Chapter By Chapter: Leviticus

This study breaks down the book of Leviticus using my Chapter By Chapter Bible study template. The short version: for each chapter, I write down a summary, the meaning in the larger context of the book, and a representative verse. Get the full rundown, or use it for your own study by filling out the form below.

Regulation for burnt offerings: it must be a male bull, goat, or sheep, or pigeons or turtledoves, without blemish. The offeror puts his hand on the animal and then kills it, after which the priests sprinkle its blood on the altar, wash its entrails, and burn its body.

Burnt sacrifices are atonement sacrifices—replacing the blood guilt caused by sin with an animal’s blood. They were offered morning and evening every day in addition to by individuals.

4: “He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”


Regulation for flour and grain offerings. They must be delivered with oil and frankincense and seasoned with salt. A handful was burned, but the rest was baked and eated by the priests. Honey and yeast are forbidden.

Flour and grain offerings were required alongside other offerings, because God requires blood to atone for sin, and grain offerings have no blood. Honey, like yeast, ferments, making it likewise inappropriate for the altar.

1: “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it and put frankincense on it.”


Regulations for peace offerings. As with the burnt offering, the offeror touched its head and killed it before the priests sprinkled its blood and burned it. Only part of the animal is burnt; the rest is shared as a meal.

The massive dedications for Solomon’s temple were peace offerings; these offerings constituted the bulk of the communal feast on the prescribed feast days and other celebratory occasions.

3: And from the sacrifice of the peace offering, as a food offering to the LORD, he shall offer the fat covering the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails.


Regulations for sin offerings for priests, the “whole congregation,” rulers, and common people. Like burnt offerings, the offeror touches the animal, then kills it, then the priests burn it. Parts are burnt on the altar, but for priests’ sin offerings, the rest is burned outside the camp.

Like the priests’ sin offerings, Jesus was crucified “outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:11–12)—outside Jerusalem where the temple stood—demonstrating that He takes the place of all the Old Testament sin offerings.

12: All the rest of the bull—he shall carry outside the camp to a clean place, to the ash heap, and shall burn it up on a fire of wood. On the ash heap it shall be burned up.


Regulations for sacrifices for unintentional sins, along with four examples. Regulations for trespass offerings; trespasses are sins where restitution is possible, and they require both that restitution and an offering.

Unintentional sins are still sins and still require atonement (see also Psalm 19:12). Trespass sins require restitution to man and offering to God—therefore we must confess both to man and to God (James 5:16).

16: He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.


Continued regulation for trespass offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings, and sin offerings. In particular, which parts may be eaten by the priests or, for peace offerings, the one offering the sacrifice.

The priests and Levites did not receive an inheritance of land in Israel; parts of some offerings formed or supplemented their food supply in exchange for their service to the tabernacle or the temple.

23: Every grain offering of a priest shall be wholly burned. It shall not be eaten.


Continued regulations (from Leviticus 6) for the trespass offering and the peace offering, including which parts may be eaten by the priests or, for peace offerings, the one offering the sacrifice. Eating fat from offerings was forbidden.

Eating blood is forbidden because it is the life of the animal, the part that allowed it to atone for sins. Eating fat is also forbidden, but for a different reason: as the best part, it belonged to God.

37: This is the law of the burnt offering, of the grain offering, of the sin offering, of the guilt offering, of the ordination offering, and of the peace offering,


Moses consecrates the priests: he cleanses, dresses, and anoints Aaron and his sons and offers the prescribed sacrifices. They share a meal and wait the prescribed cleansing period.

The rite of consecration was detailed in Exodus 28–29 and followed here precisely, directly connecting the story of Exodus with the story of Leviticus.

12: And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him.


Aaron offers the first sacrifices for himself and for the people according to the regulations. The glory of God appears to the people as at the completion of the tabernacle, and God’s fire consumes the offering.

When the place of God was finished, God glorified it with His presence; Moses and Aaron have now established the office of the priest according to God’s word, and He likewise blesses it.

23: And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.


Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered incense not in accordance with the regulations, and God destroys them. Moses gets angry at Aaron and his other sons for not completing the regulations, but relents because of their bereavement.

The regulations God lays down are not to be taken lightly; the community and the priests exist to worship and serve God, not the other way around. So we should not treat God like a coin- (or prayer- or incense-)operated genie.

1: Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them.


Distinction between clean and unclean animals. Clean: cloven-footed animals that chew cud; true fish (with fins and scales); and winged insects that fly or hop. Unclean: other quadrupeds; shellfish, squids, marine mammals; ground-bound insects; carrion birds; and all crawling, swarming things.

Uncleanness in many cases is related to death. Just as earlier law pronounced blood unclean and unfit for eating, so death, even of clean animals, renders the carcass and all who touch it unclean.

2: “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth.”


Laws for cleansing after childbirth, which makes a woman unclean because of the loss of blood. The process (uncleanness, a middle stage, and sacrifice) takes twice as long for female children as male children.

The loss of blood implies the loss of life, making people unclean. Critically, while sin causes uncleanness, uncleanness is not evidence of sin. It’s not obvious why the durations should be different for female children; no explanation is given.

2: “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean.”


Laws for skin diseases or infections in people and in houses. Priests are in charge of determining uncleanness based on symptoms and prescribing the remedy, which is also detailed in this chapter. The unclean person or thing is sealed off until healed.

God charged Aaron and the priests to distinguish and separate the clean from the unclean (Leviticus 10); this chapter is a specific implementation of that charge.

9: “When a man is afflicted with a leprous disease, he shall be brought to the priest…”


Laws for cleansing a person who has recovered from a skin disease, as well as similar laws for mold and other issues in houses. The process involves cedar, scarlet yarn, hyssop, and sacrifice for a sin offering, a burnt offering, and a grain offering.

As with other sacrifices, options for sacrifice are given for levels of wealth. All are welcome back into the congregation so long as they are forgiven. In Leviticus, forgiveness comes through ritual sacrifice; today, through Jesus.

31: …one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, along with a grain offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the LORD for him who is being cleansed.


Laws about uncleanness expanded to any bodily discharge, not just blood as in previous laws. Rules deal with diseased discharges, healthy discharges (semen and menstruation), and sexual intercourse.

The loss of life from the body, whether from semen or blood, makes a person unclean; it does not make the person morally corrupt. In any case, the unclean must be kept from the clean until it has been cleansed by time, bathing, and sacrifice.

32: This is the law for him who has a discharge and for him who has an emission of semen, becoming unclean thereby…


Laws about when the high priest may enter the Holy Place, and the institution of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The priest must purify himself, his clan, the people, and the Holy Place itself through blood. Also, he must wear the right clothes.

God killed Nadab and Abihu for coming before the Lord inappropriately; here the right rituals are established. Every element must be purified before the priest enters, and the holy elements must remain inside when he leaves. The holy and unholy must not mix.

30: For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.


Regulations for slaughtering animals. Whenever an animal is slaughtered, it must be brought to the priests and offered (the owner would get most of it back to eat). Strict prohibition against eating blood.

This chapter gives its own meaning: the requirement to bring slaughtered animals to the tabernacle is to prevent pagan sacrifices, specifically to goat demons.

7: So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.


Laws distinguishing Israel from sexual practices of their pagan neighbors.

In every aspect of life, Israel was to be distinct, set apart, holy. This chapter begins the second half of Leviticus about the application of holiness.

30: “So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”


Commandment to be holy, distinctive, set apart from the pagan neighbors. Many examples of such distinction (including the prohibition on mixed fibers).

God expects His people to live their entire lives set apart: righteous, honest, just, generous, and loving of themselves, their neighbors, and foreigners.

2: “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”


Punishments for various offenses, especially those of worshiping other Gods.

This chapter describes punishments for breaking the laws prescribed in chapters 17 (pagan sacrifice), 18 (sexual morality), and 19 (holiness and distinction).

22: “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out.”


Special cleanliness rules for priests. Some things that make others unclean are prohibited for priests. The high priest has even greater prohibitions.

Priests must maintain holiness not only in their lives but in their appearance and their relationships. They must be whole, they must not even appear to follow pagan rites, and their wives must be upright.

8: “You shall sanctify him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I, the LORD, who sanctify you, am holy.”


Laws to guarantee the holiness of offerings. They must be complete and without blemish. Unclean priests and lay people must not touch them once they have been offered.

The offering holiness laws parallel the priestly holiness laws in Leviticus 21. Those dedicated to the Lord must be holy and remain holy.

20: You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.


A concise description of the Israelite feast calendar: sabbath, Passover, Firstfruits, Weeks, Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Booths/Tabernacles.

Holiness applies to days, weeks, months, and years, not just people Leviticus 18, 19, and 20), priests (Leviticus 21), and offerings (Leviticus 22).

37: “These are the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD food offerings, burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day…”


Reminders to keep the lamps in the tabernacle lit daily and the bread of the presence baked weekly. A story of blasphemy leading to the lex talionis (“an eye for an eye”).

Not only the big feasts are important to God, but the daily ritual of lighting the candle and the weekly ritual of setting out the bread of the presence.

20: …fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.


Laws about the sabbath year (every seven years) and the Jubilee (every 50 years). Restrictions on the permanent sale of land. Requirements for kindness to the poor.

The land belongs to God, not man; therefore, it cannot be permanently sold. The people also belong to God, so they must be set free during the Jubilee as well.

23: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.”


Blessings on the people if they follow God’s laws set out in this book; curses on them if they fail to follow. Remedies to restore the covenant when broken.

Ancient covenants always included a section like this: benefits of following the covenant and punishments for breaking it. This book therefore is an agreement between God and Israel.

3: “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them…”


Laws about and (monetary) value of dedicating people, animals, houses, and land to God.

Anything offered to the Lord must be treated carefully, including its valuation and rules regarding its use and redemption, especially in context of the laws of firstborns, tithes, and jubilee.

28: “But no devoted thing that a man devotes to the LORD, of anything that he has, whether man or beast, or of his inherited field, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy to the LORD.”