Introduction to Leviticus


Week One: Readings (Pt. 1)

Before we study the book of Leviticus, we’re going to do some reading on OT law in general to get our bearings. By doing some pre-reading, we hope to make this study more interesting and help us blow through it quickly. By dealing with some of these difficulties up front, we’ll be able to speed through Leviticus quicker. These articles are short, so we can probably read about three of them per week.

“Tips for Interpreting OT Law”

“What about an Eye for an Eye?”

“What about Polygamy?”

Week Two: Readings (Pt. 2)

“What about OT Slavery?”

“What about Capital Punishment?”

“Why the Arbitrary Laws?”

Week Three: Sacrificial Offerings (Chapters 1-9)

The goal of this teaching is to briefly explain each offering. Maybe break into groups and have each group cover and explain the main points of each offering. They should be able to read the chapter in about five minutes and explain the main points of the sacrifice in 30 seconds.

Levitical Priesthood

The Levites are set apart here to be the priests of God, and they were in charge of the Tabernacle (3:7). While God demanded the firstborn of all the children and animals of Israel (3:13), he accepted the Levites as a substitute for all of the people (3:41). Since Christ is our ultimate high priest, who substitutes for us (Heb. 9-10), perhaps this is already prefiguring what God would do through Christ.

Leviticus 1: Burnt Offering

Atonement literally means “covering” (1:4). The consecration was a full ox burnt on the altar (1:13). We shouldn’t hold anything back. This gave a smell of barbecued meat on the grill and probably smelled great. You could use an ox, a sheep, or if you were poor, turtle doves.

Leviticus 2: Meal Offering

We have to work the bread with our hands. The smell of fresh baked bread would have been savory. Here, the work of our hands is the offering. We shouldn’t mix leaven or honey with the flour. In Scripture, leaven usually refers to sin. It also decays the bread.

Leviticus 3: Offering of Fellowship

Part of the fellowship offering is burned and part of it is given back to eat. Therefore, we are eating together. In the NT, Jesus tried to eat with his people (c.f. Jn. 13; Rev. 3:20).

Leviticus 4: Sin Offerings

Even sins of ignorance need forgiveness. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34). In this offering, the entire skin was burned outside of the camp. In the burnt offering (Lev. 1), the priests could wear the skins. But this was not the case in this offering.

Leviticus 5-6: Transgression Offerings

You needed to bring an offering and confess your sin publicly (5:5). The priests were allowed a part of the offerings. Later in the OT, we see Eli’s sons getting greedy as priests, taking the best meat offering.

Leviticus 8: Aaron is High Priest

Aaron is being decked out for the first time as the high priest. Aaron’s sons both come in, too. They needed an offering for themselves before they could do their ministry.

Leviticus 9: Aaron’s Work

There was a two-fold function of the priest: (1) He would go to represent the people to God, and (2) he would bring God’s blessing to the people. This reminds us of Peter’s statement: “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

Week Four: Sacrificial Offerings (Chapters 10-17)

This section contains more sacrificial offerings for God. It begins with a short narrative on Aaron’s sons screwing up the offering. Ask the group why God chose to include this narrative here in the midst of these rigid laws (10:1-2). Also, spend time explaining the sacrifices in chapter 16 and 17 for Yom Kippur (“The Day of Atonement”).

Leviticus 10: Strange Fire

Everyone is amped up by the power of God. Nadab and Abihu got caught up and brought incense into God’s presence. However, they disregard God’s specified way of approaching him, and God judges them for this. Likewise, in the NT, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6). We can’t invent spirituality; we need to discover it.

Leviticus 11: Kosher Foods

If they obeyed the law, they were blessed. If they disobeyed, they were cursed (Deut. 28).

Leviticus 12: Offerings

Mary and Joseph brought two turtle doves for her right of purification. This shows that they were poor. Women were unclean after birth (12:1-8).

Leviticus 13: Leprosy

The main goal for leprosy was quarantine. The priest left the camp to inspect the leper. They killed one bird and spread the blood over the person to bring the person back into the community (13:47-59).

Leviticus 16: Atonement

The high priest had to butcher some 30 animals, and he had to bathe 5 times. This would have been some serious work. Hebrews tells us that this points toward Christ’s work on the Cross as the high priest. Paul writes, “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). Unlike the high priest (16:11), Christ didn’t have his own sin to make up for. On this one day, the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies three times: (1) offer his own sin offering, (2) offer the blood of the bull for the people, (3) and offer the blood of the goat for the people.

(Heb. 9:22 NASB) And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Leviticus 17: The Importance of Blood

Why is eating blood so serious of a crime (Lev. 17:10-11)? How does this relate to Jesus’ statement that we’re supposed to drink his blood at the Last Supper?

Week Five: Laws (Chapters 17-27)

Leviticus 18: Immoral Relationships

God outlines moral prerogatives in this chapter. We should ask which of these laws are still in effect for today. Some seem ceremonial; others seem in effect. How do we know which is which?

Leviticus 19: Idolatry

False teachers were put to death (19:26). Also, the people were not allowed to trim their beards (19:27-28).

Leviticus 20: Capital Offenses

Disobedient children and adulterers were supposed to be put to death.

Leviticus 21: Rules for the Priest

Priests were allowed to touch their relatives. The priest couldn’t be physically blemished.

Leviticus 23: Feasts

Passover: Christ became our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7).

Unleavened Bread: Christ is the bread of life—unleavened (Jn. 6:35).

Pentecost: The birth of the church was foreshadowed, because at this festival, they would collect the first fruits for God. 3,000 people were saved on this day. The loaves had leaven in it; leaven was a symbol of sin. The church hasn’t been pure, either.

Feast of Booths: This was to remind them of God’s provision in the wilderness. You went out and built tents to live in to remind you of the hardships of your ancestors. This was probably fun for the kids!

Leviticus 24: The second narrative

A guy blasphemed Yahweh while he was in a fight (24:10-12). The group waited on God to hear God’s command.

Leviticus 25: Sabbath Laws

God told them to take time off every seventh year. Also, this chapter explains the “year of Jubilee.” The land would return to the earlier ownership.

Leviticus 26: Idols

God will bless them if they follow him and obey. He will curse them if they disobey. This chapter is parallel to Deuteronomy 28.

Leviticus 27: Tax

If you try to take back stuff given to God, you could take it. But you had to pay a 20 percent tax.