The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Bible and subsequently of the Pentateuch and the Old Testament. Leviticus is the primary biblical source for the laws of the Hebrew Nation of Israel. It is also called “Vayikra” in Hebrew. While it was the prime source for Israel’s laws, it was not a legal codex. Rather it was a set of laws, that God spoke and recorded by Moses wrote down. The laws within the book covered all areas of life--most notably: sacrifices, food, health, sexual conduct, property and priestly procedures. In addition, Leviticus contains a few instances of narrative, describing the obedience or disobedience to the book's laws.
Leviticus was written by Moses, primarily to record the exact dictation of Israel's laws by God. Many, if not all of the laws were recorded on Mount Sinai. Since the laws have a seemingly sporadic order it is likely that Moses wrote them down exactly as he heard. In various sessions God called Moses up to Mount Sinai and during these sessions God would dictate the laws. It is not known how God chose the order to dictate the laws. Laws may have been revealed throughout several weeks, days or even hours. The laws on the various offerings and the laws in between these were all revealed in a singular day, probably through multiple sessions of revelation (hence the separate indications of God saying the law).
While Moses acted as God's scribe, many of the laws had a specific audience. Several times Moses is specifically instructed to tell all of the Israelites a law. Moses is also told to give laws for Aaron and his sons (the priests and the Levites. Many of the laws were given to both Moses and Aaron at the same time, which means Aaron was present for some of God's dictation. While these laws would have applied to Aaron and his sons literally, they were meant to be followed by the priesthood as long as it lasted.
The few historical events in Leviticus would have been written by Moses some time during or after they occurred. Since historical events are embedded right after many laws, Moses likely wrote both the revelation of dictation and events chronologically. Some of the events would have occurred after Moses had been given certain laws, but not before others.
Not a Legal Codex
For the most part, Leviticus is a book of a recorded laws. It is not a legal codex, but it is a recorded collection of God's dictation of the laws. Typically a legal codex would have a strict organization and consistent structure of the laws. In contrast the laws in Leviticus do not cover their rules continuously. Leviticus was written in the order in which it was revealed. Certain laws are placed "randomly" (the reason for order is unknown) and others have laws in between. Instead of certain laws being described continously, part of it is given and then it picks up later on.
At its core, this book its a chronological collection of speech. Leviticus itself attests to the fact that the majority of the content is the dictation of laws in written form. The laws themselves and their wording are created and spoken directly by God. Moses specifically denotes that God spoke the words that were written, in order to attest their origin. It should be noted that Leviticus is not one continuous set of dictation revealed in one setting. Rather it is a set of several different dictations of speech. While the book is a collection of dictation, God Himself calls His words laws. Moses calls God's words laws as well, oftentimes to recap what a law was for or if God did not specifically call them such.
Leviticus contains a few historical accounts and could be understood as a collection of laws with a loose narrative framework. Leviticus is likely chronological in the order of the laws being revealed. Some of the laws contain certain historical details, such as the day it was revealed. There also small lines located in various places that tell the reader that the law was obeyed
The small amount of historical narratives are primarily about certain laws being implemented and executed by the Priesthood for the first time. They go through laws, specification by specification and entail how they were followed exactly. There are two exceptions to this, but both of these are primarily dialogue about laws needing to be followed. The first exception was the death of Nadab and Abihu, who unlawfully gave offerings.
This account contains something God said that was not recorded anywhere in the Pentateuch. This account also contains God revealing a new rule for priests not to drink alcohol when they enter the Holy place. Otherwise the account is dialogue between Aaron and Moses on the sons being rightfully punished according to God's law.
In reading through the Law, it becomes apparent that nothing within the structure or ceremony is designed strictly for its own sake. Yahweh was teaching something about Himself and His relationship with His people.
In the elaborate ceremonial laws were designed to set an increasing distance between God and the members of the tribes. The officers of the Tabernacle had to be of the tribe of Levi, and furthermore the priesthood had to be of the family of Aaron, with a high priest appointed from among them. This man would then go into the inner chamber once a year bringing the blood of a special bull killed in a specific way. It was there that he would represent the people in the presence of Yahweh.
In preparation for this ceremony, all the priests and Levites had to be ceremonialy clean, washed and in clean clothes and have sacrificed for their own sins. The sacrifices would cover them with the blood of clean animals, which were substitutes for the people.
The sacrifices were not what turned aside the anger God had. To be at peace with God required a resolve to do what He told the worshipper to do. The sacrifices represented the coming Messiah, the seed of the woman, who would be the sinless "Lamb of God" .
Promised Land of Canaan
The people were being prepared to go into Canaan, the land that had been promised to Abraham's descendants over 400 years before. The Law set out directives on what to expect and how to act once they were there. However, the taking of the land was not an end in itself. For the most part, the sojourn in the wilderness was a lesson in obedience and patience. Those who went into the land had been children when they left Egypt, having believed God when their parents didn't.
The book would become the blueprint for a priesthood that would last for over 1500 years. Beyond that, it set the standard for Jesus and His followers to fulfil in a deeper way. As a central part of the Book of Moses, it became the Bible for the people of Judah and Israel. The books that followed were added over the years, but "The Law" was the touchstone accepted by both the Saducees and the Pharisees in the New Testament.
- Leviticus 1:1, 4:1, 5:14, 6:1, 6:8, 6:19, 6:24, 7:22, 7:28, 8:1, 11:1, 12:1, 13:1, 14:1, 14:33, 15:1, 16:2, 17:1, 18:1, 19:1, 20:1, 21:1, 21:16, 22:1, 22:17, 22:26, 23:1, 23:9, 23:23, 23:26, 23:33, 24:1, 24:3, 25:1, 27:1
- ↑ Lev 7:38, 25:1,26:46, 27:34, (Link)
- Lev 7:38
- ↑ Lev 12:2, 4:2, 7:23, 7:29, 11:2, 12:2, 15:2, 17:2 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 6:9, 6:25, 11:1, 13:1, 13:2, 14:33, 15:1, 16:2, 17:2, 21:17, 22:2 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 6:9, 6:14, 6:25, 7:1, 7:11, 11:46, 12:7, 14:2, 14:54, 14:57, 7:7,, 18:4-5, 18:26, 19:37, 20:22, 24:22, 25:18, 26:15, 26:43, (Link)
- ↑ Lev 7:37, 13:59, 13:54-57, 14:32, 15:32-33, 26:46 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 21:24, 23:44 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 10:1-2 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 10:3 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 10:8-10 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 10:4-6,12-20 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 24:10-12 (Link)
- ↑ Lev 24:12-22 (Link)
- ↑ Gen. 3:15 (Link)
- ↑ John 1:29 (Link)
- ↑ Mat. 18:3 (Link)