Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to Aharon and his sons and to all the people of Israel. Tell them that this is what Adonai has ordered: ‘When someone from the community of Israel slaughters an ox, lamb or goat inside or outside the camp without bringing it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to Adonai before the tabernacle of Adonai, he is to be charged with blood — he has shed blood, and that person is to be cut off from his people.-Leviticus 17:1-4
Before we start getting deep into the text of Leviticus chapter 17, I want to remind you to pay careful attention and not treat the details we are about to examine as trivial.
This chapter is packed full of things that not only explain what Hebrew society was like back then, but will also shed light on many issues we will encounter in the New Testament.
So let’s get started.
Right of the bat, verse 2 makes it clear that what is about to be imparted is for ALL Israel…every level of Israelite society including the grafted-in foreigners.
Verse 3 begins with the foundational instruction that ritually slaughtering DOMESTICATED animals outside of the Tabernacle Courtyard is prohibited.
The operative word here is DOMESTICATED.
This is NOT referring to wild animals.
God means only those CLEAN animals that are used for BOTH sacrifice and food.
This had a huge societal impact.
Any domestic animal that was to be used as a meat source for food had to first be offered up as a sacrifice and ritualistically slaughtered in the precise manner the Lord had commanded.
Although this instruction would change once the Israelites entered the Promised Land, for the time being this meant that for the average person, whether Israelite or foreigner, being able to eat meat was a rare and special treat.
And they only got to keep a part of each animal that was killed.
The remainder of the meat was burned to a crisp on the Altar and depending on the type of sacrifice, in some cases the priests got to keep the remainder of the animal that wasn’t burned up!
This commandment made eating meat not only expensive but a serious pain in the neck.
Think about it.
Every time a family wanted to eat, they had to carry the animal all the way to the Tabernacle, stand in line for God knows long, and then have the priest officiate over the slaughter of the animal.
And the animal that was offered up couldn’t just be any old animal you randomly chose from your flock.
It had be unblemished and of the best quality to be accepted as a sacrifice to the Lord.
Boy, I’m starting to feel guilty about the two steaks (that’s right, two!) I had for breakfast this morning.
We are also told what the penalty is for disobeying this commandment and boy it sure ain’t pretty.
We’re told that the one who disobeys this instruction will be CUT-OFF from among God’s people.
We’ll talk more about that next time.