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Leviticus Bible Study – Lesson 1 and Introduction

Lesson 1:  Introduction and Chapter 1  


“There is no book, in the whole compass of that inspired Volume which the Holy Ghost has given us, that contains more of the very words of God than Leviticus. It is God that is the direct speaker on almost every page; His gracious words are recorded in the form wherein they were uttered. This consideration cannot fail to send us to the study of it with singular interest and attention.”  —Andrew Bonar

J. N. Darby once warned of the dire results if believers grow bored with holiness. Holiness is the main theme of Leviticus, and this book certainly is the hardest one for many Christians to read. Of course, if the instructions are merely taken as details of ancient Jewish sacrificial rituals and laws to maintain holiness in everyday life and separation from pagan peoples, the blessing will be limited. Once you see, however, that every detail of the sacrifices pictures the perfection of Christ’s person and work, there is much to meditate upon.

Twenty of the twenty-seven chapters in Leviticus and about thirty-five other paragraphs start with “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying … ”or a similar, equivalent expression.

Accepting the Mosaic authorship of Leviticus and the evidence within the Pentateuch, we suggest that the book was revealed to Moses during the fifty-day period after the tabernacle was set up (Exodus 40:17), and before the Israelites left Sinai (Numbers 10:11). The exact year of writing is unknown, but somewhere between 1450 and 1410 b.c. is indicated.

An easy way to remember the contents of Leviticus is to associate its name with the word “Levites” or “priests,” and then realize that the book is a manual for the priests. Exodus ended with the setting up of the tabernacle in the wilderness. Now the priests and Levites need instruction on how to carry out the sacrifices associated with that structure and with some other rituals as well (e.g., cleansing “leprous” houses).

In Exodus we saw Israel delivered from Egypt and set apart as God’s special possession. In Leviticus we see how they are to be separated from sin and uncleanness in order to approach God in the sanctuary. Holiness becomes the rule of the camp. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament God demands that His people be holy because He is holy. This poses a serious problem, since man by nature and by practice is unholy. The solution lies in blood atonement (Leviticus 17:11). In the O.T. there were animal sacrifices that looked forward to the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lamb of God, as revealed in the N.T., especially in Hebrews.

Read Leviticus 1:1-17

The Burnt Offering

Leviticus opens with the Lord calling to Moses, speaking to him from the tabernacle of meeting. At the outset the Lord prescribes the five offerings—burnt, meal, peace, sin, and trespass. The first three were known as sweet-savor offerings, the last two as sin offerings. The first three were voluntary, the last two compulsory.

The first message God has for the children of Israel is that they should bring their offerings to the Lord from their livestock—both from the herd and from the flock.

Leviticus 1 deals with the burnt sacrifice. There were three grades, depending on what the offerer could afford: a bull from the herd (v. 3; cf. v. 5), a male without blemish; a sheep or a goat from the flock (v. 10), a male without blemish; turtledoves or young pigeons (v. 14). All were peaceful creatures; nothing wild was offered on the altar of the Lord.  It is important to notice that God makes provision for EVERY man, rich or poor, to be able to find forgiveness by the sacrifice.  God is no respecter of persons.

Duties of the offerer: He brought the offering to the door of the tabernacle, near the brazen altar (v. 3); he put his hand on the head of the victim (v. 4) (or, “he leaned his hand as if in reliance”); he killed the bull (v. 5) or the sheep or goat (v. 11); he skinned the animal and cut it into its pieces (vv. 6, 12); he washed the entrails and legs with water (vv. 9, 13).  Notice the direct association of the sinner to the sacrifice.  It is an entirely PERSONAL way of dealing with sin.

Duties of the priests: They sprinkled the blood of the animal all around on the altar (vv. 5, 11); they put the fire and the wood on the altar (v. 7) and then placed the parts of the animal in order on the wood (vv. 8, 12). Everything was burned on the altar except the skin (v. 13; 7:8); in the case of the birds, the priest wrung off its head, pressed out its blood at the side of the altar, put the crop (gullet) with its feathers on the east side of the altar, opened the body of the bird without cutting it in pieces, and burned it on the altar.

Distribution of the offering: All that was burned on the altar belonged to God; the skin was given to the priests (7:8); the offerer received no part of this particular offering.

The person bringing a burnt offering was expressing his complete surrender and devotion to the Lord. We learn elsewhere that this offering was presented on many different occasions.

Typically, the burnt offering pictures the offering of Christ without spot to God. On Calvary’s altar the Lamb of God was totally consumed by the flames of divine justice. Amelia M. Hull’s hymn captures the spirit of this:

I have been at the altar and witnessed the Lamb

Burnt wholly to ashes for me;

And watched its sweet savour ascending on high,

Accepted, O Father, by Thee.