Themes in Leviticus

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The Holiness Code

The chapters 17 to 26 (and occasionally 27) of Leviticus are referred to as the "Holiness Code" in popular culture. The chapters outline the expectations God has for people and the path toward holy living. God asks his followers to provide an example in a variety of spheres, including social, economic, sexual, and family. You must therefore be holy to Me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have chosen you out of all the peoples to be Mine, according to chapter 26 of the Bible (Le 20:26). Having considered them his own people, God spell out in the chapters His expectations for the people and the priests how to dwell with him and worship him appropriately.

Moral Holiness

In regards to moral holiness, God clearly commands Moses to tell the people of Israel what he expects. In order for one to be holy, God tells him, they must learn to forgive and conduct themselves in a responsible manner. In Chapter 17, for instance, it is stated, “You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself” (Lev 19:17). This is to prohibit the people from holding grudges against each other. To show how important holiness is, God outlines to the people of Israel the penalties to violation of holy living. In Chapter 20, it is stated, “If any turn to mediums and wizards, prostituting themselves to them, I will set my face against them, and will cut them off from the people” (Lev 20:6). These penalties were created by God to direct the people.


In chapters 11 to 15, the book of Leviticus outlines the various purity laws that the Israelites were to follow. God intended to make them aware of the difference between “clean and “unclean.” In Chapter 11, there is a clear outline of the pure, or clean foods that the people would consider. It states, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud” (Lev 11:2-3). God considered creatures that live on meat to be unholy, probably because they are blood-shedders. These also included animals that feed on dead prey, vultures, or depend on one another. Animals listed to be clean included sheep, deer, roebuck, gazelle, ox, antelope, ibex, wild goat and mountain sheep.

In chapter 12, God talks about purity among women after childbirth. This was in connection with the fact that there were discharges from the body at the moment. After giving birth, the mother would be considered unclean for 40 days if it’s a son, and 80 days if the offspring is a daughter. As such, the key aim of “atonement” was to purge impurities whether by sins or by physical uncleanness. The scripture further outlines the existing impurity of diseases on the dwellings, skin, and clothing. In chapter 13, God instructs Moses to tell the people that whoever has leprosy should go to the priest in order to be purified.


In Leviticus, God considers the consumption of blood, from whichever source it may be, a sinful act. He tells Moses to tell the Israelites that anyone who eats blood would be considered sinful. In chapter 17, it is stated, “If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people” (Lev 17:10). It is stated that God would condemn whoever eats blood. He further imposes the law on any alien that would reside with the Israelites. The act of consuming blood had been considered unholy since life of every creature is supported by blood.

In the chapter, blood is also considered a purification element. In chapter 17, God first forbids the people from slaughtering animals and not offering them as sacrifice to the LORD. He tells Aaron to tell the people, “If anyone of the house of Israel slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or slaughters it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering to the Lord,… he shall be held guilty of bloodshed…” (Lev 17:3-4). He then instructs the people that all sacrifices made from the field shall be taken to the house of the LORD where the priest would dash the blood against the altar of the Lord. This would be considered a form of purification, and God’s acceptance of the sacrifice.

Sin Offering

In Leviticus, sin offering is described as the atonement offered for sin committed unintentionally or out of ignorance. The method of the offering as well as the animal offered varied depending on the sin committed. For instance, if a higher priest unintentionally sinned, he would be expected to offer a young bull. A prince, on the other hand, would be made to offer a young male goat. The Scripture reads, “If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering” (Lev 4:3). These conditions were aimed at encouraging the people to always repent when they sinned.

There is also a provision for sin offering by the whole community. God explains to the people that in case the whole Israelite community commits a sin unintentionally, and realize their guilt, then they should sacrifice a young bull which should be done by the elders. Upon conducting the offering, it was expected that the elders lay their hands on the bull’s head before the Lord.

Work Cited

The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford University Press. 2004

April 13, 2023




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Bible God Holy Spirit

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