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Book of Leviticus


Author and Date
See Introduction to Genesis: Author and Date of Writing.

Theological Theme and Message
Leviticus is a manual of regulations enabling the holy King to set up his earthly throne among the people of his kingdom. It explains how they are to be his holy people and to worship him in a holy manner. Holiness in this sense meansto be separated from sin and set apart exclusively to theLord for his purpose and for his glory. So the key thoughtof the book is holiness (see notes on ; ) -- the holiness of God and his people (they must revere him in "holiness").

In Leviticus spiritual holiness is symbolized by physical perfection. Therefore the book demands perfect animals forits many sacrifices (chs. 1 - 7) and requires priests withoutdeformity (chs. 8 - 10). A woman's hemorrhaging after giving birth (ch. 12); sores, burns or baldness (chs. 13 - 14); a man's bodily discharge ( ); specific activities duringa woman's monthly period ( ) -- all may be signs of blemish (a lack of perfection) and may symbolize human spiritual defects,which break spiritual wholeness.

The person with visible skin disease must be banished from the camp, the place of God's special presence, just as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. Such people can returnto the camp (and therefore to God's presence) when they are pronounced whole again by the examining priests. Before they can reenter the camp, however, they must offer the prescribed,perfect sacrifices (symbolizing the perfect, whole sacrificeof Christ).

After the covenant at Sinai, Israel was the earthly representation of God's kingdom (the theocracy), and, as its King, the Lordestablished his administration over all of Israel's life. Israel's religious, communal and personal life was so regulated as to establish them as God's holy people and to instruct them in holiness. Special attention was given to Israel's religious ritual. The sacrifices were to be offered at an approved sanctuary, which would symbolize both God's holiness and his compassion. They were to be controlled by the priests,who by care and instruction would preserve them in purity and carefully teach their meaning to the people. Each particular sacrifice was to have meaning for the people of Israel but would also have spiritual and symbolic import.

For more information on the meaning of sacrifice in general see the solemn ritual of the Day of Atonement (ch. 16; see ). For the meaning of the blood of the offering see ; and notes. For the emphasis on substitution see . Some suppose that the OT sacrifices were remains of old agricultural offerings -- a human desire to offer part of one's possessions as a love gift to the deity. But the OT sacrifices were specifically prescribed by God and received their meaningfrom the Lord's covenant relationship with Israel -- whatever their superficial resemblances to pagan sacrifices may havebeen. They indeed include the idea of a gift, but this isaccompanied by such other values as dedication, communion,propitiation (appeasing God's judicial wrath against sin)and restitution. The various offerings have differing functions,the primary ones being atonement (see note on ) and worship.