Why Leviticus is the Most Important Book in the Bible
Why is it customary in the rabbinical tradition for the Jewish children to begin learning the Torah of YHVH with Leviticus rather than Genesis? Because, Leviticus is the most important book in the Bible? Because the Temple sacrifices are very important? Is it just customary, or Leviticus (Vayikra) has something that we do not know?
So, the Bible code “Torah” in the books of Genesis Bereishit “In the summit“, Exodus Shemot “Names”, Numbers Bemidbar “In the wilderness”, and Deuteronomy Devarim “Words”, points to Leviticus Vayikra, which simply means “And He called.” Thus, the Bible code is pointing to Leviticus “And He called” telling us to look for something in this book that occupies the central theme of the entire Torah “Instruction”. And what did we find in Leviticus?
Starting in Lev_1:1 from the first word and counting every eight letter forward we read יְהֹוָה YEHOVAH
And we used the Hebrew titles of the five books of the Torah to read what became the essence of the entire Torah:
In the summit, He called the names and the words in the wilderness.
YHVH called the names and the words!
That is why the Jewish children start learning the Torah and all Temple sacrifices in it with “And He called”. Because they are called in the wilderness by names to study the Words of YHVH.
For more knowledge of how we got to this conclusion, the reader is encouraged to refer to the aforesaid article.
Thus, Leviticus became the most important book of the Bible and the Torah, the Words of YHVH, became the foundation of the faith. Therefore, we may conclude that Leviticus has not become the most important book because YHVH encoded His Name in it, but He inscribed His Name because this is the most important book of the Bible.
From the very beginning of this article and before we go any further, the present author must make this statement very clear: the laws of the Temple sacrifices in Leviticus are meant only to atone unintentional sins: sins made by mistake or lack of knowledge. There is no law in Torah of YHVH that is meant to atone an intentional sin. An intentional sin can be atoned only by a complete and genuine repentance before YHVH made with a broken heart.
The patriarchs and their offerings. How they drew near to YHVH.
The patriarchs, when having sojourned in the land of Canaan, had already worshipped YHVH with their offerings. Even animal sacrifices date from the earliest period of mankind. Not only did Noach offer offerings of all clean animals and birds (Gen_8:20), but Hevel (Abel) and Kayin brought of the first fruits of their offerings to YHVH (Gen_4:3-4).
However, when Israel had gone down to Egypt and the last of the Israelites had died, their descendants went after the idols of the foreign land and did not offer sacrifices to YHVH. So much is certain that they had forgotten to regard the sacrifices as a leading part of the worship of YHVH and were about to be assimilated in the pagan culture of Egypt. This we studied in the article “Israel’s Whoring in Egypt” for more knowledge of the 230 year stay in Egypt.
Therefore, the object of the sacrificial laws in Leviticus was to re-introduce the sacrificial worship to Israel in harmony with the Covenant between YHVH and His people.
To discover the fundamental idea common to all Temple sacrifices, we must bear in mind that the first sacrifices were presented after the fall of mankind. Before the fall, man lived in unity with the Creator. This unity was destroyed by sin and the fellowship between YHVH and Adam was broken, but not abolished.
Despite the broken covenant YHVH had with mankind, He did not withdraw His grace and gave the first people clothes to cover their nakedness.
Those clothes were made from the animals YHVH sacrificed in order to cover the shame of mankind. In this act of sacrifice, there was already an intimation, that in the blood sacrifice the soul of the animals was given up to ransom sin with blood. Therefore, that by virtue of blood, where the soul resided, animal sacrifice was the most fitting means of representing what the Creator had done for mankind.
This intimation of the blood sacrifice the Creator performed for the atonement of the unintentional sin of the first people was a precursor for the future Temple sacrifices.
Since then mankind offered their sacrifices to YHVH from the fruit of their labor in representation of the most fitting means of surrender of the human soul to its Creator. That service of sacrifices as a means of worshiping YHVH continued until the period of the patriarchs. And more particularly when it was clearly revealed to Avraham, when YHVH asked him to bring up to the mountain his only son as a proof of his obedience of faith.
The Instruction of the Priests
In Leviticus, Mosheh received a still further instructions as to the meaning of the sacrifices.
The Book of Exodus concludes with the giving of the instructions regarding the construction of the Tabernacle, which commenced at Exodus 25 and its erection on the first day of the first month of the second year (Exo 40:17) thus making it commissioned into the service of YHVH, as the true manifestation of His own essence.
