Blood brings a body to life
All meat gets offered to God1 The LORD told Moses: 2 I want you to deliver this message to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelite people:
Listen. This is what the LORD says:
3 Suppose you kill an animal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bull, lamb, or goat. And it doesn’t matter if you kill it in the camp or not. 4 If you don’t bring it to the entrance of the tent sanctuary and present it to the LORD, you’re a killer. And you’re no longer an Israelite.
5 I’m making this the law because I want you to stop sacrificing animals wherever you like. You need to bring them to the entrance of the tent sanctuary at the worship center. If you are butchering animals for yourself, you need to present them as peace offerings to the LORD. 6 This way, the priest can sprinkle the blood on the altar. And he can present the fat as an offering that goes up in smoke—a sweet smell to the LORD. 7 This will also keep them from secretly sacrificing animals to those goat demons they chase like someone feverishly hunting for a prostitute. This law is permanent.
8 The LORD also told Moses to tell the people:
If any Israelites or visitors staying with them kill an animal as a burnt offering or as any other sacrifice, 9 they should bring it to the tent worship center and present it to the LORD. If they don’t, they are no longer part of us.
Don’t eat bloody meat10 If any Israelites or visitors eat anything with blood still in it, I’ll turn my back on them. They won’t be part of us anymore. 11 Blood is what brings a body to life. I’ve given you blood to use exclusively on the altar. It atones for your sin—it gets rid of your guilt so you can stay on good terms with the LORD. Blood is the price of your sin.
12 So I’m saying if you’re an Israelite, don’t eat anything with blood in it. And don’t let anyone visiting among you do it, either. 13 Whether you’re an Israelite or a guest among Israelites, this next law applies to you, as well. If you kill a bird or any other animal while you’re out hunting, drain the blood and cover it with dirt.
14 Blood brings a body to life. That’s why I’m telling you not to eat anything with blood still in it. If you do, you’re no longer an Israelite. 15 Let’s say you or a guest staying with you finds a dead animal, including one killed by another animal. Then you eat it. You’ll be ritually unclean until you wash your clothes, take a bath, and wait until evening. After that, you’ll be clean again. 16 If you don’t wash your clothes and take a bath, you’ll get what’s coming to you.
It’s unclear if the law requires people to kill all animals in the courtyard of the tent worship center, or just those designated as sacrificial offerings, such as a peace offering, much of which the worshiper eats with family and friends. One theory says this “permanent” law refers only to the Israelites while they’re living together, during their trip out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land. But that’s not “permanent.” Also, once the people get to what is now Israel and Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territory, they spread out. They couldn’t all go to the Jerusalem Temple every time they needed to butcher meat to sell or to eat. That’s why many scholars reject the theory that Israel had to sacrifice every animal they butchered. And they reject the theory that sacrificing all the animals was limited to just the 40 years of exodus travels. Instead, many say they prefer the speculation that the law was intended to warn Israelites not to sacrifice animals to God improperly. They had to follow the steps God gave them in whatever sacrifice they made.
More literally, the person “should be removed from the community” or “cut off.” This is a consequence repeated throughout these early books of the Bible. It’s unclear how and by whom the offenders were removed. Perhaps they could no longer worship at the tent worship center, or they lost their rights as citizens of this emerging nation that Moses seemed to be organizing. Maybe they were executed. Or perhaps the community let God deal with the person. Scholars seem uncertain about what happened.
This meant they had to share the meat with the LORD and the officiating priest. This sacrificial offering goes by various names: peace offering, fellowship offering, elevation offering, symbolic offering, special offering, and wave offering. The Hebrew word can mean to wave, lift, or blow. A peace offering, also described in Leviticus 3, is one of several prescribed offerings in Jewish tradition. When Jewish people wanted to thank God for something, such as good health or safety, they would sacrifice a sheep, goat, cow, or bull. They would burn part of the animal, including the kidneys and the fat covering the intestines. The officiating priest got to keep the breast and the right thigh, apparently as payment for his work (Leviticus 7:30-32). Those who brought the sacrifice got to eat the rest in celebration, often with family and friends. It takes a fair number of hungry people to eat a bull. But people were eager to eat meat because it was rare in Bible times for common folks to eat meat, many Bible scholars say.
And the priest can get his choice cut of the meat: breast and right thigh (Leviticus 7:30-32).
The original word, in Hebrew, is sair. It means “he-goats” or “goat idols.” Some scholars say these were demons represented in the form of goats. In later Greek mythology, Pan was a god that was part man and part goat.
See note for 17:4.
This seems to suggest that all sin is a capital offense, requiring execution. “No blood, no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). But God allowed people to sacrifice animals for sins the people committed. Animals were sacrificed for the people, just as New Testament writers said Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of the entire human race (Mark 14:24; Hebrews 9:28). The first sin on record, Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit, carried the death penalty (Genesis 2:17). Some say this is why humans die instead of living forever. Apostle Paul said, “The salary we get when we work for sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Eating a ritually unclean animal or one found dead would make the eater unclean, too, and unfit to worship in the tent worship center. Also, anyone the person touched would become unclean, as well. To cleanse themselves, they had to wash their clothes and wait until evening (Leviticus 11:28).
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
Again God speaks through Moses, but this time he has Moses delver his message not only to Aaron and his sons but to all the Israelites. Although the message seems to be yet another one about animal sacrifices, the focus seems to have shifted. Previously, the focus was on how to perform a sacrifice. In this brief chapter God is making the everyday Israelites aware of the importance of following the ritual laws set down earlier. What do you think may have resonated most with the people at the time?
God tells the people that anyone who slaughters an animal (either inside or outside the camp) but fails to bring it to a priest to splatter its blood on and around the altar, commits murder. This seems way harsh. How can you account for it? Could it have something to do with idol worship?
Leviticus 17:7 says that the laws governing animal sacrifices will keep the Israelites “from secretly sacrificing animals to those goat demons they chase like someone feverishly hunting for a prostitute.” What do you think the goat demons may have been and why are they being compared to prostitutes?
Many of the activities forbidden to the Israelites in this chapter are also forbidden to any visitors to the community. Why put that burden on visitors? And why put the burden on the Israelites to keep their non-Israelite visitors in line with Israelite rules for living? Wouldn’t that be like making a Baptist to say 50 Hail Mary’s? They might do it. But they wouldn’t mean it.
LIFE APPLICATION. We sometimes do with people under our authority what God asked the Israelites to do with non-Israelites living among them. We make them comply. “You’re living under my roof, and you obey my rules.” “I’m the boss. I’m the one who has to make the tough choice.” What are some of the arguments for and against using that approach?