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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Leviticus 17

 

 

Verses 10-12

DISCOURSE: 134

THE PROHIBITION TO EAT BLOOD

Leviticus 17:10-12. 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 Hood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I hare 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. 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.

THERE were many ordinances amongst the Jews, of which we cannot see the reason, though doubtless there was not one which Infinite Wisdom did not institute for some gracious end. But the particular enactment before us was of much longer standing than most others, having been given to Noah directly after the flood. The flesh of beasts and of fowls was then given to man for food: but he was at the same time forbidden to eat the blood of either [Note: Genesis 9:4.]. In the foregoing parts of this book also the prohibition had been repeatedly renewed [Note: Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26.]: and here the reason for such a repeated enactment of the same statute is assigned. Indeed from the peculiar strictness with which the law is here enforced, we might be sure that there was some very important reason for it, though none had been specified. But God, in this passage, has condescended to state the grounds of this solemn charge; namely, that “the blood was the life of the flesh, and that it had been given to man to make an atonement for his soul.”

To elucidate this ordinance, I shall,

I. Confirm the fact here stated—

God had from the beginning appointed the blood of animals to be offered by man as an atonement for his soul.

This appears throughout all the Mosaic history—

[If we go back to the time of Cain and Abel, we shall find Abel offering of the firstlings of his flock, and of his receiving on that account a testimony of God’s acceptance, which was denied to Cain, who offered only of the fruits of the ground [Note: Genesis 4:3-5.]. This, we are assured, was done “in faith;” which shews, that it was done in consequence of an ordinance to that effect having been previously given by God, with a promise of acceptance annexed to it [Note: Hebrews 11:4.]. Noah likewise after the flood offered of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, upon an altar; and in that act was approved of his God [Note: Genesis 8:20-21.]. The Patriarchs also built altars to the Lord from time to time, and presented their offerings upon them. Job also lived in the habitual practice of the same rite [Note: Job 1:5.]. As for Moses, the whole of his law was one continued system of sacrifices, appointed as means of obtaining forgiveness with God; every kind of sin having its distinct sacrifices appointed to atone for it. In all of these, blood was shed, and poured out before the altar, and sprinkled on the altar; and on the great day of annual expiation, was carried within the sanctuary, and was sprinkled before the mercy-seat, and upon the mercy-seat. With one exception only, “there was no remission of sins without shedding of blood [Note: Hebrews 9:21-22.].” If a man was so poor as not to be able to offer a, lamb or a pair of turtle-doves for his transgression, he was to offer some fine flour; a part of which was to be burnt upon the altar, in token that he had merited destruction by his iniquities, and that he escaped destruction only by that being destroyed in his stead [Note: Leviticus 5:11.].]

The same is found throughout the whole New Testament—

[It had been foretold by Daniel, that Jesus should “make an end of sin, and make reconciliation for iniquity.” But how was this to be done? It was, as another prophet testifies, by being “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities,” or, in a word, by “making his soul an offering for sin [Note: Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:10.].” Accordingly our blessed Lord himself tells us that he came to “give his life a ransom for many.” And, when he instituted his last supper, he took the cup, and said, “This is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins [Note: Matthew 26:28.].” The Apostles continually represent the blessings of salvation as being solely the purchase of his blood. “He hath made peace for us through the blood of his cross,” and “we have redemption through it, even the forgiveness of sins [Note: Colossians 1:14; Colossians 1:20.].” Are we “washed from our sins?” it is “by his blood [Note: Revelation 1:5.].” Do we wash our robes and make them white? it is in the blood of the Lamb [Note: Revelation 7:14.]. Do we overcome our enemies? it is by the blood of the Lamb [Note: Revelation 12:11.], Are we justified? it is by his blood [Note: Romans 5:9.]. In a word, all on earth and all in heaven bear testimony to this blessed truth, that “Jesus hath redeemed us to God by his blood [Note: Revelation 5:9.].”]

