Review: Leviticus (TOTC) by Jay Sklar
Leviticus is a difficult book to understand, and quite the challenge for pastors and teachers. One of the difficulties is that it’s impossible to dip one’s toe in and expect any payoff. To truly understand and benefit, one must plunge into the deep end of the Levitical world of sacrifices, rituals, and purity laws. That’s to say, the application is found in the strange and complex details, not apart from them. At the same time, it can become easy to start sinking in the details. What one needs is a sure-handed help to keep one’s head above the water; one that not only understands the details, but is able to simplify them and direct one to what matters most. This is exactly what one finds in the Tyndale (TOTC) Leviticus commentary by Jay Sklar. Sklar is fluent with Leviticus, but also gifted at clarifying the hazy, or bringing close the distant.
In his introduction Sklar notes that “God’s purpose for his people in Leviticus is in many ways a return to his purpose for humanity in creation” (p28). In other words, Leviticus, perhaps surprisingly, is a return to Eden. As to authorship, Moses “was the source and author of much of the book” (p35), but some portions may have had a later editor. Solar also explains important theological foundations to the book, such as covenant, redemption, sin, (im)purity, and atonement. In this latter section Sklar defends the notion that kipper refers to “ransom-puficiation” (p53): it both rescues from wrath (ransom), and cleanses sin and impurity (purification). Solar also tackles the notorious questions of “which laws apply to Christians”, and “how do they apply”, providing several useful categories that deal with the vast majority of instances. Finally, he treats the subject of Jesus’ fulfillment of Leviticus. Throughout this excellent survey, Sklar is a sure-footed and clear guide.
In the commentary proper, each unit is treated in three ways. First, the context is set. Next, there is the commentary on a single verse or, more usually, several linked verses. Finally, Sklar attempts to explain the meaning for OT Israel then and the NT church now. Solar is abundantly talented in making sense of complicated matters without dumbing them down. Aiding this goal is that numerous tables that visually simplify and summarize the details of Levitical law are scattered throughout.
Sklar’s commentary is a delight to read. Those wanting more thorough commentary, detailed engagement with the Hebrew text, literary analysis, or a survey and rebuttal of scholarly opinions will want to go elsewhere. That said, this should not be overlooked by teachers as a “popular level” commentary that has nothing to offer the serious student. As with most of the TOTC volumes (or their NT counterparts), the content is rich and concise. For the reader of Leviticus who wants a clear and short commentary that doesn’t overlook the details, I cannot recommend a better work than Sklar’s Leviticus.
Many thanks to IVP for providing a review copy of this series. I was not required to provide a positive review.