In his preface to his commentary on Leviticus in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Gordon Wenham wrote,
Leviticus used to be the first book that Jewish children studied in the synagogue. In the modern Church it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously (vii).
The first time I read that statement I did a double-take. Studying Leviticus first in synagogue? What did they see back then that might be overlooked today?
In my lecture at Florida College (entitled “Trusting in gods that Cannot Save,” 2010) I made reference to the above quote and then observed,
The real heart of Leviticus is contained in verses such as 20:26: “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Everything about how to approach God in worship, what to eat, wear, plant, along with all the other laws, had to do with that one principle: by all of these things God was teaching them that they were different from the world; they were His special people; they were to partake of His holiness. Do you agree that this is not a bad idea, to teach a child from infancy that he is special to the Lord; that we are different from the world; that our concern is to be seeking and doing God’s will? (p.76).
The book of Leviticus was not just for the priests. In the opening verses, God said,
Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock (Lev. 1:2, NASB).
The instructions are to the sons of Israel. Re: “Any man of you” the NET notes,
It is the Heb “a man, human being” (‘adam), which in this case refers to any person among “mankind,” male or female, since women could also bring such offerings.
So here is a book that was for everyone during that dispensation, whether priests or other Israelites, men or women.
We are not contending that we are under the specific legislation of that time, but Romans 15:4 teaches,
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (ESV).
Perhaps you would like a brief outline and chapter content for the book of Leviticus:
Leviticus Outline and Chapter Content
I. LAWS OF SACRIFICE 1-7
II. HISTORICAL 8-10
III. LAWS OF PURITY 11-15
IV. ANNUAL DAY OF ATONEMENT
V. HOLINESS OF PEOPLE 17-20
VI. HOLINESS OF PRIESTS & LAWS RE: SACRIFICES 21-22
VII. LAWS CONCERNING FEASTS 23-25
VIII. PROMISES & WARNINGS 26
IX. LAWS CONCERNING VOWS 27
1. Burnt offering
2. Meal offering
3. Peace offering
4. Sin offering
5. Trespass offering
6-7 Laws of Sacrifice given to priests
8. Consecration of priests
9. Priests begin to serve
10. Death of Nadab & Abihu
11. Clean & unclean foods
12. Purification after childbirth
13-14. Laws concerning Leprosy
15. Laws concerning normal & abnormal issues
16. Day of Atonement
17. Eating of blood forbidden
18. Laws of moral purity
19. Miscellaneous laws
20. Punishment for disobedience
21-22. Laws of holiness for priests; laws re: sacrifices
23. Sabbath, 3 annual feasts, day of atonement
24. Lamps, showbread; punishment for blasphemy
25. Year of Jubilee
26. Blessings of obedience; consequences of disobedience
27. Laws concerning vows
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