The Book of Leviticus (/lɪˈvɪtɪkəs/) is the third book of the Torah and of the Old Testament. Most of its chapters (1–7, 11–27) consist of God's speeches to Moses, which God commands Moses to repeat to the Israelites. This takes place within the story of the Israelites' Exodus after they escaped Egypt and reached Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1). The Book of Exodus narrates how Moses led the Israelites in building the Tabernacle (Exodus 35–40) with God's instructions (Exodus 25–31). Then in Leviticus, God tells the Israelites and their priests how to make offerings in the Tabernacle and how to conduct themselves while camped around the holy tent sanctuary. Leviticus takes place during the month or month-and-a-half between the completion of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the Israelites' departure from Sinai (Numbers 1:1, 10:11).
The instructions of Leviticus emphasize ritual, legal and moral practices rather than beliefs. Nevertheless, they reflect the world view of the creation story in Genesis 1 that God wishes to live with humans. The book teaches that faithful performance of the sanctuary rituals can make that possible, so long as the people avoid sin and impurity whenever possible. The rituals, especially the sin and guilt offerings, provide the means to gain forgiveness for sins (Leviticus 4–5) and purification from impurities (Leviticus 11–16) so that God can continue to live in the Tabernacle in the midst of the people.
Scholars generally agree that Leviticus developed over a long time and that it reached its present form in the Persian period (538–332 BC).
The English name Leviticus comes from the Latin Leviticus, which is in turn from the Greek Greek Λευιτικόν, Leuitikon, referring to the priestly tribe of the Israelites, “Levi.” The Greek expression is in turn a variant of the rabbinic Hebrew torat kohanim, "law of priests", as many of its laws relate to priests.
I. Laws on sacrifice (1:1–7:38)
II. Institution of the priesthood (8:1–10:20)
III. Uncleanliness and its treatment (11:1–15:33)
IV. Day of Atonement: purification of the tabernacle from the effects of uncleanliness and sin (ch. 16)
V. Prescriptions for practical holiness (the Holiness Code, chs. 17–26)
VI. Redemption of votive gifts (ch. 27)
Chapters 1–5 describe the various sacrifices from the sacrificers' point of view, although the priests are essential for handling the blood. Chapters 6–7 go over much the same ground, but from the point of view of the priest, who, as the one actually carrying out the sacrifice and dividing the "portions", needs to know how do this. Sacrifices are between God, the priest, and the offerers, although in some cases the entire sacrifice is a single portion to God—i.e., burnt to ashes.
Chapters 8–10 describe how Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons as the first priests, the first sacrifices, and God's destruction of two of Aaron's sons for ritual offenses. The purpose is to underline the character of altar priesthood (i.e., those priests with power to offer sacrifices to God) as an Aaronite privilege, and the responsibilities and dangers of their position.
With sacrifice and priesthood established, chapters 11–15 instruct the lay people on purity (or cleanliness). Eating certain animals produces uncleanliness, as does giving birth; certain skin diseases (but not all) are unclean, as are certain conditions affecting walls and clothing (mildew and similar conditions); and genital discharges, including female menses and male gonorrhea, are unclean. The reasoning behind the food rules are obscure; for the rest the guiding principle seems to be that all these conditions involve a loss of "life force", usually but not always blood.
Leviticus 16 concerns the Day of Atonement. This is the only day on which the High Priest is to enter the holiest part of the sanctuary, the holy of holies. He is to sacrifice a bull for the sins of the priests, and a goat for the sins of the laypeople. The priest is to send a second goat into the desert to "Azazel", bearing the sins of the whole people. Azazel may be a wilderness-demon, but its identity is mysterious.
Chapters 17–26 are the Holiness code. It begins with a prohibition on all slaughter of animals outside the Temple, even for food, and then prohibits a long list of sexual contacts and also child sacrifice. The "holiness" injunctions which give the code its name begin with the next section: there are penalties for the worship of Molech, consulting mediums and wizards, cursing one's parents and engaging in unlawful sex. Priests receive instruction on mourning rituals and acceptable bodily defects. The punishment for blasphemy is death, and there is the setting of rules for eating sacrifices; there is an explanation of the calendar, and there are rules for sabbatical and Jubilee years; there are rules for oil lamps and bread in the sanctuary; and there are rules for slavery. The code ends by telling the Israelites they must choose between the law and prosperity on the one hand, or, on the other, horrible punishments, the worst of which will be expulsion from the land.