With the beginning of the Book of Leviticus, Vayikra, or as it is known with its other Hebrew name “Torat Kohanim”, which means “Instruction of the Priests”, we are introduced to the system of sacrifices that were brought into the Tabernacle as part of the service of YHVH.
Vayikra is the book which discusses offerings karbanot, whose purpose is to bring the people closer to YHVH. Vayikra, “And He called”, refers to a call, a summons, or a meeting by request, like in the call to Mosheh (vayikra el Mosheh) with which the book begins. With this call to a meeting, YHVH’s appearance to the prophet comes in a complete form of address, as it is said, “And He called (vayikra) to Mosheh”.
The Book of Leviticus begins as YHVH called to Mosheh from the Tent of Meeting, saying,
When anyone of you brings (karav) an offering (korban) to Yehovah, you bring (karav) your offering (korban) of the livestock, of the herd or of the flock. (Lev 1:2)
Now, this is important to understand. Like many other Hebrew words and concepts i.e., faith, trust, love, grace, and hope, korban has lost its true Hebraic meaning and essence when improperly translated into foreign languages.
While many translations mistakenly translate the Hebrew word korban as “sacrifice” alluding to the Temple sacrifices of animals, the word actually comes from the verb karav which literally means to draw near, to bring near, or present, hence the concept of bringing an offering and is applied not only to the Temple sacrifices, which were burned upon the altar (Lev_7:38; Num_18:9; Num_28:2, etc.), but to the first-fruits of the harvest (Lev_2:12), and dedication offerings (Num_7:3, Num_7:10., Num_31:50).
Therefore, the concept of korban indicates something that brings the offeror closer to YHVH and a more literal translation should be “that which brings near”. And indeed, the korbanot (plural) brought to the Tabernacle (and later to the Temple in Jerusalem) essentially served the purpose of bringing one near to the Presence (panyim) of YHVH, but more literally to His Face. Thus, when a person brings a sacrifice, he or she brings him or herself closer to the Creator, hence the literal meaning of the Temple sacrifices is “that which brings near”. In other words, the Temple sacrifices are the gifts of the offerors to YHVH.
To even better understand to concept of korban or “that which brings near”, we need to look into the concept of the voluntary korban: the korban shlamim. These offerings are voluntarily brought when one feels personally motivated to express a gratitude towards YHVH. The korban shlamim brings the concept of what might be called thanksgiving. This is a korban that is brought on the altar before YHVH from a sense of love, as an expression of thanksgiving to our Sustainer.
The word shlamim in korban shlamim is derived from the word shalom, which means peace in Hebrew, but more properly completeness and perfectness. Thus, korban shlamim has the concept of “that completeness of the soul which brings near” to YHVH.
Today this meaning of korban has been completely lost, especially in the Christian world. Without the Temple and the priests, it is difficult for the world to understand how bringing korbanot could have any meaningful purpose for the offeror. When judged by the wrong theology and misconceptions, the laws of korban can appear insignificant and legalistic in the eyes of the modern-day Christians.
However, while the Christianity views the laws of the Temple sacrifices as legalistic, outdated, and irrelevant to the worship of the Creator, He regards His laws of the korbanot according to His standards. And these standards are high and meaningful that can only be viewed through a pure lens of the Torah when one approaches the Creator with love and humility.
With that being said, we may say that the “Instruction of the Priests” contains more particularly the laws regulating the relation of Israel to YHVH, which is a fundamental principle upon which the Covenant with Him depended.
The Covenant of YHVH established (of which the Instruction of the priests was and is still an essential part) a reciprocal relation between YHVH and His people, so that not only did YHVH enter into it, but Israel as nation was also to be brought into a covenantal relationship with Him.
Upon having erected the Dwelling Place, YHVH filled it with a visible sign of His Presence: His glory (Exo_40:34), a proof that He would be ever near and present to His people. However, it was necessary that the other side of the Covenant, the nation of Israel, should be brought near to Him in a manner suited to His Presence, in order that Israel might become His people.
In order to fulfill this mission to become YHVH’s nation of priests, certain conditions must have been met by Israel. All the laws and instructions of Leviticus have this design for their object, in such a degree that they aim at the establishment of an inward relationship with YHVH. An this is the whole purpose of what the world calls the Temple sacrifices, but more properly the gifts of YHVH: to establish a deep and meaningful relationship with the Creator.
