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Bible Commentaries
Leviticus 1

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Verse 1


The word Leviticus is used in the Septuagint – that is the Greek translation of the Old Testament by the ‘seventy’ – as a summary of the subject of this book. It is meant to express that this book is about the rituals and ceremonies for which the tribe of Levi is set apart. Yet this book is not so much about the service of the Levites as about the service of the priests, although of course they are also of the tribe of Levi.

The book of Leviticus, like the last part of Exodus, brings us into the sanctuary, into the heart of God. In what the sanctuary represents, we see what is in God’s heart. There God wants to have fellowship with us. Leviticus is the book of fellowship. Fellowship is ‘partnership’, having the same part. Our fellowship is with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:3). With the Father we share what we have seen of the Son. With the Son we share what we may know of the Father.

In Exodus God speaks to the people from the Sinai, shrouded in thunder and lightning. In Leviticus God speaks from the tent of meeting. Therein the glory of God has descended at the end of Exodus 40 (Exodus 40:34-Habakkuk :). There He now dwells, among His people, to invite His people to come to Him to have fellowship with Him.

Fellowship is not a matter of obligation. God therefore starts this book with speaking about three voluntary offerings. There are also obligatory offerings, but the starting point is that God seeks desiring hearts that voluntarily want to have fellowship with Him. He does not ask if the people want to come to listen to Moses, however important that may be. The first thing God speaks of immediately after the tabernacle is established in the previous chapter (Exodus 40:17-Zechariah :) is whether His people will come to Him to offer Him an offering. This offering can only relate to the Lord Jesus, for He alone satisfies the heart of God completely.

If there is fellowship with God, there are conditions attached to it. Thus God can only have fellowship with a holy people, a people who have been set apart for Him. Uncleanness, sin, may have no place therein. We do not find a book in the Bible that contains so many words formed with the words ‘holy’ and ‘clean’ (or ‘unclean’): ‘holy’.

The book begins with the five main offerings, in which the sin offering and the guilt offering are so closely connected that we can also speak of four groups of offerings. They all speak of the Lord Jesus. In each of these offerings we see a certain aspect of His Person and His work. His Person is too versatile to be represented by one offering. We see this also in the Gospels, four of which we have for the same reason.

The four major groups of offerings are:
1. the burnt offerings;
2. the grain offerings;
3. the peace offerings;
4. the sin offerings.

We find them in Hebrews 10, where it also becomes clear that these offerings have their true meaning In Christ (Hebrews 10:5-1 Samuel :). There we also see that there are two main types of offerings: on the one hand the sin offerings and on the other hand the other offerings.

Division of the book

As a result of ‘fellowship’ as the main theme of this book, we can make the following division of Leviticus:
1. The content of the fellowship: the Lord Jesus, presented in the offerings (Leviticus 1-7).
2. The mediators of fellowship: the sons of Aaron, the priests (Leviticus 8-9).
3. The condition for fellowship: cleansing (Leviticus 10-15).
4. The foundation of the fellowship: the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
5. Miscellaneous fellowship regulations (Leviticus 17-22).
6. Special days of fellowship (Leviticus 23).
7. Maintain and break the fellowship (Leviticus 24).
8. Region and atmosphere of the fellowship (Leviticus 25-27).


When God begins to speak of the offerings, He begins with the burnt offering. For the sinner, the sin offering comes first, because it speaks of the work of the Lord Jesus that is necessary to deliver him from his sins. The burnt offering represents the Lord Jesus in His work on the cross to glorify God. That is why God begins with that, for that aspect of the work of His Son is most precious to His heart.

Together with the next two offerings – a grain offering and a peace offering – the burnt offering is an offering “to a pleasant fragrance for the LORD”. That is not written about the sin offerings. The burnt offering represents the work of the Lord Jesus in which everything He does is entirely for God. It shows the glorification of God. God is glorified when all His glorious qualities become visible. They are made perfectly visible on the cross by His Son.

In the gospel to John we see the Lord Jesus as the burnt offering. In that gospel there is no talk of being made sin, no talk of three hours of darkness and being abandoned from God, no talk of Gethsémané. Everything there comes from the Lord Jesus: “While He Himself carried His cross, He went out” to Calvary (John 19:17). He also said: “Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life” (John 10:17), which he himself did on the cross: “And he bowed his head and surrendered his spirit” (John 19:30). He can say it to his Father, seeing the work as already done: “I have glorified you on the earth, while I have completed the work that you have given me to do” (John 17:4). Also other texts speak of His perfect devotion to and glorification of God (Psalms 40:8-1 Samuel :; John 10:18; John 14:30-Obadiah :; Hebrews 9:14).

The LORD Begins to Speak

There can and may always be fellowship with God in our personal lives. But here God speaks of this voluntary fellowship from “the tent of meeting”, that is the tabernacle. That is a great difference with God’s speaking from the Sinai. From the Sinai, God gives His demands and conditions. There He speaks “from heaven” (Exodus 20:22).

Now He speaks from his dwelling place among the people (Exodus 25:8), whereon His glory has descended in a cloud (Exodus 40:34). From that cloud the Father later bears witness of His beloved Son (2 Peter 1:17). From the tent of meeting, the place where the LORD will meet with his people, He speaks of offerings. All offerings speak of the Lord Jesus. Here God focuses the hearts of the people on Him.

Tabernacle’ literally means ‘the dwelling place’. God dwells there. If that dwelling place is called “the tent of meeting”, it indicates that God desires that His people come to have fellowship with Him, that is, to speak to Him about the Lord Jesus.

Moses is called here for the third time. The first time the LORD calls him to take him into His service as the deliverer of His people (Exodus 3:4). The second time the LORD calls him to be with him to make him aware of His holiness (Exodus 19:20). The third time, here, the LORD calls him to speak with him about worship and coming near to God.

Verse 2

When Any Man of You …

God does not assume that the wish to have fellowship with Him lives with all people. He speaks of “one of you” (cf. Numbers 6:2). But when someone wants, He indicates the conditions. It also states that the Father seeks true worshippers; but it adds that God is a spirit and that those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23-Jeremiah :).

An “offering” means “gift”, “offer” to God. It is the act of the offeror. The priest is the one who actually offers this gift. The Lord Jesus is both Offeror and Priest. He offered Himself as a gift and offered Himself as an offering. But here God asks His people if any of them would come with an offering. The believer is both the offeror and the priest.

The New Testament teaches that every believer is a priest (1 Peter 2:5). In the Old Testament, we see in the priests a picture of how the New Testament works out the believer’s priesthood in practice. The picture in the Old Testament represents the spiritual experience of the truth of the New Testament. Therefore, in the Old Testament there are distinctions in the priestly family, whereas in the New Testament there are not.

A priest, a son of Aaron, is in the pictures here a believer who has reached spiritual maturity, knows his privileges as a priest and uses them. He also knows his responsibilities. He knows how to behave in God’s presence when dealing with Him. A daughter of the priestly family may not enter the sanctuary. This represents the truth that there are believers who, as daughters, have no spiritual power to enter the sanctuary. They prefer to leave that to other believers.

Verses 3-9

A Burnt Offering From the Herd

The Israelite can choose his burnt offering from three kinds of animals. All three kinds are clean, domestic animals. They also have a certain benefit for mankind. These two characteristics – clean and tame – make them suitable to serve as offering, because they show – in picture – something of the Lord Jesus’ offering. A deer, for example, is a pure animal, and can be eaten from. Yet it is unsuitable as offering, because it is not tame. It must be hunted. The Lord Jesus did not need to be hunted, so to speak. He has voluntarily come to the service of man.

The offerings are decreasing in size. God starts with the biggest animal. If it’s a burnt offering from the herd, it must be a male without defect. The offeror must look for this in his herd. That requires effort. Bringing an offering takes effort, it does not happen by itself (cf. 1 Chronicles 21:23-Jeremiah :). Then he has to bring his offering to the tent of meeting. There he becomes aware of his being a pleasure to God.

Spiritually applied this means that an offering to God – that is, to tell Him something about the Lord Jesus – cannot be made without having been busy with the Lord Jesus and seeing Who He is for God. We see this when we read the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John. There we see how He does everything for God. Everything He does is perfect, unblemished, without any defect; He is “unblemished and spotless” (1 Peter 1:19). He does everything in male power and with perseverance. The bull also suggests persevering service.

When the offeror and his offering animal stand before the tent of meeting, he must put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering. By this he makes himself one with the offering. All the value of the burnt offering is therefore as it were passed on to him, the offeror. God sees him in this offering. This suggests to us that God “has taken us into favor in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6, Darby Translation). He no longer sees our sins, they are reconciled or covered by the work of the Lord Jesus. Our being made one with the Lord Jesus is also beautifully described in Romans 6: “For if we have become united with [Him] in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be [in the likeness] of His resurrection” (Romans 6:5; Ephesians 2:5-Joshua :).

The aspect of reconciliation is also mentioned. Reconciliation means covering. The offeror is covered before God in view of his sins. Although the burnt offering is not made for the sake of sin, the offeror is a sinner by nature. When we come to God in the pleasantness of Christ’s offering, we know that reconciliation for our sins has been made. Therefore, immediately following the fact that we have been taken into favor in the Beloved, it is said: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Ephesians 1:7).

After the offeror has put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, he must slay the animal, literally ‘cut the throat’. This emphasizes that the animal is not only killed, but that blood flows. It means to us that we think about the death of the Lord Jesus. We must realize in our hearts that He died because God asked Him to do so. We offer the Lord Jesus as a burnt offering to God, we bring Him before God, when we tell God how much He must have found a perfect pleasure in the death of the Lord Jesus.

