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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Leviticus 3

 

 

Verses 1-17

THE PEACE OFFERING

Leviticus 3:1-17; Leviticus 7:11-34; Leviticus 19:5-8; Leviticus 22:21-25

IN chapter 3 is given, though not with completeness, the law of the peace offering. The alternative rendering of this term, "thank offering" (marg. R.V), precisely expresses only one variety of the peace offering; and while it is probably impossible to find any one word that shall express in a satisfactory way the whole conception of this offering, it is not easy to find one better than the familiar term which the Revisers have happily retained. As will be made clear in the. sequel, it was the main object of this offering, as consisting of a sacrifice terminating in a festive sacrificial meal, to express the conception of friendship, peace, and fellowship with God as secured by the shedding of atoning blood.

Like the burnt offering and the meal offering, the peace offering had come down from the times before Moses. We read of it, though not explicitly named, in Genesis 31:54, on the occasion of the covenant between Jacob and Laban, wherein they jointly took God as witness of their covenant of friendship; and, again, in Exodus 18:12, where "Jethro took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God; and Aaron came and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God." Nor was this form of sacrifice, any more than the burnt offering, confined to the line of Abraham’s seed. Indeed, scarcely any religious custom has from the most remote antiquity been more universally observed than this of a sacrifice essentially connected with a sacrificial meal. An instance of the heathen form of this sacrifice is even given in the Pentateuch, where we are {Exodus 32:6} how the people, having made the golden calf, worshipped it with peace offerings, and "sat down to eat and to drink" at the sacrificial meal which was inseparable from the peace offering; while in 1 Corinthians 10:1-33, Paul refers to like sacrificial feasts as common among the idolaters of Corinth.

It hardly needs to be again remarked that there is nothing in such facts as these to trouble the faith of the Christian, any more than in the general prevalence of worship and of prayer among heathen nations. Rather, in all these cases alike, are we to see the expression on the part of man of a sense of need and want, especially, in this case, of friendship and fellowship with God; and, seeing that the conception of a sacrifice culminating in a feast was, in truth, most happily adapted to symbolise this idea, surely it were nothing strange that God should base the ordinances of His own worship upon such universal conceptions and customs, correcting in them only, as we shall see, what might directly or indirectly misrepresent truth. Where an alphabet, so to speak, is thus already found existing, whether in letters or in symbols, why should the Lord communicate a new and unfamiliar symbolism, which, because new and unfamiliar, would have been, for that reason, far less likely to be understood?

The plan of chapter 3 is very simple; and there is little in its phraseology requiring explanation. Prescriptions are given for the offering of peace offerings, first, from the herd (Leviticus 3:1-5); then, from the flock, whether of the sheep (Leviticus 3:6-11) or of the goats (Leviticus 3:12-16). After each of these three sections it is formally declared of each offering that it is "a sweet savour," "an offering made by fire," or "the food of the offering made by fire unto the Lord." The chapter then closes with a prohibition, specially occasioned by the directions for this sacrifice, of all use by Israel of fat or blood as food.

The regulations relating to the selection of the victim for the offering differ from those for the burnt offering in allowing a greater liberty of choice. A female was permitted, as well as a male; though recorded instances of the observance of the peace offering indicate that the male was even here preferred when obtainable. The offering of a dove or a pigeon is not, however, mentioned as permissible, as in the case of the burnt offering. But this is no exception to the rule of greater liberty of choice, since these were excluded by the object of the offering as a sacrificial meal, for which, obviously, a small bird would be insufficient. Ordinarily, the victim must be without blemish; and yet, even in this matter, a larger liberty was allowed {Leviticus 22:23} in the case of those which were termed "freewill offerings," where it was permitted to offer even a bullock or a lamb which might have "some part superfluous or lacking." The latitude of choice thus allowed finds its sufficient explanation in the fact that while the idea of representation and expiation had a place in the peace offering as in all bloody offerings, yet this was subordinate to the chief intent of the sacrifice, which was to represent the victim as food given by God to Israel in the sacrificial meal. It is to be observed that only such defects are therefore allowed in the victim as could not possibly affect its value as food. And so even already, in these regulations as to the selection of the victim, we have a hint that we have now to do with a type, in which the dominant thought is not so much Christ, the Holy Victim, our representative, as Christ the Lamb of God, the food of the soul, through participation in which we have fellowship with God.

As before remarked, the ritual acts in the bloody sacrifices are, in all, six, each of which, in the peace offering, has its proper place. Of these, the first four, namely, the presentation, the laying on of the hand, the killing of the victim, and the sprinkling of the blood, are precisely the same as in the burnt offering, and have the same symbolic and typical significance. In both the burnt offering and the peace offering, the innocent victim typified the Lamb of God, presented by the sinner in the act of faith to God as an atonement for sin through substitutionary death: and the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar signifies in this, as in the other, the application of that blood Godward by the Divine Priest acting in our behalf, and thereby procuring for us remission of sin, redemption through the blood of the slain Lamb.

In the other two ceremonies, namely, the burning and the sacrificial meal, the peace offering stands in strong contrast with the burnt offering. In the burnt offering all was burned upon the altar; in the peace offering all the fat, and that only. The detailed directions which are given in the case of each class of victims are intended simply to direct the selection of those parts of the animal in which the fat is chiefly found. They are precisely the same for each, except in the case of the sheep. With regard to such a victim, the particular is added, according to King James’s version, "the whole rump"; but the Revisers have with abundant reason corrected this translation, giving it correctly as "the fat tail entire." The change is an instructive one, as it points to the idea which determined this selection of all the fat for the offering by fire. For the reference is to a special breed of sheep which is still found in Palestine, Arabia, and North Africa. With these, the tail grows to an immense size, sometimes weighing fifteen pounds or more, and consists almost entirely of a rich substance, in character between fat and marrow. By the Orientals in the regions where this variety of sheep is found it is still esteemed as the most valuable part of the animal for food. And thus, just as in the meal offering the Israelite was required to bring out of all his grain the best, and of his meal the finest, so in the peace offering he is required to bring the fat, and in the case of the sheep this fat tail, as the best and richest parts, to be burnt upon the altar to Jehovah. And the burning, as in the whole burnt sacrifice, was, so to speak, the visible Divine appropriation of that which was placed upon the altar, the best of the offering, as appointed to be "the food of God." If the symbolism, at first thought, perplex any, we have but to remember how frequently in Scripture "fat" and "fatness" are used as the symbol of that which is richest and best; as, e.g., where the Psalmist says, "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house"; and Isaiah, "Come unto Me, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." Thus when, in the peace offering, of which the larger part was intended for food, it is ordered that the fat should be given to God in the fire of the altar, the same lesson is taught as in the meal offering, namely, God is ever to be served first and with the best that we have. "All the fat is the Lord’s."

In the burnt offering, the burning ended the ceremonial: in the nature of the case, since all was to be burnt, the object of the sacrifice was attained when the burning was completed. But in the case of the peace offering, to the burning of the fat upon the altar now followed the culminating act of the ritual, in the eating of the sacrifice. In this, however, we must distinguish from the eating by the offerer and his household, the eating by the priests; of which only the first-named properly belonged to the ceremonial of the sacrifice. The assignment of certain parts of the sacrifice to he eaten by the priests has the same meaning as in the meal offering. These portions were regarded in the law as given, not by the offerer, but by God, to His servants the priests; that they might eat them, not as a ceremonial act, but as their appointed sustenance from His table whom they served. To this we shall return in a subsequent chapter, and therefore need not dwell upon it here.

This eating of the sacrifice by the priests has thus not yet taken us beyond the conception of the meal offering, with a part of which they, in like manner, by God’s arrangement, were fed. Quite different, however, is the sacrificial eating by the offerer which follows. He had brought the appointed victim; it had been slain in his behalf; the blood had been sprinkled for atonement on the altar; the fat had been taken off and burned upon the altar; the thigh and breast had been given back by God to the officiating priest; and now, last of all, the offerer himself receives back from God, as it were, the remainder of the flesh of the victim, that he himself might eat it before Jehovah. The chapter before us gives no directions as to this sacrificial eating; these are given in Deuteronomy 12:6-7; Deuteronomy 12:17-18, to which passage, in order to the full understanding of that which is most distinctive in the peace offering, we must refer. In the two verses last named, we have a regulation which covers, not only the peace offerings, but with them all other sacrificial eatings, thus: "Thou mayest not eat within thy gates the tithe of thy corn, or of thy wine, or of the oil, or the firstlings of thy herd, or of thy flock, nor any of thy vows which thou vowest, nor thy free will offerings, nor the heave offering of thy hand: but thou shalt eat them before the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man servant, and thy maid servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates; and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God in all that thou puttest thy hand unto."

