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Online Text for Leviticus

Online Resources for Leviticus

Offline Resources for Leviticus

Information on Leviticus

Samuel Sandmel writes: "The absence of narrative and the monotony of the Priestly style combine with our present attitudes about the contents to make the book heavy and dull for the present-day reader. Ancient rabbis and modern scholars have found a fascination in it—the rabbis because of their devotion to the intricate details of the cult practice, and the scholars because of the light shed on religious developments. Yet the general reader has only an antiquarian interest in animal sacrifice or in rites of purification. Pre-eminently among the five books of the Pentateuch, Leviticus exhibits the character of a manual of instruction in the cult. Its precise instructions make it a guidebook, rather than only a reference book. The Priestly portions of Exodus and Numbers deal with paraphernalia of the cult, but Leviticus deals with the obligations of people to it. The opening words, after the routine formula, are: 'When a man among you offers sacrifice to Yahve. . . .' The accentuation on the man making the offering rather than on the offering itself gives Leviticus a human quality it might otherwise not have." (The Hebrew Scriptures, pp. 388-389)

Hill and Walton write: "Leviticus is basically a manual or handbook on holiness designed to instruct the covenant community in holy worship and holy living so that they might enjoy the presence and blessing of God (cf. Lev. 26:1-13). The laws and instructions were to transform the former Hebrew slaves into 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (cf. Exod. 19:6)." (A Survey of the Old Testament, p. 122)

Roland J. Faley writes: "In its present form, Lv is post-exilic, the work of the Priestly school during the period of cultic reorganization after the Exile's termination (538). The Holiness Code, which had taken on some additions during the Exile, was once more re-edited and became the nucleus of Lv. To it were added the sacrificial code (chs. 1-7), the ordination rite (chs. 8-10), and the legal purity code (chs. 11-16). Chapter 27, dealing with the commutation of vows, comes from a still later edition. The purpose of Lv was to supply directives on all aspects of religious observance for the post-exilic community, especially as they related to the Temple liturgy." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 67)

John H. Hayes writes: "The book of Leviticus itself now contains twelve major sections with each section marked off by a summarizing statement. These major summary statements appear in 7:37-38; 10:20; 11:46-47; 12:7b-8; 14:54-57; 15:32-33; 16:34b; 21:24; 23:44; 24:23b; 26:46; and 27:34. (Some sections also have minor internal summaries; see 13:59; 14:32). This division into twelve sections no doubt reflects the use of twelve as a symbolic number both indicating completeness and pointing to the twelve tribes of Israel. Before this material was edited into its final form, some of the twelve sections may have existed as separate and independent collections. For example, chaps. 1-7 or a shorter version of this material could have constituted a document serving as a small handbook on sacrifice." (Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 157)

Jay G. Williams writes: "Documentary critics, recognizing the preponderant interest in cultic matters in Leviticus, have assigned virtually the whole of the book to the P source and thus have dated it in the exilic or post-exilic period. If one means by this that the book took final shape at this time, such dating can be accepted. Certainly Chapter 26 bears evidence of post-exilic authorship, for it alludes to the captivity of the people and the desolation of the land. (26:27ff) It must also be recognized, however, that like the other books of the Torah which also were put in final form at a fairly late date, Leviticus is based upon much older material which may have been edited during or after the exile but which surely was in use long before the fall of Jerusalem. Leviticus must be seen, not as the creation of a particular age, but as the final form of a tradition which developed over the centuries. Within its pages we can find not only hints of post-exilic times but very ancient descriptions of rites and customs." (Understanding the Old Testament, pp. 116-117)

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