Leviticus 11-27

Holy Living Outside the Tabernacle


1. Summary

• How to remove ceremonial uncleanness.

• How to remain holy in ordinary life.

2. Structure

Clean Living (Lev.11:1-16:34)

Holy Living (Lev.17:1-25:55)

Holy Commitment (Lev.26:1-27:34)

There is a broadening of spheres from holiness in worship (Lev.1:1-10:20), to holiness for worship (Lev.11:1-16:34), to holiness in everyday life (Lev.17:1-25:55).

I. Ceremonial Holiness (11:1-16:34)

A. General Analysis

-Ritual impurity from unclean animals (Lev.11:1-47)
-Ritual impurity from childbirth (Lev.12:1-8)
-Ritual impurity from leprosy on the skin and in the house (Lev.13:1-14:57)
-Ritual impurity from bodily Discharges (Lev.15:1-33)
-The Day of Atonement, when all ritual impurity is rectified (Lev.16:1-34)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Clean and unclean (Lev.11-15)

Ceremonial holiness was concerned with cleanness (tahor) and uncleanness (tame). It referred to how certain events in everyday life (foods, childbirth, skin diseases, bodily discharges) rendered a person clean or unclean for worship in the tabernacle. Clean meant “fit for tabernacle worship,” and unclean meant “unfit for tabernacle worship.”

Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them (Lev.15:31).

All who had become unclean had to abstain from public worship until they were cleansed through special ceremonies. Although it was a morally innocuous physical and ceremonial defilement rather than a spiritual and moral defilement, it rendered one unfit for tabernacle worship, and it typified the spiritual and moral uncleanness which rendered one unfit for God’s presence.

Chapters 11-15 look forward to and prepare us for the Day of atonement in chapter 16. They describe what is meant by uncleanness so that it may be absolved on the day of Atonement (Lev.16:16).[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 122.[/footnote]

The regulations relating to clean and unclean in chapters 11-15 reinforce the underlying thesis of Leviticus that holiness, which belongs to God by nature (Lev.11:44-45), must be reflected in the life of the elect people.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 45-46.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: A spotless God requires spotless worshippers.

2. Rationale for Cleanliness Regulations

The food restrictions of Chapter 11 build on previous instructions regarding the eating of meat. At creation, humans were vegetarians. But after the flood, God granted the right to eat meat as long as the blood was properly drained (Gen.9:3-4). Leviticus 11 now expands this restriction based on the distinction between clean and unclean animals.
Why did God have such things take place? Why was he so concerned about these things? Many reasons would have been immediately obvious to Moses and Israel though not to us. Some possible explanations are:
a. To safeguard their physical health. For example, to prevent the spread of skin infections. Carnivorous animals and birds prey on corpses which are unclean, infectious, and contain blood. The Israelites were thus to practice secondary separation.
b. To separate Israel from Canaanite practices. It may be that certain foods and rituals were associated with heathen cultures.
c. Clarity of purpose:

Gordon Wenham is most helpful in his discussion of these laws. He bases his insights on the work of the anthropologist Mary Douglas who insists that “holy means more than separation to divine service. It means wholeness and completeness” (Wenham, 23). Thus those animals that are in conformity with the natural order of creation are clean, whereas those animals that seem to confuse kinds are considered unclean. In Douglas’s words, “Holiness requires that individuals shall conform to the class to which they belong” (Douglas, 53). Accordingly, the laws of Leviticus 11 may be understood in this way. Those creatures which in some way transgress the boundaries are unclean. Thus fish with¬out fins and scales are unclean (Lev.11:10; Deut.14:10). Insects which fly but which have many legs are unclean, whereas locusts which have wings and only two hopping legs are clean (Lev. 11:20-23). Animals with an indeterminate form of motion, i.e., which “swarm,” are unclean (Lev.11:41-44).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 81.[/footnote]

d. Sense of holy and unholy: This particularly detailed description here of various animals that are designated as clean or unclean was to develop in the people a sensitivity and a discernment. In the Old Testament this is the way by which God developed a sense of holiness and unholiness. Over and over in this section he says: “Ye shall do this because I am a holy God and you therefore also shall be holy.”
e. A demonstration of divine sovereignty. An arbitrary division given to the Israelites to test their obedience to God.

