This chapter starts the book of Leviticus, a book that expands
upon the laws as given in Exodus.
We must not fail to note that these several things in opening this book:
First, Moses had just completed the tabernacle, Ex 40:33, So Moses finished the work.
Second, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, 40:34. From this point, the Lord's presence was seen upon the tabernacle in the sight of all Israel, v. 38.
Third, after the tabernacle is finished, the Lord speaks from that time on to Israel through Moses from out of the tabernacle, Lev 40:1.
Fourth, not only does the Lord speak from out of the tabernacle, but the Lord leads His people from out of the tabernacle, vv. 36, 37.
Fifth, Leviticus opens with the first words the Lord spoke from the tabernacle, and notice what they are: instructions concerning the offerings, v. 2.
A) the tabernacle erected by Moses according to the explicit instructions of the Lord, from which Moses was strictly charged not to depart, clearly and specifically pictured the Lord Jesus Christ Who would come dwell among His people, Hebrews chapters 8
He is the new tabernacle as well as the new covenant, Heb 8:9, 10. The old covenant waxed old and vanished away, v. 13. Hebrews was written before Jer was destroyed. The old covenant was exemplified in Judaism practiced in Jerusalem. It vanished away with the help of Titus and the Roman army, and was replaced with the new covenant, Christ and Christianity.
The old covenant was exemplified by the works of the law: sacrifices, offerings, feasts days, &c. That was not only done away with, but totally destroyed. The moral law-Ten Commandments-did not wax old and vanish, for it is still refereed to as binding upon the Church, Rom 13:8ff.
Gill points out, Heb 8:13, that the old covenant began to vanish away when the Chaldeans seized the land of Canaan and the ark, for though Israel sought to worship the Lord in Christ's day, it was a very hollow shell of the worship in the tabernacle and Solomon's temple. The old covenant was all "down hill" from the Chaldeans on. Christ's appearance, sacrifice and command to spread the gospel world-wide further destroyed the old covenant, and it was finally done away with by Rome. Heb 8:13, is ready to vanish away. The Apostle, speaking here shortly before Jerusalem and the temple fell, told the Hebrews scattered world-wide, that the end of the old covenant is close at hand.
Hebrews chapter 9 frankly states that the tabernacle erected in Exodus 40 prefigured Christ at every point, vv. 1-7. Moreover, the offerings and sacrifices specifically spoke of Christ, the Great High Priest. Furthermore, the Spirit continues in Hebrews 9 to tell us that EVERYTHING Moses was instructed by the Lord God to do with and in the tabernacle spoke of Christ. The sprinkling of blood in the tabernacle clearly said there was no approach to God without the shedding of blood.
Christ is the tabernacle of God among His people, e.g. Rev 21:3-Lev 26:11, 12; John 1:14, 14:23-Isa 12:6, Ez 37:27, &c.
B) the Lord God spoke from the tabernacle of Ex 40 to give His law-word; from there, He told His people how to please Himself. The tabernacle prefigured Christ, and from that human tabernacle which Christ took upon Himself, Php 2:6-8, He spoke His law from His earthly tabernacle, His body, just as He spoke His law from His earthly tabernacle, the tent, Gal 6:2. [Joh 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.]
C) this book will give detailed instruction on applying the Ten Commandments, but by opening it with clear instructions concerning the offerings, we are shown that no man will approach God through keeping the Ten Commandments. We are told "up front" that the only approach to God is through the blood sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ.
Though the Ten Commandments are explained and applied in this chapter, there can be no mistaken that the only approach to God is through the blood: THE VERY FIRST WORDS SPOKEN BY THE LORD GOD FROM THE TABERNACLE CONCERNED MAN'S APPROACH TO HIM THROUGH THE SHED BLOOD, Gal 2:16. [Gal 5:4-Lev 1:1, 2, no man was ever justified by the law, but by the shed blood of the sacrifice, slain from before the foundations of the world, 1 Pet 1:19, 20.]
D) clearly, the OT law said that man can only approach the Lord God through the blood sacrifice, but that sacrifice could only be done in the way God ordained. He gave extremely detailed instructions concerning the sacrifices and offerings, and all of man's sacrifices and offerings were counted as noting if he ignored God's instructions.
Man had to approach God God's way as outlined in His word as given from the tabernacle. Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. One can only approach the Heavenly Father under the new covenant in one way, and that way was clearly explained from the earthly tabernacle, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sixth, in addition we should mention that this book opens with a clear statement that it contains the Word of God spoken to Moses from out of the tabernacle of the congregation. Though the tabernacle spoke clearly of Christ, we should not overlook the fact that the Lord spoke from this physical location-thorough Moses-to His people. The similarities would, therefore, be great with the New Testament physical location where the Lord should be speaking to His people, the public assembly, more commonly known as the Church.
Geneva introduces this book thusly:
The Argument - As God daily by most singular benefits declared himself mindful of his Church: he did not want them to have opportunity to trust either in themselves, or to depend on others, either for lack of physical things, or anything that belonged to his divine service and religion. Therefore he ordained various kinds of duties and sacrifices, to assure them of forgiveness for their offences (if they offered them in true faith and obedience.) Also he appointed the priests and levites, their apparel, offices, conversation and portion; he showed what feasts they should observe, and when. Moreover, he declares by these sacrifices and ceremonies that the reward of sin is death, and that without the blood of Christ the innocent Lamb, there can be no forgiveness of sins. Because they should not give priority to their own inventions (which God detested, as appears by the terrible example of Nadab and Abihu) he prescribed even to the least things, what they should do, what beasts they should offer and eat, what diseases were contagious and to be avoided, how they should purge all types of filthiness and pollution, whose company they should flee, what marriages were lawful, and what customs were profitable. After declaring these things, he promised favour and blessing to those who keep his laws, and threatened his curse to those who transgressed them.
