Jared Smith's Bible Reading

17 Bible Reading – The Book Of Leviticus

A Transcript Of The Video Study

According to the Chronological Chart Of Bible Books, Leviticus is the fourth book to appear on the timeline. We believe it was written by Moses, probably around the year 1490 BC, sometime after the events recorded in the book. It is a divinely inspired book, meaning God breathed out His words through Moses. The words of this book, therefore, are the words of God. They are able to make the Lord’s people wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. They are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that we might be matured in the faith, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Tim 3:15-17)

The name ‘Leviticus’ is derived from the tribe of Levi, and refers to those things pertaining to the Levitical priesthood. Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob, and his descendants became one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and it was that tribe—the Tribe of Levi—God set apart to serve as priests among the people. And so, the book of Leviticus picks up where the book of Exodus leaves off. It is all about the ceremonial law, with special reference to the priests who were responsible to serve the Lord and the people in the tabernacle ordinances.

Now, some people have denied this book belongs among the historical literature of the Old Testament, because, they say, it is a record of the commandments and ordinances of God given to the people of Israel. Well, while that is true for the main part of the book, I would have you notice when reading Leviticus, that all God says to the people is couched within a historical context. The people are gathered around the tabernacle and are receiving commandments from the Lord. You will therefore find two or three specific incidents which occurred at that time—for instance, the anointing of Aaron as the high priest, the execution of Aaron’s two sons and the execution of Shelomith’s son.

The total time lapse between the first and last chapters is estimated to be only one month. Let that sink in for a moment. All of the words and events recorded in this book unfolded within a time period of only four weeks. And so, while it is certainly a historic narrative, it records the words and events which occurred during a very small stretch of time. The book has been divided into 27 chapters, and it takes approximately two hours and five minutes to read in a single sitting.

There are six main sections to the book:

In chapters one through seven, instructions are given to the children of Israel regarding the sacrificial offerings—the burnt offering, meat offering, peace offering, sin offering and trespass offering.

In chapters eight through ten, directions are given to the priests regarding the priestly office—their anointing and offerings, together with a historic backdrop of Aaron’s (the high-priest) four sons.

In chapters eleven to fifteen, directions are given to the people (Israel) regarding regulations on food and sanitation.

In chapters sixteen and seventeen guidance is given to the priests and the people (Israel) regarding directions on making offerings.

In chapters eighteen to twenty, directions are given once more to the people (Israel) regarding regulations on sexuality and socialization.

In chapters twenty-one to twenty-seven, guidance is given again to the priests and the people (Israel) regarding directions on making offerings.

Henceforth, from a bird’s eye view, the whole book begins with a single statement on the various sacrifices that are to be offered in the tabernacle (chapters 1-7); followed by a single statement on the priestly office (chapters 8-10); followed by a twofold statement on directions given to the people regarding various regulations on food, sanitation, sexuality and socialization (chapters 11-15 and 18-20); followed by a twofold statement on guidance given to the priests and the people (Israel) regarding directions on making offerings (chapters 16,17 and 21-27).

(1-7) The Offerings—burnt, meat, peace, sin, trespass
(8-10) The Priests—anointing, offerings, Aaron’s four sons
(11-15) The People—regulations on food and sanitation
(16,17) The Priests And People—directions on making offerings
(18-20) The People—regulations on sexuality and socialization
(21-27) The Priests And People—directions on making offerings

This basic structure should be a sufficient guide to lead you through the main movements of the book, that you might not get lost in the details. You can use this structure as a navigational map which will lead you from the first to the last chapter—and I believe you will be helped if you follow this guide.

Now, I suspect you have heard from many people, their difficulty reading through the book of Leviticus. The book has somewhat of an infamous reputation. Many people say they have started reading the Bible with much joy, passing through the books of Genesis and Exodus with relative ease, but just can’t seem to get through the book of Leviticus. “Ah,” they say, “My whole journey through the Bible came to a screeching halt when I began reading Leviticus—it just makes no sense at all to me!” Well, the same thing may be said about certain parts of every book of the Bible. There are parts of Genesis, Job and Exodus which are not easily understood. But that doesn’t stop us from reading those books and benefitting from what we do understand. When it comes to Leviticus, I believe there is more hype regenerated against the book than it deserves. Just based on the structure itself, you can clearly see there is nothing in the book that should intimidate you—it’s all quite simple and straight forward. I believe if you approach Leviticus with a positive attitude, expecting the Lord to speak to you from its pages, then you will find it to be a joy and blessing to your soul!

To that end, I would like to suggest a couple of things that may help you secure a joy when reading the book of Leviticus.

First, capture the big picture—do not lose sight of the leading message of the book.

Please listen to me carefully—the book of Leviticus is the art gallery for the gospel. It is full of pictures, symbols and object lessons which illustrate the various branches of the gospel, especially that connected with the redeeming work of Christ. In a nutshell, that is the leading message of the book of Leviticus—it is the art gallery for the gospel.

Now, if we visit, let’s say, the National Gallery, many of us will not fully appreciate the meaning and technique behind the works of art hanging on the walls. However, that doesn’t prevent us from touring the gallery and enjoying the experience of walking the halls and admiring the paintings, does it? Likewise, many of us may not fully appreciate the object lessons set forth in the book of Leviticus—we may not see how the gospel is illustrated by the various offerings and ordinances of the tabernacle and priesthood. However, that shouldn’t prevent any of us from reading the book and enjoying the experience of admiring that which God has set forth in the ceremonial law for the children of Israel, and ultimately, for our own benefit in deriving comfort from the scriptures. Just because there may be parts of this book which are unintelligible to us, doesn’t mean it would be in our interest to skim over the pages and/or give little attention to the things recorded. You see, every part of Leviticus, in one way or another, points to the Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work for His elect people.

And so, the point I am driving at is this—if you want to receive the greatest joy and benefit when reading through the book of Leviticus, then capture the big picture—do not lose sight of the leading message of the book.

Second, keep your eye on the big picture—do not get caught up with the details. For instance, when you read about the burnt offering in the first chapter, and the meat offering in the second chapter, and so forth, do not stop at the end of these chapters in order to look up in a Bible dictionary the meaning of these offerings. That would only serve as a stumbling block when reading through the scriptures. Rather, you must keep pressing on, from one chapter to the next, refusing to get caught up with the details of the book. “But,” you say, “Should I not look things up if I don’t understand what they mean?” Of course you should, but at that point you are no longer reading the Bible, you are studying it! Yes, there is a place for Bible study. I highly recommend you study the scriptures. But there is also a place for Bible reading, and you mustn’t stumble in one by pursuing the other. Keep Bible study and Bible reading separate. If you are reading the Bible, then keep your eye on the big picture—don’t get distracted by the details.

As a sidenote, while we are on the subject of Bible study, the best commentary ever written on the book of Leviticus was by the Apostle Paul—his epistle to the Hebrews. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews should be viewed as the tour book, which will explain how the various object lessons of the book of Leviticus illustrate the gospel of Christ. But that is something you can explore at a later point, outside of the time you have set apart for your Bible reading.

Well, this brings me to the final thing I want to highlight before you read the book of Leviticus. Let’s align the characters of the book with the Framework of Sovereign Grace:

The are only 14 characters recorded in the book of Leviticus.

Three people are numbered among God’s elect—Moses, Aaron and Eleazar (third son of Aaron).

Three people are numbered among the non-elect—Nadab, Abihu (two eldest sons of Aaron), Shelomith’s Son

Eight people come under the “unsure” category, as there isn’t sufficient information to know whether they belong to the elect or the non-elect—Uzziel (uncle of Aaron and Moses), Mishael and Elzaphan (sons of Uzziel), Ithamar (fourth of Aaron), Shelomith (Jewish woman), her husband (an Egyptian), Dibri (her father), a Jewish man

Allow me to highlight just a few of these names along with their testimonies. Let’s begin with…

1. The Testimony of Aaron’s Sons—Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. These are the four sons of Aaron, all of whom were violators of God’s commandment.

The first two were the eldest, whom we suspect were guilty of intoxication. Their drunkenness led to them mocking the gospel and blaspheming God—an indication they had never been born again. In His wrath, God struck them dead by consuming them with fire. It is actually quite remarkable. Though we suspect these men were unregenerate sinners, yet they were permitted to behold the God of Israel by ascending Mount Sinai with Moses and the 70 elders, and were both anointed priests among the children of Israel. Let this serve as a warning to preachers, who, though they behold the God of the Bible, and have been ordained to the gospel ministry, yet may be dead in trespasses and sins and under the condemnation of God.

Eleazar, the third son of Aaron, was also anointed to the priesthood, and occupied a more prominent position after the death of his older brothers. He was given oversight of the Levites and special charge of the tabernacle. He it was that succeeded Aaron as the High Priest of Israel after his father died. He became the priestly advisor to both Moses and Joshua at various times, leading us to the conclusion he was numbered among God’s elect people.

Ithamar, the fourth son of Aaron, was also anointed to the priesthood, and was made treasurer of the offerings for the tabernacle and overseer of the Gershonites and Merarites in the service of the tabernacle. I have found insufficient information to determine whether he belongs to the elect or non-elect.

Now, at the beginning of Leviticus 10, a record is given of the first two sons, when they violated God’s commandment and were struck dead. Whereas, at the end of the same chapter, a record is given of the last two sons, when they were also charged with a violation of God’s commandment, but were not punished as a result. There are reasons for that, but I leave it with you to discover those reasons when you read the book.

Let us look at one more testimony:

2. The Testimony of Shelomith’s Son. Shelomith was a Jewish woman, married to an Egyptian man, whose son contended with another Jewish man in the camp of Israel. During the conflict, Shelomith’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. Consequently, he was stoned to death. It is uncertain whether the mother, father or Jewish man are numbered among God’s elect people, but I believe there is sufficient information to conclude Shelomith’s son is one of the non-elect.

My dear brethren, these are some of the things you will discover when reading through the book of Leviticus. There is much in the book to cause our hearts to leap for joy—the object lessons illustrate so beautifully the gospel of Christ. There is also much in the book to encourage and strengthen our hearts—the tabernacle, its ordinances and regulations demonstrate the only way for sinners to have access with God is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life, and no one is able to come unto the Father but by Him. And, there is also much in the book to warn the hypocrite. My friend, you must be warned that a form of godliness is not sufficient to pardon you from sin and quicken your soul to life in Christ—you must be set apart as an object of God’s love, justified by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus and regenerated by the effectual power of the Holy Spirit! And with that, I leave you with the book, wishing upon you every blessing in the Lord, as you read through its pages in the next few days. Until we meet again, may the Lord bless you!

Jared Smith