Bible Study Helps: Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
In my continuing series on Bible study helps, designed especially for those who have committed to read the Bible through in a year, beginning on January 1, you should now be starting on the book of Leviticus. It is the middle volume of what we call the Pentateuch, the authorship of which is traditionally ascribed to Moses.
Those who have read a bit over three chapters a day would have made it through Genesis and Exodus. Those books are mainly historical narrative, but the second book started giving us law – lots of law. And so it will continue through the rest of the Pentateuch.
Briefly, Leviticus gets its name from the priestly tribe of the Levites, and deals extensively with various law. Numbers has to do with various numberings (censuses) of the people; instructions on the tabernacle; and an account of the wilderness wanderings. Deuteronomy (second law) repeats many of the laws found in Exodus (eg., the Ten Commandments are found in Ex. 20 and Deut. 5); and discuss how the Israelites are prepared to enter Canaan.
So from Exodus 20 to the end of Deuteronomy, much of the last three and a half books of the Pentateuch deal with law. And it is at this point where a lot of Christians can put up the white flag of surrender and just give up, overwhelmed by all the laws and how to understand them.
As I just read in James Todd’s new book, Sinai and the Saints, Christians try a New Year’s resolution to make it through the whole Bible, beginning with Genesis. They are excited about all the action of the first one and a half books of the Pentateuch, but it is all downhill from there as they get to all the law bits:
Your Bible reading plan begins to feel like hard work instead of pleasure; verse after verse of laws have replaced the exciting stories of action and adventure. The thighs and calves of your attention span begin to burn as you read the numerous chapters of laws. In fact, for many Christians, this mountain marks the end of good intentions and the frustration of yet another New Year’s goal gone awry.
Yes this happens far too often. But assistance is available to help you make your way through all these laws. In my piece on the book of Exodus I offered a number of titles looking at the Pentateuch, the law, and the Ten Commandments. You can see those titles here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/01/16/bible-study-helps-exodus/
Here I am going to bring together all three of the final books of the Pentateuch. I will offer some helpful commentaries on each, and then look at a few other resources from my own website.
Gane, Roy, Leviticus, Numbers (NIVAC). Zondervan, 2004.
Harrison, R. K., Leviticus (TOTC). IVP, 1980.
Hartley, John, Leviticus (WBC). Word, 1992.
Hess, Richard, Leviticus (EBC rev). Zondervan, 2008.
Kiuchi, Nobuyoshi, Leviticus (AOTC). Apollos, 2007.
Mathews, Kenneth, Leviticus (PTW). Crossway, 2009.
Radner, Ephraim, Leviticus (BTCB). Brazos, 2008.
Rooker, Mark, Leviticus (NAC). Broadman & Holman, 2000.
Ross, Allen, Holiness to the Lord. Baker, 2002.
Sklar, Jay, Leviticus (TOTC). IVP, 2013.
Tidball, Derek, The Message of Leviticus (BST). IVP, 2005.
Wenham, Gordan, Leviticus (NICOT). Eerdmans, 1979.
Ashley, Timothy, The Book of Numbers (NICOT). Eerdmans, 1993.
Brown, Raymond, The Message of Numbers (BST). IVP, 2002.
Cole, R. Dennis, Numbers (NAC). Broadman & Holman, 2000.
Davies, Eryl, Numbers (NCB). Eerdmans, 1995.
Duguid, Iain, Numbers (PTW). Crossway, 2006.
Gane, Roy, Leviticus, Numbers (NIVAC). Zondervan, 2004.
Stubbs, David, Numbers (BTCB). Brazos, 2009.
Wenham, Gordan, Numbers (TOTC). IVP, 1981.
Block, Daniel, Deuteronomy (NIVAC). Zondervan, 2012.
Brown, Raymond, The Message of Deuteronomy (BST). IVP, 1993.
Christensen, Duane, Deuteronomy, 2 vols. (WBC). Word, 1993, 2002.
Craigie, Peter, The Book of Deuteronomy (NIC). Eerdmans, 1976.
Fernando, Ajith, Deuteronomy (PTW). Crossway, 2012.
Kalland, Earl, Deuteronomy (EBC). Zondervan, 1992.
McConville, J. Gordon, Deuteronomy (AOTC). Apollos, 2002.
Merrill, Eugene, Deuteronomy (NAC). Broadman & Holman, 1994.
Thompson, J. A., Deuteronomy (TOTC). IVP, 1974.
Woods, Edward, Deuteronomy (TOTC). IVP, 2011.
Work, Telford, Deuteronomy (BTCB). Brazos, 2009.
Wright, Chris, Deuteronomy (NIBC). Hendrickson, 1996.
A word about my commentary selections. Almost all of the books featured in my lists happen to be commentaries that I own. Thus I at least know something about them and can recommend them. If one of your favourite commentaries is not found here, that may not mean I think it is less worthwhile: it just means I have not yet read it so cannot really say as much about it.
If you do not know what the various commentary series’ acronyms mean, and which sets are worth pursuing, I try to explain that further in this article: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/07/14/how-to-pick-a-good-commentary/
As part of my series on difficult Bible passages, I have written a few on these three books:
And I have penned various devotional articles on the books of the Pentateuch. See here for example:
Finally, since many of you are now starting to read Leviticus, and its major theme is that of holiness, let me offer a few quotes on that topic:
“Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.” J.C. Ryle
“Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom.” Elisabeth Elliot
“If the Savior has not sanctified you, renewed you, given you a hatred of sin and a love of holiness, He has nothing in you of a saving character.” Charles Spurgeon
“I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45
“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.” Psalm 119:1
“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
8 Replies to “Bible Study Helps: Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy”
Good stuff Bill. On a more anecdotal note, I was reading an eschatological book by Arnold Frauchtumbaum (spelling needs to be checked) a number of years ago and in it he states that Leviticus 26:1 – 4 are the first hint in the Bible of the Millenium. It wasn’t my intention to raise eschatology in this context but more to highlight the fact that Scripture is full of valuable and important truths and statements about the future that can enrich our lives. Even in a harder book like Leviticus.
Thanks for your encouragement, Bill.
Hi Bill. Thank you for your commentary. As I’m sure you are well aware there is Torah Movement amongst many Christian organisations. What are your thoughts on this? Are Christians under all the Laws, (moral, civil and sacrificial) or just the moral? There seems to be much confusion surrounding this, I thought you could shed some light on this subject.
Thanks Helen. Those are some broad questions requiring more than a brief reply! As to some of the Torah and Hebrew movements among Christians, there are various ones: some better and some worse. We all should appreciate our Jewish roots and the Hebrew Scriptures. But some of these groups, such as the Hebrew Roots movement, basically want to take us back under the law that Christ set us free from. Some of these guys would likely have burned Paul at the stake, and they need to reread Galatians and Romans for starters.
As to the different types of the law, I have written on that in various places, eg: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/01/30/leviticus-law-and-love/
Hi Bill. An atheist friend recently sent me a google map screenshot of how long it will take to walk from Cairo to Jerusalem: 6 days, to mock the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. So that got me curious. You and I believe it did happen. But can you help point to an apologetics source that covers this point sufficiently? Thanks
Thanks Joseph. But I am not sure what the big deal is that your atheist buddy thinks he is making. Of course in normal circumstances the journey should have taken days, not years. But God tells us why they did not get there directly and quickly: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, ‘The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds” (Exodus 13:17-18).
And because of their sin of unbelief, based on the 40 days in spying the land (with 10 out of 12 spies giving a false report based on unbelief), that resulted in them wandering in the wilderness for 40 years as punishment, as we are clearly told in Numbers 14:34: “For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.”
But they were not wandering for all those forty years – most of the time they were at Kadesh Barnea. The 250 – 300 mile journey may have taken a week or two for an ordinary walker, but we had here some 3 million people (men, women children – and animals) moving through the desert. So the journey was slower going.
Hmm I think him being atheist and all will simply disregard any biblical proof/explanation.
This is much like evolutionist denying creation account. Arguments will need to start from science, like what Ken Ham is doing I suppose? I just havent come across something in depth abt this topic. Perhaps you have?
Thanks Joseph. But the atheist is the one who is claiming that the Bible is wrong or contradictory here. All we are doing is saying there is nothing wrong or contradictory at all. IF you go in a straight line, unencumbered by 3 million people, then yes, you can probably make the journey in a week or two. The Bible – and believers – nowhere say anything to the contrary!! BUT, if you are led on a non-direct, slow journey, including a 38-year stay at Kadesh Barnea, then yeah, it WILL take longer – like 40 years!
So I still see absolutely nothing in his remark that means a hill of beans, or in any way is some sort of knock-out blow against the faith. All I see is a brainless remark which any child can refute! You don’t need science to point out the obvious here!! You just need a brain!