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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Leviticus 17

 

 

Verse 1-2

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 3

What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp,

What man ... killeth an ox. The Israelites, like other people, living in the desert, would not make much use of animal food; and when they did kill a lamb or a kid for food, it would almost always be, as in Abraham's entertainment of the angels, on occasion of a feast, to be eaten in company. This was what was done with the peace offerings; and accordingly it is here enacted that the same course shall be followed in slaughtering the animals for family consumption, as in the case of those voluntary offerings-namely, that they should be killed publicly at the door of the tabernacle, and, after being devoted to God, partaken of by the offerers, in token of their peaceful and happy communion with God. This law, it is obvious, could only be observable in the wilderness, while the people were encamped within an accessible distance from the tabernacle. The reason of it is to be found in the strong addictedness of the Israelites to idolatry at the time of their departure from Egypt (see the note at Deuteronomy 32:17); and as it would have been easy for any, by killing an animal, to sacrifice privately, under the mask of the legal ritual, to a favourite object of worship, a strict prohibition was made against their slaughtering at home. This law was repealed immediately previous to entrance into the promised land. (See the notes at Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 13:15.)


Verse 4

And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 5

To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest, and offer them for peace offerings unto the LORD.

They offer in the open field. "They" is supposed by some commentators to refer to the Egyptians; so that the verse will stand thus: 'the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they (the Egyptians) offer in the open field.' But the grammatical construction rather requires the pronoun to be connected with "the children of Israel" - the subject of the context. The law is thought to have been directed against numbers whose Egyptian habits led them to imitate this idolatrous practice.


Verse 6

And the priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar of the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and burn the fat for a sweet savour unto the LORD.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 7

And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.

Devils , [ las`iyrim (Hebrew #8163)] - goats. The Septuagint has tois mataiois, vanities, non-entities-an unhappy translation, which entirely destroys the allusion contained in the word, which, meaning hairy, rough, describes the actual figure of the animals worshipped. Herodotus says that Pan was represented with the 'face and legs of a goat.' No Egyptian god is really represented in this way ('Ancient Egypt.' vol. 1:, p. 260); but the goat, according to some Egyptologers, was the symbol and representative of Khem, the Pan of the Egyptians (Wilkingon, in Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' b. 2:, ch. 42:, note 7; and ch. 46:, note 4; also Bunson's 'Egypt,' vol

i., p. 374). Gesenius renders the term used here wood-demons;' and our translators have rendered it 'satyrs' (Isaiah 13:21), conformably to the notions in the Greek mythology, of Silenus and the Fauni as brutes with the heads and faces of men. And accordingly some suppose that the reference is to large apes of the baboon form (Macacus Arabicus), which have been discovered on the banks of the Euphrates, powerful, fierce, and libidinous animals, herding in troops, not living in trees, but roving like wild men through the brushwood and jungle. But qopiym (Hebrew #6971) is the word used for apes (1 Kings 10:22).

Seirim means goats in all other passages; and there is not only no reason why the word should not be used in its common acceptation here, but the strongest reason for preferring goats to devils. Goat-worship was a form of idolatry enthusiastically practiced by the Egyptians, particularly in the nome or province of Mendes. Pan was supposed especially to preside over mountainous and desert regions; and it was while they were in the wilderness the Israelites seem to have been powerfully influenced by a feeling to propitiate this idol. Moreover, the ceremonies observed in this idolatrous worship were extremely licentious and obscene, and the gross impurity of the rites gives great point and significance to the expression of Moses, "they have gone awhoring" (see the note at 2 Chronicles 11:15).


Verse 8-9

And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice,

Whatsoever man ... offereth ... and bringeth it not unto the door. Before the promulgation of the law, men worshipped wherever they pleased or pitched their tents. But after that event the rites of religion could be acceptably performed only at the appointed place of worship. This restriction with respect to place was necessary as a preventive of idolatry; for it prohibited the Israelites, when at a distance, from repairing to the altars of the pagan, which were commonly in groves or fields. But in special circumstances a relaxation of this law seems to have been permitted; and in point of fact, several instances are recorded in the later historical books of sacrifices being offered elsewhere without any imputation of blame or expression of censure even by prophets themselves (Judges 2:5; 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:12; 1 Kings 18:19; 1 Kings 18:32).

In early times, however, especially after the exodus, when Egyptian associations possessed a powerful influence over the minds of the people, this law was imperatively necessary as well as stringently enforced. 'Considering the propensity to idolatry which the Israelites brought with them from Egypt, there was urgent need to take care lest, when any one killed such animals as were clean and usual for sacrifices, he should be guilty of superstitiously offering them to an idol. This precaution was the more reasonable, because in ancient times it was so very common to make an offering of the flesh it was intended to eat. And hence, arose a suspicion, not very unreasonable, that whoever killed animals usually devoted to the altar, offered them of course: and therefore Moses enjoined them not to kill such animals otherwise than in public, and to offer them all to the true God; that so it might be out of their power to make them offering to idols, by slaughtering them privately and under the pretence of using them for food (Michaelis, 'Commentary,' art. 244).


Verse 10

And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.

I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood. The face of God is often used in Scripture to denote His anger (Psalms 34:16; Revelation 6:16; Ezekiel 38:18); and the manner in which God's face would be set against such an offender was, that if the crime were public and known, he was condemned to death; if it were secret, vengeance would overtake him (see the note at Genesis 9:4). But the practice against which the law is here pointed was an idolatrous rite. The Zabians, or worshippers of the heavenly host, were accustomed, in sacrificing animals, to pour out the blood, and eat a part of the flesh at the place where the blood was poured out, and sometimes the blood itself, believing that by means of it friendship, brotherhood, and familiarity were contracted between the worshippers and the deities. They, moreover, supposed that the blood was very beneficial in obtaining for them a vision of the demon during their sleep, and a revelation of future events. The prohibition against eating blood, viewed in the light of this historic commentary, and unconnected with the special terms in which it is expressed, seems to have been leveled against idolatrous practices, as is still further evident from Ezekiel 33:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21.


Verse 11

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

For the life of the flesh is in the blood , [ nepesh (Hebrew #5315)]. The vital principle, as existing in the body, resides in the blood, and hence, is distinguished from [ nishaamaah (Hebrew #5397)] breath of life (Genesis 2:7).

I have given it to you upon the altar. God, as the sovereign Author and Proprietor of nature, reserved the blood to Himself, and allowed men only one use of it-in the way of sacrifices. Since the eating of the sacrifice was to be an image of the complete dedication of the sacrifice, and of the propitiation effected by it, and as the expiation was especially the effect of the blood, so the eating of the blood was absolutely prohibited, in order to indicate that, with all their offerings, a real expiation for their sins had not been made (Michaelis, 'Paraphrase and Observations on the Epistle to the (Galatians,' 3:, 19).


Verse 12

Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 13-14

And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. Whatsoever man ... hunteth. It was customary with pagan sportsmen, when they killed any game or venison, to pour out the blood as a libation to the God of the chase. The Israelites, on the contrary, were enjoined, instead of leaving it exposed, to cover it with dust, and by this means were effectually debarred from all the superstitious uses to which the pagan applied it.

Verse 14. For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof. Here are two sentences; but Dr. Benisch (in the 'Jewish School and Family Bible,' newly translated under the superintendence of the chief Rabbi) renders them, by the system of accents established by the Masorah, in one sentence-`For the life of all flesh is the blood thereof.'


Verse 15-16

And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn with beasts, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean.

Every soul that eateth that which died of itself - (Exodus 22:31; Leviticus 14:39; Acts 15:20.)

And be unclean until the even - i:e., from the moment of his discovering his fault until the evening. This law, however, was only binding on an Israelite. (Deuteronomy 14:21.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Leviticus 17:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/leviticus-17.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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