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 Isra’el 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. The reason for this is so that the people of Israel will bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice out in the field — so that they will bring them to Adonai, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to the cohen, and sacrifice them as peace offerings to Adonai.-Leviticus 17:1-5
The first four verses of Leviticus 17 make it clear that all CLEAN animals used for food had to first be offered up as a sacrifice.
This meant that before eating any meat, the source of that meat, the sheep, chicken, cow or whatever had to first be brought to the Tabernacle and sacrificed in accordance with the established rituals.
If this rule wasn’t followed, the lawbreaker would have been charged with “blood-guilt” (SHAFAKH DAM) and “cut off” (KARET) via God’s judgement.
Verse 5 reveals much about why God issued this command.
We’re told “so that the people of Israel will bring their sacrifices that they sacrifice out in the field to Adonai“.
This verse lets us know that the current situation was that the Israelites were currently slaughtering animals from their flocks and herds out in the open fields and thinking that this didn’t count.
They were thinking that if they were OUTSIDE THE CAMP of Israel, God’s blood rules didn’t apply to them.
Let’s recall what the situation was like before the establishment of the Levitical priesthood.
The Hebrews were probably erecting small altars and offering up animals to the gods they had learned to worship in Egypt.
Or they may even have been sacrificing to YHVH using their crudely built makeshift altars thinking it was okay, that the sacrifices didn’t have to be made at the central Tabernacle location.
Recall that prior to the establishment of the Levitical priesthood, it was the senior firstborn male of each Hebrew family that served as the “priest” so to speak.
He was the one that performed the rituals for the family.
The establishment of the Levitical priesthood effectively fired every firstborn “priest” in every Hebrew family.
And a quick reminder, these blood laws applied to the mixed multitude as well, not just the natural descendants of Jacob.
So the $64,000 question is why did God change this requirement after the Israelites entered the Promised Land?
I would say this was a TEACHING process.
Remember that Egypt had just spent 400 years in Egypt.
I think many of us tend to forget just how strongly Egyptian culture, pagan deity worship, and Egyptian ways of thinking were ingrained in the psyche of the ancient Hebrews.
God had to wring 400 years of Egyptian influence out of Israel.
It wasn’t going to happen overnight.
God had to let Israel know that there was much, much more to Him than leveling devastating judgement upon those nations that dared come against Him and His chosen people.
We’re going to see that this wringing out process was going to take 40 years in the wilderness.
They say it takes between 30 days to six months to firmly establish a new lifestyle habit.
Imagine how long it takes to implant a totally new culture, lifestyle and way of thinking into your very being.
On a practical level, once the Israelites entered Canaan and spread out over the land, it would become impossible to bring an animal that would require a several days journey to the Tabernacle or later to the Temple to be killed for food.
However, by the time Israel was an established nation in Canaan, the lesson would have been taught.
Sacrifices were to be made ONLY at the Lord’s designated HOLY place, the Tabernacle and later the Temple.