K:JNWTS 30/1 (May 2015): 3-12
What do you observe about the position of Leviticus in the Pentateuch?
It is the central book of the five
What does this suggest?
Leviticus is the keystone to the five books of Moses
Genesis and Exodus flow into Leviticus; Numbers and Deuteronomy flow out of
Leviticus. The movement of the narrative-revelation is from outside Leviticus to
inside Leviticus, then moving on out (moving forward/beyond) from Leviticus.
Let me suggest a macro-structural biblical-theological paradigm for the Pentateuch
Creation (Paradise land of Eden)
Rebellion (Fall) Genesis
Exodus (Reed Sea) Exodus
Tabernacle (God’s Glory-Presence) Leviticus
Rebellion (Carcasses fall in the desert) Numbers
New Exodus (Jordan River) Deuteronomy
New Creation (Paradise milk-and-honey land of Canaan)
What is the central theme of Leviticus?
Life within and around the Tabernacle of the Lord
We have already learned that the Tabernacle is eschatologically oriented in our BT catechism on Exodus.
Yes, the Tabernacle is: (1) God’s condescension-humiliation; (2) God’s identification-
incarnation; (3) God’s Immanuel-presence
Thus, life within and around the Tabernacle is heaven-oriented
Yes. How a sinner approaches God (via propitiatory sacrifice)
How a sinner communes with God (via a fellowship meal)
How a sinner lives with God (via holiness and purity of heart and life)
How a sinner celebrates God’s unmerited grace (via festivals in remembrance of his
mighty acts or magnalia Dei)
So the book of Leviticus is an invitation to come into God’s dwelling place concretely miniaturized via symbols, rituals and festivals.
If Leviticus is heaven oriented, then it is also Christocentric—and that protologically as well as eschatologically?
Protological high priest in Leviticus anticipates eschatological High Priest (God’s Son)
Protological tabernacle sacrifice projects eschatological Sacrifice (once-and-for-all)
Protological tabernacle and community holiness reflects Incarnate Holiness (Christ)
Protological spatial tabernacle arena anticipates aspatial dwelling place infinite in extent
Protological temporal tabernacle projects eschatological eternal dwelling place in heaven
How does a sinner travel in Leviticus?
From the outside the Tabernacle in (through sacrifice to and communion with the Lord)
From the inside the Tabernacle out (through cleansing and holiness of life in and through the Spirit of the Lord)
Where is the transition point in the book of Leviticus?
Yom Kippur (“the day of atonement”)—Leviticus 16, the hinge point of the book
May we thus regard Leviticus as an unfolding narrative?
Yes, it is the story of a sinner’s life from outside the grace of God (heaven), to inside the
grace of God (via sacrifice), to becoming clean (nothing unclean in heaven), to the great
atonement (annually repeated), to becoming holy (without holiness, no one sees heaven),
to celebrating Sabbath and Jubilee (heaven’s perfect rest and perfect liberation).
How does the book of Exodus end?
With the completion of the tabernacle (mishkan, Hebrew = “dwelling place”)—Ex 40:30
How does the book of Leviticus begin?
With God speaking from the tabernacle (ohel moed, Hebrew = “tent of meeting”)—Lev. 1:1
So what, you may ask?
The unfolding organic narrative of the history of God’s relationship with his
redeemed people flows through Leviticus; the seamless narrative requires literary
continuity and cohesiveness, not redaction, invention and mythologization (as higher
Comment on the macro-structure of the book of Leviticus.
Numerous scholars have noticed the alternating pattern of legal and narrative material in
the chapters of the book.
Outline this for me
Legal (ch. 1-7)—Narrative (8-10)—Legal (11-15)—Narrative (16)—Legal (17-24:9)—
Narrative (24:10-23)—Legal (25-27)
This means Leviticus is composed of seven building blocks in alternating fashion, i.e., legal,
narrative. The whole of Leviticus is a seven-fold tableau.
What is unique about each of the three narrative units?
They all contain a death story
Chapters 8-10 contain the death of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron
Chapter 16 contains the death of the sacrificial goat of the annual day of atonement
Chapter 24:10-23 contains the death of a man who blasphemes the name of the Lord
In a book about holiness of life in God’s presence, the antithesis of death and sin sounds
forth from the interstices of the unfolding fabric of the book .
Chapters 1-7 deal with sacrifices. What is unique about this section?
Each type of sacrifice is mentioned twice
The whole burnt offering appears in chapter 1 and 6:8-13
The grain offering appears in chapter 2 and 6:14-23
The peace offering appears in chapter 3 and 7:11-34
The sin offering appears in chapter 4-5:13 and 6:24-30
The guilt/trespass offering appears in chapter 5:14-6:7 and 7:1-10
Why are they mentioned twice?
To underscore or emphasize the importance of sacrifice to the Lord. The beginning of the
book is framed in twofold patterns of sacrifice and forgiveness—twice over revelation of
God’s open accessibility, forgiving grace and joyful communion.
Why is sacrifice important?
It is a symbol or figure of the relationship of the one making the offering to the Lord in
What is the figural or symbolic meaning of sacrifice?
Sin requires a substitute; sinners require a mediator
What is another word for “substitute”?
What is another word for “mediator”?
Intercessor or go-between
In Leviticus, the mediator is ________?________ (the priest and especially the high priest)
Who is the eschatological substitute or vicarious offering?
The Lord Jesus Christ
Who is the eschatological mediator?
The Lord Jesus Christ
Who is the eschatological priest/high priest?
The Lord Jesus Christ
The protological Tabernacle-sacrifices figure or point to the eschatological sacrifice of the Lord of Heaven.
Is there any other substitute for the sins of sinners than Jesus Christ?
No, he alone is all-sufficient in his marvelous person and saving grace.
Do we need any other priest than Jesus Christ?
No, he is the once-and-for-all eschatological (last) and final priest for the people of God.
Priesthood is abolished in his finished priestly work.
How do you know this is correct?
When Christ said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), he completed and abolished the OT
sacrifices, their priestly intercessors and the earthly Tabernacle-Temple.
How do you know this is correct?
God himself confirmed what we said above when he split the veil of the Temple from top
to bottom. The Temple with its sacrifices, priests and earthly location had “passed away”;
“new things” were brought forth from then on.
What relationship between God and the sinner is symbolized by the whole burnt offering (Lev 1; 6:8-13)?
As the whole sacrificial victim is burnt on the altar as a pleasing aroma to the Lord, so the
sinner belongs wholly and entirely to the Lord. His whole being is to be offered up to the
Lord as a result of God’s creating, redeeming and sanctifying that person. The sinner is
confessing, “I belong body and soul to God, my Lord, to whom I yield or offer myself
wholly as my Creator, my Redeemer, my Lord.”
Where will this wholeness be perfected?
In the perfect arena which the Tabernacle symbolized, i.e., in heaven the life of the
believer belongs wholly and entirely to the Triune God for eternity.
You are saying that the eschatological perfects the protological even as the protological anticipates the eschatological?
Yes—and that in a biblical-theological or redemptive-historical manner. This is true of all
the sacrifices detailed in Lev 1-7.
What relationship between God and the sinner is symbolized by the grain offering (Lev 2; 6:14-23)?
A portion of the fruits of the sinner’s labor is offered to the Lord as an expression
(symbolic figure) that all the efforts of his labors in toiling and producing have their
source and fruition in the will, the strength and the grace of God. The sinner is
confessing, “I believe all my labor and toil in producing fruit unto the Lord is due to his
abundant blessing and provision as my Creator, my Redeemer, my Lord.”
Where will this labor be perfected?
In the perfect arena which the Tabernacle symbolized, i.e., in heaven, believers lay their
labors down as completed perfectly in the fruit of the labors of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What relationship between God and the sinner is symbolized by the peace offering (Lev 3; 7:11-34)?
This offering displays the result of the sinner offering himself and his labors wholly to
the Lord. The result is the peace of reconciliation between God and sinners. The sinner is
declaring, “I confess that all the enmity between myself and my God has been placated in
the substitute who bears that enmity to death in my place; so that I may eat with and
communion in peace before God my Creator, my Redeemer, My Lord.”
How is this peace (shalom) evident in the details of the offering?
The fellowship meal within the Tabernacle courts of God’s Glory-Presence displays the
shalom which now exists between God and sinner (cf. Lev 7:15; also 3:1, 7, 12 and the
phrase “before the Lord”). They are reconciled—no longer at enmity with one another on
account of sin—and thus may sit at table with one another in peace.
When will this peace and reconciliation be perfected?
In the place where the supper of everlasting peace is spread in all its glory—the banquet
between God and his children in heaven is the testimony to perfect reconciliation secured
by the blood of the Lamb of God (NB: Lev 3:7 and Rev 19:7-9).
What relationship between God and the sinner is symbolized by the sin offering (Lev 4-5:13; 6:24-30)?
Sin places a barrier between God and man. It is an offense against God’s infinite and
eternal holiness and righteousness which requires satisfaction and forgiveness.
Why is satisfaction required?
Because a debt of demerit has been incurred (or a merited/deserved punishment has been
earned), God requires payment of the debt/demerit of sin. That debt is death (“the wages
of sin is death,” Rom 6:23). The protological punishment of sin, which is death (Gen
2:17; 3:19), is recapitulated in every sinner in every era of history. It is the penalty of the
protological curse and remains an eschatological reality (i.e., Hell as the lake of eternal
fire of eternal death, Rev 20:14), unless it is removed by the payment of the penalty and
the forgiveness of the guilt.
But how is a sinner to pay the debt and cleanse the guilt?
Only in the manner prescribed by God himself. The sin offering illustrates the gracious
(not meritorious!) manner which God appoints for satisfying the debt of sin and forgiving
the guilt of sin.
How is this accomplished?
Vicariously—through a substitute
What do you mean?
By means of a substitute (sacrificial animal), God accepts death as payment for the sin
which offends his holy righteousness.
Is this why the sinner, offering a sin offering at the Tabernacle, was required to “lay his hands on the head” of his offering (Lev 4:4, 15, 29, 33)?
Yes, he was transferring his sin to the substitute (symbolically/figuratively) so that his
sacrifice would die in his place. Laying his hands on the victim was his confession that he
deserved to die, but that God’s grace allowed a substitute to pay his penalty.
You say a transfer—what was being transferred?
The punishment and guilt of the sinner was transferred to the sacrificial victim; from the
sacrificial victim to the sinner, satisfaction of the penalty (victim’s death means sinner
lives) and remission of guilt (victim’s blood means sinner’s guilt is cleansed or washed
away) was transferred.
But how could temporal bulls, goats and lambs remove an eternal penalty?
They could not, as Hebrews 10:4 tells us. They could only symbolize or figure that which
alone could satisfy and atone for sin.
Who is the eschatological sin offering for the people of God?
The Lord Jesus Christ
Once-and-for-all, he vicariously pays the penalty for their sin by/in his death and cleanses
their guilt in his precious blood. The transfer is: sin’s death penalty is transferred to
Christ; Christ’s life sufficiency is transferred to the sinner. Again the transfer is: sin’s
guilt and criminality (sin a crime against God) is transferred to Christ; Christ’s
guiltlessness and purity washes the sinner in forgiveness (guilt is washed away in the
blood of the eschatological victim for sinner’s slain).
How is this eschatological sacrifice/victim an eschatological payment for an eschatological debt?
He alone is an eschatological person able to endure (and remit) an eschatological debt—
whose death is of infinite value (on account of his infinite person) so as to cancel an
infinite eschatological death penalty. No Hell is due to the person of Christ; no Hell is
due to those vicariously united to him (i.e., “in Christ”) in his death-resurrection life
But Christ was 1400 years away. How did an Israelite sinner receive Christ?
By proxy anticipation—Christ was present in advance through the symbolic and
figurative reality of the Tabernacle sacrifices. So rich and pervasive is his all-sufficient
grace that his eschatological work is present to those who believe under the old
covenant. They too are “in Christ” from afar. This is the wonderful message of the epistle
to the Hebrews.
