LEVITICUS.The book of laws and ceremonies regulating the service of the sanctuary by the sacred tribe (Levi), as substitutes for the firstborn male of each family, its natural priest. It is closely connected with Exodus at its beginning, and with Numbers at its close; for, while the order for consecration of priests is given in the former, the ceremony itself is recorded in Leviticus; and the exemption of the Levites from military service, and their special functions, are given in Numbers. But it has a distinctive character in the general exclusion from it of historical narrative (the exceptions being the Consecration of Priests, Death of Nadab and Abihu, Stoning of the Blasphemer). It contains the history of only one month. Its contents are:—1. Laws for the Altar (to the people and the priests). 2 Consecration of Priests, and death of those offering unbidden incense. 3. Laws of clean and unclean food. 4. Purifications. 5. Leprosy. 6. Day of Atonement. 7. Slaughter of animals. 8. Unlawful marriages and lusts. 9. Precepts on duties of the people and holiness of the priests. 10. Victims for the Altar. 11. Convocation days. 12. Weekly offerings of oil and bread. 13. Punishment of blasphemer. 14. Sabbatical year and Jubilee. 15. Promises and warnings. 16. Vows.
Offerings. The general name korbân is equivalent to oblation, including everything given to the service of God, e.g. firstfruits, tithes, contributions to the maintenance of the sanctuary, priests, worship, and all kinds of sacrifices.
Offerings for the Altar were animal (1. Burnt-offerings, 2. Peace-offerings, 3. Sin-offerings) and vegetable (1. Meat and drink-offerings for the great altar in the Court, 2. Incense and meat-offerings for the altar in the Holy Place). Every burnt-offering and peace-offering was accompanied by a meat-offering and drink-offering, in proportion to the victim, thus:—
|With a bullock||3/10 ephah.||1/2 hin.||1/2 hin.|
|With a ram||2/10 “||1/3 “||1/3 “|
|With a sheep or goat||1/10 “||1/4 “||1/4 “|
These offerings were (1) Public sacrifices, at the cost and on behalf of the “whole congregation” (e.g. daily morning and evening sacrifices, and those on festivals); (2) Private sacrifices, enjoined by law on particular occasions, or by voluntary devotion of the worshipper—as thank-offerings. Besides these, there were special sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, Passover, &c. A trespass-offering was a sin-offering, accompanied by a pecuniary fine.
Feasts. The weekly festival was the sabbath (commemorating rest from creation, and deliverance from bondage in Egypt); the monthly festival was the day of the new moon, on which rest was not enjoined, but additional services. The new moon of the seventh month Tisri (October), or Feast of Trumpets, began the civil year, and that of Abib (March) the ecclesiastical year. The great festivals were (1) Passover, on the eve of the 14th of Abib, which lasted to the 21st; (2) Pentecost (the fiftieth day after), or feast of weeks, on completion of the harvest; (3) Tabernacles, from the 15th to 23rd of Tisri, commemorating the ingathering of all fruits. The people lived for a week in booths, to remind them of their desert wanderings. The last day was “the great day” (John vii. 37). This feast was preceded by the Day of Atonement. Every seventh year was sabbatic, when the land had rest. Every fiftieth was a jubilee, when slaves were freed, land sold reverted to its original owner, and mortgages were cancelled.
To these were added Purim, 14th or 15th of Adar (March), in remembrance of the deliverance by Esther; and the Dedication of the Second Temple (December 25).
Fasts were the Day of Atonement (10th of Tisri), the Siege of Jerusalem (Dec. 23), Capture of the city (June 25), Burning of the Temple (about July 15), Complete devastation (September 15).