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Home > The Old Testament > Leviticus

Subpages: Chapters 1-7  •  8-10  •  11-15  •  16  •  17-22  •  23-26  •  27

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Relationship to Old Testament. The relationship of Leviticus to two even larger blocks of text is discussed at Organization and Overview of the Old Testament and Five Books of Moses.

Story. Leviticus consists of seven major sections.

  • Chapters 1-7: Laws governing offerings.
  • Chapters 8-10: Holy people: The consecration of Aaron and sons as priests.
  • Chapters 11-15: Laws governing uncleanness.
  • Chapter 16: The Day of Atonement. On this holiest day of the Israelite year, two goats are brought to the door of the tabernacle. One is offered as a sin offering to make atonement for the congregation. The sins of congregation are ceremonially placed upon the other goat, which symbolically bears the sins of the congregation as it is driven out of the camp.
  • Chapters 17-22: Laws governing defilement or unholiness.
  • Chapters 23-26: Holy time: The observance of sabbaths and feasts.
  • Chapter 27: Laws governing vows and devotions.

Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Leviticus include:

  • Offerings and sacrifices. Many of the offerings and sacrifices that we associate with the Old Testament are spelled out here in Leviticus.
  • Christ's atonement. The central story of Leviticus, and of the entire five books of Moses, is the day of atonement on which the sins of the Lord's congregation are taken away by sacrifice.

Historical setting

This section should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

The events related in Leviticus all occurred during a single month. That month began with the erection of the Tabernacle at the end of Exodus on Year 2, Month 1, Day 1 (Ex 40:17), the first anniversary of the initial Passover and Israel's departure from Egypt. The month covered by Leviticus then ended with the instruction that Moses conduct a military census of Israel's fighting men at the beginning of Numbers on Year 2, Month 2, Day 1. (Num 1:1).

Because the events of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are so closely related, that shared historical setting is addressed in more detail in a single combined discussion at Five Books of Moses. A broader treatment of the history of ancient Israel covering the entire Old Testament is found at Historical Overview of the Old Testament.


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  • There is almost no story in Leviticus. It is mostly a handbook of instructions for religious performances by the Levites (hence the name Leviticus) that have not been applicable for two thousand years. But there is a message. And one does not have to master every line before the outlines of that message become clear. The first time reader should read Leviticus quickly, looking for broad themes in each of its seven sections. Worrying about individual lines before the big picture is even clear will generally just cause frustration and boredom.

Outline and page map

This section contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →

A. Laws governing offerings (Chapters 1-7)

• Burnt fferings (Chapter 1)
• sacrifices from herd (1:1-9)
• sacrifices from flocks: sheep or goat (1:10-13)
• sacrifices of fowls: turtledoves or pigeons (1:14-17)
• Meat offerings (Chapter 2)
• meat offerings: flour and firstfruits (2:1-16)
• (11) never leaven
• (13) always salt
• Peace offerings (Chapter 3)
• sacrifices from herd (3:1-5)
• sacrifices from flock: sheep, goat (3:6-11, 12-17)
• (17) don't eat fat or blood
• Sin offerings for sins in ignorance (Chapter 4)
• for the priest: young bullock (4:1-12)
• for the congregation: young bullock (4:13-21)
• for the ruler: male kid goat (4:22-26)
• for a commoner: female kid goat or lamb (4:27-35)
• Trespass offerings (Chapter 5-6a)
• when one is guilty (5:1-4)
• offer female kid goat or lamb, or two turtledoves or pigeons, or flour (5:5-13)
• trespass in ignorance (5:14-19)
• restore 120%, then make an offering, intentional sins (6:1-7)
• Rules for the priest (Chapter 6b-7)
• maintaining the altar: flame and ashes (6:8-13)
• priest's portion of the sacrifice (6:14-18)
• meat offering perpetual when priest is anointed (6:19-23)
• procedure for sin offerings (6:24-30)
• procedure for trespass offerings (7:1-10)
• procedure for peace offerings, also thanksgiving, heave, vow, and voluntary offerings (7:11-21)
• (17-21) destroy leftovers
• don't eat fat or blood (7:22-27)
• wave offering and heave offering go to the priest (7:28-34)
• Summary: burnt, meat, sin, trespass, and peace offerings (7:35-38)
B. Holy people: consecration of Aaron and sons as priests (Chapters 8-10)
C. Laws governing uncleanness (Chapters 11-15)
• clean and unclean animals for eating and touching when dead (11:1-
• cattle are clean, but camels, pigs, and rabbits are unclean (11:1-8)
• fins and scales are clean, but other animals in the waters are unclean (11:9-12)
• most birds are clean, but bats and birds of prey are unclean, beetles and grasshoppers are clean (11:13-23)
• touching the carcass of an unclean animal makes a person unclean until evening (11:24-28)
D. Day of Atonement (Chapter 16)
a. Aaron not to enter holiest place (16:2)
b. Aaron’s special vestments (16:3-4)
c. assembly supplies sacrifices (16:5)
d. animals for Aaron, Jehovah, Azazel (16:6-10)
e. Aaron sacrifices his bull (16:11-14)
f. assembly’s goat sacrificed (16:15)
g. atonement (16:16-19)
g. atonement (16:20a)
f. assembly’s goat sent to wilderness (16:20b-22)
e. Aaron’s closing ceremonies (16:23-25)
d. animals for Azazel, Aaron, assembly (16:26-28)
c. assembly rests and humbles selves (16:29-31)
b. priest’s special vestments (16:32-33)
a. priest may enter holiest place once per year (16:34)
C. Laws governing defilement (unholiness) (Chapters 17-22)
B. Holy time: observance of sabbaths and feasts (Chapters 23-26)

A. Laws governing vows and devotions (Chapter 27)

Unanswered questions

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Prompts for life application

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Prompts for further study

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Translations and Lexicons.

Related passages that interpret or shed light on Leviticus

  • The Joseph Smith Translation made changes to the following verses in Leviticus. This list is complete:[1]
  • Leviticus 12:3-5
  • Leviticus 21:1, 11
  • Leviticus 22:9

References cited on this page.

  • Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 125-26. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2009. (ISBN 1606411314) BX8630.A2 2009

Other resources.


Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.

  1. Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the Old Testament, p. 125-26.

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