Feb. 1 Reading: Leviticus 1-4 Commentary
“So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them.” (Lev. 4:21, 26, 31, 35)
The book of Leviticus can be confusing for believers when not viewed in context. It is named after the tribe of Levi, the tribe designated to become the priests of Israel. If you remember, Levi was one of Jacob’s sons (Gen. 35:23-26) and it was members of this tribe that rallied to Moses’ side during the golden calf incident of Exodus 32.
Leviticus serves as a guide for the priesthood and their service before the Lord. However, it also gives us details for the sacrificial system God put in place to help the people maintain their ceremonial and moral purity. In essence, it’s a manuscript on how the people were to relate to and have fellowship with a holy God.
Because of its intended audience, the book offers little for today’s believers when it comes to practical day-to-day matters. We are not required to offer the type of sacrifices to the Lord that are listed in the book, nor are we required to follow the all the ceremonial laws for personal cleanliness and daily living. Because of that, many choose to skip reading the book.
That would be a mistake. Believers today can learn many things from this book – chief among them being a respect and awe for the holiness of God. This book reveals God’s holiness as found nowhere else in the Bible. It’s a call for all believers to live their life in such a way that honors God. In essence, we are to “…be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2).
Leviticus 1 – The Burnt Offering
God required many types of offerings from the Israelites. They were all done at the tabernacle with the assistance of the priests. When done properly and with the right spirit, the aroma of the offering was pleasing to the Lord (v. 9). The first offering discussed in Leviticus is the burnt offering.
The burnt offering was done for atonement of sin. It symbolized complete dedication to God in that it was the only offering that was entirely consumed on the altar. And it is a foreshadow of Christ’s total sacrifice on the cross. (Lev. 1; 6:8-13)
The people offered either an unblemished bull (v. 3-9), an unblemished male sheep or goat (v. 10-13) or a turtledove or young pigeon (v. 14-17). The emphasis here is that the sacrifice was to be pure, the best of their flock. That symbolizes how today we are to offer our best to the Lord.
Additionally, each individual offered the sacrifice “of his own free will” (v. 3). There was no room for half-hearted obedience. A complete spirit of joy and gratitude should characterize the person bringing their sacrifice to the Lord.
Leviticus 2 – The Grain Offering
This particular offering accompanied the burnt offering. It served as a symbol of thanksgiving to God. (Lev. 2; 6:14-18; 7:12, 13)
Three types of grain offerings could be brought before the Lord:
1. Fine flour combined with frankincense or oil (v. 1-3).
2. A cake made with fine flour. It could be baked in an oven (v. 4), in a pan (v. 5) or in a covered pan (v. 7).
3. Green heads of grain roasted on a fire and mixed with oil and frankincense (vv. 14-15).
Verse 3 lets us know how God took care of Aaron and the priests. For some of the offerings, a portion was to be given to the priests for their daily provision. Remember, the priests were dedicated to God’s service and had no other way themselves to make a living. So God provided for them food to eat in this way.
Leviticus 3 -The Peace Offering
The peace offering was a way for the people to express their fellowship with God. (Lev. 3; 7:11-21, 28-34). The three types of peace offerings were:
1. The thank offering showed ones gratitude for an unexpected blessing.
2. A votive (vow) offering expressed thankfulness for God’s blessing when a vow had been made when asking for the blessing of God.
3. A freewill offering demonstrated gratitude in general, without mentioning any specific type of blessing
A person’s wealth determined what they could offer for this sacrifice. One could bring an unblemished male or female from the herd (vv. 1-5), an unblemished male or female from the flock (vv. 6-11) or an animal from the goats (vv. 12-17).
We also see in Lev. 22:23 that minor imperfections were allowed for this sacrifice if the peace offering was a freewill offering of a bull or lamb.
Leviticus 4 – The Sin Offering
The sin offering is exactly what it sounds like. It was offered as atonement for sins that a person committed without their knowledge. That seems odd because one would think that you would always know when you would have sinned.
But remember, most scholars say there were 613 commandments given by God that are outlined in the OT law. We have many more than that today, some of which we don’t even realize are laws. So it’s conceivable that someone of that time would either not know a law, forget about a law or be consciously unaware they had broken a law. Hence, the sin offering.
The animal given for this sacrifice depending upon who you were:
1. The high priest gave an unblemished bull (vv. 3-12).
2. If the sacrifice was for the entire congregation, an unblemished bull (vv. 13-12).
3. A ruler sacrificed an unblemished male goat (vv. 22-26).
4. A common person brought either an unblemished female goat or lamb (vv. 47-35).
5. If you were poor, then two turtledoves or two young pigeons were acceptable (5:7-10). If a person was extremely poor, then fine flour could be used as a substitute (5:11-13).
It’s important again to remember that all these offerings guided the people back into a right relationship with the Lord or with one another. They helped mend the people’s vertical relationship with God and horizontal relationship with their neighbor. That is the essence of the two commands Jesus gave: to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself (see Matt. 22:36-40).
Questions to Consider:
How is your life demonstrating holiness?
Paul commanded his readers in Romans 12:1-2 saying, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Likewise, our daily life is an offering to the Lord. Each day we present ourselves to His service. The questions then becomes, does the aroma of your daily life please the Lord?
What other points would you want to know about in our Leviticus 1-4 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.