-Chapter 17 deals more with the issue of blood for atonement and can be included in a larger section that scholars have dubbed “the holiness code,” which extends into chapter 26 of the book. This section can be summed up by Leviticus 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” With that in mind, let’s take a closer look into this issue of blood for atonement (covering).
-First, God directly gives Moses the command that an ox, goat, or lamb slaughtered inside the camp or outside the camp that has not been brought before the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting (the tabernacle front) will incur bloodguiltiness reckoned upon that person doing the action. That person has shed blood not of God and will be cut off from among the people (Leviticus 17:1-4). The tendency in this ancient culture was to offer individual sacrifices in open fields as a paganistic practice. This is evidenced by verse seven, “They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot.” The sacrificial system was meant to bring peace between sinful man and holy God, not to promote idolatry and false faith (Leviticus 17:5). This is why it was such a big deal to only sacrifice in the proper manner at the proper place before the LORD with His priests. So, we see the stress being placed on order and decorum here, not every man doing what he thinks is right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6). In other words, there is structure in the plan of righteous God, and no man should thwart it, whether native or alien (Leviticus 17:8).
-Next, the blood was not to be eaten by anyone in Israel or a sojourning alien that happens to be among them (Acts 15:19-21, 28-29). In fact God says that He will set His face against those that partake in this exercise of eating blood, and they shall be cut off from His people (Leviticus 17:10). Why is this the case? God says that the life is in the blood, and it has been given for the people on the altar to make atonement for their souls. The blood was identified with its life, which was shed for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28). To partake in the drinking of this type of blood was again a pagan practice. Israel was instructed to be different, separate, and distinct from its godless neighbors. The pagans who had false religious systems thought that the blood from the animal they were drinking would give them special powers of that animal such as strength, speed, keen eyesight, etc. If the Jewish people were to drink the blood, it would then ruin the symbolism of the sacrifice. The sacrifice was to instruct them on humility, not personal gain in a deceptive source of false hope. It also was designed to protect the people from infection and disease that could be carried by the sacrificed animal. This prohibition was taken seriously, and it is why many in the Jewish faith had such a strong reaction in Jesus’ symbolic reference to partake of His blood in communion (Matthew 26:27-29, Mark 14:23-25, Luke 22:20, John 6:53-56). It is easy to see how there could be misunderstandings to the foreshadowing and types that God was presenting in setting up His perfect sacrifice through His Son. Proper interpretation and application is essential.
-*Application* There are still many cultures who practice the art of drinking blood for delicacy or superstitious power. The recent phenomenon with vampires and their allure is just one example. From the time of Noah it has been a prohibition in the economy of God (Genesis 9:4), and for that fact we need to take it seriously. Perhaps we might need to get that steak a little bit more well-done J.
Verse to Memorize: Leviticus 17:11