Overview of the Book of Leviticus/Vayikra

Outline of Leviticus

Leviticus is divided into to several main parts. Chapters one to 16 deal with laws of sacrifice and purification. In the second section (chapters 17–25), Elohim sets forth his demands for holy living that his people might maintain a right relationship with him. Chapter 26 lays out the blessings and curses for obedience to YHVH’s commands. The final chapter of the book ends with some miscellaneous laws. The following is an overview of Leviticus chapter-by-chapter.

  • The five main offerings (Lev 1–7)
  • The ordination of priests (Lev 6:8–7:38)
  • Laws of cleanliness (food, childbirth, diseases, etc.) (Lev 11–15)
  • Day of Atonement (Lev 16–17)
  • Moral laws regulating relationships between humans (Lev 18–20)
  • Regulations for priests, the offerings of the annual feasts (Lev 21:1–24:9)
  • Punishment for blasphemy, murder, etc. (Lev 24:10–23)
  • The Sabbatical year, Jubilee, land laws, slavery (Lev 25)
  • Blessings and curses (Lev 26)
  • Regulations pertaining to vows made to YHVH (Lev 27)

Themes and Main Points of Leviticus

  • Leviticus stands at the center of the Torah, and there’s a reason for this, since it shows man how to come into relationship with Elohim by addressing the sin issue and showing man the upward path of holiness and righteousness. 
  • Holiness (or being set-apart) is the key theme of Leviticus. This includes the set-apartness of YHVH and the need for man to become set-apart as well if he is to come into a relationship with the Almighty (Heb. kadosh, Lev 11:44). Leviticus lays out the terms are laid out by which an unholy, profane, polluted or sinful people can come into a spiritual and even contractual and marital relationship with their holy, morally pure and sinless Creator. It also delineates the terms of the contract including penalties for its violation and blessings for adherence to it.
  • Leviticus carries on to completion the giving of the Torah-law, which started in Exodus 20, and which firmly established the Torah as Israel’s binding covenant with Elohim and the legally binding document that would govern that nation. The Torah literally became the nation of Israel’s constitution. 
  • This book, for the first time in detail, shows man the way of expiation (or atonement) and forgiveness of sin, thus prophetically pointing the way in major detail to Yeshua the Messiah, the Lamb of Elohim, who was yet to come and who would ultimately take away men’s sin once and for all (without the continual need of animal sacrifices) by his sacrificial death on the cross.
  • The narrative of Leviticus covered probably only a month.
  • Leviticus is the first book of Torah that rabbinic Jews start teaching their young children, since they believe that those who are pure in heart (i.e. children) should be engaged in the study of purity (i.e. the laws of purification and atonement, which is the central themes of Leviticus).
  • Even today, Leviticus remains the foundation for Jewish life, since it includes the laws pertaining to diet, the biblical feasts, sex, marriage, family purity, and our relationship with our fellow man. 
  • The emphasis the modern rabbinic Jews place on Leviticus is evidenced by the fact that the tabernacle service found in this book is at the heart of the modern Jewish synagogue prayer service, and forms the basis for their daily devotions. Jewish liturgical prayer is largely based on the tabernacle sacrificial system  as outlined in Leviticus.
  • The offerings and other ceremonies revealed in Leviticus serve to show the holiness of YHVH.
  • Leviticus teaches us that YHVH can only be approached through proper and prescribed protocols.
  • In Leviticus, spiritual set-apartness (holiness) is symbolized by physical perfection. All blemishes or defects symbolize man’s spiritual defects, which break his spiritual wholeness. Therefore, the religious system in Leviticus required:
  1. Perfect animals for sacrifices (Lev 1–7).
  2. Priests without physical deformity (Lev 8–10).
  3. A woman to be ritually purified from hemorrhaging after childbirth (Lev 12).
  4. Ritual purification from sores, burns, baldness (Lev 13–14).
  5. Ritual purification from a man’s bodily discharges (Lev 15:1–18).
  6. Ritual purification after a woman’s menstrual cycle (Lev 15:19–33).