The offeror may also skin the burnt offering and cut the offering into its pieces. We do this when we are busy with the inner life of the Lord Jesus. Especially in the book of Psalms we hear what is going on in Him during performing His work on the cross. Everything is perfectly devoted to God, both externally and internally. Reading about it, thinking about it, and then talking to God about it is laying down the pieces of the offering before Him.

Through their dealings with God, priests know the value of the blood and of the pieces of the offering. They know how to deal with it, how to sacrifice everything in a way that is pleasing to God. The priests make fire. Fire represents God’s examining and testing holiness. The offering comes into the fire. God’s examining and testing holiness finds nothing in Him personally that is not in accordance with God’s holiness.

In the “pieces” we can see the different phases of the Lord Jesus’ life. Each phase shows perfection. As a Child and as a Young man He is perfectly obedient to His parents. When He is an Adult and goes His way through Israel, He is also perfect there. In everything He encounters in this way His perfection becomes visible. He always speaks and acts perfectly.

The “head” represents the thinking of the Lord Jesus. All His thoughts are always focused on God. The “suet” or “fat” represents the energy with which He accomplishes the work. In the peace offering (Leviticus 3:3-Deuteronomy :) the fat is spoken of extensively. The “entrails” represent His inner feelings. We read several times that the Lord Jesus “felt compassion”, that is to say, was moved inwardly (Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14Matthew 15:32; Matthew 18:27Matthew 20:34; Mark 1:41; Mark 6:34Mark 8:2; Luke 7:13; Luke 10:33Luke 15:20). The “legs” speak of His walk.

All pieces must be washed with water. Water is a picture of the Word of God. There is nothing in the Lord Jesus that should be washed away, as is so often the case with us. Everything in and of the Lord Jesus is in perfect accordance with God’s Word. With Him the water is, so to speak, before as pure as after washing, because there is no dirt to remove. Every aspect of His life and death has been tested by the Word of God. Everything turns out to be based on the Word and finds its fulfilment in Him.

Everything is burned on the altar, so that it goes up to God as a soothing aroma for Him. The altar is a picture of the cross of the Lord Jesus where He gave the sacrifice of His life. By burning the offering, it goes up to Him as a soothing aroma for God. God wishes to receive from our hearts what we have considered in it about what His Son did on the cross, especially when we are together as a church.

Verses 10-13

A Burnt Offering From the Flock

The Israelite may also bring a smaller animal than a bull as a burnt offering: a male without defect of the sheep or of the goats. It speaks of the same perfect work of the Lord Jesus and is also “a soothing aroma to the LORD”. What is not perfect, however, is our understanding, our awareness of what the burnt offering is. We see a distinction in this respect.

An older believer who has been busy with the Lord Jesus a lot and therefore has seen much of His glory can tell the Father more about Him – that is, bring a greater burnt offering – than someone who has not been converted for so long. But they both tell the Father about the Lord Jesus what is pleasing to Him.

In the bull, the greatest burnt offering, we see the Lord Jesus Who is perfectly faithful and persevering in His service work to death. In the sheep we see beautiful qualities: gentleness and surrender, tolerant suffering from mishandling. We also see this with the Lord Jesus in the Gospels. It is impressive and the Father would love to hear from us how impressed we are with it. Yet that is more passive, while in the bull we see more the active willpower that is in the Lord Jesus to accomplish the work completely to the glory of God. But both are for God a soothing aroma.

In the goat we see an even weaker picture. A goat is the characteristic animal for the sin offering. Here we do not think so much of a particular characteristic, as in the case of cattle and sheep, but of something negative: the removal of sins. Many believers who worship the Lord Jesus and who would like to bring a burnt offering do not get any further than to thank Him for taking their sins away through His work on the cross.

Verses 14-17

A Burnt Offering of Birds

The various offerings speak of what a believer has understood of the work of the Lord Jesus and of His Person. Believers who are spiritually rich bring a bull in a spiritual sense. Believers who have not yet seen so much of the glory of the Lord Jesus, possibly also because they have not been so busy with it, bring a smaller offering.

A burnt offering of birds is the smallest burnt offering. This represents Him as the Man Who came from heaven. The believer who makes this offering understands the unique origin of the Lord Jesus, but is weak in his awareness that He, as Man on earth, has perfectly glorified God.

There are even elements in this offering that God cannot accept, which must be taken away. Thus we can speak about the Lord Jesus or His work and say things to God that He cannot accept because they are not right. But even though someone is young or weak in his faith and comes with an offering of birds in which something is wrong, if the wrong is taken away, the offering is still “of a soothing aroma to the LORD”.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Leviticus 1". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/leviticus-1.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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