Throughout Leviticus, Israel remains encamped at Mount Sinai while God appears in the Tent of Meeting, dictating to Moses his specifications regarding the Jewish ceremonial laws. The laws are extremely detailed, outlining every aspect of how and when religious offerings are to be presented to God. God gives the instructions himself, and his voice comprises the majority of the text. A brief narrative interlude describes the anointing of Aaron and his sons as Israel’s priests. At the ceremony, God appears and engulfs the altar in a burst of flames, eliciting shouts of joy from the people. Soon after, God also sends fire to consume two of Aaron’s sons when they neglect to make the right preparations for approaching the altar.
God lists various types of forbidden sexual behavior and discusses foods and physical conditions that can make a person unclean. Uncleanliness can result from things such as bodily discharge or touching a dead carcass. An unclean person must leave the Israelite camp or undergo physical cleansing, waiting periods, and religious sacrifices. Typically, sexual sins are punishable by death, but God also instructs the Israelites to kill a man who blasphemes, or curses God’s name. Of all his restrictions, God places particular emphasis on the prohibition against eating meat with blood still in it: doing so will result in banishment, not only from Israel but from God’s graces as well.
In the end, God promises to give Israel great abundance and success if it obeys these laws. If Israel is disobedient, though, God will send destruction and famine and “abhor” the Israelites (26:30). But the laws in Leviticus also set aside an annual Day of Atonement during which the priest is to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of the entire nation. As long as the Israelites confess and repent for their sins, God promises to keep his covenant and never leave them.