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Leviticus 17:10-15

Context
Prohibition against Eating Blood

17:10 “‘Any man 1  from the house of Israel or from the foreigners who reside 2  in their 3  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, 4  17:11 for the life of every living thing 5  is in the blood. 6  So I myself have assigned it to you 7  on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life. 8  17:12 Therefore, I have said to the Israelites: No person among you is to eat blood, 9  and no resident foreigner who lives among you is to eat blood. 10 

17:13 “‘Any man from the Israelites 11  or from the foreigners who reside 12  in their 13  midst who hunts a wild animal 14  or a bird that may be eaten 15  must pour out its blood and cover it with soil, 17:14 for the life of all flesh is its blood. 16  So I have said to the Israelites: You must not eat the blood of any living thing 17  because the life of every living thing is its blood – all who eat it will be cut off. 18 

Regulations for Eating Carcasses

17:15 “‘Any person 19  who eats an animal that has died of natural causes 20  or an animal torn by beasts, whether a native citizen or a foreigner, 21  must wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening; then he becomes clean.

1 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).

2 tn Heb “from the sojourner who sojourns.”

3 tc The LXX, Syriac, and Vulgate have “your” (plural) rather than “their.”

4 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).

5 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.”

6 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] 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.

7 tn Heb “And I myself have given it to you.”

8 tn Heb “for the blood, it by (בְּ, 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.

9 tn Heb “all/any person from you shall not eat blood.”

10 tn Heb “and the sojourner, the one sojourning in your midst, shall not eat blood.”

11 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.

12 tn Heb “from the sojourner who sojourns.”

13 tc The LXX, Syriac, Vulgate, and certain mss of Smr have “your” (plural) rather than “their” (cf. v. 10 above).

14 tn Heb “[wild] game of animal.”

15 tn That is, it must be a clean animal, not an unclean animal (cf. Lev 11).

16 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.”

17 tn Heb “of all flesh” (also later in this verse). See the note on “every living thing” in v. 11.

18 tn For remarks on the “cut off” penalty see the note on v. 4 above.

19 tn Heb “And any soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh).

20 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.”

21 tn Heb “in the native or in the sojourner.”



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