Leviticus 17

The Word Made Fresh

1Then the LORD said to Moses, 2“Tell Aaron and his sons and all the Israelites that the LORD has commanded that 3anyone who sacrifices an ox, a lamb, or a goat in or outside the camp 4without bringing it to the meeting tent and presenting it as an offering to the LORD in front of the LORD’s sanctuary is guilty of bloodshed and must be removed from the people. 5The Israelites must bring to the altar the offerings they are sacrificing in the field and present them to the LORD and give them to the priest at the entrance to the meeting tent, and offer them as thanksgiving sacrifices. 6The priest must dash the blood against the LORD’s altar and burn the fat so that it rises in smoke as a pleasing smell to the LORD. 7In this way they will stop corrupting themselves by sacrificing to the goat demons. This rule is permanent and will apply to them from now on.

8“Furthermore, tell them that anyone, Israelite or foreigner, who offers a burnt offering or a sacrifice 9without bringing it to the meeting tent to offer to the LORD shall be dismissed from the people. 10If anyone, Israelite or foreigner, eats any blood, I will turn against that person and remove him or her from the people. 11An animal’s life is in its blood, and I have made it so in order that you may renew your relationship with me by offering the blood on the altar. It is the blood that results in renewing our relationship. 12That is why I insist that none of you, nor any foreigner who lives among you, may eat blood. 13Anyone, Israelite or foreigner, who hunts and kills an animal or bird must pour its blood out on the ground and cover it with the dirt. 14The blood is the life of every creature, and that is why I insist that you may not eat the blood of any creature, or you will be banished from the community.

15“Every Israelite or foreign resident who eats what is found dead or what has been mauled by wild animals shall wash their clothes and bathe themselves with water, and then then be isolated until sundown. Then they are restored. If they don’t do this, they will not be acceptable to me.


1-7: The people Moses is leading have been accustomed to all kinds of religious practices common to various cultures of that time that must now be put aside in order for them to be God’s covenant people. Therefore, it is important that they understand that they are no longer to offer sacrifices just anywhere or to any deity. Their sacrifices must be brought to the tent of meeting and offered to the LORD by an ordained priest. This helps to make sure that the people do not fall into the worship of other gods.

8-9: The penalty for making offerings aside from the prescribed method is to be “cut off” from the people. Some scholars think that means they will be put to death, but the one thing we can say for certain is that they will no longer be part of the covenant God has offered the people of Israel.

10-13: Kosher food is always drained of blood before it is prepared for eating. The understanding is that blood represents life. It is a gift from God which can only be exchanged for making atonement.

14-16: If you should eat the meat from a “clean” animal that has died of natural causes or that has been killed by wild animals, you cannot be certain that the blood has been properly drained from the meat. Therefore, it is necessary to undergo a ritual of bathing yourself and your clothes so that you will be ceremonially “clean” again.


Yes, these rules sound almost barbaric to us, but centuries later God will use the Romans to see to it that the practice of making animal sacrifices will come to an end by destroying the temple in Jerusalem. That event will not result in the Jews losing their faith, but rather will enable the followers of Jesus to give birth to a new understanding of God’s nature through the spread of the gospel around the world.