Notes on Leviticus

Version Date: January 4, 2021

Lev 1:1 The last letter of the word ויקרא "and he called" is small in the sources of the Bomberg/Ginsburg Hebrew Old Testament. (This is not the case in the St. Petersburg Codex.) This indicates that the last letter was not part of the original text. Without the last letter, we have ויקר "and he met", as in Nu 23:4, 16. Then, the text states: "And the LORD met Moses, and the LORD spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying". See also the note on Lev 6:9 (6:2) and the note on Lev 14:10.

Lev 6:9 (6:2) The translation suggested here is: "Command Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the law of the burnt offering. Offer the burnt offering and burn it on the altar all night until morning. The fire of the altar shall be kept burning in the altar.'" The fire of the altar had to be kept burning continually and never extinguished (Lev 6:12-13 (6:5-6)). Considering the translation above, it could be explained as follows. The word על in הוא העלה על was parsed as the 2ms Piel Imperative of עלה "to ascend", just as צו, at the beginning of the verse, is parsed as the 2ms Piel Imperative of צוה "to command". Now the sources of the Bomberg/Ginsburg Hebrew Old Testament indicate that in the Hebrew manuscripts the first letter of the word מוקדה is small in comparison to the other letters of the text. This detail is not preserved in the St. Petersburg Codex, in which the first letter of מוקדה is of normal size. Understanding the small size of the letter as an indication that it was not part of the original text, the verse was interpreted as having וקדה "and burn it" instead of מוקדה, which might mean "hearth". Note that וקדה "and burn it" is parsed as the Qal Imperative of יקד "to burn" with the 3fs suffix, under the assumption that this verb can be used transitively (with an object). The passive forms of this verb provide evidence that the verb could be used with an object. The following could be included among the passive forms of יקד: the Hophal form תוקד in Lev 6:9 (6:2), 6:12-13 (6:5-6), Jer 15:14, 17:4 and the form יקוד in Is 30:14, which has been parsed as a passive Participle in the BDB lexicon. See also the note on Lev 1:1 and the note on Lev 14:10.

Lev 9:22 The text has ידו "his hand" (Kethiv) instead of ידיו "his hands" (Qere). It could be concluded that Aaron raised only one of his hands. Since ידו "his hand" is often used in contexts in which the singular meaning fits perfectly (such as Ex 8:17 (8:13), Nu 20:11, 1Ki 13:4), it would seem unlikely that it is used here with collective meaning, as denoting both hands.

Lev 11:25 If a person touched the unclean thing early in the day, he was unclean for a longer time than one who touched the unclean thing late in the day. Nonetheless, both were equally clean in the evening. When people experience God's forgiveness, they are clean regardless how much they have sinned or how long they have been defiled by it. The fact that evening was the time when one would become clean matches the time of day when Jesus was buried (Mt 27:57, Mk 15:42, Lk 23:54). The burial of Jesus represented the completion of the sacrifice for the sins of the world. In the sacrifices of the law, a sacrifice was not complete until the fire consumed everything that was placed on the altar. When the sacrifice was complete, that which had been placed on the altar was no longer visible, having been consumed by fire. So also, when the sacrifice of Jesus was complete, he was no longer in the sight of men, being placed into a tomb.

Lev 14:10 Considering Lev 14:10 and Nu 6:14, the sources of the Bomberg/Ginsburg Hebrew Old Testament indicate that in the Hebrew manuscripts the last letter of the word כבשה "female lamb" is small in comparison to the other letters of the text. This detail is not preserved in the St. Petersburg Codex. It follows that the original text has כבש "lamb" instead of כבשה "female lamb". Since the text makes it clear that a female lamb is meant, it can be concluded that in the Hebrew language of the books of the Law the same word כבש "lamb" could denote either a male or a female lamb; the context determines the kind of lamb that is meant. The later Hebrew language did use the word כבשה "female lamb", as could be seen in 2Sa 12:3, 6. See also the note on Lev 1:1 and the note on Lev 6:9 (6:2).

Lev 14:14 The phrase εις μαρτυριον αυτοις "for a testimony to them" in Mt 8:4, Mk 1:44, Lk 5:14 emphasizes that what the law prescribed for a person healed from leprosy had a very meaningful testimony. Figuratively speaking, leprosy represents sin and a person healed from leprosy is like one who has been saved from sin. The procedure mentioned in this verse had to be repeated using oil, where the oil was to be placed over the blood (Lev 14:17). The blood of the sacrifices was holy and it was used to consecrate things or people. Thus, this verse speaks about the consecration of the ears (and so of the hearing), of the hands, and of the feet. The believer is consecrated by the blood of Christ to hear God's word, work the works of God, and walk after Jesus. The anointing oil represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He teaches and empowers the believer. The fact that the blood and the oil were used the same way in Lev 14:14 and Lev 14:17 indicates that the blood points not only to the sacrifice for sins but also to life, for "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Lev 17:11). The Spirit gives life (Jn 6:63, 2Co 3:6), is life (Ro 8:10), and the life of the believer is Christ (Col 3:4).

There are similarities between the purification of a person healed from leprosy and the ordination of Aaron and his sons. In both cases there were three animals sacrificed (Lev 14:10, Ex 29:1). In both cases there was a whole burnt offering (Lev 14:19-20, Ex 29:15-19) and a sin offering (Lev 14:19, Ex 29:10-14). Moreover, the guilt offering of Lev 14:12-13 has similarities to the ordination offering of Ex 29:19-20. The procedure mentioned in Lev 14:14 involving the blood of the guilt offering was used also for the ordination of Aaron and his sons with the blood of the ordination offering (Ex 29:20, Lev 8:23-24). In the case of the healed person, some of the oil was placed on his ear lobe, thumb, and big toe, and some was put on his head (Lev 14:18). As for Aaron and his sons, some of the anointing oil was poured on the head of Aaron (Ex 29:7, Lev 8:12). Moreover, Moses took some of it and of the blood on the altar and sprinkled them (Ex 29:21, Lev 8:30). These similarities point out that one who is saved is in a way like a priest (1Pt 2:9).

Lev 16:8 The text speaks of "one lot for the LORD and one for the scapegoat" instead of "one lot for the goat to be sacrificed and one for the scapegoat". The sacrifice for sin was symbolic of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. This would explain why the text states that one lot was for the LORD. The word עזאזל, though commonly translated "scapegoat", has also been understood with the meaning "goat that goes away" since it consists of עז "goat" and the verb אזל "to go".

Lev 16:12 Literally, the beginning of the verse states: "And he will take from the altar before the LORD coals of fire in the amount of the fullness of the censer ... ". Note the article in המחתה "the censer". Note that the Hebrew text does not say that he had to fill a censer, but that he had to take the fullness of the censer. The text does not say either that he had to bring a censer inside the veil, but that he had to bring enough coals of fire to fill a certain censer. Thus, this verse indicates that there was a certain censer that probably was not supposed to leave the Most Holy Place, and the fire and the incense were to be brought to it. This must be a reference to the censer mentioned in Heb 9:4; see the note on Heb 9:4. While Lev 16:12 does not say that the censer was golden, the passages speaking about the furnishings of the tabernacle imply that anything fit for the Most Holy Place had to be made of gold.

Lev 16:21 The text has the phrase שתי ידו "his two hands" (Kethiv) involving the singular form ידו. This can be explained as in the paragraph 134.e of the Gesenius grammar, which provides a number of examples showing that the numerals from 2 to 10 may have singular objects. Some verses illustrating this point are as follows. In 2Ki 22:1 the text has בן שמנה שנה instead of בן שמנה שנים; in 2Ki 8:17, שמנה שנה (Kethiv) instead of שמנה שנים (Qere); in Eze 45:1, עשרה אלף instead of עשרה אלפים; in 2Ki 25:17, שלש אמה (Kethiv) instead of שלש אמות (Qere); in 2Ki 7:14 שני רכב סוסים instead of שני רכבי סוסים; in Jdg 21:12, ארבע מאות נערה בתולה instead of ארבע מאות נערות בתולות.

Lev 21:5 A good translation of the beginning of the verse would be: "No shaved baldness shall be made in their heads. ... " (see the Kethiv). A stricter way to interpret the text would be: "One shall not shave their heads for baldness ... ". The indefinite pronoun "one" can be inferred from the absence of some other possible masculine singular subject of יקרחה. Note that יקרחה was parsed as an Imperfect 3ms form with paragogic heh of קרח "to make bald", that is, "to shave". Examples of 3ms Imperfect forms with paragogic heh are ידשנה (Ps 20:3 (20:4)) and יחישה (Is 5:19). Now the indefinite pronoun "one" would not seem to be the best choice in translation, since the priests themselves are likely included in "one"; everyone was forbidden to shave the head of a priest, including the priest himself. That everyone was forbidden could be inferred by considering other verses involving the indefinite pronoun "one". (Note that when the context does not provide a subject to a 3ms verb form, the indefinite pronoun "one" is implied.) Thus, in Lev 19:23, a passive interpretation of יאכל is unlikely because ערלים has the plural number; the interpretation "one shall not eat them" is natural, and the fact that everyone was forbidden from eating those fruits is obvious. In Hab 3:17, the text has ושדמות לא עשה אכל "and as for the fields, one will not obtain from them food"; in the context, "one" would refer to anyone. In Lev 27:33, the subject of יבקר is the indefinite pronoun "one" (as in ESV), not איש from Lev 27:31, since Lev 27:33 refers to everyone, not just to someone to whom verse Lev 27:31 applied. In Nu 35:33, the statement לארץ לא יכפר "one will not atone for the land" clearly refers to any who would attempt to offer an atonement.

Lev 21:10 The word בגדיו "his garments" indicates that the high priest was not allowed to tear any of his garments. It may be that Caiaphas was not aware about this (Mk 14:63).

Lev 25:30 Literally (see the Kethiv), "And if he does not redeem it by the end of a full year and there is no wrath, the house which is in a city will belong permanently to the one who bought it. For all his generations, it will not revert in the jubilee." According to this translation, it would seem that the right to redeem the house was supposed to expire only if there was no wrath, that is, if the city was at peace and the man who sold it did not experience severe circumstances preventing him from redeeming the house. Thus, certain circumstances could have extended the right to redeem the house. In the translation above, אשר לא חמה was understood with the meaning "when there is no wrath". Note that the word חמה translated here "wrath" is not spelled the same way as the word חומה "wall" of the previous verse. Though חמה could be translated also "wall", and it has to be translated "wall" in the phrase חמה סביב of the following verse, the meaning "wall" does not fit the Kethiv of this verse. Thus, the alternative meaning "wrath" has been used in translation. Now the usage of the word חמה in this verse could be related to the use of קצף in 2Ki 3:27. In 2Ki 3:27, the word קצף might imply that the Moabites began to attack fiercely Israel. See the note on Pr 19:19 for a related use of חמה.