For centuries Jewish children would have learned the Torah front to back. The history, meaning, and values of their culture were driven by the words of this sacred text. Leviticus was not an exception. All the laws and the gory details of sacrifice would have been known and understood by all Hebrew people. Pause for a moment, Jesus would have learned the Torah. He would have memorized it. If you ever wanted to know what a “bible study” for Jesus would have looked like, read the Torah.
In order to understand Leviticus, we have to understand the context and intent. The laws were not written in a vacuum but to a distinct people, for a particular time, in a specific location. Despite, rushed judgements of the text by post-christian Americans, the book has a both a compassionate and just tone. This kind of tone can only be understood by studying the entirety of the text.
Leviticus is written to the Hebrew people at the base of Mt Sinai in the wilderness. They have been led out of enslavement into freedom. This new freedom brings new challenges of safety. Leviticus is God’s oral instruction and response for the Love of God and the love of others. These laws are both religious and communal in scope and are guided by the ‘Shema’.
" Hear O’ Israel the Lord your God is one, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Deut. 6:4
Finally, these laws are not for the ‘foreigners’, they are for the people of God who are in a ‘marital’ or covenantal relationship.
How does this help? You will encounter people using Leviticus as some sort of proof text or non-christians attempts to discredit the text. Please understand both stances are unfair in their treatment in isolation. The sexual sins demonstrated should be taken seriously in light of all scripture. The prohibition of shellfish doesn’t negate the morality of certain sexual sins listed. In others words, one can’t suggest that because the shellfish and tatoo’s are treated differently today mean that all the laws in the text should be too. For example, Leviticus says, One should not have sexual relations with their dad’s wife...I think we still kind of agree with this. :)
Secondly, recognize the beauty of safety, compassion, and justice throughout the text. Sleeping around with family, neighbors wives, etc… causes tremendous trauma to a community. Further, God’s response and path to wholeness in relationship and for relationship to Himself is beautiful. He is always making a way. Take the path. Extend it to your neighbor.