We have here, I. A repetition and confirmation of the law against eating blood. We have met with this prohibition twice before in the levitical law (Lev. 3:17; 7:26), besides the place it had in the precepts of Noah, Gen. 9:4. But here, 1. The prohibition is repeated again and again, and reference had to the former laws to this purport (Lev. 17:12): I said to the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood; and again (Lev. 17:14), You shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh. A great stress is laid upon it, as a law which has more in it than at first view one would think. 2. It is made binding, not only on the house of Israel, but on the strangers that sojourned among them (Lev. 17:10), which perhaps was one reason why it was thought advisable, for a time, to forbid blood to the Gentile converts, Acts 15:29. 3. The penalty annexed to this law is very severe (Lev. 17:10): I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, if he do it presumptuously, and will cut him off; and again (Lev. 17:14), He shall be cut off. Note, God’s wrath will be the sinner’s ruin. Write that man undone, for ever undone, against whom God sets his face; for what creature is able to confront the Creator? 4. A reason is given for this law (Lev. 17:11): because it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul; and therefore it was appointed to make atonement with, because the life of the flesh is the blood. The sinner deserved to die; therefore the sacrifice must die. Now, the blood being so the life that ordinarily beasts were killed for man’s use by the drawing out of all their blood, God appointed the sprinkling or pouring out of the blood of the sacrifice upon the altar to signify that the life of the sacrifice was given to God instead of the sinner’s life, and as a ransom or counter-price for it; therefore without shedding of blood there was no remission, Heb. 9:22. For this reason they must eat no blood, and, (1.) It was then a very good reason; for God would by this means preserve the honour of that way of atonement which he had instituted, and keep up in the minds of the people a reverent regard to it. The blood of the covenant being then a sensible object, no blood must be either eaten or trodden under foot as a common thing, as they must have no ointment nor perfume like that which God ordered them to make for himself. But, (2.) This reason is now superseded, which intimates that the law itself was ceremonial, and is now no longer in force: the blood of Christ who has come (and we are to look for no other) is that alone which makes atonement for the soul, and of which the blood of the sacrifices was an imperfect type: the coming of the substance supersedes the shadow. The blood of beasts is no longer the ransom, but Christ’s blood only; and therefore there is not now that reason for abstaining from blood which there was then, and we cannot suppose it was the will of God that the law should survive the reason of it. The blood, provided it be so prepared as not to be unwholesome, is now allowed for the nourishment of our bodies, because it is no longer appointed to make an atonement for the soul. (3.) Yet it has still useful significancy. The life is in the blood; it is the vehicle of the animal spirits, and God would have his people to regard the life even of their beasts, and not to be cruel and hard-hearted, not to take delight in any thing that is barbarous. They must not be a blood-thirsty people. The blood then made atonement figuratively, now the blood of Christ makes atonement really and effectually; to this therefore we must have a reverent regard, and not use it as a common thing, for he will set his face against those that do so, and they shall be cut off, Heb. 10:29.
II. Some other precepts are here given as appendages to this law, and hedges about it, 1. They must cover the blood of that which they took in hunting, Lev. 17:13. They must not only not eat it, but must give it a decent burial, in token of some mystery which they must believe lay hidden in this constitution. The Jews look upon this as a very weighty precept and appoint that the blood should be covered with these words, Blessed be he that hath sanctified us by his precepts, and commanded us to cover blood. 2. They must not eat that which died of itself or was torn of beasts (Lev. 17:15), for the blood was either not at all, or not regularly, drawn out of them. God would have them to be curious in their diet, not with the curiosity that gratifies the sensual appetite, but with that which checks and restrains it. God would not have his children to eat every thing that came in their way with greediness, but to consider diligently what was before them, that they might learn in other things to ask questions for conscience’ sake. Those that flew upon the spoiled sinned, 1 Sam. 14:32, 33. If a man did, through ignorance or inconsideration, eat the flesh of any beast not duly slain, he must wash himself and his clothes, else he bore his iniquity, Lev. 17:15, 16. The pollution was ceremonial, so was the purification from it; but if a man slighted the prescribed method of cleansing, or would not submit, he thereby contracted moral guilt. See the nature of a remedial law: he that obeys it has the benefit of it; he that does not, not only remains under his former guilt, but adds to that guilt of contemning the provisions made by divine grace for his relief, and sins against the remedy.