrificial offerings is also an integral part of the sacrificial system. The priest, though functioning as a mediator between the worshiper and Yahweh, was also a vassal and likewise subject to the same demands and even more so for he had to follow proper protocol in his ministry on behalf of the people. He carried out the prescribed ritual relative to the various offerings as a special servant of Yahweh, and as such he had special responsibilities as well as special privileges. As a special servant of Yahweh the priest enjoyed a portion of the tribute for himself (7:28-36). As a special servant of Yahweh, he was appointed and consecrated (Lev 8), instructed in the appropriate means of sacrificial intercession (Lev 9) and was held strictly accountable to the laws of the Levitical system (10:1-3). Though his office was privileged, his ministry required unique canons of integrity and conduct (10:8-15). The priest was to be a holy man serving a holy God on behalf of a holy people. The essence of the priestly ministry is articulated in Leviticus 10:10-11: “. . to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which Yahweh has spoken to them through Moses.”

The Concept Of Sacrifice

According to Harrison (1985:599), the general principle undergirding the concept of an offering appears to have been that of property (2 Sam 24:24). However, whereas it was legitimate to sacrifice domesticated animals and birds, which were in a sense the property of man through his own enterprise, it was not permissible for wild animals to be sacrificed, since they were regarded as already belonging to God (see, for example, Ps 50:10). The basic theme of property was more evident in the case of vegetable and grain offerings since they would have been produced as a result of human labor.

The concept of sacrifice, or offering is clearly important to understanding the Levitical system of worship and sacrifice. One of the basic terms found in the Old Testament which expresses the concept of “offering” is the Hebrew term qorban which is derived from the verb meaning “to bring near.” Qorban is a generic term for anything presented to God when one approaches (karav) His sanctuary. A qorban might consist of artifacts and vessels, votive objects, or sacrificial victims. When sacrifices were offered, the individual came to draw near to God, with the hope that the sacrifice would be accepted and that his sin would then be atoned for. Since it aroused the wrath of God, the sacrifice was presented to appease the wrath of a holy God. Thus the goal of the worshiper was to be reconciled with Yahweh through the offering of a sacrifice.

Sin must be judged, and God reckons that judgment on the sacrifice as a substitute for the sinner, and He accepts the death of the sacrifice as a ransom for sin. God introduced this idea of redemption in conjunction with the Exodus where the death of the Passover lamb served as a substitute to redeem the life of the first-born. Here in Leviticus, the concept of redemption from sin is made more clear through the blood sacrifice of the animal. The animal sacrifice serves as the type pointing to the anti-type, Christ, the ultimate and perfect sacrifice for sin. Isaiah 53 provides clear revelation that God poured out His wrath on this “sacrifice to come” because of the iniquity of His people. Thus the animal sacrifice typified the ultimate sacrifice that Christ would make on the cross, and while it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin, Christ, having offered Himself once as a sacrifice for sin, perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Heb 10:1-18).

The Role Of The Worshiper

With few exceptions (such as a sin offering for the whole congregation or the offering of small birds by a poor person), the ritual, as LaSor (1990:153) has observed, up to the point of placing the sacrifice on the altar, is the same for all offerings. The worshiper, he notes, was to present his offering personally at the altar or the door of the Tent of Meeting. In this context, the offering was to represent the worshiper’s own life—an animal he had raised or grain he had grown—and was to be of superior value (generally a male animal without blemish,2 or fine flour, or the best of first fruits). In all situations, the economic status of the worshiper was taken into consideration.

In this exchange, the worshiper then placed his hands on the head of the sacrifice, likely indicating personal identification, a sign that the animal was dying in his place3 (1:4). Since the ritual of the Day of Atonement clearly stipulates that confession was to be made with the laying on of hands, it seems reasonable to conclude that this was a part of every ritual of sacrifice which involved the laying on of hands. In the cases of the sin and guilt sacrifices specific sins are mentioned, and it is reasonable to conclude here that the worshiper was required to confess the specific sin that he was aware of as he laid hands on the victim. It was then the responsibility of the offerer to slaughter the animal near the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard, and prepare the sacrifice by cutting it in pieces.

The Role Of The Priest

As the worshiper slaughtered the animal, the priest caught the blood in a basin, sprinkled some of the blood on the altar, and poured the rest around its base. Depending on the kind of sacrifice, the priest burned all or part of the animal, Yahweh’s portion, on the altar of burnt offering. The fat, which was considered the best part, was always burned (3:16). Except for the burnt offering and certain parts of the sin offering, part of the animal could be eaten by the priest, the offerer, or both.

The Significance Of The Blood

It is clear from the text of Leviticus that in all the laws of the offerings the blood of the sacrifice is emphasized. The physical significance of the blood is evident from the text; the shedding of the blood means the death of the victim—”the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11a). The theological significance of the blood is explicitly stated in the text; the blood was given to make atonement—”I (Yahweh) have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (17:11b). Since it is the blood of the sacrifice that effects atonement, the death of the animal becomes efficacious for the one offering the sacrifice. This transfer takes place as the one making the sacrifice identifies himself with the victim through the laying on of hands. Thus the death of the offering is understood as a substitute for the death of the worshiper—the penalty for sin is death, but the animal dies in the place of the sinner. The theological significance of the blood, then, is to effect atonement by substitution, a theological concept known as substitutionary atonement.

Significance Of Old Testament Sacrifice: The Concept Of Atonement

Lindsey (1985:164) has noted that under the Levitical law, sacrifice was given by God as the only sufficient means for the sons of Israel to approach Him and to remain in harmonious fellowship with Him.4 The effective means by which this was accomplished was through the principle of atonement through substitutionary sacrifice (see, for example, 1:3-5; 4:4-5:13; 5:14-18; 16:5-27). The traditional view that the sacrifices only “covered” sin fails to do justice to the real forgiveness that was granted by God (see, for example, 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7).

Lindsey (1985:174) adds that the purpose of the sacrificial enactment, as defined in Leviticus, was to effect “atonement” on behalf of the person offering the sacrifice. The Hebrew verb kipper, translated into English as meaning “to atone,” has been related to the comparatively late Arabic word kafara, “to cover”; to the Akkadian term kuppuru, “to wipe away,” and to the Hebrew noun kopher, “ransom.” The latter term best suits the specific purpose of Israelite sacrifice theory as elaborated in Leviticus 17:11, which identified the life with the blood and laid down the principle that the blood “makes atonement by reason of the life.” The animal victim thus constituted a substitute for the human sinner, and the offering of its life in sacrifice effected a vicarious atonement for sin. The Hebrew sacrificial system must, however, always be envisaged against a background of the Covenant principle of divine grace. In this context the emphasis upon the categories of personal relationship with God can only be properly understood within the theological framework of a theory of substitution where the chosen victim dies in the place of the human sinner.

It is not easy to decide from the text if the sacrificial offering was meant to be a propitiation of divine anger as well as an expiation for human sin, for while there are undoubtedly some instances where the verb signifies “propitiation” (Exod 32:30; Num 16:41 ff.), there are others where it simply means “to cleanse,” as, for example, with the furnishings of the Tabernacle (Exod 29:37; Ezek 43:20). Yet it seems that where it is used to refer to atonement with respect to man, there is always in the background the fact of divine wrath. Thus, it would seem that of necessity the atonement effected through substitutionary sacrifice involves not only expiation of the sin, but also the propitiation of the divine Lawgiver in order that the relationship between God and man be restored. It would seem, therefore, that expiation had the effect of making propitiation—turning away divine wrath by a satisfactory, substitutionary sacrifice. This understanding seems valid in light of Paul’s declaration that man is justified by God’s grace through faith in the redemption which is in Christ, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation (Rom 3:21-25).5 What is very clear from Leviticus is that man as a sinner incurs divine wrath, that God has provided the sacrificial system in order that human transgressors might return in penitence to fellowship with Him, and that God has graciously permitted the death of a sacrificial victim as a substitute for the death of the sinner.

Finally, it should be noted that the Hebrew sacrificial system was not by any means, Lindsey (1985:165) says, to be a complete and final scheme whereby all forms of sin could be removed. Much of the atonement procedure was concerned with sins accidentally committed, sins inadvertently committed, or sins of omission; there was no forgiveness for sins committed as a result of sheer human stubborn persistence in wrong doing (Num 15:30), which by definition placed a man outside the range of Covenant mercies (see, for example, Lev 20). In the main, it can be stated that for breaches of the Covenant agreement no form of sacrifice was of any avail. It is in the light of this latter consideration that the cultic denunciations of the prophets and their rejection of sacrifice need be interpreted (see, for example, Isa 1:11-14). Although the prophets sometimes gave the impression that sacrifices were useless, the purpose of such preaching was to shake the people out of their lethargy. Ritual for ritual sake was wrong (see, for example, 1 Sam 15:22). What was required was for the worshiper to bring a sacrifice with a repentant heart (Isa 1:16-18).

The Sacrificial Offerings

Five offerings were included in the so-called Levitical law which Yahweh revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai. One of these, always referred to in the plural as the “peace offerings,” consisted of three somewhat different offerings; the thank offering, the votive offering, and the freewill offering. Hence, there were seven offerings in all. Since all but the “grain offering” involved the killing of an animal, these offerings are often referred to as (blood) “sacrifices.”6

The Burnt Offering

The burnt offering—the concept coming from the Hebrew verb olah meaning “that which goes up” (probably so called because the whole sacrifice “went up” in smoke to God)—was distinct in that it was totally consumed on the altar except for the hide or the crop of the bird (Lindsey 1985:173). This seems to be the oldest designated sacrifice (see, for example, Gen 8:20) and the most frequent form of Israel’s sacrifices. Lindsey has noted that, like all the Levitical sacrifices, the underlying purpose of the burnt offering was to secure atonement for sins (1:4; see also, for example, Num 15:24-25), though its more immediate purpose was to express total dedication to Yahweh. The verbal picture of a “sweet aroma” ascending to God’s nostrils is figurative language describing God’s pleasure with the offering and His acceptance of the individual approaching Him (1:9). Although burnt offerings were prescribed for regular daily, weekly, and monthly occasions (see, for example, Exod 29:38-42; Num 28:9-10, 11-15), and as part of the sacrifices offered on the occasion of annual festivals (see, for example, Lev 23), they could also be brought voluntarily by an individual (see, for example, Lev 14:19-20; 15:14-15; 22:17-20).

The Grain Offering

The grain offering— the minhah, which outside of the Levitical system could refer to any gift or offering; see, for example, Gen 4:3-5; Judges 6:18; 1 Sam 2:17, 29; Mal 2:13), was normally a coarsely ground grain, either wheat or barley, mixed with olive oil and topped with frankincense (Lindsey 1985:176). This offering was to be free of leaven and honey (2:11), but was to be salted like all offerings for the altar (2:13). While a grain offering could be offered by itself as a distinct sacrifice (e.g., 2:14-16; 6:14; Num 5:15), its more common use was as an accompaniment to either a burnt or a peace offering. In particular, it always accompanied peace offerings (7:12-14; see, for example, Num 15:4) and normally accompanied burnt offerings, especially the calendrical offerings (Num 28-29). Behind the idea of the grain offering was the recognition that as grain was the primary food for maintaining life, so God was the true source of life and substance and therefore everything the worshiper had belonged to God. From this concept comes the idea that the grain offering was the worshiper’s dedication offering, dedicating everything he had to Yahweh from whom it all had come.

The Peace Offerings

The peace offerings— generally described in Leviticus collectively by the Hebrew term shelamim—a derivative of the term shalom meaning “completeness,” “soundness,” “welfare,” “peace”—always appears in the plural and has been traditionally translated “peace offerings.” These offerings are further quantified in Leviticus by the Hebrew term zevah which in English means a “sacrifice.” Zevah is the common and most ancient sacrifice whose essential rite was eating the flesh of the victim at a feast in which the god of the clan shared by receiving the blood and fat pieces. Thus, zevah, the general name for all sacrifices which are eaten at feasts, qualifies the peace offerings as including a communal meal as part of the rite.

Since the Hebrew concept of peace includes health, prosperity, and peace with God, some translate it as a sacrifice of “well-being,” while others understand it as a “fellowship” offering because of its distinctive feature of the communal meal after the sacrifice. The peace offering parallels the burnt offering in form but, apparently, not in function as no mention is made of the peace offering effecting atonement, although this might be implied in the normal laying on of hands, the slaying of the animal, the manipulation of the blood, and the burning of the fat portions on the altar, which is virtually identical with the ritual of the sin offering which is the most explicit atoning sacrifice.

Lindsey (1985:178) observes that the proper classification of the peace offerings (and its sub-categories discussed below) is that of communal offering because of the communal meal which climaxed the sacrifice. The peace offering was a time of great rejoicing before Yahweh (Deut 12:12, 18-19; 27:7; 1 Kings 8:64-65). It was a time in which the worshipers, their families, and a Levite from their community (and also the poor during the Feast of Weeks, Deut 16:11) shared a major portion of the sacrificial meal together before Yahweh (7:11-36).

While the peace offering was primarily an optional sacrifice. It had its function in other aspects of the Levitical system (Lindsey 1985:178). For example, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) was the only annual festival for which peace offerings were prescribed (23:19-20). But this offering was also prescribed for certain special ceremonies of covenant initiation (Exod 24:5) or renewal (Deut 27:7), consecration (see, for example, Exod 29:19-34; Lev 8:22-32; 9:8-21; 1 Kings 8:63) or de-consecration (fulfillment of a Nazarite vow, Num 6:14, 17), as well as for other occasions such as a successful military campaign (1 Sam 11:15).

Three subcategories of the peace offering (Lev 7:11-16) suggest occasions or motivations for bringing this sacrifice (Lindsey 1985:178). One is a thanksgiving offering—in Hebrew, the todah, meaning “confession” or “acknowledgment”—was the most common type (7:12-15; 22:9), almost synonymous with the peace offering itself (see, for example, 2 Chron 29:31; 33:16; Jer 17:26). This offering was brought as an acknowledgment to other individuals of God’s deliverance or blessing bestowed in answer to prayer (see, for example, Pss 56:12-13; 107:22; 116:17-19; Jer 33:11). Another type is the votive (vow) offering—in Hebrew, the neder—was a ritual expression of a vow (7:16; see, for example, 27:9-10), or the fulfillment of a vow (see, for example, Num 6:17-20). A third type is the freewill offering—in Hebrew, the nedavahwas brought to express devotion or thankfulness to God for some unexpected blessing (7:16; 22:18-23).

The Sin Offering

It is important to recognize, as Lindsey (1985:180) points out, that although the sin offering and the guilt offering, subsequently discussed, are distinguishable, they clearly have some definite similarities. This is especially the case with regards to their primary function as both can best be described as expiatory offerings.

Not all sins could be atoned for by means of a sin offering. Only sins committed unintentionally (these could be sins of omission as well as sins of commission; see, for example, Num 15:22-23) could be atoned for with a sin offering. The sin offering, however, did not cover were sins committed with a defiant attitude (see, for example, Num 15:30 which literally means “with a high hand”)—that is, sin with a purpose of being disobedient to God. For such cases as these, no sin offering could be brought by an individual (Lindsey 1985:180). The only hope for cleansing from such sins lay in the Day of Atonement ritual which provided yearly cleansing from “all their sins” (16:20), “so that they will be clean from all [their] sins” (16:30). The sin offering, therefore, was applicable only for sin not done in a spirit of rebellion against Yahweh and His covenant stipulations, whether they were sins of ignorance (Lev 4), sins without conscious intent (Lev 5), or intentional but non-defiant sins (such as for manslaughter where the act is committed without premeditation).

The Guilt Offering

The guilt or trespass offering— (asham), observes Lindsey (1985:183), was required whenever someone committed a “violation”—an act of misappropriation or denial to another (whether God or man) of his rightful due (see, for example, Num 5:12, 19; Josh 7:1; 22:20; 2 Chron 26:16, 18; 28:22-23). This offering covered violations such as defrauding someone, or trespassing upon another’s rights. When such acts came to light and were confessed, the wrong had to be made right with appropriate compensation. For example, if the violation could be assessed for monetary compensation, then the offender was required to bring the ram for the guilt offering as well as compensation in property or silver plus a 20 percent fine (5:16; 6:5). The violations covered by the laws of the guilt offering, pertain, Lindsey (1985:183) writes, to intentional misappropriation of sacred property (5:14-16) and service (see, for example, 14:12, 24), suspected transgressions of divine commands (5:17-19), and the violation of the property rights of others (6:1-7; see also, for example, 19:20-22; Num 5:6-10). The common denominator of the guilt offering, therefore, was an offense that caused damage or loss whether unintentional or deliberate, and either against God or man. The guilt offering, however, is also usually involved with ceremonial defilement and is associated with such ceremonies as the cleansing of a leper (14:1 ff.) or the purification of a women after childbirth (12:1 ff.).

The Summary Of The Offering

A tabular summary of the sacrificial offerings is presented below in Charts 1a and 1b in terms of their theological significance, nature, and disposition, and in terms of the actions of the worshiper and priest. (These charts are derived from Lindsey 1985:168-171; Harrison 1980:38; LaSor 1990:154-155; Hill & Walton 1991:125; and Archer 1985:250.)

Chart 1a. Summary of Levitical Sacrifices

Chart 1b Summary of Levitical Sacrifices

Typological Significance Of The Sacrificial Offerings

As has been previously noted, the animal sacrifice served as a type pointing to Christ, the antitype. The following summarizes the typological significance that some see in the various sacrificial offerings. A tabular summation of the typological relationship of the sacrifices is presented in Chart 2.

Chart 2. Typological relationship of the Levitical sacrifices to Christ

Typological Significance Of The Burnt Offering

While all of the animal offerings pointed to the death of Christ, the burnt offering typified Christ’s death not so much as bearing sin as accomplishing the will of God (Lindsey 1985:176). Christ was the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who gave himself in complete dedication to accomplishing God’s will. This is indicated in Hebrews 9:14: “Christ . . . offered Himself unblemished to God” (see also, for example, Eph 5:1-2; Phil 2:8; Heb 10:5-7).

Typological Significance Of The Grain Offering

The grain offering is normally found in conjunction with the burnt or peace/fellowship offerings. The typology of the grain may be understood, therefore, as being complimentary to these blood sacrifices, which typify the substitutionary value of Christ’s death on the cross, in the sense that they typify the person of Christ. For example, it may be that the fine flour speaks of His perfect, well-balanced humanity, the oil pictures the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Him at the Incarnation, the frankincense points to the moral fragrance of His person, and the absence of leaven illustrates His separateness from sin (Lindsey 1985:177).

Typological Significance Of The Peace Offering

The typology of the peace offering, Lindsey (1985:180) offers, pictures the fellowship that the New Testament believer has with God and with other believers on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross (1 John 1:3). This, Lindsey says, is one aspect of Christ’s “making peace through His blood which he shed on the cross” (Col 1:20). Clearly, as Paul reveals, “He Himself is our peace” (Eph 2:14).

Typological Significance Of The Sin Offering

The typology of the sin offering, according to Lindsey (1985:182), emphasizes the death of Christ as a satisfactory substitutionary sacrifice, a ransom, to provide for the forgiveness of sins (2 Cor 5:21; Eph 1:7).

Typological Significance Of The Guilt Offering

The typology of the guilt offering, Lindsey (1985:184) writes, stresses that aspect of Christ’s death which atones for the damage or injury done by sin. Isaiah foresaw the death of Christ as a “guilt offering” (Isa 53:10).

Summary Statement On The Levitical Sacrificial System

By way of summary, the Levitical sacrifices had a number of limitations.7 To begin with, it must be understood that the sacrifices were limited in their moral efficacy. Furthermore, it must be recognized that empty ritualism was never an acceptable option to God. Thus a truly acceptable sacrifice must be prompted by genuine faith and moral obedience to the revealed will of God (26:14-45, see especially 26:31; see also Pss 40:6-8; 51:16-17; Amos 5:21-24; Heb 10:5-10; 11:4, 6).

Second, it is important to understand that, with the possible exception of the Day of Atonement ritual, the sacrifices were limited in scope to certain kinds of personal sins. Further, they did not atone for the sin nature, for the imputed sin of Adam, nor did they include willful acts of sin committed in defiance of God. Therefore, the Levitical sacrificial system did not provide for a complete and final scheme whereby all forms of sin could be removed.

Third, the sacrifices were limited in purpose to the covenant preservation and renewal of a redeemed people. The Levitical sacrifices were a part of the worship of a redeemed people in covenant-relationship with their God. While members of the Exodus generation experienced regeneration and justification through faith in the blood of the Passover lamb, each new generation needed to likewise express faith (likely through their faithful celebration of the Passover and Day of Atonement festivals) before their worship of God would be acceptable and truly maintain fellowship with Him.

Fourth, except for the Day of Atonement ritual, the sacrifices were limited in scope and duration to one sin per sacrifice.. Although the forgiveness was temporary in the sense that each sin required another sacrifice, the forgiveness was real in the sense that God truly forgave the individual. This is consistent with Genesis 15:6 which reveals that God counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness.

Lastly, it must be noted that the efficacy of sacrifice was not inherent in the animals sacrificed or in any or all parts of the sacrificial ritual. Rather God provided atonement and forgiveness on the basis of the all-sufficient sacrifice that Jesus Christ would offer on the cross. His death was “a sacrifice of atonement” which God accepted as paid in full for the forgiveness which He had extended before the Cross (Rom 3:25). It is on the basis of Christ’s death alone as the one truly efficacious sacrifice for all sin that the Levitical sacrifices were validated, as it were, in the mind of God—Christ is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; see, for example, 1 Pet 1:19-20). It is evident from this that the efficacious value of the sacrifices was derivative rather than original. It is in this sense that the author of Hebrews asserts, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). Nevertheless, the spiritual benefits experienced by the Old Testament believers were just as real as the benefits experienced by New Testament believers.

In the final analysis, the Levitical sacrifices were efficacious for restoring the covenant-relationship. However, when offered in faith, it was also efficacious for the actual forgiveness of particular sins,. But this efficacy was derivative, needing to be validated by the one all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Worship: The Holy Convocations

The demands of holiness in approach to Yahweh also require strict adherence to the times of holy convocations appointed by Yahweh. These included the weekly Sabbath (23:3), and the yearly festivals of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:4-8), the Feast of First Fruits (23:9-14), the Feast of Pentecost (23:15-22), the Feast of Trumpets (23:23-25), the Day of Atonement (23:26-32), and the Feast of Tabernacles (23:33-44). In the context of the need to be a holy nation to Yahweh in covenant-relationship, Israel needed to be reminded of the unique set of circumstances by which they were called to that relationship. While the purpose of these convocations was multidimensional, it would seem that a major reason for them was to remind Israel of the historical basis for their worship, and to provide a context within which worship could be expressed to Yahweh for what He had done, was doing, and was yet going to do for Israel.

All of these festivals were associated with the agricultural season. To properly appreciate the importance of the seasonal associations of these festivals it is necessary to know at least the essentials of the climatic conditions of the Land of Israel. The wet season began late in the seventh month of Tishri with the early rains. Plowing began in the eighth month followed in the ninth month of Kislev by the planting of the grain crops (wheat and barley). The winter season was therefore a time of crop growth. The latter rains occur in about the first month of Abib/Nisan and end in the second month which begins the dry season. Harvesting began during the dry season–first barley and then wheat. The summer crops—grapes, olives, and fruits—ripened during the rain-less summer months and were gathered in before the early rains in the fall, which began the agricultural cycle all over again. A tabular summary, derived in part from Hannah (1985:127), is presented below in Chart 3 showing the relationship between the Hebrew calendar months, festivals, and agricultural seasons.

Chart 3. Summary of Hebrew Calendar Months, Festivals, and Seasons

The Passover

The Passover (pesah) was the first of three annual pilgrimage festivals and was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan (post-Exilic; formerly Abib, Exod 13:4), thereafter continuing as the Feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st. Nisan marked the beginning of the religious or sacred new year (Exod 12:2). The Hebrew term pesah is from a root meaning “to pass (or spring) over,” and signifies the passing over (sparing) of the house of Israel when the firstborn of Egypt were slain (Exod 12). The Passover itself refers only to the paschal supper on the evening of the 14th, whereas the following period, 15th to the 21st, is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exod 12; 13:1-10; Lev 23:5-8; Num 28:16-25; Deut 16:1-8).

Institution And Celebration

The purpose for its institution was to commemorate the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage and the sparing of Israel’s firstborn when God smote the firstborn of Egypt. In observance of the first Passover, on the 10th of Nisan the head of each family sets apart a lamb without blemish. On the evening of the 14th the lamb was slain and some of its blood sprinkled on the door posts and lintel of the house in which they ate the Passover as a seal against the coming judgment upon Egypt. The lamb was then roasted whole and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Any portion remaining was to be burned the next morning. Each was to eat in haste with loins girded, shoes on the feet, and staff in hand.

Later Observance

After the establishment of the priesthood and Tabernacle, the celebration of the Passover differed in some particulars from the Egyptian Passover. These distinctions were:

(a) the Passover lamb was to be slain at the sanctuary rather than at home (Deut 16:5-6);

(b) the blood was sprinkled upon the altar instead of the door posts;

(c) besides the family sacrifice for the Passover meal, there were public and national sacrifices offered each of the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Num 28:16-24);

(d) the meaning of the Passover was recited at the feast each year (Exod 12;24-27);

(e) the singing of the Hallel (Pss. 113-118) during the meal was later instituted;

(f) a second Passover on the 14th day of the second month was to be kept by those who were ceremonially unclean or away on a journey at the time of its regular celebration on the 14th of Nisan (Num 9:9-12).

The Passover was one of the three feasts in which all males were required to come to the sanctuary. They were not to appear empty-handed, but were to bring offerings as the Lord had prospered them (Exod 23:14-17; Deut 16:16-17). It was unlawful to eat leavened food after midday of the 14th, and all labor, with few exceptions, ceased. After appropriate blessings a first cup of wine was served, followed by the eating of a portion of the bitter herbs. Before the lamb and the unleavened bread were eaten, a second cup of wine was provided at which time the son, in compliance with Exodus 12:26, asked the father the meaning and significance of the Passover feast. An account of the Egyptian bondage and deliverance was recited in reply. The first portion of the Hallel (Pss. 113-114) was then sung and the paschal supper eaten, followed by the third and fourth cups of wine and the second part of the Hallel (Pss. 115-118).

The Feast Of Unleavened Bread

Both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which imme­diately followed, commemorated the Exodus, the former in remem­brance of God’s “passing over” the Israelites when He slew the firstborn of Egypt, and the latter, to keep alive the memory of their afflictions and God’s bringing them out in haste from Egypt (“bread of affliction” Deut 16:3). The first and last days of this feast were Sabbaths in which no servile work could be done, except the necessary preparation of food. The Passover season marked the beginning of the grain harvest in Palestine.

The Feast Of First Fruits

On the second day of Unleavened Bread (16th Nisan), a sheaf of the first fruits of the barley harvest was to be presented as a wave offering (23:9-11). The ceremony came to be called “the omer ceremony” from the Hebrew for sheaf, omer.

The Feast Of Weeks (Pentecost)

The Feast of Weeks was to be observed fifty days (seven weeks) after the Passover (Exod 34:22; Lev 23:15-22; Deut 16:9-10) and for this reason came to be known in New Testament times as “Pentecost” (see, for example, Acts 2:1). It is also called the “Feast of Harvest” (Exod 23:16) and the “Day of First-fruits” (Num 28:26).

The Feast of Weeks was a one-day festival in which all males were to appear at the sanctuary, and a Sabbath in which all servile labor was suspended. The central feature of the day was the offering of two loaves of bread for the people from the first fruits of the wheat harvest (23:17). As the omer ceremony signified the harvest season had begun, the presentation of the two loaves indicated its close. It was a day of thanksgiving in which freewill offerings were made (Deut 16:10-12). The festival day signified the dedication of the harvest to God as the provider of all blessings. Although it was a day of “sacred assembly” (23:21) in which there were an assortment of blood sacrifices, the Feast of Weeks was also a time to “rejoice before Yahweh” and to share with family members and with the poor the abundant provisions of food (Deut 16:10-12) that Yahweh had provided.

The Old Testament does not specifically give any historical significance for the day, the Feast of Weeks being the only one of the three great agricultural feasts which does not commemorate some event in Jewish history. Later tradition, on the basis of Exodus 19:1, taught that the giving of the law at Sinai was fifty days after the Exodus and Passover, and as a result shabu’ot has also become known as the Torah festival. The Book of Ruth, which describes the harvest season, is read at the observance of the Feast of Weeks. The significance of this day for the New Testament is set forth in Acts 2, when on the day of Pentecost the Church had its beginning with the pouring out of the Spirit on the believers gathered in Jerusalem.

The Feast Of Trumpets

The new moon of the seventh month (1st of Tishri) constituted the beginning of the civil new year and was designated as ro’sh hashshana, “the first of the year,” or yom teru’a, “day of sounding” (the trumpet). The blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn, occupied a significant place on several other occasions, such as the monthly new moon and the Year of Jubilee, but especially so at the beginning of the new year, hence its name—Feast of Trumpets. The Hebrew calendar actually began with the moon of Nisan in the spring at the beginning of the month (Exod 12:2), but since the end of the seventh month, Tishri, usually marked the beginning of the rainy season in Palestine when the year’s work of plowing and planting began, Tishri was constituted as the beginning of the economic and civil year. Business transactions, sabbatical years and jubilee years were all determined from the first of the seventh month.

The day was observed as a sabbatical feast day with special sacri­fices, and looked forward to the solemn Day of Atonement ten days later.

The Day Of Atonement

The annual Day of Atonement (yom hakkippurim) is set forth in Leviticus 16; 23:27-32 as the supreme act of national atonement for sin. It took place on the 10th day of the seventh month, Tishri, and fasting was commanded from the evening of the 9th day until the evening of the 10th day, in keeping with the unusual sanctity of the day. On this day an atonement was effected for the people, the priesthood, and for the sanctuary itself because it “dwelled with them in the midst of their uncleanness” (16:16).

This ritual was divided into two acts, one performed on behalf of the priesthood, and one on behalf of the nation Israel. The high priest, who had moved a week previous to this day from his own dwelling to the sanctuary, arose on the Day of Atonement, and having bathed and laid aside his regular high priestly attire, dressed himself in holy white linen garments, and brought forward a young bullock for a sin offering for himself and for his house. The other priests who on other occasions served in the sanctuary on this day took their place with the sinful congregation for whom atonement was to be made (16:17). The high priest slew the sin offering for himself and entered the holy of holies with a censor of incense, so that a cloud of incense might fill the room and cover the ark in order that he would not die. Then he returned with the blood of the sin offering and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat on the east, and seven times before the mercy seat for the symbolic cleansing of the holy of holies which was defiled by its presence among the sinful people. Having made atonement for himself, he returned to the court of the sanctuary.

The high priest next presented the two goats, which had been secured as the sin offering for the people, to the Lord at the door of the Tabernacle and cast lots over them; one lot marked to Yahweh, and the other for the scapegoat. The goat upon which the lot had fallen for Yahweh was slain, and the high priest repeated the ritual of sprinkling the blood as before. In addition, he cleansed the holy place by a seven-fold sprinkling, and lastly, cleansed the altar of burnt offering.

The high priest then took the live goat, the scapegoat, which had been left standing at the altar, and, laying hands upon it, confessed over it all the sins of the people. After that, the scapegoat was sent into an uninhabited wilderness bearing the iniquity of the nation of Israel, thus symbolizing the removal of Israel’s sins.

The Feast Of Tabernacles

The Feast of Tabernacles (hag hassukkot), the third of the pilgrimage feasts, was celebrated for seven days from the 15th to 21st day of Tishri, the seven month. It was followed by an eighth day of holy convocation with appropriate sacrifices (Lev 23:33 ff.; Num 29:12-38; Deut 16:13-15). It was also called “the Feast of Ingathering” (Exod 23:16) for the autumn harvest of the fruits and olives, with the ingathering of the threshing floor and the wine press, which occurred at this time (Lev 23:39; Deut 16:13). It was the outstanding feast of rejoicing in the year, in which the Israelites, during the seven day period, lived in booths or huts made of boughs in commemoration of their wilderness wanderings when their fathers dwelt in temporary shelters. The whole family was to recall the hardships of the past and to give thanks for the abundance of Canaan, the land in which their joy could “be complete” (Deut 16:25). According to Numbers 29:12-34, a large number of burnt offerings and one sin offering were sacrificed each day. Sacrifices were more numerous during this feast than at any other, consisting of the offering of 189 animals for the seven day period.

When the feast coincided with a sabbatical year, the law was read publicly to the entire congregation at the sanctuary (Deut 31:10-13). As Josephus and the Talmud indicate, new ceremonies were gradually added to the festival, chief of which was the simhat bet hashoebah, “the festival of the drawing of water.” In this ceremony a golden pitcher was filled from the pool of Siloam and returned to the priest at the Temple amid the joyful shouts of the celebrants, after which the water was poured into a basin at the altar (see, for example, John 7:37-38). At night the streets and temple court were illuminated by innumerable torches carried by the singing, dancing pilgrims. The booths were dismantled on the last day, and the eighth day which followed was observed as a sabbath day of holy convocation. The feast is mentioned by Zechariah as a joyous celebration in the Millennium (Zech 14:16).

On the twenty-second of the month a holy convocation brought to an end not only the Feast of Tabernacles but the whole cycle of feasts starting with the Passover. God had blessed His people both materially and spiritually, and they were never to forget all of His benefits (see, for example, Deut 8:10-14).

A Summary Of Israel’s Festivals

A tabular summary of the festivals (derived in part from Hill & Walton 1991:127; and Johnson 1987:12) is presented below in Chart 4 in terms of their occasion, theological significance, and correlation with Israel’s calendar.

Chart 4. Summary of Israel’s Festivals

Eschatological Significance Of The Feasts8

The eschatological significance of the Feasts is considered in the typological nature of the Feasts and typological significance of the Feasts.

Typological Nature Of The Feasts

That the feasts of Leviticus 23 are types which prophesied God’s redemptive program for Israel are well argued for by dispensationalists. More accurately translated as “appointed times,” these celebrations were integral, essential, and interdependent components of an annual cycle of worship which traced the progressive steps by which God would redeem a sinful and rebellious Israel and ultimately bring His covenant people into the blessings and joy of the Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom.

The typology of the first four feasts has historically been fulfilled; Passover predicted the death of Christ as Redeemer, Unleavened Bread the separated life of the redeemed, First Fruits the resurrection of Christ, and Weeks (or Pentecost) the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note here that the church was not foreshadowed by the Feast of Pentecost, for it is not revealed in the typology of any of the feasts. Rather, the church benefits from God’s fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham concerning the blessing of the nations, which blessing is fulfilled through the Seed of Abraham, namely, Christ (see Gal 3:16).

It is also important to recognize that leaven in the feasts expressed the idea of continuity, not sin. Thus, in the Feast of Unleavened Bread its absence pictured the break from dependence upon life in Egypt. Its presence in the loaves of Pentecost connected the first fruits of the barley crop with the end of the wheat harvest fifty days later, thus, typologically demonstrating the continuity between the resurrection of Christ and the pouring out of the Spirit. Because each feast was an essential part of the annual cycle, the historical typological fulfillment of the first four makes necessary an equally literal, future historical fulfillment for the last three.

Typological Significance Of The Feasts

While the historical significance of each feast is important in the religious and social life of the nation of Israel, it is their relation to the future that is most important—the feast as a type finds its fulfillment in the antitype, which for the most part has salvific and/or eschatological significance which is centered in Christ.

Feast of Passover: Scripture clearly indicates that the typology of this feast was fulfilled in Christ’s death on the cross. There He satisfied every requirement of the Passover lamb in His person and work. The prior identification of Christ as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist (John 1:29) and the later reference by Paul (1 Cor 5:7) to the sacrificial death of Christ as the typical fulfillment of the Passover, establish the identity of this antitype beyond controversy.

