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(MT versing)
Blood for Atonement The Sanctity of Blood Restrictions Upon the Slaughter of Animals The Sacredness of Blood Slaughtering and Sacrifice
17:1-7 17:1-9 17:1-7 17:1-7 17:1-2a
17:8-9 17:8-9 17:8-9 17:8-9
17:10-13 17:10-14 17:10-13 17:10-12 17:10-12
17:13-14 17:13-14
17:14-16 17:14-16
17:15-16 17:15-16 17:15-16

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Etc.


  1. Leviticus 17-20 is a literary unit which deals with ritual laws and procedures for holiness. "Holiness" is the key term in Leviticus. It denotes moral and ceremonial obedience to YHWH's revealed character and laws. YHWH is "Holy" (cf. Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7,26; 21:8; 22:32-33). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY.

  2. A brief outline of Leviticus 17-20.
    1. Leviticus 17 deals with how to treat sacrificial blood and is primarily focused toward laymen.
    2. Leviticus 18 deals with the laws regulating human sexuality for covenant people.
    3. Leviticus 19 deals with relating to a covenant partner who has sinned.
    4. Leviticus 20 deals with the consequences and punishment of the sin of a covenant partner.


1Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2"Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel and say to them, 'This is what the Lord has commanded, saying, 3"Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp, 4and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguiltiness is to be reckoned to that man. He has shed blood and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5The reason is so that the sons of Israel may bring their sacrifices which they were sacrificing in the open field, that they may bring them in to the Lord, at the doorway of the tent of meeting to the priest, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the Lord. 6The priest shall sprinkle the blood on the altar of the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting, and offer up the fat in smoke as a soothing aroma to the Lord. 7They shall no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat demons with which they play the harlot. This shall be a permanent statute to them throughout their generations."'

17:1 This is a recurrent theme in Leviticus. These laws and rules are from YHWH, not Moses. See SPECIAL TOPIC: MOSES' AUTHORSHIP OF THE PENTATEUCH and SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION.

17:2 Moses is commanded to speak to

  1. Aaron ‒ Lev. 16:2; 17:2
  2. Aaron and his sons ‒ Leviticus 9; 10:12; 17:2; 22
  3. Aaron's sons ‒ Leviticus 21
  4. the sons of Israel ‒ Leviticus 12; 18; 19; 20; 23; 24; 25-26; 27

In chapters 11; 13; 15 YHWH speaks to both Moses and Aaron.

17:3 "Any man from the house of Israel who slaughters. . ." There are two major discussions here: (1) the ritual slaughtering of clean domestic animals (cf. Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14) and (2) the hunting of clean wild animals (cf. Lev. 17:5,13). Also, there is a distinction in this chapter between the time of the wilderness wandering period, where the Tabernacle was available to all people, and a later time, discussed in detail in Deut. 12:23ff, when the Tabernacle may have been too far away.

▣ "man" In the MT it is "man man," which is an idiom for "any man" (cf. Lev. 17:8,10,13; 15:2; 22:18).

17:4 "bloodguiltiness" Blood had a strange power to the Hebrew mind, Gen. 4:10. It was the essence of life itself, Lev. 17:11,14. Therefore, the life belonged to God and the blood had to be handled in a very precise and reverent way. This not only had to do with kosher cleanliness but also with the significance of life. See SPECIAL TOPIC: BLOOD.

17:6 "sprinkle the blood" See note at Lev. 1:5.

▣ "the altar of the Lord at the doorway" See SPECIAL TOPIC: ALTAR OF SACRIFICE.

▣ "offer up the fat" Two parts of the sacrifice always belonged to YHWH.

  1. the fat on the internal organs
  2. the blood (cf. Lev. 17:10; see SPECIAL TOPIC: BLOOD)

▣ "a soothing aroma" See SPECIAL TOPIC: A SOOTHING AROMA.


17:7 "goat demons" The term "goat demons" (possibly "hairy goats," BDB 972 III, KB 1341) is used several times.

  1. wild animals that lived in the ruins of destroyed, cursed cities and, therefore, could represent the demonic ‒ Isa. 13:21; 34:14
  2. physical representations of animals as pagan idols ‒ 2 Chr. 11:15

This text is referring to covenant partners, so this must refer to idolatry of some of the people of God (cf. Deut. 32:17). It is interesting that Azazel, mentioned in Lev. 16:8 (see note there), is thought by some to be a desert demon. The very fact that the phrase "play the harlot with it" seems to refer, not only to the possibility of idolatry, which is seen as "going a whoring after other gods," but also to fertility worship (cf. Exod. 34:15-16; Lev. 17:7; 20:5; Deut. 31:16; Jdgs. 2:17; 8:27,33). We know that the goat was sometimes worshiped as a fertility god in Egypt and later in both Greek and Roman mythology. See SACRIFICES IN MESOPOTAMIA AND ISRAEL AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE.

8"Then you shall say to them, 'Any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9and does not bring it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to offer it to the Lord, that man also shall be cut off from his people."

17:8 "the aliens who sojourn among them" The Jews had the responsibility to apply the law to all the people who lived in their land. This is a summary of what the alien was responsible for.

  1. to keep the Sabbath, Exod. 20:10
  2. to observe the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16:29
  3. no improper slaughter of food animals (here)
  4. no idolatry, Lev. 20:2
  5. no blasphemy, Lev. 24:16

17:9 All dead animals for consumption must be brought to the Lord at the Tabernacle. This requirement was to

  1. acknowledge YHWH as the giver of life and the only true God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM)
  2. restrict all other kinds of sacrifice to pagan gods

▣ "cut off from his people" This phrase is used several times (i.e., Lev. 7:20-21) and could mean

  1. prohibited from the Tabernacle
  2. physical excommunication from the camp of Israel
  3. an acknowledgment that YHWH would stop his line/descendants by his early death (and/or the children, cf. Exod. 31:14)

Whichever it is, it demonstrated that fellowship between YHWH and His people was stopped! See SPECIAL TOPIC: CONSEQUENCES OF IDOLATRY.

10"'And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.' 12Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, 'No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.' 13So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.'"

17:10 "I will set My face" The Jewish Study Bible, p. 248, says this phrase means "I will give it My personal, undivided and immediate attention." This intense imagery is used several times (i.e., Lev. 20:3, 5,6; 26:17; Ps. 34:16; Jer. 21:10; 44:11; Amos 9:4).

▣ "who eats any blood" This had to do with the sanctity of blood because the life belonged to God (cf. Lev. 17:11)

17:11 The Hebrew root, נפשׁ (BDB 659, KB 711), is used three times in this verse (also note Lev. 17:14 and Gen. 9:3-7).

  1. "life of the flesh" (BDB 659 CONSTRUCT BDB142)
  2. "your souls"
  3. "life"

KB lists six different ways this general word for life/person is used.

  1. "gullet," "throat," or "wind pipe" (Ps. 107:9; Isa. 5:14)
  2. "neck" (Ps. 69:1)
  3. "breath" (i.e., creatures of this planet that breathe air)
    1. humans (Gen. 2:7)
    2. animals (Gen. 1:20)
  4. a living, breathing creature (Gen. 2:19
  5. people (Lev. 24:17)
  6. personality
    1. YHWH (Lev. 26:11)
    2. covenant person (Lev. 26:15)
  7. life (Gen. 9:5; 19:17; Lev. 17:11,14)
  8. soul (Exod. 23:9)
  9. dead soul (Lev. 19:28)

Some of these are overlapping and it is hard to distinguish a difference. See further notes online at Ezek. 18:4, at Ezekiel 18.

17:13 The guidelines here reflect the wilderness wandering period (i.e., presence of the Tabernacle with the camp of Israel), but Deut. 12:15-16,20-27 reflect the post conquest era when Israel is scattered throughout Palestine and some towns are too distant from the Tabernacle to perform these rites (i.e., before the meat went bad in the hot climate).

14"For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, 'You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.' 15When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean. 16But if he does not wash them or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt."

17:14-16 This is a summary on the importance of blood, as well as the consequences and remedy for its abuse.

17:15 There were several levels of "uncleanness." Eating animals that had died or been killed by other animals was a lesser level of uncleanness than eating the blood of a slaughtered animal. The difference being that "the life" of the dead animal was already gone.

17:16 "he shall bear his guilt" The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 162, makes a good point about this VERB (BDB 669, KB 724). When the SUBJECT is YHWH, it means "remove iniquity" (i.e., Exod. 34:7; Num. 14:18), but when the SUBJECT is a person, it means "bear responsibility" or "bear punishment" (i.e., Exod. 28:43; Lev. 5:1,27; 7:18; 17:16; 19:8; Num. 5:31; 18:1,23). This suggests death (cf. Lev. 5:1-13).


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

  1. Why was blood so holy and important to the Israelites?
  2. What does "cut off from among his people" mean?
  3. Why are Lev. 17:5,11,14 so theologically significant?
  4. Do these guidelines refer to the wilderness wandering period or the period of the united monarchy?

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