The rest of Scripture unquestionably attributes Leviticus and the other books of the Pentateuch to Moses, the prophet we first meet in the book of Exodus. This is expressly supported by Jesus himself (see Mt 8:4; Mk 7:10, 12:26; Lk 16:29-31, 24:44; Jn 5:46-47), the gospel writers (e.g., Lk 2:22), the apostle Peter (see Ac 3:22-23), the apostle Paul (see Ac 13:38-39, 26:22) and others (see Mt 22:24; Ac 7:37; Heb 3:5). This is also stated throughout the Old Testament (see Jos 1:7, 8:31-35, 9:24, 11:12-15,20, 14:5-10, 20:2, 21:2,8, 22:5,9; Jdg 3:4; 1 Ki 8:53-56; 2 Ki 18:6,12, 21:8; 1 Chr 6:49, 15:15, 22:13; 2 Chr 8:13, 33:8, 34:14, 35:12; Ezra 3:2, 6:18, 7:6; Neh 1:7-8, 8:1,14, 9:14, 10:29, 13:1; Ps 103:7; Dan 9:11-13; Mal 4:4).
Levi was one of the twelve sons of Jacob whose descendants (called the “tribe of Levi”) were chosen to serve as priests for the nation of Israel. Thus, this book was given the title Leviticus in the Septuagint because it contained detailed guidelines for worship the Israelite priests were to follow.
Worship for the Old Testament people included 5 different types of offerings: burnt offerings, grain offerings, fellowship offerings, sin offerings, and guilt offerings. The bloody sacrifices, those which involved an animal being slain, were the burnt, sin, and guilt offerings. The sin and guilt offerings were offered to atone for sin and pointed forward to the coming Savior’s sacrifice for the sins of the world. The grain and fellowship offerings consisted of meal, cakes, grain, oil, incense, salt, or wine according to the circumstances.
The rest of the book of Leviticus gives guidelines concerning certain situations that might affect one’s ability to worship, as well as guidelines concerning the ritual festivals the Israelites were to celebrate.
There is much debate that surrounds the dating of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The traditional dating that is supported by biblical references is roughly 1446 BC. This date is arrived at by counting backward from the 4th year of King Solomon’s reign, dated at 967 or 966 BC by the majority of historians (through archaeological discoveries, particularly a list of Assyrian officials), 480 years (1 Kings 6:1) to 1446 BC. Following the biblical text itself, it seems Moses must have written the first five books of the Bible between the time of the Exodus (when God called him to be a prophet) and the arrival of the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land 40 years later (when he died), and therefore the date of writing is believed to be between roughly 1446 BC and 1406 BC.
Since Moses must have written the first five books of the Bible between the time of the Exodus and the arrival of the Israelites at the edge of the Promised Land 40 years later, it is believed that he wrote them as the Israelites wandered in the desert between the two lands.
In the book of 1 Peter, the apostle Peter makes the connection for us between Leviticus and Jesus. In 1 Peter 1:18-19, he says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” Jesus was the perfect sacrifice required to atone for our sins, which is what the sacrifices described in Leviticus were meant to show (Heb 10:11-14). Our relationship with God is built on Jesus’ righteousness, not ours (Rom 3:21-25). His blood completely took away the punishment for our sins (1 Jn 2:1-2). The laws and rules for worship in Leviticus were always simply a shadow of things to come (Col 2:16-17).
- Leviticus 4:1-2,20,26,31,35; 5:6,10,13,16,18; 6:7
- Leviticus 16:18-22,34
- Leviticus 19:2
- Guidelines for worship within the Israelite community (Lev 1-16)
- Guidelines for the various offerings (Lev 1-7)
- The priests begin their ministry (Lev 8-10)
- Guidelines for being ceremonially clean (Lev 11-15)
- The Day of Atonement (Lev 16)
- Guidelines for living within the Israelite community (Lev 17-27)
- Things forbidden by God and their punishments (Lev 17-20)
- Various rules for the priests (Lev 21-22)
- The festivals and times appointed by God for the Israelites (Lev 23-25)
- Promises of blessings and warnings from the Lord (Lev 26)
- Dedicating people and things to the Lord (Lev 27)