Survey of Leviticus
Book Type: Book of Law (or Book of Moses); third book of the Old Testament; third book of the Bible; third book of the five-part Jewish collection known as the Torah.
Author: Moses is the traditional author of this book; Leviticus is part of the "Law of Moses."
Audience: Moses wrote Leviticus to the Jewish people during their 40-year wilderness journey in the Sinai Peninsula. Leviticus provides details regarding priests, sacrifices, holy days, and laws the Jewish people were now required to follow as its own nation. The title Leviticus refers to the Levites, the tribe of priests who were responsible for overseeing the practices regarding the law for Israel.
Date: During the 40 years in the wilderness, approximately 1440–1400 BC.
Overview: This book consists of 27 chapters, covering four major themes. The first theme includes laws regarding the five major offerings God commanded the Israelites to practice: burnt, grain, peace, sin, and trespass offerings. From 1:1—6:7 the laws are presented to the people. In 6:8—7:38 the laws regarding these sacrifices are presented to the priests.
The second major theme is the origin of the Jewish priesthood in chapters 8—10. In chapter 8, Aaron and his sons are ordained as the priests of the Jewish people. In chapter 9, these priests offer their first sacrifices. Chapter 10 then describes the account of Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu dying before the Lord for their unauthorized sacrifices.
The third major theme includes laws regarding uncleanness (Leviticus 11—16). This includes laws regarding unclean animals (Leviticus 11), as well as laws regarding uncleanness related to child bearing (Leviticus 12). In chapter 13, Moses lists a variety of unclean diseases or disorders, with chapter 14 addressing steps of cleansing regarding these issues. Chapter 15 addresses unclean discharges. Chapter 16 then shifts to the tabernacle and how to keep it pure from all uncleanness, giving specific instructions regarding what is known as Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.
The fourth major theme addresses practical guidelines for holy living (Leviticus 17—27), addressing 11 total topics. These are sacrifices and food (Leviticus 17), sexual behavior (Leviticus 18), treatment of neighbors (Leviticus 19), serious crimes (Leviticus 20), priestly regulations (Leviticus 21—22), festivals (Leviticus 23), the tabernacle's holiness (Leviticus 24:1–9), various civil punishments (Leviticus 24:10–23), special years of Sabbath and Jubilee (Leviticus 25), blessings and curses (Leviticus 26), and voluntary gifts or vows (Leviticus 27).
Key Verses (ESV):
Leviticus 1:4: "He shall lay his hand on 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 for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life."
Leviticus 19:18: "You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD."