Monday, December 13, 2021

Leviticus Session 11 - Holiness - The Sancity of Blood

The Christ Church Wednesday Bible Study Group is studying of the Old Testament book of Leviticus. The key to the book of Leviticus is found in verses 45 and 46 of chapter 11.

Leviticus 11:44‭-‬45 NIV I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.

These are the notes to session 11.

This week we finish our discussion of Israel's High Holy Day the Day of Atonement- Yom Kippur. The most important day of the year for the Old Testament Jew was the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur—when God graciously atoned for all the sins of all the people and gave the nation a new beginning.

We begin our study of chapters 17-20 which constituted a legal code for the people of Israel, touching on many areas of their personal and public life. The emphasis isn’t simply on justice or civic righteousness, as important as they are, but on holiness. After all, Israel was God’s people and the law was God’s law.

Chapters 17-20 deal with four special areas of life that must be respected and kept holy: the sanctity of blood, or life (chap. 17); the sanctity of sex (chap. 18); the sanctity of the law (chap. 19); and the sanctity of judgment (chap. 20).

This week we start with chapter 17 and the sanctity of blood.  

We are in the home stretch of Leviticus now that we have gotten to chapter 17.  We’ve talked about the sacrificial offerings that the people were required to do and how they were to be presented and who had to make them.  We’ve talked about the things that would make a person unclean both physically and ceremonially and how they could be cleansed.  Last week we talked about the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  The tenth day of the seventh month.

The most important day of the year for the Old Testament Jew was the Day of Atonement—Yom Kippur—when God graciously atoned for all the sins of all the people and gave the nation a new beginning. 

The feast culminated with the High Priest and two goats.  

the sin offering for the people.

Leviticus 16:7‭-‬10‭, ‬15‭-‬22 NIV Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat. “He shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel. “Then he shall come out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement for it. He shall take some of the bull’s blood and some of the goat’s blood and put it on all the horns of the altar. He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times to cleanse it and to consecrate it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness.

The two goats together constituted one sin offering (“two kids of the goats for a sin offering,” v. 5), even though only one goat was slain. 

The high priest cast lots over the goats, and one of them was chosen to die. He killed the goat and took some of its blood into the Holy of Holies, where he sprinkled it on the mercy seat and seven times before the mercy seat, just as he’d done with the blood of the bull from his offering.  But he also sprinkled the goat’s blood in the holy place of the tabernacle and applied it to the horns of the brazen altar, along with the blood of the bull. Thus, he purified the tabernacle and altar “from the uncleanness of the children of Israel” (v. 19).

The high priest then put both hands on the head of the living goat and confessed “over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins” (v. 21 NIV). 

This goat was led out of the camp and released in the wilderness, never to be seen again.

This goat is called “the scapegoat” short for “escape-goat,” that is, the goat that escaped death and escaped into the desert.

The releasing of the goat symbolized the sins of the people being carried away, never to be held against them again.

Psalms 103:8‭-‬12 NIV The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

John 1:29 NIV The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Remember that the two goats were considered one sin offering. One goat died because there must be blood sacrifice before there can be forgiveness. The other goat lived but was lost in the wilderness, having “carried away” the nation’s sins. Because the living goat was part of a sin offering, the man who led the goat out of the camp had to wash himself and his garments before he could return to the camp (v. 26).

Leviticus 17—20 constituted a legal code for the people of Israel, touching on many areas of their personal and public life. The emphasis isn’t simply on justice or civic righteousness, as important as they are, but on holiness. After all, Israel was God’s people and the law was God’s law.

Leviticus 20:7‭-‬8 NIV “ ‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.

The motivation for Israel’s obedience had to be more than fear of punishment. The people also needed in their hearts a desire to please God and a determination to be a holy people who would bring glory to His name

Exodus 19:3‭-‬6 NIV Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

Obeying the law and having holy character aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Twenty-four times in these four chapters you find the declaration, “I am the Lord!” God was giving His people divine laws that expressed His holy will, laws that He expected them to respect and obey. 

Now we know that mere obedience to the law isn’t God’s way of salvation.

Romans 3:19‭-‬20 NIV Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

However a love for holiness and a desire to obey and please God are certainly evidences that we are the children of God.

1 John 3:1 NIV See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Chapters 17-20 deal with four special areas of life that must be respected and kept holy: the sanctity of blood, or life (chap. 17); the sanctity of sex (chap. 18); the sanctity of the law (chap. 19); and the sanctity of judgment (chap. 20).


The word blood is used 460 times in the Bible, 362 of them in the Old Testament.

