Leviticus: The Biblical Speed Bump
Forward by Guy Cramer
Many people at some time in their lives will pick up a
Bible and decide to begin reading the book from cover to
cover. They start with Genesis and quickly make into and
through Exodus. Then you hit the Biblical speed bump:
Leviticus. Many don't make it through and give up on reading
the whole Bible. What is so different about Leviticus? The
Stories and personalities of Genesis and Exodus and
throughout the rest of the Bible change in Leviticus into
procedures and laws of the Jewish people. Most people don't
find any legal document 'a good read,' but there are many
fascinating aspects about the book of Leviticus.
Living with Fire
Dangerous material more powerful than the
The book of Leviticus is painstakingly ritual, however,
strikingly similar to the procedures surrounding nuclear
technology. The specialized clothing, the concern for
purification, the precise handling of crucial materials-both
nuclear workers and Old Testament priests share these. This
similarity gives an important clue to understanding
Cleaning up a Nuclear Spill
At the Hanford plutonium separation plant in Eastern
Washington, plutonium and U-235 are keep in a special
high-security vault, in brass cans wrapped three times in
plastic. To move the radioactive material, specially trained
handlers don white protection overalls and special breather
masks. They never touch the materials except through a
sealed "glove box."
If an accident occurs, such as a small fire ignited by
the "hot" material, the entire area must be cleansed through
laborious scrubbing with soap and water. Carefully trained
workers dispose of the dirty water in a specially protected
toxic waste area. Anyone contaminated must be similarly
"cleansed" from the exposure. In extreme cases, she or he
must stay away from other people for months.
These rigid rules grew from hard experience. For decades
no one knew the dangers of radioactivity. Workers who used
radioactive materials to hand-paint the first "glow in the
dark" watches licked their paint brushes to get a fine tip;
their supervisors said they would gain sex appeal. Instead
they got cancer. The introduction of nuclear weapons and
nuclear power plants increased the amount of radioactive
material being handled. Gradually scientists realized: if
you are going to use the atom, you must adopt procedures to
fit its power.
The Intimate presence of God
Leviticus reads something like a training manual for
atomic plant workers. Its "dangerous material," however, is
more powerful than the atom. Leviticus gives exhaustive
detail on how to live with God.
A pamphlet on "how to survive a nuclear accident" may be
dull if read on vacation, but it's gripping if read in a
vibrating nuclear reactor. Similarly, Leviticus is dull if
you do not realize the wonderful news behind it: a powerful
God, the creator of the universe has entered the life of a
small and insignificant tribe. The Israelites could not
merely fit this God into their lives. They needed to
restructure their lives-food, sex, economics-to fit with
his. It was essential not just for priests, but for
Ignoring the operations manual could be deadly, It was
for Aaron's two sons (Chapter 10).
Free from Contamination
Today, Because of Jesus Christ, we don't live in the
world of Leviticus. Jesus' perfect self-sacrifice made the
daily sacrifice of animals unnecessary. He replaced the high
priest as our representative before God. Jesus cleanses the
real source of contamination , our sinful nature. Leviticus
was meant to teach people some basic truths about God. and
when their lessons were complete, they could go on to bigger
and better things. (The New Testament book of Hebrews spells
out this graduation.)
Yet we need to be reminded of the principles Leviticus
taught. It tells us that God was then, as he is today, "a
consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). He has taught us how to
live with that fire, not because we deserve to know, but
because he wanted our company. We dare not treat him
The article "Living with Fire" comes from The Student
Bible, NIV, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids
Michigan. This Student Bible is highly recommended for those
readers who grow up with very little exposure to the Bible.
Because it was written several thousand years ago, the
Bible presents a cultural gap: it mentions hard-to-pronounce
names and refers to many outdated customs. For most readers,
the Bible is the most ancient book in their library.
Most of us need some coaching on how to jump the 2,000
year gap back to when the Bible was written. The Student
Bible addresses this problem with hundreds of additional
notes scattered throughout the Bible.
Each of the 66 books of the Bible is preceded by an
Introduction that gives cultural background on the book and
why it is written.
Throughout The Student Bible, you'll find short articles
marked Insight: Written in the style of a modern magazine
article, Insights includes important background information
right in the Bible, near the passage they shed light on.
Much shorter notes called highlights appear frequently
throughout the Bible. These explain confusing verses, point
out interesting facts, and, in effect, highlight something
in the passage that might easily get overlooked. They're
designed to catch your attention and draw you to read the
Bible more closely.
The Student Bible and many other Bibles with similar
features such as "The Living Insights Study Bible"
with articles, highlights and introductions by Chuck
Swindoll can be found at your local Christian book