We will see in chapter 26 that though the offerings and forgiveness found in this book were only for God's people, the invitation was open for anyone to convert from paganism to Israel's God.
The offerings, vv. 1-9.
This first section deals with cattle; the next section deals with sheep.
V. 2, the people could offer no other offering but those things commanded by God. These things were not suggestions, but commands.
V. 3, the offerings open with a free-will offering, but it had to be a perfect male because it prefigured Christ Who freely and willingly gave His life for the sins of His people. Additionally, this offering was done publicly, in the presence of the Lord and all the people.
V. 4, obviously speaks of the transfer of sin from the sinner to the sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the sacrifice became an atonement for the sinner. [It was free-will; the sinner could remain in his sins with no atonement.]
V. 5, the sinner must kill the sacrificial animal, again obviously picturing the sinner killed the Lord with his sin. After the atoning sacrifice was killed, then the priests took the blood, and sprinkled it around the altar of burn offering.
All this sprinkling of blood spoke of Christ,
1 Pe 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father,
through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling
of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
Heb 12:24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel.
We could say that this sprinkled blood in the Old Testament offering only covered the sins until the Lord Jesus shed His blood and sprinkled it upon the heavenly altar before the Father:
Heb 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance
of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience,
and our bodies washed with pure water.
Heb 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
V. 6, flay or remove its skin. All of this atonement offering was burnt except the skin, which belonged to the priests. It was their pay for doing the service of the Lord for the sinner. Remember, clothing at this time was made of skin or linin.
Flay spoke of the great sufferings of Christ, striped of his cloths, His back given to the smiters and His beard given to the wicked. It also spoke of the righteousness of Christ which clothes the sinner as signified by the coat of skins provided by the Lord God for Adam and Eve.
Cut into pieces, again speaks of the sufferings of Christ. Some would see this as rightly dividing the word of truth.
V. 7, the fire upon the altar was probably the fire that came down from heaven when the Lord accepted the first offering. Lev 6, 12, 13, tells us the fire burned continually. The fire denotes God's wrath: revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men; against the devil and his angels; against all workers of iniquity; against the sins of His people, Heb 12:29, and the wrath born by the Sinless Substitute, the Lord Jesus, for His people.
The wood was provided through the wood offering for which lots were cast to see who would provide the wood for the year. Everyone was included in the cast, the priests, levites and the people, Neh 10:34, 13:31. In other words, at this time when provisions were made for the menial service of the Lord's house, everyone was included. Before the return, the Gibeonites were assigned the task of bringing wood and water for the house of the Lord, Joshua 9:17ff.
V. 8, the parts of the atonement sacrifice were laid on the wood of the altar, but the skin belonged to the priests.
Again, the obvious picture is the laying of Christ upon the wooden cross.
V. 9, the inward parts of the sacrifice were washed, denoting the inward purity of Christ, as well as the purification of the inward parts of the Saints by the washing of the water of the Word of God that cleans away the inward lusts of the flesh, Eph 5:26. The special mention of the legs speaks of walking in holiness before God and man.
an offering..., sweet savour unto the Lord..., spoke of Christ's atonement for sin, which was a sweetsmelling savour to the Father, Eph 5:2. Christ's suffering and sacrifice pleased the Father, and pacified His anger against the sins of those who have trusted in that sacrifice.
Vv. 10-17 deals with sheep, goats and/or fowls, v. 14.
Vv. 10-13, are explained above, with a slight addition: v. 11, adds to the commands just given, northward before the Lord. Throughout Scripture, north is implied as the dwelling place of the Lord. Christ was crucified on the northwest side of Jerusalem, Ps 48:2.
Vv. 14-17, fowls can be offered.
To me, the most striking point about this first chapter is the use of fowls for offerings. There is no mention of their being male or female, nor is there mention of their being perfect, without blemish. The fowls were poor representations of Christ, but they did, Song 2:12, 5:12.
The bird had to represent the violence and shed blood of Christ's death, v.15, which they did.
V. 16, the plucking answered to the washing of the offerings mentioned above, and signified the same thing, viz. the cleanness and purity of Christ,and of His people by His sacrifice.
V. 17, the wings were removed, but the body not divided as took place with the animals listed above. Christ was put to death, but his human nature was not separated from His Divine nature. He was forsaken for a season by the Father, but He was never divided from the Father. His people may also be forsaken for a season from the Father, but they will never be separated from the Father. Moreover, we are forever united with Him in the heavenlies, and nothing can hinder that union.
A sweet savour..., the result was the same as the animal sacrifice: It satisfied the wrath of God against sin.
Note this interesting point:
Of the fowls... The forgiveness of sin is freely available
to all, rich and poor alike: turtledoves or young pigeons could
be easily and inexpensively raised, or they could be captured
if not raised for this offering. This inexpensive offering had
the same results as would an offering of the cattle. However,
other clean wild animals-deer, &c.-could not be used as an
I believe it is significant that the Leviticus opens with this chapter, for it shows that the law is placed within easy reach of all who have any desire to do it to be pleasing to their God. The law as presented in Lev might appear overwhelming at times, but one should remember how this book of the law was introduced: v. 14, of fowls... The Lord thus makes Himself readily available to any and all who have any desire to please Him.