Leviticus 17

The Law of Holiness[a]

Chapter 17

Sacredness of Blood.[b] 1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: 3 Whichever man of the house of Israel slays an ox or a lamb or a goat, either slaying it inside the camp or outside of it, 4 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, nor offers it to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord, that man shall be guilty of its blood, the blood that he shed, and that man shall be cut off from among his people. 5 This is to stop the children of Israel from offering their sacrifices in the open fields, and so that they bring them unto the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting, to the priest, to offer peace offerings unto the Lord. 6 The priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He shall burn the fat as a sweet fragrance to the Lord. 7 They shall no longer offer their sacrifices to the demons[c] with whom they have prostituted themselves. This shall be a statute for them through all their generations.’

8 “You shall say this to them, ‘Whoever from the house of Israel or from among the aliens living in your midst offers a burnt offering or a sacrifice, 9 and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to offer it to the Lord, that person will be cut off from among his people. 10 [d]Whoever from the house of Israel or from among the aliens living in your midst eats anything with blood, I will set my face against that person and he shall be cut off from among his people. 11 The life of all flesh is found in its blood. I have given it to you to make atonement for your life upon the altar. Blood is to make atonement for one’s life.’ 12 Therefore, I told the children of Israel, ‘No one of you shall eat blood, nor shall the alien living among you eat blood.’

13 “Whoever from among the children of Israel or from among the aliens living in your midst hunts or catches a beast or a bird that can be eaten, let him pour out its blood and cover it with dust 14 for it is the life of all flesh. The blood is its life. Therefore, I said to the children of Israel, ‘You will eat no blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is in the blood. Whoever eats it will be cut off.’ 15 Whoever eats a beast that died by itself, or that was torn asunder by beasts, whether he be a native or an alien, shall wash his clothes and bathe in water and he shall be unclean until the evening. Then he shall be clean. 16 But if he does not wash or bathe, then he shall bear his guilt.”


  1. Leviticus 17:1 In the final years of the monarchy, the priests of Jerusalem made a collection (chs. 17–27) of very ancient prescriptions, in order to remind the Jews that they were called to live a holy life. During and after the Exile, some priests reworked this collection in order to bring it into conformity with the perspectives of the priestly tradition of their day. In response to the pressure of pagan cults, this tradition emphasized the holiness of God and placed him above every creature and every false divinity.
  2. Leviticus 17:1 Too often the Jews offered sacrifices to the fancied divinities of the rural areas (v. 7). Like Deut 12:2-7, the Law of Holiness combats idolatry and requires that sacrifices be offered only in the Jerusalem temple, symbolized here by the wilderness tent and regarded as the only place of true worship.
  3. Leviticus 17:7 The Hebrew word translated demons means “goats.” The reference seems to be to tutelary spirits in animal form that frequented deserted and desolate places; one such would be the scapegoat of Lev 16:8. See Isa 13:21; 34:14.
  4. Leviticus 17:10 For the ancients blood was the symbol of life, and life belonged to God alone. Therefore, blood was not to serve as a food (see Acts 15:20, 29).

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