Chapter 27 is a disparate and probably late addition telling about persons and things serving as dedication to the Lord and how one can redeem, instead of fulfill, vows.
The majority of scholars have concluded that the Pentateuch received its final form during the Persian period (538–332 BC). Nevertheless, Leviticus had a long period of growth before reaching that form.
The entire composition of the book of Leviticus is Priestly literature. Most scholars see chapters 1–16 (the Priestly code) and chapters 17–26 (the Holiness code) as the work of two related schools, but while the Holiness material employs the same technical terms as the Priestly code, it broadens their meaning from pure ritual to the theological and moral, turning the ritual of the Priestly code into a model for the relationship of Israel to God: as the tabernacle, which is apart from uncleanliness, becomes holy by the presence of the Lord, so He will dwell among Israel when Israel receives purification (becomes holy) and separates from other peoples. The ritual instructions in the Priestly code apparently grew from priests giving instruction and answering questions about ritual matters; the Holiness code (or H) used to be a separate document, later becoming part of Leviticus, but it seems better to think of the Holiness authors as editors who worked with the Priestly code and actually produced Leviticus as we now have it.
Many scholars argue that the rituals of Leviticus have a theological meaning concerning Israel's relationship with its God. Jacob Milgrom was especially influential in spreading this view. He maintained that the priestly regulations in Leviticus expressed a rational system of theological thought. The writers expected them to be put into practice in Israel's temple, so the rituals would express this theology as well, as well as ethical concern for the poor. Milgrom also argued that the book's purity regulations (chaps. 11–15) have a basis in ethical thinking. Many other interpreters have followed Milgrom in exploring the theological and ethical implications of Leviticus's regulations (e.g. Marx, Balentine), though some have questioned how systematic they really are. Ritual, therefore, is not taking a series of actions for their own sake, but a means of maintaining the relationship between God, the world, and humankind.
The main function of the priests is service at the altar, and only the sons of Aaron are priests in the full sense. (Ezekiel also distinguishes between altar-priests and lower Levites, but in Ezekiel the altar-priests are sons of Zadok instead of sons of Aaron; many scholars see this as a remnant of struggles between different priestly factions in First Temple times, finding resolution by the Second Temple into a hierarchy of Aaronite altar-priests and lower-level Levites, including singers, gatekeepers and the like).
In chapter 10, God kills Nadab and Abihu, the oldest sons of Aaron, for offering "strange incense". Aaron has two sons left. Commentators have read various messages in the incident: a reflection of struggles between priestly factions in the post–Exilic period (Gerstenberger); or a warning against offering incense outside the Temple, where there might be the risk of invoking strange gods (Milgrom). In any case, there has been a pollution of the sanctuary by the bodies of the two dead priests, leading into the next theme, holiness.
Ritual purity is essential for an Israelite to be able to approach Yahweh and remain part of the community. Uncleanliness threatens holiness; Chapters 11–15 review the various causes of uncleanliness and describe the rituals which will restore cleanliness; one is to maintain cleanliness through observation of the rules on sexual behaviour, family relations, land ownership, worship, sacrifice, and observance of holy days.
Yahweh dwells with Israel in the holy of holies. All of the priestly ritual focuses on Yahweh and the construction and maintenance of a holy space, but sin generates impurity, as do everyday events such as childbirth and menstruation; impurity pollutes the holy dwelling place. Failure to ritually purify the sacred space could result in God leaving, which would be disastrous.
Through sacrifice, the priest "makes atonement" for sin and the offerer receives forgiveness (but only if God accepts the sacrifice—forgiveness comes only from God). Atonement rituals involve the pouring or sprinkling of blood as the symbol of the life of the victim: the blood has the power to wipe out or absorb the sin. The two-part division of the book structurally reflects the role of atonement: chapters 1–16 call for the establishment of the institution for atonement, and chapters 17–27 call for the life of the atoned community in holiness.
The consistent theme of chapters 17–26 is in the repetition of the phrase, "Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." Holiness in ancient Israel had a different meaning than in contemporary usage: it might have been regarded as the "god-ness" of God, an invisible but physical and potentially dangerous force. Specific objects, or even days, can be holy, but they derive holiness from being connected with God—the seventh day, the tabernacle, and the priests all derive their holiness from God. As a result, Israel had to maintain its own holiness in order to live safely alongside God.
The need for holiness is for the possession of the Promised Land (Canaan), where the Jews will become a holy people: "You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt where you dwelt, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan to which I am bringing you...You shall do my ordinances and keep my statutes...I am the Lord, your God" (ch. 18:3).
Leviticus, as part of the Torah, became the law book of Jerusalem's Second Temple as well as of the Samaritan temple. Evidence of its influence is evident among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which included fragments of seventeen manuscripts of Leviticus dating from the third to the first centuries BC. Many other Qumran scrolls cite the book, especially the Temple Scroll and 4QMMT.
Jews and Christians have not observed Leviticus's instructions for animal offerings since the first century AD. Because of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, Jewish worship has focused on prayer and the study of Torah. Nevertheless, Leviticus constitutes a major source of Jewish law and is traditionally the first book children learn in the Rabbinic system of education. There are two main Midrashim on Leviticus—the halakhic one (Sifra) and a more aggadic one (Vayikra Rabbah).
The New Testament, particularly the Epistle to the Hebrews, uses ideas and images from Leviticus to describe Christ as the high priest who offers his own blood as a sin offering. Therefore, Christians do not make animal offerings either, as Gordon Wenham summarized: "With the death of Christ the only sufficient "burnt offering" was offered once and for all, and therefore the animal sacrifices which foreshadowed Christ's sacrifice were made obsolete."
Christians generally have the view that the New Covenant supersedes (i.e., replaces) the Old Testament's ritual laws, which includes many of the rules in Leviticus. Christians therefore have usually not observed Leviticus' rules regarding diet, purity, and agriculture. Christian teachings have differed, however, as to where to draw the line between ritual and moral regulations.
Online versions of Leviticus:
Book of Leviticus
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4Q119 (also 4QLXXLeva) designates the remnants of a Greek manuscript of the Book of Leviticus written on parchment. It was found at Qumran cave 4 and is dated to the 1st century BCE or 1st century CE. It got the no. 801 according to the system of Alfred Rahlfs. The manuscript is stored in Rockefeller Museum at Jerusalem (Mus. Inv. Gr. 1004).Azazel
Azazel (; Hebrew: עֲזָאזֵל; Arabic: عزازيل, romanized: ʿAzāzīl) is a fallen angel; he was sent a scapegoat bearing the sins of the Jews during Yom Kippur. In the Bible, he only appears in association with the scapegoat rite. During the Second Temple period, he appears as a fallen angel responsible for introducing humans to forbidden knowledge. His role as a fallen angel partly remains in Christian– and Islamic traditions. In Islam, he is often, but not exclusively, associated with the Devil.Covenant of salt
The phrase covenant of salt appears twice in the Hebrew bible:
In the Book of Numbers, God's covenant with the Aaronic priesthood is said to be a covenant of salt. In the second book of Chronicles, God's covenant with the Davidic kings of Israel is also described as a covenant of salt. According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, "of salt" most likely means that the covenant is "a perpetual covenant, because of the use of salt as a preservative".The commandments regarding grain offerings in the Book of Leviticus state "every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt."Great Commandment
The Great Commandment (or Greatest Commandment) is a name used in the New Testament to describe the first of two commandments cited by Jesus in Matthew 22:35–40 and Mark 12:28–34.
