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==Leviticus: Sanctification of A Nation ==

Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch, focuses on the purification of the Jewish people. It gives instructions as to how the people should live righteously; they had been taken from Egypt, but they needed instructions in righteous living. Geisler states: “It has been well said that it took God only one night to get Israel out of Egypt but it took forty years to get Egypt out of them.”[1] This paper will describe biographical details of the author, the writing date, historical background, the people targeted, and the purpose of the book of Leviticus.

Author Edit

Moses was the human author of Leviticus, the third book of the Pentateuch. Geisler says that, “The same kind of arguments that indicate Moses wrote Exodus also support his authorship of Leviticus.”[2] Those arguments included the fact that Moses, an eyewitness to the events, was the only person with time, interest, and ability to write about them, and the New Testament testifies to Moses’s authorship. Another reason that one should believe that Moses wrote Leviticus is because since he received the contents of this book on Mount Sinai. Since the context of the book is Moses giving the people God’s instructions on how He wanted the Hebrews to live, then it should be obvious that Moses is given credit for writing Leviticus. Gleason L. Archer says in his book A Survey of Old Testament: Introduction: “When all the data of the Pentateuchal text have been carefully considered, and all the evidence, both internal and external, has been fairly weighed, the impression is all but irresistible that Mosaic authorship is the one theory that best accords with the surviving historical data.”[3] However, the best argument for the Mosaic authorship of Leviticus is the words of Jesus. “Jesus affirmed its Mosaic authorship when referring to the law of cleansing from ‘leprosy.’”[4] This makes it clear that Moses did indeed write the book of Leviticus.

Date Edit

Since Leviticus is part of the Pentateuchal canon, it stands to reason that it would have been written around the same time as the other four books of the Pentateuch. Geisler says that it was written between 1445 and 1405 B.C. and that Moses probably finished it around the time their wanderings in the desert were completed.[5] The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says:

God revealed some of the laws in Leviticus by speaking to Moses from the tent of meeting, or tabernacle (Lv 1:1). Other laws were revealed on Mt Sinai (26:46). Such statements show that Moses learned the contents of Leviticus after the tabernacle had been built, but before the Israelites left Mt Sinai. This fits in with Exodus 40:17, which says that the tabernacle was erected exactly a year after the Israelites left Egypt. [6]

The Bible Knowledge Commentaries says, “The book is the sequel to Exodus.”[7] Thus we can safely assume that Leviticus was written immediately or shortly after Exodus was penned.

Historical Background Edit

Penned just prior to Leviticus, Exodus describes the departure of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt and the establishment of the Jewish religious system.[8] Leviticus elaborates on the system given to the Israelites by God in the book of Exodus. God speaks directly to Moses, giving him the guidelines for the new system. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “The Book of Leviticus deals with the worship of Israel—its sacrifices, priesthood, laws rendering a person unclean and so disqualifying him for worship, and various special times and seasons of worship.”[9] The entire system was given in extreme detail, which is not surprising, considering the fact that God was dictating it to Moses; it stands to reason that the God of this universe has the authority to give instruction on how He is to be worshiped. Thirty-eight times the words “to speak” appear in Leviticus, symbolizing that it is a revelation of God.[10] So one can see that the Jewish form of worship is no idea of mortal man, but a direct command from God.

To Whom It Was Written Edit

The book of Leviticus was written to the Jews. The sacrificial system was given, as well as details concerning the priesthood, laws, and times for worship.[11] These are part of the Jewish worship system, and the system is not applicable to us today. However, some of the principles can be carried over. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible says that the burnt offerings were a representation of Christ, the sacrifice for our sins. It also says that Christians can apply what God told the Israelites: “Christians are still called to ‘be holy for I am holy’.”[12] There are more principles that can apply to Christians today:

The practical exhortations to care for the poor, the blind, and the deaf; to be fair and honest; and to be faithful in marriage are just as applicable now as they were 3000 years ago. Our Lord summed up the whole Law and the prophets with a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,” and another from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[13]

So in conclusion, although the worship system is not for the Christian today, he can still take the principles and apply them to his life.

Why Was It Written Edit

The book of Leviticus was written so that the Jewish people would know how to worship the God who had chosen their nation to be His nation. The first part of the book describes how they were to go about covering their sins before a righteous God. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible states that: “Chapters 1–17 show how God wanted Israel to worship him”[14] Easton’s Bible Dictionary says, “In this section of the book (1–17), which exhibits the worship itself, there is, (1.) A series of laws (1–7) regarding sacrifices, burnt-offerings, meat-offerings, and thank-offerings (1–3), sin-offerings and trespass-offerings (4; 5), followed by the law of the priestly duties in connection with the offering of sacrifices.” [15] The sacrificial system was vitally important to the Jewish nation, as it was the only way they could cover their sins in order to have fellowship with God. “Under the Law sacrifice was given by God as the only sufficient means for Israelites to remain in harmonious fellowship with Himself.”[16] There were two types of sacrifice: a national sacrifice and a personal sacrifice. The national sacrifice was given by the High Priest and was an atonement for the entire nation of Israel. The personal sacrifice was a sacrifice given to cover an individual’s sins. The last part of the book of Leviticus mainly dealt with the Jews’ daily lives of holiness before God. [17]

The book of Leviticus was important to the Jewish nation; without it, they would have no basis for their system of worship. However, the system that is laid out in Leviticus is no longer needed; Christ’s death on the cross eliminated the need for continual sacrifice. Leviticus still contains many principles that apply to a walk with God, and for that reason it is a book that Christians should study.


[1] Norman L. Geisler. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House, 1977. Pg. 65 

[2] Norman L. Geisler. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House, 1977. Pg. 65 

[3]Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament: Introduction. Chicago, IL, Moody Publishers, 2007

[4] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 163.

[5] Norman L. Geisler. A Popular Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI. Baker Book House, 1977. Pg. 66 

[6] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1328.

[7] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 163.

[8] John D. Hannah, “Exodus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 137.

[9] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 164.

[10]Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament: Introduction. Chicago, IL, Moody Publishers, 2007, pg. 213.

[11] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 164.

[12] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1334.

[13] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1334.

[14] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1329.

[15] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893).

[16] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 164.

[17] F. Duane Lindsey, “Leviticus,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 164.

For further studies, see also:Edit

Genesis Outline

Exodus Outline

Numbers Outline

Deuteronomy Outline

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