If you remember this book's first chapter, you will note that we will be following the outline for Leviticus provided by Dr. Roper in his commentary – it is simple to follow and well organized:
Outline: Leviticus Training in Holiness
- Attaining Holiness – (Leviticus 1-16)
- Through Offerings (1-7)
- Through a Consecrated Priesthood (8-10)
- By Distinguishing Between the Clean and the Unclean (11-15)
- By Observing the Day of Atonement (16)
- Practicing Holiness – (Leviticus 17-27)
- Individual Responsibility to Keep God's Moral and Ritual laws (17-20)
- Priestly Responsibilities (21-22)
- The Nation's Responsibility to Promote Holiness (23-25)
- Reasons for Practicing Holiness: Blessings and curses (26)
- Evidence of Holiness: Vows and Valuations (27)
Each of these headings have sub-divisions, but if you stay focused on the outline you'll know where we're at and the context of each subject.
Exodus was mainly a narrative about Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery into freedom and a covenant relationship with God.
Leviticus is a book of instruction explaining in detail how the Israelites would become a holy people/nation (by obeying God's laws concerning worship) and how to maintain holiness (personal conduct in keeping God's laws concerning ritual and religious responsibilities).
Again, it's worth repeating - their entire lives were affected by their status as God's holy nation - there was no compartmentalization - my religious life on the Sabbath and other holy days, my regular life is my own to do as I wish!
Their religion affected every part of their lives as does ours - a point that we readily see as we study their lives but are not always quick to acknowledge and practice as God's holy people today.
I. Attaining Holiness – Through Offerings – Leviticus 1:1
In Exodus we read about the building of the Tabernacle complex and the fabrication of the furnishings that the priests would use, and the garments they would wear in carrying out their duties in the sacrificial system which was to be the central feature of the Jewish religion. These would be the manner by which they were to become and maintain their holy status before God.
Offering sacrifices was not a new way to interact with God, it was as old as Cain and Abel who each sacrificed to God with animal and produce offerings. We see the patriarchs build altars and pillars and offer animals and oil to God as praise and thanksgiving.
What was new was that God now mandated that these offerings and sacrifices were to be made at the Tabernacle and mediated by the priests appointed by God in the manner commanded by God for the reasons given by God. What made the practice holy was that God appropriated it for his own use, meaning, and purpose.
1Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, 2"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.
- Leviticus 1:1-2
The source of the information and instructions for the sacrificial system comes from God Himself in the same way that the instructions for the Tabernacle were given, from God to Moses and then to the people for implementation. In 20 of the 27 chapters of Leviticus, the chapter begins with words that say, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses."
The first seven chapters deal with laws pertaining to five kinds of offerings to be made at the Tabernacle:
- Burnt offerings – 1:1-17; 6:8-13
- Grain offerings – 2:1-16; 6:14-23
- Peace offerings – 3:1-17; 7:11-36
- Sin offerings – 4:1-5:13; 6:24-30
- Guilt offerings – 5:14-6:7; 7:1-7
There are two sections of instructions for each of the five offerings (seems repetitive), however, the first section (i.e. burnt offerings – 1:1-17) is the ritual requirement described from the standpoint of the one making the offering; the second section (burnt offerings – 6:8-13) describes the same sacrifice but this time from the priest's perspective and how he was to deal with this offering.
Therefore, chapters 1-6 describes the five basic sacrifices from the Israelites' perspective and chapters 6-7 from the priests' perspective. There is, however, overlap in each but this is how the material is divided in chapters 1-7.
The book of Leviticus was considered a manual for the work of the priests and high priest since it contained exact instructions for the priests and high priest to follow in their service at the Tabernacle, however, it also provided valuable information for the individual Israelite in giving him the reason and manner to present his sacrifice to the priests.
Let's review these five basic offerings looking first at the initial offering brought to the priest at the Tabernacle and then examine the priestly responsibility for that particular offering.
A. Burnt Offering
1. The Herd (Cattle – Leviticus 1:3-9)
3If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord. 4He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf. 5He shall slay the young bull before the Lord; and Aaron's sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 6He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8Then Aaron's sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, the head and the suet over the wood which is on the fire that is on the altar. 9Its entrails, however, and its legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer up in smoke all of it on the altar for a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.
- Leviticus 1:3-9
This is a voluntary offering ("If his offering…" – vs. 3) it was to be consumed by fire and ascended to the Lord in smoke. The idea was that the sacrifice was pleasing to God. The one bringing the sacrifice had seven steps to follow:
- Select a male animal without defect, best of his herd. – 1:3a
- Present the animal to the priest for inspection. – 1:3b
- Lay his hand on the head of the beast. – 1:4
- acceptance of the animal
- acceptable to make atonement
- symbolized transfer of sins from the offerer to the animal
- slaughter of the animal made atonement with God for sins
- The Israelite would himself kill the animal before the Lord (probably in a ritualistic manner) inside the Tabernacle complex near the altar of the burnt offering – 1:5a
- The priests were to sprinkle blood from the dead animal on the altar of the burnt offering. – 1:5
- The one who brought the offering had to skin the animal and cut it into pieces. So, killing, skinning, and butchering the animal to be sacrificed was the responsibility of the worshipper. – 1:6
- The 7th step was for the priest to actually make the sacrifice since they (priests) alone were authorized to put the offering on the altar. They had to keep the fire going 24/7 and clean the various parts of the animal before putting it on the altar. – 1:7-9
Done correctly, this sacrifice produced a soothing aroma pleasing to the Lord - language that is "anthropomorphic" (attributing human qualities to God) in order to convey that the sacrifice was acceptable and pleasing to God.
In chapter 6:8-13, the same sacrifice is referred to but this time from the priest's perspective.
8Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 9"Command Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it. 10The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. 11Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. 12The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. 13Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.
- Leviticus 6:8-13
Note that before, in the Leviticus 1, God said to Moses, "Speak to the sons of Israel," in giving instructions to the people about burnt offerings.
In chapter 6:8-9a, the Lord directs His instructions to Aaron and his sons - speaking about the same burnt offering, but this time outlining the priestly responsibilities in offering this sacrifice.
Vs. 9b-11 – The Instructions deal mainly with the removal of the sacrifice from the altar.
- The sacrifice was to be left all night until it was reduced to ashes.
- The ashes were regarded as holy, not treated as refuse and thus handled in a way befitting a holy object.
- Priests wore a special linen robe when removing the ashes.
- Once removed from the altar the priest would change back into his regular clothes and carry the ashes to a ceremonially clean place and deposit them there.
- Ceremonially clean meant a place where no dead human body or carcass of a dead animal had previously been found there.
Vs. 12-13 – We also learn from these instructions that the fire of the altar was not go out, and so keeping the fire continually lit was another duty of the priests.
2. Burnt Offering – From the Flock – Leviticus 1:10-13
The instructions for a burnt offering from the flock (a sheep or a goat) were similar for the worshipper offering the sacrifice (7 steps), as well as the priest who placed the animal on the altar and removed its ashes. It was a sacrifice pleasing to God.
3. Burnt offerings – Birds – Leviticus 1:14-17
14'But if his offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, then he shall bring his offering from the turtledoves or from young pigeons. 15The priest shall bring it to the altar and wring off its head and offer it up in smoke on the altar; and its blood is to be drained out on the side of the altar. 16He shall also take away its crop with its feathers and cast it beside the altar eastward, to the place of the ashes. 17Then he shall tear it by its wings but shall not sever it. And the priest shall offer it up in smoke on the altar on the wood which is on the fire; it is a burnt offering, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the Lord.
- Leviticus 1:14-17
Note that the priest does all of the work in offering the bird(s) as a burnt offering:
- Break its neck.
- Pour the blood on the side of the altar.
- Remove its feathers and crop (pouch in the throat where the bird stores food).
- Tear its wings without splitting its carcass.
- Burn it to ashes on the altar.
Birds were allowed as a burnt offering so that even the poor, who could only afford a single bird, could still offer this type of sacrifice as a sin offering. Only turtledoves or young pigeons were acceptable since most birds were considered "unclean."
Leviticus chapter six only adds that the ashes of these sacrifices were to be disposed of in a clean area outside the camp. Unlike other types of sacrifices, the priests derived no benefit from burnt offerings since the entire animal was destroyed by fire. Only the hides, which had been skinned for the offering, were left.
B. The Significance of the Burnt Offering
There were five different kinds of offerings one could, and at times were obliged to make, with each having its own significance and purpose.
- Signified total surrender since the animal was completely destroyed down to ashes…except for the skin or hide which was kept by the priest.
- No redeeming price to save potential profit from future use or sale.
- No food left for use by priest or one offering the sacrifice.
- Burnt offering resulted in atonement for the sin of the worshipper (Leviticus 1:4), as well as a sacrifice pleasing to God(Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 13:17).
- A vision of God's call for believers to offer themselves completely to God (Romans 12:1-2) in both the Old and New Testament.
- The required sacrifice in various instances:
- All of these required a burnt sacrifice.
The whole burnt offering was the most common and repeated sacrifice among the five types described.
C. The Burnt Offering and Christ
Each sacrifice described in Leviticus has three elements:
- The Offeror – The Israelite
- The Priest – mediator appointed by God
- The Offering – animals, produce, oil, wine, bread
Christ fulfills all three roles on our behalf:
- He is the Offeror
- He came as a man to do God's will.
- He stood under the same law as an Israelite man and had to fulfill it, yet He was without sin.
- He is the Priest Appointed by God
- Not only as a priest, but a special high priest not limited by sin and death as were the Jewish priests.
23The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
- Hebrews 7:23-25
- He is the Offering
- An animal without defect (sinless) is killed in order to make up for a person's sins.
- The process repeated because man continually sinned and the offering of animals only symbolized what was to come since their death could not in reality atone for the sins of men, could not in reality satisfy God's Laws and justice.
Death is the manner of transferring something from the physical realm to the spiritual realm.
3But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, "Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; 6In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure. 7"Then I said, 'Behold, I have come (In the scroll of the book it is written of Me) to do Your will, O God.'"
- Hebrews 10:3-7
They were the "type" preparing and pointing to the "anti-type" which was the real thing, not just a preview or shadow.
Christ's Sacrifice is Better/Complete – Why?
1. Both the offeror and offering are perfect, without sin and thus required no additional sacrifices.
He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…
- Hebrews 10:12
3. The High Priest, Jesus, entered the heavenly Holy Place to offer the sacrifice (blood) of His life, thus actually making the atonement that fulfills the Law resulting in forgiveness – something that the offering of animal blood in the Holy of Holies could only symbolize, but not actually accomplish.
For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;
- Hebrews 9:24
4. Because, with Jesus, the offeror, priest, and sacrifice were all divine (eternal) in nature (Hebrews 10:11-18), the innate value of His sacrifice is more than sufficient to forgive all persons of all sins for all time.
Once a person believes in Jesus as the Son of God and expresses that faith through repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38), he appropriates Christ's sacrifice as his own - its as if the sacrifice that Christ makes is offered specifically for that person.
"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
- Matthew 10:32