Outline Of Leviticus

I. Types of Offerings (1:1—6:7).

        A. Burnt (1:1-17).

        B. Meal (2:1-16).

        C. Peace (3:1-17).

        D. Sin (4:1—5:13).

        E. Trespass (5:14—6:7).

II. Laws of the Offerings (6:8—7:38).

III. Consecration of the Priests (8:1—10:20).

        A. Investiture of the priests by Moses (8:1-36).

        B. Offerings presented by Aaron (9:1-24).

        C. Sacrilege of Aaron’s sons (10:1-20).

IV. Laws of Purity and Holiness (11:1—15:33).

        A. Clean and unclean foods (11:1-47).

        B. Uncleanness from childbirth (12:1-8).

        C. Leprosy (13:1—14:57).

        D. Uncleanness from bodily issues (15:1-33).

V. The Day of Atonement (16:1-34).

VI. Laws Concerning Sacrifice (17:1-16).

VII. Laws Concerning Personal Conduct (18:1—22:33).

        A. For the people (18:1—20:27).

        B. For the priests (21:1—22:33).

VIII. The Feasts of Jehovah (23:1-44).

IX. Instructions Concerning Lamps, Showbread, Blasphemy, etc. (24:1-23).

X. Sabbatic Year and jubilee (25:1-55).

XI. Blessings and Cursings (26:1-46).

XII.Vows and Tithes (27:1-34).

An easy way to remember the contents of Leviticus is to associate its name with the word “Levites” or “priests,” and then realize that the book is a manual for the priests.

In Exodus we saw Israel delivered from Egypt and set apart as God’s special possession. In Leviticus we see how they are to be separated from sin and uncleanness in order to approach God in the sanctuary. Holiness becomes the rule of the camp.

Chapter 1

At the outset we have the five offerings—burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass. The first three were known as sweet-savour offerings, the last two as sin offerings. The first three were voluntary, the last two compulsory. Chapter 1 deals with the burnt offering. There were three grades, depending on what the offerer could afford; a bullock from the herd (v. 3; cf. v. 5), a male without blemish; a sheep or a goat from the flock (v. 10), a male without blemish; turtledoves or young pigeons (v. 14). All were peaceful creatures; nothing wild was offered on the altar of the Lord. Peter Pell suggests that the bullock speaks of our Lord as the patient, unwearied Laborer, always doing the Father’s will in a life of perfect service and a death of perfect sacrifice. The sheep represents the Lord as the meek and lowly One, submissive to God’s will in unresisting self-surrender. The goat speaks of Christ as our Substitute, the turtledove points to Him as the heavenly One, and also as the Man of sorrows (mourning dove).38

Duties of the Offerer: He brought the offering to the gate of the court, near the brazen altar (v. 3); he put his hand on the head of the victim (v. 4) (literally, “he shall lean his hand as if in reliance”); he killed the bullock (v. 5) or the sheep or goat (v. 11); he skinned the animal and cut it into pieces (vv. 6, 12); he washed the intestines and legs in water (vv. 9, 13).

Duties of the Priests: They sprinkled the blood of the animal around the brazen altar (vv. 5, 11); they put the fire and the wood on the altar (v. 7) and then placed the parts of the animal on the wood (vv. 8, 12). Everything was burned on the altar except the skin (v. 13); in the case of the birds, the priest wrung off the head, pressed out the blood at the side of the altar, put the crop (gullet) with the feathers on the east side of the altar, opened the body of the bird without cutting it in pieces, and burned it on the altar.

Distribution of the Offering: All that was burned on the altar belonged to God: the skin was given to the priests (7:8); the offerer received no part of this particular offering.

The person bringing a burnt offering was expressing his complete surrender and devotion to the Lord. We learn elsewhere that this offering was presented on many different occasions. (See a Bible dictionary for details.)

Typically, the burnt offering pictures the offering of Christ without spot unto God. On Calvary’s altar the Lamb of God was totally consumed by the flames of divine justice.

Chapter 2

The “meat offering” (KJV) was actually a meal or cereal offering. (The word “meat” in the KJV generally means solid food in contrast to liquids.)

The Offering Itself: There were various types of meal offerings, as follows: fine flour, with oil and frankincense mixed with it (v. 1). This was not cooked, but a handful of it was burned on the altar (v. 2). Three different types of bread or cakes: a) baked in the oven (v. 4); b) baked on a flat griddle (v. 5 RV); c) cooked in a pan (v. 7 RSV-AV says “frying pan,” but some believe this offering was boiled in water, like a dumpling); kernels of grain, representing first-fruits of harvest, roasted in fire (v. 14). Verse 12 refers to a special meal offering (23:15-21) which was not burned on the altar because it contained leaven.

No leaven or honey was to be used in any of these meal offerings (v. 11). These implied fermentation and natural sweetness. But salt was to be added, as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. It was called the salt of the covenant (v. 13). See Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5; Ezekiel 43:24 for other references to “the covenant of salt.”

Duties Of The Offerer: He prepared the offering at home and brought it to the priests (vv. 2, 8).

Duties Of The Priest: The priest presented the offering at the altar (6:14); he then took a handful of the offering and burned this “memorial” handful upon the altar (vv. 2, 9).

Distribution Of The Offering: The “memorial handful,” burned on the altar, with all the frankincense, was the Lord’s; the priests were permitted to take all the rest of the offering as food (vv. 3, 10). The officiating priest was entitled to whatever was baked in the oven or cooked in a pot or pan (7:9). Everything mixed with oil and everything dry was to belong to the rest of the priests (7:10); the offerer received no part of this offering.

The person who brought the meal offering acknowledged the bounty of God in providing the good things of life, represented by flour, frankincense, oil (and wine in the case of the drink offering).

Symbolically this offering speaks of the moral perfection of the life of our Savior (fine flour), untainted by evil (no leaven), fragrant to God (frankincense), and filled with the Holy Spirit (oil).

Chapter 3

The peace offering “celebrated peace with God established upon the efficacy of the atoning blood.” It was a feast of joy, love, and fellowship.

The Offering Itself: There were three grades of this offering also: an animal from the herd (oxen or cattle), male or female (vv. 1-5); a lamb from the flock, male or female (vv. (vv. 6-11); a goal from the flock, wale or female (vv. 12-17).

Duties Of The Offerer: He presented the animal to the Lord at the gate of the court (vv. 1, 6, 12); he laid his hand on the head of the victim (vv. 2, 8, 13): he killed it at the gate of the court (vv. 2, 8, 13); he removed certain portions of the animal—the fat, the kidneys, the fat tail, and the caul—to be burned upon the altar (vv. 3, 4, 9, 10, 14, 15).

Duties Of The Priests: They sprinkled the blood around the altar (vv. 2, 8, 11): they burned the Lord’s portion (the fat, etc) on top of the burnt offering (v. 5).

Distribution Of The Offering: The Lord’s portion, called “the food of the offering made by fire” (v. 11), was the fat, the kidneys, the caul, and the fat tail; in Leviticus 7:32, 33 we learn that the officiating priest received the right shoulder after it had been first presented as a heave offering; the other priests received the animal’s breast (7:31). This was first presented as a wave offering before the Lord: the offerer received all the rest (7:15-21). This is the only offering in which the offerer received a portion. He probably made a feast for his family and friends as a kind of fellowship meal. “Thus the offering promoted peace between fellow Israelites within the covenant.”

The person bringing this offering was expressing his joyful gratitude for the peace he enjoyed in fellowship with Jehovah. A person might also present the peace offering in connection with some vow he was making to the Lord, or in thanksgiving for some special favor.

As to its typical (symbolic) meaning, “The finished work of Christ in relation to the believer is seen in the peace offering. The Lord Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14), having made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. 1:20). He preached this peace to those who were afar off and to those who were near (Eph. 2:17), thus breaking down the middle wall or partition between Jew and Gentile. In Christ, God and the sinner meet in peace; the enmity that was ours is gone. God is propitiated, the sinner is reconciled, and both alike are satisfied with Christ and with what He has done.”39

At the end of chapter 3, the people of Israel were forbid- den to eat fat or blood, since both belonged to the Lord (vv. 16, 17).

These first three offerings (burnt, meal, and peace) had a place in the public worship of the nation, but they could also be brought to the Lord by an individual at any time on a voluntary basis. The next two offerings were commanded to be brought when someone had sinned. Thus we have the twin concepts of voluntary worship and compulsory atonement set forth in the offerings.

