A prayer for your use before reading by Origen (c. 185 – c. 254) was an early church father from Alexandria.
Lord, inspire us to read your Scriptures and meditate upon them day and night. We beg you to give us real understanding of what we need, that we in turn may put its precepts into practice. Yet we know that understanding and good intentions are worthless, unless rooted in your graceful love. So we ask that the words of Scriptures may also be not just signs on a page, but channels of grace into our hearts. Amen.
I. Leviticus 1:1-7:38 The Laws of Sacrifice
A. 1:1-6:7 The Laws of the Five Major Offerings:
1:1-17 The Whole Burnt Offering
2:1-16 The Grain Offering
3:1-17 The Peace Offering
The next two offerings are somewhat different than the first three. The sin offering and the guilt offering are described in more detail. The first three offerings are normally voluntary. The sin and guilt offering are the result of particular offenses which makes them needed. It is difficult for modern people to grasp the difference between sin and guilt offerings.
4:1-5:13 The Sin Offering: The sin offering can also be thought of as an “offering of purgation” or “purification offering”The word translated as “sin” can also mean “to miss the mark”. Verse 4:1 talks about “unintentional” sins. Traditionally commentators have understood this to mean just what a plain reading suggests, unintentional or by mistake. As Bernard Bamburger writes, “They [sacrifices] served chiefly to expiate unintentional sins…The law did not permit one to do a deliberate wrong and then square the account with a sacrifice….Ceremonial atonement for unwitting violations of the law was a psychologically sound procedure. People are often deeply disturbed if they cause harm by accident, ignorance, or oversight. The sacrifice relieved the troubled conscience.” (Bamburger, 768)
Notice the fours sections, for the high priest, the congregation, the leader and the individual. The higher the standing of the person the more costly the offering. Notice that the sin offering of the high priest and the community requires the sacrifice be burned on the ground outside the camp. What do you think having to leave the community and not use the altar means?
Notice the responsibility that the leaders and priests bear. Additionally note the sliding scale (so to speak) of offerings for individual people. There is no one too poor or lowly that they cannot have their sins forgiven.
5:1-13 describes particular sins which require a sin offering. Why might these sins have been singled out for particular mention?
5:14-6:7 The Guilt Offering: There are two sections here, 5:14-19 concerns “The Lord’s Holy things” and 6:1-7 concerns human property rights. The King James version translates “guilt” as “trespass”. “Guilt offering” could also be translated as “reparation offering”. The Hebrew word has the sense of both incurring liability to someone and feeling guilt. Here again “unintentionally” is used and carries a meaning more akin to mistakenly or in error. Notice the guilt offering has a component of reparation or restitution. The guilt offering is only done by individuals. There is not distinction between the animal used between the rich and the poor. Why do you think that is?
B. 6:8-7:38 Instructions for the Priests: There is some repetition of previous directions in this section. Lev 1-6:7 is mostly concerned with worshipers, Lev 6:8-7:38 is concerned with officiating priests. There are nine sections here each beginning either with “The Lord said to Moses” or “This is the instruction for the …. offering”. Then 7:37-38 sums up this section on sacrifices.
6:8-13 The Perpetual Burnt Offering: In these 6 verses the priests are told the fire must not go out. “The whole burnt offering makes atonement each evening for the sins of that day; but come the next morning, it is necessary to atone for the sins of the preceding night. Thus the perpetual whole burnt offering reminds Israel of its need for continual repentance, cleansing, prayer, and thanksgiving to God.” (Kaiser,1044).
6:14-18 The Daily Grain Offering: The priests must eat these offerings in a holy place because of the holiness of the offerings.
6:19-23 The Priests’ Daily Grain Offering: The grain offering of the high priest must be completely burned.
6:24-30 The Sin Offering: This is further instruction about the offering discussed in 3:1-6:7.
Read More About It.
The following are several good general reference works to aid your reading of the Torah.
Anderson, Bernhard W. “Leviticus” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Bamberger, Bernard J. “Leviticus” in The Torah: A Modern Commentary Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations) 1981.
Gorman, Frank H. Jr. “Leviticus” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Hallo, William W. “Leviticus and Ancient Near Eastern Literature” in The Torah: A Modern Commentary Plaut, W. Gunther, ed. (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations) 1981.
Kaiser, Walter C., Jr, “The Book of Leviticus” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1 Keck, Leander E., ed. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.