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You will find an introduction and outline to Leviticus, here. For a brief discussion of sacrifice see, here.

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

 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.

7:1-10 The Guilt Offering: Notice that those who minister at the alter share in the offerings.

7:11-21 The Peace Offering: The “peace offering” refers to three types of offerings. The thank offering (v12), the votive offering (v 16) and the freewill or voluntary offering (v16). The peace offering is the only offering that the laity may eat. See Psalm 107, among others) on the thank offering. Commentators think the rule about eating the entire offering on one day is to ensure that the poor are included.  The votive offering is made to fulfill a vow made during an emergency in life. (see Gen 28:20; Judge 11:30-31; 1 Sam 1:11; 2 Sam 15:8) The freewill offering is a spontaneous offering of gratitude. The freewill offering rules are not as strict as with the other offerings. (Lev 22:23b) Verses 20-21 being “cut off” from the people seems to have meant some sort of excommunication rather than death. Other commentators think this refers to the ending of ones line of descendants.

7:22-27 Prohibition on eating fat or blood: These verses are for the people rather than just the priests. Both fat and blood have special ritual uses and thus belong to God and thus are not for humans to eat.

7:28-36 The Priests’ portion of the peace offering: This is an addition to v11-21. The purpose of waving of the offering is unclear and many ideas have been proposed. Possibly it was a ritual elevation of the offering, as dedication to the Lord.

7:37-38 Summary:

II. Leviticus 8:1-10:20 The Inauguration of Worship at the Tabernacle: Often we think of Leviticus as a book of laws but now we return to narrative as we read about the consecration of the tabernacle and of Aaron and his sons as priests. The story resumes now.  Notice how often “Moses did as the Lord commanded him” or similar statements appear. Why do you think that is?

Remember in Exodus 29 God gives instructions for the installation of priests but the sin of the golden calf ( Ex 32-34) interrupts the plans for making the tabernacle. Recall that Aaron was an apparently willing participant, was not mentioned in Exodus 40, and now his is named high priest. What do you think this tells us about God?

A. 8:1-36 The Consecration of Aaron and His Sons: As it turns out, Aaron’s descendants continue in the priesthood until the Babylonian captivity. After the captivity, Joshua who was from Aaron’s line was high priest. After that it was not as certain that a descendant of Aaron would serve. Under Roman occupation, the position was often sold to the highest bidder.

The ceremonies have four parts, washing, investiture, anointing, and sacrifices. Moses acts on God’s behalf since there are no priests yet.  Washing signified inward purification. Often in the Old Testament we read of washings being required in particular situations. Washing restores things and people to a state of cleanliness from sin/defilement. Think a bit about how the practice of washing was used in the New Testament and the early church and even today. Anointing serves to set the person or thing apart and for the Lord. Often in scripture anointing is associated with receiving God’s spirit.  The three main sacrifices of this ceremony are the sin offering, then the burnt offering and then the peace offering.

B. 9:1-24 The Inauguration of the Tabernacle Service:Now Aaron offers sacrifices with Moses offering instructions.Notice that these sacrifices begin on the eighth day, the first day of the week. We will come back to this in chapter 23. This is the only time a calf is required to be used in an offering. Some think this is to remind Aaron of his sin with the golden calf. Verse 4 and 6 say that the Lord will appear. Gorman says this, “The glory of the Lord is more than just the visible manifestation of God in fiery displays and effulgences of glory. It signals the very presence of God in the sheer weight of the divine person and the fact that God is immediately present. …With the evidence of divine glory, all worship, liturgy, and sacrifices will now be meaningful. Without that glory, worship, no matter how exact, will be worthless.” (Gorman, 1066).  The order of the sacrifices is important. First the sin offering prepares the way for the other offerings. The burnt offering stands for the person’s complete surrender to God. The grain offering stands for the consecration of the fruits of one’s labor to God. “Only then is it possible to announce that fellowship in the joy, peace, and life with God is now possible as God and mortals commune around the table of the shared sacrifice of the peace offering. (Gorman, 1066). In verse 23 and 24 the glory of the Lord appears and fire consumes the offering. God has approved and accepted what happened that day. How might thinking about these sacrifices and their purpose influence our attitude toward worship today? Or does it? 

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.

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