Chapter 4

The sin offering was appointed for a redeemed people. It does not speak of a sinner coming to the Lord for salvation, but of an Israelite, in covenant relationship with the Lord, seeking forgiveness. It has to do with sins committed unconsciously or unintentionally.

The Offering Itself: There were different grades of offerings, depending upon the person who sinned: The anointed priest—that is, the high priest (v. 3)—brought a young bullock without blemish; the whole congregation (v. 13) brought a young bullock also; a ruler (v. 22) brought a male kid of the goats, without blemish; an ordinary person (v. 27) brought a female goat, without blemish (v. 28), or a female sheep, without blemish (v. 32). (The Hebrew wording here indicates full-grown animals.)

Duties Of The Offerer(s): In general, the offerer brought the animal to the gate of the tabernacle court, presented it to the Lord, laid his hand upon its head, killed it, and removed the fat, the kidneys, and the caul. The elders acted for the congregation (v. 15). The victim’s death was regarded symbolically as the sinner’s death.

Duties Of The Priest: For himself and for the congregation, the high priest carried the blood of the sacrifice into the holy place of the tabernacle, sprinkled it seven times before the veil (vv. 5, 6, 16, 17) and on the horns of the golden altar of incense (vv. 7, 18). Then he poured the rest of the blood at the base of the altar of burnt offering (vv. 7, 18). For a ruler and for common people, a priest sprinkled the blood on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and poured the rest of the blood at the bottom of the altar (vv. 25, 30, 34). For all classes, he burned the fat, kidneys, caul, and fat tail on the altar of burnt offering (vv. 8-10, 19, 26, 31). In the case of the offering for the high priest or for the whole congregation, all the rest of the animal was taken outside the camp and burned (vv. 11, 12, 21).

Distribution Of The Offering: The Lord’s share was the portion that was burned upon the altar—the fat, kidneys, caul, etc. The priest was allowed to cat the flesh of the offerings of a ruler or of a commoner because the blood of these offerings was not taken into the sanctuary (7:30), as in the case of the offerings of the high priest and the congregation (4:5, 6, 16, 17). He could also eat the offerings described in 5:6, 7, 11 for the same reason. No part of the above offerings was set aside for the offerer.

The body of arty sin offering whose blood was taken into the holy place was burned outside the camp. So our Lord, through His own blood, entered the holy place once for all (Heb. 9:12) after He had suffered outside the city of Jerusalem. We are admonished to “go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:13 NASB).

Note: The expression “sin through ignorance” seems to mean more than lark of knowledge of the sin. It probably means that the sin was not willful, deliberate, or done in defiance or rebellion. There was no sacrifice for willful sin; the death penalty had to be exacted (Num. 15:30).

The person who brought a sin offering was acknowledging that he had sinned unintentionally through weakness or negligence. He sought forgiveness of sins and ceremonial cleansing.

The sin offering points symbolically to Christ, who was “made sin” for us, though He knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Some suggest that the sin offering speaks of Christ dealing with what we are, whereas the trespass offering pictures Him dealing with what we have done.

Chapter 5:1-13

The first 13 verses of this chapter seem to describe the trespass offering (see v. 6), but it is generally agreed that these verses have to do with two additional grades of sin offering. The reason for not treating them with the trespass offering is that there is no mention of restitution, which was an important part of the trespass offering. (However, it is freely admitted that verses 1-13 are closely linked to both the sin and trespass offerings.)

Instead of dealing with various classes of people, these offerings have to do with differing types of sins: Verse I describes a man who has knowledge of a crime, and yet refuses to testify after hearing the high priest or judge put him under oath (the voice of swearing or adjuration). As a Jew living under the Law, Jesus testified when the chief priest put Him under oath (Matt. 26:63, 64). Verse 2 deals with the defilement which a Jew contracted by touching a dead body, even if he did not know it at the time. Verse 3 describes the uncleanness contracted by touching a person with leprosy, a running sore, etc. Verse 4 has to do with the making of rash oaths or promises which one later finds he cannot fulfill.

The Offering Itself: There were three types of offerings for these sins, depending upon the ability of the offerer to pay: a female lamb or goat—for a sin offering (v. 6); two turtledoves or two young pigeons—one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering (v. 7); the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour (v. 11). (No frankincense or oil.) This put the sin offering within reach of the poorest person. Likewise, no one is excluded from forgiveness through Christ, The question arises in verses 11-13, “How can a meal offering serve as a sin offering to make atonement for sin when we know that without the shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22)? The answer is that it was offered on top of a fire offering on the altar (which did have blood), and this gave the meal offering the value of a blood sacrifice.

Duties Of The Offerer: He first of all confessed his guilt (v. 5), then brought his offering to the priest (v. 8).

Duties Of The Priest: In the case of the female lamb or goat, he offered it in accordance with the instructions for a sin offering in chapter 4. If the offering was two birds, he first offered one bird as a sin offering, wringing its neck, sprinkling some blood on the side of the altar, and draining out the rest at the base of the altar (vv. 8, 9). He next offered the other bird as a burnt offering, burning it completely on the brazen altar (v. 10). If the offering was fine flour, the priest took a handful of it and burned it on the altar of burnt offering. He burned it over other offerings involving the shedding of blood, thus giving it the character of a sin offering (v. 12).

Distribution Of The Offering: The Lord’s portion consisted of whatever was burned on the altar. The priest was entitled to whatever was left (v. 13).

Chapter 5:14—6:7

The trespass offering is taken up in 5:14—6:7. The distinctive feature of this offering is that restitution had to be made for the sin committed before the offering was presented (3:16).

There were several types of sin for which an offering had to be made. Trespass against God: Withholding front the Lord that which rightly belonged to Him—tithes and offerings, consecration of first fruits or of the firstborn, etc. (5:14). Unwittingly committing some act forbidden by the Lord (5:17). and presumably an act that required restitution. “In cases where it was not possible to know whether another had been wronged, the scrupulously devout Israelite would still offer a guilt offering by itself.”40

Trespass against man: Dealing falsely with one’s neighbor in a matter of deposit or bargain or robbery or oppression (6:2). Finding a lost article and swearing to a lie about it (6:2). A trespass offering was also required in the case of immorality with a slave girl who was engaged (19:20-22), the cleansing of a leper (14:10-14), and the defilement of a Nazarite (Num. (6:12).

The Offering Itself: A ram without blemish (5:15, 18; 6:6) or a male lamb in the ease of a leper (14:12) or a Nazarite (Num. 6:12).

Duties Of The Offerer: In the case of a trespass against God, he first brought the restitution to the priest, with 20 percent added. Then he brought the animal to the priest at the entrance to the tabernacle court, presented it to the Lord, placed his hand on its head, and killed it. He also removed the fat, fat tail, kidneys, and caul. The procedure was the same in the case of a trespass against a neighbor. In both instances, the offerer had to pay the 20 percent penalty, reminding him that sin is unprofitable and costly.

Duties Of The Priest: He sprinkled the blood around the brazen altar (7:2); he then burned the fat, the fat tail (rump), the kidneys, and the caul upon the altar (7:3, 4).

Distribution Of The Offering: The Lord’s portion was that which was burned upon the altar (7:5). The officiating priest received the skin of the ram (7:8). All the priests shared the meat of the animal as food (7:6). The offerer had no part in the sin or trespass offerings.

As has been mentioned, the person bringing a trespass offering was seeking to make amends for some action of his that had caused loss or damage to someone else.

Symbolically, the trespass offering points to that aspect of the work of Christ by which He restored “that which He took not away” (Psa. 69:4b). Through man’s sin, God was robbed of service, worship, obedience, and glory. And man himself was robbed of life, peace, gladness, and fellowship with God. As our trespass offering, the Lord Jesus not only restored what had been stolen through man’s sin, but He added more. For God has received more glory through the finished work of Christ than if sin had never entered the world. And we are better off in Christ than we ever could have been in unfallen Adam.

      Aside He threw His most divine array,

      And veiled His Godhead in a robe of clay;

      And in that garb did wondrous love display.

      Restoring what He never took away.

Chapter 6:8—7:38

The portion from 6:8 to 7:38 presents “the law of the offerings.” In many ways, it. is very similar to what has gone before. It should be noted that the order in which the offerings are listed is different. Also, there seems to be a greater emphasis on the portions of the offerings that were allotted to the priests.

The law of the burnt offering (6:8-13): Additional details are given here concerning the garments worn by the priest, the manner in which he disposed of the ashes from the offering, and the care he must exercise to see that the fire on the altar never went out. The ashes were first placed at the east side of the altar, and then carried outside the camp to a clean place.

