Third book of the Pentateuch. Portrays the rituals that priests must regulate and perform to maintain God’s presence with His people. Primarily concerned with sacrifice and regulations for maintaining holiness. Referred to as the “priests’ law,” “priests’ book,” and “the law of the offerings” in the Mishnah.
The Jewish convention for naming biblical books after their opening word makes the Hebrew name for Leviticus וַיִּקְרָ֖א (wayyiqra', “and He called”). The English title, Leviticus, derives from the Greek term ΛΕΥΙΤΙΚΟΝ (LEUITIKON). Though the book does not focus on the Levites, Christian tradition holds that the Levitical priests were the rightful recipients of the material (Heb 7:11).
—The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Lexham Press
Best Commentaries on Leviticus
Gordon J. Wenham, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), Eerdmans, 1979, 375 pp.
Leviticus used to be the first book Jewish children studied in the synagogue. In the modern Church it tends to be the last part of the Bible anyone looks at seriously. Because Leviticus is largely concerned with subjects that seem incomprehensible and irrelevant today—rituals for sacrifice and regulations concerning uncleanliness—it appears to have nothing to say to twenty-first-century Christians. In this excellent commentary on Leviticus, Gordon Wenham takes with equal seriousness both the plain, original meaning of the text and its abiding theological value. To aid in reconstructing the original meaning of the text, Wenham draws from studies of Old Testament ritual and sacrifice that compare and contrast biblical customs with the practices of other Near Eastern cultures. He also closely examines the work of social anthropologists and expertly uses the methods of literary criticism to bring out the author’s special interests.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
John E. Hartley, Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), Thomas Nelson, 1992, 515 pp.
Far from boring, John Hartley argues, Leviticus contains the very heartbeat of faith for Jews and Christians. Explore what pure worship and holy living meant as you study Leviticus’ textual witnesses, composition, and theological significance. Evaluate modern critical perspectives on the book, and consider the legacy of nineteenth-century “higher critical” interpretation. Organized for easy reference, Word Biblical Commentaries make an ideal Bible study companion, whether you are studying a single passage or a complete biblical book.
- Level: Advanced
- Type: Technical
Mark F. Rooker, New American Commentary (NAC), B&H, 2000, 352 pp.
Dr. Rooker"s work journeys through the symbolisms and functions of the sacrificial system of ancient Israel. It guides the reader into the meaning and significance of Leviticus from a Christian perspective as well as that of the ancient context. It also confronts the critical issues of the book and argues for the Mosaic origin of the material.
- Level: Intermediate
- Type: Expository
Jacob Milgrom, Anchor Yale Bible Commentary (AYBC), Yale University Press, 1998–2001, 2,688 pp.
In these richly detailed volumes, the author traverses the shoals of legal thought and liturgical practice in ancient Israel. He clearly explains the role of the tabernacle of the wilderness as the all-important center of Israelite worship, the locus of the priestly orders, sacrificial rituals, and practices of purity to which the congregation repaired for penitence and reconciliation, restoration, and renewal. At the heart of God"s dwelling place was the God of Israel"s real presence, evidenced through his splendor in the midst of the camp and the congregation—a permanent sign of Israel"s unique privilege and responsibility perceived as a worshipping and serving people.
- Level: Advanced
- Type: Technical
R. K. Harrison, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (TOTC), InterVarsity Press, 1980, 254 pp.
Levitical rules and regulations regarding blood and sacrifice, offerings and priests, cleanness and uncleanness at first appear irrelevant to contemporary Christians. Yet large portions of the New Testament can hardly be understood apart from some understanding of these Old Testament concepts. What does it mean for believers to be a royal priesthood? A holy nation? For Christ to be our Great High Priest? Our Passover Lamb? R. K. Harrison illuminates these ideas within their Old Testament context, thus providing the needed background for their New Testament development.
