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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Leviticus 17

 

 

Verses 1-7

Leviticus 17:1-7. All Slaughter must be Sacrificial, i.e. at the sanctuary (cf. Deuteronomy 12:2 ff., 2 Kings 23:8, Jeremiah 7:18). All slaughter had originally this sacrificial character, among the Hebrews, as among other pastoral and some agricultural peoples; animals were practically never killed except for sacrifice. Then, any other kind of slaughter easily came to be regarded as impious. To Hindus, there is no greater crime than slaughtering an ox (cf. Manu, v. 31), and to-day, except among outcastes, sacrifices of animals are a thing of the past. The abolition of sacrifices in the country (the "open field," Leviticus 17:5), first definitely proclaimed in Deuteronomy 12:6 f. (cf. 2 Kings 23:8) involves that of sacrifices to "he-goats," i.e. field demons (Leviticus 17:7, cf mg. and see Satyr in EBi.); the simple, primitive agricultural rites (for further examples see Frazer, Golden Bough), now become "fornication" (cf. Ezekiel 6:9, Ezekiel 16). Even field sacrifices to Yahweh are by implication forbidden. For these demons cf. Isaiah 13:21*, Isaiah 34:14. On the dangers felt in intermitting the old sacrifices, cf. Jeremiah 44:17. For the older practice, cf. 1 Samuel 14:32, 1 Kings 19:21. It was always dangerous to shed blood, unless on an altar; as field altars are now prohibited, all field sacrifices will be dangerous (Leviticus 17:4). In Dt., killing as distinct from sacrifice is allowed (Deuteronomy 12:15); also, by implication, in P (Genesis 9:2); it is unmentioned in Ezek., and not referred to elsewhere in H. Eerdmans suggests that we have here the direction for a local shrine in Jerusalem (cf. on Leviticus 17:12); more probably it is an extension of the principle of Deuteronomy 12, which was later found to be impracticable, or, as centralisation became more deeply rooted, needless.


Verses 1-16

Leviticus 17-26. The "Holiness Code" (see Introd. 2).

Leviticus 17. Restrictions on Sacrifice.—The whole chapter recalls P, yet there are differences of phrase (e.g. "what man soever," Leviticus 17:3) and of tone (e.g. the giving of a reason for a command, Leviticus 17:11) and of contents (e.g. the explicit prohibition of slaughter except at the central sanctuary). Of the four sections of the chapter, each with its introductory phrase, the second is an extension of the first, the fourth of the third.


Verse 8

Leviticus 17:8 f. Extension of the Rule to Resident Aliens.—"Strangers," often referred to in H (cf. Leviticus 19:34), are men of alien race, frequently broken men from other countries, Jiving more or less permanently in Palestine, and therefore naturally expected to conform to many of its religious practices (cf. Leviticus 17:12), while without the special rights of a Hebrew, and therefore liable to oppression unless specially protected, as by H (Deuteronomy 1:16*, p. 110).


Verses 10-12

Leviticus 17:10-12. Prohibition of "Eating Blood," i.e. of eating flesh not properly drained of blood (Genesis 9:4*).—The reason given, that the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11), underlies the special importance of the blood in the earlier chapters and the whole sacrificial practice. The blood "makes atonement," i.e. it is the part of the sacrifice brought into contact, so to speak, with Yahweh, which therefore secures the worshipper's power to approach Yahweh Himself, the main object of the sacrifice. As such, the blood would naturally be dangerous for man; its use would be an invasion of Yahweh's prerogative (cf. the prohibition of fat, Leviticus 3:17). The prohibition of blood has therefore been applied by Jews to all slaughter, in every age (cf. Leviticus 17:13). Disobedience is as dangerous for aliens (Leviticus 17:12) as for Hebrews. Note that Yahweh Himself is felt to "cut off" the criminal (Leviticus 17:10, contrast Leviticus 17:9), and to provide the ancient taboo as a means of approach to Himself (Leviticus 17:11).


Verses 13-16

Leviticus 17:13-16. The Blood of Non-sacrificial Animals.—To these, of course, Leviticus 17:3-7 does not apply. But all blood, even theirs, is regarded as dangerous. Hence, it must be covered with dust, or it will cry from the ground" (cf. Genesis 4:10*). The whole class of non-sacrificial animals includes: (a) wild animals, which may be eaten, if properly drained of blood; (b) animals not killed; and (c) animals killed by other animals; cf. Deuteronomy 14:21, where they are allowable for the alien and the foreigner, and Leviticus 11:39, where bathing is unmentioned. Evidently, such a light penalty would make it still possible for the poor to enjoy such a cheap class of food; cf. Exodus 22:31, where, as in Dt., no provision for purification is mentioned. Thus to the later law, H and P, the general prohibition of blood has partly lost its terrors; but to the modern Jew, "tripha" (torn) is the opposite of "kosher" (drained).

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Leviticus 17:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/leviticus-17.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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