Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Book of Leviticus

A YEAR has not yet passed since the Israelites were liberated from Egyptian bondage. Now organized into a new nation, they are on their way to the land of Canaan. Jehovah’s purpose is to have a holy nation dwell there. However, the way of life and the religious practices of the Canaanites are very degraded. So the true God gives the congregation of Israel regulations that will set it apart for his service. These are recorded in the Bible book of Leviticus. Written by the prophet Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, apparently in 1512 B.C.E., the book covers no more than one lunar month. (Exodus 40:17; Numbers 1:1-3) Jehovah repeatedly urges his worshipers to be holy.—Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7, 26.

Witnesses of Jehovah today are not under the Law given by God through Moses. The death of Jesus Christ did away with that Law. (Romans 6:14; Ephesians 2:11-16) However, the regulations found in Leviticus can benefit us, teaching us much about the worship of our God, Jehovah.

HOLY OFFERINGS—VOLUNTARY AND COMPULSORY

Some of the offerings and sacrifices of the Law were voluntary, whereas others were compulsory. The burnt offering, for example, was voluntary. It was presented to God in its entirety, even as Jesus Christ willingly and wholly gave his life as a ransom sacrifice. The voluntary communion sacrifice was shared. One part of it was presented to God on the altar, another portion was eaten by the priest, and still another by the offerer. Comparably, for anointed Christians, the Memorial of Christ’s death is a communion meal.—1 Corinthians 10:16-22.

Sin offerings and guilt offerings were compulsory. The first atoned for sins committed by mistake, or unintentionally. The second satisfied God when a right was violated, or it restored certain rights for the repentant wrongdoer—or both. There were also grain offerings made in recognition of Jehovah’s bounty. All these matters are of interest to us because the sacrifices commanded under the Law covenant pointed to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice or to benefits flowing therefrom.—Hebrews 8:3-6; 9:9-14; 10:5-10.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

2:11, 12—Why was honey “as an offering made by fire” unacceptable to Jehovah? The honey meant here could not refer to that of bees. Though not allowed “as an offering made by fire,” it was included among “the firstfruits of . . . the produce of the field.” (2 Chronicles 31:5) This honey was evidently the juice, or syrup, of fruits. Since it could ferment, it was unacceptable as an offering upon the altar.

2:13—Why did salt have to be presented “with every offering”? This was not done to enhance the flavor of the sacrifices. Around the world, salt is used as a preservative. It was likely presented with offerings because it represents freedom from corruption and decay.

Lessons for Us:

3:17. Since the fat was regarded as the best or the richest part, the prohibition against eating it evidently impressed upon the Israelites that the best part belonged to Jehovah. (Genesis 45:18) This reminds us that we should give our very best to Jehovah.—Proverbs 3:9, 10; Colossians 3:23, 24.

7:26, 27. The Israelites were not to eat blood. In God’s view, blood represents life. “The soul [life] of the flesh is in the blood,” states Leviticus 17:11. Abstinence from blood remains the standard for true worshipers today.—Acts 15:28, 29.

HOLY PRIESTHOOD IS SET FORTH

Who were given the responsibility of caring for duties involving sacrifices and offerings? That was entrusted to the priests. As directed by God, Moses conducted an installation ceremony for Aaron, the high priest, and for his four sons, who were to be underpriests. The ceremony apparently occupied a seven-day period, and the priesthood began functioning on the following day.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

9:9—What is significant about the pouring of blood at the base of the altar and the placing of it on various items? This demonstrated that Jehovah accepted blood for atonement purposes. The whole atonement arrangement was based on blood. “Nearly all things are cleansed with blood according to the Law,” wrote the apostle Paul, “and unless blood is poured out no forgiveness takes place.”—Hebrews 9:22.

10:1, 2—What may have been involved in the sin of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu? Soon after Nadab and Abihu took liberties in performing their priestly duties, Jehovah forbade priests to use wine or intoxicating liquor while serving at the tabernacle. (Leviticus 10:9) This suggests that Aaron’s two sons may have been under the influence of alcohol on the occasion here under consideration. However, the actual reason for their death was their offering “illegitimate fire, which [Jehovah] had not prescribed for them.”

Lessons for Us:

10:1, 2. Responsible servants of Jehovah today must comply with divine requirements. Moreover, they must not be presumptuous as they care for their responsibilities.

10:9. We should not perform God-given duties while under the influence of alcoholic beverages.

