The name of the book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible is “The Lord Called.” Like Genesis and Exodus, the Hebrews named these books after the first word or phrase in the book. The instructions that God is about to give Moses concern the performance of the complete sacrificial system that was predominantly carried out by the Levites. Thus, our English Bibles follow the Septuagint in naming the book after them. God called Moses in the book to give him instructions to pass on to the Levites. Leviticus 1:1 says, “The Lord called Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting…” The last three verses of the book of Exodus sets the stage for God’s call in Leviticus. It speaks of the cloud in the daytime and the fire at night that represents the presence of the Lord with the children on their exodus from Egypt. The cloud and the fire accompanied the tabernacle.

The writers of the Translator’s Handbook for Leviticus do not like the phrase “tent of meeting.” They argue that it does not adequately convey the full meaning of the Hebrew expression. “It is the portable sanctuary of the people of Israel, described in which God meets with Moses to communicate to him the divine will.” They like a more liquid translation of “Today’s English Version” which calls it the Tent of the Lord’s Presence. Better they say is, “the tent where the LORD is,” or “the place where the LORD appears.”[1]

In John’s Gospel, John 1:14, he uses the term “tabernacled” to describe Jesus coming to earth in the flesh. As Leviticus is going to tell us about the details of the sacrificial system by which God will make atonement for the sins of the people, John makes it clear, as do other writers of the New Testament that “Jesus is not only the revelation of God but the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system that foreshadowed his sacrifice that would remove sins once and for all. The tabernacle as the special place of God’s presence is a type of the incarnation of Christ, who ‘made his dwelling’ (tabernacled) among us. Eichrodt speaks of the significance of the tabernacle and its New Testament reality in Christ: The concept of the distant God who yet condescends to be really present in the midst of his people and enables them to participate in the divine life, lives on in the symbolic language of the New Testament, which uses the image of the ‘tabernacling’ to tell of the dwelling of the eternal God among men.”[2]

[1] Péter-Contesse, René, and John Ellington. 1992. A Handbook on Leviticus. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Rooker, Mark F. 2000. Leviticus. Vol. 3A. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.