Leviticus 1-11

Today’s reading was perhaps the most challenging so far because the entire book of Leviticus is concerned with ceremonial and ritual matters connected with the tabernacle. These first chapters cover the animal sacrifices required to “atone” for various types of sins, and the necessary protocol for performing those sacrifices. Repeatedly God tells Moses that these sacrifices will provide atonement for the sinners. The word atonement is the translation of the Hebrew word kaphar, which means to cover. This conveys the idea that the blood shed by the sacrificial animal would “cover” the sins of the guilty. As Christian readers of these accounts, we correctly interpret these sacrifices as prefiguring the sacrificial death of Christ which provides the covering of our sins. But by automatically making that interpretation of those ancient rituals, are we missing anything about what those sacrifices originally meant to the Israelites? Looking through these early books of Exodus and Leviticus, I have trouble seeing that the Israelites understood that these rituals were actually pointing forward to the future death of a Messiah. There really isn’t anything I can find at the early stage of biblical history regarding the true basis of our salvation. Perhaps there was information given that is missing in those books of the Bible regarding the meaning of those sacrifices. But if my only source of information was the Pentateuch, I would have a very hard time seeing the purpose of those sacrifices. Any thoughts on this question?

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Responses

  1. I have a question….some Adventists talk about clean vs. unclean meats, and how unclean meats should not ever be eaten. But what is the basis for this? The Mosaic law? But wasn’t that done away with at the cross?

    At this point in time, I believe that, morally, eating chicken vs pork is the same. I do believe, however, that there is a scientific/health basis for some of Moses’ laws, and that it’s best to stay away from scavenger-type meat. I just chose to stay away from meat altogether. But still, I think that speaking about clean vs. unclean is hypocritical.

  2. That’s a good question. I see your point, but I do have trouble seeing why this clean/unclean distinction is hypocritical. Anyways, here is my assessment of the issue. This relates to the whole issue of what was nailed to the cross. Adventists have always taught that the ceremonial laws were the only things nailed to the cross. However, the debate over clean and unclean meat arises over disagreement about whether the dietary laws are part of the ceremonial laws. I would answer yes and no. These dietary laws do relate in certain aspects to the ceremonial system since only clean animals were used as sacrifices. But, I think there is an element that goes beyond the ceremonial laws. These dietary laws relate to the foods people eat, and eating is something we will always need to do, whereas the sacrificial system was to be a temporary system. Therefore, I think God’s principles regarding food are timeless. I can certainly understand the temporal aspect of sacrifices, but I have trouble seeing why God would give instructions on acceptable meats to one group of people for a certain time. In addition, we get support from the flood account which indicates that there was a clean/unclean distinction between animals, and this was long before the Jews existed. Although it doesn’t say that the unclean animals were not to be eaten, I think it is implied, since no other reason is given why Noah took so many clean animals onto the ark. So I personally believe the restriction is still in place. And I think it is important for those who still eat meat. I think the ideal is not to eat any meat, but there are people in different parts of the world where they cannot get adequate nutrition without meat. So for those people, the distinction is very important.

    But I have two other important thoughts on this issue. First, I would say that because of the way most meat is raised today, the clean meats are no longer clean. If you are concerned about diseases in your meat, I’m not sure if chicken or beef is much safer than pork. The only way to be safe is not eat any meat. Second, meat eaters should not forget the prohibition on eating meat with blood in it. This is stated clearly in the instructions given to Noah in Genesis 9:4. So I believe this applies to every person. So the only acceptable meat must be kosher, but I’ve been told that kosher meat doesn’t taste very good. That’s another motivation to not eat any meat.

    And that’s about all I can say for now on this issue. Thanks for asking such a thought-provoking question.


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