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Scripture reading – Leviticus 17

Leviticus 17 continued the LORD’s instructions concerning sacrificial offerings, as the Tabernacle became the central place of worship. This chapter mentions the importance of blood offerings for sin thirteen times. The LORD gave Moses explicit guidelines to teach “Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel” to follow (17:1-2).

Remembering that the children of Israel were enslaved for four centuries, we understand how the people would have adopted Egypt’s culture and religious practices (17:7). The institution of the Commandments, Laws, and guidelines for worship and sacrifices was not only the will of God, but was necessary for the nation to be distinct in person and practice from the other nations.

The Centrality of Sacrifices Before the Tabernacle (Leviticus 17:1-9)

Israel was to worship only YHWH in His Tabernacle, with its holy place and mercy seat being the only place for sacrifice in the future.  (Although when Israel entered the Promised Land, and the land was divided by tribes, the requirement did change, Deuteronomy 12:20-28).

To prevent sacrifices to other gods and to acknowledge the supply of their meat was from the LORD, all animals, including those that were for food, were to be slaughtered at the Tabernacle (17:2-7). In this way, the LORD ensured He would receive the portion due Him (3:1-17), and the priests would receive their portion for their household (7:11-18).

The Prohibition Concerning Ingesting Blood (Leviticus 17:10-14)

The blood of animals was not to be ingested in any manner (17:10). The explanation for the prohibition of blood was stated clearly: “the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have 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” (17:11).

What a powerful lesson in the matter of the blood! Millennia before modern science and medicine established the importance of the blood to life, God revealed in His Word, “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11). As of the late 19th century, “bloodletting” (draining blood from someone ill) was practiced by doctors as a supposed cure. If those doctors had read and believed the Scriptures, they would have spared lives knowing “the life [and the health] of the flesh is in the blood” (17:11).

We considered in an earlier devotion the distinction between “clean” meats (those that were allowed for human consumption, Leviticus 11:3, Deuteronomy 14:4,5) and “unclean” meats (those animals whose meat was prohibited, 11:4-8, 11:11-12, 11:13-19). Leviticus 17:13-14 addressed the beast taken in the hunt and their blood. The blood of beasts or fowl taken in the hunt was to be bled out on the ground, and their blood was covered with dust before the meat was consumed (17:13-14)

Beasts that died of natural causes, or had been torn by other beasts, were not to be eaten (17:15). Understanding the danger of bacteria in meats, the LORD spared His people from ingesting meats that presented unseen risks to their health and wellbeing. Should a man come in contact with such beasts, he was to “wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean” (17:15).

Closing thoughts: The Kosher Diet

Concluding today’s study, I invite you to consider the dietary label known as “Kosher.” Kosher (the Hebrew word is Kasher) describes a diet that conforms to the dietary laws we have studied in the Scriptures. In its simplicity, when meat, dairy, or other food is labeled Kosher, it represents a stamp of approval for food that meets the biblical standard given by God.

Kosher meat must be a beast with cloven hooves and chews the cud (i.e., cattle, lamb, goat, deer), free of disease or cancers. Unfortunately, in our society, non-kosher meats that are mass processed for human consumption are sometimes weak, sickly, and diseased animals.

Kosher also describes the method by which an animal is slaughtered. Far from the technique of mass butchering prevalent in today’s meat processing plants, kosher animals are slaughtered humanely.

Finally, contrary to those who attack meat as a food source, the law of God permits meat consumption. Nevertheless, God is a loving Creator, and His concern was not only for the health of humanity, but also for the well-being and humane treatment of the animals we consume for food.

Questions to consider:

1) Why were the people forbidden to sacrifice animals outside the encampment? (17:1-5)

2) What was the judgment if a man sacrificed an animal in a place other than the tabernacle? (17:4)

3) Why were people prohibited from eating raw or rare meat? (17:10-12)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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