Book of the Week 3: Leviticus

Hebrew Name: Vayikra

Author: Moses                                                                                  

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 27

Basic Facts

  1. Leviticus is the third book of the Bible.
  2. Leviticus is part of the “Pentateuch”: the first five books of the Bible including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  3. The Pentateuch is also referred to as the “Torah,” meaning “to guide or teach.”
  4. The name Leviticus comes from the Greek terms Leuitikon, which means “belonging to the Levites,” or Leuitikon Biblion, which means “book of the Levites.”
  5. The Hebrew name for the book of Leviticus is Vayikra, which means “He [God] calls.”

Story of the Book

Leviticus is primarily a book of Laws and instructions given to the people of Israel—and more specifically as instructions for priests. The people of the tribe of Levi—and more specifically the descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses—were called by God to serve Israel as priests. Leviticus lays out numerous laws for the people of Israel to follow. Many of the commandments in this book involve the Tabernacle/Temple system of sacrifices. The sacrificial system stood as a way for the people of Israel to make atonement for their sins. If a person in Israel sinned, he or she would bring the prescribed sacrifice for their sin and pass his or her sins along to the animal, and the priest would slaughter the animal on the sacrificial altar.

Jesus Foreshadowed in Leviticus

The book of Leviticus emphasizes rules and regulations within the Law of Moses, particularly those pertaining to the Levite priests and the sacrificial system. Central in this book are instructions for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. This is the only event in the entire calendar year in which the high priest makes a once-and-for-all sacrifice to atone for all of the intentional and unintentional sins of all of the people.

The day of atonement points forward to the time when Jesus, functioning as both high priest and sacrifice, would make atonement for sins once and for all through his sacrificial death on the cross. Like the day of atonement, Jesus died once to atone for all of our sins for all time for anyone who accepts his atoning work by faith.

After the sacrifice, the high priest would leave the presence of the people and go in to the presence of God in the Holy of Holies to pray for the people. Likewise, Jesus left our physical presence to ascend into heaven to the right hand of the Father. From that lofty place, Jesus intercedes for us and one day will return to judge the world.