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Holiness Unto GodLeviticus
By Edward (Les) Middleton
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTypes of Offerings
Before We Begin ...
How many of the different kinds of sacrifices—or offerings—that the ancient Israelites were commanded by God to present to Him can you name before you read the material?
Whom do you feel would be most responsible for presenting an acceptable offering to God in the appropriate way—the person, the priest, or God Himself?
The Burnt Offering
Chapter 1 of this study guide, encompassing the first five chapters of Leviticus and a portion of the sixth, introduces the fundamental kinds of offerings the ancient Israelites were required to bring before God. It also details their specific responsibilities—for example, what each type of offering could include and how it was to be prepared. In general, this portion of Leviticus is addressed to the "ordinary Israelites," whom we today might call the laity.
Chapter 2 of this guide deals with the remainder of chapter 6 as well as chapter 7 of Leviticus. These verses detail the responsibilities of the priesthood, which was limited by God to Aaron and his sons in Exodus 28.
Read chapter 1 of Leviticus and answer the following questions.
From where did the Lord speak to Moses (v. 1)?
From where did God require the children of Israel to present an offering to Himself?
What was the fundamental requirement for all burnt sacrifices (vv. 3, 10)?
What was the obvious difference, as made clear in these two verses, between a "herd" and a "flock"? Do farmers and others who work with animals use the same words for the same purposes today?
Leviticus 1:4 contains a tiny but significant detail that is often overlooked. The word commonly translated "put his hand on the head" actually meant that the worshiper was to "rest" or "support himself" on the animal. Given that, read this verse very carefully and then answer the questions that follow in as much detail as possible:
Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. (Lev. 1:4 NKJV)
Where is the person offering the sacrifice instructed to put his hand? Why do you believe God made this requirement?
What was the person transferring to the animal, both symbolically and legally?
Why do you believe God required the Israelites to wash the entrails and legs of a sacrifice (vv. 9, 13)?
On what side of the altar did God require an offering to be killed (v. 11)? Why?
Verses 14–17 deal with offerings of birds—specifically, of what two types (v. 14)?
The Grain Offering
Chapter 2 of Leviticus details the specifics of the grain offerings the ancient Israelites were authorized to make before God. Read the chapter and respond to the following questions.
What kind of flour did God specify (v. 1)?
What is your understanding of the word "frankincense" (v. 1)? Was it a food? If not, why would God team it up with two other foods?
What kind of cakes, as "baked in the oven," did God specify (v. 4)? Why? (Please write in your answer below, then check it against the sidebar titled "What Did God Have against Leavening?" below.)
What substance did God specify should not be used in any offering made to Him (v. 11)? Why do you suppose He prohibited this particular substance?
The Peace Offering
The word that the NKJV translates "peace offering" has also been translated elsewhere as "fellowship offering." The Hebrew concept of peace embodies health, prosperity, and peace with God, which is probably why other scholars have also translated this as an offering or sacrifice of "well-being."
The peace offering was primarily optional, although it was specifically prescribed (Lev. 23:19–20) for the Feast of Weeks, known to the Israelites as Shavuot and corresponding to what Christians today call Pentecost. Three subcategories of the peace offering, as listed in the table on pages 20–21, include
a thank offering, brought as the name implies to publicly thank God for answering a prayer, bestowing a blessing, or offering a deliverance;
a votive (vow) offering, presented as a ritual expression of a vow and/or its fulfillment, such as Paul himself made when, in Acts 21, he shaved his head and took a Nazirite vow to publicly demonstrate his continued allegiance to the ancient Hebraic customs; and
a freewill offering, brought to show devotion or special thankfulness to God for an unexpected blessing.
This time, rather than reading and answering questions about the individual verses of chapter 3, let's note some of the similarities and the differences between the three kinds of peace offerings and the burnt offerings of Leviticus 1, with a view toward sorting out the "parts" and the "wholes" once again.
The peace offerings involved four procedures that were identical to those involved in the burnt offerings.
1. The worshiper presented the animal to the Lord in the same way.
2. The worshiper laid his hand on the animal's head in the same way.
3. The worshiper sacrificed the animal in the same place, at the entrance to the tent of meeting just to the north of the altar of burnt offerings.
4. The priests splashed the blood of the animal against all sides of the altar in basically the same way.
Procedures that were different from those involved in the burnt offerings included the following:
1. Only certain portions of the fat of the peace offering were burned on the altar to produce an aroma pleasing to God.
2. Peace offerings could come from either the herd or the flock (as could burnt offerings), but here both males and females could be accepted by God as long as they were free of any blemish or defect.
3. The procedure for offering animals of either origin was the same, except that the entire fat tail of a sheep was burnt on the altar, along with the portions of fat mentioned in point 1 above.
Refer again to the chart on pages 20–21, showing both the theological and the "larger" meaning of the peace offering. In the space below, write a longer explanation showing your understanding of the purposes of the three individual kinds of peace offerings.
The Sin Offering
Read Leviticus 4 and answer the following questions.
According to verse 2, under what conditions did a sin offering need to be made?
Who was capable of bringing guilt on the people for his own sin (v. 3)?
The details of a sin offering were the same as those of a burnt offering, except for the details of handling the blood. What were those differences (vv. 5–7)?
The procedure for dealing with the fat of the bull was compared to the procedure to be used in another offering, as detailed in verse 10. What offering was used as a comparison?
What was the major difference between the way the remainder of the bull's carcass was dealt with in this kind of offering and the way it was dealt with in the burnt offering? Where and how was it to be burned in this case?
The term translated "unintentional" (vv. 2, 13) meant "in ignorance" and is also used in other parts of the Bible (e.g., Num. 35:11, 15; Josh. 20:3) to refer to sinful acts that occurred without premeditation.
In the following verses, which include quite a bit of unavoidable repetition but also some subtle variations, the rules for what can be used for the sin offering differ according to the social/economic position of the one who committed the sin. The higher his position in the community, the greater the value of the required offering.
Below are listed four categories of persons. Your task is to write in each blank the number of the verse that introduces the specific procedure to be used for a person in that category. Since we have already dealt with the priest, we inserted the number of his introductory verse (i.e., v. 3) in the blank beside the category "Priest," leaving just three more.
Read carefully Leviticus 4:13–35 before writing the verse numbers in the blanks below.
Priest 3 Ruler or leader ______ Congregation ______ Ordinary person ______
The Trespass Offering
This particular offering has also been called a sin offering, thus identifying it as a subset of, or a variation on, the offering detailed in the previous chapter of Leviticus. Let's begin with Leviticus 5:1–6. Please read the passage carefully.
What four sins (or "trespasses") did God specifically address in these verses?
What two possibilities—from the flock—was a person who sinned in any of the preceding four ways required to bring to the altar as an offering?
What substitute was the same person—if unable to bring one of the offerings mentioned in verse 6—allowed to bring instead (v. 7)? In what two ways would these birds be sacrificed by the priest (vv. 8–10)?
If the person was unable to bring any of the above as an offering, what final possibility did God offer (v. 11)?
What would you say about God's willingness to be as "reasonable" as possible in what He required of His people to atone for the four sins identified so far in Leviticus 5? Is God too demanding, or is He a God of fairness and compassion?
Offerings with Restitution
The sins detailed in Leviticus 5:14–19 all required restitution. The text does not specifically tell us why, but each one appears to involve an offense either against a "holy thing of the Lord" or against the property of another person. Either way, and regardless of whether the offense was intentional or accidental, the damage was done and had to be dealt with.
A modern example might be the accidental breaking of a church window by someone participating in a service, or the destruction of a flower bed by a dog that wandered into a neighbor's yard. In either case, the person responsible for the damage would be expected to make restitution. The major difference, of course, is that many such cases would now be covered by a modern invention called insurance! But even then, the person who invokes his insurance coverage is usually taking responsibility for fixing the situation, even if he is too streetwise to accept legal liability.
Read Leviticus 5:14–19 and answer the following questions.
What is likely the most important word in verse 15? In other words, the rule is true even if the person involved sinned how?
Why do you suppose God added 20 percent (i.e., one-fifth) to the value of the damaged article (v. 16)?
Now think about those in the modern age who damage people and things, then claim, "It wasn't my fault!" How do you suppose God would feel about that defense? Are we or are we not accountable for our results rather than our intent?
Equally important, would God's approach to such problems tend to make them worse, or would it teach people to be more careful? Conversely, what would "unlimited tolerance of error" (often touted in the modern age as "what we owe each other") tend to do in terms of making things better or worse?