What relationship between God and the sinner is symbolized by the guilt/trespass offering (Lev 5:14-6:7; 7:1-10)?
That as with the sin offering (cf. Lev 7:7), God is offended and must be placated by an
atoning substitute. However, one additional element is essential in the trespass offering:
restitution of the value of the sin plus 20% (one-fifth) is required. The sinner is
acknowledging, “I am guilty of trespassing against the righteous holiness of God, both
intentionally and unintentionally. In addition, I must redress any potential loss to those
whom I have offended by a 20% gift of value above and beyond what the loss was
Why is restitution of value required?
Justice requires value for value—that is equitable. Ultimately, God has been defrauded.
But why is 20% added?
Because justice requires that the loss of value be compensated by an additional one-fifth
of the value of what the sin involved. The equity of loss of use is therefore compensated.
Cf. the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:2-10.
The next section of Leviticus is the narrative unit of chapters 8-10. What is the unfolding story-line featured here?
We are told of the anointing and installation/consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests
at the Lord’s tabernacle. This includes making sin offerings (8:2), burnt offerings (8:18),
grain offerings (9:17) and peace offerings (9:18) for them; thus folding their narrative
story into the narrative of the offerings themselves (chapters 1-7).
But Nadab and Abihu did not survive this full narrative.
No, they “died before the Lord” (Lev 10:2).
Because they offered “strange fire” before the Lord (Lev 10:1).
How did they die?
Fire devoured them, issuing from the glory-presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies of
the tabernacle. Fire met fire!
What is “strange fire”?
No one knows for sure. But whatever it was in particular, God was particularly offended.
It was so wicked that the Lord consigned them to eschatological fire instantly.
The next section (Lev 11-15) contains laws of clean and unclean animals, clean and unclean physical conditions and leprosy.
Why are these laws in the OT? They seem very strange to us today.
Yes, they are strange. However, they are associated with holiness in the presence of the
Lord, i.e., as one comes to the tabernacle.
Therefore, since the tabernacle is a symbol of heaven, are these laws prohibiting access to
heaven for anything or anyone unclean?
Yes, they have a moral/ethical vector/aspect. As Geerhardus Vos observes, “God teaches
his people to feel about sin as they are accustomed to feel an ignominious and
uncomfortable exclusion from the ritual service” (Biblical Theology: OT and NT [1948
Eerdmans edition] 200; [1975 Banner of Truth edition] 182).
We may add to Vos’s “exclusion from the ritual service” the following: exclusion from the ritual dwelling, i.e., the Tabernacle.
Why do you add this?
Because unholiness, uncleanness (symbolic of sinfulness) cannot be admitted to God’s
perfectly clean and holy presence. These cleanliness laws ultimately have an
eschatological vector—they point to heaven, the arena of perfect holiness and pristine
Israel was then being given visual reminders of God’s presence and God’s person.
Yes. In their everyday life, the children of Israel saw (and felt) visual (and tangible)
reminders of the pollution, corruption and repugnance of sin. Unclean animals
demonstrated that only clean beasts could be brought to the tabernacle. Unclean
conditions (both bodily and structurally, i.e., in buildings) evidenced the on-going
presence of sin in one’s life and in the world—and thus a barrier to living as such (i.e., in
that condition) in God’s presence.
But that which barred a sinner from God’s presence could be removed.
Yes. The Lord mercifully provided a way for cleansing, purification and removal of sin
so that the believer could come into his presence “whiter than snow”.
Thus, Leviticus 11-15 may be read for edification and celebration.
Yes. Edification for our understanding of sin and its consequences by physical and
tangible realities. Celebration in that Christ Jesus has taken all the pollution, uncleanness
and repugnance of our sin upon himself so as to wash us in his blood, cleanse us
through his cross, and to embrace us in his saving grace so that we are fit to appear in the
arena of the eschatological tabernacle. Praise be to his blessed name!!
Previously, you labeled chapter 16 the hinge or pivot point of the book of Leviticus.
Because it contains the narrative of the most wonderful day of the OT year—Yom
What does Yom Kippur mean?
Day (Yom) of atonement (Kippur) or Day of covering
By the blood of a substitute hiding the guilt, shame and pollution of sin from the
omniscient eye of God.
What was covered?
The mercy seat or lid to the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle.
Mercy placated with cleansing blood speaks atonement, payment, satisfaction, forgiveness, sin removed and banished.
How is this narrated?
By the story of two goats—one of which gives its life in death, the other of which is set
free from death to live.
Why are there two?
To dramatize the wages of sin (death) and the reverse, i.e., freedom from death
when sin is atoned (liberty).
How often did this occur?
Yom Kippur was observed once a year. Thus, once a year Israel saw a visual
dramatization of what sin produces (death) and what God graciously dispenses (freedom
from death by way of atonement and satisfaction).
But this occurred once a year, over and over again.
Yes, this OT ritual was never finished. It could not truly remove the penalty of sin and
bestow the benefit of grace because it had no endless life in itself, so as to once and for
all cancel sin, annul death and grant everlasting freedom and life.
Then the symbol of Yom Kippur was powerless to complete or fulfill itself?
Yes, it needed a supernatural person and a supernatural work to put an end to its
ritualistic drama once and for all.
Who was this person and what was his work?
He was our sweet Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, eternal Son of God together with his
spotless, blameless, pristinely clean, perfectly holy life and atoning death.
Was his life and death an eschatological atonement?
As an eternal, supernatural person, he was able to make eternal and eschatological
satisfaction for our sins. That is, his atoning sacrifice was final, absolute, never needs
repeating, effectual once-and-for-all. It displaces and replaces Yom Kippur because
he is the eschatological victim as well as the eschatological high priest. This is the
teaching of the epistle to the Hebrews.
What is the next unit of material in Leviticus?
The legal matter in chapter 17-24:9
This unit contains the Hebrew feasts in chapter 23. List them.
The Sabbath, Passover, First-fruits, Pentecost, Tabernacles (or Booths) are the major
ones. Blowing of Trumpets and New Moon are also listed.
Three of these are so-called ‘pilgrimage’ festivals.
Yes. Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles were the three that required a journey to the
tabernacle/temple each year (Deut 16:16; cf. Ex 23:14-17).
What is the biblical theology of these feasts?
Retrospectively Past Historical vector/aspect
Existentially Present rehearsal or re-living
Prospectively Future eschatological vector/aspect
How does the Sabbath function biblically-theologically?
Retrospective Historical creation Sabbath (God’s rest)
Existential Present re-living weekly Sabbath (man’s weekly rest)
Prospective Future eschatological Sabbath (eternal rest—redeemed man in
God’s rest forever)
Israel’s Saturday Sabbath displaced by the Christian Lord’s day Sabbath
How does the Passover function biblically-theologically (it includes the Feast of Unleavened Bread)?
Retrospective Historical exodus from Egypt by the blood of a lamb
Existential Re-living liberation from bondage to evil principalities
Prospective Eschatological exodus redemption/liberation by eschatological
Lamb of God (1 Cor 5:7)
Israel’s lamb displaced by the Lamb of God
How does First-fruits function biblically-theologically?
Retrospective Historical spring (barley) harvest in the Promised Land
Existential Re-living possession of the first portion of the bounty of
Prospective Eschatological bringer of eternal possession of the first-fruits of
God’s Spirit, i.e., Jesus Christ as First-fruits of the new
creation glory-land (Jam 1:18; Rom 8:23; 1 Cor 15: 20, 23)
Israel’s first-fruits displaced by Christ Jesus, the true First-fruits of creation
How does Pentecost function biblically-theologically?
Retrospective Historical first-fruits of wheat harvest in the Promised Land
Existential Re-living the out-pouring of blessing in the grain harvest
Prospective Eschatological out-pouring of blessings of the Holy Spirit as the
harvest of the nations unfolds (Acts 2:5-42).
Israel’s harvest in-gathering displaced by the harvest in-gathering of nations through
the Holy Spirit
How does Yom Kippur function biblically-theologically?
Retrospectively Historical annual day of atonement
Existentially Re-living forgiveness of sins via a scapegoat
Prospectively Eschatological atonement day through Messiah-Christ
Israel’s tabernacle/temple altar displaced by the cross of Jesus Christ
How does the Feast of Tabernacles function biblically-theologically?
Retrospectively Historical conclusion to the wilderness 40-year sojourn and
conclusion to the agricultural year (Hebrew
“Thanksgiving”, i.e., Fall harvest in-gathering)
Existential Re-living the pilgrim status of the people of God by
dwelling in booths like Israel of old
Prospectively Eschatological pilgrim (Jesus Christ) and eschatological
conclusion to the in-gathering of the people of God (NB:
Israel’s booths displaced by the Son of God who is the end of the Feast of Tabernacles and its imagery: he is the fountain of living waters (John 7:37-38) and the light of the world (John 8:12), as well as the very tabernacle of God in the midst of men (John 1:14; 2:19; Rev 21:22)
Are the feasts of the OT to be observed and celebrated by Christians in the NT age?
Christ Jesus is their full, complete and final meaning. Having him, we have all and need
no festival elements of the prior age to encumber us. We do not live in the past, but in
the future wonder of the glorious Son of God of heaven where festivals, times and
seasons have been transcended by eternity.
The next unit of Leviticus (24:10-23) is a narrative interlude about the death of a blasphemer. Why is it present in the text of the book?
It is a demonstrable instance of the just wrath of God (even as the deaths of Nadab and
Abihu were). This incident places an exclamation point (!) on the dire consequences of
blaspheming the person, the name, the work of the living, all-holy Triune Lord God.
What is unique about this narrative unit?
It contains a chiasm (vv. 13-23)
The narrative text begins as it ends with the Lord speaking to Moses (v. 13 with v. 23).
It pivots at the center point of the chiasm on the so-called lex talionis (Latin, “law of
retaliation” or law of proportionate justice)—“eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (v. 20).
How does Leviticus end?
With the Jubilee celebration (chapters 25-27)
What is the year of Jubilee?
It was the year after a period of seven sabbatical years (or 49 years altogether). Thus, the
year of Jubilee was the 50th year.
What occurred in the year of Jubilee?
All debts were canceled; all slaves went free (save those who chose to remain
indentured); all land was returned to the original owners or their descendants; all
borrowed property was returned; the land was not planted nor harvested.
It was a semi-centennial celebration of liberty, freedom and rest. Why?
To permit the people of God to enjoy temporal life without the usual burdens and
encumbrances. Also it provided a heart of hope for the future when, in the seven
sabbatical years in which they may have been burdened with debt, etc., they would
anticipate the year of Jubilee in which they would be unburdened, unencumbered and
granted, by the gift of God, temporal rest, relief and liberty.
How does Isaiah 61:1-2 relate to the year of Jubilee?
The prophet projects an eschatological Jubilee
How do we know this?
The Lord Jesus reads the Isaiah passage in Luke 4:18-21 and says, “Today this Scripture
has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Thus, Leviticus closes on an eschatological note—a note of temporal Jubilee anticipating the eschatological Jubilee; a note which projects Isaiah’s vision and Christ’s realization.
Then, what kind of a Jubilee land is Isaiah’s vision and Christ’s realization (symbolized in Israel’s land)?
Not Israel-Palestine, but the Kingdom of Heaven
Not temporal release, but eternal release
Not freedom from debt, but freedom from sin permanently
Not release from bond servitude, but the everlasting liberty of the sons and daughters of
The keystone of the Pentateuch is a rich tapestry of how sinners come into the dwelling place of a just and holy God. Israel is granted the visual revelation of the invisible realization; and Christ completes, “sums it up”, brings it to full semi-eschatological accomplishment for those united to him by grace through faith (“in Christ”, even from Leviticus).
 The reader will enjoy George Herbert’s “The Sacrifice” as a brilliant poetic reflection on our Lord’s death.
 Cf. the full outline in N. Klaus, Pivot Patterns in the Former Prophets (1999) 219.