Leviticus 17


The people are commanded to bring all the cattle they intend to

kill to the door of the tabernacle, where they are to be made

an offering to the Lord; and those who disobey are to be cut

off, 1-5.

The priest is to sprinkle the blood, 6.

They are forbidden to offer sacrifices to devils, 7.

The injunction to bring their offerings to the door of the

tabernacle is repeated, 8, 9.

The eating of blood is solemnly forbidden, 10.

It is the life of the beast, and is given to make an atonement

for their souls, 11, 12.

If a bird or beast be taken in hunting, its blood must be

poured out and covered with dust, for the reasons before

assigned, 13, 14.

None shall eat an animal that dies of itself, or is torn by

beasts; if any act otherwise he must bathe his clothes and his

flesh, or bear his iniquity, 15, 16.


Verse 4. And bringeth it not unto the door] As sacrifice

was ever deemed essential to true religion, it was necessary

that it should be performed in such a way as to secure the great

purpose of its institution. God alone could show how this

should be done so as to be pleasing in his sight, and therefore

he has given the most plain and particular directions concerning

it. The Israelites, from their long residence in Egypt, an

idolatrous country, had doubtless adopted many of their usages;

and many portions of the Pentateuch seem to have been written

merely to correct and bring them back to the purity of the

Divine worship.

That no blood should be offered to idols, God commands every

animal used for food or sacrifice to be slain at the door of the

tabernacle. While every animal was slain in this sacrificial

way, even the daily food of the people must put them in mind of

the necessity of a sacrifice for sin. Perhaps St. Paul had this

circumstance in view when he said, Whether therefore ye eat or

drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God, 1Co 10:31;

and, Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the

Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

While the Israelites were encamped in the wilderness, it was

comparatively easy to prevent all abuses of this Divine

institution; and therefore they were all commanded to bring the

oxen, sheep, and goats to the door of the tabernacle of the

congregation, that they might be slain there, and their blood

sprinkled upon the altar of the Lord. But when they became

settled in the promised land, and the distance, in many cases,

rendered it impossible for them to bring the animals to be slain

for domestic uses to the temple, they were permitted to pour out

the blood in a sacrificial way unto God at their respective

dwellings, and to cover it with the dust; see Le 17:13, and

De 12:20,21.

Blood shall be imputed unto that man] Having poured out the

blood improperly, he shall be considered as guilty of murder,

because that blood, had it been properly and sacrificially

employed, might have made atonement for the life of a man.

Verse 7. They shall no more offer their sacrifices unto

devils] They shall not sacrifice lasseirim, to the

hairy ones, to goats. The famous heathen god, Pan, was

represented as having the posteriors, horns, and ears of a goat;

and the Mendesians, a people of Egypt, had a deity which they

worshipped under this form. Herodotus says that all goats were

worshipped in Egypt, but the he-goat particularly. It appears

also that the different ape and monkey species were objects of

superstitious worship; and from these sprang, not only Mendes

and Jupiter Ammon, who was worshipped under the figure of a ram,

but also Pan and the Sileni, with the innumerable herd of those

imaginary beings, satyrs, dryads, hamadryads, &c. &c., all

woodland gods, and held in veneration among the Egyptians,

Greeks, and Romans.

After whom they have gone a whoring.] Though this term is

frequently used to express idolatry, yet we are not to suppose

that it is not to be taken in a literal sense in many places in

Scripture, even where it is used in connection with idolatrous

acts of worship. It is well known that Baal-Peor and Ashtaroth

were worshipped with unclean rites; and that public prostitution

formed a grand part of the worship of many deities among the

Egyptians, Moabites, Canaanites, Greeks, and Romans. The great

god of the two latter nations, Jupiter, was represented as the

general corrupter of women; and of Venus, Flora, Priapus, and

others, it is needless to speak. That there was public

prostitution in the patriarchal times, See Clarke on Ge 38:21.

And that there was public prostitution of women to goats in Egypt,

see Herodotus, lib. ii., c. 46, p. 108, edit. Gale, who gives a

case of this abominable kind that took place in Egypt while he was

in that country. See also many examples in Bochart, vol. ii.,

col. 641; and See Clarke on Le 20:16.

Verse 11. For the life of the flesh is in the blood] This

sentence, which contains a most important truth, had existed in

the Mosaic writings for 3600 years before the attention of any

philosopher was drawn to the subject. This is the more

surprising, as the nations in which philosophy flourished were

those which especially enjoyed the Divine oracles in their

respective languages. That the blood actually possesses a

living principle, and that the life of the whole body is derived

from it, is a doctrine of Divine revelation, and a doctrine

which the observations and experiments of the most accurate

anatomists have served strongly to confirm. The proper

circulation of this important fluid through the whole human

system was first taught by Solomon in figurative language, Ec 12:6;

and discovered, as it is called, and demonstrated, by Dr. Harvey

in 1628; though some Italian philosophers had the same notion a

little before. This accurate anatomist was the first who fully

revived the Mosaic notion of the vitality of the blood; which

notion was afterward adopted by the justly celebrated Dr. John

Hunter, professor of anatomy in London, and fully established

by him by a great variety of strong reasoning and accurate

experiments. To support this opinion Dr. Hunter proves:-

1. That the blood unites living parts in some circumstances as

certainly as the yet recent juices of the branch of one tree

unite with that of another; and he thinks that if either of

these fluids were dead matter, they would act as stimuli, and no

union would take place in the animal or vegetable kingdom; and

he shows that in the nature of things there is not a more

intimate connection between life and a solid than between life

and a fluid.

2. He shows that the blood becomes vascular, like other living

parts of the body; and he demonstrated this by a preparation in

which vessels were clearly seen to arise from what had been a

coagulum of blood; for those vessels opened into the stream of

the circulating blood, which was in contiguity with this

coagulated mass.

3. He proves that if blood be taken from the arm in the most

intense cold that the human body can suffer, it will raise the

thermometer to the same height as blood taken in the most sultry

heat. This is a very powerful argument for the vitality of the

blood, as it is well known that living bodies alone have the

power of resisting great degrees of heat and cold, and of

maintaining in almost every situation while in health that

temperature which we distinguish by the name of animal heat.

4. He proves that blood is capable of being acted upon by a

stimulus, as it coagulates on exposure to the air, as certainly

as the cavities of the abdomen and thorax become inflamed from

the same cause. The more the blood is alive, i. e., the more

the animal is in health, the sooner the blood coagulates on

exposure; and the more it has lost of the living principle, as

in cases of violent inflammation, the less sensible it is to the

stimulus produced by being exposed, and coagulates more slowly.

5. He proves that the blood preserves life in different parts

of the body. When the nerves going to any part are tied or cut,

the part becomes paralytic, and loses all power of motion, but

it does not mortify. But let the artery be cut, and then the

part dies and mortification ensues. It must therefore be the

vital principle of the blood that keeps the part alive; nor does

it appear that this fact can be accounted for on any other


6. He thinks this vitality farther proved from the case of a

person who was brought to St. George's hospital for a simple

fracture of the os humeri, and who died about a month after. As

the bones had not united, he injected the arm, and thus found

that the coagulated blood which filled the cavity between the

extremities of the fractured bones was become vascular, and in

some places very much so, which vessels, had it been dead

matter, it never could have produced.

This system has been opposed, and arguments have been adduced

to prove that the principle of vitality exists not in the blood

but in the nervous system. But every argument on this ground

appears to be done away by the simple consideration that the

whole nervous system, as well as every other part of the body,

is originally derived from the blood; for is it not from the

blood of the mother that the fetus has its being and nourishment

in the womb? Do not all the nerves, as well as the brain, &c.,

originate from that alone? And if it be not vital can it give

the principle of vitality to something else, which then

exclusively (though the effect of a cause) becomes the principle

of vitality to all the solids and fluids of the body? This

seems absurd. That the human being proceeded originally from

the blood admits of no doubt; and it is natural and reasonable

to suppose that as it was the cause under God which generated

all the other parts of the body, so it still continues to be the

principle of life, and by it alone all the wastes of the system

are repaired. Two points relative to this subject are strongly

asserted in Divine revelation, one by MOSES, the other by ST.