The law of the meal offering (6:14-23): Here we learn that the priests had to eat their portion of the offering within the court of the tabernacle, and that it was not to be leavened because it was most holy to the Lord. “The latter part of verse 18 means that “every layman who touched these most holy things became holy through the contact, so that henceforth he had to guard against defilement in the same manner as the sanctified priests.”41 Verses 19-23 describe a special meal offering which the high priest had to offer morning and evening continually. It was wholly burned by fire.

The law of the sin offering (6:24-30): As explained previously the priest was allowed to eat portions of certain sin offerings (those described in Lev. 4:22—5:13, where the blood was not carried into the sanctuary). The offerings had to be eaten in the court of the tabernacle. Notice that this offering was most holy. If a layman touched the flesh of the offering, he became holy or consecrated (v. 27) and had to keep himself from ceremonial defilement just as the priests did, though he could not exercise priestly functions. If any of the blood was sprinkled on a garment, the garment had to be washed—not because it was unclean, but “in order that the most holy blood might not be carried out of the sanctuary into common life along with the sprinkled clothes, and thereby be profaned.” An earthenware vessel used to cook the meat of the sin offering had to be broken because the earthenware, being porous, absorbed some of the blood and might later be used for profane purposes. A brazen pot had to be scoured and rinsed in water to prevent a portion of the most holy sin offering from ever coming in contact with anything that was common or unclean. The sin offering, like the guilt offering, was to be slain “in the place where the burnt offering is killed” (v. 25). This was the north side of the altar (1:11), the place of shadows.

The first seven verses of chapter 7 review the law of the trespass offering, most of which has already been covered in 5:14—6:7.

Verse 8 refers to the burnt offering and provides that the officiating priest was entitled to the skin of the animal.

Verses 9 and 10 indicate the portion of the meal offering that was to go to the officiating priest (v. 9), and what was to go to the rest of the priests (v. 10).

The law of the peace offering is given in 7:11-21. There were three types of peace offerings, depending on the motive or purpose of the offering: for thanksgiving (v. 12), praising God for some special blessing; for a vow (that is, a votive offering) (v. 16), “in fulfillment of a promise or pledge made to God for the granting of some special request in prayer; for example, preservation on a hazardous journey”42; voluntary or freewill (vv. 16, 17). “This would appear to be in the nature of a spontaneous expression of praise to God in appreciation of what He has revealed Himself to be.”43 The peace offering itself was a sacrificial animal (ch. 3), but here we learn that it was accompanied by certain cakes or breads. The cakes that were required with a thank offering are listed in verses 12 and 13. The offerer was to bring one of each for a heave offering, and this was given to the officiating priest (v. 14). The flesh of the thanksgiving offering was to be eaten the same day (v. 15), whereas the votive offering and the freewill offering could be eaten on the first or second day (v. 16). Anything remaining after two days had to be burned (v. 17); to eat such meat would cause the person to be “cut off,” meaning excommunicated or removed from the privileges of the people of Israel. This shows that communion with God must be fresh and not too far removed from the work of the altar.44

If the flesh touched anything unclean, it could not be eaten but had to be burned (v. 19a). Only persons who were ceremonially clean could eat the meat (v. 19b); any person who was ceremonially unclean and who ate of the peace offering would be cut off (vv. 20, 21).

The fact that different portions of the peace offering were designated for the Lord, the priests, and the offerer indicates that it was a time of fellowship. But since God can have no fellowship with sin or uncleanness, those who partook of this festive meal had to be clean.

The fat, considered the best portion, belonged to the Lord. It was burned for Him on the altar, and it was not to be eaten (vv. 22-25). Likewise, the blood, being the life of the flesh, belonged to God and was not to be eaten (vv. 26, 27). Today many Jews still seek to comply with these dietary laws. In order for meat to be fit for their consumption, or “kosher,” the blood must be removed. In avoiding the consumption of fat, many Jewish households will not use soaps which contain animal fats. They believe that even to use such products in washing dishes would be to make the dishes non-kosher. Beside the spiritual reason for not eating fat there is also a medical reason, as Dr. S. I. McMillen points out: “In the past few years medical science has awakened to the fact that the eating of animal fat is an important cause of arteriosclerosis. This fat forms the tiny, fatty, cholesterol tumors within the walls of the arteries, which hinder the flow of blood. Now, in this decade, magazines, radio and T.V. are broadcasting the good news that we can reduce the ravages front man’s greatest killer by cutting down our intake of animal fats. Happy as we are with the fact that medical science has arrived, we may be amazed to discover that our ultramodern research is about thirty-five hundred years behind the Book of books.”45

The offerer waved the breast of the peace offerings before the Lord, and it then became the portion of the priests (vv. 28-31). The right shoulder was heaved before the Lord, and then was given to the officiating priest as food for himself and his family (vv. 32-34). Verses 35 and 36 repeat that the breast and right shoulder were the portion of Aaron and his sons from the day that God first anointed them as priests. As previously suggested, the breast speaks of divine affection and the shoulder of divine power.

Verses 37 and 38 conclude the section on the laws of the offerings, which began in 6:8. God has devoted much space in His Word to the offerings and their ordinances because they are important to Him. Here in beautiful imagery the Person and work of His Son can be seen in minute detail. Like the different facets of a diamond, these types all reflect the resplendent glory of Him “who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14).

Chapter 8

In Exodus 28 and 29, Clod gave Moses elaborate instructions for consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests. Now, in Leviticus 8—10, we read how Moses carried out these instructions.

Calling of the assembly—priests and people (vv. 1-5).

Priests washed with water (v. 6).

Aaron clothed with high-priestly garments (vv. 7-9).

Tabernacle anointed with oil (vv. 10, 11).

Aaron anointed with oil (v. 12). “The anointing oil was not sprinkled but was ‘poured’ on Aaron’s head, a picture of the Spirit poured without measure upon Jesus, our High Priest.”

Aaron’s sons clothed with priestly garments (v. 13).

The sin offering for Aaron and his sons (vv. 14-17).

The burnt offering for Aaron and his sons (vv. 18-21).

The consecration offering for Aaron and his sons (vv. 22-29). This was also called the rain of consecration (or the ram of the fill offering, literally), it differed from the customary peace offerings as to the application of the blood (vv. 23, 24), and also as to the burning of the right shoulder and bread cakes (vv. 25-28), which ordinarily would have been eaten. Moses received the breast as his portion, since he officiated (v. 29).

The blood was placed on the ear, hand, and foot of Aaron and his sons (vv. 23, 24), reminding us that Christ’s blood should affect our obedience, service, and walk.

Aaron and his sons anointed by Moses with blood and oil (v. 30).

Eating of the peace offering by the priests (vv. 31, 32).

Repetition of the above consecration ritual for seven days (vv. 33-36).

In commenting on this chapter, Matthew Henry discerns the one thing that is missing; “But after all the ceremonies that were used in their consecration, there was one point of ratificatton which was reserved to be the honor and establish- ment of Christ’s priesthood, which was this, that they were made priests without an oath, but Christ with an oath (Heb. 7:21), for neither such priests nor their priesthood could continue, but Christ’s is a perpetual and unchangeable priesthood.”46

Chapter 9

Aaron and his sons took up their official duties on the eighth day (v. 1). First, they were to offer for themselves a calf for a sin offering and a rain for a burnt offering (v. 2). Then they were to offer for the people: a he-goat for a sin offering (v. 3); a yearling calf and sheep for a burnt offering (v. 3); an ox and a ram for a peace offering (v. 4); a meal offering (v. 4).

When Aaron had fully complied with the instructions of Moses (vv. 5-20), he lifted up his hands and blessed the people (vv. 22, 21). Then a fire came out from the most holy-place of the tabernacle and consumed the burnt offering which was upon the brazen altar (v. 24). This indicated God’s acceptance of the offering. This fire of the Lord was to be kept burning continually on the altar of burnt offering.

Chapter 10

Nadab and Abihu burned incense before the Lord with “strange fire,” perhaps fire that was not taken off the brazen altar (v. 1). Since the altar speaks of Calvary, it was as if they tried to approach God in some way other than through the atoning work of Christ. Fire came out from the Most Holy Place and consumed them as they stood by the golden altar in the holy place (v. 2). Moses warned Aaron, in effect, that any complaint would be rebellion against God’s righteous dealings (v. 3). After two men had carried the corpses from in front of the tabernacle to a place outside the camp, Moses told Aaron and his two remaining sons that they must not mourn but remain within the tabernacle while the people mourned the flaring forth of God’s wrath (vv. 4-7). Some have inferred from the reference to drinking in verses 8-1 1 that Nadab and Abihu may have been intoxicated when they offered the strange fire.

Moses commanded Aaron and his sons to eat the meal offering (vv. 12, 15) and the flesh of the wave offering (vv. 14, 15). When he looked for the goat that had been used as a sin offering for the people, he found that Eleazar and Ithamar, sons of Aaron, had burned the sacrifice instead of eating it in the holy place. (Perhaps they feared God’s wrath which had just fallen on their brothers.) The rule was that if the blood of the sin offering was brought into the holy place, then the sacrifice was to be burned (8:30). But if not, it was to be eaten (6:28). Moses reminded them that, in this case, the blood had not been brought into the holy place; therefore, they should have eaten the meat (vv. 16-18).

In reply to Moses’ reprimand, Aaron explained that they had carried out the sin and burnt offerings, as required, but, in view of the Lord’s severe chastisement on Nadab and Abihu, he wondered if his eating the sin offering would have been acceptable to the Lord. Moses accepted the excuse (vv. 19, 20).

This chapter concludes the section on the priesthood.

Chapter 11

The next five chapters deal with matters of ceremonial cleanness and uncleanness. For the Jews there were acts that were not morally wrong but nevertheless barred them from participating in the rituals of Judaism. Those who became defiled were ritually unfit until they were cleansed. A holy people must be holy in every area of life. God used even food to illustrate the difference between what is clean and unclean.

A clean animal was one which had feet that were completely cloven and which chewed the cud (vv. 2-8). The expression “whatsoever parteth the hoof and is clovenfooted” seems to say the same thing in two different ways. But the words mean that the hoof must be completely divided. Clean animals were oxen, cattle, sheep, goats, deer, etc. Unclean animals were pigs, camels, rock badgers, rabbits, etc. The spiritual application is that Christians should meditate on the Word of God (chew the cud) and have a separated walk (the cloven hoof).

A clean fish was one that had both fins and scales (vv. 9-12). Fish such as mackerel, eels, and shellfish were unclean. Scales are often taken to picture the Christian’s armor, protecting him in a hostile world, while the fins typify the divine power which enables him to navigate through the world without being overcome by it.

Birds which preyed on other creatures were unclean—e.g., eagles, hawks, vultures (vv. 13-19).

Verses 20-23 deal with certain forms of winged insects. Only those which had jointed legs above their feet were clean—namely, locusts, devastating locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers.

Touching the carcass of any of the foregoing unclean creatures rendered a person unclean until the evening (vv. 24-28). Special mention is made of animals which walk on paws, such as cats, dogs, lions, tigers, bears, etc.

Other creeping animals are described in verses 29-38—the mole, the mouse, the great lizard, the gecko, the land crocodile, the lizard, the sand reptile, and the chameleon. A person touching their carcasses became unclean until the evening. If the dead body of one of these creatures fell on any utensil, the utensil had to be washed, and it was unclean until the evening, except that an earthen vessel had to be broken. Any food in the earthen vessel became unclean and could not be eaten. Two exceptions are given—a spring of running water did not become unclean through contact with the body of one of these animals, nor did seed used for sowing, if it had not been soaked in water.

Human contact with the carcass of a clean animal which had died (rather than being slaughtered) or eating such meat unintentionally made a person unclean until the evening. His clothes had to be washed (vv. 39, 40).

Verses 41-43 refer to worms, snakes, rodents, and insects. They were not to be eaten.

In Mark 7:18-19, the Lord Jesus declared all foods to be ceremonially clean. The Apostle Paul also taught that no food need be refused if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:1-5). In giving these laws concerning clean and unclean creatures, however, God was teaching lessons concerning His holiness and the necessity for His people to be holy as well (vv. 44-47). This legislation also embodied sound principles of medicine and hygiene.

Chapter 12

This chapter deals with uncleanness connected with childbirth.

A woman giving birth to a boy was unclean for seven days, just as the days of the uncleanness of her menstruation (v. 2). On the eighth day, the boy was circumcised (v. 3). She then remained at home for an additional 33 days so as not to touch anything holy or enter the sanctuary—i.e., the court surrounding the tabernacle.

In the case of a baby girl, the mother was unclean for two weeks, and then remained home for an additional 66 days.

At the end of the time of purification, the mother was commanded to bring a yearling lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering. If she was too poor to afford the lamb, she could bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for the sin offering and one for the burnt offering. The mother of our Lord brought two birds (Luke 2:22-24), an indication of the poverty into which Jesus was born.

It may seem strange that uncleanness is connected with the birth of a baby, since marriage was instituted before sin entered the world, since the Scriptures teach that marriage is holy, and since God commanded men to reproduce. The uncleanness is probably a reminder that, with the exception of the Lord, we are all born in sin and shapen in iniquity (Psa. 51:5). The extended time of uncleanness in the case of a baby girl was perhaps an intended reminder that man was created before woman, that the woman was created for the man, that the woman is given a place of positional subjection (not intrinsic inferiority) to the man, and that the woman was the first to sin.

Williams sees in this legislation the tender care of God in protecting the mother from visitors during a time when her weakness and the danger of infection were greatest.47

Chapter 13

This chapter has to do with the diagnosis of leprosy, and chapter 14 with its cleansing. Opinion is divided as to the nature of biblical leprosy. Bible lepers were usually mobile, were not deformed, were harmless when completely leprous, and were sometimes cured. It seems best to regard the disease mentioned in Leviticus as something different from what we call leprosy or Hansen’s disease today.

Chapter 13 is admittedly difficult, dealing as it does with technical descriptions of leprous and non-leprous diseases and with leprosy in houses and garments.

Symptoms of biblical leprosy in a person (vv. 1-3).

Procedure in a questionable case (vv. 4-8). The person was confined for seven days (v. 4). If the spot had not spread, then he was confined for seven more days (v. 5). Then if the disease seemed to he checked, the priest pronounced the person clean (v. 6). If the eruption in the skin had spread after the second examination, (hen the priest declared him to be unclean (vv. 7.8).

Symptoms of chronic leprosy (vv. 9-11).

Description of an arrested case of leprosy, i.e., where the leprosy was no longer active (vv. 12, 13). In this instance, the leper was pronounced clean.

The case of leprosy involving raw flesh (vv. 14, 15).

The case of leprosy where the raw flesh had healed and turned white (vv. 16, 17). Here again the person is clean.

The case of a leprous boil described (vv. 18-23). Where it was obviously leprous (vv. 18-20). Where it spread during a seven-day test period and was therefore leprous (vv. 21, 22). Where if did not spread, and the person was therefore clean (v. 23).

The case of a leprous bunt described (vv. 24-28). Where it was obviously leprous (vv. 24, 25). Where a seven-day period of testing revealed the condition to be spreading and therefore leprous (vv. 20, 27). Where it is merely a swelling from a burn and not leprous (v. 28).

The case of a leprous itch of the head or beard (vv. 29-37). Where it was obviously leprous (vv. 29, 30). Where it was not clearly known (vv. 31-37), the person was confined for seven days. If the condition had not spread, the person shaved off his hair and waited for seven more days. If the itch still had not spread, the person was pronounced clean. If the itch had spread, the person was unclean. If the itch had been checked, the person was clean.

The case of tetter (“freckled spot” KJV), otherwise known as ringworm or eczema (vv. 38, 39). It was not leprous.

Ordinary baldness and that which was caused by leprosy (vv. 40-44).

A leper was a miserable person. He was put outside the camp of Israel and had to wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose. Whenever people approached, he had to cover his upper lip or mustache and cry, “Unclean, unclean!” (vv. 45, 46).

The case of leprosy in a garment (vv. 47-59). This probably refers to some type of mold or mildew on a cloth or leather garment. Jehovah’s people must be pure and clean externally as well as internally.

Chapter 14

Here is given the ritual for cleansing a leper after he had been healed: He was first inspected by the priest outside the camp (vv. 1-3). If healed, he offered two birds, with cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop (v. 4). The cedar wood and the hyssop, coining from a lofty tree and a lowly plant, picture the judgment of God on all men and on all that the world contains, from the highest to the lowest things. Scarlet is associated with sins in Isaiah 1:18, so the thought here may be of God’s judgment on sins. One bird was killed over running water, and the other was dipped in the blood of the slain bird (v. 6). The cleansed leper was sprinkled with the blood seven times and pronounced clean. Then the living bird was .allowed to go free (v. 7).

Leprosy is a type of sin in many ways. It rendered a man unclean, it excluded him from the camp of God and the people of God, it made the victim miserable, etc. This is why there needed to be an application of blood (the blood of Christ) and the running water (the Holy Spirit’s regenerating work) in the cleansing of a leper. When a sinner turns to the Lord in repentance today, the death and resurrection of Christ (pictured by the two birds) is reckoned to his account. The blood is applied through the power of the Spirit and, in God’s sight, the person is clean.

The cleansed leper washed his clothes, shaved off his hair, and washed his body (v. 8). Then he was allowed to enter the camp, but he could not enter his own tent for seven more days. Seven days later he again washed and shaved and was pronounced clean (v. 9). On the eighth clay, he brought offerings to the Lord (vv. 10, 11): a trespass offering (vv. 12-18); a sin offering (v. 19); a burnt offering (v. 20).

If the cleansed leper was too poor to bring all the required animals, then he was permitted to bring turtledoves and young pigeons for a sin offering and a burnt offering, but he still had to bring the lamb for the trespass offering (vv. 21-32).

A meal offering accompanied the trespass, sin, and burnt offerings in each instance.

Laws for the detection of leprosy in a house are given in verses 33-55. These would apply when the people finally reached Canaan and dwelt in permanent houses rather than in tents. Leprosy in a house was probably some son of fungus, mildew, or dry rot. The Lord made provision for the house to be emptied before the priest went, in so that the contents need not become unclean or be quarantined (vv. 36, 38). At first only the affected stones in a house were removed. But if the leprosy continued to break out, the house was destroyed (vv. 19-45). In the event that the leprosy was arrested in the house, the priest followed a ritual of cleansing similar to that for a leper (vv. 48-51).

Verses 54-57 summarize chapters 13 and 14.

Chapter 15

This chapter deals with the uncleanness arising from discharges from the human body, either natural or diseased. Verses 1-12 seem to refer to a running issue from a man, resulting from disease. The ritual for cleansing is given in verses 13-15. Verses 10-18 refer to the emission of semen, involuntary (vv. 16, 17) and voluntary (v. 18). Verses 19-24 deal with menstruation. Verses 25-30 describe an issue of blood from a woman, but not connected with menstruation—therefore a diseased issue. Verses 31-33 summarize the chapter.

Chapter 16

The greatest, day on the Jewish calendar was the Day of Atonement, when the high priest went into the Most Holy Place with sacrificial blood to make atonement for himself and for the people. It fell on the tenth day of the seventh month, five days before the Feast of Tabernacles. Although the Day of Atonement is usually listed along with the feasts of Jehovah, it was actually a time of tasting and solemnity (23:27-32).

It will be helpful to remember that in this chapter the Most Holy Place is called the Holy Place, and the Holy Place is called the tabernacle of the congregation (KJ V) or the tent of meeting (NASB).

The sacrilege of Nadab and Abihu forms the backdrop for these instructions (v. 1). A fate similar to theirs would befall the high priest if he entered the Most Holy Place on any day other than the Day of Atonement (v. 2). And on that day he must carry the blood of a bull for a sin offering and of a ram for a burnt offering (v. 3).

The order of events is not easy to follow, but the following is a general outline of the ritual. First the high priest bathed and dressed in white linen garments (v. 4). By way of preliminaries, he brought a bullock and a ram to the tabernacle. He would offer these for himself and his family, the bullock for a sin offering and the ram for a burnt offering (v. 3). He brought two goats and a ram which he would offer for the people, the goats for a sin offering and the ram for a burnt offering (v. 5). He presented the two goats before the door of the tabernacle and cast lots—one goat for Jehovah and one as a scapegoat (vv. 7, 8). The word translated “scapegoat” is Azazel, an obscure word which is difficult to define.

Then he killed the bullock as a sin offering for himself and his house (v. 11). Next he took a censer of coals and handfuls of incense and carried them into the Most Holy Place. There he poured the incense over the live coals, causing a cloud of incense to cover the Holy Place (vv. 12, 13). He returned to the altar of burnt offering for some blood of the bullock, took it into the Most Holy Place, and sprinkled it on top of the mercy seat and in front of it seven times (v. 14). He slew the goat chosen for a sin offering (v. 8), and sprinkled its blood, as he did the blood of the bullock, before and on the mercy seat (vv. 9, 15). This made atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the impurities of the sons of Israel (v. 16). By the sprinkling of blood he also made atonement for the tabernacle and for the altar of burnt offering (vv. 18, 19), though the details here are not clear. Atonement started with the Most Holy Place, then worked outward to the Holy Place and finally to the brazen altar (vv. 15-19). After he laid his hands on the head of the scapegoat (v. 8) and confessed the sins of the people (vv. 10, 20, 21), a chosen man led the goat into the wilderness (vv. 21, 22). The two goats symbolized two different aspects of atonement: “that which meets the character and holiness of God, and that which meets the need of the sinner as to the removal of his sins.”48 Aaron’s laying his hands on the head of the live goat pictures the placing of the sins of Israel (and of ourselves) on the goat, to be taken away forever (v. 21). The high priest bathed in “a holy place” (NASH), perhaps at the laver, then put on his garments of glory and beauty (vv. 23, 24a). Jewish tradition says that the white linen garments were never worn again. “The high priest, next offered two rants as burnt offerings, one for himself and the other for the people (v. 24b). He turned the fat of the two sin offerings on the altar while their flesh, hides, and refuse were being burned outside the camp (vv. 25, 27). Even the skin of the burnt offering, which usually went to the priest (7:8), was to be burned. According to the Talmud, the high priest went into the Holy of Holies after the evening sacrifice to bring out the censer.

From the above it will be seen that the high priest entered the Most Holy Place at least four times. This does not contradict Hebrews 9:7-12, where the thought is that there was only one day in the year when the high priest could enter.

Despite the solemn ceremonies of this day, its failure to adequately deal with sins was written across it in the words “once every year” (v. 34). “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4 NASB). In vivid contrast is the work of Christ, by which human sins are totally removed instead of being merely covered for a year!

Chapter 17

At first these verses seem to prohibit the killing of animals without bringing them to the tabernacle as a sacrifice. But this is not the case. The Israelites were permitted to kill animals for food. What this passage forbade was the offering of sacrificial animals at any place other than the door of the tabernacle. Verses 1-9 forbade the offering of animals in the fields, as was done in the worship of the idol Pan.

“The Hebrew word [translated ‘devils’ in KJV and ‘goat-demons’ in ASV] is literally ‘hairy ones.’ In Isaiah 13:21 and 34:14 it is rendered ‘satyr’ in the Authorized Version and ‘wild-goats’ in the American Standard Version. The satyr was an imaginary being, half-goat, half-man, of demon nature. In Egypt the goat-man, Pan, was worshiped, it would seem as though this word recognized the fact that these people had in Egypt probably worshiped the false god.”49

The eating of blood was likewise forbidden (vv. 10-14). The blood was for atonement, not for nourishment. “The life of the flesh is in the blood” (v. 11). The principle behind atonement is life for life. Since the wages of sin is death, symbolized by the shedding of blood, so “without the shedding of blood is no remission.” Forgiveness does not come because the penalty of sin is excused, but because it is transferred to a sacrifice whose lifeblood is poured out. Verse 11 is one of the key verses in Leviticus and should be memorized. When an animal was slaughtered, its blood was drained immediately. An animal that died accidentally was unclean if its blood was not drained right, away.

Verse 15 refers to a person who ignorantly ate the meat of an animal that had not been bled. Provision was made for his cleansing. But if he refused this provision, he was to be punished.

Chapter 18

This chapter deals with various forms of unlawful marriages with which the Israelites had become familiar in Egypt but which they were to completely renounce in the land of Canaan (vv. 1-5).

The expression “to uncover the nakedness” means to have sexual intercourse. Verse 6 states the general principle. Marriage with a blood relative was forbidden. The following verses specify the relationships included: mother (v. 7); stepmother (v. 8); sister or half-sister (v. 9); granddaughter (v. 10); the daughter of a stepmother (v. 11); aunt (vv. 12-14); daughter-in-law (v. 15); sister-in-law (v. 16); a woman and her daughter or granddaughter, both at the same time (v. 17); two sisters at the same time (v. 18). Verse 16 was modified by Deuteronomy 25:5: If a man died without leaving children, his brother was obliged to marry the widow. Although not all the above relationships are “blood relatives,” they are treated as such. Modern medicine confirms that in marriages of blood relatives, the physical or mental weaknesses of parents tend to be magnified in the children.

