Authorship and Audience

According to tradition (both Jewish and Christian), Moses wrote all of the books in the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). See the notes for Genesis for more details. This book was designed to go sometimes to Israel (e.g. Leviticus 1:2) and sometimes to the Aaron's sons who would become priests (e.g. 21:1 and 22:2).

Date and Historical Context

Assuming Moses wrote the Pentateuch, it would have been written during Moses' lifetime. Refer to the notes for Genesis for a discussion of when this may have occurred.

Literary Context

The book of Leviticus answers the question that should be on our minds after having read the book of Exodus: "How can a holy and faithful God dwell in the midst of an unholy and unfaithful people?". Leviticus relates to the rest of the Bible in that it establishes the theology of atonement and sacrifice that are central to understanding Christ's atoning death.

Theological Themes

  • The Need for Atonement. The word "atonement" is used forty nine times in the book of Leviticus (an average of 1.8 times per chapter). Building off of Exodus where we find that God is dwelling with Israel, the repeated use of the word "atonement" in Leviticus drives home the fact that atonement between God and man is essential (refer to the "Observations/Notes" section below for a discussion of what atonement means).
  • God Provides the Means of Atonement. The sacrificial system described in this book was not invented by men. It was designed and given by God who Himself chooses to accept the sacrifices as sufficient atonement.
  • The Means of Atonement. Leviticus provides the means by which Israel can atone for their sins: the life of an animal. Leviticus 17:11 makes it clear that the taking of a life is the appropriate and accepted way to atone for sin. The life of an animal is in the blood of the animal. In fact, the word "blood" occurs seventy two times in the book of Leviticus (an average of 2.667 times per chapter).
  • The Cost of Atonement. The sacrificial system demonstrates the cost required to atone for sin. Every sin required a sin (or guilt) offering and there were even sacrifices to cover unknown and unconfessed sins. It is costly for a sinful people to be reconciled to a holy God.


0. Instructions for Sacrifices [1 - 7]

A. Burnt Offerings - Devotion [1]

B. Grain Offering - Thankfulness [2]

C. Peace Offering - Fellowship with God [3]

D. Sin Offering - Forgiveness [4 - 5:13]

E. Guilt Offering - Restitution and Forgiveness [5:14 - 6:7]

F. The Priests' Role in offerings [6:8 - 7]

I. Instructions for and Appointment of Priests [8 - 10]

A. Priestly Appointment [8 - 9]

B. Priestly Failure [10]

II. Instructions for Dealing with Uncleanness [11 - 16]

III. Instructions for Living the Law [17 - 27]

A. For Priests: Blood Represents Life [17]

B. For the People: Keeping Oneself Holy [18 - 20]

C. For Priests: Keeping Oneself Holy [21 - 22]

D. For the People: Living out the Law and the Consequences Thereof [23 - 27]


  • Atonement, in the Biblical sense, can be defined as:

    A reparation of the relationship between God and man through the life of a sacrifice.

  • There is a good outline of the five sacrifices described in Leviticus 1 - 7 here.
  • When reading the book of Leviticus, the words "clean" and "unclean" should jump off of the page. The word "unclean" is used ninety one times in this book (in the NASB)! God spends a lot of time defining what is clean and what is unclean as well as how one passes from clean to unclean and visa-versa. All of the rules relating to cleanliness (in chapters 11 through 16), serve at least three purposes:
    1. They keep the people healthy (e.g. the treatment of Leprosy in Leviticus 14).
    2. They separate the people from the nations around them (e.g. the dietary restrictions in 11).
    3. They highlight the holiness and perfection of God (e.g. Leviticus 15:31-33).

Applications and Thoughts for Christians

Leviticus is quoted in a number of ways throughout the New Testament. 1 Peter 1:14-16 uses Leviticus 11:44 to make the point that Christians, like Israel, must conduct themselves in accordance with the Holiness of the God who called them (this is also a theme of 1 John). In Mark 7:14-23, Jesus Christ uses the dietary restrictions of Levicitus 11 to make a point about the nature of true holiness (that "whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him", but "that which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man"). Continuing to Acts 10, the same dietary restrictions from Levicitus 11 are not only abolished (Acts 10:15), but are also used to communicate to the Apostle Peter the plan of God in sending the Gospel to the gentiles.

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