This fact then being undeniable, that “God has given us the blood as an atonement for the soul,” we proceed to,

II. Consider the prohibition as founded on it—

Scarcely is such energy to be found in any other prohibition throughout the whole Scriptures, as in that before us. And how is it to be accounted for? What is there in the fact alleged that can justify such tremendous menaces as are annexed to this injunction? I answer, The prohibition was most salutary for them, as tending,

1. To excite in them reverence for their sacrifices—

[The Jews saw continually the same animals slaughtered for their own use as were slain for sacrifice: and, if no restraint had been imposed upon them in relation to the blood, they would soon have lost their reverence for the sacrifice altogether. Even the daily repetition of the same sacrifices had of itself a tendency to familiarize their minds with the offerings, and to weaken the reverence which a more sparing use of them might have generated. But when they were so strictly charged to abstain from the use of the blood themselves, and saw the blood of the sacrifices consecrated exclusively to the Lord, they could scarcely fail to reverence the blood, and consequently to reverence those ordinances in which the welfare of their souls was so deeply concerned.]

2. To bring continually to their remembrance the way of salvation—

[With the prohibition was communicated the reason of it, namely, that the blood was the life, and was given as an atonement for their souls. Now we are but too prone to forget the concerns of our souls: the mind naturally revolts from them, and puts the consideration of them far away. But this ordinance brought continually to their recollection, that they were sinners, needing an atonement; and that they were to be saved only through the intervention of a vicarious sacrifice. Of what incalculable value was the prohibition in this point of view! Not a day, or scarcely an hour, could pass, but they were reminded of these most essential articles of their faith, and taught how alone they were to obtain favour in the sight of God. Various other ordinances were appointed of God for reminding them of the way in which they should serve him; but here one was instituted for bringing constantly to their remembrance the way in which they were to be saved by him.]

3. To direct their attention to the great sacrifice–

[All the more intelligent and pious among the Jews saw that their sacrifices shadowed forth some sacrifice that was of infinitely greater value. It is true, their notions respecting Christ’s sacrifice were not distinct: yet they could not but see that the blood of bulls and of goats was insufficient to take away sin; and that consequently they must look forward to some other atonement which these typical sacrifices prefigured. To these views they would be further led by the prophecies which represented Christ as bearing on himself, and taking away from us, the iniquities of us all. And even at this hour, I conceive that the prohibition, which is strictly observed by every religious Jew, is well calculated to lead the minds of the Jewish nation to the contemplation of their Messiah, and to the acknowledgment of Jesus in that character.]

From the foregoing subject then we may see,

1. How plain is the way of salvation!

[A Jew who had any reflection at all, could not be ignorant that he must be saved by blood, by blood shed in a way of atonement for his sins. He would not dream that he was to make an atonement by his own tears, or alms-deeds, or observances of any kind. Every sacrifice which he saw offered, yea, and every meal which he made on the flesh of animals, would remind him, that his soul could be saved by nothing but an atonement made for sin. Yet, strange as it must appear, Christians without number are ignorant of this fundamental article of our religion, and have no better hope towards God than that which is founded on their own repentances and reformations. Alas! that any who have the Christian Scriptures in their hands should be thus ignorant! and yet thus it is even with many who in other respects are well instructed and intelligent. But know ye assuredly, that there is but one way of salvation either for Jews or Gentiles; and that, the shadowy sacrifices having all passed away, “Christ is now set forth as a propitiation for sin through faith in his blood,” and that he is “a propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”]

2. How awful is the state of those who reject it!

[We tremble for those who despised Moses’ law, and in contempt of the divine command ate of blood. But how much more must we tremble for those who make light of Christ! For, “if they who despised Moses’ law died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified a common thing [Note: Hebrews 10:28-29 κοινόν] !” The command given to us to drink of the blood of our great sacrifice is not a whit less urgent than the prohibition given to the Jews. Our Lord expressly tells us, that “except we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life in us:” and St. Paul gives us this solemn warning, “How can we escape, if we neglect so great salvation! “Verily, if God set his face against the disobedient Jew, much more will he against the disobedient and unbelieving Christian. I charge you then, my brethren, to comply with the divine command in this respect: for if ye do not, O consider “what shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of Christ! “Verily, God has told us, and plainly too, that “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, it shall be to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Let us now then avail ourselves of the opportunity afforded us, and both take of the blood of Christ, and “sprinkle it on our consciences, that it may purge us from dead works to serve the living God.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Leviticus 17:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/leviticus-17.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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