Leviticus 17:3. That killeth — Not for common use, for such beasts might be killed by any person or in any place, (Deuteronomy 12:5-14; Deuteronomy 12:26-27,) but for sacrifice, as the sense is limited, Leviticus 17:5, where the reason of the injunction is given. It is true, some suppose that the Israelites were forbidden by this law, while they were in the wilderness, to kill, even for food, any of the animals that were wont to be sacrificed, elsewhere than in the door of the tabernacle, where the blood and the fat were to be offered to God upon the altar, and the flesh returned to the offerer to be eaten as a peace-offering according to the law. And the statute is so worded in Leviticus 17:3-4, as to favour this opinion. The learned Dr. Cudworth understands if in this sense, and thinks that while they had their tabernacle so near them, in the midst of their camp, they ate no flesh but what had first been offered to God; but that when they were about to enter Canaan, this constitution was altered, and they were allowed to kill their beasts of the flock and herd at home, as well as the roe-buck and the hart, (Deuteronomy 12:21,) only that thrice a year they were to see God at his tabernacle, and to eat and drink before him. It is indeed probable, that in the wilderness they did not eat much flesh but that of their peace- offerings, preserving what cattle they had for breed, against they came to Canaan. And yet it is hard to construe into a mere temporary law, what is expressly said to be a statute for ever, Leviticus 17:7. And, therefore, it seems rather to forbid only the killing beasts for sacrifice anywhere but at God’s altar. They must not offer a sacrifice as they had done in the open field, (Leviticus 17:5,) no, not to the true God; but their sacrifices must be brought to the priest, to be offered on the altar of the Lord. And the mighty solemnity they had lately seen of consecrating both the priests and the altar, would serve for a good reason why they should confine themselves to both these which God had so signally appointed and owned.
Leviticus 17:4. The tabernacle — This was appointed in opposition to the heathens, who sacrificed in all places; to cut off occasions of idolatry; to prevent the people’s usurpation of the priest’s office, and to signify that God would accept of no sacrifices but through Christ and in the church; of both which the tabernacle was a type. But though men were tied to this law, God was free to dispense with his own law, which he did sometimes to the prophets, as 1 Samuel 7:9; 1 Samuel 11:15. He hath shed blood — He shall be punished as a murderer. The reason is, because he shed that blood, which, though not man’s blood, yet was precious, being sacred and appropriated to God, and typically the price by which men’s lives were ransomed.
Leviticus 17:5. They offer — The Israelites, before the building of the tabernacle, did so, from which they are now restrained. Peace-offerings — He does not name these exclusively from others, as appears from the reason of the law, and from Leviticus 17:8-9, but because in these the temptation was more common in regard of their frequency, and more powerful, because part of these belonged to the offerers, and the pretence was more plausible, because their sanctity was of a lower degree than that of others, these being only called holy, and allowed in part to the people, whereas the others are called most holy, and were wholly appropriated either to God, or to the priests.
Leviticus 17:6. Upon the altar — This verse contains a reason of the foregoing law, because of God’s propriety in the blood and fat, wherewith also God was well pleased, and the people reconciled. And these two parts only are mentioned, as the most eminent and peculiar, though other parts also were reserved for God.
Leviticus 17:7. Unto devils — So they did, not directly or intentionally, but by construction and consequence, because the devil is the author of idolatry, and is eminently served and honoured by it. And as the Egyptians were notorious for their idolatry, so the Israelites were infected with their leaven, Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7; Ezekiel 23:2-3. And some of them continued to practise the same in the wilderness, Amos 5:25-26,
compared with Deuteronomy 12:8. The Hebrew word which we render devils, שׂעירים, segnirim, properly signifies goats, from their rough and shaggy hair, and hence denotes those idols, probably deified dead men, who were worshipped under the symbol of goats. It is the same word that we translate satyrs, Isaiah 13:21. What gives light to so obscure a passage is what we read in Maimonides, that the Zabian idolaters worshipped demons under the figure of goats, imagining them to appear in that form, whence they called them by the name here mentioned, segnirim, or goats; and that this custom being general in Moses’s time, gave occasion to this precept. After whom they have gone a whoring — Idolatry, especially in God’s people, is commonly termed whoredom in Scripture, because it is a violation of that covenant by which they were peculiarly betrothed or married to God. And here the phrase has a peculiar propriety, and denotes their having worshipped those goats, or goat-like demons, with rites horribly impure, after the manner of the idolatrous pagans.
Leviticus 17:10. I will set my face — I will be an enemy to him, and execute vengeance upon him immediately; because such persons probably would do this in private, so that the magistrate could not know nor punish it. Write that man undone, for ever undone, against whom God sets his face.
Leviticus 17:11. Is in the blood — Depends upon the blood, is preserved and nourished by it. The blood maketh atonement — Typically, and in respect of the blood of Christ which it represented, and by which the atonement is really made. So the reason is double. 1st, Because this was eating the ransom of their own lives, which in construction was the destroying themselves. 2d, Because it was ingratitude and irreverence toward that sacred blood of Christ, which they ought to have had in continual veneration.
Leviticus 17:15. That eateth — Through ignorance or inadvertency; for if it was done knowingly, it was more severely punished. A stranger — Who is a proselyte to the Jewish religion: other strangers were allowed to eat such things, (Deuteronomy 14:21,) out of which the blood was either not drawn at all, or not regularly.
Leviticus 17:16. His iniquity — The punishment of it, and therefore must offer a sacrifice for it.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Leviticus 17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany