Through the Bible in a Year: Leviticus 1 through 6

Reading Schedule and Intro

Today’s Bible Reading is Leviticus 1-6.
Tuesday, Feb. 6: Leviticus 7-11
Wednesday, Feb. 7: Leviticus 12-16
Thursday, Feb. 8: Leviticus 17-21
Friday, Feb. 9: Leviticus 22-27

Next week we will go back to the apostles’ writings, to Mark. The overall year’s plan is here.

My commentaries are sometimes long. The Bible is the priority. Read it first, and my commentaries are carefully sectioned so you can find the passage that concerns your question. Please use the comment section of my blog if I missed something or you have something to add!

Today’s Reading: A Little Exhortation

Well did you get through last week’s readings? Or did you skip some because they were "boring"?

We’ve talked about digging spiritual truth out of the Scriptures because we are a spiritual people. I think of it like mining. Sometimes I have to go through a lot of rock to get to the message(s) God has for me that day. The rest, that I missed, is every bit as much God’s spiritual message, but I’ll have to wait until my heart is softer, my brain more educated, or my soul more under discipline before I can get all of it.

Either way, I must not quit mining! God thinks what he has to say is worth our effort, and he will purposely withhold that Word from those who refuse to give the effort.

Leviticus 1: The Law of the Burnt Offering

The Burnt Offering is one sacrifice that is completely burned. The reason that one person would offer a bull, another a sheep, and another a bird is because the Israelites varied in wealth. You offered what you could afford.

In fact, one of the ways that we know that Joseph and Mary, Jesus’ parents, could not have been wealthy–prior to the gifts from the Magi, that is–is because they offered a pair of turtledoves rather than a lamb for Mary’s purification offering (Luke 2:24; Lev. 5:7).

Leviticus 2: The Grain Offering

Here we see part of the offering being left for Aaron and his sons to eat.

God is very firm about their being no leaven in the grain offerings. That is because leaven spreads. The apostles’ writings regularly refer to leaven as a thing that must found and stopped before it leavens the entire loaf (1 Cor. 5:7; Matt. 16:6-11).

For some reason God also forbids the burning of honey on the altar. Is God telling us that he doesn’t want us "sweetening" our faith to make it more palatable to others? Maybe someone has something better on that one.

Finally, he tells them never to forget the salt of the covenant in their grain. The apostles’ writings speak of salt all the time, in the sense of providing both seasoning and preservation.

Leviticus 3: Peace Offerings

The peace offerings could also be cattle, lamb, or goat. Notice, though that in the peace offering, only the kidneys, livers, and much of the fat are burnt on the altar.

The rest was the provision of the priests.

We will see as we go on that the tithe of the Israelites was not what provided for the priests. The sacrifices provided for the priests.

What did the tithe provide? I cannot wait to show you that when we get to it. The tithe and the feasts of Israel were amazing, even exciting, ways to unite a nation and take care of its poor all at the same time. Christians need to rethink their idea of a tithe.

But, that will have to wait until Deuteronomy.

Leviticus 4:1-2: Unintentional Sin Offerings

I think this chapter is easier to understand if you read v. 1-2 as an introduction. Some Bibles seem to let it run into v. 3 as one sentence, but that is very confusing.

In other words, v. 1-2 are saying, "Now, let’s talk about all the different type of people who may unintentionally sin against the Lord."

Verse 3 then says, "Okay, first if it’s the high priest …"

Leviticus 4:3-12: High Priest Sin Offering

For the high priest who sins unintentionally and brings shame on Israel, a bull is required. The sin offering is burnt as completely as the burnt offering is. None of the sin offering is eaten.

I should note here, though we’ve read it already repeatedly, that when the individual offers, he lays his hand on the head of the animal before he slays him. That is an act of identification. Either it represents sin being transferred to the bull, or it represents that the offerer is sending the bull in his place, perhaps for what he himself justly deserves.

For this sin offering, some of the blood must be sprinkled in the tabernacle. Later we’ll read that this is the reason that this sin offering must be wholly burnt, not eaten by the priests.

Leviticus 4:13-21: Congregational Sin Offering

If the entire congregation has sinned without knowing it, then when they find out, they must offer a bull. Since this is not an individual, the elders of the congregation lay their hands on the bull’s head.

Like the high priest’s sin offering, this blood must be sprinkled in the tabernacle.

Leviticus 4:22-26: Leader’s Sin Offering

If a leader sinned unintentionally, then the offering was a male goat. This sin did not require blood to be sprinkled in the tabernacle, and thus only the fat and innards of the sacrifice was burned. The priests, the sons of Aaron, kept the meat to eat it.

Leviticus 4:27-35: Citizen’s Sin Offering

If it were a commoner who sinned unintentionally, then the offering was a female goat (or lamb). Once again, the peace offering rules apply, and the meat is spared for the priests.

Leviticus 5:1-13: Guilt Offering

There are rules here about the guilt offering, but there are also statements about guilt itself, and how it builds up in our conscience. Where have we not cared, not paid attention, or cared more about our feelings than those of the person across from us?

If a person is born again, such failures build up in the conscience as a weight of guilt. While we don’t sacrifice animals to resolve that guilt, we do confess our sins to God and become cleansed (1 Jn. 1:9). For us, the death of Jesus Christ brings us into the new covenant, where sins are forgiven, and where the one sacrifice can continually cleanse the guilt of our conscience (1 Jn. 1:7; Heb. 10:19-23, but all of Heb 9 and 10 addresses the subject).

Leviticus 5:11-13: A Guilt Offering of Grain

Here is a sacrifice for those that could afford neither a lamb nor even two pigeons, a simple offering of fine flour.

It’s often taught that all sacrifices must include blood. The letter to the Hebrews says (accurately), "According to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (9:22, NASB, italics original).

Here, however, we find atonement being made with a sacrifice of fine flour.

God will forgive the sins of those who are without sacrifices. He tells the wicked through Ezekiel that he will forget everything they have ever done if they will repent and turn from their wickedness (18:21-23).

David, too, gives God true heart on sacrifices saying:

You don’t want sacrifice, or else I would bring it. You do not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, these, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:16-17)

It is true that one may almost say that without blood there was no remission, but the grain offering for guilt is the reason it’s only almost.

More on Sacrifices (Advanced)

We tend to say that animal sacrifices are done away with because Jesus is the final and eternal sacrifice. It was surprising for me to find out that the early Christians thought that sacrifices were done away with because God never wanted them anyway, and they were only instituted to provide carnal men with a ritual to help them keep their eyes on God.

One of the oddest passages in the Bible justifies their position. I doubt you’ll recognize it. It’s so foreign to our way of thinking that I couldn’t believe the early saint was quoting Jeremiah accurately. I knew I had read Jeremiah at least eight times. How could I miss something like that?

For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’ (7:22-23, NASB)

Really? He didn’t? Then what are we reading about today? Here it is, right here in Leviticus!

I would have covered this last week, but I didn’t have the energy to keep this blog up. But if you read the last half of Exodus, then you know that there was an original set of tablets which Moses broke when he saw the people had fallen into idolatry. It was only after Moses returned to the mountain for a new set, after the idolatry had been dealt with, that God added all these rules of sacrifice we are reading in Leviticus.

God says over and over that he hates the sacrifices of unrighteous men and unrighteous nations. He calls them an abomination and a stench. But when a man repents, and is purified, then his sacrifice is well received.

In other words, it is not the sacrifice that purifies the heart, but the heart that purifies the sacrifice!

You don’t want sacrifice, or else I would bring it. You do not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and contrite heart, these, O God, you will not despise. Do good in your good will toward Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then you shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering. Then they shall offer bulls upon your altar. (Ps. 51:16-19)

Leviticus 5:14-16: Unintentional Sins Against the Lord’s Holy Things

This is the guilt offering for unintentional sins against any of the Lord’s holy things.

"Holy," in this context and most others, means set apart or consecrated. A holy jug, for example, is not allowed to be used for any other purpose than carrying water or wine for the temple and the priests.

Such a sin, even though accidental, required a ram and silver in the amount of one-fifth the value of the ram.

Leviticus 5:17-19: Unintentional Violations of Explicit Commands

Think of this as "ignorance is no excuse of the law." There were ways to become unclean or to sin in Israel that are not clearly spelled out. If it is clearly spelled out, but you didn’t know about it and did it, then that called for a ram as a sacrifice.

Leviticus 6:1-7: Guilt Offering for "White Collar Crimes"

This law is about obtaining money or property dishonestly, whether through embezzlement, lying, false business practices, or perhaps even just burgling. Restitution is to be made to the victim, along with an additional 20%.

At that point, the sinner can relieve his guilt with an offering of a ram.

Leviticus 6:8-30: The Priest’s Portion

God gives instruction here on what the priests can eat, and what they cannot eat. Again, this is not all the Levites. Only the descendants of Aaron, sort of a tribe within a tribe, are allowed to eat the sacrifices.

Burnt offerings, as well as any sin offerings in which the blood is brought into the tent of meeting, are entirely burned. Otherwise only the fat and innards are burned, and the meat become the property of the priests.

As I said earlier, the provision for the Levites is neat, too, and I love the whole approach God chose, but I’ll wait till we get there.

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