Israel’s Laws



It’s now a year since the Israelites left Egypt, the last nine months of which were in Sinai. With the erection of the Tabernacle now having been completed, it is ready as a centre for the system of laws and sacrifices for the Israelites. This book is effectively an account of the Levitical Priesthood in that it contains detailed instructions for sacrifices, laws and festivals by which the Israelites are to live, all given to Moses by God to relay to the people. Leviticus 1 opens with: And the lord called to Moses Laws for Burnt Offerings and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the lord ..… and introduces the first of the five main offerings.

The five main offerings

[Lev 1-5]

Burnt Offering

[Lev 1] A burnt offering will be voluntary and could be offered at any time. It is both a general acknowledgement of the sin nature and a request for a renewed relationship with a total commitment to God, as represented by the whole animal being offered. The animal has to be a male with no defect and is killed at the entrance to the tabernacle with hands laid on its head to represent the transfer of sin. The animal is prepared and the whole burnt over night, except the skin which will be a fee for the priest.

Grain Offering

[Lev 2] A grain offering is voluntary and offered from the giver’s own provisions as a recognition of God’s goodness and His provision. The grain has to be finely ground and have oil and salt in it, but must not have any yeast or honey. A small portion is offered to God on the altar, along with some frankincense. The rest of the grain offering goes to the priests.

Fellowship offering

{Lev 3] A peace, or fellowship, offering is a voluntary sacrifice given to God as a way to say thank you for God’s unsought generosity, simply as a means to praise God for His goodness.

Sin Offering

[Lev 4] A sin offering is a mandatory sacrifice made for sins committed in ignorance, or unintentional, by breaking one of the Lord’s commandments. The manner in which the sin offering is made, and the animal offered, will vary depending on the status of the sinner. When the live animal is brought to the altar, the sinner will lay his hand on the head of the animal, representing the transfer of sin from the sinner to the animal.

Guilt Offering

[Lev 5] The guilt offering, also mandatory, is very similar to the sin offering. The difference is that the guilt offering is for a sin that had done definitive damage to the tabernacle service, or another person, thereby requiring restitution.

Concerning Priests

[Le v 6-10]

Instructions for the Priests

[Lev 6-7] More detailed instructions are now given for priests concerning all the offerings. In the circumstance of stealing from one’s neighbour, the guilt offering is necessary, but restitution has to be made before the offering, then there will be certainty of forgiveness. This is followed by specific instructions for the Burnt Offering, the Grain Offering and the Sin Offering. Moses then gives instructions concerning the use of portions of animal sacrifices.

The priesthood

[Lev 8-10] As instructed by God, Moses ordains Aaron and his sons as priests. The ordination process involves a sin offering, a burnt offering and a ram offering for ordination, followed by a period of seven days in which they are to stay at the entrance of the tabernacle. After seven days their ministry begins with a sin offering and a burnt offering to make atonement for themselves and for all the people. The rules concerning priesthood are very strict, and when two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, break the rules they are executed by God. They are taken outside the camp to be mourned by their relatives, but Aaron and his remaining two sons are not permitted to leave the tabernacle. A stark lesson for the priests.

Ceremonial laws

[Lev 11-17]

Clean and unclean animals

[Lev 11] To keep Israel pure as the representation of God’s kingdom, laws for cleanliness are given, beginning with clean and unclean animals, those that can and cannot be eaten, and the disposal of carcasses.

Impurity following birth

[Lev 12] Moses next instructs the people on the ceremonial process relating to impurity after giving birth, different for male and female births, then the purification rite requiring a burnt offering.


[Lev 13-14] Moses now addresses the subject of leprosy, instructing the priests in examination and diagnosis of the disease, and consideration of garments that might have the plague of leprosy on them. There are of course rituals surrounding the cleansing of lepers and the whole process is given by Moses in detail.

Laws Concerning Bodily Discharges

[Lev 15] Bodily discharges are now addressed for both men and women, but separately, for abnormal discharges, their uncleanliness and the required offerings. In addition to the abnormal discharges, and under the same status of unclean, instruction is given separately concerning men’s semen and women’s menstruation.

