“Unit 12: Day 3, Leviticus 12–18,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 12: Day 3,” Old Testament Study Guide
The Lord gave the children of Israel laws and ordinances that, if followed, would bless them and allow them to be clean from the sins of the world. He also instructed the Israelites concerning the Day of Atonement. The Lord further counseled them not to follow the wicked practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites.
Think of a time when you were physically very dirty. Ponder that experience as you read the following account by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He described an experience in which he and other soldiers during World War II were transported across the United States in boxcars on a freight train.
“We had no change of clothing during the six-day trip. It was very hot. … Smoke and cinders from the engine made it very uncomfortable. There was no way to bathe or wash our uniforms. We rolled into Los Angeles one morning—a grubby-looking outfit—and were told to return to the train that evening.
“We thought first of food. The 10 of us in our crew pooled our money and headed for the best restaurant we could find.
“It was crowded, and so we joined a long line waiting to be seated. I was first, just behind some well-dressed women. Even without turning around, the stately woman in front of me soon became aware that we were there.
“She turned and looked at us. Then she turned and looked me over from head to toe. There I stood in that sweaty, dirty, sooty, wrinkled uniform. She said in a tone of disgust, ‘My, what untidy men!’ All eyes turned to us.
“No doubt she wished we were not there; I shared her wish. I felt as dirty as I was, uncomfortable, and ashamed” (“Washed Clean,” Ensign, May 1997, 9).
How might feelings we experience when we are spiritually unclean be similar to the feelings we have when we are physically unclean?
As you study Leviticus 12–18, look for truths that can help you learn how to become clean from your sins.
Throughout the scriptures the word unclean can refer to both physical and spiritual uncleanliness. Additionally, in the law of Moses, “uncleanness referred to being ceremonially or ritually unclean” (Bible Dictionary, “Clean and unclean”). For example, Leviticus 12 teaches that women who undergo childbirth are to be pronounced unclean. This does not mean the mother was unworthy because of sins or misdeeds. Rather, the purification time would allow the mother time to recuperate from childbirth. During this time she would be in seclusion and separated from the rest of the camp. After the designated period of time passed, she would take the appropriate animal sacrifice to the tabernacle, and the priest would then make an offering. After the sacrifice the mother would be pronounced clean, and she would again be able to go into the sanctuary.
Read Leviticus 13:1–3, looking for other circumstances that caused a person to be unclean under the law of Moses.
In the Old Testament, the term leprosy refers to a variety of skin diseases and conditions. The instructions in Leviticus 13 provided the priests with ways to diagnose infectious skin diseases of various types and guidelines to help them determine when someone was no longer infected and contagious.
Read Leviticus 13:45–46, looking for what was required when someone had leprosy.
Although individuals diagnosed with leprosy or other skin diseases were not necessarily spiritually unclean, the laws regarding leprosy can teach about sin symbolically. In the following chart, complete the first sentence so that it reads, Leprosy can help us understand what sin is like. (You will complete the other two sentences as you progress through this lesson.)
Leprosy can help us understand .
The priest is like .
The offerings are like .
Did you notice in Leviticus 13:46 that those who had a skin disease were not allowed to dwell within the camp of Israel? This verse helps us understand that our sins make us unclean and unable to dwell in God’s presence.
As you read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer, mark words or phrases that help deepen your understanding of the preceding truth. He said this after speaking about his experience of being in a nice restaurant while wearing filthy clothes:
“When I began a serious study of the scriptures, I noticed references to being spiritually clean. One verse says, ‘Ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell’ [Mormon 9:4].
“I could understand that. I remembered how I felt that day in Los Angeles. I reasoned that to be spiritually unclean would bring shame and humiliation immeasurably more intense than I felt then. I found references … which say that no unclean thing can enter the presence of God. While I realized those references had little to do with dirty clothes or soiled hands, I decided I wanted to stay spiritually clean” (“Washed Clean,” 9).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why do you think that no unclean thing or person can dwell in God’s presence? (It may be helpful to refer to 1 Nephi 15:33 as you consider your answer to this question.)
Many of the skin diseases and conditions described as leprosy in Leviticus 13 would heal with time. However, before a leper could be considered clean under the law of Moses, he or she needed to participate in two rituals outlined in Leviticus 14. One reason these rituals were given was to teach about the Savior’s Atonement and the principles of repentance.
Read Leviticus 14:1–3, looking for who the leper went to for help to be cleansed.
How might the priests in Moses’s day help us understand the role of priesthood leaders in our day?
In the preceding chart, complete the second sentence so that it reads, The priest is like a bishop or branch president.
Leviticus 14:4–32 explains that the leper was required to bring two birds, three lambs, flour, and oil to the priest as offerings to the Lord.
Read Leviticus 14:13–14, 19–20, looking for what was done with the lambs the leper brought to the priest.
- In your scripture study journal, explain what you think the ritual with the lambs can teach us about the Savior and what His Atonement does for those who repent.
In the preceding chart, complete the third sentence so that it reads, The offerings are like our repentance.
One principle we can learn from these rituals is that to be forgiven of our sins, we must turn to the Lord and obey the conditions of repentance He has given.
It is important to recognize that lepers were not allowed to perform these offerings for themselves. It was necessary to go to the priest. Similarly, if we compare what a person needed to do to be declared cleansed from leprosy with what a person who has committed serious sins must do to repent, some sins may require that we seek help from our bishop. If a person has committed serious sin, such as sexual transgression or indulgence in pornography, those sins must be confessed to the bishop. The bishop holds the keys of repentance and can receive revelation to help individuals through the process of repentance.
In Leviticus 14:33–57 we learn that the Lord set forth procedures to cleanse houses with mildew and mold. (In ancient Israel, mildew and mold also symbolized sin and corruption.) Leviticus 15 contains additional laws, rites, and sacrifices that were set forth to help priests know how to cleanse other types of uncleanliness.
Read Leviticus 16, looking for how many times the word atonement is mentioned. Consider marking each time you find the word.
Leviticus 16 describes a sacred ceremony the Israelites were commanded to perform on one day each year, called the Day of Atonement (also known by the Hebrew name Yom Kippur). On this day the high priest offered sacrifice for all the people.
Leviticus 16:1–6 teaches that Aaron, who served as the high priest, was required to change into simple white linen clothing and offer sacrifice for himself before he could enter the tabernacle and perform the sacrifices God required on the Day of Atonement. (Note that Aaron served as the high priest of the Aaronic Priesthood. Today the term “high priest” refers to an office in the Melchizedek Priesthood.) The next part of the ceremony involved two goats.
Read the Lord’s instructions concerning the two goats in Leviticus 16:15–16, 21–22, looking for how the rituals involving these two goats could teach the children of Israel about the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
What can the ritual described in verses 15–16 teach us about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
What can the ritual described in verses 21–22 teach us about the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
The second goat in this ceremony is sometimes referred to as the scapegoat, since he is driven away into the wilderness, bearing the sins of the people.
Jesus Christ symbolically represented both goats used on the Day of Atonement. The ceremony emphasized the truth that Jesus Christ’s Atonement included His infinite suffering as He took away the sins of the world by taking them upon Himself, by the shedding of His blood in Gethsemane and on the cross. The Atonement also included Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, which allows all mankind to be resurrected and overcome physical death.
Read the words to the first verse of the hymn “I Stand All Amazed,” and notice how they relate to what you have learned in this lesson:
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me! (Hymns, no. 193)
- In your scripture study journal write your feelings and testimony about Jesus Christ and the Atonement He made for you.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Leviticus 12–18 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: