The Levitical Covenant
By Shawn Tomlin
The sixth covenant and the second covenant with an “office” attached to it is the Levitical Covenant. Otherwise known as the Priestly Covenant. This covenant is rarely known, or recognized as a covenant on its own, but an entire book of the bible is dedicated to it- Leviticus. Let’s get into it.
The main text for the Levitical Covenant is found in Numbers 25:12-13. The LORD spoke to Moses about Phineas, Aaron’s grandson saying, “Therefore declare: I grant him my covenant of peace. It will be a covenant of perpetual priesthood for him and his future descendants, because he was zealous for his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”
The covenant is also spoken of in Nehemiah 13:29, Malachi 2:8, and Jeremiah 33:20-21. Most importantly, This covenant is wrapped up in the Mosaic Covenant. Knowing this is key to understanding the Levitical Covenant. Perhaps that’s why it’s not recognized on its own as a standalone covenant. God spoke of it as a covenant that stood on its own though and its purpose was a sort of safeguard against the depravity of Israel.
Our sin was so eternally damaging to our relationship to the Father that it took the blood of our eternal High Priest, who existed before creation, dripping onto the dirt of the fallen world, to atone for it, and atone for it it certainly did.
Israel, under the Mosaic Covenant, had to perfectly follow the Law of God, down to the finest detail. Any and all breaking of the Law was enough to bring punishment upon Israel. As we know, we are not able to perfectly fulfill the Law written on our hearts and Israel couldn’t fulfill the Law written on the stone tablets. This is where the Levitical Covenant came into play. God made this covenant with the Levitical priests to help the people obey the Mosaic Covenant. God knew the exceeding sinfulness of His chosen people and in His faithful love, mercy, and grace, provided a way for them to atone for their sin, and in effect punishing an animal in their place. In essence, when the Mosaic Covenant was disobeyed, the Levitical Covenant provided forgiveness in the shedding of blood.
Douglas Van Dorn says it perfectly in Covenant Theology: A Reformed Baptist Primer that the Levitical Covenant “is the covenant that surrounds the Mosaic Covenant, like the Tabernacle or Temple surround the Ark.” The Tabernacle or Temple didn’t protect God from Israel, it protected Israel from God. He is Holy and humanity is not. In the same way, the Levitical Covenant protected Israel from the Holy Wrath of God.
The fulfillment of this covenant was Christ. He is the eternal priest. Hebrews 10:11-12 says, “Every priest stands day after day and offering the same sacrifices time after time, which can never take away sins. But this man, after offering one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” Christ is that man. The eternal God clothed in human flesh shed His own blood for us and atoned for our sin eternally, something a lamb could never do. Our sin was so eternally damaging to our relationship to the Father that it took the blood of our eternal High Priest, who existed before creation, dripping onto the dirt of the fallen world, to atone for it, and atone for it it certainly did.
“The LORD bless you, and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.”