Book Review – The Message of Leviticus (Derek Tidball)

This is the most recent addition to the Bible Speaks Today series, and follows firmly in the tradition of the others in the belief that God is speaking relevantly to us from all parts of the Bible, even the commonly neglected parts of the Old Testament such as Leviticus. Tidball’s writing style is engaging and the book begins with a fascinating introduction dealing with some of the themes and issues that come up in the book. Rather than breaking down the rules into categories of moral, civil and ceremonial, he prefers to seek the principles and paradigms expressed within them as we seek to apply them in the new covenant as Christians.

Tidball is clearly interested in some of the contemporary scholarly trends concerning Leviticus studies and often interacts with the views Milgrom, Douglas and others. He is not uncritically accepting of new theories and argues against them in places, but neither does he reject everything out of hand. Leviticus is of course the type of book that receives a lot of criticism for some of the unfashionable ethics it espouses as well as some of the rules and stipulations that are far from being ‘politically correct’. For Tidball, Leviticus is more about relationship with God than regulation, and his probing behind the letter of the laws to the spirit of the law often reveals strikingly modern concerns for human dignity and social welfare.

While the relevance for Christians is never far from the author’s concern, each chapter begins with a summary of the passage in question before concluding with a specific section of application. This proves to be a very helpful format for this commentary in particular. In these end sections, the sacrifices are thought of in light of Christ’s sacrifice for us, the priestly duties are used to draw out lessons for Christian leadership (although he stresses that OT priests are not analogous to NT leaders, as we are all priests in the new covenant), and purity laws serve to remind us that our religion concerns not merely what happens in the worship service but in every area of our lives – even in the kitchen and the bedroom God has something to say.

I can highly recommend this volume to anyone studying Leviticus whether for their own personal benefit or as part of preparing studies for others. Not only will it give a fuller understanding of the meaning of the book, but it will bring many practical challenges and encouragements for Christian life. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the Day of Atonement and Jubilee, as well as his discussion of the purity regulations, food laws and the sacrifices for unintentional sins.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – The Message of Leviticus (Derek Tidball)

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