The Book of Leviticus/Wayyikra. Themes in Leviticus/Wayyikra: The Phenomenon of Holy, the Sacrificial System and Clean Versus Unclean Victuals

The lecture embarks upon offering a treatment of such issues as the final form of the book of Leviticus/Wayyikra as the authorship, title, date, structure and literary features and the various aspects of the P source. As part of the treatment of the P source in Leviticus/Wayyikra, a thematic overview is also presented, which encapsulates three themes. The first theme centres upon the phenomenon of holy, which stems from the fact that God is holy. The book of Leviticus/Wayyikra lays stress upon the power of God to sanctify, or make holy, other people or objects. Nonetheless, it also signals the peril posed by the moral and ritual uncleanness associated with human demeanour. Holiness and uncleanness are displayed as mutually exclusive. As a result, for Israel to celebrate a close and meaningful relationship with God, they ought to mirror his holiness in their daily attitude and conduct, on the lines of the divine exhortation, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (19,2; 11,44-45; 20,26). Within this theme such key-terms and concepts are analysed as holy, clean, unclean, holiness, uncleanness and the relationship between the latter two.
The second theme to be dissected is the theme of sacrificial system, which begins by tackling the general pattern for animal sacrifices, the five types of sacrifices and the day of atonement. When Moses and the Israelites finish erecting the Holy Tabernacle, it becomes possible for God to abide among the Israelites. In order to live in closeness to the divine, God through Moses institutes a sacrificial system by which Israel can atone for her sins. The sacrifices address the various aspects of human error. The sacrifices presented on the Day of Atonement are the most prominent ones.

The third theme is preoccupied with the question of clean and unclean. After a summary of regulations, their function is described, together with the blood prohibition and the rationale behind the clean/unclean classification. The regulations accentuate two important theological principles. First, the distinction between clean and unclean underscores the divine calling of Israel to be a holy nation, thus being dissimilar from the other nations of the earth. Second, the clean and unclean animals symbolize Israelites and non-Israelites respectively.