Stay Away from Perverted Practices

Explore the Bible Series

May 23. 2010


Background Passage: Leviticus 17:1-22:33

Lesson Passage: Leviticus 18:1-5, 20-26; 20:6-8




The Book of Leviticus focuses almost entirely on the religious and moral code of ancient Israel.As such, the material highlights four major kinds of laws: judicial (civil regulations), moral (principles for personal conduct), sacrificial (related to the ritual cultus of Israel), and practical (cleanliness and dietary principles).


Authorship: As with the rest of the Pentateuch, scholars, for two centuries, have debated the composition of Leviticus.The traditional view Asserts Mosaic authorship, based on the Leviticus 1:1 and some references in the New Testament.For instance, Professor Lester Grabbe, in the Oxford Bible Commentary, asserts a long editorial history for the book, a process that concluded in the Sixth or Fifth Century B.C.I respect the views of these scholars; however, these theories remain, as I see it, highly conjectural.Leviticus may have undergone some editorial development, but I see no compelling reason to deny the basic antiquity of the book.


Typology: The study of Leviticus poses significant challenges for modern readers.The writing, perhaps, seems irrelevant and passť, centered, as it is, on ancient moral codes and archaic religious rituals and sacrifices.Some modern readers may turn to typology to lend some relevance to Leviticus; but, readers must exercise great caution in typological interpretation. Louis Goldberg, in Leviticus: A Study Guide Commentary, identifies two safeguards for Bible students.

1.      ďA type can be substantiated when the New Testament designates it as one.Ē

2.      ďA second category allows for types that are strongly implied.Ē


A Brief Outline of Leviticus:


I.       An Introduction to the Jewish Sacrificial System (1:1-7:38)

A.    Instructions for the people (1:1-6:7)

1.      Burnt offerings (1:1-17): This was the most common sacrificial offering, and it served as a touchstone for all of Israelís worship.The priest offered the entire animal except for the skin. Note that three offerings were allowed, depending on the wealth of the family making the sacrifice.

2.      Grain offerings (2:16): This offering often accompanied the burnt sacrifice, and was composed of flour, salt, olive oil, and incense. It typified the penitentís dedication to God.

3.      Peace offerings (3:1-17): The peace (shalom) sacrifice marked a joyous celebration, and the family involved ate some of the animal offered to God.

4.      Sin offerings (4:1-5:13): In the aftermath of a particular transgression, a penitent person could offer a bull in atonement for sin.

5.      Guilt offerings (5:14-6:7): While the sin offering dealt with atonement issues, the guilt sacrifice addressed restitution for sins committed against a brother.This rite reflects the common biblical concept of sin as debt owed to God and to offended brothers, and, as such, it entailed the idea of redemption.

B.     Special instructions for the priests (6:8-7:38)Ē Priests enjoyed some benefit from these various sacrifices, and they were not allowed to conduct these rites without great care and integrity.


II.    The Consecration of Priests (8:1-10)

A.    The ordination of Aaronís family (8:1-36): Moses ordained Aaron and his sons, a ceremony that entailed ritual washing, anointing, and adornment in the prescribed clothing.

B.     Aaronís first sacrifices (9:1:24): As part of the ordination of the priests, God commanded Aaron to offer a sacrifice for the consecration of the new priests.

C.     The sin of Nadab and Abihu (10:1-20): Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, offered ďstrange fireĒ to the Lord, a sin rendered obscure by the passage of time.Some scholars surmise that these men were drunk when they carried out their priestly responsibilities, but other scholars think the men burned incense in an unprescribed manner, perhaps using fire from some source other than the altar of sacrifice.The text says God burned the men alive.

III. Cleanliness Laws (11:1-15:33)

A.    Dietary laws (11:47): These laws centered on theological prohibitions rather than health issues.The Jews regarded blood as sacred; thus, the Law forbade the consumption of blood, carnivorous animals, or scavengers.

B.     Childbirth regulations (12:1-8): Mothers were regarded as ceremonially unclean for seven days after the birth of a male child and fourteen days for a female.The text does not give reasons for the distinction between the births of boys and girls.

