A Brief Book Summary from Books at a Glance
By Mark Baker
About the Author
Michael Morales is Professor of Biblical Studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Taylors, South Carolina. He has also served as Provost and Professor of Old Testament at Reformation Bible College. He is the author of The Tabernacle Pre-Figured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology in Genesis and Exodus.
This book is a biblical theology of Leviticus. Through the examination of the theology of Leviticus, it also provides a whole-Bible theology in miniature. The book of Leviticus shows how God made a way to dwell with his people. This theme is “the drama and plot of the Bible” (304). The first chapter introduces this theme by looking at the theological structure of the book of Leviticus within the Pentateuch. The next two chapters provide theological antecedents to Leviticus in Genesis and Exodus. The next three chapters cover Leviticus itself and represent the heart of the book. The final two chapters show how the themes in Leviticus are developed in the rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Table of Contents
- Leviticus within the Pentateuch: A Theological Structure
- Longing for Eden: Genesis, the Narrative Context of Leviticus
- Returning to Eden: Exodus, the Narrative Context of Leviticus
- Approaching the House of God: the Dramatic Movement of Leviticus 1–10
- Cleansing the House of God: the Dramatic Movement of Leviticus 11–16
- Meeting with God at the House of God: the Dramatic Movement of Leviticus 17–27
- Establishing the Earthly House of God: From Sinai’s Tabernacle to Zion’s Temple
- Entering the Heavenly House of God: From the Earthly to the Heavenly Mount Zion
Prologue: The Glory of God’s House: The Lampstand and the Table of the Presence
If Leviticus is famous for anything today, it is famous for being the ender of many Bible reading plans. Many well-intentioned readers often get discouraged, distracted, and confused when trying to work their way through the labyrinth of Leviticus. But what if we could read Leviticus with new eyes, with a view towards God’s heart for his people? Indeed, that is actually what Leviticus is all about: God’s desire to dwell with his people: “Life with God in the house of God—this was the original goal of the creation of the cosmos” (17). The title of this book comes from Psalm 24:3, which reads: “Who may ascend the mountain of YHWH? / Or who may stand in his holy place?” This question is the fundamental question for Israel; indeed, the fundamental question of life itself. Who can live in God’s presence? That is what this book is about, and we will find the answer—the answer from God himself—in the pages of Leviticus.
Chapter 1: Leviticus within the Pentateuch: A Theological Structure
This chapter looks at the Pentateuch in its final form in order to see how this macro-structure informs our theology of Leviticus. Most basically, the Pentateuch is divided into five books. These five books form a chiasm with Leviticus in the middle:
A. Genesis: Prologue
B. Exodus: Leaving Egypt, building the tabernacle
C. Leviticus: The tabernacle service
B’. Numbers: Dedicating the tabernacle, preparing to enter Canaan
A’. Deuteronomy: Epilogue
As for the book of Leviticus itself, the theme of atonement represents a key theme, with the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 as the literary center of the book. “From, perhaps, the most basic vantage point, one may consider Leviticus in two halves, with chapter 16 service as the fulcrum, summing up the sacrificial cult and functioning as a segue to the call for holiness” (29).
Therefore the Pentateuch can be seen as a set of concentric circles or a target. We have moved from the Pentateuch to the book of Leviticus, to Leviticus 16. A careful look at Leviticus 16 will reveal the innermost circle—the bullseye—as Leviticus 16:16–20a, the specific instructions about the atonement. This is the central theme in Leviticus, and therefore in the Pentateuch as a whole: Yahweh has made a way for humanity to well in his divine presence. It is “a theme that stretches throughout the horizon of the Pentateuch, its rays finding their source at its highest arc, the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16” (34).
Chapter 2: Longing for Eden: Genesis, the Narrative Context of Leviticus
When God created the world, he created it one chief end: Sabbath rest. The creation of man and woman in the image of God represents the climax of creation, but it is God’s rest on the seventh day that is the goal of creation. Indeed, these two themes are connected: “As later Sabbath legislation would indicate (Exod. 20:8–11), the image of God is for the sake of the imitation of God (i.e. keeping the Sabbath day holy), as the imitation of God is for the sake of Sabbath union with God” (48). Already in these early chapters of Genesis we see significant parallels between God’s goal for humanity in creation and God’s goal for Israel: God has always made a way to presence himself with his people. We see this theme especially through the emphasis on holiness, which is foreshadowed with God’s “sanctifying” (same root word) of the Sabbath day. These themes will resurface in Exodus and Leviticus with the tabernacle legislation.
Viewing Genesis through this lens, we see a gradual movement away from God’s presence in the garden (Gen 2–3) to Joseph’s death and burial in Egypt (Gen 50:26). The early history in Genesis (Gen 2–11) illustrates this downward spiral through a series of exiles, each exile driving sinful humanity farther from the presence of the Lord. Adam and Eve are driven out of the garden after the fall (Gen 3:24). Though they can no longer walk with God in the garden in the cool of the day, Adam, Eve, and their children still remain next to Eden. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus