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The Slaughter of Animals

17 The Lord spoke to Moses, “Speak to Aaron, his sons, and all the Israelites, and tell them, ‘This is the word that the Lord has commanded, “Blood guilt[a] will be accounted to any man[b] from the house of Israel[c] who slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat inside the camp or outside the camp,[d] but has not brought it to the entrance of the Meeting Tent[e] to present it as[f] an offering to the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord. He has shed blood, so that man will be cut off from the midst of his people.[g] This is so that[h] the Israelites will bring their sacrifices that they are sacrificing in the open field[i] to the Lord at the entrance of the Meeting Tent—to the priest—and sacrifice them there as peace-offering sacrifices to the Lord. The priest is to splash[j] the blood on the altar[k] of the Lord at the entrance of the Meeting Tent, and offer the fat up in smoke for a soothing aroma to the Lord. So the people[l] must no longer offer[m] their sacrifices to the goat demons,[n] acting like prostitutes by going after them.[o] This is to be a perpetual statute for them throughout their generations.”’[p]

“You are to say to them: ‘Any man[q] from the house of Israel or[r] from the resident foreigners who live[s] in their[t] midst, who offers[u] a burnt offering or a sacrifice but does not bring it to the entrance of the Meeting Tent to offer it[v] to the Lord—that person will be cut off from his people.[w]

Prohibition against Eating Blood

10 “‘Any man[x] from the house of Israel or from the resident foreigners who live[y] in their[z] midst who eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats the blood, and I will cut him off from the midst of his people,[aa] 11 for the life of every living thing[ab] is in the blood.[ac] So I myself have assigned it to you[ad] on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.[ae] 12 Therefore, I have said to the Israelites: No person among you is to eat blood,[af] and no resident foreigner[ag] who lives among you is to eat blood.

13 “‘Any man from the Israelites[ah] or from the resident foreigners[ai] who live in their[aj] midst who hunts a wild animal[ak] or a bird that may be eaten[al] must pour out its blood and cover it with soil, 14 for the life of all flesh is its blood.[am] So I have said to the Israelites: You must not eat the blood of any living thing[an] because the life of every living thing is its blood—all who eat it will be cut off.[ao]

Regulations for Eating Carcasses

15 “‘Any person[ap] who eats an animal that has died of natural causes[aq] or an animal torn by beasts, whether a native citizen or a resident foreigner,[ar] must wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening; then he will be clean. 16 But if he does not wash his clothes[as] and does not bathe his body, he will bear his punishment for his iniquity.’”[at]


  1. Leviticus 17:3 tn The complex wording of vv. 3-4 requires stating “blood guilt” at the beginning of v. 3 even though it is not mentioned until the middle of v. 4. The Hebrew text has simply “blood,” but in this case it refers to the illegitimate shedding of animal blood, similar to the shedding of the blood of an innocent human being (Deut 19:10, etc.). In order for it to be legitimate the animal must be slaughtered at the tabernacle and its blood handled by the priests in the prescribed way (see, e.g., Lev 1:5; 3:2, 17; 4:5-7; 7:26-27, etc.; cf. vv. 10-16 below for more details).
  2. Leviticus 17:3 tn Heb “Man man.” The reduplication is a way of saying “any man” (cf. Lev 15:2; 22:18, etc.). See the note on Lev 15:2.
  3. Leviticus 17:3 tn The original LXX adds “or the sojourners who sojourn in your midst” (cf. Lev 16:29, etc., and note esp. 17:8, 10, and 13 below).
  4. Leviticus 17:3 tn Heb “or who slaughters from outside to the camp.”
  5. Leviticus 17:4 tn Smr and LXX add after “tent of meeting” the following: “to make it a burnt offering or a peace offering to the Lord for your acceptance as a soothing aroma, and slaughters it outside, and at the doorway of the tent of meeting has not brought it.”
  6. Leviticus 17:4 tc Smr includes the suffix “it,” which is needed in any case in the translation to conform to English style.
  7. Leviticus 17:4 sn The exact meaning of this penalty clause is not certain. It could mean (1) that he will be executed, whether by God or by man, (2) that he will be excommunicated from sanctuary worship and/or community benefits, or (3) that his line will be terminated by God (i.e., extirpation). See also the note on Lev 7:20.
  8. Leviticus 17:5 tn Heb “So that which.”
  9. Leviticus 17:5 tn Heb “on the faces of the field.”
  10. Leviticus 17:6 tn For the translation “splash” see the note on Lev 1:5.
  11. Leviticus 17:6 tn The LXX adds “all around” (i.e., Hebrew סָבִיב [saviv, “all around”]), which is normal for this overall construction (see, e.g., Lev 1:5; 3:8, etc.).
  12. Leviticus 17:7 tn Heb “they.”
  13. Leviticus 17:7 tn Heb “sacrifice.” This has been translated as “offer” for stylistic reasons to avoid the redundancy of “sacrifice their sacrifices.”
  14. Leviticus 17:7 tn On “goat demons” of the desert regions see the note on Lev 16:8.
  15. Leviticus 17:7 tn Heb “which they are committing harlotry after them.”
  16. Leviticus 17:7 tn Heb “for your generations.”
  17. Leviticus 17:8 tn Heb “Man, man.” The repetition of the word “man” is distributive, meaning “any [or “every”] man” (GKC 395-96 §123.c; cf. Lev 15:2).
  18. Leviticus 17:8 tn Heb “and.” Here the Hebrew conjunction ו (vav, “and”) has an alternative sense (“or”).
  19. Leviticus 17:8 tn The noun “foreigner” (גֵּר; ger) is based on the same verbal root as “lives” (גּוּר; gur), which means “to sojourn, to dwell as an alien.” On the Hebrew ger (גֵּר) “resident foreigner” see notes at Exod 12:19 and Deut 29:11.
  20. Leviticus 17:8 tc The LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate have “your” (plural) rather than “their.”
  21. Leviticus 17:8 tn Heb “causes to go up.”
  22. Leviticus 17:9 tn Heb “to make it,” meaning “to make the sacrifice.”
  23. Leviticus 17:9 tn For remarks on the “cut off” penalty see the note on v. 4 above.
  24. Leviticus 17:10 tn Heb “And man, man.” The repetition of the word “man” is distributive, meaning “any (or every) man” (GKC 395-96 §123.c; cf. Lev 15:2).
  25. Leviticus 17:10 tn The noun “foreigner” (גֵּר; ger) is based on the same verbal root as “lives” (גּוּר; gur), which means “to sojourn, to dwell as an alien.” On the Hebrew ger (גֵּר) “resident foreigner” see notes at Exod 12:19 and Deut 29:11.
  26. Leviticus 17:10 tc The LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate have “your” (plural) rather than “their.”
  27. Leviticus 17:10 tn Heb “I will give my faces against [literally “in”] the soul/person/life [נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh, feminine] who eats the blood and I will cut it [i.e., that נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh] off from the midst of its people.” The uses of נֶפֶשׁ in this and the following verse are most significant for the use of animal blood in Israel’s sacrificial system. Unfortunately, it is a most difficult word to translate accurately and consistently, and this presents a major problem for the rendering of these verses (see, e.g., G. J. Wenham, Leviticus [NICOT], 244-45). No matter which translation of נֶפֶשׁ one uses here, it is important to see that both man and animal have נֶפֶשׁ and that this נֶפֶשׁ is identified with the blood. See the further remarks on v. 11 below. On the “cutting off” penalty see the note on v. 4 above. In this instance, God takes it on himself to “cut off” the person (i.e., extirpation).
  28. Leviticus 17:11 tn Heb “the life of the flesh.” Here “flesh” stands for “every living thing,” that is, all creatures (cf. NIV, NRSV, NLT “every creature”; CEV “every living creature.”
  29. Leviticus 17:11 tn Heb “for the soul/life (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) of the flesh, it is in the blood” (cf. the note of v. 10 above and v. 14 below). Although most modern English versions begin a new sentence in v. 11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (see, e.g., NJPS, NASB, NIV, NRSV), the כִּי (ki, “for, because”) at the beginning of the verse suggests continuation from v. 10, as the rendering here indicates (see, e.g., NEB, NLT; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 261; and G. J. Wenham, Leviticus [NICOT], 239).sn This verse is a well-known crux interpretum for blood atonement in the Bible. The close association between the blood and “the soul/life [נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh] of the flesh [בָּשָׂר, basar]” (v. 11a) begins in Gen 9:2-5 (if not Gen 4:10-11), where the Lord grants man the eating of meat (i.e., the “flesh” of animals) but also issues a warning: “But flesh [בָּשָׂר] with its soul/life [נֶפֶשׁ], [which is] its blood, you shall not eat” (cf. G. J. Wenham, Genesis [WBC], 1:151 and 193). Unfortunately, the difficulty in translating נֶפֶשׁ consistently (see the note on v. 10 above) obscures the close connection between the (human) “person” in v. 10 and “the life” (of animals, 2 times) and “your (human) lives” in v. 11, all of which are renderings of נֶפֶשׁ. The basic logic of the passage is that (a) no נֶפֶשׁ should eat the blood when he eats the בָּשָׂר of an animal (v. 10) because (b) the נֶפֶשׁ of בָּשָׂר is identified with the blood that flows through and permeates it (v. 11a), and (c) the Lord himself has assigned (i.e., limited the use of) animal blood, that is, animal נֶפֶשׁ, to be the instrument or price of making atonement for the נֶפֶשׁ of people (v. 11b). See the detailed remarks and literature cited in R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:693-95, 697-98.
  30. Leviticus 17:11 tn Heb “And I myself have given it to you.”
  31. Leviticus 17:11 tn Heb “for the blood, it by (ב, bet preposition, “in”] the life makes atonement.” The interpretation of the preposition is pivotal here. Some scholars have argued that it is a bet of exchange; that is, “the blood makes atonement in exchange for the life [of the slaughtered animal]” (see R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:694-95, 697 for analysis and criticism of this view). It is more likely that, as in the previous clause (“your lives”), “life/soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) here refers to the person who makes the offering, not the animal offered. The blood of the animal makes atonement for the person who offers it either “by means of” (instrumental bet) the “life/soul” of the animal, which it symbolizes or embodies (the meaning of the translation given here); or perhaps the blood of the animal functions as “the price” (bet of price) for ransoming the “life/soul” of the person.
  32. Leviticus 17:12 tn Heb “all/any person from you shall not eat blood.”
  33. Leviticus 17:12 tn The noun “foreigner” (גֵּר; ger) is based on the same verbal root as “lives” (גּוּר; gur). See note at 17:10.
  34. Leviticus 17:13 tc A few medieval Hebrew mss, Smr, and Tg. Ps.-J. have “from the house of Israel” as in vv. 3, 8, and 10, but the LXX agrees with the MT.
  35. Leviticus 17:13 tn Or “from the sojourner who sojourns.” See note at 17:10.
  36. Leviticus 17:13 tc The LXX, Syriac, Vulgate, and certain mss of Smr have “your” (plural) rather than “their” (cf. v. 10 above).
  37. Leviticus 17:13 tn Heb “[wild] game of animal.”
  38. Leviticus 17:13 tn That is, it must be a clean animal, not an unclean animal (cf. Lev 11).
  39. Leviticus 17:14 tn Heb “for the life/soul (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) of all flesh, its blood in its life/soul (נֶפֶשׁ) it is.” The LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate leave out “in its life/soul,” which would naturally yield “for the life of all flesh, its blood it is” (see J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 261, 263). The present translation is something of an oversimplification, but the meaning is basically the same in any case. Cf. NRSV “For the life of every creature—its blood is its life.”
  40. Leviticus 17:14 tn Heb “of all flesh” (also later in this verse). See the note on “every living thing” in v. 11.
  41. Leviticus 17:14 tn For remarks on the “cut off” penalty see the note on v. 4 above.
  42. Leviticus 17:15 tn Heb “And any soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh).
  43. Leviticus 17:15 tn Heb “carcass,” referring to the carcass of an animal that has died on its own, not the carcass of an animal slaughtered for sacrifice or killed by wild beasts. This has been clarified in the translation by supplying the phrase “of natural causes”; cf. NAB “that died of itself”; TEV “that has died a natural death.”
  44. Leviticus 17:15 tn On the Hebrew ger (גֵּר) “resident foreigner” see notes at Exod 12:19 and Deut 29:11.
  45. Leviticus 17:16 tn The words “his clothes” are not in the Hebrew text, but are repeated in the translation for clarity.
  46. Leviticus 17:16 tn Heb “and he shall bear his iniquity.” The rendering “bear the punishment for the iniquity” reflects the use of the word “iniquity” to refer to the punishment for iniquity. This is sometimes referred to as the consequential use of the term (cf. Lev 5:17; 7:18; 10:17; etc.).sn For the interpretation of this verse reflected in the present translation, see the remarks on Lev 5:1 in J. Milgrom, Leviticus (AB), 1:292-97.