It is quite possible that the Lord made an arbitrary distinction on purpose! Though there was nothing morally different between one animal and another, the fact that God made a distinction meant that the Israelites must regard them as such. Consequently they would be faced with the issue of clean or unclean every day of their lives. In preparing meals the dominant thought would not be, ‘Is this healthy?’ or ‘Is this nutritious?’ but rather, ‘Is this kosher? Is this permitted, or is this forbidden, in the sight of the living God?’[footnote]Source unknown.[/footnote]

Perhaps there is truth to one degree or other in all these explanations. Perhaps a combination of factors determined what was clean and what was unclean.

3. Day of Atonement (Lev.16)

-The sprinkling of blood (Lev.16:6, 11-19)
-The scapegoat (Lev.16:7-10, 20-22)
-The cleansing (Lev.16:23-28)
The Day of Atonement was the most significant day in the national calendar. It was the day on which the previous year’s sins were symbolically atoned for. On this one day each year, the High Priest was permitted to enter the holy of holies, the inner precinct of the Tabernacle. There he carried the blood of the slain offerings to make an atonement for himself and the nation.
The blood of the slain offerings was only part of the ceremony. Unique to this sacred occasion was the use of a scapegoat. The exact meaning of “azazel” is unclear. Some think it refers to a specific evil location or to a desert demon. Verse 10 may be understood as “so that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.” The ancient translations refer to the goat itself (“into the desert as a scapegoat”). In either case the function of the goat is clear. It physically symbolized the removal of the nation’s sin. Aaron placed his hands on the head of the goat, confessed Israel’s guilt, and then sent the goat into the desert. Significantly, the ideas of bearing, carrying iniquities into the desert, and forgiving, are expressed by the same Hebrew verb (nasa v22). Also, the Hebrew word for atonement (kipper) can mean either cleansing or ransom, both of which are used to describe Christ’s death in the New Testament. The ultimate effect of the Day of Atonement, then, was that Israel began a new annual cycle as a cleansed and forgiven people.

This was a day of solemn reflection, a day of humbling before the Lord. The people were to reflect deeply upon the seriousness of sin. This was the only day of the year where fasting was compulsory. All other annual festivals and feast days had an atmosphere of celebration, of rejoicing. While the sense of God’s holiness would be impressed upon the people, there was nevertheless the triumphant note that the Lord had provided the means for forgiveness: ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul’ (Lev.17:11). This Day of Atonement was the high point of all sacrifices. It was intentionally comprehensive. Here was provision for any and every sin not covered by the specific offerings detailed in the first seven chapters.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002), 114.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: The nation needs a unique atonement on a unique day to purify it from all uncleanness.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. NT fulfillment and abrogation (Acts 10)

What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common (Acts 10:15).

After the Holy Spirit had come and dwelt in the people in the New Testament, God showed Peter that it is no longer necessary to make this distinction as far as the animals are concerned. And in the dream that Peter has, God shows that he is making all things clean. In other words, the purpose for the institution of the holy and unholy, the clean and the unclean, is done away with in the New Testament after the Holy Spirit is come upon God’s people. Now we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and such external reminders are apparently no longer necessary.
While Leviticus majors on Israel’s separateness from other nations, the New Testament invites all nations into the Kingdom. While food laws are abrogated (Mk.7; Ac.10), the moral principles of separation from evil symbolized in the dietary regulations are maintained (Jn.17:6; 2Cor.6:14-7:1).

In matters of food and drink there is, nevertheless, an abiding principle which governs the manner and the amount of that which we consume: ‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor.10:31). All areas of daily life are important to the Lord: whether in food or drink, in clothing or behavior; whether single or married; whether in family, in church, or in the world; whether domestic, agricultural, trade or business, ‘Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God’ (2 Cor.7:1).[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002), 125.[/footnote]


2. Two High Priests: Aaron and Christ

Hebrews makes many comparisons between the Day of Atonement and the death of Jesus (Lev.7:26-27; 9:6-10:19). That Christ was delivered to the Gentiles and killed outside the walls of Jerusalem indicated that he was sent “outside the camp” like the scapegoat of old.