In Mark, when asked "which is the great commandment in the law?", the Greek New Testament reports that Jesus answered, "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, The Lord is One; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind", before also referring to a second commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Most Christian denominations consider these two commandments to be the core of correct Christian lifestyle.I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole
"(I Know) His Blood Can (or, Will) Make Me Whole" is a traditional gospel blues song recorded by Blind Willie Johnson in 1927, and released on his first single, with the flip side "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed". The song is sometimes called "Jesus' Blood Can Make Me Whole", "(I Know) His Blood Has Made Me Whole", etc. Barbecue Bob recorded the former title earlier in 1927.As is common with traditional songs, the lyrics differ among performers. One common theme is the evil of gambling, which the singer has now forgone. The line "If I touched the hem of His garment, His blood has made me whole" alludes to the story of the woman whose issue of blood was healed by touching Jesus' garment, in the Gospel of Luke at 8:43–48. She had been ritually unclean for so long as it persisted, according to the Book of Leviticus at 15:25–27.Leviticus 18
Leviticus 18 is the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It narrates part of the instructions which, according to the Bible, were given to Moses by God on biblical Mount Sinai. The chapter deals with a number of sexual activities considered unclean or abominable. Although the chapter is principally concerned with incest, it also contains laws related to bestiality and "lying with a man as with a woman." This single reference in verse 22 has, in recent years, been a focus of debate among Christians and Jews regarding homosexual activity (see Homosexuality and Christianity and Jewish views of homosexuality).Leviticus 18 is generally regarded as part of the Holiness Code of Leviticus 17–26, and its sexual prohibitions are largely paralleled by Leviticus 20 (except that chapter has more emphasis on punishment).Leviticus 19
Leviticus 19 is the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It contains laws on a variety of topics, and is attributed by legend to Moses.Leviticus Rabbah
Leviticus Rabbah, Vayikrah Rabbah, or Wayiqra Rabbah is a homiletic midrash to the Biblical book of Leviticus (Vayikrah in Hebrew). It is referred to by Nathan ben Jehiel (c. 1035–1106) in his Aruk as well as by Rashi (1040–1105). According to Leopold Zunz, Hai Gaon (939-1038) and Nissim knew and made use of it. Zunz dates it to the middle of the 7th century, but The Encyclopaedia Judaica and Jacob Neusner date it to the 5th century. It originated in the Land of Israel, and is composed largely of older works. Its redactor made use of Genesis Rabbah, Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, and the Jerusalem Talmud, in addition to other ancient sources. The redactor appears to have referred also to the Babylonian Talmud, using several expressions in the sense in which only that work employs them.Nadab and Abihu
In the biblical books Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, Nadab (Hebrew: נָדָב, Modern: Nadav, Tiberian: Nāḏāḇ, "generous") and Abihu (Hebrew: אֲבִיהוּא, Modern: Avihu, Tiberian: ’Ǎḇîhū, "he is [my] father") were the two eldest sons of Aaron. According to Leviticus 10, they offered a sacrifice with 'foreign fire' before the LORD, disobeying his instructions, and were immediately consumed by God's fire.
Moses instructed Aaron and his family not to mourn, although the people at large were permitted.Orlah
The prohibition on orlah-fruit (lit. "uncircumcised" fruit) is a command found in the Bible not to eat fruit produced by a tree during the first three years after planting. The Hebrew word orlah literally means "uncircumcised". This meaning is often footnoted in English translations:
Leviticus 19:23 "When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden.[a] For three years you are to consider it forbidden [b]; it must not be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the LORD your God."
Footnotes: [a][b] Hebrew "uncircumcised" NIV
In rabbinical writings the orlah-prohibition (Hebrew: איסור ערלה) is counted as one of the negative commandments among the rabbinical enumeration of 613 commandments. Outside Israel the prohibition applies to a certain degree.Priestly Code
The Priestly Code (in Hebrew Torat Kohanim, תורת כהנים) is the name given, by academia, to the body of laws expressed in the Torah which do not form part of the Holiness Code, the Covenant Code, the Ritual Decalogue, or the Ethical Decalogue. The Priestly Code constitutes the majority of Leviticus, as well as some of the laws expressed in Numbers. The code forms a large portion, approximately one third, of the commandments of the Torah, and thus is a major source of Jewish law.
