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The Purpose of Leviticus

The purpose of Leviticus is not to show us the rules to follow, but to show us God's character.

That is the key to the whole book. They are why even the ceremonial law, even the laws regarding the Temple, are still worthy of study. We are not studying how to behave or what to do; we are studying the character of God.

Types of Laws

  • The traditional division is into moral, civil, and ceremonial law. That is useful, but to sort them into those categories, one must use knowledge from outside of the Bible. One must use natural law. Natural law tells us which are the moral laws. They are the ones that any human being could figure out, without the aid of the Bible or tradition. They are the ones somebody in China could figure out. This includes "Do not murder", but excludes "Do not work on the 1st day of the week." One cannot look at Leviticus and see that some laws are labelled "moral law" and know those are the ones to follow.
  • There are certain categories which can be determined from internal evidence:
1. Sacrificial laws.
2. Laws of behavior.
3. Penalties for lawbreaking.
4. Special days to celebrate.
5. Laws to purify.
6. Rules for the Temple.

Apparently Extreme Laws

  • The fact of penalties means that those penalties are not wicked when applied, even though they may not be appropriate for prudential reasons. We do not put people to death for disobeying their parents, but the Bible tells us that it would not be wicked to do so in at least some cases. It might be bad to do so in every single case in America today, but not because it would be wicked, only because it would be inconvenient or provide the wrong incentives.