All of these ritualistic requirements point to one thing: the holiness of Elohim and man’s need to put off sin and the defilement of the flesh, which causes pollution and profaneness, thus separating us from a set-apart, pure and perfect Elohim. This teaches man to strive to reach higher spiritual levels and not to be content with the mundane, fleshly, earthly level of his own human existence, but to reach for the heavens where Elohim abides.

  • Leviticus reveals that those with certain diseases or ailments had to leave the camp (symbolic of leaving YHVH’s Presence—like Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden after they had sinned). Israelites could be readmitted to the camp (symbolic of returning to YHVH’s Presence) only after certain protocols had been performed and the person had been pronounced whole by the priests.
  • In Exodus 19:6, YHVH’s call for Israel to become a kingdom of priests. As such, they were to be a light to the nations and, in a sense, to evangelize the world by showing Elohim’s glory to those nations around them (Deut 4:4–8). Israel was to be YHVH earthly representation of YHVH’s kingdom on earth. Leviticus showed Israel how to walk in a set-apart (kadosh or holy) manner before YHVH and the world—how to be in the world, though not of the world, as Yeshua taught his disciples in John 17:11, 14.

All Was Overseen by the Priests

The priests oversaw and controlled the sacrifices, rituals, ceremonies, the rest of the tabernacle service as well as the day-to-day life of the Israelites.

It was their job to establish Israel as a kadosh nation, and to instruct Israel in spiritual cleanliness and set-apartness (holiness), to preserve them spiritually, and to present them to YHVH as a pure and righteous people. YHVH has given the same responsibility to the five-fold ministry that he has raised up to operate within the spiritual body of redeemed believers today (Eph 4:11–16). This new, royal priesthood (1 Pet 2:9) is comprised of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who have the purpose of “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah” (Eph 4:12–13).

Holiness—The Dominant Theme of Leviticus and the Bible 

The focus of Leviticus is holiness and holy living. Holiness is the chief attribute of Elohim and the most defining aspect of his character. It has to do with the fact that Elohim is entirely good and without evil and moral defect and is sinless. This is why the spiritual beings around his heavenly throne are continually crying, “Holy, holy, holy” in his Presence (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). This is why one of his titles is The Kadosh One of Israel,which is used more than thirty times in the Tanakh (e.g. 2 Kgs 19:22; Ps 71:22; Isa 1:4; Jer 50:29). This is why the high priest who ministered in the Tabernacle of Moses and later in the temple wore a golden crown or headplate with the words inscribed on it, SET-APARTNESS TO YHVH. Not only was this pointing upward to YHVH’s set-apartness, but man himself is to become holy or set-apart even as YHVH Elohim is set-apart, for we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews that the attribute of holiness is a prerequisite for a man coming into the Presence of Elohim (Heb 12:14).

The Hebrew word for holy and holiness is kadosh, which is defined as “sacredness, consecrated, set-apartness or separateness.” That which is holy or kadosh relates to that which belongs to the sphere of the sacred, godly or heavenly and is distinct or separate from the sphere of the common, profane, defiled or polluted. Everything about Elohim is holy or set-apart compared to man who is completely polluted and defiled by sin and is thus unholy (Jer 17:9; Rom 3:23; Isa 64:6). 

The Tabernacle of Moses had two rooms: the kadosh place and the most kadosh place. The nomenclature of these rooms relates to the chief attribute of Elohim, which is his set-apartness. The tabernacle is represents heaven where YHVH dwells with the most kadosh place representing his throne room. The understanding of this reality may help us to appreciate the ceremonial rituals that YHVH required of the priest in order to enter and to minister in the tabernacle. It is a picture man coming into the heavenly presence of Elohim.