The last half of Leviticus 5 dealt with "the holy things of the LORD"(v. 15) and "the commandments of the Lord" (v. 17). The first seven verses of chapter 6 deal with trespasses against another person. Verse 2 makes it clear that God considers any such trespass to be "against the Lord," even though it might be directed against another person. Certainly this is an oft-overlooked concept and one we all should keep in mind when we consider the nature and ramifications of sin in our own lives. To sin against each other is to sin against God.
Read verses 1–3 and identify the five specific sins that the trespass offering, dealt with in verses 4–7, would cover.
Now identify the remedy that God requires prior to the Israelites' making an offering to God Himself. That is, the person committing the offense must first do what?
When should he do this (v. 5)?
Pulling It All Together ...
This portion of the book of Leviticus deals with the following types of offerings to the Lord:
- burnt offering
- grain offering
- peace offering (thank, votive, and freewill)
- sin offering
- trespass offering
- offerings with restitution
God instituted each one of these offerings for a specific purpose, and each had its own unique set of requirements. These included the rules for the acceptable sacrifices themselves (for example, whether cattle, sheep, or goats; whether male or female), the specific manner in which each offering was to be made, and the proper disposition of the remains in each case.
Chapter TwoPriestly Participation In The Offerings
Before We Begin ...
What is your understanding of the term "Aaronic priesthood"? Whom did it involve, how was it instructed to serve God, and why?
Why do you think God would want to establish a separate priesthood, anyway? Why couldn't priests who ministered before Him be elected by the people?
The Law of the Burnt Offering
In Exodus 28:1, God said to Moses, "Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron's sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar" (NKJV).
The remainder of Exodus 28 explains how Moses and his garment makers were to prepare the priestly garments that Aaron and his sons would wear when they ministered before the Lord as His high priests. Later on, in the book of Numbers, God officially adds to the priesthood all the male members of the entire tribe of Levi, descended from the third son born to Jacob and Leah, and makes them subordinate to Aaron and his own sons.
In other words, Aaron and his biological sons were directly appointed by God to be His high priests, and eventually the entire tribe of Levi (from which Moses and Aaron also descended, of course) joined them in that sacred mission. Without question, the responsibilities of Aaron and his sons became very great. As we will see in Leviticus 10, those responsibilities were also quite serious. Any failure to observe the instructions of God, to the letter, could have disastrous consequences for anyone foolish, ignorant, or prideful enough to alter the details of their duties ... or to try to improve on them.
That's what makes the remainder of Leviticus 6, as well as chapter 7, so important. Whereas the previous portion of Leviticus detailed the kinds of offerings each individual Israelite would be required to make, at the appropriate times, this portion of Leviticus repeats just enough of those details we've already read to give us the context. Then it focuses on the specific, simultaneous (or concomitant) responsibilities of the priests themselves.
Incidentally, concomitant is a big word but it's worth noting if you're not familiar with it. It simply means that the worshipers had their responsibilities and the priests had theirs (i.e., the "parts"), and they were required to act in concert to get everything (i.e., the "whole") right.
Read Leviticus 6:8–27 and answer the following questions.
How long were the priests required to keep a burnt offering on the altar (v. 9)?
In verses 10–11, God explained that the priest was to put on linen garments and then remove them and put on others. Why do you believe God made this requirement?
How long was a fire to be kept burning on the altar?
The Law of the Grain Offering
What are the three things the sons of Aaron were to burn on the altar for a grain offering?
What were they to do with the remainder? Also, why would they burn all of the frankincense but not all of the flour?
What was the important requirement of all God's priests, which He emphasized again in verse 18?
Along with assisting in other offerings, were Aaron and his sons required to make offerings for themselves (v. 20)?
The Law of the Sin Offering
Who (among the priests) was authorized to eat the meat of a sin offering?
Where did God say it was to be eaten (v. 26)?
Read verses 27–30 very carefully, then answer the following.
Why do you suppose God required the priests to break each earthen vessel in which the meat of a sacrifice had been boiled? Why could "no sin offering from which any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of meeting, to make atonement in the holy place," be eaten (v. 30)? What is the common thread that winds through these requirements? (Think about what might be the spiritual (or even physical) contaminant God was concerned about.)
Excerpted from Holiness Unto God by Edward (Les) Middleton Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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