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Leviticus is Vayikra in Hebrew, the third book of the Torah (Pentateuch), the name given in Judaism to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament).

Leviticus contains primarily laws and priestly rituals. Though scholars generally believe Deuteronomy to have been the book "found" (or written) in the time of King Josiah, the preponderance of duties to the priesthood suggest that the book might have been Leviticus.  This theory is held by Berry )George R. Berry, “The Code Found in the Temple.” JBL, pp., 14-15.) Others believe that the book that was "found" was Deuteronomy, or perhaps the entire Pentateuch.

The first 16 chapters and the last chapter make up the Priestly Code, with rules for ritual cleanliness, sin-offerings, and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and male circumcision. Chapters 17-26 contain the Holiness Code, including the injunction in chapter 19 to "love one's neighbor as oneself" (the Great Commandment).

The book of Leviticus is greatly concerned with prevention of "abominations", largely dietary and sexual restrictions. The rules are usually addressed to the Israelites, except for the prohibition in chapter 20 against sacrificing children to Molech, which applies equally to "the strangers that sojourn in Israel." This content suggest strongly that the book was written after the Israelites had settled in Canaan.

According to tradition, Moses wrote Leviticus as well as the other four books of the Torah. Some Biblical scholars believe Leviticus to be almost entirely from the priestly source (P), marked by emphasis on priestly concerns, composed in its final redaction about 550-400 BC, and incorporated into the Torah c 400 BC. This late date would make it difficult to explain how the prophet Ezekiel could have known about the specific rituals of Leviticus and referred to them, but it is possible that the laws and customs existed prior to the final redaction of the book of Leviticus. Other Biblical scholars have presented evidence for a date of composition in approximately the 15th century BC, based on literary and legal customs of the ancient Near East. This date would make it hard to account for specific injunctions against customs prevailing in Canaan when the Israelites arrived there.

It is probable that Leviticus represents an accretion of laws that was redacted into its final form some time during the existence of the first temple.

Some detailed discussion of the issue of dating in Leviticus is at Wikipedia

Leviticus has virtually no narrative. It is a compilation of laws and therefore of interest to theologians and antiquarians. Many of the laws are antiquated and sound draconic to our ears. They regulate slavery for example and detail the sort of temple  sacrifices that must be made by persons of different classes. But in an era of slavery it was necessary to regulate it to control abuses.


Leviticus 1 Leviticus 2 | Leviticus 3 | Leviticus 4 | Leviticus 5 | Leviticus 6 | Leviticus 7 | Leviticus 8 | Leviticus 9 | Leviticus 10 | Leviticus 11 | Leviticus 12 | Leviticus 13 | Leviticus 14 | Leviticus 15 | Leviticus 16 | Leviticus 17 | Leviticus 18 | Leviticus 19 | Leviticus 20 | Leviticus 21 | Leviticus 22 | Leviticus 23 | Leviticus 24 | Leviticus 25 | Leviticus 26 | Leviticus 27


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The bible and Zionism

The Bible, the Old Testament, has become a mainstay of human culture, but it is first and foremost a historical document of the Jewish people and our culture. It tells the story of our ancient kingdoms and civilization in the Land of Israel, and therefore it kept alive the tie of the people of Israel to the land of Israel for 2000 years. It forms the moral and cultural basis of Zionist ideology and aspirations.

The Bible, the Old Testament, is accepted by the three major Western faiths. It is a major work of Western civilization. The Bible documents the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, even for those who do not believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, and even for those who do not believe in God at all. It is the historic epic of the Jewish people in our land.  

Additional Background

Maps of Israel (Canaan, Palestine)in Bible Times

Map of Canaan (Israel) in the time of Joshua (Black and White)
Map of ancient Canaan (Palestine) after the Conquest by the Israelites
Palestine (Israel, Canaan) in the Time of the Judges
Map of Ancient Israel (Canaan) in the reigns of Kings David and Solomon (Black and White)
Map of Judah (Judea) in the Divided Kingdom
Map of Judah (Judea) in the Maccabean Kingdom of Alexander Janeus (Yannai)
Map of the Roman Province of Judea

Map - Canaan Before the Hebrews

Map - Canaan and the Early Israelite Kingdom

Map - The kingdoms of Israel and Judea; Judea and Samaria in the time of Jesus

Map and article - Judea (Judah) and Judea and Samaria

Map of Palestine 1845 - Showing biblical and contemporary sites

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