C.     Laws concerning leprosy and bodily discharges (13:-15:33): From the descriptions in Leviticus we may conclude that the skin disorders in question were not Hansenís Disease; rather, the text deals with a broad range of serious, often contagious maladies.


IV. The Day of Atonement (16:1-17:16): The Jewish liturgy reached its crescendo on Yom Kippur, and the sacrifice made on this day provided a foundation for all the sacrifices of the Hebrew calendar.

A.    The preparation of the High Priest for the atonement (16:1-14)

B.     The sin offering (16: 15-19): The sacrifice of this goat symbolized Godís provision for the atonement (covering) for sin.

C.     The scapegoat (16:20-22): The scapegoat signified the separation of the people from their sins.

D.    The actions of Aaron and the humility of the people on the Day of Atonement (16:23-34)

E.     Laws against independent sacrifices and the consumption of blood (17:1-16)


V.    Laws Concerning Moral Conduct (18:1-20:27)

A.    Rules concerning sexual conduct (18:1-30): These laws protected the sanctity of the family and prohibited certainsexual practices widely endorsed by the pagan neighbors of Israel.

B.     Godís demands for a holy life (19:1-37): This chapter reveals the holiness of Jehovah and demands the righteous conduct of the Lordís people, a demand best summarized by loving oneís neighbor.

C.     Penalties for sinful behavior (20:1-27): As an addendum to Chapter Nineteenís demand for holiness, Chapter Twenty outlines penalties for disobedience to Godís ordinances against child sacrifice (common among tribal groups like the Moabites) and sexual immorality.


VI. Acceptable Conduct for Priests (21:1-22:33)

A.    Regulations concerning the moral conduct and family life of the priests (21:1-22:16)

B.     Regulations concerning the ritual responsibilities of the priests (22:17-33)


VII.          The Jewish Liturgy (23:1-25:55)

A.    The Sabbath (23:1-3): honored the tradition mentioned in the creation story of Genesis 2:1-3)

B.     The Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:4-8): marked the Passover and Israelís deliverance from Egyptian bondage

C.     The Feast of First Fruits (23:9-14): closely associated with Passover, this feast celebrated the first barley harvest of the agricultural year

D.    The Feast of Weeks (23:15-22): also called Pentecost, this feast continued the thanksgiving celebration for the grain harvest

E.     The Feast of Trumpets (23:23-25): Rosh Hashanah marked the beginning of the civil year in the Jewish calendar

F.      The Day of Atonement (23:26-32): see comments on Leviticus 16:1-34

G.    The Feast of Booths (23:33-44): this celebration marked the second grain harvest and commemorated Israelís sojourn in the wilderness

H.    Miscellaneous directions concerning the Golden Lampstand, the Shewbread, and the punishment for blasphemy (24:1-23)

I.       The Sabbatical Year (25:1-7): Every seventh year the Jews were to allow the land to rest from cultivation and harvest

J.       The Year of Jubilee (25:8-22): After seven Sabbatical years (forty-nine years), the land returned to the ownership of the original landholders and the debts of the poor were remitted.


VIII.       Final Instructions for Israel (26:1-27:34)

A.    The blessings of obedience and punishments for disobedience (26:1-46): This passage, covered in next weekís lesson, outlines the blessings and cursings of the Law.

B.     Laws concerning vows (27:1-34): This section outlines guidelines concerning vows made to the Lord.


Conclusion: Louis Goldberg provides a helpful summary of the lessons modern Bible students may learn from a careful study of Leviticus.

1.      Israelís status as an elect nation was to keep herself separate from the pagan practices of the ancient Near East.

2.      Leviticus reveals the holiness of God, a holiness closely related to other divine attributes: righteousness, truthfulness, faithfulness, mercy, and love.

3.      Leviticus outlines a system of sacrifices that revealed (and foreshadowed) Godís means of salvation.

4.      Israel was to be a blessing to all the peoples of the earth.