It is termed the Priestly Code due to its large concern with ritual and the Jewish priesthood, and also, in critical scholarship, it is defined as the whole of the law code believed to be present in the Priestly Source except for the Holiness Code. Under the documentary hypothesis, while some scholars believe that the Priestly Code was created to rival the Ethical Decalogue and Covenant Code, others believe was intended as only supplementary to the Holiness Code.Scapegoat
In the Bible, a scapegoat is an animal that is ritually burdened with the sins of others, and then driven away. The concept first appears in Leviticus, in which a goat is designated to be cast into the desert to carry away the sins of the community.
And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for Azazel.
Practices with some similarities to the scapegoat ritual also appear in ancient Greece and Ebla.Sifra
Sifra (Aramaic: סִפְרָא) is the Halakhic midrash to the Book of Leviticus. It is frequently quoted in the Talmud, and the study of it followed that of the Mishnah. Like Leviticus itself, the midrash is occasionally called "Torat Kohanim", and in two passages also "Sifra debei Rav". According to Leḳaḥ Ṭob this latter title was applied originally to the third book of the Pentateuch because Leviticus was the first book studied in the elementary school, and it was subsequently extended to the midrash; but this explanation is contradicted by analogous expressions such as "Sifre debei Rav" and, in a broader sense, "ketubot debei Rav" and "teḳi'ata debei Rav".Stumbling block
A stumbling block or scandal in the Bible, or in politics (including history), is a metaphor for a behaviour or attitude that leads another to sin or to destructive behaviour.The mitzvah of sanctifying the Kohen
The commandment to sanctify the progeny of Ahron (Hebrew: מצוות קידוש זרעו של אהרן) is a commandment based in the Hebrew Bible, and developed in rabbinical teaching that requires believers in Judaism to sanctify their priests (kohanim) in various ways. These include assisting him to abstain from any prohibitions in the Law that apply to him, and by affording him first rights in areas relating to holiness and the service of God. In the enumeration of Maimonides this is the 32nd positive commandment of the Law.In Hebrew the commandment is literally known as the mitzvah of sanctifying the "seed of Aaron" (Hebrew: מצוות קידוש זרעו של אהרן).Tocheichah
The Tocheichah or Tochacha, meaning admonition or reproof, is the section in chapter 26 of Leviticus which highlights the consequence of a failure by the people of Israel to follow God's laws and keep his commandments. It forms part of the parashah Bechukotai, the final portion of Leviticus. It is distinguished from the preceding section, which relates to God's blessings which will be bestowed if the people of Israel do walk in God's ways and keep his commandments.
Deuteronomy 28:15-68 has a similar series of curses proclaimed by Moses as the consequence of a failure by his people to follow God's laws and keep his commandments.
Because of the distressing nature of the admonitions - terror, disease, warfare, famine and desolation - this section is traditionally read in a low voice in synagogue readings (but loud enough to be audible to the congregation) The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried prescribed that the Tocheichah must always be read without a break, and that three verses before the admonitions and three verses after the admonitions, read in a normal, fully audible voice, must always be included in the reading. Thus the admonitions would always be accompanied by the message that God would remember his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur (; Hebrew: יוֹם כִּיפּוּר, IPA: [ˈjom kiˈpuʁ], or יום הכיפורים), also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services.Zevahim
Zevachim (Hebrew: זְבָחִים; lit. "Sacrifices") is the first tractate of Seder Kodashim ("Order of Holiness") of the Mishnah, the Talmud and the Tosefta. This tractate discusses the topics related to the sacrificial system of the Temple in Jerusalem, namely the laws for animal and bird offerings, and the conditions which make them acceptable or not, as specified in the Torah, primarily in the book of Leviticus (Lev 1:2 and on). The tractate has fourteen chapters divided into 101 mishnayot, or paragraphs. There is a Gemara – rabbinical commentary and analysis – for this tractate in the Babylonian Talmud, and no Gemara in the Jerusalem Talmud.
Book of Leviticus