II. Moral Holiness (17:1-25:55)

A. General Analysis

  • Protection from Idolatry (Lev.17:1-16; Dt.12:20f)
  • Sexual Behavior (Lev.18:1-30)
  • Holiness toward God and neighbor (Lev.19:1-37)
  • Crimes and Punishments (Lev.20:1-27)
  • Priestly Regulations (Lev.21:1-24)
  • Eating Sacrifices (Lev.22:1-33)
  • Religious Calendar (Lev.23:1-44)
  • Tabernacle Rules (Lev.24:1-9)
  • Case of Blasphemy (Lev.24:10-23)
  • Sabbatical and Jubilee years (Lev.25:1-55)[footnote]R Pratt, Lectures on Genesis to Joshua (Orlando: RTS).[/footnote]

B. Detailed Analysis

1. The Holiness Code (17-25)

The recurrence of the term “holy” in this section indicates its unifying principle. “Holy” and its derivatives occurs 85 times in these 11 chapters. It deals with a wide range of topics: from sexual purity to observance of sacred holidays to fair treatment of the poor. He warns them not to defile themselves with all of the things that the nations of the world round about them have been defiled. We have the warning of mixing up cattle, having diverse kinds of cattle, or mixing the seed, or mixing two kinds of textiles. In everything in life they must learn the lesson of being a holy people, of separating the profane from the holy, the common from the holy. God taught them this by the symbols of mixing cloth or mixing animals or mixing grain in the field.

The Holiness Code of chapters 17-26 emphasizes the more positive aspects of biblical holiness. The code constitutes not merely withdrawal from what is tainted, but exhibits the wholeness and completeness that characterizes God and that must therefore be the property of God’s people (see, e.g., Lev.19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:6-7).[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 47.[/footnote]

These laws for moral impurity in everyday life, come after the laws for ritual and ceremonial impurity. Both offend God and spoil fellowship with Him. However moral impurity is more serious because continued moral impurity will lead God to expel them from the Promised Land, like the Canaanites before them.

The arrangement of topics in order of increasing holiness, beginning with the Ten Commandments and civil laws and culminating in the purity and holiness laws, reflects the idea that Yahweh is raising his people from their common status to a special position of remarkable dignity and holiness. He begins with rudimentary laws for their moral, ethical, and societal behavior (10 Commandments, civil laws). He then honors them with the privilege of building a holy sanctuary for him, so that he may dwell among them, of all the peoples of the Earth (Ex.25-40). This honor, in turn, requires special new rules for respect, etiquette, and dignity on the occasions when they appear before him at a sanctuary to bring him sacrifices (Lev.1-18). The holiness laws culminate the exaltation (Lev.19:1-Num.10:10). The entire nation, including all its members from greatest to the least, is now to be considered holy. The people are sacred because Yahweh has taken up his abode among them. As such, they are to regulate their lives in a manner befitting a sacred people (Lev.26:11-13).[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 82.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: God requires holiness in everyday life as well as in the tabernacle

2. Ten Commandments link

In the previous quote, Dorsey referred to the connection between the holiness code and the Ten Commandments. There is a close relationship both in form and substance between the Book of the Covenant in Exodus 20–23 and Leviticus 18–20. This demonstrates that the earlier emphasis on ceremony in Leviticus was not intended to replace the ethical and moral concerns of the covenant. Leviticus 19 includes and expands all of the Ten Commandments in one way or another and even include the words prefacing the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The chapter is headed with the motto of this half of Leviticus: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. The rest of the chapter dispels any idea that holiness in the Old Testament was merely a matter of ritual purity. It was to be displayed in every corner of practical life – from the corners of their beards to the corners of their fields. Holiness, therefore, was not something that was pursued by retreating from everyday life into some religious sanctum. Holiness meant transforming everyday life by the quality of behavior that was utterly different from the surrounding ways of the world.

The words, “I am the Lord (your, their God),” occur nearly fifty times in these chapters (beginning at Lev.17:2). Israel is to be holy, because He is holy. He is the One who sanctifies them, and holiness is to be the constant and pervasive feature of their daily life. It is to enter into, and regulate, the most intimate and personal relations of their family and social life, and into their worship, both individual and national.[footnote]O T Allis, God Spake by Moses (Philipsburg: P&R Publishing Co.,1951), 104.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: Because God is everywhere, holiness is required everywhere

3. Blood and life

The word “blood” is used 460 times in the Bible, 362 of them in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 17, you find the word “blood” 13 times; you also find in this chapter the key text in biblical theology on the significance of the blood in salvation.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I 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…For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off (Lev.17:11,14).

When a sacrifice was offered and its blood was shed, it meant the giving of a life for the life of another. The innocent victim died in the place of the guilty sinner.

Life is sacred, because it belongs to God. As a mark of respect for life and for its creator, no Israelite could eat meat with blood in it (Gen.9:4-6), and that is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. That is, the blood of animals shed in sacrifice took the place of, and symbolically redeemed the life of the worshipper. Animal blood was the sign of salvation. Because animal blood symbolically atoned for human sin, people were not to consume it.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 185.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.

4. Justice and love

Leviticus stresses the two holy principles that were to undergird Israel’s national life – justice and love.

Justice means equity, stated fundamentally in the principle of lex talionis—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life (Lev.24:20). This principle did not imply that punishment was carried out in kind, but that it must be commensurate, not greater as revenge dictates or less as indulgence desires. This principle was a great advance in the law codes, for it raised personal injury from a civil tort to a criminal law, increasing the citizen’s social worth. For Israel, justice meant deciding matters by Yahweh’s law. But the law calls for doing justice in love, for both concepts, ideally exhibited, are interdependent. So the great commandment of Lev.19:18 was “love your neighbor as yourself.” The love here is to be expressed primarily in deeds of kindness and caring. The emphasis falls on helping and caring for one another, not on people’s feelings toward one another.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 47.[/footnote]

Showing kindness to neighbors and concern for the poor and the alien were marks of the people of God. During harvest time the Israelites were supposed to leave the gleanings in the fields so that the poor could gather them (Lev.19:9–10), and recalling their own harsh experiences in Egypt, the people were to love aliens as themselves (Lev.19:34). Concern for the disadvantaged also lay behind the law about sabbatical years, and the Year of Jubilee.
Moses’ Message: True holiness requires carefulness before God and care towards our fellow man.

5. Religious Calendar[footnote]This table is based upon one found in the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 192.[/footnote]

Name OT References Description Purpose Meaning for Israel Meaning for Christians NT References
Sabbath Ex. 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Lev. 23:3; Deut. 5:12-15 Day of rest; no work Rest for people and animals God’s rest after creation Salvation; rest in Christ Mat. 12:1-14; 28:1; Lk. 4:16; Jn. 5:9-10; Ac.13:42; Col. 2:16; Heb. 4:1-11
Sabbath Year Ex.23:10-11; Lev.25:1-7 Year of rest; fallow fields Rest for land; trust in God to provide Rest in God Rest in Christ Heb.4:9
Jubilee Lev.25:8-55; 27:17-24; Nu.36:4 Cancelled debts; liberation of slaves; land returned to original family owners Help for poor; stabilize society; disobedience would lead to exile God gives freedom Christ gives freedom Lk.4:18-19
Passover Ex.12:1-14; Lev.23:5; Num. 9:1-14 Slaying and eating a lamb, together with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast Remember Israel’s deliverance from Egypt Deliverance from Egypt (death of lamb Deliverance from sin (death of Christ) Mat. 26:17; Mk. 14:2-26; Jn.2:13; 11:55; 1Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:28
Ex.12:15-20; Lev.23:6-8; Nu.28:17-25 Eating bread made without yeast; holding several assemblies; making designated offerings Remember how the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt in haste Haste of departure from Egypt Sinless life of Christ Mk.14:1; Ac.12:3; 1Co.5:6-8
Firstfruits Lev.23:9-14 Presenting a sheaf of the first of the barley harvest as a wave offering; making a burnt offering and a grain offering Recognize the Lord’s bounty in the land First crop early harvest Resurrection (Christ the first fruits from the dead) Rom.8:23; 1Cor.15:6-8
Ex.23:16a; Lev.23:15-21; Nu.28:26-31 A festival of joy; mandatory and voluntary offerings, including the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. Show joy and thankfulness for the Lord’s blessing of harvest First crop main harvest The Spirit comes: power for world evangelization Ac.2:1-4; 20:16; 1Co.16:8
Trumpets Lev.23:23-25; Nu.29:1-6 An assembly on a day of rest commemorated with trumpet blasts and sacrifices Present Israel before the Lord for his favor. Sabbatical month Announcing the imminent return of Christ 1Cor.15:52; Mat.24:31; 1Thess.4:16.
Day of
Lev.16; 23:26-32; Nu.29:7-11 A day of rest, fasting and sacrifices of atonement for priests and people and atonement for the tabernacle and altar. Atone for the priests and people and purify the Holy Place Humbling – reconciliation through sacrifice Humbling – reconciliation through Christ’s sacrifice Rom.3:24-26; Heb.9:7; 10:3, 19-22
Ex.23:16b; Lev.23:33-36a, 39-43; Nu.29:12-34 A week of celebration for the harvest; living in booths and offering sacrifices Memorialize the journey from Egypt to Canaan; give thanks for the productivity of Canaan End of all harvests New heavens and a new earth Jn.7:2,37
Lev.23:36b; Nu.29:35-38 A day of convocation, rest and offering sacrifices Commemorate the closing of the cycle of feasts
Purim Esther 9:18-32 A day of joy and feasting and giving presents Remind of Israel’s national deliverance in the time of Esther.

The first and last festivals – the Passover and the feast of Tabernacles – commemorated the Exodus and the founding of the nation in the Sinai desert. Those two festivals, along with the Feast of Weeks, marked the three times a year when all of the men had to appear before the Lord at the sanctuary (Ex.23:14-17; Deut.16:18). Called the pilgrimage feasts, these three occasions afforded an opportunity for the people to renew their allegiance to the Lord and to sense their unity as a nation. After settling in the Promised Land, it became all too easy for the tribes to go their separate ways and become distant from one another and from the Lord. The religious calendar was closely aligned with the agricultural year and the different harvests. By celebrating the festivals at these harvest times the Israelites gave thanks to God for His provision of food and were protected from the influence of pagan harvest festivals with their immorality and idolatry.
Moses’ Message: Holy worship and holy service is required all the year round because God has blessed them all year and every year.

6. Sevens

The religious year is dominated by the sacred number seven (symbolizing the perfect work of God). Hence (a) every seventh day is a holy Sabbath; (b) every seventh year is a Sabbath year of rest for the crop-bearing land; (c) after seven sevens of years the fiftieth year is to be hallowed as a jubilee, in which all mortgaged lands are to be returned to the original family; (d) Passover is held at the end of the second heptad of Abib, on the evening of the fourteenth; (e) the Feast of Unleavened Bread is celebrated for the next seven days; (f) the Feast of Pentecost is celebrated after seven sevens of days following the offering of the wave-sheaf (hence on the “fiftieth” day); (g) the seventh month, Tishri, is especially sanctified by three holy observances: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles; (h) the Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated seven days (fifteenth to twenty-second of Tishri), plus an eighth day for the final convocation.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Love thy neighbor

…this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mk.12:30-31).

In the midst of a book filled with ritual and ceremony stands a verse cited by Christ as the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is quoted more often than any other verse in the Old Testament. Paul sums up the entire law in this command (Gal.5:14). Holy living is summed up in loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

2. Christ the Substance of the Festivals

See the table above for the Christological meaning of the Festivals.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Col.2:16-17).


III. Holy Commitment

A. General Analysis

-Blessings and curses (Lev.26:1-46)
-Vows (Lev.27:1-34)

B. Detailed Analysis

1. Blessing and Cursing

Challenge to obey (Lev.26:1-2)
Summary of the whole law
Blessings for Obedience (Lev.26:3-13)
Rain & Good crops (Lev.26:3-5), Peace (Lev.26:6-10), God’s presence (Lev.26:11-13)
Curses for Disobedience (Lev.26:14-45)
Disease and bad crops (Lev.26:14-17), war (Lev.26:18-26), exile from God’s presence (Lev.26:27-45)
Having set out the divine stipulations and requirements in chapters 1-25, God commits Himself to bless obedience and curse disobedience. This was a common treaty pattern in the Ancient Near East, and helped to motivate obedience.

As the book of the Covenant had concluded with promises and threats (Ex.23:20-33), so also does the entire Sinaitic legislation.[footnote]E J Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (London: Tyndale Press), 84.[/footnote]

Three times we are told that God will punish Israel “seven times over” for her sins (Lev.26:18–21, 28). As elsewhere, the number seven stresses the completeness of the judgments, a meaning supported by the extensive list of catastrophes in this chapter.
God makes clear that their disobedience is a breaking of the covenant and will bring covenant curses upon them. When they have learned the lessons of the curses and repent in humility there is hope of pardon and return to the Land which flows from God’s remembering of the covenant (Lev.26:40-45).

