The name “Leviticus” was bestowed on the third book of the Pentateuch by the ancient Greek translators because a good part of this book consists of sacrificial and other ritual laws prescribed for the priests of the tribe of Levi.
Continuing the legislation given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai, Leviticus is almost entirely legislative in character; the rare narrative portions are subordinate to the main legislative theme. Generally speaking, the laws contained in this book serve to teach the Israelites that they should always keep themselves in a state of legal purity, or external sanctity, as a sign of their intimate union with the Lord. Accordingly, the central idea of Leviticus is contained in its oft-repeated injunction: “You shall be holy, because I, the LORD, am holy.”
The main divisions of Leviticus are:
- Ritual of Sacrifices (Lev 1-7)
- Ceremony of Ordination (Lev 8-10)
- Laws regarding Legal Purity (Lev 11-16)
- Code of Legal Holiness (Lev 17-26)
- Redemption of Offerings (Lev 27)
The LORD called Moses, and from the meeting tent gave him this message:
1 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When any one of you wishes to bring an animal offering to the LORD, such an offering must be from the herd or from the flock.
2 “If his holocaust offering is from the herd, it must be a male without blemish. To find favor with the LORD, he shall bring it to the entrance of the meeting tent
and there lay his hand on the head of the holocaust, so that it may be acceptable to make atonement for him.
He shall then slaughter the bull before the LORD, but Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall offer up its blood by splashing it on the sides of the altar which is at the entrance of the meeting tent.
Then he shall skin the holocaust and cut it up into pieces.
After Aaron’s sons, the priests, have put some burning embers on the altar and laid some wood on them,
they shall lay the pieces of meat, together with the head and the suet, on top of the wood and embers on the altar.
The inner organs and the shanks, however, the offerer shall first wash with water. The priest shall then burn the whole offering on the altar as a holocaust, a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD.
“If his holocaust offering is from the flock, that is, a sheep or a goat, he must bring a male without blemish.
This he shall slaughter before the LORD at the north side of the altar. Then Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall splash its blood on the sides of the altar.
When the offerer has cut it up into pieces, the priest shall lay these, together with the head and suet, on top of the wood and the fire on the altar.
The inner organs and the shanks, however, the offerer shall first wash with water. The priest shall offer them up and then burn the whole offering on the altar as a holocaust, a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD.
“If he offers a bird as a holocaust to the LORD, he shall choose a turtledove or a pigeon as his offering.
Having brought it to the altar where it is to be burned, the priest shall snap its head loose and squeeze out its blood against the side of the altar.
Its crop and feathers shall be removed and thrown on the ash heap at the east side of the altar.
Then, having split the bird down the middle without separating the halves, the priest shall burn it on the altar, over the wood on the fire, as a holocaust, a sweet-smelling oblation to the LORD.
1  From the herd or from the flock: the only animals which could be used as sacrificial victims were either of the bovine class (bulls, cows and calves) or the ovine class (sheep and lambs, goats and kids). Excluded, therefore, were not only all wild animals, but also such “unclean” domestic animals as the camel and the ass. See note on ⇒ Lev 11:1-3.
2  Holocaust: from the Greek word meaning “wholly burned,” this is the technical term for the special type of sacrifice in which an entire animal except its hide was consumed in the fire on the altar. The primary purpose of this complete gift was to render glory and praise to God.