In accordance with this object, YHVH established a system of korbanot which regrettably the Christian theologians have misunderstood, and by reason of ignorance, rejected. Thus, Leviticus being the most important book to YHVH became irrelevant and even contrary to their worship. Which is even more regretable, Leviticus is seen by the Christians as the most boring book of the Bible.
As “that which brings near” had been from the very beginning the principal medium by which men entered into fellowship with YHVH, Israel was called to draw near to Him with gifts that would have an ever-open way of access to the Most Set-apart Place where His Presence was met. And this is the true meaning and purpose of the korbanot: to come close to our loving Father with gifts.
It is true that in the ancient times YHVH had made known His justice in the destruction of the wicked and the deliverance of the righteous, as revealed in the Flood and in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, YHVH had manifested Himself in love and grace, when He allowed mankind to draw near to Him in repentance.
This can be best seen in Exo 3:5 when YHVH manifested Himself in His very first revelation to Mosheh in the words,
Do not come near here. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is set-apart ground. (Exo 3:5)
And when Mosheh did what he was told to do, then YHVH revealed Himself,
I am the Elohim of your father, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitschak, and the Elohim of Ya’akov. (Exo 3:6)
And after YHVH had declared to Israel at Mount Sinai that they were to be a set-apart nation of priests to Him (Exo_19:6), He drew near to the people in the awesome glory, but also allowed the people to draw near to Him to conclude His Covenant of grace with them. The laws of the sacrifices that would regulate how and when to draw near to the Father came later, when Mosheh brought them down to the people.
Therefore, the provision for coming close to YHVH preceded the laws of sacrifice in Leviticus by showing that it was only by sacrifice the sinful soul could enter into fellowship with the Set-apart YHVH.
This is a sufficient explanation of the fact, that the laws of the Temple sacrifices contain no postulations respecting eternal salvation or earned merits that would lead to it. It is wrong and unscriptural to say and much less to teach that the Temple sacrifices in Leviticus are given to earn salvation in doing them; teachings that can be found in the Christian theology.
The common term for sacrifices of every kind is korban. This term is applied to the offerings, as being set-apart gifts with which the people were to appear before the presence of YHVH. Every sacrifice was to be without blemish, i.e., a perfect gift to YHVH and was to be brought before Him, i.e., before the altar in the court of the Tabernacle and later the Temple.
The erroneous teaching in the Christianity, that the sacrifices were the means of forgiving sins in the “Old Testament” dispensation that have been abolished on the cross with the death and resurrection of Jesus in the “New Testament” dispensation, has nothing common with YHVH’s teaching that His Torah (“Law”) is everlasting and perfect, and His Son’s statement in the Sermon on the Mount that He has not come to abolish His Father’s Torah, but to give substance to it.
For more understanding on this controversial for many Christians subject, the reader is encouraged to refer to the article “Has the Messiah Abolished the Law of YHVH?“.
Then, Leviticus continues with the regulations concerning the clean and unclean animals, but more appropriately: what is and what is not food, and various bodily impurities, with directions for the removal of all defilements, as seen in Leviticus 11-15.
While all these laws of setting the people apart before YHVH opened up to Israel the way of access to the throne of grace, the laws of the appointed times of YHVH (Leviticus 23-25), set forth the ordinances that would establish the proper way and time for the people to come near the Creator, that they might remain in fellowship with Him with joy in the blessings of His grace.
This series of laws commences with the establishment, or we should say re-establishment, of the Sabbath as the first and separate appointed time among the others. The elevated status of this holiday is better seen in the signification of this set-apart day as a sign between YHVH and His people.
My Sabbaths you are to guard, by all means, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, to know that I, Yehovah, am setting you apart. (Exo 31:13)
I am Yehovah your Elohim. Walk in My laws, and guard My judgments, and do them. And set apart My Sabbaths, and they shall be a sign between Me and you, to know that I am Yehovah your Elohim. (Eze 20:19-20)
The Book of Leviticus closes with setting apart of the whole land by the appointment of the sabbatical and jubilee years (Lev 25). In these appointed times, the setting of Israel apart as the people of YHVH was meant to be a blessing in the full enjoyment in the grace of her Sustainer, which also foreshadowed prophetically the time when we will have our Sabbatical rest in the millennial kingdom of YHVH.
