The third book in the OT; the name (from the Latin Vulgate) is due to its principal theme: the staff who served the Temple, descendants of Levi. It is a post-exilic compilation of about 500 BCE which incorporates the Holiness Code (chs. 17–26), which comes from an earlier date, and legal practices from the monarchical centuries (before the Exile). Leviticus is a priestly work and the intention of the compilation, formed by various stages, was to provide a kind of blueprint for the new age of the Return from Exile. Laws were represented as the legacy of Moses (Lev. 16: 34), and the nation’s sufferings were given a theological explanation as being punishment from God for failing to heed the covenant of Sinai (Lev. 26: 44–5), as prophets had warned. The important task at the time of the editors was to go on repeating the ancient laws to ensure the Jews’ survival in the future; the Sabbath (Lev. 23: 3) and ceremonial purity (Lev. 11–15) are prescribed as giving distinctive customs to mark off Jews from the rest. Sacrifices were to be renewed as in the past (Lev. 4: 1–6: 7). By these the guilt of sin could be removed and harmony restored. On the Day of Atonement sins are symbolically laid on the head of the victim who is identified with the offered by this action. The scapegoat (Lev. 16) is not slain, but separated from the community. The Levitical rites were not continued by Christians who regarded them as superseded by the one sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 7: 11). Although the book Leviticus is dominated by ritual prescriptions, these are combined with moral insights (Leviticus 19: 17, 34) which express a message of equality that marks out Israelite society.