Leviticus Lesson 1

© 2000 "Yes Lord" Ministries


Lesson 1

Hi! and Welcome to this series of  lessons of the Old Testament Book of Leviticus.

We are going to do this series in a slightly different way than usual -- in that, instead of beginning our study with a reading of the entire Book (all 27 Chapters in the case of Leviticus), I am just going to tell you a few things that you would have learned had you done that big overview.

Why are we going to do it this way?  Well, because, to tell you the truth, I don't want to lose you before we get started!  This is really a rather technical book with lots of details and you might ... gasp... drop out! before you even got started.  And by dropping out, you would miss the many many wonderful spiritual truths and insights that are in this book.   So, if you don't mind and if you will bear with us, let me give you some introductory and overview information and then we will continue with our usual interactive study in which you participate in the actual doing and learning, which is the normal style for "Yes Lord" Ministry Bible Studies. OK?  Great!  Thanks.

And, now, let's get started.

First of all, had you read the entire book of Leviticus in one sitting and IF you had been looking for Key Words (words that are used repeatedly in the text and which unlock the meaning of the text because they are key to understanding what the Book is about), you would have noticed that one significant word is used OVER 80 TIMES !!!   Astounding!   And guess what that word was?  Well, I will tell you ... it is the word HOLY!

Imagine that!  The word, HOLY, (or synonyms such as holiness, sanctify, sanctification, consecrate, consecration, etc.) is used over 80 times in the Book of Leviticus. Wow!

Now, this leads us to the next thought or question, which is WHY?  What is Leviticus teaching that requires the use of the word, HOLY, so many times?

Well, again, if you had read the entire Book as your first assignment, you would have discovered that this book is basically teaching the young Jewish Nation that their God is HOLY and that they (and all mankind) are ....gasp... sinners!!!!

Yes, they (and we) are sinners in 3 ways:

First, by birth (due to Adam's sin and the sin nature which all mankind inherited as a result).

Secondly,  they (and we) are sinful due to willful disobedience to God's laws.

And thirdly, they (and we) are sinners due to accidental disobedience to God's laws (whether due to ignorance of the laws, or having touched something that is unclean, or because of making and then forgetting a vow or promise, or etc.)

But, what is so bad about being a sinner? you ask.

Well, the problem is that God, (the God Who created the universe, the world, and everything in it, including all mankind ...and that includes you and me) is a HOLY God!  (There is that word again!)  And, a Holy God can NOT fellowship with or even receive worship from an uncleansed sinner!


Also, had you done a real overview of this book, you would have been asked to find the Key Verse of Leviticus, the verse that summarized what Leviticus was teaching.  And you would have correctly discovered that that verse is found in 19:2.  Here, let me give it to you in its context:

Leviticus 19:1-2 (niv)
The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them:
'Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy. ...

So, what to Do?   How can  UN-Holy people approach and worship a Holy God?

Well, that is what we will be studying in this Book of Leviticus.  For Leviticus teaches the Jewish Nation (and anyone) HOW to approach and worship their Holy God.  Indeed, the main theme of the Book of Leviticus is Obtaining Holiness and Access to and fellowship with The One and Only Holy God.

But, before we embark on this study, let's get the rest of the big picture of Leviticus and of its position in History and in the Bible.  In other words, let's put this book in its context.  So, you guessed it, it is time for a review of sorts, so we can see WHERE Leviticus fits in the overall plan and purpose of the Bible.  So get out your pencils, put on your thinking cap. and let's begin.

How many books are there in the entire Bible? _____________
And how many books are in the Old Testament? ___________
And how many books in the New Testament? _____________
Is Leviticus an Old Testament Book or a New Testament book? _____________

Yes, you are correct if you answered 66, 39, 27, and Old.

Now, here is a toughie, Where in the Old Testament is Leviticus placed? Ie. is it the First book? or the Second? the Third, or what? ________________

Yes, Leviticus is the 3rd Book of the Bible and it is one of 5 books which are known collectively as the Pentateuch!  Now, don't panic. That is a difficult sounding word, but it is not difficult and it is a term which you need to know.  The penta part of the word means FIVE and the teuch part of the word means VOLUME.  So, this is a greek word that means five-volumed and refers to the first 5 books of the Old Testament.  The Jews refer to this collection of 5 books, the Pentateuch, as The Law or The Book of the Law. Sometimes they refer to it by its other name which is, the Torah.  These five books, of which Leviticus is the third in the series, are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

And, what do these 5 books (the Pentateuch, Torah, Law) talk about and teach?  Well, basically they give information about the Origins (Creation) of the world and the Universe, a brief early history of the world and its first inhabitants (before the flood), the flood of Noah, several significant events after the flood, the establishment of the Jewish nation, and the specific Laws they were to follow and obey.

So, with that in mind, let's now briefly look at that history, to put in context WHAT Leviticus is teaching and Why!

The entire Torah (Pentateuch, first 5 books of the Bible) covers a period of time of approximately 2760 years, give or take a few years.  Of those years, most are covered in the Book of Genesis.  Exodus covers a span of approximately 400 years, Leviticus one month, and Numbers and Deuteronomy approximately 38 years.

Would you like to have a bird's eye view of the events covered in these 5 books?  Sure. I knew you would.  So, here, in a nutshell is a very brief summary.  I give it to you so that you can see for yourself where Leviticus fits in to this big picture. This will help you to better understand what Leviticus teaches and why.

So here is a brief Timeline of the first 5 books of the Bible:
In the Book of Genesis we learn of the Creation of the Universe, our world, and man (Adam & Eve) by God. We also are told about the sin of Adam and Eve with its universal consequences and after effects (including the promise of the future coming of Jesus Christ to redeem mankind from the effects of their sin and of  the sin nature which it introduced into mankind). Then we learn about their banishment from the Garden of Eden and the beginning of the human race through them and their children.  (All of this and much more will be covered in much more detail in our Genesis Series of Bible studies so we will not go into detail here.)

The 10 Generations who lived before the Flood of Noah are recorded in Genesis beginning with Adam and Eve (the 1st) and ending with Noah (the 10th), with only Noah and his family of 8 (Noah, his wife, his 3 sons and their 3 wives) bridging the 2 "histories" of the pre-flood and post-flood world. (This also will be covered in the Genesis Bible Study series).

After the flood, the world as we now know it began and Genesis records the genealogy of  those who descended from Noah and his 3 sons (and their wives, of course).  However, emphasis is placed on the descendants of Noah's son, Shem, because it was from Shem's line that Abraham was born.

Abraham, as you recall, was the father of the Jewish race and nation. Therefore, much emphasis and information in the Book of Genesis relates to the call of Abram (later known as Abraham when God changed his name) and the history of his progeny, especially those who descended from Abraham's second son, Isaac.  Though Abraham had two sons (Ishmael and Isaac), it was Isaac who is in the lineage of the Jewish nation.  Isaac's son, Jacob (Israel), was Abraham's grandson, and was the father of 12 sons who are known to us today as the 12 Tribes of Israel (Jacob), (also sometimes referred to, therefore, as Jacobites, Israelites, the Jewish people).

The book of Genesis, then, relates much historical information about the early beginnings of the world and its inhabitants, but the emphasis is, for the most part, in tracing the lineage through which the Jewish Nation ultimately derived.  As the book of Genesis closes, we find Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob's 12 sons in Egypt (after a long and interesting series of events).  Things are wonderful for them at the beginning of their time in Egypt because Joseph (the next to the youngest of Jacob's sons) is the Number 2 person in Leadership in Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh himself.

But, things soon changed!

Abraham had been told by God that his offspring would ultimately be more numerous than the stars or the sands on the seashore but before that happened, his people would be in a foreign country and in bondage for 400 years.

Well, guess what!  God was right.

And, Abraham's descendants, while in Egypt came under bondage!  They became SLAVES  to the Egyptians and were in Egypt  for a total of, you guessed it,  400 years!   Astounding!

The book of Exodus, the second book in the Pentateuch (Torah, Law), relates to us, in a very brief form, the fact that the Jews became the slaves of the Egyptians.  But, the main emphasis of the Book of Exodus is to give us the history of how God freed them from this bondage, through the ministry of MOSES and Aaron.  You are familiar with these events as recorded in Exodus. They include the call of Moses at the burning bush, his being sent (along with his brother, AARON) to seek the release of the Jews from their bondage to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the 10 plagues, the events of the Passover, the escape of the Jewish nation from Egypt, their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, and their arrival at Mt. Sinai (where the 10 Commandments and the Laws for their nation were given to them along with instructions for the building of the Tabernacle.)   All of these events are recorded in wonderful and exciting detail in the Book of Exodus.
In Leviticus, we find that the Jews are still at Mt. Sinai. The Laws, rules, and regulations have been given, and the tabernacle has been built. Now it is time to begin to institute and observe the Offerings and Sacrifices which are to be the means by which the Jewish people and nation (individually and corporately) can find access to their Holy God and can worship and fellowship with their God! Thus, the Book of Leviticus is a guide (a handbook, an instruction guide) in that it gives the exact "how tos" and precise details and instructions concerning the specific Offerings and Sacrifices, how they are to be offered, when they are to be offered, who is to do what, and the purpose and result of each of  the many and varied offerings.    Hmmmm.   So that is mainly what we will be studying in the book of Leviticus.
After all the rules,  regulations, and "how to's" for the Offerings and Sacrifices are given (in Leviticus) and the actual institution of these has begun, it is time to "move out" on their journey to the Promised land of Canaan (known as the Nation of  Israel today).  The book of Numbers records their "moving out" travels from Mt. Sinai to Canaan.  The only problem is that what should have been a short trip of only a few days or weeks will take a total of 40 years (from the time of the night of the Passover when they left Egypt).  Why so long? Well, the book of Exodus records the reason, which we don't have time to go into in detail here, but, briefly, it is this. Because of  their disbelief in and disobedience to their Holy God and His demands, God punished them and part of that punishment was that they would not be able to go directly to their promised land but, rather, would wander in the wilderness until all who had rebelled against God had died and were buried in the desert wilderness.  The book of Numbers records, therefore, the events that occurred during those years of wandering.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the 5th of the 5 books of the Pentateuch, we learn of the final events just before the 40 years of wandering end and just before they enter into their promised land of Caanan.   Deuteronomy contains much summary information of the events experienced and recorded in the first 4 books of the Pentateuch (Torah) including the recording (in even more detail) of the 10 Commandments and of all the Laws, Rules, and Regulations decreed by God for His people, (the Jewish Nation, the Israelites) to obey in their land.  Since these Laws and 10 commandments had been previously given and are now repeated and given a 2nd time, this book is appropriately named Deut=two or second  + onomy = naming or giving (of the Law).

So there you have it, a capsule view of the Pentateuch (the Torah, the Law, the first 5 books of the Bible.)  And now you have the big picture of where Leviticus fits into this overall picture.

So, with that in mind, let's begin to focus in on the book of Leviticus and find out more about what it teaches and why.

And, by the way, did you know that Leviticus is the FIRST BOOK that a Jewish child studies !!!!   Interesting. But Why?  Because, since the Nation o Israel was God's special people, the people whith whom He had made a covenant relationship, it was important that they know and observe God's Laws.  Keeping these laws, therefore, was not optional.  It was essential.  so this was the first book that Jewish children studies.
And, also, speaking of the books of the Old Testament, of which Leviticus is, as you know the 3rd, how about another interesting fact:  did you know that originally the Old Testament books did NOT have names or titles (such as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc.)?  Really!  They didn't have the names we know them by today.

So, you ask, what did the Jews (Hebrews, Israelites) call their books?  And how did they name them or know how to refer to them when asking for a particular book (scroll)?

Well, believe it or not, the names of the Old Testament books did not come about until the time they were being translated into the Greek Septuagint.  It seems that the scholars who were translating the books from the Hebrew into the Greek gave the books their names.  Until that time, they were referred to by the first word of each book! Thus, Genesis was not called Genesis (that was the name given to it by the Greek translators). Instead, the Hebrews (Jews, Israelites) referred to the first book of the Bible by its first word (in Hebrew) which, in the case of the book of Genesis,  meant "beginning" or "in the beginning".

And, similarly, Exodus was not called Exodus until the Greek translators so named it.  Until then, it was referred to by its introductory word which meant to go out or to depart.

Hmmm.  I can just hear you thinking.  What, then, is the origin of the name of Leviticus?   Well, we know this book by its name, Leviticus, because the Greek translators named it levitikon, which is a greek adjective that refers to the Levites (priests).  Since this book gives the details of the rituals and practices performed and overseen by the Priestly tribe (of Levi, hence called the Levites), then it seemed logical to the Greek translators to call this book, Leviticus.  BUT, to the Hebrews down through the centuries (and even today), this book is still referred to by the first word, in Hebrew, of the book.  And that word is wayyiqra, which is Hebrew for "and He called".  Look at the first sentence in the book of Leviticus, (I will put it here for you and have underlined the translation of the first word, wayyiqra). You will see that title phrase.

Leviticus 1:1 (niv)
The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of the Meeting. He said ...

And you will also notice that our translators today, in converting this to English, told us Who the He is in the "and He called".  The He is, of course, God.

One more thing and we will be through with our introductory overview comments.  And, that one more thing is -- had you been given an assignment to read the entire book of Leviticus, you would have been asked to see if there were any subdivisions that could help you outline or organize it.  And, you would have wisely discovered this outline for the book of Leviticus:

Chapters 1-16 = Details concerning the way to approach God by Sacrifices and Offerings
Chapters 17-27 = The walk of Holiness  before God by separation from the world
Ok!  That's it.  You have completed the overview Lesson for Leviticus.  Of course, there are other things we could talk about, but this should give you the big picture.

In our next lessons, we will look at some of  the various Offerings, sacrifices. rules, commands, and regulations which were decreed and ordained by God for His people, the Jewish Nation, to observe.  We will find that there are principles and concepts in these which, although decreed thousands of  years ago, are still applicable to us today.

Yes, it is true that these offerings and sacrifices are no longer being observed and practiced today.  They ceased shortly after the coming of the Lord God Jesus Christ to earth to pay the ultimate atoning sacrifice!

Indeed, since the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 AD,  there has not been and even now (Jan. 2000) there is no Jewish tabernacle or Temple where these could be observed. But, the principles, truths, types, and other insights concerning how to approach God and the need for a continued walk of Holiness before a Holy God are still valid.  Therefore, it is the goal of this series of lessons to learn some of those principles and truths taught by the offerings, sacrifices, laws, and instructions in the book of Leviticus and then to incorporate them into our own individual lives today.

We hope you will join us in this study.

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