Feast of Unleavened Bread: The key to identifying the anti-type of this feast lies in its connection with the Passover, in particular, in noting the causal relationship between the two and the parallel in their antitypes, and in understanding the meaning of the type. In the context of the original Passover the leaven basically and historically represented a continuity between the old life in relation to Egypt and the new life in relation to Yahweh. Its domestic use assured a link from the daily bread of one day to the next. For a people who customarily used a piece of old dough to cause the new dough to rise, the prohibition of this substance for seven days, without further theological instruction, could only indicate a break in the continuity of their baking. In effect, this meant that as each day’s dough was kneaded without any old dough, or “leaven,” further separation occurred between the past and the present. Beginning immediately after the eating of the Passover lamb, the seven-day period coincided with the start of the Exodus and therefore made a complete break between the food prepared in Egypt and the food to be supplied by Yahweh. Redeemed people could not depend on their former masters for sustenance, even for the leavening effect of the old dough, for this constituted a clear continuity between the old life and the new. Thus, in this context, leaven, or more correctly, the lack of using it, symbolizes separation from the old life. Paul (1 Cor 5:6-8) related the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Passover in exhorting the Corinthian church to separate themselves from all that was of the old life. Therefore, the antitype of the type of the Feast of Leavened Bread is seen in the separation of the redeemed person from all association with the old life so that he may enter into the full supply of the new life.

Feast of First Fruits: The Apostle Paul strongly implies that the fulfillment of the festal type of First Fruits is found in the resurrection of Christ—”But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor 15:20-22). Although Paul does not here, or elsewhere, specifically state that the resurrection of Christ fulfilled this type, there can be little doubt concerning this conclusion.

Feast of Pentecost: There is no explicit New Testament indication that the festal type of the Feast of Weeks is fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, but the context in which His coming is portrayed strongly suggests that the Spirit is the antitype. Much of the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17 involved Christ’s teaching concerning His own departure and the Spirit’s coming. In John 16:7 He linked the two acts—”But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you.” The correct order of this sequence, in which Christ fulfilled the first three feasts before the Holy Spirit came, was understood by John as he later commented, “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). Thus, according to the understanding of the Apostle John, the coming of the Spirit followed the glorification of Christ which occurred when He was resurrected, and which itself was the fulfillment of the festal type encoded in the Feast of First Fruits.

Not only was the link between the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Spirit prophesied before these events took place, but it was also recognized afterwards as it becomes the basis of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. There can be no mistaking of the Apostle’s understanding of the meaning of the antitype of Pentecost and its organic link with the antitype of First Fruits as he proclaimed to the Jews that, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33). As the predicted resurrection of Christ had occurred seven weeks earlier on the very day the Jews celebrated the Feast of First Fruits, so the predicted coming of the Holy Spirit had occurred on the very day of the Feast of Pentecost.

Feast of Trumpets: Historically the Feast of Trumpets represented God’s call to the nation of Israel to prepare for the soul-searching, or repentance, of the Day of Atonement in anticipation of the Feast of Tabernacles. Typologically, the Feast of Trumpets will be fulfilled, in broad terms, in God’s call of His covenant people for their day of national repentance and receiving of Messiah. The Book of Zechariah indicates that in the day of Christ’s return the house of Israel will mourn His coming because He will enable them to understand that they killed Him at His first coming (Zech 12:10-11). Thus, associated with Christ’s return there will be repentance on the part of the remnant of Israel surviving the Tribulation. Further, the Book of Matthew indicates that in association with Christ’s return there will be the sounding of a great trumpet (Matt 24:29-31). On this basis it would seem that the typological fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets is seen in the coming again of Christ and the repentance of Israel’s remnant which will immediately follow.

Feast of the Day of Atonement: The historical concepts involved with the Day of Atonement include the idea of a national cleansing from sin, a complete cleansing from sin (16:30, 34), and a confession of sin (16:21) and the humbling of self before Yahweh (16:29; 23:27, 29, 32). Although historically it provided the means for cleansing the people of the last vestiges of the sins of the year, the Day of Atonement foreshadowed a far more significant cleansing to take place in Israel’s future. In view of the typical significance of all the feasts and the stress placed upon national cleansing on the Day of Atonement, this feast must find its fulfillment in a future repentance, humbling, and cleansing of Israel as a nation as a prerequisite for entrance into the messianic kingdom of which the Feast of Tabernacles is the festal type. It is just such a fulfillment which is described by the prophet Zechariah in his survey of Israel’s eschatological future (Zech 12:10-13:1). In this passage the basic elements of a national repentance together with its resultant cleansing from sin is quite evident. Thus, it would seem the antitype corresponds to the essential features of the type noted above.

Feast of Tabernacles: It has been noted that the cycle of feasts is typical, and that it foreshadows God’s entire program of redemption and blessing for Israel. In view of this, it is not surprising to understand the typological fulfillment of the last of Israel’s great feasts from the perspective of the prophesied messianic Davidic kingdom since this is the one component of the program not yet involved in that fulfillment. Historically, the Feast of Tabernacles was to be a celebration remembering the time when Yahweh had His people live in booths in the wilderness prior to bringing them into the Land of Promise. The celebration was to last seven days and it was to be a time of rejoicing before Yahweh (23:40). The eschatological significance, and thus typological fulfillment of this feast, is found in the Book of Zechariah where it is stated that after Christ returns to earth and the remnant of Israel repents, the Feast of Booths will be celebrated from year to year, not only by Israel, but as well by the nations which will be required to come to Jerusalem for the observance (Zech 14:16-19). Thus, the typological fulfillment of the Feast of Tabernacles is linked to worship in the Millennial kingdom which will the time of joy, par excellence. This age will see the realization of the protection foreshadowed in the ceremonial booths and in the great abundance of provision that will characterize that age and which will bring great joy to the people of the kingdom as they partake of the great blessings of those days.

Summary Of The Typological Significance Of The Feasts

A tabular summary of the typological significance of the feasts is presented below in Chart 5. This chart shows the correlation between the historical purpose of each feast and its typological significance and fulfillment.

Chart 5. Summary of Typological Significance of the Festivals

Special Observances

In addition to the holy convocations Israel was to observe two other periodical festivals, the Sabbatical Year, and the Year of Jubilee

Sabbatical Year

The shenat shabbaton, “year of rest” or sabbatical year, like the weekly sabbath, was designed by God with a benevolent purpose in view. Every seventh year the land was to lie fallow, the uncultivated increase to be left to the poor Israelite. Further, as noted in Deuteronomy 15:1, all debts were to be canceled in the sabbatical year.

According to II Chronicles 36:21, observance of the sabbatical year had been neglected for about 500 years. As a consequence the captivity of Judah in Babylon was decreed to be seventy years long allowing the land to enjoy its neglected Sabbaths—”for as long as it lay desolate it kept sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years”. After the period of captivity, the people under Nehemiah bound themselves to the faithful observance of the seventh year, covenanting that “we would forego the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt” (Neh 10:31).

Year Of Jubilee

Seven sabbatical cycles of years (i.e., 49 years) terminated in the Year of Jubilee. The fiftieth year is called “the year of liberty” (deror) in Ezekiel 46:17 (see, for example, Jer 34:8, 15, 17) on the basis of Leviticus 25:10—”and you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land . . . it shall be a jubilee unto you.”

According to Leviticus 25:9, the Year of Jubilee was announced by the sounding of rams’ horns throughout the land on the tenth day of the seventh month, which was also the great Day of Atonement. The Year of Jubilee was not, as some have thought, the forty-ninth year, and thus simplify a seventh sabbatical year, but was, as Leviticus 25:10 states, the fiftieth year, thus providing two successive sabbatical years in which land would have rest. Certain regulations were issued to take effect during the Year of Jubilee. They are:

(a) Rest for the land (25:11-12). As in the preceding sabbatical year, the land was to remain uncultivated and the people were to eat of the natural increase. To compensate for this, God promised: “I will command my blessings upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years” (25:21).

(b) Hereditary lands and property were to be restored to the original family without compensation in the Year of Jubilee (25:24-34). In this manner all land and its improvements would eventually be restored to the original holders to whom God had given it, for He said, “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine” (25:23).

(c) Freedom of bond-servants was to be effected in the Year of Jubilee. Every Israelite who had, because of poverty, subjected himself to bondage was to be set free (25:29 ff.).

Holiness

The whole of the Book of Leviticus is dominated by the outworking, or actualization, of Exodus 19:6—”and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Thus, central to an understanding of Leviticus is an understanding of what it means to be holy.

The Biblical Concept Of Holiness

Basic Meaning

The Hebrew term most commonly used in Leviticus to express the concept of holiness is qados (see Wenham 1992:18-25 for an informative discussion on holiness). Originally this term simply meant “separation”, “set apart,” specifically for religious purposes. In this sense, anything could be set apart for religious or cultic purposes—a piece of ground, a building, or furniture could be “holy.” Certain persons were “holy”—set apart for religious purposes–whether priests in the service of Yahweh or the temple prostitutes of the Canaanite Baal cult. In contrast to what is “holy” there is the profane, or “common.” Something is considered profane if it has a common use in the sense that it is not set apart for religious use. Profanity, then, is the taking of a holy thing (such as the name the Lord) and using it in a profane, or common, way.