Elohim gave Moses, Aaron, the priests and Levites strict protocols to follow to insure that the tabernacle stay holy and keep from becoming profane, polluted or defiled. This involved caring for and properly handling the building and its furnishings as well as the priestly attire and their bodily, ritualistic and spiritual cleanliness. If these protocols weren’t followed, there were penalties — sometimes involving the death of the violator. If they were followed, the result was a blessed relationship with Elohim.

The requirements for coming into and ministering in the Tabernacle of Moses, the dwelling place of Elohim’s Presence (Exod 25:8) teach us several things. 

First, Elohim is holy and undefiled and is thus transcendent above the earthly and human plane. He is pure, set-apart and undefiled by. 

Second, heaven and the Presence Elohim is a holy and undefiled place. The tabernacle was the earthly dwelling place of Elohim’s Presence (Exod 25:8). It and everything about it was to remain holy or set-apart. Nothing was to defile it. 

Third, maintaining a high standard of holiness with regard to everything pertaining to the tabernacle teaches us that no one can come into the Presence of Elohim without first going through proper protocols to become undefiled. 

Forth, there was a death sentence upon those who refused or neglected to follow these protocols. This teaches man to fear, honor, respect and even to dread Elohim who has the power over life and death. Man cannot come into Elohim’s Presence in a casual, cavalier or arrogant manner in a defiled or polluted state. 

Fifth, the Tabernacle of Moses was a “processing center” to aid man in going from an unholy, polluted and sinful state to progressively becoming more and more holy and sinless. Eventually, man could come to a place — by following YHVH’s protocols of holy living — of intimate fellowship with Elohim. This is pictured by the inner room, or holy of holies, of the tabernacle where the Presence or Kavod of Elohim was dwelt. The holy of holies is representative of Elohim’s heavenly throne room. 

Sixth, man was created in Elohim’s image to have an intimate relation with him and with the capability of reflecting his divine character. When man sinned in the garden, man’s relationship with Elohim was cut off. The Tabernacle of Moses shows man how to deal with the pollution or defilement of sin through blood atonement and the eventual sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross to which all the bloody, sacrificial rituals of the tabernacle pointed. 

Seventh, there is no other way for man to come into the Presence of Elohim except through the protocols that he has established. Man has to recognize his sinfulness, turn away from his state of unholiness or pollution by making the proper sacrifices. He must then turn to and embrace Elohim’s holy or righteous standards for living a sinless life. 

Holiness is the greater message of Leviticus as it relates to the redeemed believer coming into conformity with the exalted and righteous standards of a holy Elohim. This occurs when one recognizes their unholiness or sinfulness, puts their faith in the blood atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of Elohim, Yeshua the Messiah who died on the cross in payment for men’s sins, and then turns from sin by adhering to Elohim’s standards of righteousness as outlined in the Torah and the rest of the Scriptures, and as lived out by Yeshua and his immediate disciples. 

Holiness involves heeding Elohim’s call to become his special and treasured possession by following him and allowing him to separate us from the defilement or pollutions of the heathen nations around us (Lev 20:26; Deut 7:6; 14:2; 26:19).

This message of holiness — and the message of the entire Bible — can be succinctly summed up by Elohim’s loving and longing cry to his people on several occasions to be holy as he is holy (Lev 11:44, 45; 20:7, 26; 1 Pet 1:16). The Torah shows us how to be holy (Lev 20:7–8). The Torah (and the rest of Scripture) shows us that being holy not only involves behavior, but man’s thoughts and attitudes, words and physical cleanliness as well as the observance of holy times (e.g. the Sabbath and biblical festivals), and respect of things that are dedicated to Elohim. Men must learn to make a division or separation between the spheres of the holy and the profane and to keep them separate (Ezek 44:23; 22:26), and to not let the latter pollute the former.

The message of holiness has serious implications for each individual, for as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews declares, without holiness, no one will see Elohim (Heb 12:14 cp. Ps 15:2ff).


Share your thoughts...