Therefore, the laws of korbanot, purification, and appointed times of YHVH, in Leviticus are the medium, not the reason, of coming close to the Creator. With this understanding, we read Lev 1:2 anew,
When anyone of you brings an offering to Yehovah, you bring your offering of the livestock, of the herd or of the flock. (Lev 1:2)
And in a more literal order of the words, as the present authors sees it,
When a man brings near from you, that which brings near to YHVH: from the animal, from the cattle or from the flock, you bring near [to] that you brought near.
What this verse says is this, “A man of you who brings near an offering a gift to YHVH is to draw near to YHVH”. This intent of the Temple sacrifices is completely devoid of meaning unless offeror also offers himself.
The fact that the nouns korban and verbs karav commonly translated as “sacrifice”, “offering,” or “to sacrifice,” and “to offer up” are all derived from the same Hebrew root verb which means to draw near. This indicates that the sacrifices are not the ultimate experience of closeness to YHVH that we can achieve, but act of coming close to Him is what is sought in Leviticus.
Failure to understand this fundamental difference between “sacrifice” and “that which brings near” to YHVH is the reason so many people today do not understand the true meaning of the laws of korbanot: namely, the Father calls us to come near to Him.
Thus, we read YHVH’s call to us thus: “When one from you desires to come near Me, then You must bring a gift of thanksgiving”.
This call of YHVH to draw near Him creates the reciprocal inner call within ourselves to come near Him and we read the verse thus: “When we desire to become close to YHVH, we must sacrifice something of our own self, which will bring us close to Him”.
What Leviticus is not for
Although most of the books of the Torah discuss events in the past, the ancient priestly rituals of the temple sacrifices in Leviticus are eternal and remain significant and practical even in our daily lives, if we do not lose sight of the bigger picture of the book. The laws and rituals of the Temple sacrifices, although seen as either irrelevant of abolished, are meant to bring YHVH’s children closer to Him and to serve as a means for leading a moral and ethical life, as YHVH says, “By them you shall live”.
Again, the Temple sacrifices are not meant to atone intentional sins; they are not meant to earn eternal salvation, but to bring us close to YHVH either when we have sinned unintentionally, or when have the desire to bring our gifts of thanksgiving out of love for the blessings bestowed on us. This is the true meaning of korbanot.
Because one day the Messiah will come and restore to the fullest extent the Torah of His Father and the laws of the Temple service in Leviticus. And if YHVH has said so through his prophet Ezekiel (see Eze 40-48), so it will be. He does not change, He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Now, the notion, which is still very widely spread in the Christendom, that the Temple sacrifices and especially the blood offerings were sacrifices for forgiveness of sin whose wage is death, not only cannot be proved from the Torah, but is irreconcilable with the attitude of the first people and the patriarchs had towards YHVH.
There is no scriptural foundation for the arguments that there were sin-offerings which the forefathers offered to YHVH as a means of earning salvation in the world to come. The reason for this striking fact for many Christians today is to be found in the circumstance, that the righteous fathers had offered their gifts to YHVH in order to draw near to Him in revelations of love. Again, there is no scriptural foundation for arguments that the Temple sacrifices had made someone earn eternal salvation. None.
The great importance of the Temple sacrifices prescribed by the laws in Leviticus may be derived to a great extent, apart from the fact that sacrifice was founded upon the dependence of man upon YHVH and his desire for the restoration of the relationship with Him which had been disturbed by sin.
Let us again ascertain that there is no sacrifice, whatsoever in the Torah and in Leviticus in particular, that could have possibly atone intentional sins; all sacrifices, but more properly gifts to YHVH, were to be brought before Him for forgiveness of unintentional sins, as an act of love for Him and regret for committing them.
However, here is the place to say that korban is not just a presentation or gift, nor is it a means for the purpose of expressing reverence and devotion, love and gratitude to YHVH to earn and secure His favor.
Regarded as offerings or gifts, they are only the means by which we are to seek and sustain communion with our Father YHVH.
