What is the Book of Leviticus About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read Leviticus!


Historical Context

As with the other books of the Pentateuch, it is best to see Moses as the source and primary author of Leviticus. In Leviticus, Moses continues the story of Exodus.

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Genesis for your good and to lead you into joy.

The Setting of Leviticus

c. 1446 BC

The book of Exodus finished with Moses and Israel having constructed and assembled the tabernacle at the base of Mount Sinai. The book of Leviticus primarily records the instructions the Lord gives to Moses from the tent of meeting, but also includes narratives of a few events related to the tabernacle.

The book of Leviticus goes into deeper detail about the divine-human relationship put in place on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19–40). Leviticus assumes that Israel is sinful and impure, and it describes how to deal with sin and impurity so that the holy Lord can dwell among his people.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

You Shall be Holy by Erik Raymond

Check out this phenomenal 15-part message series by Erik Raymond. In short 45-minute messages, Erik Raymond shows us how Leviticus is relevant to our Christian lives today. Every message helps you understand Leviticus, provides practical application, and celebrates Jesus’ love for us.

Leviticus Dictionary

As you read through Leviticus, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

A place where sacrifices were made to worship God. An altar could be a pile of dirt or stones, or a raised platform of wood, marble, metal or other materials. The bronze or brazen altar was used for burnt offerings in the Tabernacle’s courtyard. It was a large box, eight feet square and four-and-a-half feet high, made of wood covered with bronze. A much larger altar replaced it when Solomon built the Temple. The altar of incense (also called the golden altar) was smaller, covered with gold, and placed just in front of the veil to the holy of holies. Every day, both morning and evening, incense was burned here, symbolizing the prayers of the people.

To pour oil on a person or thing. A person was anointed to show that God had chosen him or her to do a special job. Samuel anointed David to show that God had chosen him to be king.

A sacrifice, or gift, to God that was burned on an altar. The offering was a perfect animal, such as a goat, sheep, lamb or ram. Burnt offerings were always given for cleansing, or atonement, for sins.

Tell or agree about what is true. Confess sometimes means telling God your sins. Confess can also mean to say in front of other people that you believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that He died and rose again to forgive you for your sins.

To set apart something or someone to serve God in a special way.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

An order or law given by a king or ruler. A decree was often read in a public place so that many people would hear the new law.

To set apart for a special purpose. In the Bible, the word usually means that a person or thing is given to God to serve Him in a special way.

A time when friends who are interested in the same things come together. In the Bible, fellowship often means the friendship Christians share because they love God and His Son, Jesus.

An offering to God of the first vegetables, fruits and grains the Israelites picked from their fields. The people offered their firstfruits to God to thank Him for supplying their food.

A person who is from another country.

A decision of the will to stop feeling angry and to stop blaming a person for something wrong he or she has done; to be friends again. God forgives everyone who repents of his or her sins and believes that Jesus died to take the punishment for his or her sins. When God forgives a person, God forgets the person’s sins forever. God instructs Christians to forgive each other in the same way He has forgiven them.

Pure; set apart; belonging to God. God is holy. He is perfect and without sin. Jesus is holy too. He is without sin and dedicated to doing what God wants. Because Jesus died to take the punishment for sin and then rose again, people who believe in him have the power to be holy too. God helps them to become more and more pure and loving, like Jesus.

One of the two main areas in the Tabernacle and the Temple that could only be entered by the priests who were carrying out their sacred duties. The holy place was a larger area than that of the holy of holies.

A mixture of spices held together with thick, sticky juice that comes from trees and plants. Incense is burned to make a sweet smell. In the Tabernacle and Temple, incense was burned on a small golden altar to worship God.

(1) All the rules God gave to help people to know and love Him and to live happily with each other. The Ten Commandments are part of God’s law. (2) The first five books of the Bible. These five books are often called the Law. (3) The entire Old Testament. Sometimes the Old Testament is referred to as the Law. (4) Any rule that must be obeyed, whether it was decided by God or by people. (5) God’s rules in the Old Testament plus other rules added by Jewish religious leaders. (6) The conscience of an unbeliever who knows he or she has not followed his or her own moral code (see Romans 2:14-16).

A gift of money, time or other possessions given to God by a person who loves Him. In Old Testament times, people brought food and animals to the Tabernacle or Temple as offerings to God. The offerings were often burned on the altar. Animal offerings were always killed. Their blood symbolized sins being forgiven by death. Christians believe that offering sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins is no longer necessary because Jesus’ death was the once-for-all sacrifice through which our sins can be forgiven. See also Sacrifice.

A smooth, greasy, thick liquid. In the Bible, oil almost always means olive oil, which was squeezed from olives and used in food, as a fuel for lamps, as a medicine for wounds, and as a hair dressing, and skin softener. Olive oil was used to anoint priests and kings. It was also used in religious ceremonies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Among the Jews, a man who offered prayers and sacrifices to God for the people. Priests led the public worship services at the tabernacle and later at the temple. Often the priests also taught the Law of God to the people. The priests of Israel were all descendants of Aaron’s family. All Christians are also priests (see 1 Peter 2:9). We are to help others learn about and worship God.

To buy back. In Bible times, a person could buy a slave and then set the slave free. The slave had been redeemed by the person who had paid the price and then given the slave freedom. The New Testament tells us that by dying, Jesus paid the price to buy us back and set us free from our slavery to sin. See also ransom.

A gift or offering given to God. A sacrifice usually involved killing an animal to pay for sin. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners, and that no further sacrifices for sin are necessary.

A holy place; a place where God is worshiped. In the Bible, sanctuary usually refers to the Tabernacle or to the Temple.

A bundle or bundles of cut grain stalks.

(1) Dirty. (2) Any action, thought, food, person or place that God has said is displeasing to Him. A Jewish person can become unclean by eating food that God had said not to eat, by touching a dead body or by getting a skin disease called leprosy. A person can become clean again by going through certain ceremonies.

A promise, usually made to God.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.