Monday, February 12, 2007

Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17: Blood


This is a short chapter, with some additional rules about sacrifices, and blood.
  • Sacrifices were only to be made at the Tent of Meeting.
    • Any Israelite caught making a sacrifice anywhere else would be considered “guilty of bloodshed,” and was to be “cut off from his people” (verse 4).
    • A reason is given for this rule, in verse 5:
      This is so the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings.
      However, another reason is given in verse 7:
      They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not sure about the phrase “cut off from his people”—whether it means exile, as I had thought, or capital punishment, as another person once suggested to me. Notice also that it talks about the sacrifices being brought to the “Tent of Meeting”—is this another clue that I may be wrong, about the meaning of the phrase “Tent of Meeting?”
  • Israelites, along with any aliens living among them, were forbidden from eating blood. Anyone who did so was to be cut off from his people.
    • Again, God gives a reason for this command:
      For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood.” (verses 11–12)
  • Along the same lines, when an Israelite—or alien, living among the Israelites—went hunting, and killed an animal or bird, the blood was to be drained out, and covered with earth.
Looking back on the Old Testament sacrificial system, especially through a Christian’s eyes, it’s easy to see why there is such a focus on blood. Jesus’ blood is what cleanses a person from his/her sin, and the Old Testament sacrificial system was a picture of what was to come. So it’s not surprising, with the focus on blood in the worship system, that God forbade anyone to eat it.
  • If anyone ate any animal that was found dead, or torn by wild animals, that person was to wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he would be ceremonially unclean until the evening. If he didn’t, he would be “held responsible” (verse 16).
I’m not sure how the person would be held responsible; no punishment is prescribed.


Notice how integral the priests are to worship, in the Old Testament system. In verse 5, quoted above, God equates bringing the sacrifices to the priests to bringing the sacrifices to Him—the only way to offer a sacrifice to God, in the Old Testament days, was to bring that sacrifice to the priests, and go through the proper ceremonies. I was surprised to read, though, in verse 7, that the Israelites were still sacrificing to other gods. I thought that had been taken care of.

In verse 7, quoted above, notice that God equates the worshipping of other gods to prostitution; they are “selling themselves” to these other gods, instead of remaining faithful to Him. He also, in other places, equates it to adultery.

No comments: