Summary of the Book of Leviticus
Leviticus is the third book of the Bible. The first five books of the Bible are called the Pentateuch, or the Law, and are generally accepted as being written by Moses. The name “Leviticus” means “the Levitical book.” Even though it contains Levi’s name, it was written concerning the priesthood in general, not only to the Levites (which is the focus of the book of Numbers). The title of the book in the Hebrew Bible means “And He Called,” which are the opening words of the book. Leviticus is the calling of God’s people to be holy.
Genesis deals with man’s creation and fall. The book contains God’s promise of a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15) and a choosing of the nation of Israel as the one through whom the Redeemer would come.
Exodus is Israel’s deliverance from the bondage of Egypt culminating in a place of worship being established. This is a picture of the spiritual bondage that man has to sin, yet God provides a way of deliverance.
The book of Leviticus opens where Exodus closes. Exodus ended with God giving a place of worship. Leviticus is God showing the method in which this worship would be conducted.
The book starts with the phrase “the Lord called unto Moses” which appears 35 other times in the book. Moses is referred to, by name, 55 times within the pages of Leviticus. In Matthew 8 Jesus talks about the commandments that Moses gave in Leviticus 14. Paul talks of Moses being the author of Leviticus 18:5. Leviticus is clearly written by Moses.
Like all the books of the Law, the date of writing is between 1440 and 1400 B.C. Exodus records the Passover as having taken place on the 14th day of the first month (Exodus 12:2, 3, 6) of the first year. The tabernacle is set up one year later on the first day of the first month of the second year according to Exodus 40:17. The next book after Leviticus is the book of Numbers. Numbers begins the first day of the second month of the second year after leaving Egypt (Numbers 1:1). Therefore, Leviticus was written during the first month of the second year after leaving Egypt. This puts a more exact date on the time of its writing as 1439 B.C.; that is, if you accept the exodus as having taken place in the year 1440 B.C.
Purpose of Leviticus
The book has a multi-faceted purpose.
- To show that God would fulfill His promise given in Exodus 25:22
- To instruct Israel in the holy life which God expects of His worshipers (Leviticus 11:45; 19:2)
- To provide instruction for the Levitical Priesthood in their roles and responsibilities (Leviticus 6:9, 25; 16:2; 21:1, 17; 22:2)
- To provide prophetic illustrations of the coming Savior (Hebrews 10:1)
- To show that sin must be atoned for by the offering of sacrifices (Leviticus 8-10)
Leviticus 1:4 “And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”
Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. ”
Leviticus 19:2, 18 “Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. … Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”
- Holy – The root word for holy is the same as for the following words which are altogether used 136 times in the book: sanctify, sanctified, sanctuary, hallow and hallowed. The key idea of all these words is “set apart.”
- Sacrifice (offering, oblation) – used about 300 times.
- Clean and unclean – used about 200 times.
- Atonement – used 36 times.
Outline of Leviticus
Unlike the previous two books (Genesis and Exodus) this book cannot be divided by events nor main characters. This book talks about certain aspects of worship and holiness.
- Worship Through Sacrifice (chapters 1-7)
- Worship Through the Priesthood (chapters 8-10)
- Cleansing From Various Types of Uncleanness (chapters 11-16)
- Worship Through Practical Holiness (chapters 17-26)
- Vows from God to the People (chapter 27)
Summary of Leviticus
As seen in the key verses and key words of this book, the primary theme is holiness. Because of God’s holiness, He expects His people to be holy. The only way for sinful humanity to be holy is through atonement of sins. In the book of Leviticus the atonement was done through sacrifices.
The book of Leviticus is a book of actual, real sacrifices. However, it was a foreshadowing (Hebrews 10:1) of what would come later. While the Israelites were sacrificing animals at the time, this was a type (picture, illustration) of the coming Redeemer who was promised as early as Genesis 3:15. The Levitical sacrifices had to be done consistently because the blood of animals could not cleanse them permanently from sin. Eternal holiness and cleansing came through the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God’s plan is that man take on His attributes instead of changing God to the standard of humanity. The Ten Commandments state that man should not worship any other God, nor make images of what they believe God to be (Exodus 20:3-5). However, when man worships God in his own way, instead of God’s way, then God gives man over to his own vain imaginations and corruption (Romans 1:19-25).
God’s holiness, as told in the book of Leviticus, demands that He punish sin. However, the book also teaches that He has made a way of atonement for man’s sin (Leviticus 17:11). Through the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross (not by animals), He has entered into the Holy Place in Heaven and covered man’s sin (Hebrews 9:11-28). But the blood of Christ is only for those who are willing to allow Him to do a work that they cannot do on their own (Romans 5:9-11; 10:9-13).