Intercourse with a woman was forbidden during menstruation (v. 19). Adultery with a neighbor’s wife was prohibited (v. 20). Also banned were the terrible practices connected with the worship of the idol Molech (v. 21), causing newborn babies to pass through fire. Molech was the god of the Ammonites: His idol-image was in the Valley of Hinnom. “According to one tradition there was an opening at the back of the brazen idol, and after a fire was made within it, each parent had to come and with his own hands place his firstborn child in the white-hot, outstretched arms of Molech. According to this tradition, the parent was not allowed to show emotion, and drums were beaten so that the baby’s cries could not be heard as the baby died in the arms of Molech.”50

Sodomy or homosexuality was forbidden (v. 22), as well as sexual intercourse with an animal (v. 23).

Verses 1-23 tell the people what not to do; verses 2-4-30 tell them why not to do it. It is no accident that impurity and idolatry are found together in the same chapter (see also ch. 20). A person’s morality is always the fruit of his theology, his concept of God. The Canaanites were a graphic illustration of the degradation that idolatry produces (vv. 24-27). When the children of Israel took possession of the land, they killed thousands of these people at Jehovah’s command. When we consider the moral degradation of the Canaanites, as described in verses 24-30, we can understand why God dealt so harshly with them.

Chapter 19

The basis of all holiness is found in the words “I the Lord your God am holy” (v. 2). Various laws for the conduct of the people are here laid down, as follows:

Respect of parents (v. 3)—the fifth commandment.

Observance of the sabbath (v. 3)—the fourth commandment.

Prohibition of idolatry (v. 4)—the second commandment.

Eating of the peace offering on the third day forbidden (vv. 5-8).

In harvesting a field, the owner was to leave some grain in the corners for the poor and strangers (vv. 9, 10).

Stealing, cheating, and lying forbidden (v. 11)—the eighth commandment.

Swearing by the Name of God to a false statement outlawed {v. 12)—the third commandment.

Defrauding, robbing, or withholding wages prohibited (v. 13).

Cursing the deaf or stumbling the blind condemned (v. 14). The people were to express their reverence for Jehovah by their respect for one another (25:17). The handicapped (v. 14), the aged (v. 32), and the poor (25:26, 43) were all to be treated with kindness by those who feared the Lord.

Showing respect of persons in judgment forbidden (v. 15).

Slander and plotting against the life of a neighbor prohibited (v. 16).

Hatred of one’s brother forbidden: “But you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him” (v. 17 RSV). Matters should be dealt with openly and frankly lest they become the cause of inward animosity leading to outward sin.

Vengeance or bearing of grudges prohibited (v. 18). The second part of verse 18 is the summation of the whole Law (Gal. 5:14). Jesus said it was the second-greatest command (Mark 12:31). The greatest command is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, 5.

Verse 19 is generally understood to forbid the interbreeding of animals that results in mules. “Cattle” here means beasts in general.

Also, sowing a field with different kinds of seed, or wearing a garment of linen and woolen was for- bidden. God is a God of separation, and in these physical examples He was teaching His people to separate themselves from sin and defilement. If a man had illicit relations with a slave-girl betrothed to another man, both were scourged (see RV) and he was required to bring a trespass offering (vv. 20-22). When settled in Canaan, the Israelites were not to pick the fruit of their trees for three years. The fruit of the fourth year was to be offered to the Lord, and in the fifth year the fruit could be eaten (vv. 23-25). Perhaps the fruit of the fourth year went to the Levites or, as one commentator suggests, was eaten before the Lord as part of the second tithe. Other forbidden practices were: eating of flesh from which the blood had not been drained (v. 26); practicing witchcraft (v. 26); trimming the hair in accordance with idolatrous practices (v. 27); making gashes in one’s flesh as an expression of mourning for the dead (v. 28); making marks on the body as the heathen did (v. 28); making one’s daughter become a prostitute, as was common in pagan worship (v. 29); breaking of the sabbath (v. 30); consulting mediums or wizards (v. 31). Respect was to be shown to the aged (v. 12), and strangers were to be treated with kindness and hospitality (vv. 33, 34). Honesty in business dealings was enjoined (vv. 35-37).

Chapter 20

This chapter gives the punishments for some of the offenses listed in chapters 18 and 19. The person who caused a child to go through the fire in an offering to Molech was to be stoned to death (vv. 1-3). If the people failed to kill him, God would destroy him and his family (vv. 4, 5). The death penalty was also pronounced against one who consulted mediums and wizards (v. 6); one who cursed his father or mother (v. 9); an adulterer and an adulteress (v. 10); one who committed incest with his father’s wife (v. 11) or daughter-in-law (v. 12); and a sodomite (v. 13). (Both parties were to be killed in these cases of unlawful intercourse.) In the case of a man having unlawful sexual intercourse with a mother and her daughter, all three offenders were to be burned (v. 14), presumably after being stoned to death. Sexual perversion between humans and animals was a capital crime; both man and beast were to be slain (vv. 15, 16). The death penalty (or, as some think, excommunication) was pronounced against intercourse with a sister or half-sister (v. 17) or with a menstruous woman (v. 18). Intercourse with an aunt called forth the judgment, “they shall bear their iniquity,” but no details were given (v. 19). Some think it means that they would die childless, as in verse 20, where a man had intercourse with his uncle’s wife, and in verse 21, where the offense was with a sister-in-law. Verse 21 applied only as long as the brother was alive. If he died without leaving a son to carry on his name, his brother was commanded to marry the widow and name the first son after the deceased (Deut. 25:5). Such unions were known as Levirate marriages. The longing of God’s heart was to have a holy people, separated from the abominations of the Gentiles and enjoying the blessings of the Promised Land (vv. 22-26). Mediums and wizards were to be exterminated by stoning (v. 27).

Chapter 21

Chapters 21 and 22, along with 16 and 17, are addressed to Aaron and his sons.

Priests were not to defile themselves by touching the dead except in the case of near kin. Even entering the tent of the dead defiled a person for seven clays (Num. 19:14). This would disqualify a priest from serving the Lord during that time, so he was forbidden to make himself unclean for any but his nearest relatives. Verse 4 is obscure. It probably means that he must take special precaution to guard against defilement because of his high rank. Practices of the heathen in defacing their bodies with signs of mourning for the dead were forbidden (v. 5). The priest was not permitted to marry a woman profaned by harlotry or a divorced woman (v. 7). However, he could marry a widow. A priest’s daughter who became a harlot was burned to death (v. 9).

A high priest was not permitted to mourn in the customary ways or leave the sanctuary to show honor to the dead (vv. 10-12). He was to marry a virgin from his own people, and his married life was to be above reproach (vv. 13-15).

Physical defects barred a man from the service of the priesthood—blindness, lameness, facial deformities, extra fingers or toes (deformed limb, NASB), foot or hand injuries, hunchbackedness, dwarfism, defective eyes, itching diseases, scabs, or injured sex organs. Any son of Aaron who was defective in any of these ways could share the food of the priests, but he could not serve actively as a priest before the Lord (vv. 22, 23). The priests who offered the sacrifices must be without defect because they portrayed Christ as our unblemished High Priest.

Chapter 22

If a priest was ceremonially unclean through leprosy, a running issue, contact with something defiled by a dead body, eating meat that had not been drained of its blood, or any other reason, he was not to partake of the food of the priests. That is what is meant by “separating himself from the holy things” (v. 2). If the priest was a leper or had a running sore, the disqualification probably lasted for a long time. In the other cases mentioned, the following ritual prevailed for the priest: first, he must bathe himself, then wait until the evening, at which time lie would be clean again (vv. 1-9).

In general, strangers, visitors, and hired servants were not permitted to eat the holy food. But a slave who had been purchased by the priest, as well as the slave’s children, could eat it (v. 11). If the priest’s daughter married a stranger, she was not permitted to eat it, but if she were widowed or divorced and childless, and living with her father, then she could share the food of the priests (v. 13).

If a man ate some of the holy food unknowingly, he could make restitution by replacing it and adding a fifth, as in the case of the trespass offering (vv. 14-16).

Offerings brought to the Lord had to be without blemish (v. 19), whether for burnt offerings (vv. 18-20) or peace offerings (v. 21). Diseased, disabled, or disfigured animals were forbidden (v. 22). A bull or a lamb with art overgrown member or a stunted member could be presented for a freewill offering but not for a votive offering (v. 24). Castrated animals or those with damaged reproductive organs were not acceptable (v. 24). Israelites were not to accept any of the above defective animals as an offering from a stranger (v. 25). A sacrificial animal could not be offered until it was at least eight days old (vv. 26, 27). A mother animal and her young were not to be killed on the same clay (v. 28). The meat of a thanksgiving offering was to be eaten on the same day that it was offered (vv. 29, 30).

