How many Christians have resolved to read through the entire Bible and made good progress through Genesis and Exodus only to hit a wall and give up when they reach Leviticus? With all of its different laws regarding the Old Covenant priesthood and various sacrifices, it can be quite difficult to understand. We often find ourselves asking about Leviticus, “What does this mean, and how is it relevant today?”
When the meaning of the book is grasped, however, and we begin to see the way in which these laws foreshadowed the person and work of Jesus Christ, the reading of this magnificent part of God’s inspired Word becomes an encouraging and edifying joy rather than a chore. For those who have struggled to understand the meaning and relevance of Leviticus, a good commentary can shed a lot of light. The following are what I believe to be the five most helpful commentaries on the book of Leviticus.
1. Gordon J. Wenham — The Book of Leviticus (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, 1979).
I have already written a review of Wenham’s commentary on Leviticus elsewhere, so I will be very brief here. This commentary is not only the best commentary on the book of Leviticus, it is one of the best commentaries on any book of the Bible that I have read.
2. John E. Hartley — Leviticus (Word Biblical Commentary, 1992).
If you can afford more than one commentary on Leviticus, Hartley’s commentary in the WBC series is a good choice. It supplements Wenham well. The only drawback, as with all volumes in the WBC series, is the layout. Once the reader becomes used to it, however, it is not as much of an issue.
3. Mark F. Rooker — Leviticus (New American Commentary, 2000).
Many of the commentaries in the NAC series are strong, and Rooker’s work on Leviticus is a good example. It is both exegetically thorough and well written.
4. Jay Sklar — Leviticus (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 2014).
If you can only have one commentary on Leviticus and you want something at an introductory level, this commentary by Sklar is the best choice. Although short in terms of pages, it is not short in terms of helpful insights.
5. Jacob Milgrom — Leviticus (Continental Commentary, 2004).
Jacob Milgrom is considered by many to be the world’s foremost expert on the book of Leviticus. He has written a massive (2,500 page) three-volume commentary on Leviticus in the Anchor Bible series (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3)—[Note: Having been purchased by Yale Univ. Press, the series is now titled the Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries]. The Continental Commentary is a more accessible version, without all the technical details. I haven’t ranked it higher because Milgrom approaches Leviticus from an unnecessarily critical stance. This means this commentary must be used with great care and discernment.
There are a number of other commentaries on the book of Leviticus that are worth consulting. Among them are those by Baruch Levine, W.H. Bellinger, R.K. Harrison, Allen P. Ross, and Andrew Bonar. When Jay Sklar’s commentary in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament series is released, it will almost certainly be worth consulting.
Helpful Related Works:
Leviticus is one of the most difficult books of the Old Testament for Christians to understand and yet is one of the most necessary to understand. Here is where the priesthood, the sacrifices, the Day of Atonement, and more are explained in detail. Given that Jesus Christ is our Great High Priest and the one who sacrificed Himself to atone for our sins, the connection between the person and work of Christ and Leviticus is obvious. If you do not grasp Leviticus, you will not fully grasp who Christ is or what He has done on our behalf. If you have ever struggled with Leviticus and been tempted to skip it (or actually did skip over it), I cannot recommend more highly a book by L. Michael Morales titled Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of Leviticus (2015). It is one of the ten best books on any part of the Bible that I have ever read.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.