Leviticus 17


As we enter the next four chapters we are informed about the laws of holiness, Leviticus 17-20. These laws were designed to make the people of God different from the rest of the peoples of the world.

1. Laws of Blood. Leviticus 17.

There was a definite injunction against eating or drinking blood. The reason for this was because blood symbolised life, Leviticus 17:11.

2. Laws of Sexual Morality. Leviticus 18.

The ten commandments had forbidden adultery. Now the Law goes on to specify the various forms of sexual immorality which are forbidden in that general law. It includes such issues as incest as well as adultery and homosexuality.

3. General Laws. Leviticus 19-20.

The general laws follow a varied pattern of subjects as we move from law to law.

As can be seen from the above chart, the main theme of this section, if not of the entire book, is to ‘be holy’, Leviticus 19:2 / Leviticus 20:7 / Leviticus 20:26.

There is an important principle here, the foundation for all true morality rests upon the existence of a holy God. These laws included the treatment of one’s neighbour, Leviticus 19:13.

One of the commands given to this section is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, Leviticus 19:18. We normally think of this command as having come from Jesus, but it had its origins in the Old Testament. This command is also extended to strangers and aliens who reside among the Israelites, Exodus 19:34.

‘The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people. This is so the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. The priest is to splash the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance to the tent of meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’ ‘Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the LORD must be cut off from the people of Israel.’ Leviticus 17:1-9

Eating Blood Forbidden

This chapter pictures God as a jealous God, there is to be no trifling with His covenant and no changing His laws to suit the people. This is one of the strongest and most persistent pictures of Israel where we have a disobedient people and yet a God who still loves them.

The laws given to them were moulded to fit the people and adapt a physical concept of worship to a Holy God. We see through the course of the Old Testament and New Testament mankind’s inability to take and deal with the laws God has given them to follow and live by, despite the revelation of a better existence to follow.

This again brings us to the concept of the precious blood which was shed because, ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’, Romans 3:23.

We see God’s concern for Israel’s loyalty, the invasion of rights over life, exemplified by blood and yet this is clearly an attitude of love. It is made clear by the use of both extremes in chapter 17.

The background of the sacredness of blood is at least as old as Noah, Genesis 9:3-6. In this chapter we read if someone kills their sacrifice outside the camp and brings it to the altar to be offered to God then that is fine, but if someone sacrifices it outside the camp it shows that you are worshipping others.

The use of the ‘prostitute’ is a metaphor. They left their first love, Revelation 2:4, and played the prostitute; they completely abandoned the One who had set them apart and ‘prostituted’ with another. Whatever takes us away from God in that, He is no longer our primary or first love, is the master and we are the slave to it. We have played the prostitute to whoever dominates our life, taking them away from the service and glorification of God.

Gomer in the Book of Hosea is a good example of the contrast of leaving the one who loved you, Hosea 2:2 / Hosea 2:4-5 / Hosea 3. We read about the jealousy of Paul in the church at Corinth who were leaving the one they were married to, 2 Corinthians 11:2.

Moses implies that the reason for slaughtering the animals for food and offerings before the tabernacle is because the priests could sanctify the offering which in turn prevents them from being led astray into idolatry by some superstitious beliefs. By bringing these animals and presenting them before the Lord meant that the priests could authorise their slaughter in the Name of God.

In effect by bringing their sacrifices to the priests and before the Lord meant that the Israelites were in constant contact with God and His priests.

In Old Testament times there were many nations around who had superstitious beliefs concerning demons and evil spirits, hence why God wanted His people to bring their sacrifices to the priests and before Him. In other words, the more time they focused on God, the less time they had to focus on all these other superstitious beliefs, which would be idolatry.

The blood must be sprinkled at the altar at the door of the tabernacle, the blood of the beast must be offered at the tabernacle and nowhere else. Even though the Israelites were spread out throughout the land, they must still obey the instructions about their offerings, Deuteronomy 12:13, to neglect these laws would lead to religious anarchy, Hosea 8:8-14, and the consequence of such disobedience would lead to them being cut off God.

‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore, I say to the Israelites, ‘None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.’ ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, ‘You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.’ ‘Anyone, whether native-born or foreigner, who eats anything found dead or torn by wild animals must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be ceremonially unclean till evening; then they will be clean. But if they do not wash their clothes and bathe themselves, they will be held responsible.’ Leviticus 17:10-16

God takes blood, especially the eating of blood very seriously, because ‘the life of a creature is in the blood,’ Acts 15:29. Notice the redemptive use which God assigns to blood, redemption is only possible through the blood being shed.

The blood equals life, this is seen even more strongly in later verses of the chapter. Because it was the blood that makes atonement, we can understand why the animals became holy things for Israel, which in turn helps us understand if anyone ate blood, they would be cut off from God and His people.

Notice also if an animal had been killed during a hunt, the blood which came out of it was to be covered with earth, that is dirt. Notice also that God says, ‘I have given it to you’, this was the foreshadowing of God’s ‘indescribable gift’ the precious blood of Christ, 2 Corinthians 9:15.

Blood continuing to flow in our veins was crucial for our existence and therefore to show its precious purpose, it was not to be eaten or consumed. It flows through the body and gathers all the impurities of the body in its path, therefore in a warm climate it could be dangerous to our health.

This chapter clearly points toward the Christ, the life of the animal was in the blood, and so, eternal life in the future would be purchased by the blood of the Son, Acts 20:28. The problem in the Old Testament was that there was no real forgiveness through the blood of animals, Hebrews 10:1-4, thankfully Jesus was willing to give His blood that we might live and be forgiven, Ephesians 1:7.

Go To Leviticus 18