The Day of Atonement

[Lev 16 ] The Day of Atonement will become the Jews holiest day - Yom Kippur - the acts of atonement and repentance at its centre. The ritual is described here in chapter 16, but the phrase ‘Day of Atonement’ isn’t used until chapter 23. God instructs Moses to tell Aaron of the procedures for the Day of Atonement. This is the only day a priest can enter the Holy of Holies, and even then, only the high priest. Aaron is instructed in the manner in which he is to enter the Holy Place, the animals required for offerings, his clothing and the need to wash his body before putting them on. This involves a bull offering for himself, the priest and his household, and two goats, one as a sin offering for all the people and the other as a scapegoat, with sprinkling of blood being an essential element of atonement. Aaron is to lay his hands on the head of the scapegoat, representing the transfer of all the sins of Israel to the goat, then the goat is led out of the camp and released into the wilderness, taking the sins of Israel with it. Aaron is then given detail on how to properly complete the process of the ‘Day of Atonement’

The sanctity of blood

[Lev 17] Moses is instructed to give the law concerning blood to Aaron, his sons and all the people. No one other than a priest is permitted to make a blood sacrifice in the tabernacle, sprinkled blood being the means of atonement, and no one is permitted to consume blood. Blood of any animal is to be drained before the animal is eaten, For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I [God speaking to Moses] have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Moral laws

[Lev 18-20]

Laws are given against a number of sexual relations and activity

[Lev 18] Against incest, with specific instances stated; sex during menstruation; adultery; contributing to Molech worship - the sacrifice of infants; homosexuality; bestiality.

A number of various laws

[Lev 19] Following a general call to holiness, some laws already covered are revisited: To respect parents Against adultery Laws concerning offerings .

In addition, a number of various laws are given:

Providing for the poor by leaving fields incompletely harvested Honest dealing Basic human compassion commanded Laws regarding justice and truthfulness The command to love one’s neighbour Laws of purity in response to pagan practices The penalty for unlawful intercourse with a concubine Regarding the commencent of eating fruit in the land of Canaan Laws to insure separation from pagan practices Further laws of kindness and justice.

Penalties for Laws Already Given

[Lev 20] For sins of idolatry Molech worship For involvement with the occult For sins of immorality For the cursing of a parent For sins of incest For homosexual sin For marrying both a woman and her mother For bestiality For other sexual sins For being a medium or practitioner of the occult.

Regulations for priests, offerings and feasts

[Lev 21-22] Moses is now required to give a number of specific instructions for priests. Concerning the prohibition of touching dead bodies and imitating the mourning practices of pagans; regulations for their marriage practices; matters concerning their specific responsibilities, maintaining purity, matters relating to unacceptable sacrifices.

The feasts of the Lord

Lev 23] Instructions are now given concerning observance of appointed feasts. Observation of the Sabbath is stated, then the required seven feasts: The first four to be celebrated in the Spring: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, Feast of Weeks The last three to be celebrated in the Autumn: Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles.

Some Laws put into action

[Lev 24] The rules are then given for the continual burning of the lampstand and the continual provision of shewbread. (The shewbread is twelve cakes of unleavened bread, which are a perpetual representation of the twelve tribes of Israel before Jehovah.) The punishment for blasphemy is stated using the example of an Egyptian blasphemer. Also mentioned is murder and killing of a neighbour’s animal, with the level of punishment in general to be appropriate for the offence: “an eye for an eye”.

Sabbath and Jubilee years

[Lev 25] The laws concerning the Sabbath and Jubilee years are given. The Sabbath year is every seventh year when the land is to be rested from farming, but the Israelites can feed from crops that naturally grow on the land. The Jubilee year is every fiftieth year when all land is returned to its owner and all Israelite slaves freed. Consequently, land is bought and sold on the basis of how many years are left before the Jubilee year. God says The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me .” Provision is also to be made for redemption of the land when an owner has had to sell but later has the means to redeem it, either by himself or by a kinsman redeemer.

Blessings and curses

[Lev 26] The conditions of the Mosaic Covenant given at Mount Sinai are now restated in the form of blessings and curses. The people are told that if they observe God’s Sabbaths, respect His sanctuary and obey His commandments, then their crops will be abundant and they will live without fear and in peace. But if they do not do these things, then the consequences will be terrible and increase all the time they do not repent, until they are eventually taken captive by their enemies. Yet He will not forget them in the land of their enemies, and will wait for their repentance to honour His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Offerings vowed to the Lord

[Lev 27] Finally, rules are given for things vowed to the Lord in kind. A value is put on them, whether they be people, animals or houses, and provision is made for their redemption should circumstances deem it necessary.
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