Book Summaries

The 3rd book of the Pentateuch, a manual of religious services, consisting primarily of regulations relating to the priesthood, the priestly service, and the sacrificial system. Its Hebrew title is taken from the opening word Wayyiqra, "and (he) called." The Talmud refers to the book as "The Law of the Priests," or "The Law of Sacrifice." The Septuagint calls the book Leuitikon, "Levitical (priesthood, or service)." The Vulgate renders this title into Latin as Leviticus, whence the English title "Leviticus." From ancient times Jews and Christians unanimously ascribed the book to Moses, whose authorship remained unchallenged until the era of modern critical scholarship. Arguments discounting Moses as the author of the Pentateuch have a conjectural basis only, and are so conflicting as to render the arguments unworthy of the serious attention of conservative Bible scholars. Leviticus belongs, historically, to a period of about 30 days immediately following the erection of the tabernacle at Mount Sinai (Ex 40:17; cf. Num 1:1). This period witnessed the inauguration of the sanctuary service and the implementation of the instruction contained in Leviticus, which was doubtless communicated by the Lord to Moses during this time.

The book of Leviticus deals chiefly with the priesthood and the sanctuary services. It does not contain all the instruction God gave Israel on these subjects (see Num 3:1 to 9:23; 15:1 ­41; 18:1 to 19:22; 28:1 to 30:16), but does constitute the fundamental body of revelation and regulation pertaining to them. God ordained the sanctuary services to be an object lesson of the great plan of salvation and of Christ's ministry on behalf of sinners. These services illustrated the means by which the individual sinner might find release from the guilt of sin through repentance. At the end of each year the special service of the Day of Atonement typified the removal of sin from the camp (see Lev 16). Fundamental to the sacrificial system was the concept of the sanctuary as God's dwelling place, and of the reality of His presence in the midst of the camp of the Israelites. Central in the sanctuary service was the type-truth that "it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (ch 17:11) and that "without shedding of blood is no remission" of sin (Heb 9:22). This truth was implicit in all the blood sacrifices, which prefigured Christ as the Lamb of God (see Is 53:7; Jn 1:29; 1 Cor 5:7) and reflected the vicarious nature of His great sacrifice on the cross (see Is 53:4, 5). Explicit and implicit throughout the Jewish ritual system was the concept of a distinct difference between what was "common" and what was "holy." The sinner was altogether unclean and was unworthy to approach God, but God had graciously provided a means of release from every "uncleanness," which would make it possible for the contrite sinner to enter the divine presence and obtain His blessing. Daily, the various prescribed sacrifices provided a means of "covering" (see Atonement), or atoning for, sin and thereby released the sinner from the guilt of sin (Lev 1:1 to 7:38), and the ritual of the annual Day of Atonement "cleansed" the sanctuary itself from the sins typically accumulated there during the course of the year (Lev 16).

The first 7 chapters of Leviticus set forth in detail the basic regulations concerning the different types of sacrifices. Chapters 8 and 9 relate to the consecration of the tabernacle and of the priesthood. The brief historical interlude of ch 10 recounts how 2 of Aaron's sons disregarded God's instruction regarding making a difference between the sacred and the common, and suffered death as a result. All types of personal uncleanness are discussed at length in chs 11 through 15, with a prescribed ritual for release from uncleanness. Chapter 16 deals with the cleansing of the sanctuary, and ch 17 with certain related regulations. Moral and civil regulations occupy chs 18 through 20, and chs 21 through 27 are devoted to a variety of additional regulations pertaining to the priests, the Sabbath, special festivals, and other laws relating to the sanctuary and worship, together with certain laws protecting person and property.

Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.