The Purpose of the Book of Leviticus, as with all the Books of the Bible, has many parts and we will break them down by working through the Book of Leviticus. The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the New Testament and was written by Moses. The foundational verse in Leviticus is the first one, “Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying…”Leviticus 1:1 NKJV The Hebrew name of the Book means Adonai Called.
The Jews also call the Book of Leviticus “Instructions of the Priests.”
When we reviewed Exodus, the tabernacle had been completed and, in Leviticus, God gives specific instruction about the role of the priesthood, sacrifices, and appointed times. However, one of the most important aspects of the book is that it deals with the character of God and His holiness as well as the character of His people.
Why the Book of Leviticus is So Neglected
People often skip reading the Book of Leviticus completely because they just don’t understand and it doesn’t seem to apply today. However, the basic theme of Leviticus, holiness, does matter to us today. While Leviticus presents holiness and forgiveness as being linked to blood sacrifices that could only be carried by the priests, we see the work of Jesus. His was the final blood sacrifice because it is was pure. We have forgiveness through our Mediator, Jesus, and we can go directly to Him and receive forgiveness because His blood covers us.
The Book of Leviticus leads us to the work of Jesus.
Why Should You Read Leviticus?
A full understanding of the foundations of the Word helps you understand the references to the Old Testament books when you see them in the New Testament. The Old Testament created building blocks leading the world to Christ.
Leviticus is part of that Word, 2 Timothy 3:16 CJB, tells us why we should read it, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living;“
Yes, even the Book of Leviticus has something to teach us.
Why is the Book of Leviticus Important?
The importance of the book of Leviticus has already been partially explained, but there are even more reasons. It’s important to remember the context of the Book. Exodus and Leviticus show the development of the foundation and shaping of an entirely new nation – the Jewish nation. The building of the tabernacle, tent of meeting, and the laws governing society are being established.
All society since that time has borrowed from the Jewish laws to build their own. Nations create their own systems and laws for society, leadership, behavior, and faith. While Leviticus can be a controversial book there is much of the Bible which can also be controversial. However, it’s important to read Leviticus in the context of its time.
It’s also vital to realize that God was forming a people for Himself – a people set apart from all the others in the world. People who would be known for their love for and obedience to God. People who would look and act differently as they honored the holiness of God.
5 Reasons the Book of Leviticus is Important
The pre-eminence of the qualities of God’s holiness and ours are established. 1 Peter 1:15-16 ESV is a direct quote from Leviticus, “but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” The word ‘holy’ is found over 80 times in Leviticus.
2. The Festivals
3 of the Festivals established by the Jewish nation, remain today in our own culture – Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost and they continue to shape society and the church by bringing us into remembrance of the gift of Christ.
Leviticus shows us God’s ongoing desire to have fellowship with His people and to be in their midst. We see this in the tabernacle and in the laws asking and requiring the people to draw near to God’s presence. God called and the people answered.
4. Jesus’ Work on the Cross
The blood sacrifices described in Leviticus give us a better understanding of the full work of Christ on the Cross and in shedding His own blood for us.
5. The Love of God
The love of God for His people is expressed in Leviticus. Everything God said or did was because of His love – He is love. Leviticus 19:18 CJB says, “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.” Here is the same command that Jesus gave us and the same standards for holiness that we see in the New Testament.
5 Words to See the Importance of the Book of Leviticus
HOLINESS – If God’s holiness is recognized by everyone, it can become the starting point for how all of society will function. This also provides the guiding premise under which we can find our value since we too are urged to be holy as God is holy and now, through Christ, we have been made holy.
REMEMBRANCE – Society today seems to place little value on remembering what God has done and creating memorials or celebrating special days to bring that to mind. America really only observes Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as a nation. Of course, many other religions celebrate their own holidays but God’s desire was for His people to remember, not because it makes Him feel good, but because we need to be reminded and celebrate together.
FELLOWSHIP – God is not distant. We see Him drawing near to us and asking us to draw near to Him again and again. His desire was and always will be fellowship with us.
BLOOD – Again, in our current culture, a blood sacrifice seems horrible. However, blood is symbolic of life in the bible. Our blood must be kept clean and pure and as it flows throughout our body, it cleans, delivers oxygen and antibodies, and nourishment to keep our physical body in balance. It is symbolic and points us to the shedding of blood by Jesus.
LOVE – God is love. His love is pure and powerful. It takes away fear and brings peace. Paul said, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV.
The Torah and Leviticus
The Hebrew word for Leviticus is Vayikra, which means, “And He Called.” These words still matter today because God continues to call to us, asking us to come to Him and hear His life-giving instructions. He invites us to share in communion with Him.
