Leviticus 17:11

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

Leviticus 17:11 Meaning and Commentary

Leviticus 17:11

For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood
The animal life or soul, the life and soul of every creature, and even the animal life and soul of man; agreeably to which our famous Dr. Harvey, who found out the circulation of the blood, says of it, that it is the principal part which first appears in generation; is the genital part, the fountain of life the first that lives, and the last that dies; the primary seat of the soul or life, from whence motion and pulsation take their rise; in which the innate heat is produced the vital spirit is generated and the life consists F9; and therefore it is spread all over the body, and according to the condition that it is in, such is the health and such the diseases of the body; yea, the affections of the mind, such as fear, shame, joy, and anger are discovered by it. Hence Antoninus the emperor, more than once, calls the soul a vapour or exhalation arising out of the blood F11; and the sentiments of various Jewish writers agree herewith: says Aben Ezra, it is a truth, that the soul or life, with which man lives, is in the blood of the heart; so says Jarchi the soul or life depends upon the blood; and Ben Gersom observes, that the blood is the vessel of the soul to carry in it the fundamental heat, and food to the parts of the body; and hence the animal only dies when the blood is removed;

and I have given it unto you to make an atonement for your souls:
that being the life of the creature, was given for theirs to preserve them alive, and secure them from death their sins deserved; and so the Targum of Jonathan is, for the sins of the soul; which shows that these sacrifices were vicarious, in the room of men, and for the life of them, and to atone for them; and is the reason given why blood should not be eaten, at least while these typical expiatory sacrifices were used. Ben Gersom seems to intimate, as if it was only the blood of those that was forbidden: his words are, hence we learn says he, that they were not guilty of cutting off, but on account of the blood, which, according to its way was put upon the altar; and this was the blood of the soul as it saith the blood of the bullock, and the blood of the goat; but the blood that was pressed out, and the blood of the members they were not guilty of cutting off, on account of them:

for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul;
so here was life for life, soul for soul as Aben Ezra expresses it; it was a vicarious sacrifice and atonement, typical of the sacrifice and atonement of Christ, in the room and stead of his people, there being no atonement, no remission of sins without shedding of blood; and the reason of the prohibition of eating blood was to direct to that blood as the atonement for sin, and to keep up a reverence of it, and a value and esteem for it; but now seeing that blood has been shed and atonement made by it, the end of the law is answered, and the reason of it ceased, and so the law itself; and as Christ's blood is now to be eaten in a spiritual sense, the eating of blood in a literal sense, properly dressed, is lawful. And indeed, as before observed the law concerning it was never binding upon Gentiles, only on Jews and proselytes.


FOOTNOTES:

F9 De Generatione Animal. Exercitat. 51. p. 302, 303
F11 De Seipso, l. 5. sect. 25. & l. 6. sect. 11.

Leviticus 17:11 In-Context

9 And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be cut off from among his people.
10 And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.
11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
12 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood.
13 And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.