Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 5, “Leviticus” pp. 97-114.
Lessing observes that Leviticus has long had a reputation as a book which tends to push the reader away (Lessing 2014, 97). However, the content is overwhelmingly focused on the way the tabernacle and what is done there serves to deliver grace to God’s people. Critics would date Leviticus late, noting the highly developed ceremonial rites in place (Lessing 2014, 98). Lessing takes a more literal approach, seeing that the book appears to be placed at the time of Moses.
The text of Leviticus has a natural division into two parts with chapter 16 as a pivot chapter (Lessing 2014, 98). The rest of the book is dependent on chapter 16 and the work of the Day of Atonement (Lessing 2014, 99). This cleansing work is central to the entire book. Lessing notes the emphasis on sacrifice and offerings throughout the book (Lessing 2014, 100). The goal of all offerings is holiness (Lessing 2014, 103). Lessing observes that the holy integrity of God and His people described in Leviticus stood in contrast to the collapse of distinctions found in Canaanite religions (Lessing 2014, 104). Leviticus also describes Israel as a holy nation, a kind of priesthood. However, within that nation of priests, some are designated as special administrators of forgiveness (Lessing 2014, 105). The priests are specially consecrated for their service. They do not claim power for their own gain (Lessing 2014, 106).
The Day of Atonement is introduced twice, in 16:1 and 16:2. It is the 18th of the 36 speeches in the book. The content, introduction, and placement are very significant (Lessing 2014, 107). The Day of Atonement is seen as the special time for forgiveness.
Lessing discusses Numbers 25 at some length. In this chapter the people are given rest for a day in seven, one year in seven, and every seventh seven - a year of rest and release of debts in the fiftieth year, stemming from God’s forgiveness (Lessing 2014, 108).
The laws of Leviticus may well underline the fact of community. One person’s actions influence the entire nation (Lessing 2014, 109). Lessing considers various views of the dietary and other laws. He concludes that they show a distinction and order to society, setting Israel apart from the surrounding nations (Lessing 2014, 110).
All the sacrifices, laws, and the structure of Israel’s community point to Jesus, the one who is holy and brings forgiveness (Lessing 2014, 110). Jesus fulfills the roles of sacrifice and of priest. The overall picture is that of forgiving grace delivered to sinful people (Lessing 2014, 111).