In Leviticus 17, you find the word “blood” 13 times and you also find in this chapter the key text in biblical theology on the significance of the blood in salvation: 

Leviticus 17:11 NIV For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Scripture told us that the blood was the life. When a sacrifice was offered and its blood was shed, it meant the giving of a life for the life of another. The innocent victim died in the place of the guilty sinner. Throughout Scripture, it’s the blood that makes the atonement. Any theology that ignores or minimizes the blood isn’t founded on the Word of God.

The offering of food (vv. 1–7).

Leviticus 17:1‭-‬7 NIV The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘This is what the Lord has commanded: Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people. This is so the Israelites will bring to the Lord the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the Lord, at the entrance to the tent of meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. The priest is to splash the blood against the altar of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.’

One important thing to mention here is that the Jews didn’t eat a great deal of meat because it was too costly to slaughter their animals. The law stated here prohibited them from killing their animals for food anywhere inside or outside the camp. Any animal used for food had to be brought to the altar and presented as a fellowship (peace) offering to the Lord.

Leviticus 3:1‭-‬5 NIV “ ‘If your offering is a fellowship offering, and you offer an animal from the herd, whether male or female, you are to present before the Lord an animal without defect. You are to lay your hand on the head of your offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the tent of meeting. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash the blood against the sides of the altar. From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. Then Aaron’s sons are to burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering that is lying on the burning wood; it is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

Since the Jews didn’t often slaughter their precious animals for meat, a dinner of beef or lamb would be a special occasion.  

The peace offering meal, however, meant more than the enjoyment of good food and fellowship with loved ones. It was also an expression of joyful thanksgiving that the worshipper was at peace with God and in communion with God. He might be giving thanks for some unexpected blessing God sent him.  Or perhaps he had made a vow to God, and God had answered his prayers; or maybe he was just thankful to God for everything God did for him and wanted to let everybody know.

Leviticus 7:11‭-‬18 NIV“ ‘These are the regulations for the fellowship offering anyone may present to the Lord: “ ‘If they offer it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering they are to offer thick loaves made without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, thin loaves made without yeast and brushed with oil, and thick loaves of the finest flour well-kneaded and with oil mixed in. Along with their fellowship offering of thanksgiving they are to present an offering with thick loaves of bread made with yeast. They are to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the Lord; it belongs to the priest who splashes the blood of the fellowship offering against the altar. The meat of their fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; they must leave none of it till morning. “ ‘If, however, their offering is the result of a vow or is a freewill offering, the sacrifice shall be eaten on the day they offer it, but anything left over may be eaten on the next day. Any meat of the sacrifice left over till the third day must be burned up. If any meat of the fellowship offering is eaten on the third day, the one who offered it will not be accepted. It will not be reckoned to their credit, for it has become impure; the person who eats any of it will be held responsible.

This law accomplished several things. To begin with, it kept the people from secretly offering sacrifices to idols out in the fields. If they were discovered and questioned, they could claim that they were killing the animal only for a feast. But if that were the case, they should have taken the animal to the tabernacle altar. The blood of an animal must be offered only to the Lord and only at His altar.

Second, by this law the Lord dignified ordinary meals and made them a sacred experience. The slain animal wasn’t just a piece of meat; it was a sacrifice presented to the Lord. Slaying an animal away from the altar was the same as murdering the animal, and God wants us to treat His creation with greater respect. When we thank God at the table for our food, we’re not acknowledging only His goodness; we’re also sanctifying the meal and making eating it a spiritual experience.

Third, by bringing the animal to the altar, the offerer was seeing to it that the Lord and the priest each received their rightful portion according to the law. The fellowship meal at the house of God would glorify God and satisfy the needs of the offerer and those who ate with him.

The offering of sacrifices (vv. 8–9).

Leviticus 17:8‭-‬9 NIV “Say to them: ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the Lord must be cut off from the people of Israel.

Verses 1-7 dealt with meat for food as with a family dinner.  These two verses are specific for meat offered as a sacrifice it’s blood had to be shed at the alter in order for it to be a legitimate sacrifice.  

No Jew was ever allowed to offer a sacrifice in the fields or at his tent. There was one tabernacle, one altar, and one ordained priesthood, and the people had to respect God’s orders.

In the camp of Israel, nobody would be too far from the door of the tabernacle. Thus bringing an animal for a fellowship offering wouldn’t pose a problem.


 Now when they entered Canaan that presented a problem so God modified the law to allow for meat for a family or normal meal to be eaten where they lived.  However all sacrifices had to be at the altar, and nobody was permitted to eat the blood.

Deuteronomy 12:1‭-‬7‭, ‬15‭-‬16 NIV These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you. Nevertheless, you may slaughter your animals in any of your towns and eat as much of the meat as you want, as if it were gazelle or deer, according to the blessing the Lord your God gives you. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it. But you must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.

The eating of blood (vv. 10–14)

Leviticus 17:10‭-‬14 NIV “ ‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” “ ‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

Because the blood is the life of the creature and the God-ordained means of atonement, it must not be treated like ordinary food. This prohibition goes all the way back to Noah.

Genesis 9:1‭-‬4 NIV Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.

As we have seen here in Leviticus this prohibition is often repeated.  It is also repeated in the book of Deuteronomy just before entrance into Cannan

The early church even included this regulation in its instructions to Gentile converts.

Acts 15:23‭-‬29 NIV With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.

In Acts 10, the apostle Peter began to realize just how different this new Christianity was from Judaism. While praying on a rooftop, waiting for lunch, he had a vision. A sheet was lowered from heaven, containing many different types of animals. A voice encouraged him to eat. Peter balked, realizing that some of the animals in the sheet were forbidden under Jewish law. Three times the sheet lowered, and three times Peter refused.

The vision had a dual purpose. The most obvious was that, under the New Covenant, the ceremonial rules about dietary restrictions had been lifted. 

Christians are to be set apart and recognized by their love 

not by their lunches.

John 13:34‭-‬35 NIV“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

 The second, and deeper, meaning was that Christ’s salvation was open to Gentiles just as it was to Jews. Immediately after the vision, Peter received a visit by messengers from a (Gentile) centurion named Cornelius who was ready to accept Christ.

Carnivorous Christians know and enjoy the message of Peter’s vision. But the vision does not directly address the subject of eating blood, unless that’s included in the revocation of kosher law.

The Bible’s first prohibition against consuming blood comes in Genesis 9:2-4, where God tells Noah, "Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it." 

This prohibition was most likely a ban on eating raw blood (i.e., uncooked meat). For the first time, animals were an allowable food source, and God was making sure that Noah did not eat them raw. 

Later, the prohibition of Genesis 9:4 is iterated in the Law of Moses. Leviticus 17:14 gives the reason behind command: “For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.”

It’s important to understand that New Testament believers in Christ have freedom from the Law, and we are to “stand firm” in that liberty.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Galatians 5:1 NIV

Colossians 2:16 NIV Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

So, eating a rare steak, blood sausage, blood pancakes, blood soup, or blood tofu may not be palatable to all Christians, but it is allowable.

There is another passage to consider. In Acts 15, a question arose in the early church concerning what was necessary for salvation. Specifically, did a Gentile need to be circumcised in order to be saved? The issue came up in the church in Syrian Antioch, which had a mixture of Jewish and Gentile converts. To address this important issue, the leaders of the church met in Jerusalem for the very first church council. They concluded that, no, Gentiles did not need to follow Mosaic Law; circumcision is not part of salvation . However, in verse 29, the leaders compose a letter with these instructions for the Gentiles in Antioch: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” At this point, we must keep the context foremost in our minds. These four commands from Jerusalem to Antioch all dealt with pagan practices associated with idolatry. Most, if not all, of the Gentile converts in Antioch were saved out of paganism. The church leaders were exhorting the new Gentile believers to make a clean break from their old lifestyles and not offend their Jewish brothers and sisters in the church. The instructions were not intended to guarantee salvation but to promote peace within the early church.

In short, ordering your steak rare or well done is a matter of conscience and of taste. What enters the mouth does not make us unclean.

Matthew 15:17‭-‬18 NIV “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

Eating black pudding may not appeal to everyone, but it is not a sin. We live under grace. We have liberty in Christ. Others may have different convictions about food and drink, and in that case we voluntarily limit our freedom in order to better serve them and God. 

The eating of animals found dead (vv. 15–16). 

Leviticus 17:15‭-‬16 NIV “ ‘Anyone, whether native-born or foreigner, who eats anything found dead or torn by wild animals must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be ceremonially unclean till evening; then they will be clean. But if they do not wash their clothes and bathe themselves, they will be held responsible.’ ”

Since meat was scarce and expensive, the chance finding of a dead animal in the field might appear to be a favorable event. But the carcass was obviously unclean because the blood hadn’t been drained out, and it had been exposed to whatever vermin were available. No Jew would want to take a chance in becoming unclean by eating the meat. If he did, he had to stay out of the camp until evening, then bathe himself and his clothing to be made clean.

Believers today need to appreciate the importance of the “precious blood of Christ”.

1 Peter 1:17‭-‬19 NIV Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Among other things, through His blood, we are justified.

Romans 5:9‭-‬11 NIV Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.


Ephesians 1:7‭-‬8 NIV In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,


Hebrews 13:12 NIV And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.

brought near

Ephesians 2:13 NIV But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

and cleansed

1 John 1:7 NIV But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

The church was purchased by the blood of Christ and therefore is very precious to God 

Acts 20:25‭-‬28 NIV “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.


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