Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!
Five weeks and running… Marathon runners call it, “The Wall”. I call it Leviticus! I remember the first time I tried reading the Bible from Cover-to-Cover. Genesis was great! Exodus was thrilling! Leviticus was…. well…. frustrating! What were they talking about?!?
I liked the stories of the Bible. What’s with all these rules and regulations?!?! I’m not a lawyer, nor did I ever want to be!
I tried three times to pick up Leviticus and read it… with no success. So I jumped to the New Testament! Ahh! The Gospels! Matthew, Mark, Luke and John! My friends! Stories!!! Stories about Jesus!
This was more like it.
It took me a few years to realize that I better pick it back up, strap it on and get going with the rest of the Old Testament. Besides, without the Old Testament we really can’t understand the New Testament, at least not fully. The Old Testament was the bible of the disciples. Whenever Jesus quoted from, “The Law and the Prophets,” He was quoting the Old Testament.
And… Leviticus, like it or not, was a part of the Old Testament. Might as well suck it up, get it over with, get through it, plow ahead, muster on, and all those other metaphors that indicate an unpleasant, but unavoidable task.
Wait a minute! If God felt it was important to instruct Israel about His Laws, if He felt it was important enough to preserve it in writing for more than 3,500 years, if He intended them (and us?) to take them seriously, maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there’s a gold mine in this book that I’m not getting…
So we dive in to…Leviticus!
The Hebrew title for this book is wayyiqra (pronounced vai yik ra’). It means, “and he called”. This is simply the first word in the original in Hebrew (in fact all the books in Hebrew were titled by the first word in the book). Our chapter 1 verse 1 translation goes, “The LORD called…”
However our English title, Leviticus, comes from a Greek translation of the Old Testament that was the common bible of Jesus’ day. The Greek version was called the Septuagint, sometimes abbreviated LXX.
LXX is simply the Roman numeral for 70 and septuaginta is the Latin word for 70. The Septuagint, tradition tells us, was created by 70 translators working in the 3rd Century BC to translate the original Hebrew into Greek (the more common language of the day). The details are a little more debated, but there is general agreement that the Pentateuch (or the first Five Books) were translated in the 3rd Century BC.
In this translation of the Old Testament the book, wayyiqra, is entitled leyitikon, meaning, “things concerning Levites.” From this we get Leviticus, which is more descriptive than, “and he called,” but is a little misleading, as we are beginning to see as we read, this book is about more than just priestly duties.
Ok, by now you probably realize that I’m stalling a little here. What you really want to know is, “What does all this stuff mean!?!?!”
Well, as you’ve already figured out, Leviticus can be difficult to understand, particularly because most of us are not familiar with ancient rituals and the worship practices of the tabernacle. The end of Exodus showed the Tabernacle completed and God’s presence filling the Holy of Holies.
Leviticus concerns the Laws that God handed down within a month of the completion of the Tabernacle, the ordination of the first priesthood (Aaron and his sons) and the first worship service there.
In a general sense these Laws show the absolute purity of God in contrast to the moral depravity of man. Despite our depravity God desires a close relationship with us. However, to be a flawed sinful person and be in close proximity to an all-powerful, perfect God is a terrifying thing. God’s Holiness demands perfect Justice. He cannot be in close proximity to sin or His very character would be marred by it.
His character attributes of perfect Justice and Righteousness would demand destruction of the sinful people in His presence. However, His immeasurable Love for us requires His Mercy and Grace to function if He wants to have a close relationship with us. Thus the sacrificial system with its guidelines for unintentional, and even intentional, sins.
As the Bible makes clear without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. These sacrifices should not only make the point that we fall so far short of God’s perfect standard, but they also point to the Ultimate Sacrifice to come, namely Jesus.
So for an overview of what we’ve read so far in Leviticus…
Chapters 1-5 (approximately) present:
Five Major Offerings
- The burnt offering (1:1-17)
- The grain offering (2:1-16)
- The peace offering (3:1-17)
- The sin offering (4:1-5:13) and
- The guilt offering (5:14-6:7)
Chapters 6 & 7 Explain:
The Handling of these Offerings
- The burnt offering (6:8-13)
- The grain offering (6:4-23)
- The sin offering (6:24-30)
- The guilt offering (7:1-10)
- The peace offering (7:11-36)
But what about this Clean / Unclean / Holy business?
Many conversations have taken place as to what these terms mean exactly. Some believe they refer to hygienic conditions, but these aren’t really references to hygiene at all. They are more references to “ritual conditions”. In other words, you may be “unclean” or “ritually impure” because you’ve broken one of these laws, which would mean you couldn’t come into the tabernacle grounds, but it does not mean you are unhealthy or unrighteous.
Wow! This post is getting long…
I think I’m going to stop here for this week. Don’t worry; we’ll be in Leviticus for most of this coming week, so we’ll have plenty of time to comment more.
In the mean time, give us your thoughts and questions on what you are reading this week. For instance, what is so special about those “white hairs”?
Let’s hear from you…
[Blog rules/protocol can be found in the Week 2(&1) blog…]