HOLY WORSHIP DEMANDS CLEANNESS

Food regulations concerning clean and unclean animals benefited the Israelites in two ways. These regulations protected them from being infected by harmful organisms and strengthened the barrier between them and the people of the surrounding nations. Other regulations dealt with uncleanness from dead bodies, the purification of women upon giving birth, procedures involving leprosy, and uncleanness resulting from male and female sexual discharges. Priests were to take care of matters dealing with uncleanness contracted by individuals.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

12:2, 5—Why did childbirth make a woman “unclean”? The reproductive organs were made to pass on perfect human life. However, because of the inherited effects of sin, imperfect and sinful life was passed on to the offspring. The temporary periods of ‘uncleanness’ associated with childbirth, as well as other matters, such as menstruation and seminal emissions, called this hereditary sinfulness to mind. (Leviticus 15:16-24; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12) The required purification regulations would help the Israelites to appreciate the need for a ransom sacrifice to cover mankind’s sinfulness and restore human perfection. Thus the Law became their “tutor leading to Christ.”—Galatians 3:24.

15:16-18—What is the “emission of semen” mentioned in these verses? This apparently refers to a nocturnal emission as well as to marital sexual relations.

Lessons for Us:

11:45. Jehovah God is holy and demands that those who render him sacred service be holy. They must pursue holiness and remain physically and spiritually clean.—2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:15, 16.

12:8. Jehovah allowed the poor to offer birds instead of a more costly sheep as a sacrificial offering. He is considerate of the poor.

HOLINESS MUST BE MAINTAINED

The most important sacrifices for sins were offered on the annual Day of Atonement. A bull was offered for the priests and the tribe of Levi. A goat was sacrificed for Israel’s nonpriestly tribes. Another goat was sent away alive into the wilderness after the people’s sins had been pronounced over it. The two goats were regarded as one sin offering. All of this pointed to the fact that Jesus Christ would be sacrificed and would also carry away sins.

Regulations about the eating of meat and about other matters impress us with the need for holiness when we worship Jehovah. Appropriately, the priests were to keep themselves holy. The three annual festivals were occasions for great rejoicing and the giving of thanks to the Creator. Jehovah also gave his people regulations involving the abuse of his holy name, the observance of Sabbaths and of the Jubilee, conduct toward the poor, and the treatment of slaves. The blessings that would result from obedience to God are contrasted with the maledictions that would be experienced for disobedience. There are also regulations about offerings in connection with vows and valuations, the firstborn of animals, and the giving of every tenth part as “something holy to Jehovah.”

Scriptural Questions Answered:

16:29—In what way were the Israelites to ‘afflict their souls’? This procedure, followed on Atonement Day, revolved around seeking forgiveness for sins. Fasting at that time was evidently associated with the acknowledgment of sinfulness. Most likely, then, ‘afflicting the soul’ referred to fasting.

19:27—What is meant by the command not to “cut [the] sidelocks short around” or “destroy the extremity” of the beard? This law was evidently given to prevent the Jews from trimming their beards or hair in a way that would imitate certain pagan practices. (Jeremiah 9:25, 26; 25:23; 49:32) However, God’s command did not mean that the Jews could not trim their beards or facial hair at all.—2 Samuel 19:24.

25:35-37—Was it always wrong for the Israelites to charge interest? If the money was lent for business purposes, the lender could charge interest. However, the Law forbade the charging of interest on loans made to relieve poverty. Profiting from a destitute neighbor’s economic reversals was wrong.—Exodus 22:25.

26:19—How can ‘the heavens become like iron and the earth like copper’? Because of a lack of rain, the heavens over the land of Canaan would become in appearance like hard, nonporous iron. Without rain, the earth would have a copper-colored, metallic brightness.

26:26—What is meant by ‘ten women baking bread in one oven’? Normally, each woman would need a separate oven for all the baking she had to do. But these words pointed to such scarcity of food that one oven would be sufficient to handle all the baking done by ten women. This was one of the foretold consequences of failing to maintain holiness.

Lessons for Us:

20:9. A hateful and vicious spirit was as bad as murder in Jehovah’s sight. He therefore prescribed the same penalty for reviling one’s parents as for actually murdering them. Should this not prompt us to show love for fellow believers?—1 John 3:14, 15.

22:32; 24:10-16, 23. Jehovah’s name is not to be reproached. On the contrary, we must praise his name and pray for its sanctification.—Psalm 7:17; Matthew 6:9.

How Leviticus Affects Our Worship

Jehovah’s Witnesses today are not living under the Law. (Galatians 3:23-25) Since what is said in Leviticus gives us insight into Jehovah’s viewpoint on various matters, however, it can affect our worship.

As you do the weekly Bible reading in preparation for the Theocratic Ministry School, no doubt you will be impressed with the fact that our God requires holiness of his servants. This Bible book can also move you to give the Most High your very best, always maintaining holiness to his praise.

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Sacrifices offered under the Law pointed to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice

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The Festival of Unfermented Cakes was an event of great joy

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Annual festivals, such as the Festival of Booths, were occasions for offering thanks to Jehovah