In these directions are three particulars; the offerings were to be eaten, by the offerer, not at his own home, but before Jehovah at the central sanctuary; he was to include in this sacrificial feast all the members of his family, and any Levite that might be stopping with him; and he was to make the feast an occasion of holy joy before the Lord in the labour of his hands. What was now the special significance of all this? As this was the special characteristic of the peace offering, the answer to this question will point us to its true significance, both for Israel in the first place, and then for us as well, as a type of Him who was to come.

It is not hard to perceive the significance of a feast as a symbol. It is a natural and suitable expression of friendship and fellowship. He who gives the feast thereby shows to the guests his friendship toward them, in inviting them to partake of the food of his house. And if, in any case, there has been an interruption or breach of friendship, such an invitation to a feast, and association in it of the formerly alienated parties, is a declaration on the part of him who gives the feast, as also of those who accept his invitation, that the breach is healed, and that where there was enmity, is now peace.

So natural is this symbolism that, as above remarked, it has been a custom very widely spread among heathen peoples to observe sacrificial feasts, very like to this peace offering of the Hebrews, wherein a victim is first offered to some deity, and its flesh then eaten by the offerer and his friends. Of such sacrificial feasts we read in ancient Babylonia and Assyria, in Persia, and, in modern times, among the Arabs, Hindoos, and Chinese, and various native races of the American continent: always having the same symbolic intent and meaning-namely, an expression of desire after friendship and intercommunion with the deity thus worshipped. The existence of this custom in Old Testament days is recognised in Isaiah 65:11 (R.V), where God charges the idolatrous Israelites with preparing "a table for the god Fortune," and filling up "mingled wine unto (the goddess) Destiny"-certain Babylonian deities; and in the New Testament, as already remarked, the Apostle Paul refers to the same custom among the idolatrous Greeks of Corinth.

And because this symbolic meaning of a feast is as suitable and natural as it is universal, we find that in the symbolism of Holy Scripture, eating and drinking, and especially the feast, has been appropriated by the Holy Spirit to express precisely the same ideas of reconciliation, friendship, and intercommunion between the giver of the feast and the guest, as in all the great heathen religions. We meet this thought, for instance, in Psalms 23:5 : "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies"; Psalms 36:8, where it is said of God’s people: "They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Thy house"; and again, in the grand prophecy in Isaiah 25:1-12, of the final redemption of all the long-estranged nations, we read that when God shall destroy in Mount Zion "the veil that is spread over all nations, and swallow up death forever," then "the Lord of hosts shall make unto all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." And in the New Testament, the symbolism is taken up again, and used repeatedly by our Lord, as, for example, in the parables of the Great Supper {Luke 14:15-24} and the Prodigal Son, {Luke 15:23} the Marriage of the King’s Son, {Matthew 22:1-14} concerning the blessings of redemption; and also in that ordinance of the Holy Supper which He has appointed to be a continual reminder of our relation to Himself, and means for the communication of His grace, through our symbolic eating therein of the flesh of the slain Lamb of God.

Thus, nothing in the Levitical symbolism is better certified to us than the meaning of the feast of the peace offering. Employing a symbol already familiar to the world for centuries, God ordained this eating of the peace offering in Israel, to be the symbolic expression of peace and fellowship with Himself. In Israel it was to be eaten "before the Lord," and, as well it might be, "with rejoicing."

But, just at this point, the question has been raised: How are we to conceive of the sacrificial feast of the peace offering? Was it a feast offered and presented by the Israelite to God, or a feast given by God to the Israelite? In other words, in this feast, who was represented as host, and who as guest? Among other nations than the Hebrews, it was the thought in such cases that the feast was given by the worshipper to his god. This is well illustrated by an Assyrian inscription of Esarhaddon, who, in describing his palace at Nineveh, says: "I filled with beauties the great palace of my empire, and I called it ‘the Palace which rivals the World.’ Ashur, Ishtar of Nineveh, and the gods of Assyria, all of them, I feasted within it. Victims, precious and beautiful, I sacrificed before them, and I caused them to receive my gifts."

But here we come upon one of the most striking and instructive contrasts between the heathen conception of the sacrificial feast and the same symbolism as used in Leviticus and other Scripture. In the heathen sacrificial feasts, it is man who feasts God; in the peace offering of Leviticus, it is God who feasts man. Some have indeed denied that this is the conception of the peace offering, but most strangely. It is true that the offerer, in the first instance, had brought the victim; but it seems to be forgotten by such, that prior to the feasting he had already given the victim to God, to be offered in expiation for sin. From that time the victim was no longer, any part of it, his own property, but God’s. God having received the offering, now directs what use shall be made of it; a part shall be burned upon the altar; another part He gives to the priests, His servants; with the remaining part He now feasts the worshipper.

And as if to make this clearer yet, while Esar-haddon, for example, gives his feast to the gods, not in their temples, but in his own palace, as himself the host and giver of the feast, the Israelite, on the contrary, -that he might not, like the heathen, complacently imagine himself to be feasting God, -is directed to eat the peace offering, not at his own house, but at God’s house. In this way God was set forth as the host, the One who gave the feast, to whose house the Israelite was invited, at whose table he was to eat.

Profoundly suggestive and instructive is this contrast between the heathen custom in this offering, and the Levitical ordinance. For do we not strike here one of the deepest points of contrast between all of man’s religion and the Gospel of God? Man’s idea always is, until taught better by God, "I will be religious and make God my friend, by doing something, giving something for God." God, on the contrary, teaches us in this symbolism, as in all Scripture, the exact reverse; that we become truly religious by taking, first of all, with thankfulness and joy, what He has provided for us. A breach of friendship between man and God is often implied in the heathen rituals, as in the ritual of Leviticus; as also, in both, a desire for its removal, and renewed fellowship with God. But in the former, man ever seeks to attain to this intercommunion of friendship by something that he himself will do for God. He will feast God, and thus God shall be well pleased. But God’s way is the opposite! The sacrificial feast at which man shall have fellowship with God is provided not by man for God, but by God for man, and is to be eaten, not in our house, but spiritually partaken in the presence of the invisible God.

We can now perceive the teaching of the peace offering for Israel. In Israel, as among all the nations, was the inborn craving after fellowship and friendship with God. The ritual of the peace offering taught him how it was to be obtained, and how communion might be realised. The first thing was for him to bring and present a divinely-appointed victim; and then, the laying of the hand upon his head with confession of sin; then, the slaying of the victim, the sprinkling of its blood, and the offering of its choicest parts to God in the altar fire. Till all this was done, till in symbol expiation had been thus made for the Israelite’s sin, there could be no feast which should speak of friendship and fellowship with God. But this being first done, God now, in token of His free forgiveness and restoration to favour, invites the Israelite to a joyful feast in His own house.

What a beautiful symbol! Who can fail to appreciate its meaning when once pointed out? Let us imagine that through some fault of ours a dear friend has become estranged; we used to eat and drink at his house, but there has been none of that now for a long time. We are troubled, and perhaps seek out one who is our friend’s friend and also our friend, to whose kindly interest we entrust our case, to reconcile to us the one we have offended. He has gone to mediate; we anxiously await his return; but or ever he has come back again, comes an invitation from him who was estranged, just in the old loving way, asking that we will eat with him at his house. Any one of us would understand this; we should be sure at once that the mediator had healed the breach, that we were forgiven, and were welcome as of old to all that our friend’s friendship had to give.

But God is the good Friend whom we have estranged; and the Lord Jesus, His beloved Son, and our own Friend as well, is the Mediator; and He has healed the breach; having made expiation for our sin in offering His own body as a sacrifice, He has ascended into heaven, there to appear in the presence of God for us; He has not yet returned. But meantime the message comes down from Him to all who are hungering after peace with God: "The feast is made; and ye all are invited; come! all things are now ready!" And this is the message of the Gospel. It is the peace offering translated into words. Can we hesitate to accept the invitation? Or, if we have sent in our acceptance, do we need to be told, as in Deuteronomy, that we are to eat "with rejoicing."

And now we may well observe another circumstance of profound typical significance. When the Israelite came to God’s house to eat before Jehovah, he was fed there with the flesh of the slain victim. The flesh of that very victim whose blood had been given for him on the altar, now becomes his food to sustain the life thus redeemed. Whether the Israelite saw into the full meaning of this, we may easily doubt; but it leads us on now to consider, in the clearer light of the New Testament, the deepest significance of the peace offering and its ritual, as typical of our Lord and our relation to Him.

That the victim of the peace offering, as of all the bloody offerings, was intended to typify Christ, and that the death of that victim, in the peace offering, as in all the bloody offerings, foreshadowed the death of Christ for our sins, -this needs no further proof. And so, again, as the burning of the whole burnt offering represented Christ as accepted for us in virtue of His perfect consecration to the Father, so the peace offering, in that the fat is burned, represents Christ as accepted for us, in that He gave to God in our behalf the very best He had to offer. For in that incomparable sacrifice we are to think not only of the completeness of Christ’s consecration for us, but also of the supreme excellence of that which He offered unto God for us. All that was best in Him, reason, affection, and will, as well as the members of His holy body, -nay, the Godhead as well as the Manhood, in the holy mystery of the Trinity and the Incarnation, He offered for us unto the Father.

This, however, has taken us as yet but little beyond the meaning of the burnt offering. The closing act of the ritual, the sacrificial eating, however, reaches in its typical significance far beyond this or any of the bloody offerings.

First, in that he who had laid his hand upon the victim, and for whom the blood had been sprinkled, is now invited by God to feast in His house, upon food given by himself, the food of the sacrifice, which is called in the ritual "the bread of God." the eating of the peace offering symbolically teaches us that if we have indeed presented the Lamb of God as our peace, not only has the Priest sprinkled for us the blood, so that our sin is pardoned, but, in token of friendship now restored, God invites the penitent believer to sit down at His own table, -in a word, to joyful fellowship with Himself! Which means, if our weak faith but take it in, that the Almighty and Most Holy God now invites us to fellowship in all the riches of His Godhead; places all that He has at the service of the believing sinner, redeemed by the blood of the slain Lamb. The prodigal has returned; the Father will now feast him with the best that He has. Fellowship with God through reconciliation by the blood of the slain Lamb, -this then is the first thing shadowed forth in this part of the ritual of the peace offering. It is a sufficiently wonderful thought, but there is truth yet more wonderful veiled under this symbolism.

For when we ask, what then was the bread or food of God of which He invited him to partake who brought the peace offering, and learn that it was the flesh of the slain victim; here we meet a thought which goes far beyond atonement by the shedding of blood. The same victim whose blood was shed and sprinkled in atonement for sin is now given by God to be the redeemed Israelite’s food, by which his life shall be sustained! Surely we cannot mistake the meaning of this. For the victim of the altar and the food of the table are one and the same. Even so He who offered Himself for our sins on Calvary, is now given by God to be the food of the believer; who now thus lives by "eating the flesh" of the slain Lamb of God. Does this imagery, at first thought, seem strange and unnatural? So did it also seem strange to the Jews, when in reply to our Lord’s teaching they wonderingly asked, {John 6:52} "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" And yet so Christ and when He had first declared Himself to the Jews as the Antitype of the manna, the true Bread sent down from heaven, He then went on to say, in words which far transcended the meaning of that type, {John 6:51} "The bread which I wilt give is My flesh, for the life of the world." How the light begins now to flash back from the Gospel to the Levitical law, and from this, again, back to the Gospel! In the one we read, "Ye shall eat the flesh of your peace offerings before the Lord with joy"; in the other, the word of the Lord Jesus concerning Himself: {John 6:33; John 6:55; John 6:57} "The bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he that eateth Me, he also shall live because of Me." And now the Shekinah light of the ancient tent of meeting begins to illumine even the sacramental table, and as we listen to the words of Jesus, "Take, eat! this is My body which was broken for you," we are reminded of the feast of the peace offerings. The Israel of God is to be fed with the flesh of the sacrificed Lamb which became their peace.

Let us hold fast then to this deepest thought of the peace offering, a truth too little understood even by many true believers. The very Christ who died for our sins, if we have by faith accepted His atonement and have been for His sake forgiven, is now given us by God for the sustenance of our purchased life. Let us make use of Him, daily feeding upon Him, that so we may live and grow unto the life eternal!

But there is yet one thought more concerning this matter, which the peace offering, as far as was possible, shadowed forth. Although Christ becomes the bread of God for us only through His offering of Himself first for our sins, as our atonement, yet this is something quite distinct from atonement. Christ became our sacrifice once for all; the atonement is wholly a fact of the past. But Christ is now still, and will ever continue to be unto all His people, the bread or food of God, by eating whom they live. He was the propitiation, as the slain victim; but, in virtue of that, He is now become the flesh of the peace offering. Hence He must be this, not as dead, but as living, in the present resurrection life of His glorified humanity. Here evidently is a fact which could not be directly symbolised in the peace offering without a miracle ever repeated. For Israel ate of the victim, not as living, but as dead. It could not be otherwise. And yet there is a regulation of the ritual {Leviticus 7:15-18; Leviticus 19:6; Leviticus 19:7} which suggests this phase of truth as clearly as possible without a miracle. It was ordered that none of the flesh of the peace offering should be allowed to remain beyond the third day; if any then was left uneaten, it was to be burned with fire. The reason for this lies upon the surface. It was doubtless that there might be no possible beginning of decay; and thus it was secured that the flesh of the victim with which God fed the accepted Israelite should be the flesh of a victim that was not to see corruption. But does not this at once remind us how it was written of the Antitype, "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption"? while, moreover, the extreme limit of time allowed further reminds us how it was precisely on the third day that Christ rose from the dead in the incorruptible life of the resurrection, that so He might through all time continue to be the living bread of His people.

And thus this special regulation points us not indistinctly toward the New Testament truth that Christ is now unto us the bread of God, not merely as the One who died, but as the One who, living again, was not allowed to see corruption. For so the Apostle argues, {Romans 5:11} that "being justified by faith," and so having "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," our peace offering, having been thus "reconciled by His death, we shall now be saved by His life." And thus, as we appropriate Christ crucified as our atonement, so by a like faith we are to appropriate Christ risen as our life, to be for us as the flesh of the peace offering, our nourishment and strength by which we live.


Verse 16-17

THE PROHIBITION OF FAT AND BLOOD

Leviticus 3:16-17; Leviticus 7:22-27; Leviticus 17:10-16

And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire, for a sweet savour: all the fat is the Lord’s. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saving, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Ye shall eat no fat, of ox, or sheep, or goat. And the fat of that which dieth of itself, and the fat of that which is torn of beasts, may be used for any other service; but ye shall in no wise eat of it. For whosoever eateth the fat of the beast, of which men offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, even the soul that eateth it shall be cut off from his people. And ye shall eat no man net of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings. Whosoever it be that eateth any blood, that soul shall be cut off from his people And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that eateth any manner of blood; I will set My face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life. 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. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, which taketh in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust. For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off. And every soul that eateth that which dieth of itself, or that which is torn of beasts, whether he be homeborn or a stranger, he shall, wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean. But if he wash them not, nor bathe his flesh, then "he shall bear his iniquity."

The chapter concerning the peace offering ends (Leviticus 3:16-17) with these words: "All the fat is the Lord’s. It shall be a perpetual statute for you throughout your generations, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood."

To this prohibition so much importance was attached that in the supplemental "law of the peace offering" {Leviticus 7:22-27} it is repeated with added explanation and solemn warning, thus: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying. Ye shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat. And the fat of the beast that dieth of itself, and the fat of that which is torn with beasts, may be used for any other service: but ye shall in no wise eat of it. For whosoever eateth the fat of the beast, of which men offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, even the soul that eateth it shall be cut off from his people. And ye shall eat no manner of blood, whether it be of fowl or of beast, in any of your dwellings. Whosoever it be that eateth any blood, that soul shall be cut off from his people."

From which it appears that this prohibition of the eating of fat referred only to the fat of such beasts as were used for sacrifice. With these, however, the law was absolute, whether the animal was presented for sacrifice, or only slain for food. It held good with regard to these animals, even when, because of the manner of their death, they could not be used for sacrifice. In such cases, though the fat might be used for other purposes, still it must not be used for food.

The prohibition of the blood as food appears from Leviticus 17:10 to have been absolutely universal; it is said, "Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that eateth any manner of blood, I will set My face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people."

