We are going to look at the Book of Leviticus and we are going to break down the study into the various Torah readings. We are going to go over many of the concepts in this book and we are going to bring out the ones that will help us understand this book. They will also give us a good Tanak foundation. We will not be going over this book verse by verse, but we will go over it trying to bring out some of the concepts, idioms and phrases that will give further understanding of the Tanak as a whole. In a chiastic structure of the first five books of the Tanak, called the Torah, Leviticus is the central theme.
The Book of Leviticus is called “Vayikra” in Hebrew meaning “Called.” This is a book of kedusha, which is the Hebrew word for “holiness.” It is defined as the “the designation and the setting apart of something or someone for the service of God by formal and legal restrictions and limitations. The kedusha of time is marked by formal and legal limits on man’s activities of work and construction.”
Another definition we will need to know if the definition of “keep and observe.” These terms play a pivotal role in Leviticus. This is defined as the “incorporation of the things of God into our lives. It is staying true to the tavnit (pattern) God has given for a specific thing to be done, at a specific time, at a specific place, by specific people.” To understand Leviticus and to have a proper Tanak foundation, these two definitions must be understood and utilized.
Leviticus describes a living, working system in which the ritual purity of the central sanctuary is maintained, whether it was the Mishkan or the Temple. One of the things we need to remember when we talk about the korbanot (offerings), the altar, the priesthood and the functions of the Temple is that all of it came from God. It is where God does business with man. This system is separate and apart from the work of Yeshua. In fact, they compliment each other (John 1.17). The Temple system and the korbanot only dealt with the flesh (Heb 9.13) and Yeshua’s work dealt with the heart.
The word korban does not mean “sacrifice” as so many use the term. It means “to draw near” to God. The korbanot were seen as a restoration of the covenant relationship and a continuation of the covenant meal shared when the Torah was given. The korbanot were like “near death experiences” and they speak of mortality.
There were three elements to a korban. We have the person, the korban itself and the priest. All three allude to Yeshua. The korbanot revealed God’s love for his children. Only the name of God (Yehovah) is used in relation and connection with the korbanot, never “Elohim.” Yehovah is associated with the mercy of God and Elohim (a title) is associated with judgment. So, let’s begin our look into this book and the concepts found there.
In Lev 1.1, we start off with several things. The five books of Moses are chiastic in structure. That means that Leviticus is the focal point of this structure. In the word “Vayikra” there is a small Hebrew letter “aleph” at the end of the word. The next word in Hebrew is “el” (to) and it is written with an enlarged aleph. The small aleph alludes to Moses, and the enlarged aleph alludes to Messiah Yeshua, based on Deut 18.18.
We see right away that this book is about kedusha (holiness). It is a book about priests, and people will ask, “Why learn about that? All that has been done away with anyway.” It is a book about kedusha and they will ask, “Why learn about that? God gives me that.” However, they do not understand what kedusha means.
This book has two strikes against it with most Christians, and most people, for that matter. It deals with the central sanctuary (Mishkan, Temple) and it deals with korbanot (offerings). Lev 1.2 says, “When any man (adam) of you brings an offering (korban) to the Lord.” It then goes on to describe the “who, what, where, when and why” of the korbanot. The word “adam” means “anyone”, even a heathen could send a korban to the central sanctuary. Yet, despite our inability to fully comprehend, the message is clear. The absolution of sin was not complete without the korbanot, from the “adam” to the priest.
We need to get rid of the misconception that the korbanot was a barbaric practice where someone slaughtered an animal. The Hebrew word used is not “sacrifice” as in “giving something up.” It is not an offering, as in bringing a gift or a bribe to appease a god, like we have discussed in Exodus with our comparison of monotheism and polytheism. The word the Lord used is “korban” in Hebrew and it means to “draw near.” The root for this word is “karav” and it means to have intimate contact (Isa 8.3). The korbanot is a means to come closer to God. It is for the spiritual benefit of the person doing the korban that they do this. If we eat hamburger, chicken and use leather for shoes for our physical benefit, how much more for the spiritual?
God doesn’t “need” the korbanot, they aren’t for him, they were for us. The korbanot will allude to several things. The korbanot alludes to the fact that our “animal” or base instincts took over and we sinned. That animal should be us. The blood is real and seeing it shed because of something we did should upset us. We should offer ourselves to God and it expresses gratitude and thanks. Our service to the Lord is to do his will (Torah). They also show us that we can “walk away from death” and this should touch our attitude overall.
Now, when we say “closeness” or “nearness” we are not necessarily talking about something that can be measured in feet and inches physically. A person can be “close” to someone but are many miles apart. There is a concept of space, light, mass, time and energy in the physical world, and these concepts can also be applied spiritually. Spiritual space is like the Temple, spiritual time are the festivals, the sabbath, the Yovel (fiftieth year) and the Shemittah (seventh year). Spiritual light is God’s word, spiritual mass is any entity whose function is to carry out God’s will, like the angels, good or bad. Spiritual energy is the result of that work. Spiritual movement is moving towards God or away from him (Jer 7.24). The Torah wants us to internalize its values and to make it a part of our lives. The korbanot will help us “remember” what we did.
Why does the Torah use “adam” and not “ish” when talking about mankind in Lev 1.2? It alludes to Adam, the father of all of us, and sin. The secret of the korbanot is found in Adam, and we are all related. The name Adam also alludes to the Messiah. It is spelled with an aleph, dalet, vav and mem in Hebrew. The aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and it means, “ox, power, strength, first and beginning.” It is symbolic of God. The word for blood is “dam.” Putting this together, the name “Adam” means “blood of God” or “first blood.”
In Part 2 we will begin with the steps involved when offering a korban in the central sanctuary (Mishkan/Temple).