For the Christian, the Bible is the most important book; but even for those who aren’t believers, the Bible is a very respected book. Many people are interested in studying the Bible for its historical content. I currently teach this class at FBC Emerson: Introduction to the Bible. I begin in Genesis and go book-by-book through the Bible. For those who are interested, I am placing this class online so that it can be studied at home. Please see the video links below for each teaching session. Outline materials are linked with each video if you would like to follow along.
Class 1: Overview of the Bible
(Introduction To Bible – Lesson 1 outline – click link to download PDF of outline)
Class 2: Overview of Genesis
Class 3: Overview of Exodus
(These notes are copied from “Halley’s Bible Handbook”)
Overview Of Exodus
The title of this book comes from the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. The word means “exit” or “departure.”. Exodus is book two of the Pentateuch (see In the Beginning and The Old Testament Canon . The traditional view held by most Bible scholars is that Moses wrote the bulk of the Pentateuch after Israel’s exodus from Egypt and during their 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Exodus gives us insight into God’s nature, and it also provides a foundational theology as to who God is, how He is to be worshiped, His laws, His covenant with Israel, and His overall plan of redemption. Through the Exodus, His Ten Commandments, and the laws given in the Book of the Covenant, we see God’s loving and just character and we obtain a greater understanding of the depth of His holiness.
Exodus 1. Israel in Egypt
A total of 430 years elapsed between Jacob’s migration to Egypt and the Exodus ( 12:40–41 ). Genesis ended with the death of Joseph, and Exodus begins 300 years later with the birth of Moses. During these centuries the Israelites had become very numerous ( 1:7 ). At the time of the Exodus there were 600,000 men above age 20, besides women and children ( Numbers 1:46 ), which would total about 3 million Israelites. For 70 persons to grow to this number in 430 years, they would have had to double about every 25 years, which is entirely possible. (The growth of the population in the United States in 400 years, from relatively few to more than a quarter billion, makes the statement about the growth of the Israelites credible—even allowing for the fact that the U.S. population grew in part because of immigration.)
After the death of Joseph, a change of dynasty made the Israelites a race of slaves. But the family records of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, no doubt, had been carried to Egypt, and through the long years of slavery the promise that Canaan would one day be their national home, and that they would be free, was steadfastly cherished.
Exodus 2. Moses
Exodus begins the story of Moses. His life and work are the subject matter of not only the book of Exodus, but also of Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Moses stands out as one of the greatest—perhaps the greatest—man of the pre–Christian world. He took a race of slaves and, under inconceivably trying circumstances, molded them into a powerful nation that has altered the whole course of history. was a Levite—he was of the tribe of Levi ( v. 1 ). The sister who engineered his rescue was Miriam ( 15:20 ). His father may have been Amram, his mother Jochebed ( 6:20 ), although they may have been more distant ancestors. And what a mother! She so thoroughly instilled the traditions of his people in him in childhood that all the splendor and temptations of the heathen palace never eradicated those early impressions. He had the finest education Egypt could offer, but it did not turn his head or cause him to lose his childhood faith.
His 40 Years in the Palace
Moses, as he grew to manhood, is thought to have been appointed to high office in the government of Egypt. Josephus says he commanded an army in the south. He must have attained considerable power, reputation, and skill; otherwise it is not likely that he would have undertaken so gigantic a task as the deliverance of Israel, which (according to Acts 7:25 ) he had in mind when he intervened in the Egyptian’s beating of a Hebrew slave ( Exodus 2:11–15 ). But though conscious of his power, he failed, because the people were not ready for his leadership—and neither was Moses himself.
His 40 Years in the Desert
40 years, in God’s providence, were part of Moses’ training. The loneliness and roughness of the wilderness developed sturdy qualities he could hardly have acquired in the softness of the palace. It familiarized him with the region in which he later led Israel for 40 years. center of Midian ( v. 15 ), the country where Moses went, was on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Akaba, although the Midianites controlled the regions west of the gulf and to the north as well. In Moses’ day they controlled the rich pasture lands around Sinai. married a Midianite woman, Zipporah ( v. 21 ), a daughter of Jethro (who is also called Reuel; 2:18 ; 3:1 ). Jethro, as priest of Midian, must have been a ruler. The Midianites were also descendants of Abraham, through Keturah ( Genesis 25:2 ), and must have had traditions of Abraham’s God. Moses had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer ( 18:3–4 ).
Exodus 3—4. The Burning Bush
After a life of brooding over the sufferings of his people and the age-old promises of God, the call to deliver Israel came at last, directly from God, when Moses was 80 years old. But Moses was no longer self-confident, as he had been in his younger years. He was reluctant to go and made all kinds of excuses. But in the end he went, assured of divine help and armed with the power to work miracles.
Exodus 5. Moses’ First Demand
Pharoah was insolent. He ordered the supervisors to lay even heavier burdens on the Israelites; they were to make the same number of bricks as before, but now they also had to find their own straw ( 2:10–19 ). Moses soon lost favor with the Israelites, who were quick to blame him for the increased level of oppression. God continued to press Moses to again approach Pharaoh for their release and to tell the Israelites that He had not forgotten His covenant with them.
Exodus 6. The Genealogy of Moses
This is considered an abbreviated genealogy that mentions only the more prominent ancestors. According to this genealogy, Moses was the grandson of Kohath, yet in his day there were 8,600 Kohathites ( Numbers 3:28) . Thus there is uncertainty as to the exact translation of Exodus 6:20 .
The 10 Plagues and the Gods of Egypt (see chart)
Exodus 7. The First of the 10 Plagues
The waters of the Nile turned to blood. Pharaoh’s magicians (Jannes and Jambres, 2 Timothy 3:8 ) imitated the miracle on a small scale. Whatever the nature of the miracle, the fish died and people could not drink the water. Nile was a god to the Egyptians. Without the Nile, Egypt would be a lifeless desert.
Exodus 8. Plagues of Frogs, Gnats, and Flies
The frog represented Heqt, the Egyptian god of resurrection. At Moses’ command, frogs swarmed out of the Nile and filled houses. The magicians again imitated the miracle, but this time Pharaoh was convinced and promised to let Israel go. But he quickly changed his mind. third plague was gnats. Moses hit the dust, and it became gnats (mosquitoes) on both man and beast. The magicians tried to imitate this miracle, but failed—in fact, they were convinced that it was of God. They ceased their efforts to oppose Moses and advised Pharaoh to give in. fourth plague consisted of swarms of flies that covered the people and filled the houses of the Egyptians. But there were no flies on the Israelites. Pharaoh hardened his heart ( vv. 15 , 32 ). God’s purpose was to make Pharaoh repent. But when a man sets himself against God, even God’s mercies result in further hardening.
Exodus 9. Plague on Livestock; Boils; Hail
The plague on Egypt’s livestock was a terrible blow at Egyptian gods. The bull was a chief god. Again there is a distinction between Egyptians and Israelites: the Egyptians’ livestock died in vast numbers, but not one of those belonging to Israelites. “All” in v. 6 refers to the livestock of the Egyptians that were left in the fields. Moses gave them until the next day ( v. 5 ) so that God-fearing Egyptians had time to move their livestock out of danger. Verses 19–21 refer to livestock that survived. boils, the sixth plague, came on both man and beast, and even on the magicians, from ashes which Moses sprinkled into the air. the seventh plague came and hail fell, a merciful warning was again extended to God-fearing Egyptians to drive their cattle to cover. Again there is a distinction between Egyptians and Israelites: no hail fell in Goshen. this time the people of Egypt had become convinced ( 10:7 ). The sudden appearance and disappearance of the plagues, at the word of Moses, on such a vast scale, were accepted as evident miracles from God. But Pharaoh hesitated because of the immense economic impact the loss of his slave labor would have—Israelite labor had contributed greatly to Egypt’s rise to power. is not known how long a period the 10 plagues covered. Pharaoh, no doubt, would have killed Moses had he dared. But with each new plague, Moses’ prestige went up and up ( 11:3 ).
Exodus 10. Plagues of Locusts, Darkness
Locusts were one of the worst of the plagues. They came in vast clouds and would eat every green thing. At night they would cover the ground in layers to a depth of four or five inches. When mashed, the smell would be unbearable. The mere threat of a locust plague caused Pharaoh’s officials to beg him to yield ( v. 7 ). plague of darkness was a direct blow at Ra, or Re, Egypt’s sun god. There was midnight darkness over Egypt for three days, but light where Israelites dwelt. Pharaoh yielded—but again changed his mind.
“[The locusts] covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.” This description in Exodus 10:5 is not an exaggeration. A swarm of locusts can indeed darken the sun and strip an entire area of anything green in a very short time.
Exodus 11–12. Death of Egypt’s Firstborn
THe last, the final and most devastating blow fell. Pharaoh yielded and Israel departed. Israelites “borrowed” jewelry and clothes from the Egyptians ( 12:35 kjv ). The fact is that they “asked” ( nasb , niv )—these were not loans, but outright gifts in payment of debts for accumulated generations of slave labor. God Himself had commanded the people to ask for these gifts ( 3:21–22 ; 11:2–3 ), and the Egyptians were only too glad to comply, for they feared the God of Moses ( 12:33 ) and what He could do to them. A large part of Egypt’s wealth was thus transferred to Israel. Some of it was used in the construction of the tabernacle.
The Beginning of Passover
The lamb, the blood on the doorposts, the death of the firstborn, deliverance out of a hostile country, and the celebration of the Feast of Passover throughout Israel’s history—all were intended by God to be a grand historical picture of Christ the Passover Lamb and our deliverance, by His blood, from a hostile world and from the slavery of sin. Other Scriptures refer to Jesus as our sacrificial lamb:
• “A lamb without blemish or defect” ( 1 Peter 1:19 )
• “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” ( John 1:29 )
• “When he saw Jesus passing by, he said ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’” ( John 1:36 )
• “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 )
• “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain …” ( Revelation 5:16 )
Unleavened bread was to be eaten during the Passover Feast as a perpetual reminder of the haste with which the people left Egypt ( Exodus 12:34 ).
Exodus 13. The Consecration of the Firstborn
Israelites’ firstborn were to be consecrated to God perpetually, as a reminder of the Israelites’ redemption by the death of Egypt’s firstborn. Jesus was consecrated to God in accordance with this law, since he was Mary’s firstborn son ( Luke 2:7 , 22–30 ).
The route to Canaan which the Israelites followed ( Exodus 13:17 ) was not the direct route along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, since there were garrisons of Egyptian soldiers stationed along this route, which also went through the country of the Philistines. The most feasible route was the longer, but safer, way through the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula (see What Route Did the Israelites Follow After the Exodus? ).
The pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night ( Exodus 21–22 ). As they left Egypt and had to travel through hostile territory, God took them under His own care, with this visible sign of His guidance and protection. It never left them until they reached the Promised Land, 40 years later ( 14:19 , 24 ; 33:9 , 10 ; 40:34–38 ; Numbers 9:15 , 23 ; 10:11 ).
Exodus 14. Crossing the Red Sea
The place where they crossed may have been near the location of the Bitter Lakes, now part of the Suez Canal. God used a “strong east wind” to dry up the sea ( v. 21 ). The waters parted and formed a “wall of water” on either side ( 15:8 ; 14:22 ). This, as well as the timing of the waters’ return so that the Israelites were saved and the Egyptians destroyed, could have been done only by a direct miraculous act of God. It alarmed the neighboring nations ( 15:14–16 ).
Crossing the Sea
The “ tongue ” of the Gulf of Suez may have reached farther north in Moses ’ day than it does today . The sea then would have flowed north into the depressions known today as the Bitter Lakes . If a steady wind ( v . 21 ) pushed the shallow water north into the Bitter Lakes , it would have lowered the level of the water so that a land bridge would appear , which is not an uncommon phenomenon . The waters on the north and the south then were a “ wall ” or “ defense . ” There is no need to assume perpendicular heaps of water defying gravity — although there is no question that God could have done exactly that . The Egyptian pursuit implies that the enemy saw no more than a strange , but not completely unnatural phenomenon . They could not attack from either flank . They followed through the exposed sea mud and were caught and tangled by the returning tide ( v . 25 ) following the relaxed pressure of the wind .
Exodus 15. The Song of Moses
song seems to prefigure the mightier works for which the redeemed will sing praises to God through endless ages of eternity. The deliverance out of Egypt under Moses was so similar to what the deliverance of the church out of the world at the time of the end will be, that one of the triumphant songs of the redeemed in the book of Revelation is called “the Song of Moses and the Lamb” ( Revelation 15:3 ).
Exodus 16. Manna and Quail
one month of traveling, the hardships of desert life began to affect the Israelites’ dispositions. They began to complain, thinking about what they had in Egypt, rather than about what God would give them in the Promised Land ( vv. 2–3 ).
Manna was a small round flake used for making bread. It tasted, it is said, like wafers made with honey ( v. 31 ). It was either a direct creation or a natural product miraculously multiplied. It fell with the dew each night and looked like coriander seed. The manna was ground in mills or beat in mortars, then boiled in pots, and cakes were made of it. Each person was allowed an omer (about two quarts or two liters) daily. On the sixth day there was always enough to last over the Sabbath. The manna began one month after they left Egypt and was given daily throughout the 40 years in the wilderness until they crossed the Jordan. Then it ceased as suddenly as it began ( Numbers 11:6–9 ; Joshua 5:12 ). Jesus regarded manna as a foreshadowing of Himself ( John 6:31–58 ). ( Exodus 16:13 ) are mentioned only twice: here and a year later, after Israel had left Mount Sinai ( Numbers 11:31–34 ). The people had great herds of cattle ( Exodus 12:38 ), which they could use only sparingly as food. In Egypt the Israelites had eaten mostly fish instead of red meat.
Also called Horeb . The Peninsula of Sinai is triangular in shape , situated between two arms of the Red Sea . The west shore is about 180 miles long ; the east shore about 130 ; and the north border line about 150 . The northern part of the peninsula is desert ; the southern part is a “great cluster of rugged chaotic mountains . ”
The region was probably named for Sin , the Babylonian moon god . It was early known for its mines of copper , i ron , ochre , and precious stones . Long before the days of Abraham , the kings of the East had made a road around the north and west fringes of the Arabian Desert to the Sinai region .
There is some debate as to which mountain in the Sinai Peninsula is Mount S inai . The two most likely possibilities are Ras es – Safsafeh and Jebel Musa , both of which are located on a granite ridge of about three miles . Ras es – Safsafeh ( 6 , 643 ft . ) is on the northern edge , Jebel Musa ( 7 , 497 ft . ) on the southern edge . Tradition and m ost modern scholars accept Jebel Musa as Mount Sinai ; others prefer Ras es – Safsafeh because there is a considerable plain at the foot of the mountain where the Israelites could have camped ( see Exodus 20 : 18 ) . Another possible ( though less likely ) candidat e is Jebel Sin Bisher , about 50 miles north – northwest of Jebel Musa ( see p . 134 ) .
At the foot of Jebel Musa is St . Catherine ’ s monastery , where Friedrich Tischendorf discovered the famous 4th – century manuscript of the Greek Bible known as the Codex Sinaiticus .
Exodus 17. Water from the Rock
before this, Moses had made the waters of Marah sweet ( 15:25 ). Here, in Rephidim, he produces water out of a rock. Later he performs a similar miracle at Meribah ( Numbers 20:1–13 ); however, he performs it in a way not pleasing to God. God rebukes Moses and Aaron and states that they will never enter the Promised Land. The battle with Amalek ( Exodus 17:8–15 ) is the first attempt, outside of Egypt, to interfere with Israel’s march to Canaan. As a result, God commanded that the Amalekites be exterminated ( v. 14 ; Deuteronomy 25:17–19 ).
Exodus 18. Jethro’s Advice
was inspired in a degree given to few men, yet it was through the counsel of this friendly Midianite prince, his father-in-law, that he came to a more efficient organization of the people. God uses human advice to help even the great!
Exodus 19. God’s Voice on Mount Sinai
were at Mount Sinai about 11 months ( v. 1 ; Numbers 10:11 ). In a terrific thunderstorm, accompanied by earthquakes and supernatural trumpet blasts, and the mountain capped with terrifying flames, God spoke the Ten Commandments and gave the Law. hundred years later, at this same mountain, the prophet Elijah was given a hint that God’s work would be accomplished, not by means of fire and earthquake, but by the still, small voice, the “gentle whisper” of God’s message ( 1 Kings 19:11–12 ).
Mount Sinai. a people who had never known anything but the flat country of Goshen and the Nile delta, Mount Sinai itself must have been imposing indeed. And it is little wonder that the people were terrified when the Lord appeared:
“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountaintrembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him” ( Exodus 19:16–19 ).
Exodus 20. The Ten Commandments
Commandments were afterward engraved on both sides of two tablets of stone, “inscribed by the finger of God.” “The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets” ( 31:18 ; 32:15–16 ). They were kept for centuries in the ark of the covenant (see Deportation of Judah by Babylon, 605 b.c. ). It is thought that they may have been destroyed in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (see The Most Holy Place ). Ten Commandments were the basis of Hebrew law. Four of them have to do with our attitude toward God; six, with our attitude toward fellow human beings. Jesus condensed them into two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” ( Matthew 22:37–39 ; see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 ). for God is the basis of the Ten Commandments. Jesus indicated that He considered it the most basic and essential quality in man’s approach to God and made it the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed be your name.” It is surprising how many people, in their ordinary conversation, continually blaspheme the name of God and use it in such a light and trivial way. It is even more surprising how many preachers and Christians use God’s name with a facile familiarity that lacks any reverence or awe, as if they were God’s equals.
Exodus 21–24. The Book of the Covenant
the Ten Commandments, this was the first installment of the Law for the Hebrew nation. These laws were written in a book. Then the covenant that pledged to obey the Law was sealed with blood ( 24:4 , 7–8 ). laws cover every aspect of daily life, from kindness toward widows and orphans to the death penalty for murder to hospitality toward strangers. Although many of the specific, individual laws no longer apply to us, the principles behind them most certainly do. Fairness, justice, and mercy are the foundation of Israel’s Law—which becomes very clear when we compare them with the laws of the nations around Israel.
Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk ( 23:19 ): A number of explanations have been suggested for this unusual command; it may be a warning against adopting a pagan, Canaanite ritual.
Exodus 25–31. Directions for the Tabernacle
Himself gave the pattern in great detail ( 25:9 ). It is recorded twice: first in these chapters, where God explains how it is to be made; then in chapters 35–40 , where the details are repeated to indicate that this is exactly how it had been built—according to God’s instructions. This repetition strikes us as redundant, but to the Hebrew ear it reflected the importance and solemnity of the building process. (See also Numbers 7 , where the same list of gifts is repeated 12 times!) tabernacle was a “likeness” of something, a “copy and shadow” of heavenly things ( Hebrews 8:5 ). It had special meaning to the Hebrew nation; yet it was a “pattern of things to come” (see Hebrews 9–10 ). tabernacle and, later, the temple, which was built by King Solomon based on the pattern of the tabernacle, were the center of Jewish national life. Of direct divine origin, the tabernacle was an immensely important representation of certain ideas God wished to impress on mankind, foreshadowing many teachings of the Christian faith.
(For a more detailed description of the tabernacle, see Exodus 35–40 .)
Acacia tree. wood used in the tabernacle was acacia. The acacia is the only tree that grows in desert regions and produces wood that can be used in building. Because of the dry and windy climate, the trees grow very slowly, and it takes many years for them to reach their maximum height of 16 to 25 feet. This makes acacia wood durable—it is harder than oak and not easily damaged by insects. Acacia wood has a beautiful orange-red color, which makes it eminently suitable for furniture and inlay work. In Egypt the wood was used in the making of sarcophagi.
Exodus 32–33. The Golden Calf
bull, the principal god of Egypt called Apis, later also would become the god of the Ten Tribes ( 1 Kings 12:28 ). This pitiful apostasy, so soon after God had thundered from the mountain, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and after the marvelous miracles in Egypt, indicates the depths to which the Israelites had sunk in Egyptian idolatry. It was a crisis, calling for immediate discipline, and the punishment was swift and severe. ‘ willingness to be “blotted out of God’s book” for the people’s sake shows the grandeur of his character ( Exodus 32:31–32 ).
Exodus 34. Moses Again on the Mountain
first time, Moses had been on the mountain for 40 days and nights ( 24:18 ). He now went back for another 40 days and nights ( vv. 2 , 18 ). The first time, he had received the two tablets and the specifications for the tabernacle. Now he went to receive two new tablets to replace the originals he had broken earlier ( 32:19 ). ‘ “face was radiant” ( 34:29 , 35 ) because he had been in the presence of God. So Jesus’ face “did shine as the sun” when he was transfigured ( Matthew 17:2 ).
Four-horned altar. is a replica of an altar found at Beersheba. The symbolism of the horns is not clear. However, fugitives (except those guilty of intentional murder, 1 Kings 2:28–32 ) could find asylum by grasping the horns of the altar in an appeal to God’s mercy. Cutting off the horns of an altar made it useless for religious purposes ( Amos 3:14 ).
Exodus 35–40. The Tabernacle Built
tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, was a portable sanctuary that served as a place of worship for the Israelites from the time of the wilderness wanderings until the building of the temple by Solomon. It was where God dwelt with the Israelites. The actual structure was only 15 feet tall—less than the height of a two-story house. But in the desert it was the highest structure in the camp of the Israelites and rose above the sea of tents as the constant reminder of God’s presence at the center of the nation.
enclosure (“courtyard”) in which the tabernacle itself stood was 50 x 25 yards, or slightly less than a fourth the size of a football field (100 x 53-1/3 yards). The walls were made of brass posts with silver hooks, over which linen curtains were hung. The entrance, which was on the east, was 10 yards wide and had colorful curtains of blue and scarlet linen.
The bronze altar. The first thing one saw when entering the courtyard was a large bronze altar, the altar of burnt offering, where the animals (or portions of the animals) brought to the tabernacle by the Israelites were burnt. The altar was 7½ feet square and 4½ feet high. It was hollow, made of wood with brass overlay, and with grating inside, halfway up from the bottom. The wood was laid on top of the grate, and the animals on top of the wood. In the hollow area below the grate, ashes and other remains were collected, while it also provided access for oxygen from below to keep the fire burning. fire in the altar was to be kept burning day and night ( Leviticus 6:9 ); it was kindled by fire from the Lord Himself ( Leviticus 9:24 ). The smell associated with the tabernacle was not the sweet smell of incense, but the smell of fire and death—a continual reminder that human beings have no access to God except as sinners redeemed and set free by another’s death: in the Old Testament the death of animals, in the New Testament the death of Christ.
The bronze basin. The second item in the courtyard, closer to the tabernacle itself, was a bronze basin for washing. Aaron and all priests had to wash their hands and feet in the water before bringing a sacrifice to the altar and before entering the tabernacle. It symbolized cleansing from sin and may have foreshadowed Christian baptism. It represented the need for purification before approaching the Lord. New Testament Christians have been purified and cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus.
tabernacle itself consisted of two rooms. The first room, the Holy Place, was 15 feet high and wide and 30 feet long. The second room, the Most Holy Place, was exactly half as large: it was a cube measuring 15 x 15 x 15 feet.
A tent covered the tabernacle, consisting of three layers of coverings. The first was made of goat’s hair cloth. Over it was a covering of red leather made of ram’s skins. The final covering was badger skin (or possibly seal or porpoise skin). was a clear progression in the arrangement of the courtyard and the tabernacle. Israelites could bring their sacrifices to the altar in the courtyard, but beyond the altar only the priests could go and enter the Holy Place (after washing their hands and feet). But no one could enter the Most Holy Place, the place of God’s Presence, except the high priest and only once a year, on the Great Day of Atonement (see Leviticus 16 ).
The Holy Place
first thing that must have struck the priests entering the Holy Place was how different it smelled. The acrid smells from the altar of burnt offering were left behind, and the sweet smell of incense filled this room.
The incense altar. The incense altar was small, only 3 feet high and 18 inches square. Incense was burned on the altar, morning and evening ( Exodus 30:8 ). Its smoke rising into the sky symbolized prayer—daily, regular prayer (see also Revelation 8:3–5 ).
The lampstand. There were no windows in the tabernacle, but the coverings may have let in some light, since the lampstand was to be lit at twilight and to be kept burning from evening until morning ( Exodus 27:21 ; 30:7–8 ). Made of pure gold, it was 5 feet high and 3½ feet across the top. The shape of the lampstand, with its seven lamps, is still a common symbol in Judaism today: the menorah. lighted lamp symbolizes God’s Word ( Psalm 105 ; Psalm 119 ; 2 Peter 1:19 ) or God’s guidance ( 2 Samuel 22:29 ; Psalm 18:28 ). lampstands of Solomon’s temple were patterned after this lampstand (which may actually have been used in the temple). They were no doubt among the treasures taken to Babylon and afterward returned ( Ezekiel 1:7 ). lampstand in Herod’s temple, in Jesus’ day, may have been one of these lampstands. It was taken to Rome when the temple was destroyed in a.d. 70 and is represented on the Arch of Titus. says that the lampstand was later “respectfully deposited in the Christian church at Jerusalem” in a.d. 533, but nothing further is known of it.
The table. Finally, there was a table, 27 inches high, 18 inches wide, and 3 feet long. On this table 12 loaves of bread were placed, one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. The loaves were replaced every week. They represented Israel’s gratitude for God’s provisions.
The Most Holy Place
Most Holy Place was the place of the presence of God. It was separated from the Holy Place by what must have been a superbly beautiful curtain , in blue, purple, and scarlet, embroidered with cherubim. ‘s temple, and later Herod’s temple, were patterned after the tabernacle, and the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place were still separated by a curtain, even though the structure itself was made of stone and wood. The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom when Christ died ( Matthew 27:51 ), signifying that, at that moment, the door to God’s presence was open to all. one item stood in the Most Holy Place: the ark of the covenant. It was a chest made of acacia wood and overlaid with pure gold. It measured 45 x 27 x 27 inches. The lid of the ark, made of solid gold, was called the “atonement cover” ( kjv , mercy seat). At each end of the cover stood a cherub, made of one piece with the atonement cover. The cherubim faced each other, their wings spread out, and looked down toward the atonement cover. We can only speculate exactly how they may have looked. the ark were four items: the two stone tablets on which Moses had received the Ten Commandments, a pot of manna, and Aaron’ staff ( Numbers 17:1–11 ). These were a continual reminder of what was most important: God’s covenant with His people (the two tablets), His gracious material provisions (the manna), and His provision of a way to Him through the priesthood, and specifically through the high priest (the staff; see also Hebrews 8 ). ark of the covenant was probably lost in the Babylonian captivity. In Revelation 11:19 , John saw the ark “in the temple.” But that was in a vision, certainly not meaning that the actual, material ark was there; for in heaven there will be “no temple” ( Revelation 21:22 ).
The tabernacle. overview of the tabernacle shows the tent of meeting inside the courtyard. The smoke of the sacrificial fire rose, and the cloud of the glory of God descended and filled the dwelling. In this way the presence of the Lord Most High was revealed to His people.
The tabernacle. in accordance with the plans of God, the front part (the Holy Place) of this gold-covered structure was twice as long as the back part (the Holy of Holies).
Overview Of the Bible
Laws Concerning Sacrifices, the Priesthood, and Sacred Feasts
The title of this book comes from the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament. The word Leviticus means “about, or relating to, the Levites.” Levites are all those who belong to the tribe of Levi, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Because God spared the firstborn of Israel in the last plague that came over Egypt ( Exodus 11:4–12:13 ), all firstborn sons and firstborn animals belonged to God. The animals were sacrificed while the men were redeemed. To be redeemed, the family paid a price to the priest instead of giving their firstborn over to the service of the temple. God appointed the Levites to take the place of the firstborn to serve God. One clan or family of the Levites, the family of Aaron, was set apart to be priests. The rest of the Levites were to be assistants to the priests. Their duties were the care of the tabernacle, and later the care of the temple; and to be teachers, scribes, musicians, officers, and judges. (See on 1 Chronicles 23. Duties of the Levites .) tribe of Levi was the only tribe that did not get its own land after the Israelites conquered Canaan; instead, they received 48 cities, scattered throughout the country ( Numbers 35:7 ; Joshua 21:19 ). Since they did not receive land, they could not support themselves; they were supported by the tithes of the rest of Israel. book of Leviticus contains the bulk of the system of laws under which the Hebrew nation lived, laws that were administered by the Levitical priesthood. These laws were given mostly at Mount Sinai, with additions, repetitions, and explanations throughout the desert wanderings.
Leviticus 1-7 – (See Chart for offerings)
Leviticus 8–9. The Consecration of Aaron
the time of Moses, sacrifices were offered by heads of families. But now that the nation is organized, a place is set apart for sacrifice, a ritual is prescribed, and a hereditary priesthood is created in a solemn ceremony. Aaron was to be high priest, and he was to be succeeded by his firstborn son. The priesthood was maintained by tithes (one-tenth of a family’s income, whether money, livestock, or produce) and parts of some sacrifices. They received 13 cities ( Joshua 21:13–19 ).
The high priest’s garments . Every detail had been specified by God ( Exodus 28 ). A robe of blue, with bells at the bottom.
The ephod, which was a sort of cape or sleeveless vestment, consisting of two pieces joined on the shoulders, that hung, one at the front and one on the back, on the high priest, with an onyx stone on each shoulder, each bearing six names of the tribes: made of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen.
The breastplate, about 10 inches square, of gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen, double, open at the top, fastened with gold chains to the Ephod, adorned with 12 precious stones, each stone bearing the name of a tribe. The breastplate contained the Urim and Thummim, which were used to learn the will of God; we don’t know exactly what they were, but they were used to cast lots.
The Divine Origin of the Sacrificial System
God placed the system of sacrifices at the very center and heart of Jewish national life . Whatever its immediate applications and implications may have been to the Jews , the unceasing sacrifice of animals and the never – ending glow of altar fires were with out doubt designed by God to burn into the consciousness of the people of Israel a sense of their deep sinfulness . They were also , for more than a millennium , a picture that po inted forward to the coming sacrifice of Christ on the cross . The Levitical priesthood was divinely ordained to be the mediator between God and the Hebrew nation through the bringing of animal sacrifices . But those sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ . Ani mal sacrifices are no longer necessary . Christ Himself is our Great High Priest , the only Mediator between God and humanity , as Hebrews 8 – 10 makes very clear . Thus Christ is both our Sacrifice and our High Priest , our Mediator .
Leviticus 10. Nadab and Abihu
swift and terrible punishment on Nadab and Abihu was a warning against highhanded treatment of God’s ordinances. It is also a warning to us and to church leaders not to distort the Gospel of Christ with all kinds of human additions and traditions.
Leviticus 11. Clean and Unclean Animals
the Flood there was a distinction between clean and unclean animals ( Genesis 7:2 ). Through Moses this distinction acquired the force of divine law. It was based partly on the wholesomeness of a particular kind of animal as food, and partly on religious considerations, designed to serve as one of the marks of separation of Israel from other nations. Jesus abrogated the distinction ( Mark 7:19 ), making all meats clean (see also Acts 10:9–16 ).
Leviticus 12. Purification of Mothers after Childbirth
uncleanness of mothers did not result from the birth but from the bleeding. There is no clear reason why the period of separation was 40 days if the baby was a boy, 80 days if it was a girl.
Leviticus 13–14. The Test for Skin Diseases
regulations were for the purpose of controlling the spread of infectious skin diseases, of which the most loathsome and dreaded was leprosy. The word translated “leprosy” in the kjv has a range of meanings, including leprosy, skin disease, and even mildew. Primitive as this approach may seem to us, these simple measures undoubtedly saved many lives.
Leviticus 15. Ceremonial Uncleanness
elaborate system of specifications as to how a person could become ceremonially unclean and what had to be done about it was, it seems, designed to promote personal physical cleanliness (and thus help prevent illness) as well as a continual recognition of God’s involvement in all areas of life.
Leviticus 16. The Annual Day of Atonement
annual Day of Atonement (still celebrated in Judaism today in modified form and known by its Hebrew name, Yom Kippur) fell on the 10th day of the seventh month (the month Tishri, see Jewish Calendar ). It was the most solemn day of the year. Each time, the removal of sin was only for one year ( Hebrews 10:3 ), but it pointed forward to its eternal removal ( Zechariah 3:4 , 8–9 ; 13:1 ; Hebrews 10:14 ). the sacrificial goat had been offered, the high priest laid his hands on the head of the scapegoat, confessing over him the sins of the people. The goat was then sent away into the wilderness, bearing away with it the sins of the people. This ceremony was one of God’s historical foreshadowings of the coming atonement for human sin by the death of Christ.
Leviticus 17. The Manner of Sacrifice
Law required the presentation of animals for sacrifice at the door of the tabernacle. The eating of blood was strictly forbidden ( 3:17 ; 7:26–27 ; 17:10–16 ; Genesis 9:4 ; Deuteronomy 12:16 , 23–25 ), and still is ( Acts 15:29 ). One reason is that blood is a symbol of life and as such must be treated with respect. To this day, in orthodox Judaism, any animal destined for human consumption must be slaughtered according to very strict regulations and under rabbinic supervision to ensure that all the blood has drained out of the meat. Only then can the meat be sold as kosher.
Leviticus 18. Canaanite Abominations
reason that some of these things, such as incest, sodomy, and sexual relations with animals, are even mentioned is that they were common practice among Israel’s neighbors.
Leviticus 19–20. Miscellaneous Laws
chapters contain a number of miscellaneous laws, ranging from the Sabbath, to sorcery, to kindness to strangers. The diversity of these laws shows that God is interested in all aspects of life. He did not give laws only to keep Israel from doing what was wrong, but also to tell Israel what it meant to live as the nation chosen by God and as people who loved God.
“ Love Your Neighbor as Yourself ”
This injunction ( 19 : 18 ) is one of the highlights of the Mosaic Law . It is the second great commandment Jesus quoted ( Matthew 22 : 39 ; the first great commandment — Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind — is found in Deuteronomy 6 : 5 ) . The law instructed the people to show great consideration to the poor . Wages were to be paid day by day . No interest was to be charged ( “ usury ” in the kjv refers to interest of any kind ) . Loans and gifts were to be made to the needy . A portion of the harvest was to be left in the fields for the poor . All through the Old Testament , unceasing emphasis is placed on kindness to widows , orphans , and strangers . The weak and the poor are everyone ’ s responsibility .
, polygamy, divorce, and slavery were allowed but greatly restricted (19:20; Exodus 21:2–11; Deuteronomy 21:15; 24:1–4). Moses’ Law lifted marriage to a far higher level than existed in surrounding nations. Slavery was tempered by humane considerations; it never existed on a large scale among the Jews, nor with such cruelties as were prevalent in Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, and other nations. An Israelite could not be a slave forever (see on Leviticus 25 ).
Capital Punishment in the Old Testament
Capital punishment was required for a number of offenses . ( The ordinary form of capital punishment prescribed by Hebrew law was stoning . )
- Murder ( Genesis 9 : 6 ; Exodus 21 : 12 ; Deuteronomy 19 : 11 – 13 )
- Kidnapping ( Exodus 21 : 16 ; Deuteronomy 24 : 7 )
- Death by negligence ( Exodus 21 : 28 – 29 )
- Hitting or cursing a parent ( Exodus 21 : 15 – 17 ; Leviticus 20 : 9 ; Deuteronomy 21 : 18 – 21 )
- Idolatry ( Leviticus 20 : 1 – 5 ; Deuteronomy 13 ; 17 : 2 – 5 )
- Sorcery ( Exodus 22 : 18 )
- False prophecy ( Deuteronomy 18 : 10 – 11 , 20 )
- Blasphemy ( Leviticus 24 : 15 – 16 )
- Profaning the Sabbath ( Exodus 31 : 14 )
- Adultery ( Leviticus 21 : 10 ; Deuteronomy 22 : 22 )
- Rape ( Deuteronomy 22 : 23 – 27 )
- Promiscuity ( Deuteronomy 22 : 13 – 21 )
- Sodomy ( Leviticus 20 : 13 )
- Bestiality ( Leviticus 20 : 15 – 16 )
- Incestuous marriages ( Leviticus 20 : 11 – 12 , 14 )
The severity of the punishment was not arbitrary . These sins were not only offenses against God and fellow human beings — they undermined and weakened the social fabric and in the long run put the continued existence of the people of God — the nation of Israel — in jeopardy .
These Laws Were the Laws of God
Some of the laws in the Pentateuch are similar to the laws of Hammurabi , with which Moses no doubt was well – acquainted . And tho ugh Moses may have been influenced by his Egyptian training and by Babylonian tradition , yet over and over he repeats , “This is what the Lord says ! ” These laws were not dreamed up by Moses or by a legal think – tank , or arrived at democratically — they were given to Israel by God Himself .
Some of these laws may seem severe to us . But if we could transport ourselves back to Moses ’ world and time , they probably would not seem severe enough . On the whole , the “Law of Moses , ” in its insistence on personal morali ty and personal equality , and in its consideration for old and young , for slave and enemy , for animals and health and food , was far purer , more rational , humane , and democratic than anything else in ancient legislation .
Moses ’ Law was designed by God as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ ( Galatians 3 : 24 kjv ) , since it showed that no one was able to fully keep the Law . And some of the provisions of the Law were accommodations , “ because your hearts were hard ” ( Matthew 19 : 8 ) .
Leviticus 21–22. Priests and Sacrifices
chapters are an elaboration on the provisions of chapters 1–9 . Priests must be without physical defect and may marry only a virgin. Sacrificial animals must also be without defect and at least eight days old.
Leviticus 23–24. Feasts, Laws Concerning the Tabernacle, Blasphemy
a description of the feasts of Israel, see comments on Deuteronomy 16. Feasts . lamp in the tabernacle was to burn perpetually. The bread placed before the Lord ( kjv , showbread) was to be changed each Sabbath. Blasphemy was to be punished with death.
An eye for an eye ( 24:19–21 ). This legislation was not intended to give permission for revenge, but rather the opposite: it severely limited revenge or retaliation to what was just, instead of allowing a cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation to spin out of control (see on Matthew 5:38 and Luke 6:27 ).
Leviticus 25. The Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee
seventh year was a Sabbath year. The land was to lie fallow. No sowing, no reaping, no pruning of vineyards. Spontaneous produce was to be left for the poor and the temporary resident ( kjv , sojourner). God promised enough in the sixth year to meet the needs of the seventh year. Debts of fellow Jews were to be canceled. 50th year was a Year of Jubilee. It followed the seventh Sabbath Year, so that two years of rest would come together. It began on the Day of Atonement. All debts were canceled, slaves of Israelite origin were set free, and lands that had been sold were returned. (This was intended to ensure that a family’s land would remain in the family in perpetuity.) Jesus seemed to regard the Year of Jubilee as a sort of picture of the rest He came to proclaim for God’s people ( Leviticus 25:10 ; Luke 4:19 ).
Ownership of Land
The land of Canaan was divided among the 12 tribes when the Israelites entered Canaan under Joshua ( Joshua 13 – 21 ) , and the land of each tribe was divided among the families . With certain exceptions , the land could not be sold in perpetuity out of the families .
Any sale of land amounted to a lease that expired in the Year of Jubilee , when it would be returned to the original family . This arrangement , if implemented , provided for social stability and prevented to a large extent the formation of a wealthy , landed upper class and a dispossessed underclass .
Leviticus 26. Obedience or Disobedience
chapter of magnificent promises and frightful warnings is, like Deuteronomy 28 , one of the great chapters of the Bible.
Leviticus 27. Vows and Tithes
were a voluntary promise to God to perform some service or do something pleasing to Him in return for some hoped benefits. A vow had to be spoken to be binding ( Deuteronomy 23:23 ). Israelites made special vows by promising or dedicating persons, animals, houses, family land, or land they had purchased to the service of the temple. In most cases, however, an equivalent value or price was paid to the priest for the person or thing being dedicated. When the price had been paid, the person or thing was said to have been redeemed. idea of redemption is carried forward into the New Testament in Galatians 3:13 , where Christ is said to have redeemed us “from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” In 1 Corinthians 6:19–20 , Paul teaches the early Christians, “You are not your own; your were bought at a price.” tenth of the produce of the land and of the increase of flocks and herds was to be given to God; this is called the tithe ( Genesis 14:20 ; 28:22 ; Leviticus 27:30–32 ; Numbers 18:21–28 ; Deuteronomy 12:5–6 , 11 , 17–18 ; 14:23 , 28–29 ; 26:12 ; the word tithe is derived from the Old English word for tenth ). tithes are mentioned in the Old Testament: the Levitical tithe, the festival tithe, and every third year the tithe for the poor. Some think there was only one tithe that was used partly for festivals and every third year partly for the poor. Others think that the festival tithe was taken out of the nine-tenths left after the Levitical tithe had been paid. tithe was in use long before the days of Moses. Abraham and Jacob paid tithes. Among the Jews the tithe was for the support of the Levites, who functioned both as civil officials and in religious service (see on 1 Chronicles 23 ). claimed as His own not only the tithes, but also the firstborn sons of all families (in place of whom He accepted the tribe of Levi), the firstborn of all flocks and herds, and firstfruits of the field. The firstfruits of the harvest were to be offered at Passover, and no part of the new crop could be used until this had been done ( Leviticus 23:14 ). The first crop of a young orchard (the fourth year) was to be given to God in its entirety, and no fruit of the orchard could be used until this was done. The clear lesson is: Put God first in life.
Class 4: Overview of Exodus – Leviticus
Class 5: Overview of Joshua