The reason for the prohibition of the eating of blood, whether in the case of the sacrificial feasts of the peace offerings or on other occasions, is given, {Leviticus 17:11-12} in these words: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life. 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."

And the prohibition is then extended to include not only the blood of animals which were used upon the altar, but also such as were taken in hunting, thus (Leviticus 17:13): "And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, which taketh in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he shall pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust," as something of peculiar sanctity; and then the reason previously given is repeated with emphasis (Leviticus 17:14): "For as to the life of all flesh, the blood thereof is all one with the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off."

And since, when an animal died from natural causes, or through being torn of a beast, the blood would be drawn from the flesh either not at all or but imperfectly, as further guarding against the possibility of eating blood, it is ordered (Leviticus 17:15-16) that he who does this shall be held unclean: "Every soul that eateth that which dieth of itself, or that which is torn of beasts, whether he be home born or a stranger, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. But if he wash them not nor bathe his flesh, then he shall bear his iniquity."

These passages explicitly state the reason for the prohibition by God of the use of blood for food to be the fact that, as the vehicle of the life, it has been appointed by Him as the means of expiation for sin upon the altar. And the reason for the prohibition of the fat is similar; namely, its appropriation for God upon the altar, as in the peace offerings, the sin offerings, and the guilt offerings; "all the fat is the Lord’s."

Thus the Israelite, by these two prohibitions, was to be continually reminded, so often as he partook of his daily food, of two things: by the one, of atonement by the blood as the only ground of acceptance; and by the other, of God’s claim on the man redeemed by the blood, for the consecration of his best. Not only so, but by the frequent repetition, and still more by the heavy penalty attached to the violation of these laws, he was reminded of the exceeding importance that these two things had in the mind of God. If he eat the blood of any animal claimed by God for the altar, he should be cut off from his people; that is, outlawed, and cut off from all covenant privilege as a citizen of the kingdom of God in Israel. And even though the blood were that of the beast taken in the chase, still ceremonial purification was required as the condition of resuming his covenant position.

Nothing, doubtless, seems to most Christians of our day more remote from practical religion than these regulations touching the fat and the blood which are brought before us with such fulness in the law of the peace offering and elsewhere. And yet nothing is of more present day importance in this law than the principles which underlie these regulations. For as with type, so with antitype. No less essential to the admission of the sinful man into that blessed fellowship with a reconciled God, which the peace offering typified, is the recognition of the supreme sanctity of the precious sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God; no less essential to the life of happy communion with God, is the ready consecration of the best fruit of our life to Him.

Surely, both of these, and especially the first, are truths for our time. For no observing man can fail to recognise the very ominous fact that a constantly increasing number, even of professed preachers of the Gospel, in so many words refuse to recognise the place which propitiatory blood has in the Gospel of Christ, and to admit its preeminent sanctity as consisting in this, that it was given on the altar to make atonement for our souls. Nor has the present generation outgrown the need of the other reminder touching the consecration of the best to the Lord. How many there are, comfortable, easy-going Christians, whose principle-if one might speak in the idiom of the Mosaic law-would rather seem to be, ever to give the lean to God, and keep the fat, the best fruit of their life and activity, for themselves! Such need to be most urgently and solemnly reminded that in spirit the warning against the eating of the blood and the fat is in full force. It was written of such as should break this law, "that soul shall be cut off from his people." And so in the Epistle to the Hebrews {Hebrews 10:26-29} we find one of its most solemn warnings directed to those who "count this blood of the covenant," the blood of Christ, "an unholy (i.e., common) thing"; as exposed by this, their undervaluation of the sanctity of the blood, to a "sorer punishment" than overtook him that "set at naught Moses’ law," even the retribution of Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."

And so in this law of the peace offerings, which ordains the conditions of the holy feast of fellowship with a reconciled God, we find these two things made fundamental in the symbolism: full recognition of the sanctity of the blood as that which atones for the soul; and the full consecration of the redeemed and pardoned soul to the Lord. So was it in the symbol; and so shall it be when the sacrificial feast shall at last receive its most complete fulfilment in the communion of the redeemed with Christ in glory. There will be no differences of opinion then and there, either as to the transcendent value of that precious blood which made atonement, or as to the full consecration which such a redemption requires from the redeemed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Leviticus 3:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/leviticus-3.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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