Chapter 23

The religious calendar of Israel now becomes the subject of God’s legislation.

The seventh clay, or sabbath (v. 3), was to be a day of rest from labor. This was the only weekly holy day.

The Passover (v. 5) was held on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan (or Abib). It commemorated Israel’s redemption from slavery in Egypt. The Passover lamb was a type of Christ, the Lamb of God, our Passover (I Cor. 5:7), whose blood was shed to redeem us from slavery to sin.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread (v. 6) occurred in connection with the Passover. It extended over a period of seven days, beginning with the day after Passover—i.e., from the 15th of Nisan to the 21st. The names of these two feasts are often used interchangeably. During this time the Jews were required to put away all leaven from their households. In Scripture, leaven speaks of sin. The feast pictures a life from which the leaven of malice and wickedness has been put away, and a life which is characterized by the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:8). Even today the Jews eat unleavened bread during this feast. The bread is called matzo. The preparation of matzo involves piercing the bread, and in the process of baking it becomes striped. This unleavened bread may speak of the sinless Messiah. He was pierced for us, and by His stripes we are healed.

The presentation of a wave sheaf of barley took place on the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the day after the sabbath—i.e., the first clay of the week). This is known as the Feast of Firstfruits (v. 10). It marked the beginning of the barley harvest, the first grain of the year. A sheaf of barley was waved before the Lord in thanksgiving for the harvest. A burnt offering and a meal offering were also presented. This first harvest was viewed as the promise of the larger harvest to come. This pictures Christ in resurrection—“Christ . . , the firstfruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20 NASB). His resurrection is the guarantee that all who put their faith in Him will also gain immortality through resurrection.

The Feast of Weeks, Shavout, or Pentecost (a Greek word meaning “fifty”) was held fifty days after the Passover Sabbath. It was a harvest festival thanking God for the beginning of the wheat harvest. The firstfruits of the wheat harvest were presented at this time (v. 17), along with a burnt offering, meal offering, drink offering, and peace offering. According to Jewish tradition, Moses received the Law on this day of the year. The Feast is typical of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, when the church was brought into existence. The wave offering consisted of two loaves of bread made from the freshly reaped wheat. (This was the only offering that was made with leaven.) These loaves represent, in type, the Jews and the Gentiles made into “one new man in Christ” (Eph. 2:15).

After Pentecost there was a long interval, about four months, before there was another feast. This span of time may picture the present church age, in which we eagerly await the return of our Savior.

The Feast of Trumpets (vv. 23-25) took place on the first day of the seventh month. The blowing of trumpets called the sons of Israel together for a very solemn assembly. At this time there was a period of 10 days for self-examination and repentance, leading up to the Day of Atonement. It typifies the time when Israel will be regathered to the land prior to her national repentance. This was the first day of the civil year, today called Rosh Hashanah. Some see this feast as picturing another gathering as well—that is, the gathering of the saints to meet the Lord in the air at the Rapture.

The Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (vv. 26-32), occurring on the tenth day of the seventh month, has been described in detail in chapter 16. It prefigures the national repentance of Israel, when a believing remnant will turn to the Messiah and be forgiven (Zech. 12:10; 13:1). In almost every verse dealing with the Day of Atonement, God repeats the command to do no work. The only person who was to be active on this day was the high priest. The Lord reinforced the charge by threatening to destroy any person who violated it. This is because the salvation which our High Priest obtained for us was “not on the basis of deeds which we have done” (Titus 3:5). There can be no human works involved in the business of removing our sins. Christ’s work and His alone is the source of eternal salvation. To “afflict your souls” (vv. 27, 29) means to fast. Even today Jews observe the day as a time for fasting and prayer. Although the Day of Atonement is listed among the feasts of Jehovah, it was actually a time for fasting rather than feasting. However, after the sin question was settled, there came a time of rejoicing in the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles, Succoth (vv. 33-44), began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. For seven days the Israelites dwelt in booths (v. 42). It pictured the final rest and final harvest, when Israel will be dwelling securely in the land, during the Millennium. This feast is also called the Feast of Ingathering (Exod. 23:16). It was associated with harvesting. In fact several of the feasts mentioned in this chapter have to do with harvesting.

“The Jewish people built booth-like structures and lived in them during this feast as a reminder of the temporary dwellings the Israelites had in the wilderness. Even today many Jewish people build open-roofed, three-sided huts for this festival. They decorate them with tree boughs and autumn fruits to remind them of harvest.

“Everyone who was able came up to Jerusalem for this harvest festival every year. The Temple worship for the holiday included the ritual pouring of water from the Pool of Siloam, symbolic of the prayers for the winter rains. It was at this time that Jesus cried out, ‘… If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink’ (John 7:37-38).

“After Israel’s final day of atonement, the Feast of Booths will be celebrated again in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:16).”51

One of the things the Lord sought to teach His people through the feasts was the close association between the spiritual and the physical aspects of life. Times of bounty and blessing were to be times of rejoicing before the Lord. The Lord was portrayed to them as the One who abundantly provided for their daily needs. Their response as a nation to His goodness found expression in the festivals connected with the harvest.

Notice the repetition of the commandment that the Israelites were to do no servile work on these solemn occasions (vv. 3, 7, 8, 21, 25, 28, 30, 31, 35, 36).

Chapter 24

In chapter 24 the yearly feasts were dealt with. Now the daily and weekly ministries before the Lord are taken up.

The oil to be burned in the golden lampstand (vv. 1-4). The twelve loaves to be placed on the table of showbread (vv. 5-9). The frankincense mentioned in verse 7 belonged to the Lord. It was offered to Jehovah when the old bread was removed and given to the priests for food. Then there is the abrupt account of a half-breed son who was stoned to death for cursing God (vv. 10-16, 23). The incident shows that the law was the same for anyone who lived in the camp of Israel, whether he was a full-blooded Jew or not (v. 22). It shows that blasphemy, like murder, was punishable by death (vv. 14, 16, 17, 23). [Verse 16 was probably the law against blaspheme, which the Jews referred to when they said, “We have a law, and by our law He (the Lord Jesus) ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7).] It shows that compensation could be made for some other crimes (vv. 18,21). Finally it shows that “retribution was a basic principle of law: wrongs had to be righted. Softness brought the law into disrepute. The law of retaliation is scoffed at today in the Western world, but thoughtful people will not dismiss it. (a) In ancient society, punishment was often out of all proportion with the wrong done. Retaliatory punishment was thus a great step toward true justice, (b) Furthermore, rehabilitative punishment—the alternative most frequently suggested—suffers from subjectivism. Who is to decide when a man is rehabilitated, ready to rejoin society? The terms may be lenient today, but what of tomorrow? True justice is an eye (and not more) for an eye.”52

In verses 1-9 we see a picture of Israel as God intended, in verses 10-16 the cursing man pictures Israel as it actually became, blaspheming the Name and cursing (“His blood be on us, and on our children”).

Chapter 25

The legislation in chapters 25-27 was given from Mount Sinai and not from the tabernacle (25:1; 26:46; 27:34).

Every seventh year was to be observed as a sabbath. The land was to lie fallow (uncultivated). Food for the people would be provided from the crop that grew of itself. The owner was not to harvest it, but leave it for free use by the people.

The fiftieth year was also a sabbath, known as the Year of Jubilee (vv. 8-17). It began on the Day of Atonement following seven sabbatic-year cycles (49 years). Slaves were to be set free, the land was to lie fallow, and the land was to revert to its original owner. The price of a slave or a piece of land decreased as the Year of Jubilee approached (vv. 15-17), and all business transactions were supposed to take this fact into account. The words “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (v. 10 KJV) are inscribed on the U.S. Liberty Bell. Believers today may liken the Year of Jubilee to the coming of the Lord. As we get closer to His coming, our material wealth decreases in value. The moment He comes, our money, real estate, and investments will be worthless to us. The moral is to put these things to work for Him today.

With regard to the sabbatic year, the people might wonder how they would have enough food to eat that year, and also the following year until their crops were harvested. God promised them that if they were obedient He would give them sufficient crops during the sixth year to last for three years (vv. 18-22). This would take care of the one time every 50 years when the Year of Jubilee followed the sabbatic year—in other words, when the people would not sow their fields for two years. They would have enough to last till the harvest of the third year.

Land could be sold, but not forever, because Jehovah is the Owner (v. 23). There were three ways in which land could be “redeemed” (revert to its original Jewish owner): The nearest relative could buy it back for the seller (v. 25); the seller, if he regained financial solvency, could redeem it, paying the purchaser for the years remaining until the Year of Jubilee (vv. 26, 27); otherwise, the land automatically reverted to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (v. 28).

A house in a walled city was subject to redemption for one year; after that, it became the property of the new owner forever (vv. 29, 30). Houses in unwalled villages were considered as part of the land and therefore reverted to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (v. 31). Houses owned by the Levites in the special cities assigned to them were always subject to being bought back by the Levites (vv. 32, 33). The fields assigned to the Levites for pasture-ground were not to be sold.

If an Israelite fell into debt and poverty, his Jewish creditors were not to oppress him (vv. 35-38). They were not to charge him interest on money or demand additional food for food loaned (v. 37).

If an impoverished Israelite sold himself to a Jewish creditor for nonpayment of debt, he was not to be treated as a slave but as a hired servant, and was to be released in the Year of Jubilee, if this came before the end of his six years of service (vv. 39-43). The Jews were permitted to have slaves from the Gentile nations, and these were considered their own property, to be handed down to their descendants. But Jewish people were not to be used as slaves (vv. 44-46).

If a Jew sold himself to a Gentile who happened to be living in the land, the Jew could always be bought back and set free. The redemption price was determined by the number of years remaining until the Year of Jubilee (vv. 47-55). The relative redeeming the Jew could use him as a hired servant until the Jubilee (v. 53). If no relative redeemed him, then he automatically went free in the Year of Jubilee (v. 54).

This chapter is a vivid reminder that the Israelites (v. 55) and their land (v. 23) belonged to the Lord and that He should be recognized as rightful Owner. Neither God’s people nor God’s land could be sold permanently.

Chapter 26

Twice as much space is devoted to warning as to blessing in this chapter. Adversity, the promised fruit of disobedience, is a tool which God uses, not to inflict revenge but to lead His people to repentance (vv. 40-42). National chastisement would be increasingly severe until the people confessed their iniquity. Notice the progression in verses 14, 18, 21, 24, and 28. After warnings against idolatry (v. 1), sabbath-breaking, and irreverence (v. 2), the Lord promised the following blessings to the nation if it would keep His commandments: rain, fertility (v. 4), productiveness, security (v. 5), peace, safety (v. 6), victory over enemies (vv. 7, 8), fruitfulness, and the presence of the Lord (vv. 9-13). Verse 13 in Knox’s version reads: “Was it not I … that … struck the chains from your necks, and gave you the upright carriage of free men?”

Disobedience would result in terror, disease, conquest by enemies, drought, barrenness, wild beasts, pestilence, invasion, and captivity (vv. 14-39).

Verse 26 describes famine conditions. Bread would be so scarce that 10 women would be able to bake their supply in a single oven, ordinarily big enough for only one family’s use. Even more severe famine is pictured in verse 29, where cannibalism prevails (see 2 Kgs. 6:29 and Lam. 4:10 for the historical fulfillment of this warning).

Persistent disobedience on Israel’s part would result in their being taken captive by a foreign power (v. 34). The land of Israel would enjoy a period of rest equal to the number of sabbatic years which the people disregarded (v. 35). This is what happened in the Babylonian captivity. During the 490 years from Saul to the captivity, there were 70 sabbatic: years which the people had failed to keep. Thus they spent 70 years in exile, and the land enjoyed its rest (2 Chron. 36:20, 21).

Verses 40-46 provided a way of recovery through repentance for the disobedient nation.. God would not completely forsake His people but would remember His covenant promises.

Chapter 27

This chapter deals with voluntary vows made to the Lord. It seems that in gratitude to the Lord for some blessing, a man could vow to the Lord a person (himself or a member of his family), an animal, a house, or a field. The things vowed were given to the priests (Num. 18:14). Since these gifts were not always of use to the priests, provision was made that the person making the vow could give the priest a sum of money in lieu of the thing vowed.

A “singular” or “difficult” vow means a special one (v. 2).

If a person was vowed to the Lord, then the redemption price to be paid to the priest was as follows:

        A man from 20-60 years old—50 shekels

        A woman from 20-60 years old—30 shekels

        A male from 5-20 years old—20 shekels

        A female from 5-20 years old—10 shekels

        A male from 1 month to 5 years old—5 shekels

        A female from 1 month to 5 years old—3 shekels

        A male 80 years old and above—15 shekels

        A female 60 years old and above—10 shekels

If a man could not redeem his vow according to this chart, then the priest determined some figure according to the poor man’s ability.

If the vow was an animal (vv. 9-13), the following rules applied:

A clean animal, suitable for sacrifice, could not be redeemed (v. 9). It was to be offered to the Lord upon the altar (Num. 18:17); nothing could be gained by exchanging one animal for another, because both would then become the Lord’s (vv. 10, 33); an unclean animal could be redeemed by paying the value placed upon it by the priest, plus one-fifth (vv. 11-13).

If a man vowed his house to the Lord, he could change his mind and buy it back by paying the priest’s estimate of its value, plus one-fifth (vv. 14, 15).

Appraising the value of a field was complicated by the fact that it reverted to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee (vv. 16-25).

If it was vowed by its original owner, then the rules in verses 18-21 applied. It was valued according to the seed sown in it. For example, if an homer of barley seed were sown in it, it would be valued at 50 shekels.

If the field was vowed near or at the Year of Jubilee, then the above appraisal was effective (v. 17). But if some years after the Year of Jubilee, then the value of the field decreased accordingly. In other words, the field would be worth only 30 shekels if it was vowed 20 years after the Year of Jubilee (v. 18).

If the field was redeemed, then an added payment of one-fifth was required (v. 19).

If, after giving the land to the Lord, the owner did not redeem it before the Year of Jubilee, or if he secretly sold it to someone else, it could no longer be redeemed but became the property of the priests at the Year of Jubilee (vv. 20, 21). The land was then “devoted” or “holy” to the Lord.

If a field was vowed by someone who was not its original owner, then verses 22-25 applied. The priest set a value on the property, depending on how many crops could be raised on it before the Year of Jubilee. In that year, the field went back to its original owner.

The firstborn of a sacrificial animal could not be vowed to the Lord, because it belonged to Him anyway (v. 26).

The firstborn of an unclean animal could be redeemed by paying the priest’s valuation of it, plus one-fifth. Otherwise the priest could sell it (v. 27).

Nothing that was under sentence of death or destruction could be redeemed (vv. 28, 29). This is what was meant by a devoted or proscribed thing. Thus a son who cursed his parents could not be redeemed but must be put to death.

It should be noted that there is an important distinction in this chapter between what is consecrated (NASB) or sanctified (KJV) and what is proscribed (NASB) or devoted (KJV). Things sanctified by vow—that is, set apart for divine use—could be redeemed. Devoted things were given completely and finally, and could not be redeemed.

A tithe or tenth of the grain and fruit belonged to the Lord. If the offerer wanted to keep it, he could pay its value plus one-fifth (v. 31).

In verse 32, the expression “whatsoever passeth under the rod” refers to the practice of numbering sheep or goats by causing them to pass under the shepherd’s rod. “With rod in hand, he [the shepherd] would touch every tenth one. He could in no way contrive to change their order so that a good animal would escape tenth place. If he tried to alter the order, both the real tenth and the attempted switch would be the Lord’s.”53 This first tithe was called the levitical tithe, because it was paid to the Levites (Num. 18:21-24). A second tithe, which apparently is a different one, is prescribed in Deuteronomy 14:22-29.

38 Peter Pell, The tabernacle, pp. 102, 103.

39 Ibid., p. 92.

40 Daily Notes of the Scripture Union, further documentation unavailable.

41 C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. II, The Pentateuch, p. 319.

42 A. G. Clarke, Precious Seed Magazine, No. 2, Vol. 11, March-April 1960, p. 49.

43 Ibid.

44 John Reid, The Chief Meeting of the Church, p. 58.

45 Dr. S. I. McMillen, None of These Diseases, p. 84.

46 Matthew Henry, The Matthew Henry Commentary, p. 121.

47 George Williams, The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, p. 71.

48 G. Morrish, New and Concise Bible Dictionary, p. 91.

49 G. Campbell Morgan, Searchlights from the Word, p. 38.

50 Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church at the end of the 20th Century, p. 126.

51 Moishe and Ceil Rosen, Christ in the Passover, page unavailable.

52 Daily Notes of the Scripture Union, further documentation unavailable.

53 Leslie B. Flynn, Your God and Your Gold, p. 30, 31.