Friday, February 10. Leviticus 1 – 4

The book of Leviticus was the first book taught to Jewish children and it stands at the very heart of Old Testament law.  Repeatedly, more than any other book in the Pentateuch, the words of Leviticus are said to be the word of God.  If for no other reason than that, Leviticus deserves to be read with care.

Leviticus is a continuation of the law given by God at Sinai.  Exodus focused on building a place of worship.  Leviticus describes the worship to be offered, and the requirements made on the lives of the offerers.  It also tells us how a holy God, who has at the end of Exodus moved into the community of Israel, can live among unholy people.  Such is possible because of sacrifice.  The sacrifices contained in Leviticus are descriptions of types of sacrifices.  Though some of these will be offered ritually at set times in Israel’s calendar, Leviticus sets them as intermittent sacrifices, offered when an individual, or the community, needs to make a special approach to God.

Leviticus 1 deals with offerings of animals.  These “burnt offerings” are for sin and are wholly dedicated to God.  Chapter 2 deals with the offering of grain, a gift to honor God and thank Him for His blessings of prosperity.  A grain offering often followed the burnt offering as a thanksgiving for forgiveness.

Two points interest me about these: First, the fact that they were to be offered without yeast or honey and second, that they were to be offered with salt.  The Old Testament does not provide us with the reasons for this, though we might speculate.  Yeast and honey both cause fermentation, thus the grain sacrifice to God was to be free from corruption.  Salt, in and of itself, was totally incorruptible in antiquity and could be destroyed neither by fire nor time.   It was often used to seal covenants, and so the requirement of salt may have been a reminder to the worshiper that he was in a covenant with God.