1. Moses says, The LIFE of the flesh is in the BLOOD,

Le 17:11. This has been proved by the most indisputable facts.

2. St. Paul says, God hath made of ONE BLOOD all nations of

men, Ac 17:26. And this is demonstrated, not only from there

being only one pair from whom all the nations of men have been

derived, but also from the fact that every human being, from the

first-born of Eve to the present hour, has been formed out of

and supported by the mother's blood; and that from the agency of

this fluid the human body, after being born into the world, has

its increment and support. The reason given by God for the law

against eating blood is perfectly conclusive: I will set my face

against that soul that eateth blood-for the LIFE ( nephesh)

of the flesh is in the BLOOD, and I have given it to you upon the

altar, to make an atonement for your souls (

naphshotheychem, your LIVES:) for it is the blood (because it is

the LIFE, nephesh) that maketh an atonement for the soul

( bannephesh, for the life; for the word is the same in all

these cases.) By transgression a man forfeits his LIFE to Divine

justice, and he must die, did not mercy provide him a

substitute. The life of a beast is appointed and accepted by

God as a substitute for the sinner's life (in reference to the

life of Christ, which was to be given for the life of the

world;) but as this life is in the BLOOD, and as the blood is

the grand principle of vitality, therefore the blood is to be

poured out upon the altar: and thus the life of the beast becomes

a substitute for the life of the man.

And it is well worthy of being remarked, that Christ not only

died for sinners, but our redemption is everywhere attributed to

his BLOOD, and the shedding of that blood; and that on the altar

of the cross, this might make an atonement for the lives and

souls of men, he not only bowed his head, and gave up the ghost,

but his side was opened, the pericardium and the heart evidently

pierced, that the vital fluid might be poured out from the very

seat of life, and that thus the blood, which is the life, should

be poured out to make an atonement for the life of the soul.

The doctrine of Moses and Paul proves the truth of the

doctrine of Harvey and Hunter; and the reasonings and

experiments of Harvey and Hunter illustrate and confirm the

doctrine of Moses and Paul.-Here then is a farther proof of the

truth and authority of Divine revelation.

See Clarke on Ge 9:4;

Dr. J. Corrie's Essay on the Vitality of the Blood; and the

article Blood, in the Encyclopaedias.

Verse 14. Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh]

Independently of the moral reasons given above, we may add, 1.

That blood, being highly alkalescent, especially in hot

climates, is subject to speedy putrefaction. 2. That it

affords a gross nutriment, being very difficult of digestion, so

much so that bull's blood was used in ancient times as poison,

"Its extreme viscidity rendering it totally indigestible by the

powers of the human stomach." 3. It is allowed that when blood

was used in this country in great quantities, the scurvy was

more frequent than at other times. 4. It appears from history

that those nations who lived most on it were very fierce,

savage, and barbarous, such as the Scythians, Tartars, Arabs of

the desert, the Scandinavians, &c., &c., some of whom drank the

blood of their enemies, making cups of their sculls!

Verse 15. That which died of itself, or that which was torn]

Because, in both cases, the blood was retained in the body;

hence the council at Jerusalem forbade things strangled as well

as blood, because in such beasts the blood was coagulated in the

veins and arteries. See Ac 15:28-29.

Every thing considered, surely there is as little propriety in

eating of blood as there is necessity to do it. They who will

do otherwise must bear their iniquity. If blood eating be no

offence, then they have no sin to answer for. The principal

subjects of this chapter have been already so amply handled in

the notes, that there is no need to add any thing by way of

reflection or improvement.

Copyright information for Clarke