We may approach the third book of Moses—the book of Leviticus—with the feeling that it makes dull and difficult reading. The constant repetition of prescriptions for sacrifice and blood-shedding and the apparently harsh requirements for purification and uncleanness become almost monotonous, whilst the spilling of so much blood seems repulsive. Perhaps a closer look at the background and structure of the book will reveal to us a little more intimately the character of Yahweh and the object and nature of the sacrifice of Christ so prophetically foreshadowed in the sacrifices and ordinances set out in Leviticus.

The title Leviticus is from the Septuagint and is so called from the nature of its contents—concerning the Levites. However, the more correct title in the Hebrew is found in the opening words And He called(Heb wayichrah), the conjunction Andclearly linking the book with what goes before in Exodus. The key verse and theme of the book is in chapter 19:2, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, ye shall be holy: for I Yahweh your Elohim am holy.In taking up the words of this verse, the Apostle Peter beautifully expresses this overall theme in 1 Peter 1:15–16: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Be ye holy for I am holy.

The book commences with Yahweh calling to Moses to speak unto the children of Israel concerning their desire to approach unto Him in an acceptable manner, inviting them to enter into fellowship with Him. There were conditions imposed as a basis for such fellowship. It was Yahweh’s intention that I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.Fellowship, therefore, was offered only on the basis of the individual’s recognition that without the shedding of blood there is no remission(Heb 9:22). To that end, Yahweh declared, The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul(Lev 17:11). The offerer, therefore, had to identify himself with the offering in that he had to give his life in service to God in the spirit of the words of 1 John 1:7: If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Leviticus is divided into two sections. The first (chapters 1 to 17) expounds the principle of sacrifice: the second (chapters 18 to 27) explains the need for principle to be demonstrated in action. This division is clearly defined, for after summarising the specific requirements of sacrifice, priesthood and the significance of the offering of blood (Lev 17), the writer immediately calls for a personal commitment to right action: After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do(Lev 18:3).

A suggested break-down and analysis of the book is as follows:

1 Sacrifice – Basis of Fellowship

Chapters 1 to 17

(1) The Offerings – Chapters 1:1 to 6:7

Chapter 1 Burnt Offering

Chapter 2 Meal Offering

Chapter 3 Peace Offering

Chapter 4:1–5:13 Sin Offering

Chapter 5:14–6:7 Trespass Offering

Chapter 6:8–7:38 Law of the Offerings

(2) The Priesthood – Chapters 8:1 to 10:20

Chapter 8 Consecration of the Priests

Chapter 9 Ministration of the Priests

Chapter 10 Limitation of the Priests

(3) The People—Chapters 11 to 16

Chapter 11 Dietary laws

Chapters 12–15 Laws for daily living

Chapter 16 Day of Atonement

(4) The Altar—Chapter 17

Verses 1 to 9 One place for offerings

Verses 10 to 16 One use of blood

2 Sanctification – Obligations of Fellowship

Chapters 18 to 27

(1) Laws for the People – Chapters 18 to 20

Chapter 18 Personal prohibitions

Chapter 19 General Admonitions

Chapter 20 Judgments on various sins

(2) Laws for the Priests – Chapters 21, 22

Chapter 21 Prohibited practices

Chapter 22:1–16 Prohibited persons

Chapter 22:17–33 Prohibited offerings

(3) Laws for the Feasts, etc – Chapters 23, 24

Chapter 23 The set seasons

Chapter 24:1–9 The Tabernacle

Chapter 24:10–23 Blasphemy

(4) Laws for the Land – Chapters 25 to 27

Chapter 25 Sabbath year and jubilee

Chapter 26 Negative and Positive requirements of the Covenant

Chapter 27 Vows, Consecrations, Tithings

One of the most interesting and helpful studies associated with Leviticus is that of the offerings. A most enjoyable and useful family Bible marking project is to colour in the occurrence of the word for each offering in the Old Testament. Such a simple exercise can often open up a whole passage of Scripture to our deeper understanding and appreciation. A summary of the five major offerings is as follows.

1 Burnt Offering (olah)—Dedication to God

The Burnt Offering is the most important and the most ancient of the offerings and was in existence long before the giving of the Law of Moses. The basic idea of God Manifestation is set forth in this offering even more than in the Peace Offering or Sin Offering. The Burnt Offering proclaimed the complete dedication of the offerer to performing the will of God. It found its anti-type in the Lord Jesus Christ (Psa 40:6–8; Heb 10:5–9): it was an offering of righteousness (cp Psa 51:15–19): it was a voluntary offering in which the offerer was conscious in a general way of past failure and that he was a sinner, thus the need for shedding of blood. Because of the shedding of blood, the principle of atonement was embodied in the offering and prior to the Law it would have satisfied the requirements of an offering for sins as well. However, it was not consciousness of sin that was uppermost in his mind but an earnest desire to serve God to the limit of his powers. Head, fat, flesh—the intellect, heart, soul, the whole of his physical powers—all were pledged to God in total dedication to His service (cp Deut 6:5 with Mark 12:28–34). Every morning and every evening a Burnt Offering ascended, signifying a “continual” life of dedication.

2 Meal Offering (minchah)—Consecration to God

The Meal Offering is the natural sequal to the Burnt Offering. In the Burnt Offering man gave himself to Yahweh, but in the Minchah (Meal Offering) he gave of the work of his hands. It was not merely grain, but grain treated in some way by man: he was giving back to God something with which God had blessed him, but upon which he had expended personal labour. It therefore represented the fruits of a man’s labours. Fine flour stood for perfection of service; the oil signified that the works had all to be prompted by God’s Spirit and performed with joy; the frankincense was the symbol of prayer and true spiritual worship and showed that the works were solely to the honour and glory of Yahweh (2:1). The Meal Offering was intended to bring good works to remembrance (memorial2:2), thus leaven and honey, symbolising fermentation and corruption, were excluded. The salt reminded the offerer of the terms of Yahweh’s Covenant. The Meal Offering and Drink Offering were also part of the evening and morning Burnt Offering (Exod 29:38–44).

3 Peace Offering (shelem)—Fellowship with God

The Hebrew word for peacehas the general idea of uniting together as one, hence “fellowship”. By means of such a sacrifice Yahweh and the worshipper were united as one by a sacrificial feast (7:15). In actual fact, the Peace Offering was the last to be offered. The normal procedure would be Sin Offering (atonement), Burnt Offering (dedication), Meal Offering (consecration), Peace Offering (fellowship). The sacrificial meal was the factor of paramount importance in the ritual of the Peace Offering; so for that reason it typified the privileges of fellowship with God through covenant relationship with Him. Whilst Israel were in the wilderness, every slaughter of animals for the procurement of food had compulsorily to be a Peace Offering (Lev 17:1–6)—a very effective way of teaching man how dependent he was upon God’s mercy for the very sustenance of life itself.

4 Sin Offering (chattah)—Reconciliation to God

The Burnt, Meal and Peace Offerings were voluntary offerings and existed in practice before the institution of the Law of Moses. By contrast, there is no reference to Sin Offering as such prior to the Mosaic covenant, and this is appropriate, for the very purpose of the Law was to magnify sin (Rom 7:13). It is also apparent that the ritual associated with the disposal of the blood required the existence of the Israelite encampment and Tabernacle for the functioning of this sacrifice.

The Sin Offering acknowledged that all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God; hence this offering was obligatory. However, it only covered sins of ignorance (Lev 4:2, 13, 22, 27) and rashness or hastiness (Lev 5:1–13). The Law was merciless against the murderer (Num 35:31), presumptuous or high-handed sins (Num 15:30–31), adultery (Lev 20:10), blasphemy (Lev 24:14–16) etc. Even our ignorance is no excuse, but there is a need for confession of sin if forgiveness is to be obtained. Note how David’s sin (Psa 51) could not be forgiven by Law (1 Cor 4:4 rv; Luke 12:48). The presentation of this offering was an admission by the offerer that he had committed some specific offence against God’s revealed will and an expression of his desire for the forgiveness of the guilt which he had in consequence incurred (Lev 4:20,26,31). The Sin Offering gave prominence to the disposal of the blood and, as the idea of expiation or atonement was implicit each time blood was shed, therefore the Sin Offering emphasised the principle of forgiveness, expiation or atonement.

5 Trespass Offering (asham)—Restoration to God

The Sin and Trespass Offerings were closely related to each other (Lev 7:7). Like the Sin Offering, it was the consciousness of a specific guilty act that necessitated a Trespass (or guilt) Offering (Lev 5:15, 17; 6:1–5). However, it differed in that it was a trespass—the invasion of the rights of another, whether Yahweh or man, and as such it necessitated reparation. Therefore, the offerer not only sought forgiveness, but had to make restitution to the one he had wronged (Lev 5:15–16; 6:1–5), in circumstances where that could be done (5:17–19). Not every sin fell into the category of a trespass but every trespass was a sin, for which one animal only was permitted for sacrifice—a ram in all cases. However, the value of the ram differed according to the gravity of the offence (Lev 5:15, 18; 6:6). The Trespass Offering was designed to give prominence, not to the notion of expiation as such, but instead to that of reparation for the wrong done in the course of committing the sin. It spoke not so much of the desire for forgiveness as the desire to make amends. It typified repentance rather than remorse.

With this Divine order of approach to Yahweh of Dedication, Consecration, Fellowship, Reconciliation and Restitution we have a pattern of acceptable worship and principles for daily living. It was useless observing the ritual details of these offerings without implementing the principles in an acceptable way of life. The same applies for worshippers in every age. Each day should be a continuing burnt offering of dedication to Yahweh as we labour in His service, offering the fruits of our hands to Him, rejoicing in the blessing of fellowship with Him through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we obtain reconciliation and restitution.

The days are surely numbered of Yahweh! How long will it be before we stand in the presence of our righteous Judge and Redeemer? There should be no hesitation on our part in redeeming the timewith a tireless application of heart and mind in the development of those Divine attributes in word and action, to the Glory of His Name. Such individuals will receive a joyful acceptance at the Lord’s return and participate in filling the earth with the Glory of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea.