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Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, [1831], at

Leviticus Introduction


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Preface to the Book of Leviticus

The Greek version of the Septuagint, and the Vulgate Latin, have given the title of Leviticus to the third book of the Pentateuch, and the name has been retained in almost all the modern versions. The book was thus called because it treats principally of the laws and regulations of the Levites and priests in general. In Hebrew it is termed ויקרא Vaiyikra, "And he called," which is the first word in the book, and which, as in preceding cases, became the running title to the whole. It contains an account of the ceremonies to be observed in the offering of burnt-sacrifices; meat, peace, and sin-offerings; the consecration of priests, together with the institution of the three grand national festivals of the Jews, the Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, with a great variety of other ecclesiastical matters. It seems to contain little more than the history of what passed during the eight days of the consecration of Aaron and his sons, though Archbishop Usher supposes that it comprises the history of the transactions of a whole month, viz., from April 21 to May 21, of the year of the world 2514, which answers to the first month of the second year after the departure from Egypt. As there are no data by which any chronological arrangement of the facts mentioned in it can be made, it would be useless to encumber the page with conjectures which, because uncertain, can answer no end to the serious reader for doctrine, reproof, or edification in righteousness. As the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, the whole sacrificial system was intended to point out that Lamb of God, Christ Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world.

In reading over this book, this point should be kept particularly in view, as without this spiritual reference no interest can be excited by a perusal of the work. The principal events recorded in this book may be thus deduced in the order of the chapters: Moses having set up the tabernacle, as has been related in the conclusion of the preceding book; and the cloud of the Divine glory, the symbol of the presence of God, having rested upon it; God called to him out of this tabernacle, and delivered the laws and precepts contained in the first seven chapters.

In Leviticus 1 he prescribes every thing relative to the nature and quality of burnt offerings, and the ceremonies which should be observed, as well by the person who brought the sacrifice as by the priest who offered it.

In Leviticus 2. he treats of meat-offerings of fine flour with oil and frankincense; of cakes, and the oblations of first-fruits.

Leviticus 3. treats of peace-offerings, prescribes the ceremonies to be used in such offerings, and the parts which should be consumed by fire.

Leviticus 4. treats of the offerings made for sins of ignorance; for the sins of the priests, rulers, and of the common people.

Leviticus 5. treats of the sin of him who, being adjured as a witness, conceals his knowledge of a fact; the case of him who touches an unclean thing; of him who binds himself by a vow or an oath; and of trespass-offerings in cases of sacrilege, and in sins of ignorance.

Leviticus 6. treats of the trespass-offerings for sins knowingly committed; and of the offerings for the priests, the parts which should be consumed, and the parts which should be considered as the priests' portion.

And in Leviticus 7. the same subject is continued.

Leviticus 8. treats of the consecration of Aaron and his sons; their sin-offering; burnt-offering; ram of consecration; and the time during which these solemn rites should continue.

Leviticus 9. After Aaron and his sons were consecrated, on the eighth day they were commanded to offer sin-offerings and burnt-offerings for themselves and for the people, which they accordingly did, and Aaron and Moses having blessed the people, a fire came forth from before the Lord, and consumed the offering that was laid upon the altar.

Leviticus 10. Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, having offered strange fire before the Lord, are consumed; and the priests are forbidden the use of wine and all inebriating liquors.

Leviticus 11. treats of clean and unclean beasts, fishes, birds, and reptiles.

Leviticus 12. treats of the purification of women after child-birth, and the offerings they should present before the Lord.

Leviticus 13. prescribes the manner of discerning the infection of the leprosy in persons, garments, and houses.

Leviticus 14. prescribes the sacrifices and ceremonies which should be offered by those who were cleansed from the leprosy.

Leviticus 15. treats of certain uncleannesses in man and woman; and of their purifications.

Leviticus 16. treats of the solemn yearly expiation to be made for the sins of the priest and of the people, of the goat and bullock for a sacrifice, and of the scapegoat; all which should be offered annually on the tenth day of the seventh month.

Leviticus 17. The Israelites are commanded to offer all their sacrifices at the tabernacle; the eating of blood is prohibited, as also the flesh of those animals which die of themselves, and of those that are torn by dogs.

Leviticus 18. shows the different degrees within which marriages were not to be contracted, and prohibits various acts of impurity.

Leviticus 19. recapitulates a variety of laws which had been mentioned in the preceding book, (Exodus), and adds several new ones.

Leviticus 20. prohibits the consecration of their children to Molech, forbids their consulting wizards and those which had familiar spirits, and also a variety of incestuous and unnatural mixtures.

Leviticus 21. gives different ordinances concerning the mourning and marriages of priests, and prohibits those from the sacerdotal office who have certain personal defects.

Leviticus 22. treats of those infirmities and uncleannesses which rendered the priests unfit to officiate in sacred things, and lays down directions for the perfection of the sacrifices which should be offered to the Lord.

Leviticus 23. treats of the Sabbath and the great annual festivals - the passover, pentecost, feast of trumpets, day of atonement, and feast of tabernacles.

Leviticus 24. treats of the oil for the lamps, and the shew-bread; the law concerning which had already been given, see Exodus 25, etc.; mentions the case of the person who blasphemed God, and his punishment; lays down the law in cases of blasphemy and murder; and recapitulates the lex talionis, or law of like for like, prescribed Exodus 21.

Leviticus 25. recapitulates the law, given Exodus 23, relative to the Sabbatical year; prescribes the year of jubilee; and lays down a variety of statutes relative to mercy, kindness, benevolence, charity, etc.

Leviticus 26. prohibits idolatry, promises a great variety of blessings to the obedient, and threatens the disobedient with many and grievous curses.

Leviticus 27. treats of vows, of things devoted, and of the tithes which should be given for the service of the tabernacle.

No Chronological Table can be affixed to this book, as the transactions of it seem to have been included within the space of eight days, or of a month at the utmost, as we have already seen. And even some of the facts related here seem to have taken place previously to the erection of the tabernacle; nor is the order in which the others occurred so distinguished as to enable us to lay down the precise days in which they took place.

Next: Leviticus Chapter 1