Leviticus 4 – The Bigger Structure

Leviticus 4 – The Bigger Structure

Hopefully by now you’ve noticed how each offering of Leviticus has a pattern: introductory verse (or two), opening paragraph detailing the most expensive kind of that particular offering, then 2-4 other paragraphs repeating much of the same material as the opening paragraph, only with less expensive offerings.

            That pattern has been clear.  But did you know that there is a bigger overall pattern to the first few chapters of Leviticus, too?

            Take a look at how each of the five offerings begins (all Scripture in ESV):

(1) Burnt: 1:1 The LORD called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,

(2) Grain: 2:1 “When anyone brings a grain offering as an offering to the LORD,

(3) Peace: 3:1 “If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering,

(4) Purification (Sin): 4:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

(5) Reparation (Guilt): 5:14 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

            Notice how the first, fourth and fifth offerings all begin a new section with the LORD speaking to Moses.  The second and third offerings function almost as sub-categories under the Burnt Offering.  This may be because the first three offerings were voluntarily, whereas the last two deal with unintentional sins that necessarily need reparation with God and others.

            The heading, “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,” appears numerous times throughout Leviticus and acts as a natural delineation between sections of the book (see 1:1; 4:1; 5:14; 6:1, 8, 19, 24; 7:22, 28; 8:1; 11:1; 12:1; 13:1; 14:1, 33; 15:1; 16:1; 17:1; 18:1; 19:1; 20:1; 21:16; 22:1, 17, 26; 23:1, 9, 23, 26, 33; 24:1, 13; 25:1; 27:1; cf. 10:8, 12; 21:24; 24:23 for variations on this theme).

            The Purification Offering (aka: Sin Offering), which we studied this week, has a natural structure within it as well.  The offering actually bleeds over into chapter 5.  Take a look at the structure:

4:2 – “if” (ki) – Heading: Purification Offering

            4:3 – “if” (im) – High Priest

            4:13 – “if” (im) – Congregation

                        4:22 – “when” (asher) – Leader

            4:27 – “if” (im) – Individual – Female Goat

            4:32 – “if” (im) – Individual – Lamb

5:1 – “if” (ki) – Heading: Examples and Exceptions

            5:7 – “if” (im) – Can’t Afford Lamb

            5:11 – “if” (im) – Can’t Afford Birds

            The italicized word in parenthesis represents the Hebrew word that begins each section.  Each major heading begins with the Hebrew word ki, translated in ESV “if.”  But the other “ifs” in the chapter are a different Hebrew word (im), though translated the same in English.  These are specific examples of the main topic.

            There’s one exception: the asher in 4:22, translated “when.”  This may be to draw attention to the new category within the main category.  All of chapter 4 deals with the Purification Offering.  The first two examples given tie together, having the same animal sacrificed and the same ritual (High Priest/Congregation).  Then we transition to the Leader and the Individual, signaled by this new particle.

            The overall point is that Leviticus is highly structured, both in the overall big picture and in the smaller details.  It’s a book of laws and regulations for Israel; we would expect it to be structured and orderly.  When you’re reading the book, keep an eye on this structure and allow it to guide you along in your study of the text.


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