And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD (Lev.26:44-45).

This chapter was to prove remarkably prophetic.

A remarkable authentication of the divine origin of this Mosaic code is to be found in the semi-prophetic twenty-sixth chapter. Here there is a preview of the subsequent history of Israel, with its progressive decline from faith to apostasy, and a clear intimation of the Babylonian Exile (Lev.26:32–39 ) and the subsequent restoration (Lev.26:40–45 ). It is not to be wondered at if anti-supernaturalist critics felt under compulsion to date the origin of Leviticus as exilic (document H) and post-exilic (document P). No other course is open to one who on philosophical grounds denies the possibility of supernatural divine prediction.[footnote]G L Archer,  A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: Holiness brings blessing and uncleanness brings God’s curse.

2. Vows (Lev.27:1-34)

  • Persons & Animals (Lev.27:1-13)
  • Houses and Land (Lev.27:14-25)
  • Other Vows (Lev.27:26-33)
  • Conclusion (Lev.27:34)

A vow is a voluntary demonstration of repentance and/or devotion (Deut.23:22-24, Prov.20:25, Eccl.5:4-5). It was giving something beyond what God had already claimed as a freewill offering, and was to be used by God. If it were property, its profits would undoubtedly go to the upkeep of the temple and the upkeep of the priest.
This final chapter looks forward with optimism to times when some Israelites will take voluntary vows of devotion and service above and beyond what was required of them. This hopeful conclusion guides such devoted Israelites how to express this desire.

Chapter 27 discusses vows and dedicatory gifts. It may be seen as the proper human response to chapter 26, describing the divine announcement as it bears on Israel’s future. In any case, its concern is with what is to be dedicated and thus with what belongs to God – the subject matter of the whole book.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 48.[/footnote]

Moses’ Message: In the light of all God has promised and threatened, make careful and serious vows of commitment and service.

C. New Testament Analysis

1. Covenant blessing and cursing

What has this got to do with us? Surely all Christians are free from blessing and cursing? The New Testament is about grace. But it also offers choice to those who have joined to the covenant – blessing or cursing. We cannot lose our salvation. However not everyone who professes is a true Christian. They turn away and suffer punishment from God. Also, when true believers start violating the law of God, the Lord will chastise them severely.

For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Heb.10:26-29).


2. Vows must be serious (Matt.5:33-37)

In the New Testament we are called to give everything, even our whole selves unto God (Rom.12:1-2). In Acts 4:32 and following, we see there how all the people in the New Testament Church brought all that they had willingly, and laid it before the feet of the apostles. By doing this they stressed that they regarded everything they had as really belonging to God, and for God’s glory and for that of his own people. Also highlighted is the danger of making vows and not paying, promising to hand over land and not doing it (Acts 5).

3. Conclusion

Behind all the Levitical demands for ceremonial and personal holiness, is the theology of redemption (Lev.11:45; 22:32-33; 25:38,55; 26:13,45). Israel has been redeemed to serve God exclusively. Having been delivered from death to life, they are given guidance on how to maintain that physical, moral and spiritual life within a covenant relationship.

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD (Lev.18:5).

Obedience would not only bring blessings to Israel but to the whole world as she operated as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The law of Leviticus was intended to prepare Israel for its world mission. Through Israel, the unapproachable holiness of God was to be communicated to the nations. He is still exactly what he was when he spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai or called to him out of the tent of meeting. The God of the New Testament is no different from the God of the Old. He is just as holy as he was then, just as intolerant of sin, just as merciful to the penitent sinner who trusts in the appointed blood of atonement as he was then. The message of Leviticus is loud and clear: ‘Without shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22), and at the same time, by God’s gracious provision, with the shedding of blood there is full remission.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press,), 126.[/footnote]


IV. The Message

Original Message: Israel must be purified and separated to worship and obey God in a blessed and loyal relationship.
Present Message: God’s people must be purified and separated by Christ to worship and obey God in a blessed and loyal relationship.