Biblical Meaning

The biblical concept of holiness, says LaSor (1990:152), is not limited to separation as repeated use is made of the words “Yahweh is holy” or “I (i.e., Yahweh) am holy.” According to the basic sense of holy as noted above, this would mean that Yahweh is set apart. The question, however, is, what is He set apart from? The answer seems to be that God is set apart from sin, impurity, and sinful humanity. From the text of Genesis 1 & 2 it would seem that in part God created man in his likeness and image in order that man might have a personal relationship with God and enjoy fellowship with him. However sin broke that relationship and fellowship, and Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden (Gen 3). In the aftermath of the Fall, man was barred from the presence of God because of sin. It is not difficult to see from this that Yahweh’s moral excellence became part of the biblical concept of His holiness, and thus Biblical holiness came to have the derived meaning of moral excellence.

The Laws Of Practical Holiness

As discussed above, the underlying basis for Israel’s need to be holy is found in the inherent nature of God as a holy being, that is, as a being of moral perfection. Fundamentally, therefore, those whom He calls to serve Him must be holy because He is holy (19:2). It is important here to recognize that Israel was not commanded to be holy as Yahweh is holy, but to be holy because He is holy. Thus, while God is the standard of holiness by which all others are measured, Israel was not called to walk in absolute holiness; the mere finiteness of the laws of holiness gives witness to that.

While individual Israelites could approach Yahweh on the basis of the merits of the sacrifices (Lev 1-7), and the nation as a whole could be cleansed by means of the corporate act of repentance and forgiveness expressed in the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16), the people called to be a holy nation had to maintain that state in conduct as well as in decree. To effect this continual state of purity in covenant-relationship, the sons of Israel were to live out every day within the framework of a code of personal and national holiness—the so-called “Holiness Code” of Leviticus 17-26.

The call to holiness involved regulations concerning the sanctity of the Tabernacle and blood (Lev 17), the prohibition of incest (18:1-18) and other sexual perversions (18:19-23), the keeping of the Ten Commandments (19:1-18) and related laws (19:19-20:27), and the proper behavior of the priests in private and public life (Lev 21-22). The people of Israel, as a holy nation, also had to understand that holiness required strict adherence to the holy convocations appointed by Yahweh (Lev 23-25), and to all the laws of the covenant (Lev 26), as well as faithfulness in keeping vows of consecration to Yahweh (Lev 27).

Literary Characteristics

Literary Form

The Book of Leviticus records the laws and instructions having to do with the worship of Yahweh—its sacrifices, priesthood, laws rendering a person unclean and so disqualifying him from worship, and various special times and seasons of worship—in covenant-relationship (Lindsey 1985:164). Furthermore, because Yahweh who is holy is now dwelling among his covenant people, Leviticus necessarily contains many regulations pertaining to daily living and practical holiness, both moral and ceremonial. For the most part then, the literary genre of Leviticus is legal literature. This includes both apodictic law (laws expressing necessary conduct: “You shall/shall not . . . “e.g., 26: 1-2) and casuistic laws (laws expressing case decisions: “If [such and such is done] . . . then [such and such will result] . . .” e.g., 4:3).

Although the primary language of the Book of Leviticus is legal, all the laws are set within a narrative framework. This is seen in the fact that at the beginning of nearly every chapter, and often several times within a chapter, the text says, “Yahweh spoke to Moses.” Thus it would seem that the more basic genre of the Book of Leviticus is narrative, and that it is not a stand-alone legal document. Rather, the legal stipulations recorded in it were given in the context of historical circumstances which form the framework for the giving of the Levitical law.

Literary Structure

Under the Sinai Covenant Israel had been called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod 19:6). The first ten chapters of Leviticus focus almost exclusively on Israel’s priestly responsibilities as laws pertaining to the offering of sacrifices are prescribed for both the lay person and the priesthood. Primarily, these laws are prescribed so that the worshiper may be acceptable when he approaches Yahweh (1:3).

Different kinds of sacrifices are explained in chapters 1-7 which are presumed in the rituals described in the chapters that follow. The instructions that follow here deal with guidelines for bringing “an offering” to Yahweh at the Tabernacle. The instructions do not introduce the practice of offerings but provide regulations for them in light of the newly established worship of God at the Tabernacle. The narrative assumes that several types of offerings were already known and practiced by the Israelites (Exod 18:12). Moreover, according to the earlier narratives in the Pentateuch, the earliest patriarchs had already made various kinds of offerings (see, for example, Gen 4:3-4; 8:20; 46:1). Thus these chapters in Leviticus present regulations which Moses had given for the existing practices of sacrifices and offerings among the Israelites. Furthermore, in order to offer sacrifice a priesthood is necessary. Therefore the installation of the Aaronic priesthood, involving the ordination of Aaron and his sons, is described in chapters 8-10.

While the first ten chapters of Leviticus focus on Israel’s priestly responsibilities, the remaining chapters focus on the demand for personal and national holiness: “You must be holy, for I, Yahweh your God, am holy” (19:2). This and similar formulas are used repeatedly throughout chapters 18-27 to emphasize that Israel has been redeemed to be God’s holy people. Here, the demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh are stated in specific terms, as laws are presented for Israel to remain ceremonially and morally pure, to become cleansed from defilement through a national day of atonement, and to worship Yahweh through observing holy convocations and special seasons.

This establishes a broad natural structural division of the text of Leviticus:

chapters 1-10 a kingdom of priests

chapters 11-27 a holy nation

Relationship Between Legal And Narrative Sections

The Book of Leviticus is composed largely of ritual ordinances specified in legal terms, with some, but not much, interspersing of narrative. Indeed, at first glance Leviticus appears to be an endless list of rules and regulations put together in rather haphazard fashion, but a closer examination reveals a greater coherence. The Book of Leviticus may seem a confused and disorderly collection of unrelated materials, but the work can only be understood as part of a much larger whole, namely, as a part of the Pentateuch, as part of the great narrative history of Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Land of Promise. Although the narrative material in Leviticus is not extensive, what is presented in chapters 8-10 and in 24:10-16 is important to the overall structure of the book, and to the Pentateuch as a whole.

The kernel of Leviticus is chapters 8-10 which are in narrative form and which continue the narrative of the Tabernacle recorded at the end of the Book of Exodus. One would expect the narrative account of the building of the Tabernacle (Exod 35-40) to be followed by the narrative account of its dedication (Lev 8). Yet in between these two narrative accounts stands Leviticus 1-7 which presents the laws pertaining to sacrifices, and which seems an insertion because it breaks the continuity in the narrative about the Tabernacle. But the insertion of Leviticus 1-7 makes sense from a structural perspective because the dedicatory and inaugural sacrifices that follow (8:14-29; 9:1-21) cannot be understood without it.

Thus, the laws about sacrifices are given in chapters 1-7 to provide a framework within which the various offerings presented at the ordination of Aaron and his sons may be understood. Furthermore, the death of Aaron’s two eldest sons in chapter 10 must be seen from the perspective of this framework since the root cause of their deaths was a clear violation of the laws presented in chapters 1-7.

Likewise, the narrative section in chapter 24 about the death of the blasphemer, who profaned the name of the Lord (24:11), must be understood from the perspective of the intervening chapters which present the regulations dealing with Israel’s need to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the clean and the unclean (10:10).

Synthesis Of The Text As A Unified And Coherent Whole

The analyses discussed above have been used, implicitly and explicitly, to obtain an understanding of Leviticus as a unified and coherent whole. This understanding is expressed here in the form the statement of its message, its synthetic structure, and the synthesis of the text which follows from that message and structure.

Development And Statement Of The Message

The message of the Book of Leviticus is developed in direct relationship to the major goal of the Mosaic Covenant as expressed in Exodus 19:5-6;

Now then if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exod 19:5-6)

While the Book of Exodus records the redemption of the sons of Israel out of bondage in Egypt and their entering into covenant-relationship with Yahweh at Sinai, the Book of Leviticus records what is required of Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to Yahweh. Indeed, the whole of Leviticus is dominated by the actualization of the goal stated in Exodus 19:5-6. This is seen first of all in Leviticus 1:3 where in conjunction with the laws pertaining to the burnt offering, Yahweh informs Israel that such an offering is required in approaching Him in order that they may be accepted before Him. The implication is clear; no man can approach God as he is, rather atonement for sin must first be made. In calling Israel to Himself, Yahweh gave His covenant people the right to approach Him as priests making sacrifice to atone for their sin that they might draw near to Him. While the administration of the sacrificial offering system is under the Aaronic priesthood, the individual worshiper is not passive in the ritual, but actively participates as chapters 1-7 clearly show.

Approach to Yahweh is only one aspect of the covenant-relationship instituted at Sinai; the other aspect involves Yahweh’s dwelling among His people. This dimension of the covenant-relationship requires Israel to be holy for Yahweh is holy. In this regard chapters 11-27 are seen to be dominated by Yahweh’s command to Israel to be holy:

For I am Yahweh your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm the earth. For I am Yahweh who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy. (11:44-45)

This command is repeated in Leviticus 19:2 and again in 20:7 and 20:26. Further, such passages as 15:31; 18:1-5; 20:22-25 make it clear that Israel is to separate itself from whatever is unclean, profane, and immoral, while such passages as 18:21; 19:12; 20:3; 21:6; and 22:2 demonstrate that the sons of Israel are not to profane the name or sanctuary of Yahweh through their actions.

The emphasis of the Book of Leviticus upon sacrificial offerings and the separation from all that is unclean and evil demonstrates the need for holiness in approaching Yahweh and for holiness in living in the presence of Yahweh. In this regard, Leviticus says that defilement must be dealt with in order to approach God and that holiness must be manifested in daily living in order to dwell in the presence of God.

The message of the Book of Leviticus may be determined on the basis of the previous considerations discussed up to this point. The analysis of the text of Leviticus suggests that a possible subject for this book is the obligation for Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. When viewed from this perspective, the text of Leviticus may be understood as making the following theological judgment/evaluation about this subject:

This understanding of Leviticus leads to the following synthetic structure and synthesis of its text as a unified and coherent whole

Synthetic Structure Of The Text

Broad Synthetic Structure

I. The demands of worship necessary for approaching Yahweh as a kingdom of priests (chs. 1-10)

A. The demands of worship expressed through the laws of the sacrificial offering system for worshiper and priest (chs. 1-7)

B. The demands of worship expressed through the laws for consecrating and instituting priestly service through the Aaronic priesthood (chs. 8-10)

II. The demands of personal and national holiness necessary for living as a holy nation in the presence of Yahweh Who is holy (chs. 11-27)

A. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of body cleanliness as pertaining to food, childbirth, leprosy, and bodily discharges (chs. 11-15)

B. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of national cleansing on the Day of Atonement, and through the laws maintaining the sanctity of blood which is given to make atonement for sin (chs. 16-17)

C. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws for people generally and for priests specifically (18-22)

D. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of the annual feasts, Sabbatical year, and the Year of Jubilee (chs. 23-25)

E. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of covenant blessings and curses which are the consequences of living or not living in holiness (ch. 26)

F. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws pertaining to things consecrated to Yahweh (ch. 27)

Detailed Synthetic Structure

I. The demands of worship necessary for approaching Yahweh as a kingdom of priests (chs. 1-10)

A. The demands of worship expressed through the laws of the sacrificial offering system for worshiper and priest (chs. 1-7)

1. Laws regulating the burnt offering (1:1-17)

2. Laws regulating the grain offering (2:1-16)

3. Law s regulating the peace offering (3:1-17)

4. Laws regulating the sin offering (4:1-5:13)

a. The scope of applicability: unintentional sins only (4:1-2)

b. Laws regulating the sin offering for the sins of a priest (4:3-12)

c. Laws regulating the sin offering for the sins of the nation (4:13-21)

d. Laws regulating the sin offering for the sins of a leader (4:22-26)

e. Laws regulating the sin offering for sins of a common person (4:27-35)

f. Sins for which a person will be accounted guilty (5:1-4)

g. Atonement as the basis for cleansing from sin (5:5-6)

h. The sin offerings of the poor. (5:7-13)

5. Laws regulating the guilt (reparation) offering (5:14-6:7)

6. Laws pertaining to the priestly administration of the disposition of the sacrificial offerings (6:8-7:38)

a. The law of the burnt offering (6:8-13)

b. The law of the grain offering (6:14-23)

c. The law of the sin offering (6:24-30)

d. The law of the guilt offering (7:1-10)

e. The law of the peace offering (7:11-38)

B. The demands of worship expressed through the laws for consecrating and instituting priestly service through the Aaronic priesthood (chs. 8-10)

1. The ordination of the Aaronic priesthood through the action of Moses (8:1-36)

a. Moses’ assembling of the congregation at the doorway of the tent of meeting (8:1-5)

b. Moses’ dressing of Aaron and his sons in their priestly garments (8:6-9)

c. Moses’ consecration of the Tabernacle and Aaron and his sons with anointing oil (8:10-13)

d. Moses’ sacrificing of offerings to Yahweh to make atonement for Aaron and his sons (8:14-29)

e. Summary of the consecration ceremony (8:30-36)

2. The inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood through the action of Moses (9:1-24)

a. Moses’ instructions to Aaron and his sons concerning the commence-ment of their priestly duties (9:1-7)

b. The inauguration of priestly duties in the Tabernacle (9:8-21)

c. Yahweh’s acceptance of the sacrificial offerings by fire (9:22-24)

3. The failure of the Aaronic priesthood to obey the laws of the sacrificial offering system in approach to Yahweh (10:1-20)

II. The demands of personal and national holiness necessary for living as a holy nation in the presence of Yahweh Who is holy (chs. 11-27)

A. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of body cleanliness as pertaining to food, childbirth, leprosy, and bodily discharges (chs. 11-15)

1. The laws of purity pertaining to clean and unclean food (11:1-47)

2. The laws of purity pertaining to the uncleanness of childbirth (12:1-8)

3. The laws of purity pertaining to skin diseases and mildew (13:1-14:53)

a. The laws of uncleanness due to skin diseases and mildew (13:1-59)

b. The laws of cleansing necessitated by skin diseases and mildew (14:1-57)

c. The purpose for the laws pertaining to uncleanness due to skin diseases and mildew: to teach the people when they are unclean and when they are clean (14:54-57)

4. The laws of purity pertaining to bodily discharges (15:1-33)

B. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of national cleansing on the Day of Atonement, and through the laws maintaining the sanctity of blood which is given to make atonement for sin (chs. 16-17)

1. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of cleansing for national defilement on the Day of Atonement (ch. 16)

a. Laws for the Day of Atonement (16:1-28)

b. Institution of the Day of Atonement as a permanent statue (16:29-34)

2. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of priority of the Tabernacle as the one and only place of sacrifice, and of the sanctity of the blood (ch. 17)

3. Laws pertaining to animals which die other than by slaughtering (17:15-16)

C. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws for people generally and for priests specifically (18-22)

1. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws for people generally as relating to sexual relationships, love of neighbor, heinous offenses such as sacrificing children, cursing parents, and having sexual intercourse with animals (chs. 18-20)

a. Laws pertaining to the restriction of sexual relations (18:1-30)

b. Laws pertaining to practical holiness before God and man (19:1-37)

c. Laws pertaining to offenses which necessitate severe punishment–sins for which no atonement can be made (20:1-27)

2. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws pertaining to priestly and sacrificial holiness (chs. 21-22)

a. Laws pertaining to priestly holiness (21:1-24)

b. Laws pertaining to sacrificial holiness (22:1-34)

c. The purpose for the laws pertaining to priestly and sacrificial holiness: that the holy name of Yahweh would not be profaned (22:31-34)

D. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of the annual feasts, Sabbatical year, and the Year of Jubilee (chs. 23-25)

1. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of the annual feasts (ch. 23)

a. Laws pertaining to the weekly convocation, the Sabbath (23:1-3)

b. Laws pertaining to annual convocations (23:4-44)

2. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws pertaining to the holiness of Yahweh’s sanctuary and name (ch. 24)

3. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of the Sabbatical year and Year of Jubilee (ch. 25)

E. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws of covenant blessings and curses which are the consequences of living or not living in holiness (ch. 26)

1. The blessings for obedience (26:1-13)

2. The curses for disobedience (26:14-39)

3. The promise of restoration in response to repentance (26:40-46)

F. The demands of holiness expressed through the laws pertaining to things consecrated to Yahweh (ch. 27)

1. Laws pertaining to things which may be consecrated to Yahweh yet redeemed (27:1-25)

2. Laws pertaining to things excluded from consecration (27:26-34)

Synthesis Of The Text

Based on the message statement and synthetic structure developed above the synthesis of the text of Leviticus may be constructed as:

I. The demands of worship necessary for serving Yahweh as a kingdom of priests are satisfied in the sacrificial offering system administered under the Aaronic priesthood. (chs. 1-10)

A. The sacrificial offerings establish a means of approach to Yahweh which permit the worshiper to express devotion of self and possessions to Yahweh, to express thanksgiving for blessings, and to obtain forgiveness for specific unintentional sin. (chs. 1-7)

1. The sacrifice of the burnt offering renders the worshiper’s approach to Yahweh acceptable through the substitutionary death of the sacrifice which effects atonement for sin in general and signifies the worshiper’s act of total dedication to Yahweh. (1:1-17)

2. The sacrifice of the grain offering, consisting of salted unleavened cakes or grains, renders the worshiper’s thanksgiving to Yahweh acceptable through the total consumption of the offering which signifies the worshiper’s dedication of everyday life to God in recognition of His covenant mercies. (2:1-16)

3. The sacrifice of the peace offering renders the worshiper’s approach to Yahweh for communion and fellowship acceptable through the death of the sacrificial offering. (3:1-17)

4. The sacrifice of the sin offering, offered for specific sins committed unintentionally, effects atonement and forgiveness through the substitutionary death of the sacrifice. (4:1-5:13)

5. The sacrifice of the guilt offering, for specific sins for which payment of restitution to the wronged party is required, effects atonement and forgiveness through the substitutionary death of the sacrifice. (5:14-6:7)

6. The disposition of the sacrifices between Yahweh, the priests, and the offerer are regulated for each sacrifice and to be administered by the Aaronic priesthood. (6:8-7:38)

B. The ordination and inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood establish the acceptable approach to Yahweh, yet that approach is approved only as long as the laws of the sacrificial offering system are precisely obeyed. (chs. 8-10)

1. The ordination of the Aaronic priesthood prepares both priests and sanctuary for the inauguration of sacrificial offerings as Moses consecrates the Tabernacle and Aaron and his sons, and offers sacrifices to atone for the sins of the priests. (8:1-36)

2. The inauguration of the Aaronic priesthood through the action of Moses demonstrates the acceptability of approaching Yahweh through the sacrificial offering system as Yahweh manifests His approval of Aaron’s sacrifice by consuming it with fire coming out from His presence. (9:1-24)

3. The failure of the Aaronic priesthood to obey the laws of the sacrificial offering system in approaching Yahweh demonstrates the necessity of not violating Yahweh’s holiness, as fire which had previously manifested Yahweh’s approval is now used in righteous indignation to execute judgment, yet atonement for sin is still available when the laws of sacrifice are precisely followed. (10:1-20)

II. The demands of personal and national holiness necessary for living as a holy nation in the presence of Yahweh are satisfied in the laws of separation from the clean and profane, the laws of national cleansing from defilement, and the laws of morality, all of which establish unique cultural patterns in Israel. (chs. 11-27)9

A. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish cultural patterns, based on the laws of purity, which effect a separation of the unclean from the clean. (chs. 11-15)

1. The laws of purity establish cultural patterns which demand that Israel make a distinction between clean and unclean food and separate itself from the unclean, for Israel is to be holy because Yahweh is holy. (11:1-47)

2. The laws of purity establish a cultural pattern which demands that all women giving birth are to be considered unclean until the days of their purification are passed and sacrifice has been offered to make atonement for their cleansing. (12:1-8)

3. The laws of purity establish cultural patterns which demand that all manner of skin diseases and corruption due to mildew be diagnosed and that separation from the unclean occur unless and until cleansing has been obtained. (13:1-14:57)

4. The laws of purity establish cultural patterns which demand that all individuals with bodily discharges be declared unclean unless and until cleansing occurs, in order that Yahweh’s tabernacle would not be defiled. (15:1-33)

B. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish cultural patterns which effect national cleansing on the Day of Atonement, and which recognize the sacredness of the blood which has been given to make atonement for sin. (ch. 16-17)

1. The laws of personal and national holiness satisfy the demand for holiness required to live in the presence of Yahweh by establishing cultural patterns which effect national cleansing from defilement through the ministry of the high priest on the Day of Atonement. (16:1-34)

a. The restriction of the high priest from entering the holy place except on the Day of Atonement under penalty of death attests to the holiness of Yahweh who dwells in a cloud over the mercy seat. (16:1-4)

b. The high priest effects national cleansing for Israel on the Day of Atonement by making atonement for himself, the holy place, and all the people through the sacrifice of the sin offerings and the sprinkling of its blood on the mercy seat before Yahweh. (16:5-28)

(1) Atonement for the defilement of Israel as a nation requires that the high priest first make atonement for himself and his household through the sacrifice of his sin offering whose blood he must sprinkle on the mercy seat seven times. (16:5-14)

(2) Atonement for the defilement of Israel as a nation requires that the high priest make atonement for the holy place, the tent of meeting, and the altar through the sacrifice of the people’s sin offering whose blood he must sprinkle on the mercy seat seven times, and then on the horns of the altar. (16:15-19)

(3) Atonement for the defilement of Israel as a nation requires that the high priest sacrifice the goat for the sin offering, and then transfer Israel’s sins to the scapegoat by laying his hands on the head of the goat and confessing the sins of the nation over it and then releasing it in the wilderness. (16:20-28)

c. The institution of the Day of Atonement as a permanent statute to be observed yearly enables the high priest to make atonement for all the sins of the sons of Israel once every year. (16:29-34)

2. The laws of personal and national holiness satisfy the demand for holiness required to live in the presence of Yahweh by establishing cultural patterns which recognize the Tabernacle as the one and only place that sacrifice to Yahweh is to be made, and recognize the sacredness of the blood which has been given to make atonement for sin. (17:1-16)

C. The demands of holiness for people generally and for priests specifically are expressed through the laws which establish cultural patterns for living that are unique for Israel. (chs.18-22)

1. The laws of personal and national holiness satisfy the demand for holiness required to live in the presence of Yahweh by establishing cultural patterns which demand personal holiness through obedience to laws which restrict sexual relations, require the practical outworking of love for God and man, and which require severe punishment for grievous offenses for which no atonement can be made. (chs. 18-20)

a. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands the sanctity of marriage, and purity in sexual relations which are prohibited between blood and legal relatives, between men, and between man and beast. (18:1-30)

b. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands a life that manifests the practical outworking of love for God and love for man. (19:1-37)

c. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh requires that severe punishment be executed upon any who sacrifice their children, turn to mediums, are disrespectful to parents, or commit adultery. (20:1-27)

2. The laws of personal and national holiness satisfy the demand for holiness required to live in the presence of Yahweh by establishing cultural patterns of worship which require holiness of the priests in carrying out their duties in the Tabernacle. (chs. 21-22)

a. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands that priests not defile themselves in any way nor have any physical defect, for Yahweh who sanctifies them is holy. (21:1-24)

b. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands that the priests treat everything dedicated to Yahweh as holy so as not to profane the name of Yahweh by touching the holy offerings while unclean or by accepting imperfect offerings. (22:1-30)

c. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands that the priests keep the laws pertaining to priestly and sacrificial holiness so that the holy name of Yahweh would not be profaned, for He is to be sanctified among His people. (22:31-34)

D. The demands of holiness for the nation are expressed through the laws of the annual feasts, Sabbatical year, and the Year of Jubilee (chs. 23-25)

1. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish cultural patterns of worship which observe the holy convocations appointed by Yahweh. (ch. 23)

a. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands obedience to the laws of the Sabbath. (23:1-3)

b. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands obedience to the laws of the annual convocations which include the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. (23:4-44)

2. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish culture patterns that recognize the holiness of Yahweh’s sanctuary and name. (ch. 24)

a. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands treating the oil used to light the lamp before Yahweh and the twelve cakes set before Him as holy. (24:1-9)

b. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands holding fast to the sanctity of His name, while those who blaspheme His name are to be put to death. (24:10-23)

3. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish culture patterns that abide by the laws pertaining to the Sabbatical year and the Year of Jubilee. (ch. 25)

E. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish cultural patterns that take into consideration covenant blessings and curses, and the promise of restoration in response to repentance. (ch. 26)

1. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh demands obedience to all the commands of the Law which is rewarded with great blessings as Yahweh promises to bless His people and dwell among them. (26:1-13)

2. Not living in holiness before Yahweh incurs His wrath manifested in increasing degrees of punishment (the curses) which culminate in the destruction of the nation and the expulsion of the survivors out of the Land and into exile among the nations, yet restoration to the Land and to living in Yahweh’s presence experiencing covenantal blessings is promised in response to repentance. (26:14-46)

F. The demands of holiness for living in the presence of Yahweh establish cultural patterns that recognize the sacredness of all things consecrated to Yahweh. (ch. 27)

1. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh expresses itself in consecrating family, animals, houses, and fields to Yahweh by special vow, while mercy and grace permits them to be redeemed even though they are accounted by Yahweh as being holy and belonging to Him. (27:1-25)

2. Living in holiness in the presence of Yahweh does not express itself in the consecration of first-born clean animals, things devoted to destruction, and things that are part of the tithe, for all such things belong to Yahweh by law. (27:26-34)


1 It is clear from the text that the primary function of the Levitical worship system, including the Aaronic Priesthood, is to effect atonement for sin through the offering of sacrifices. For a discussion on the theological aspects of atonement see, Davidson 1904:306-338. For a discussion on the priesthood, the temple, and the sacrifices, see de Vaux 1965 Vol. 2. And see Kurtz 1863, for a discussion of sacrifice in worship.

2Peter referred to Christ as “a lamb without blemish or defect,” the sinless Son of God (1 Pet 1:19, 22; see, for example, Heb 9:14).

3The substitutionary nature of sacrifice was most clearly seen in the offering of Isaac (Gen 22:13).

4Here, Lindsey (1985:164) states, it is important to recognize the distinction between two relationships which an Israelite had/could have with God: (1) a corporate relationship with God as a member of the theocratic nation (see, for example, Exod 19-20); and (2) a personal relationship with God based on individual regeneration and justification by faith (as in the case of Abraham, Gen 15:6). While ideally these two relationships should have been coextensive, nevertheless it appears that throughout Israel’s history there was only a remnant of true believers, and that a large number of the people were merely going through the form of worshipping Yahweh without genuine faith in Him.

5Although the Greek text could support the idea of “place of propitiation” (that is the mercy seat as in Heb 9:5) instead of “propitiation,” support for the stated view still stands since Christ is the substitute sacrifice which effects reconciliation.

6 Much has been written on the Levitical system of sacrifices. Of these, Milgrom (1991:131-489) has an extensive commentary on the sacrifices/sacrificial system. See also, Harrison 1980:39-88.

7 What follows in this section summarizes Lindsey (1985:164-166) in his discussion of the significance of Old Testament sacrifices.

8This discussion is excerpted from, The Eschatological Significance of Israels Annual Feasts, Hulbert, Terry C., Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1965.

9Leviticus presents the requirements for approaching Yahweh and for living with Him dwelling in the midst of His people Israel, and, in so doing, it establishes a culture that manifests Yahweh’s holiness, a culture that is unique to Israel.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines