Levit'icus so called in the Vulgate from treating chiefly of the Levitical service; in the Heb. וִיַּקרָא, and he called, being the word with which it begins; in the Sept. ΛευÞτικόν; the third book of the Pentateuch, called also by the later Jews תּוֹרִת כֹּהֲנַים, "law of the priests," and תּוֹרִת קָרבָּנוֹת, "law of offerings." In our treatment of it we have especial regard to the various sacrifices enumerated.
I. Contents. — Leviticus contains the further statement and development of the Sinaitic legislation, the beginnings of which are described in Exodus. It exhibits the historical progress of this legislation; consequently, we must not expect to find the laws detailed in it in a systematic form. There is, nevertheless, a certain order observed, which arose from the nature of the subject, and of which the plan may easily be perceived. The whole is intimately connected with the contents of Exodus, at the conclusion of which book that sanctuary is described with which all external worship was connected (Exodus 35-40).
Leviticus begins by describing the worship itself (chapters 1-17), and concludes with personal distinctions and exhortations as to the worshippers (chapters 18-27). More specifically the book may be divided into seven leading sections.
(I.) The Laws directly relating to Sacrifices (chapters 1-7). — At first God spoke to the people out of the thunder and lightning of Sinai, and gave them his holy commandments by the hand of a mediator; but henceforth his presence is to dwell not on the secret top of Sinai, but in the midst of his people, both in their wanderings through the wilderness and afterwards in the Land of Promise. Hence the first directions which Moses receives after the work is finished have reference to the offerings which were to be brought to the door of the tabernacle. As Jehovah draws near to the people in the tabernacle, so the people draw near to Jehovah in the offering. Without offerings none may approach him. The regulations respecting the sacrifices fall into three groups, and each of these groups again consists of a decalogue of instructions. Bertheau has observed that this principle runs through all the laws of Moses. They are all modeled after the pattern of the ten commandments, so that each distinct subject of legislation is always treated of under ten several enactments or provisions.
1. The first group of regulations (chapters 1-3) deals with three kinds of offerings: the burnt-offering (עוֹלָה), the meat-offering (מַנחָה), and the thank-offering (שׁלָמַים זֶבִח)
a. The burnt-offering (chap. 1) in three sections. It might be either
(1) a male without blemish from the herds (מַן הִבָּקָר) (verses 3-9), or
(2) a male without blemish from the flocks, or lesser cattle (הִצּאֹן) (verses 10-13), or
(3) it might be fowls, an offering of turtle-doves or young pigeons (verses 14-17). The subdivisions are here marked clearly enough, not only by the three kinds of sacrifice, but also by the form in which the enactment is put. Each begins with, "If his offering," etc., and each ends with, "An offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto Jehovah."
b. The next group (chapter 2) presents many more difficulties. Its parts are not so clearly marked, either by prominent features in the subject-matter, or by the more technical boundaries of certain initial and final phrases. We have here the meat-offering, or bloodless offering, in four sections:
(1) in its uncooked form, consisting of fine flour with oil and frankincense (verses 1-3);
(2) in its cooked form, of which three different kinds are specified- baked in the oven, fricel, or boiled (verses 4-10);
(3) the prohibition of leaven, and the direction to use salt in all the meat-offerinrgs (verses 11-13);
(4) the oblation of first-fruits (verses 14-16).
c. The Sheltamins, "peace-offering" (A.V.), or "thankoffering" (Ewald) (chapter 3), in three sections. Strictly speaking, this falls under two heads: first, when it is of the herd; and, secondly, when it is of the flock. But this last has again its subdivision; for the offering, when of the flock, may be either a lamb or a goat. Accordingly, the three sections are, verses 1-5; 7- 11; 12-16. Verse 6 is merely introductory to the second class of sacrifices, and verse 17 a general conclusion, as in the case of other laws. This concludes the first decalogue of the book.
2. The laws concerning the sin-offering and the trespass- (or guilt-) offering (chapter 4, 5). The sin-offering (chap. iv) is treated of under four specified cases, after a short introduction to the whole in verses 1, 2:
(1) the sin-offering for the priest, 3-12; (2) for the whole congregation, 13-21; (3) for a ruler, 22-26; (4) for one of the common people, 27-35.
After these four cases, in which the offering is to be made for four different classes, there follow provisions respecting three several kinds of transgression for which atonement must be made. It is not quite clear whether these should be ranked under the head of the sin-offering or of the trespass-offering. SEE OFFERING. We may, however, follow Bertheau, Baumgarten, and Knobel in regarding them as special instances in which a sin-offering was to be brought. The three cases are: first, when any one hears a curse, and conceals what he hears (verse 1); secondly, when any one touches, without knowing or intending it, any unclean thing (verses 2, 3); lastly, when any one takes an oath inconsiderately (verse 4). For each of these cases the same trespass-offering, "a female from the flock, a lamb or kid of the goats," is appointed; but, with that mercifulness which characterizes the Mosaic law, express provision is made for a less costly offering where the offerer is poor.
This decalogue is then completed by the three regulations respecting the guilt-offering (or trespass-offering): first, when any one sins " through ignorance in the holy things of Jehovah" (verses 14,16); next, when a person, without knowing it, "commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of Jehovah" (17-19); lastly, when a man lies and swears falsely concerning that which was entrusted to him, etc. (verses 20-26). This decalogue, like the preceding one, has its characteristic words and expressions. The prominent word which introduces so many of the enactments is נֶפֶשׁ, "soul" (see Le 4:2,27; Le 5:1-2,4,15,17; Le 6:2), and the phrase, "If a soul shall sin" (Le 4:2), is, with occasional variations having an equivalent meaning, the distinctive phrase of the section. As in the former decalogue the nature of the offerings, so in this the person and the nature of the offense are the chief features in the several statutes.
3. Naturally upon the law of sacrifices follows the law of the priests' duties when they offer the sacrifices (chapter 6, 7). Hence we find Moses directed to address himself immediately to Aaron and his sons (Le 6:2,18–6:9, 25, A.V.). In this group the different kinds of offerings are named in nearly the same order as in the two preceding decalogues, except that the offering at the consecration of a priest follows, instead of the thankoffering, immediately after the meat-offering, which it resembles, and the thank-offering now appears after the trespass-offering. There are, therefore, in all, six kinds of offering, and in the case of each of these the priest has his distinct duties. Bertheau has very ingeniously so distributed the enactments in which these duties are prescribed as to arrange them all in five decalogues. We will briefly indicate his arrangement.
(1.) The first decalogue.
(a.) "This is the law of the burnt-offering" (6:9, A.V.), in five enactments, each verse (verses 9-13) containing a separate enactment.
(b.) "'And this is the law of the meat-offering" (verse 14), again in five enactments, each of which is, as before contained in a single verse (verses 14-18).
(2.) The next decalogue is contained in verses 19-30.
(a.) Verse 19 is merely introductory; then follow, in five verses, five distinct directions with regard to the offering at the time of the consecration of the priests, the first in verse 20 the next two in verse 21, the fourth in the former part of ver. 22, and the last in the latter part of verse 22 and verse 23.
(b.) "This is the law of the sin-offering" (verse 25). Then the five enactments, each in one verse, except that two verses (27, 28) are given to the third.
(3.) The third decalogue is contained in Le 7:1-10, the laws of the trespass-offering. But it is impossible to avoid a misgiving as to the soundness of Bertheau's system when we find him making the words "It is most holy," in verse 1, the first of the ten enactments. This he is obliged to do, as verses 3 and 4 evidently form but one.
(4.) The fourth decalogue, after an introductory verse (verse 11), is contained in ten verses (verses 12-21).
(5.) The last decalogue consists of certain general laws about the fat, the blood, the wave-breast, etc., and is comprised again in ten verses (verses 23-33), the verses, as before, marking the divisions.
The chapter closes with a brief historical notice of the fact that these several commands were given to Moses on Mount Sinai (verse 35-38).
(II.) An entirely historical section (chapters 8-10), in three parts. —
1. In chapter 8 we have the account of the consecration of Aaron and his sons by Moses before the whole congregation. They are washed; he is arrayed in the priestly vestments and anointed with the holy oil; his sons also are arrayed in their garments, and the various offerings appointed are offered.
2. In chapter 9 Aaron offers, eight days after his consecration, his first offering for himself and the people: this comprises for himself a sin- and burnt- offering, and a peace- (or thank-) offering. He blesses the people, and fire comes down from heaven and consumes the burnt-offering.
3. Chapter 10 tells how Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, eager to enjoy the privileges of their new office, and perhaps too much elated by its dignity, forgot or despised the restrictions by which it was fenced round (Ex 30:7, etc.), and, daring to "offer strange fire before Jehovah," perished because of their presumption.
With the house of Aaron began this wickedness in the sanctuary; with them, therefore, began also the divine punishment. Very touching is the story which follows. Aaron, though forbidden to mourn his loss (verses 6, 7), will not eat the sin-offering in the holy place; and when rebuked by Moses, pleads in his defense, "Such things have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin-offering today, should it have been accepted in the sight of Jehovah?" Moses, the lawgiver and the judge, admits the plea, and honors the natural feelings of the father's heart, even when it leads to a violation of the letter of the divine commandment.
(II.) The laws concerning purity and impurity, and the appropriate sacrifices and ordinances for putting away impurity (chapters 11-16). The first seven decalogues had reference to the putting away of guilt. By the appointed sacrifices the separation between man and God was healed. The next seven concern themselves with the putting away of impurity. That chapters 11-15 hang together so as to form one series of laws there can be no doubt. Besides that they treat of kindred subjects, they have their characteristic words, טמאה טמא, " unclean," "uncleanness," טהר טהור, "clean," which occur in almost every verse. The only question is about chapter 16, which by its opening is connected immediately with the occurrence related in chapter 10. Historically it would seem, therefore, that chapter 16 ought to have followed chapter 10. As this order is neglected, it would lead us to suspect that some other principle of arrangement than that of historical sequence has been adopted. This we find in the solemn significance of the great day of atonement. The high-priest on that day made atonement "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins" (Le 16:16), and he "reconciled the holy place and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar" (verse 20). Delivered from their guilt and cleansed from their pollutions, from that day forward the children of Israel entered upon a new and holy life. This was typified both by the ordinance that the bullock and the goat for the sin-offering were burnt without the camp (verse 27), and also by the sending away of the goat laden with the iniquities of the people into the wilderness. Hence chapter 16 seems to stand most fitly at the end of this second group of seven decalogues. It has reference, we believe, not only (as Bertheau supposes) to the putting away, as by one solemn act, of all those uncleannesses mentioned in chapters 11-15, and for which the various expiations and cleansings there appointed were temporary and insufficient, but also to the making of atonement, in the sense of hiding sin or putting away its guilt. For not only do we find the idea of cleansing as from defilement, but far more prominently the idea of reconciliation. The often-repeated word כפר), "to cover, to atone," is the great word of the section.