The Hebrew Torah consists of the first 5 books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy all written by Moses. These books represent the foundation and creation of the Hebrew nation. One purpose of the Book of Leviticus is to express its very important instruction for the creation of that foundation.
Early Jewish tradition in the education of children was that the Book of Leviticus would be the first book to be taught. If you have read Leviticus, you may be asking, “Why?” The reason is that Leviticus deals with God’s character and our character as His people learning His will. These things would also teach them about each one’s responsibility to live a holy life. If this was the first thing children learned, it would help shape their lives.
Summary of the Book of Leviticus
Chapters 1-7 are about the Burnt Offering, Grain Offering, Peace Offering, Sin Offering, Trespass Offering, and other instructions. Each one also contains the societal reasons for the offerings and is highly specific as to how each offering is to be done.
There is one common theme – “without blemish.” The majority of the animals used for sacrifice had to be ‘without blemish.’ For a human being, “without a blemish” is impossible because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Here we see the basis for Jesus’ death. He alone could be the One to cleanse us from our sin and present Himself before the Father as being without spot or blemish. Only the pure and holy Messiah could wash away the sins of mankind.
These chapters record the consecration of Aaron and his sons. Moses took Aaron and his sons to the tent of meeting and called everyone to assemble there to witness this ritual ceremony. Moses said that “This is what the Lord commanded to be done.” Lev. 8:5b NKJV.
First, they were all washed with water. Of course, we can see the symbolism that is applied in our own salvation – we are washed white as snow. Next, Moses clothed Aaron. He wore a tunic, a sash (belt), tunic, a robe, put the ritual vest on him or, the ephod (which held significant meaning as a very special piece of clothing), wrapping a sash around him which also secured the vest. Next came the breastplate and the Urim and the Thummim were put inside the breastplate. We are to put on the armor of God which holds many similarities.
The Urrim and the Thummim
The Urim and Thummim are mysterious objects. The two were used by the wearer to hear from God, to obtain wisdom or light (Urim) and imparting that through their words and then giving instruction (Thummim) on carrying out those words. The light and guidance helped people to walk in obedience.
Another interpretation of their function is, “Interpreting Urim to mean “those whose words give light” and Thummim as “those whose words are fulfilled,” Jewish Virtual Library.
Finally, a turban was put on Aaron’s head with a golden plate, or holy crown, on it. Moses then anointed everything with oil, the tabernacle and everything in it. He poured the oil on Aaron’s head, and brought Aaron’s sons in to be clothed in a tunic, wrapped with sashes, and put headgear on their heads.
The sacrifices of blood then began. Moses put more anointing oil and some of the blood on Aaron and his sons. At the end, Aaron and his sons had to stay at the entrance of the tent of meeting for seven full days. They did all that Moses said.
Gathering the People at the Tent of Meeting
On the eighth day, more sacrifices were offered and all the people were to bring a sacrificial calf, lamb, ox, ram, and grain mixed with olive oil, as they gathered at the tent of meeting. There, the sin offering, burnt offering, grain offering, and peace offering were made and blood was poured out on the altar.
Moses had told the people that God wanted to appear to them. Aaron blessed the people and then entered the tent of meeting with Moses. They came out again and blessed the people. Then:
the glory of Adonai appeared to all the people! Fire came forth from the presence of Adonai, consuming the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Leviticus 9:24 CJB
These chapters contain the laws regarding ceremonial purity. For instance, some animals were considered to be ‘clean’ and others were ‘unclean’ and they could not eat or touch the unclean animals.
Most of these laws are not observed today by Christians. Many of them are related to people’s health. Remember, they are still in the desert, not in the promised land and so there were animals, fish, birds, and crawling things that were forbidden for health reasons. Some of these laws were dropped when they entered the Promised Land.
Kosher dietary laws were established at this time and are still observed by today’s Jewish people. Jesus, as a practicing Jew, undoubtedly observed these dietary laws. In the New Testament, we see the same distinction between clean and unclean in relation to moral and religious deficiencies that contaminate us inwardly – in our soul and character. Incest and idol worship are two examples.
The whole of these 7 chapters relates to purity, something which is important to God because He is pure and holy. Jesus added depth in regard to purity and what makes us clean or unclean in Mark 7:14-23 CJB:
Then Yeshua (Jesus) called the people to him again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand this! There is nothing outside a person which, by going into him, can make him unclean. Rather, it is the things that come out of a person which make a person unclean!” When he had left the people and entered the house, his talmidim (disciples) asked him about the parable. He replied to them, “So you too are without understanding? Don’t you see that nothing going into a person from outside can make him unclean? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and it passes out into the latrine.” (Thus he declared all foods ritually clean.) “It is what comes out of a person,” he went on, “that makes him unclean. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come forth wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, foolishness…. All these wicked things come from within, and they make a person unclean.
Jesus declared all food ritually clean and defined some of the things which make us unclean. As we read the standards of purity, we see that they also guide us toward the coming Messiah and His standards of purity which are often harder to observe than the ones in Leviticus because our old nature loves sin and the “passing pleasures of sin.” Hebrews 11:24-25
Review the list of things that make us unclean today – wicked thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. Who can free us from all of this? Read Romans 8.
The Holy Spirit
In Romans 8 we also see another person involved in helping us be free from the wickedness that abides in us – the Holy Spirit. We are told that the Torah (law) could never set us free. It could guide us toward God’s will for us but all of its power was on the outward flesh.
Therefore, there is no longer any condemnation awaiting those who are in union with the Messiah Yeshua. Why? Because the Torah (law) of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the “Torah” of sin and death. For what the Torah could not do by itself, because it lacked the power to make the old nature cooperate, God did by sending his own Son as a human being with a nature like our own sinful one [but without sin]. God did this in order to deal with sin, and in so doing he executed the punishment against sin in human nature, so that the just requirement of the Torah might be fulfilled in us who do not run our lives according to what our old nature wants but according to what the Spirit wants.
For those who identify with their old nature set their minds on the things of the old nature, but those who identify with the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Having one’s mind controlled by the old nature is death, but having one’s mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom (peace). For the mind controlled by the old nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God’s Torah — indeed, it cannot. Thus, those who identify with their old nature cannot please God.
But you, you do not identify with your old nature but with the Spirit — provided the Spirit of God is living inside you, for anyone who doesn’t have the Spirit of the Messiah doesn’t belong to him. However, if the Messiah is in you, then, on the one hand, the body is dead because of sin; but, on the other hand, the Spirit is giving life because God considers you righteous. And if the Spirit of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead is living in you, then the One who raised the Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.”
The purpose of the Book of Leviticus and the function of the Torah was always meant to be a tutor and guide leading us to Jesus. Our outward righteousness could be achieved with great difficulty, but it is only through Christ that we are cleansed inwardly. The Torah did what it was meant to do – lead us to Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Messiah Yeshuah.
The Torah of Sin and Death
Look at the reference in verse 2 – to the “Torah” of sin and death and the fact that the original Torah (Law which was given by God) is the law of the Holy Spirit of God which produced life when joined in union with Jesus.
We can repeatedly see the purpose of the Book of Leviticus and the Torah as a tutor, guide, and protector leading us to Jesus. The roles of the Holy Spirit are – tutor, guide, and protector. The Torah was meant to protect the people from the impurities of life so that they could be holy like God is holy. Christians, thousands of years later, have the same mandate from Jesus.
The difference is that for the nation of Israel, holiness was only outward. When Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to live inside us after dying for us and shedding His blood for our forgiveness, holiness and purity were found in our innermost being.
Chapter 23 outlines the appointed times, feasts, and convocations. The Holy Days of Israel include Rosh-HaShanah which is a time of ‘regathering’ and ‘repentance.’ “The people take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to ensure the upcoming new year will be pleasing to God.” The Complete Jewish Study Bible, pages 162-163.
Rosh-HaShanah is the first of 3 holy days that occur between September and October on our calendar. The second is Yom-Kippur which is considered the holiest day of all because “this is the very day – once a year – that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the nation.” CJB This brought regeneration for “those who follow God’s ways of atonement.” CJB.
The third is Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – and is known as the “Time of Our Rejoicing.” It is a time of bringing in the later harvest and dwelling in booths as a remembrance of Israel’s time in the wilderness.
Chapter 25 gives instruction for the Sabbatical Year and the year of Jubilee
Chapter 26 tells of the rewards for obedience and the punishments for disobedience.
Chapter 27 speaks of vows and devoted things ending with the laws of the tithe (tenth) of the harvest and from the herds that was holy to God.
Reading the Book of Leviticus
As you read the Book of Leviticus look for its relationship to the Gospel of Jesus. Remember that it starts with God calling out to Moses – Adonai called – in verse 1.
Now you can read the Book of Leviticus and understand its importance. The overall messages of the Book are of purity, holiness, obedience, sacrifice, and drawing near to God.
Read to see Jesus, His sacrifice, His life, and look for the ways in which the Torah and the Book of Leviticus helped to guide God’s people through thousands of years toward Jesus.
You might also enjoy reading – The Book of Exodus
Inspiration For Life Today uses verses from different Bible translations. To see more information about the copyright for each one, please visit this page – Scripture Citations.