- Level: Basic
- Type: Devotional
Best Books on Leviticus
Michael Morales explores the narrative context, literary structure, and theology of Leviticus. He follows its dramatic movement, examines the tabernacle cult and the Day of Atonement, and tracks the development from Sinai’s tabernacle to Zion’s temple—and from the earthly to the heavenly Mount Zion in the New Testament. He shows how life with God in the house of God was the original goal of the creation of the cosmos and how it became the goal of redemption and the new creation.Learn more
This academic work focuses on the concepts of atonement and sacrifice using texts from the Pentateuch. Kiuchi looks at the differences between purification rites and those used for expiation. He discusses the Hebrew word hattat to discover if it is used mainly in instances of purification or atonement. A variety of interpretations are used to gain a fuller context of the source material.Learn more
This book draws on a variety of disciplines to undertake a unique analysis of Leviticus 1–7. Rather than studying the rituals prescribed in Leviticus as arcane historical/theological texts of little interest to the modern reader or as examples of primitive rituals that have no parallel in Western society, this book provides many points of contact between animal sacrifice rituals and various parts of post-modern society. Modern rituals such as Monday Night Football, eating fast food, sending sons and daughters off to war, and even the rituals of modern academia are contrasted with the text of Leviticus. In addition, responses to Leviticus among modern African Christians and in the early Church are used to draw out further understandings of how the language and practice of sacrifice still shapes the lives of people.Learn more
Although Leviticus may seem a less-than-appealing text to the modern theology student, considering the topics include such unsavory subjects as ritual sacrifice, Grabbe stresses that Jewish and Christian commentators through the centuries have found it to be an important source of religious symbolism and theological reflection. By taking a closer look at the text, the author reveals many fascinating insights into society, history, religion, and theology.Learn more
Tracing the relationship between the actual book of Leviticus and its rabbinic commentary, Jacob Neusner asks how the rabbis who stand behind the text make use of Leviticus and how, through their comments on it, they make intelligible and comprehensible statements of their own. In answering these two questions Neusner shows, through a prime example, exactly how Scripture enters Judaism and how rabbis of the formative age of Judaism chose and taught the lessons they deemed critical to the life of Israel—the Jewish people.Learn more
Best Courses on Leviticus
In this course, Book Study: Leviticus (OT308), Dr. Jay Sklar walks you through the challenging details of the book of Leviticus. In this section of Scripture that often feels detached and foreign to the Christian life, Dr. Sklar will act as a helpful guide to help you tackle this book. Focusing on the offerings, laws, and more perplexing areas of Leviticus, this study helps you understand the implications of the text for Israel and for Christians today.Learn more
In Introducing the Pentateuch Dr. David Baker provides a broad overview of the background, structure, content, themes, and literary styles of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. He traces the continuous story line from creation to Israel’s arrival in the promised land with a bird’s-eye view, while exploring key stories, topics, and theological messages in greater detail along the way. Throughout the course, Dr. Baker draws out and discusses the implications of this portion of the Old Testament for the Christian’s life and ministry.Learn more
Mobile Ed: BI205 Old Testament Exegesis: Understanding and Applying the Old Testament (15 hour course)
Embark on a journey of OT Hebrew exegesis with Jason DeRouchie. The books of the Old Testament were the only Scriptures Jesus had. It was books like Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and Psalms that shaped Jesus’ upbringing and guided his life in ministry as the Jewish Messiah. It was these Scriptures that Jesus identified as God’s Word and that he considered to be authoritative; it was these Scriptures he believed called people to know and believe in God and guarded them against doctrinal error and hell. This course will give you the tools you need to access meaning in the Old Testament and then apply it to your life. It will help you to grow in reading God’s living Word for depth and not just distance.Learn more
Join David W. Baker on a whirlwind tour, looking at the Old Testament from many different angles and at how it relates to ancient Near Eastern literature. From creation accounts and stories of destruction to Wisdom literature, discover different biblical literary genres that have parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature. Explore extrabiblical historical texts that mention key events and figures from the Old Testament. Understand how Israel fits into and is impacted by its ancient Near Eastern environment, but also how it is separate and unique, mainly on a theological level, but also by its distinct worldview.Learn more