1. The first decalogue in this group refers to clean and unclean flesh (chapter 6). Five classes of animals are pronounced unclean. The first four enactments declare what animals may or may not be eaten, whether
(1) beasts of the earth (verses 2-8), or (2) fishes (verses 9-12), or (3) birds (verse 13-20), or (4) creeping things with wings. The next four are intended to guard against pollution by contact with the carcass of any of these animals: (5) verses 24-26; (6) verses 27, 28;
(7) verses 29-38; (8) verse 39-40. The ninth and tenth specify the last class of animals which are unclean for food, (9) 41, 42, and forbid any other kind of pollution by means of them, (10) verse 43-45. Verse 46 and 47 are merely a concluding summary.
2. (a.) Women's purification in childbed (chap. 12). The whole of this chapter, according to Bertheau, constitutes (1) the first law of this decalogue.
(b.) The remaining nine are to be found in the next chapter (13), which treats of the signs of leprosy in man and in garments:
(2) verses 1-8; (3) verses 9-17; (4) verses 18-23; (5) verses 24-28; (6) verses 29-37; (7) verses 38, 39; (8) verses 40, 41; (9) verses 42-46; (10) verses 47-59.
This arrangement of the several sections is not altogether free from objection, but it is certainly supported by the characteristic mode in which each section opens. Thus, for instance, Le 12:2 begins with אַשָּׁה כַּי תִזרַיע; Le 13:2 with אָדָם כַּי יַהיֶה, verse 9 with נֶגִע צָרִעִת כַּי תַהיֶה and so on, the same order being always observed, the substantive being placed first, then כַּי, and then the verb, except only in verse 42, where the substantive is placed after the verb.
3. "The law of the leper in the day of his cleansing," i.e., the law which the priest is to observe in purifying the leper (Le 14:1-32). The priest is mentioned in ten verses, each of which begins one of the ten sections of this law: verses 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 19, 20. In each instance the word הִכֹּהֵן is preceded by ו consecut. with the perf. It is true that in verse 8, and also in verse 14, the word הִכֹּהֵן occurs twice; but in both verses there is MS. authority, as well as that of the Vulg. and Arab. versions, for the absence of the second. Verses 21-32 may be regarded as a supplemental provision in cases where the leper is too poor to bring the required offering.
4. The leprosy in a house (14:33-57). It is not so easy here to trace the arrangement noticed in so many other laws. There are no characteristic words or phrases to guide us. Bertheau's division is as follows:
(1) verses 34, 35; (2) verses 36, 37; (3) verse 38; (4) verse 39; (5) verse 40; (6) verses 41, 42; (7) verses 43-45.
Then, as usual, follows a short summary which closes the statute concerning leprosy, verses 54-57.
5, 6. The law of uncleanness by issue, etc., in two decalogues (Le 15:1-31). The division is clearly marked, as Bertheau observes, by the form of cleansing, which is so exactly similar in the two principal cases, and which closes each series: (1) verses 13-15; (2) verses 28-30. We again give his arrangement, though we do not profess to regard it as in all respects satisfactory.
(a.) (1) Verses 2, 3; (2) verse 4; (3) verse 5; (4) verse 6; (5) verse 7; (6) verse 8; (7) verse 9; (8) verse 10; (9) verses 11, 12 [these Bertheau considers as one enactment, because it is another way of saying that either the man or thing which the unclean person touches is unclean; but, on the same principle, verses 4 and 5 might just as well form one enactment]; (10) verses 13-15.
(1) Verse 16; (2) verse 17; (3) verse 18; (4) verse 19; (5) verse 20; (6) verse 21; (7) verse 22; (8) verse 23;
(9) verse 24; (10) verses 28-30.
In order to complete this arrangement, he considers verses 25-27 as a kind of supplementary enactment provided for an irregular uncleanness, leaving it as quite uncertain, however, whether this was a later addition or not. Verses 32 and 33 form merely the same general conclusion which we have had before in 14:54-57.
7. The last decalogue of the second group of seven decalogues is to be found in chapter 16, which treats of the great day of atonement. The law itself is contained in verses 1-28. The remaining verses, 29-34, consist of an exhortation to its careful observance. In the act of atonement three persons are concerned: the high-priest, in this instance Aaron; the man who leads away the goat for Azazel into the wilderness; and he who burns the skin, flesh, and dung of the bullock and goat of the sin-offering without the camp. The last two have special purifications assigned them-the second because he has touched the goat laden with the guilt of Israel, the third because he has come in contact with the sin-offering. The ninth and tenth enactments prescribe what these purifications are, each of them concluding with the same formula, ואִחֲרֵי כֵן יָבוֹא אֶל הִמִּחֲנֶה, and hence distinguished from each other. The duties of Aaron, consequently, ought, if the division into decades is correct, to be comprised in eight enactments. Now-the name of Aaron is repeated eight times, and in six of these it is preceded by the perf. with 1 consecut., as we observed was the case before when "the priest" was the prominent figure. According to this, then, the decalogue will stand thus:
(1) Verse 2, Aaron not to enter the holy place at all times;
(2) verses 3-5, with what sacrifices and in what dress Aaron is to enter the holy place;
(3) verses 6, 7, Aaron to offer the bullock for himself, and to set the two goats before Jehovah;
(4) Aaron to cast lots on the two goats;
(5) verses 9, 10, Aaron to offer the goat on which the lot falls for Jehovah, and to send away the goat for Azazel into the wilderness;
(6) verses 11-19, Aaron to sprinkle the blood both of the bullock and of the goat to make atonement for himself. for his house, and for the whole congregation, as also to purify the altar of incense with the blood;
(7) verses 20-22, Aaron to lay his hands on the living goat, and confess over it all the sins of the children of Israel;
(8) verses 23-25, Aaron after this to take off his linen garments, bathe himself, and put on his priestly garments, and then offer his burnt- offering and that of the congregation;
(9) verse 26, the man by whom the goat is sent into the wilderness to purify himself;
(10) verses 27-28, what is to be done by him who burns the sin-offering without the camp.
(IV.) Laws chiefly intended to mark the Separation between Israel and the Heathen Nations (chapters 17-20). — We here reach the great central point, of the book. All going before was but a preparation for this. Two great truths have been established: first, that God call only be approached by means of appointed sacrifices; next, that man in nature and life is full of pollution, which must be cleansed. Now a third is taught, viz., that not by several cleansings for several sins and pollutions can guilt be put away. The several acts of sin are but so many manifestations of the sinful nature. For this, therefore, also must atonement be made by one solemn act, which shall cover all transgressions, and turn away God's righteous displeasure from Israel. Israel is now reminded that it is the holy nation. The great atonement offered, it is to enter upon a new life. It is a separate nation, sanctified and set apart for the service of God. It may not, therefore, do after the abominations of the heathen by whom it is surrounded. Here, consequently, we find those laws and ordinances which especially distinguish the nation of Israel from all other nations of the earth.
Here again we may trace, as before, a group of seven decalogues; but the several decalogues are not so clearly marked, nor are the characteristic phrases and the introductions and conclusions so common. In ch. 18 there are twenty enactments, and in chapter 19, thirty. In chapter 17 on the other hand, there are only six, and in chapter 20 there are fourteen. As it is quite manifest that the enactments in chapter 18 are entirely separated by a fresh introduction from those in chapter 17, Bertheau, in order to preserve the usual arrangement of the laws in decalogues, would transpose this chapter, and place it after chapter 19. He observes that the laws in chapter 17, and those in Le 20:1-9, are akin to one another, and may very well constitute a single decalogue, and, what is of more importance, that the words in Le 18:1-5 form the natural introduction to this whole group of laws: "And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am Jehovah your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances," etc. There is, however, a point of connection between chapters 17 and 18 which must not be overlooked, and which seems to indicate that their position in our present text is the right one. All the six enactments in chapter 17 (verses 3-5, verses 6, 7, verses 8, 9, verses 10-12, verses 13,14, verses 15) bear upon the nature and meaning of the sacrifice to Jehovah as compared with the sacrifices offered to false gods. It would seem, too, that it was necessary to guard against any license to idolatrous practices which might possibly be drawn from the sending of the goat for Azazel into the wilderness, SEE ATONEMENT, DAY OF, especially, perhaps, against the Egyptian custom of appeasing the evil spirit of the wilderness and averting his malice (Hengstenberg, Mose u. Egypten, page 179; Movers, Phonicier, 1:369). To this there may be an allusion in verse 7. Perhaps, however, it is better and more simple to regard the enactments in these two chapters (with Bunsen, Bibelwerk, II, 1:245) as directed against two prevalent heathen practices, the eating of blood and fornication. It is remarkable, as showing how intimately moral and ritual observances were blended together in the Jewish mind, that abstinence "from blood and things strangled, and fornication," was laid down by the apostles as the only condition of communion to be required of Gentile converts to Christianity. Before we quit this chapter one observation may be made. The rendering of the A.V. in verse 11, "for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul," should be, "for it is the blood that maketh an atonement by means of the life." This is important. It is not blood merely as such, but blood as having in it the principle of life that God accepts in sacrifice; for, by thus giving vicariously the life of the dumb animal, the sinner confesses that his own life is forfeit.
In chapter 18, after the introduction to which we have already alluded, verses 1-5 — and in which God claims obedience on the double ground that he is Israel's God, and that to keep his commandments is life (verse 5) — there follow twenty enactments concerning unlawful marriages and unnatural lusts. The first ten are contained one in each verse (verses 6-15). The next ten range themselves in like manner with the verses, except that verses 17 and 23 contain each two. Of the twenty the first fourteen are alike in form, as well as in the repeated עֶרוָה לאֹ תגִלֶּה.
In chapter 19 are three decalogues, introduced by the words, "Ye shall be holy, for I Jehovah your God am holy," and ending with, "Ye shall observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them. I am Jehovah." The laws here are of a very mixed character, and many of them a repetition merely of previous laws. Of the three decalogues, the first is comprised in verses 3-13, and may be thus distributed:
(1) verse 3, to honor father and mother; (2) verse 3, to keep the Sabbath; (3) verse 4, not to turn to idols; (4) verse 4, not to make molten gods (these two enactments being separated on the same principle as the first and second commandments in the Great Decalogue or Two Tables); (5) verses 5-8, of thank-offerings; (6) verses 9, 10, of gleaning; (7) verse 11, not to steal or lie; (8) verse 12, not to swear falsely; (9) verse 13, not to defraud one's neighbor; (10) verse 13, the wages of him that is hired, etc.
The next decalogue, verses 14-25, Bertheau arranges thus: verse 14, verse 15, verse 16a, verse 16b, verse 17, verse 18, verse 19a, verse 19b, verses 20-22, verses 23-25. We object, however, to making the words in 19a, "Ye shall keep my statutes," a separate enactment. There is no reason for this. A much better plan would be to consider verse 17 as consisting of two enactments, which is manifestly the case.
The third decalogue may be thus distributed: verse 26a, verse 26b, verse 27, verse 28, verse 29, verse 30, verse 31, verse 32, verses 33, 34, verses 35, 36.
We have thus found five decalogues in this group. Bertheau completes the number seven by transposing, as we have seen, chapter 17, and placing it immediately before chapter 20. He also transfers verse 27 of chapter 20 to what he considers its proper place, viz., after verse 6. It must be confessed that the enactment in verse 27 stands very awkwardly at the end of the chapter, completely isolated as it is from all other enactments; for verses 22-26 are the natural conclusion to this whole section. But. admitting this, another difficulty remains, that, according to him, the seventh decalogue begins at verse 10, and another transposition is necessary, so that verses 7, 8 may stand after verse 9, and so conclude the preceding series of ten enactments. It is better, perhaps, to abandon the search for complete symmetry than to adopt a method so violent in order to obtain it.
It should be observed that chapter 18:6-23, and chapter 20:10-21, stand in such a relation to one another that the latter declares the penalties attached to the transgression of many of the commandments given in the former. But, though we may not be able to trace in chapters 17 -20 seven decalogues, in accordance with the theory of which we have been speaking, there can be no doubt that they form a distinct section of themselves, of which 20:22-26 is the proper conclusion.
Like the other sections, it has some characteristic expressions:
(a) "Ye shall keep my judgments and my statutes" (מַשׁפָּטִי חַקּתִי) occurs Le 18:4-5,26; Le 19:37; Le 20:8,22, but is not met with either in the preceding or the following chapters.
(b) The constantly recurring phrases, "I am Jehovah," "I am Jehovah your God," "Be ye holy, for I am holy," "I am Jehovah which hallow you." In the earlier sections this phraseology is only found in Le 11:44-45, and Ex 31:13. In the section which follows (chapter 21-25) it is much more common, this section being in a great measure a continuation of the preceding.
(V.) We come now to the last group of decalogues — that contained in chapters 21-26:2. The subjects comprised in these enactments are —
1. The personal purity of the priests. They may not defile themselves for the dead; their wives and daughters must be pure, and they themselves must be free from all personal blemish (chapter 21).
2. The eating of the holy things is permitted only to priests who are free from all uncleanness: they and their household only may eat them (chapter 22:16).
3. The offerings of Israel are to be pure and without blemish (chapter 22:17-33).
4. The last series provides for the due celebration of the great festivals when priests and people were to be gathered together before Jehovah in holy convocation (chapter 23, 25), with an episode (chapter 24).
Up to this point we trace system and purpose in the order of the legislation. Thus, for instance, chapter 11-16 treats of external purity; chapter 17-20 of moral purity; chapter 21-23 of the holiness of the priests, and their duties with regard to holy things; the whole concluding with provisions for the solemn feasts on which all Israel appeared before Jehovah. We will again briefly indicate Bertheau's groups, and then append some general observations on this whole section.
a. Leviticus 21, ten laws, as follows:
(1) verses 1-3; (2) verse 4; (3) verses 5, 6; (4) verses 7, 8; (5) verse 9; (6) verses 10, 11; (7) verse 12; (8) verses 13, 14; (9) verses 17-21; (10) verses 22, 23.
The first five laws concern all the priests; the sixth to the eighth, the high- priest; the ninth and tenth, the effects of bodily blemish in particular cases.
b. Le 22:1-16.
(1) verse 2; (2) verse 3; (3) verse 4; (4) verses 4-7; (5) verses 8, 9; (6) verse 10; (7) verse 11; (8) verse 12;
(10) verses 14-16.
c. Le 22:17-33.
(1) verses 18-20; (2) verse 21; (3) verse 22; (4) verse 23; (5) verse 24; (6) verse 25; (7) verse 27; (8) verse 28; (9) verse 29; (10) verse 30; and a general conclusion in verses 31-33.
d. Leviticus 23.
(1) verse 3; (2) verses 5-7; (3) verse 8; (4) verses 9-14; (5) verses 15-21; (6) verse 22; (7) verses 24, 25; (8) verses 27-32; (9) verses 34, 35; (10) verse 36; verses 37, 38 contain the conclusion, or general summing up of the Decalogue.
On the remainder of the chapter, as well as chapter 24, see below.
e. Le 25:1-22.
(1) verse 2; (2) verses 3, 4; (3) verse 5; (4) verse 6; (5) verses 8-10; (6) verses 11, 12; (7) verse 13;
(9) verse 15; (10) verse 16; with a concluding formula in verses 18-22.
f. Le 25:23-38.
(1) verses 23, 24; (2) verse 25; (3) verses 26, 27; (4) verse 28; (5) verse 29; (6) verse 30; (7) verse 31; (8) verses 32, 33; (9) verse 34; (10) verses 35-37; the conclusion to the whole in verse 38.
g. Le 25:39-26:2.
(1) verse 39; (2) verses 40-42; (3) verse 43; (4) verses 44, 45; (5) verse 46; (6) verses 47-49; (7) verse 50; (8) verses 51, 52; (9) verse 53; (10) verse 54.
It will be observed that the above arrangement is only completed by omitting the latter part of chapter 23 and the whole of chapter 24. But it is clear that Le 23:39-44 is an addition, containing further instructions respecting the Feast of Tabernacles. Verse 39, as compared with verse 34, shows that the same feast is referred to; while verses 37, 38 are no less manifestly the original conclusion of the laws respecting the feasts — which are enumerated in the previous part of the chapter. Chapter 24, again, has a peculiar character of its own. First, we have a command concerning the oil to be used in the lamps belonging to the tabernacle, but this is only a repetition of an enactment already given in Ex 27:20-21, which seems to be its natural place. Then follow directions about the shewbread. These do not occur previously. In Exodus the shewbread is spoken of always as a matter of course. concerning which no regulations are necessary (comp. Ex 25:30; Ex 35:13; Ex 39:36). Lastly come certain enactments arising out of a historical occurrence. The son of an Egyptian father by an Israelitish woman blasphemes the name of Jehovah, and Moses is commanded to stone him in consequence; and this circumstance is the occasion of the following laws being given:
(1) That a blasphemer, whether Israelite or stranger, is to be stoned (comp. Ex 22:28);
(2) That he that kills any man shall surely be put to death (comp. Ex 21:12-27);
(3) That he that kills a beast shall make it good (not found where we might have expected it, in the series of laws Ex 21:28-22:16);
(4) That if a man cause a blemish in his neighbor he shall be requited in like manner (comp. Ex 21:22-25).
(5) We have then a repetition in an inverse order of verses 17, 18; and
(6) the injunction that there shall be one law for the stranger and the Israelite;
(7) finally, a brief notice of the infliction of the punishment in the case of the son of Shelomith, who blasphemed.
Not another instance is to be found in the whole collection in which any historical circumstance is made the occasion of enacting a law. Then, again, the laws (2), (3), (4), (5), are mostly repetitions of existing laws, and seem here to have no connection with the event to which they are referred. Either, therefore, some other circumstances took place at the same time with which we are not acquainted, or these isolated laws, detached from their proper connection, were grouped together here, in obedience perhaps to some traditional association.
(VI.) These decalogues are now fitly closed by words of promise and threat-promise of largest, richest blessing to those that hearken unto and do these commandments; threats of utter destruction to those that break the covenant of their God. Thus the second great division of the law closes like the first, except that the first part, or Book of the Covenant, ends (Ex 23:20-33) with promises of blessing only. There nothing is said of the judgments which are to follow transgression, because as yet the covenant had not been made. But when once the nation had freely entered into that covenant, they bound themselves to accept its sanctions its penalties, as well as its rewards. Nor call we wonder if in these sanctions the punishment of transgression holds a larger place than the rewards of obedience; for already was it but too plain that "Israel would not obey." From the first they were a stiff-necked and rebellious race, and from the first the doom of disobedience hung like a fiery sword above their heads.
(VII.) On Vows. — The legislation is evidently completed in the last words of the preceding chapter: "These are the statutes, and judgments, and laws which Jehovah made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses." Chapter 27 is an appendix, again closed, however, by a similar formula, which at least shows that the transcriber considered it to be an integral part of the original Mosaic legislation, though he might be at a loss to assign it its place. Bertheau classes it with the other less regularly grouped laws at the beginning of the book of Numbers. He treats the section Leviticus 27-Nu 10:10 as a series of supplements to the Sinaitic legislation.
II. Integrity. — This is very generally admitted. Those critics even who are in favor of different documents in the Pentateuch assign nearly the whole of this book to one writer, the Elohist, or author of the original document. According to Knobel, the only portions which are not to be referred to the Elohist are — Moses's rebuke of Aaron because the goat of the sin-offering had been burnt (Le 10:16-20); the group of laws in chapters 17-20; certain additional enactments respecting the Sabbath and the feasts of Weeks and of Tabernacles (23, part of verse 2, from מוֹעֲדֵי יהוָֹה, and verse 3, verses 18, 19, 22, 39-44); the punishments ordained for blasphemy, murder, etc, (Le 24:10-23), the directions respecting the sabbatical year (Le 25:18-22), and the promises and warnings contained in chapter 26.
With regard to the section chapter 17-20, Knobel does not consider the whole of it to have been borrowed from the same sources. Chapter 17 he believes was introduced here by the Jehovist from some ancient document, while he admits, nevertheless, that it contains certain Elohistic forms of expression, as כֹּל בָּשָׂר, "all flesh," verse 14; נֶפֶשׁ, soul" (in the sense of "person"), verses 10-12, 15 חִיָּה, " beast," verse 13, קָרבָּן, "offering," verse 4, ניחוֹחִ ריח, "a sweet savor," verse 6; "a statute forever," and "after your generations," verse 7. But it cannot be from the Elohist, he argues, because (a) he would have placed it after chapter 7, or at least after chapter 15; (b) he would not have repeated the prohibition of blood, etc., which he had already given; (c) he would have taken a more favorable view of his nation than that implied in verse 7; and, lastly, (d) the phraseology has something of the coloring of chapter 18-20 and 26, which are certainly not Elohistic. Such reasons are too transparently unsatisfactory to need serious discussion. He observes further that the chapter is not altogether Mosaic. The first enactment (verses 1-7) does indeed apply only to Israelites, and holds good, therefore, for the time of Moses. But the remaining three contemplate the case of strangers living among the people, and have a reference to all time.
Chapters 18-20, though they have a Jehovistic coloring, cannot have been originally from the Jehovist. The following peculiarities of language, which are worthy of notice, according to Knobel (Exod. und Leviticus erklart, in the "Kurzg. Exeg. Hdbuch." 1857), forbid such a supposition, the more so as they occur nowhere else in the O.T.: רָבִע, "lie down to" and "gender," Le 18:23; Le 19:19; Le 20:16, תֶּבֶל, "confusion," Le 18:23; Le 20:12; לֶקֶט, "gather," Le 19:9; Le 23:22; פֶּרֶט, "grape," Le 19:10; שִׁאֵָרה, "near kinswomen," Le 18:17; בַּקּרֶת "scourged," Le 19:20; חֻפשָׁה, "free," ibid.; כּתֹבֶת קִעֲקִע, "print marks," Le 19:28; הֵקיא, "vomit," in the metaphorical sense, Le 18:25,28; Le 20:22, עָרלָה', "uncircumcised," as applied to fruit-trees, 19:23; and מוֹלֶדֶת, "born," 18:9, 11; as well as the Egyptian word (for such it probably is) שִׁעֵטנֵז, "garment of divers sorts," which, however, does occur once beside in De 22:11.
According to Bunsen, chapter 19 is a genuine part of the Mosaic legislation, given, however, in its original form, not on Sinai, but on the east side of the Jordan; while the general arrangement of the Mosaic laws may perhaps be as late as the time of the judges. He regards it as a very ancient document, based on the Two Tables, of which, and especially of the first, it is, in fact, an extension, consisting of two decalogues and one pentad of laws. Certain expressions in it he considers as implying that the people were already settled in the land (verses 9, 10,13, 15), while, on the other hand, verse 23 supposes a future occupation of the land. Hence he concludes that the revision of this document by the transcribers was incomplete, whereas all the passages may fairly be interpreted as looking forward to a future settlement in Canaan. The great simplicity and lofty moral character of this section compel us, says Bunsen, to refer it at least to the earlier time of the judges, if not to that of Joshua himself.
III. Authenticity, etc. — Some critics, however, such as De Wette, Gramberg, Vatke, and others, have strenuously endeavored to prove that the laws contained in Leviticus originated in a period much later than is usually supposed; but the following observations sufficiently support their Mosaical origin. and show that the whole of Leviticus is historically genuine. The laws in chapters 1-7 contain manifest vestiges of the Mosaical period. Here, as well as in Exodus, when the priests are mentioned, Aaron and his sons are named; as, for instance, in Le 1:4,7-8,11, etc. The tabernacle is the sanctuary, and no other place of worship is mentioned anywhere (Le 1:3; Le 3:8,13, etc.). The Israelites are always described as a congregation (Le 4:13 sq.), under the command of the elders of the congregation (Le 4:16), or of a ruler (Le 4:22). Everything has reference to life in a camp, and that camp commanded by Moses (Le 4:12,21; Le 6:11; Le 14:8; Le 16:26,28). A later writer could scarcely have placed himself so entirely in the times, and so completely adopted the modes of thinking of the age of Moses; especially if, as has been asserted, these laws gradually sprung from the usages of the people, and were written down at a later period with the object of sanctioning them by the authority of Moses. They so entirely befit the Mosaical age that, in order to adapt them to the requirements of any later period, they must have undergone some modification, accommodation, and a peculiar mode of interpretation. This inconvenience would have been avoided by a person who intended to forge laws in favor of the later modes of Levitical worship. A forger would have endeavored to identify the past as much as possible with the present.
The section in chapter 8-10 is said to have a mythical coloring. This assertion is grounded on the miracle narrated in Le 9:24. But what could have been the inducement to forge this section? It is said that the priests invented it in order to support the authority of the sacerdotal caste by the solemn ceremony of Aaron's consecration. But to such an intention the narration of the crime committed by Nadab and Abihu is strikingly opposed. Even Aaron himself here appears to be rather remiss in the observance of the law (comp. 10:16 sq., with 4:22 sq.). Hence it would seem that the forgery arose from an opposite or anti-hierarchical tendency. The fiction would thus appear to have been contrived without any motive which could account for its origin.
In chapter 17 occurs the law which forbids the slaughter of any beast except at the sanctuary. This law could not be strictly kept in Palestine, and had therefore to undergo some modification (Deuteronomy 12). Our opponents cannot show any rational inducement for contriving such a fiction. The law (Le 17:6-7) is adapted to the nation only while emigrating from Egypt. It was the object of this law to guard the Israelites from falling into the temptation to imitate the Egyptian rites and sacrifices offered to he-goats (שׂעַירַים, seirim, "devils," Sept. ματαῖα, Vulg. daemones), which word signifies also daemons represented under the form of hegoats, and which were supposed to inhabit the desert (comp. Jablonsky, Pantlheon AEgyptiacum, 1:272 sq.).
The laws concerning food and purifications appear especially important if we remember that the people emigrated from Egypt. The fundamental principle of these laws is undoubtedly Mosaical, but in the individual application of them there is much that strongly reminds us of Egypt. This is also the case in Leviticus 18 sq., where the lawgiver has manifestly in view the two opposites, Canaan and Egypt. That the lawgiver was intimately acquainted with Egypt is proved by such remarks as hint at the Egyptian marriages with sisters (Le 18:3); a custom which stands as an exception among the prevailing habits of antiquity (Diod. Siculus, 1:27; Pausanias, Attica, 1:7).
The book of Leviticus has a prophetical character. This is especially manifest in chapters 25, 26, where the law appears in a truly sublime and divine attitude, and when its predictions refer to the whole futurity of the nation. It is impossible to say that these were vaticinia ex eventu, unless we would assert that this book was written at the close of Israelitish history. We must rather grant that passages like this are the real basis on which the authority of later prophets is chiefly built. Such passages prove also in a striking manner that the lawgiver had not merely an external aim, but that his law had a deeper purpose, which was clearly understood by Moses himself. That purpose was to regulate the national life in all its bearings, and to consecrate the whole nation to God. Seen especially, Le 25:18 sq. Although this section has a general bearing, it is nevertheless manifest that it originated in the times of Moses. At a later period, for instance, it would have been impracticable to promulgate the law concerning the Sabbath and the year of jubilee; for it was soon sufficiently proved how far the nation in reality remained behind the ideal Israel of the law. The sabbatical law bears the impress of a time when the whole legislation, in its fullness and glory, was directly communicated to the people in such a manner as to attract, penetrate, and command.
IV. We must not quit this book without a word on what may be called its spiritual meaning. That so elaborate a ritual looked beyond itself we cannot doubt. It was a prophecy of things to come; a shadow whereof the substance was Christ and his kingdom. We may not always be able to say what the exact relation is between the type and the antitype. Of many things we may be sure that they belonged only to the nation to whom they were given, containing no prophetic significance, but serving as witnesses and signs to them of God's covenant of grace. We may hesitate to pronounce with Jerome that "every sacrifice, nay, almost every syllable — the garments of Aaron and the whole Levitical system — breathe of heavenly mysteries;" but we cannot read the Epistle to the Hebrews and not acknowledge that the Levitical priests "served the pattern and type of heavenly things" — that the sacrifices of the law pointed to and found their interpretation in the Lamb of God — that the ordinances of outward purification signified the truer inward cleansing of the heart and conscience from dead works to serve the living God. One idea, moreover, penetrates the whole of this vast and burdensome ceremonial, and gives it a real glory, even apart from any prophetic significance. Holiness is its end. Holiness is its character. The tabernacle is holy — the vessels are holy — the offerings are most holy unto Jehovah — the garments of the priests are holy. All who approach him whose name is "Holy," whether priests who minister to him or people who worship before him, must themselves be holy. It would seem as if, amid the camp and dwellings of Israel, was ever to be heard an echo of that solemn strain which fills the courts above, where the seraphim cry one to another, Holy, Holy, Holy.
V. Commentaries. — The following are the special exegetical helps on the whole or major part of this book, to the most important of which we prefix an asterisk: Origen, Selecta (in Opp. 2:179); also Homiliae (ibid. 4:184); Ephrem Syrus, Explanatio (in Syriac, in Opp. 2:236); Theodoret, Quaestiones (in Greek, in Opp. 1); Isidorus Hispalensis, Commentaria (in Opp. 1); Bede, Quaestiones (in Opp. 8); also In Levit. (ibid. 4); Hesychius,
In Levit. (in Greek, Paris, 1581, 4to; also in the Biblia Max. Patr. 12); Claudius Taurinensis, Praefatio (in Mabillon, Veter. Analect. page 90); Hugo St.Victor, Annotationes (in Opp. 1); Rupertus Tuitiensis, In Levit. (in Opp. 1:220); Radulphus Flaviacensis, Commentaria (Col. 1536, folio; also in the Biblia Max. Patr. 17:47); Pesiktha-Minus, Commentarius (includ. Numbers and Deut.] (from the Heb. in Ugolino, Thesaur. 15:997; 16 sq.); Phrygio, AExplanatio [together with 1 Timothy] (Basil. 1543, 4to; 1596, 8vo); Brentius, Commentarii (in Opp. 1); Chytraeus, Enarrationes (Vitemb. 1569, 1575, 8vo) Serranus, Commentarius (Antwp. 1572, 1609, fol.); Brocardus, Interpretatio (L.B. 1580, 8vo); Babington, Notes (in Works, page 349); Pelargus, Commentarins (Lips. 1604, 4to); Lorinus, Commentarii (Ludgun. 1619, 1622; Duac. 1620; Antwerp, 1620, fol.); Willet, Sixfold Commentarie (Lond. 1631, fol.); Franzius, Conmmentarius (Lips. 1696, 4to); Spanheim, Observationes (in Opp. 3:617); Cocceius, Observationes (in Opp. 1:158); *Patrick, Commentary (Lond. 1698, 4to; also in Patrick, Lowth, and Whitby's Commentary); Dassovius, Scholia (Kilom. 1707, 4to); Hagemann, Betrachtungen (Brunswick, 1741, 4to); *Rosenmüller, Scholia (Lips. 1824, 8vo); Horsley, Notes (in Bibl. Crit. 1); *Bertheau, Die Sieben Gruppen Mos. Gesetze (Lpz. 1840, 8vo); James, Sermons (Lond. 1847, 8vo); *Bonar, Commentary (Lond. 1851 [3d ed.], 1861; N.Y. 1851, 8vo); *Bush, Notes (N.Y. 1852,12mo); Cumming, Readings (Lond. 1854, 12mo); *Knobel, Erklarung [includ. Exod.] (volume 2 of the Kurtzgef. Exeg. Hdbch. Lpz. 1857, 8vo); Newton, Thoughts (Lond. 1857,12mo); *Kalisch, Commentary (London, 1857 sq., 2 volumes, 8vo); Seiss, Gospel in Levit. (Phila. 1860, 12mo); *Keil, Commentar (in volume 2 of his Pentateuch, Leipsic, 1862, Edinb. 1866, 8vo); Siphra, Commentar (in Heb. Vienna, 1862, folio); Wogue, Levitique (volume 3 of his Pentateuque, Par. 1864, 8vo); *Murphy, Commentary (Lond. and Andover, 1872, 8vo). SEE PENTATEUCH.