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The Slaughtering of Animals


The L ord spoke to Moses:

2 Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the people of Israel and say to them: This is what the L ord has commanded. 3If anyone of the house of Israel slaughters an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or slaughters it outside the camp, 4and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering to the L ord before the tabernacle of the L ord, he shall be held guilty of bloodshed; he has shed blood, and he shall be cut off from the people. 5This is in order that the people of Israel may bring their sacrifices that they offer in the open field, that they may bring them to the L ord, to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and offer them as sacrifices of well-being to the L ord. 6The priest shall dash the blood against the altar of the L ord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and turn the fat into smoke as a pleasing odor to the L ord, 7so that they may no longer offer their sacrifices for goat-demons, to whom they prostitute themselves. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.

8 And say to them further: Anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice, 9and does not bring it to the entrance of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it to the L ord, shall be cut off from the people.

Eating Blood Prohibited

10 If anyone of the house of Israel or of the aliens who reside among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut that person off from the people. 11For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement. 12Therefore I have said to the people of Israel: No person among you shall eat blood, nor shall any alien who resides among you eat blood. 13And anyone of the people of Israel, or of the aliens who reside among them, who hunts down an animal or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth.

14 For the life of every creature—its blood is its life; therefore I have said to the people of Israel: You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off. 15All persons, citizens or aliens, who eat what dies of itself or what has been torn by wild animals, shall wash their clothes, and bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the evening; then they shall be clean. 16But if they do not wash themselves or bathe their body, they shall bear their guilt.

10. And whatsoever make there be of the house of Israel. God here not only condemns to death whosoever shall have polluted themselves by eating of blood, but declares that He will Himself take vengeance on them, though they may escape from the hands of the judges; for He not only prescribes to the judges what it is right for them to do, but asserts for Himself the office of inflicting the punishment. For, if we consider the intention of the Law, is there anything to surprise us in this; for although it be not consistent that the blood of a brute should be compensated for by the death of a man, still we must remember that this mode of instruction 2222     “Hanc paedagogiam.” — Lat. “Ceste doctrine puerile.” — Fr. was necessary for a rude people, lest they should speedily lapse into barbarism. But, lest they should complain that no use remained for the blood, He reminds them that since it was given for atonement, they would be very ungrateful if they were not content with so great a blessing; and surely, since it was the price they were to pay for appeasing God, this was an employment of it far to be preferred to food. If, then, they desired to exchange into ordinary food the blood, which was destined to the altar for the reconciliation of God, Moses indirectly reproves their ingratitude; for when God took away the right of eating it, He left them something better, which should have abundantly satisfied them. But we have elsewhere 2323     See on Exodus 12:21, ante vol. 1 p. 221. seen in what manner blood atones for souls, i e., in a sacramental manner, upon which it must be observed that what properly belongs to Christ is thus transferred by metonomy to figures and symbols, yet in such a way that the similitude should neither be empty nor inefficacious; for in so far as the fathers apprehended Christ in the external sacrifices, atonement was truly exhibited in them. In this passage also, I do not understand “the strangers” to be all such visitors as may have journeyed amongst them on matters of business, but those who had devoted themselves to the worship of God; for many foreigners, abandoning their superstitions, were circumcised, and it behooved that such as these should be expressly laid under the bonds of the Law, lest, if it had not referred to them, they should have withdrawn themselves from obeying it. This point must, therefore, be briefly adverted to, lest we should suppose that heathen sojourners were prohibited from the eating of blood, whereas they were allowed to buy for food 2424     See on Deuteronomy 14:21, ante vol. 2, p. 69. even flesh that had been torn by beasts.

Since, however, the Patriarchs before the Law had abstained from blood, and its prohibition had no reference to the First Table or the legal service, hence it came to pass that when the Apostles abrogated the ceremonial law, they did not dare to allow immediately the free eating of blood, lest great scandal should arise from this new and unwonted thing. (Acts 15:20.) Wherefore, lest so trifling a matter should cause deadly schisms in the Churches, they commanded the Gentiles not to eat of blood; adding as the reason, that those who were accustomed to read the writings of Moses, would be disturbed at this innovation; yet this was only observed for a short period, as we gather from Paul. 2525     There is no reference here in the Latin, but the Fr. is, “comme il se peut recueillir par ce que Sainct Paul en escrit aux Corinthiens;” as may be gathered from what St. Paul writes respecting it to the Corinthians. In C.’s Commentary on the Acts, 15:28, he says, “We know that this law was foredone by Paul, so soon as the tumult and contention was once ended, when he teacheth that nothing is unclean, (Romans 14:14,)and when he granteth liberty to eat all manner of meats, yea, even such as were sacrificed to idols. (1 Corinthians 10:25.)” — C. Societys edit., vol. 2, p. 79. Tertullian, Apol., cap. 9, speaks as follows; “Erubescat error vester Christianis, qui ne animalium quidem sanguinem in epulis esculentas habemus, qui propterea quoque suffocatis et morticinis abstinemus, ne quo modo sanguine contaminemur, vel intra viscera sepulto.” See Bingham, book 17 ch. 5 sec. 20 “But on the other hand, because it was the custom of the Catholic Church, almost to the time of St. Austin, to abstain from eating of blood, in compliance with the rule given by the Apostles to the Gentile converts; therefore, by the most ancient laws of the Church, all clergymen were obliged to abstain from it under pain of degradation. This is evident from the Apostolical Canons, and those of Gangra, and the second Council of Orleans, and the Council of Trullo. But as this was looked upon by some only as a temporary injunction, so it appears from St. Austin that it was of no force in the African Church. (Contra Faust., lib. 32, c. 13.) He that would see more about it may consult Curcellaeus, who has written a large dissertation upon the subject.” It was, not without superstition and misplaced zeal;. retained by some even to the days of Tertullian.

29. And this shall be a statute for ever. This day of public atonement is now finally mentioned in express terms, and the affliction of souls, of which fuller notice is taken in chap. 23, is touched upon, that they may more diligently exercise themselves in more serious penitential meditations, nor doubt that they are truly purged before God; and yet in a sacramental manner, viz., that the external ceremony might be a most unmistakable sign of that atonement, whereby, in the fullness of time, they were to be reconciled to God. Wherefore Moses states at some length that this was to be the peculiar office of the priest; and by this eulogy exalts the grace of the coming Mediator, so that He may direct the minds of believers to Him alone.

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