When we bring korban, we bring it at the door of His set-apart dwelling among us, for our acceptance before YHVH. (Lev 1:3)
And he shall lay his hand on the head of the ascending offering, and it shall be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. (Lev 1:4)
The verb to atone, to cover, does not signify payment or make compensation for sin through the performance of any sacrificial ritual, but to cover it over before YHVH, that is to say, to take away the power of [unintentional] sin of coming in between YHVH and ourselves. Only then can we come near to Him in humility and gratitude.
Therefore, what is to be atone is not the sin itself, but rather the soul of the offeror.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Lev 17:11)
In other words, because the blood contains the soul of the animal, YHVH has set apart the blood, as the medium of atonement for the souls. The power to make atonement is attributed to the blood of the offered animal, since the soul lives in the blood, and the soul of the animal when sacrificed takes the place of the human soul.
Today, we do not have Temple, nor priesthood, and for many other reasons we cannot come near Him as prescribed in Leviticus.
However, this does not mean that laws of offerings have been done away with, just because we cannot perform them today. This is the erroneous teaching prevalent today.
This erroneous teaching is based on the notion that cannot be found anywhere in the Hebrew Scripture. This false doctrine, that the Christ is the true and perfect sacrifice who offered reconciliation of the whole world (Heb_9:14), or, another verse, that allegedly says that the Christ is a sacrifice once and for all:
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; (Heb 10:12 KJV)
Thus read, these verses allude to a conflict between the Torah of YHVH and the words of Shaul (Paul).
However, we read from an old Hebrew text of the Hebrews HaEgeret El HaEv’rit, according to the Munster Hebrew text translated by James Scott Trimm, Institute for Nazarene Jewish Study, 2007, thus,
but this one who was offered once abolished sin forever and sat at the right hand of El. (Heb 10:12)
Note: abolished is omitted in Greek and therefore in KJV.
The difference is like between day and night. According to the Greek text, Yeshua the Messiah has abolished His Father’s laws of how to draw near to Him and abolished His own words in Mat 5:17-20, while the Hebrew text is faithful and in harmony with the Torah and the words of the Messiah: He abolished sin forever on the execution stake.
For more understanding of how the words of the apostle have been twisted, read the article Misunderstanding Paul.
In conclusion, how are we to understand some writings of Shaul (Paul), which are hard for us to understand, regarding Torah? That is a fair question which will need a further discussion, but until then we may want to consider Shimon Kepha’s (Peter) warning,
So then, beloved ones, looking forward to this, do your utmost to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and reckon the patience of our Master as deliverance, as also our beloved brother Shaul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, as also in all his letters, speaking in them concerning these matters, in which some are hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the other Scriptures. 2Pe_3:14-16
In other words, Shimon Kepha warns, “If you teach that our beloved brother Shaul teach contrary to Torah because you do not get some of his hard to understand letters and you have no idea what Torah says; and if you do not turn away from this false teaching, you will be destroyed”.
We do not do sacrifices at the altar not because Torah was done away with, but because we do not have the Temple and the Levitical priesthood. YHVH explicitly forbids sacrifices outside of the Temple, otherwise, that would be an abomination before His face. This is the reason why we do not do sacrifices and offerings at the altar, not because Yeshua has annulled the Torah. Because, moreover He says in Mat 5:17-20 that we are not even to think that He came to abolish it.
What Shaul says that Yeshua is the ultimate sacrifice does not contradict or annul the Torah. The false accusations that Yeshua changed and even annulled Torah are not new. See in Act_6:13-14 how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking blasphemy:
And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. (Act 6:13-14 KJV)
These false accusations did not cease then, nor do they cease today.
One thing is certain, though, if Torah is perfect as Yehovah says, and if Torah is everlasting as Yehovah says, and if Torah is sweeter than honey in my mouth as King David says, it cannot be done away with. Something that is perfect cannot be even improved.
In this study we learned how a mistranslation of the Hebrew word korban has led to shifting the focus from drawing near to our Father, as it was meant to be understood, to an animal sacrifice. As an act of worshiping the sacrifices brought onto the altar in the Presence are as significant as they are, but coming close to YHVH is more significant.
The failure to teach correctly the real meaning of korban the Rabbinical authority has brought so much confusion and misunderstanding among the Christian gentiles that led them to reject the most important book in the Bible and the Torah of YHVH in general.
Yehovah wants us to draw near to Him, but we cannot come on our terms. We must come close to Him on His terms, as He desires because the Father knows best. In order to do this, we first must abolish the teachings of men, not the Word of Yehovah.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.