Leviticus 17:1-16

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17:1 VA YEDABER YHVH EL MOSHEH LEMOR

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר

KJ (King James translation): And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

BN (BibleNet translation): Then YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying:


17:2 DABER EL AHARON VE EL BANAV VE EL KOL BENEY YISRA-EL VE AMARTA ALEYHEM ZEH HA DAVAR ASHER TSIVAH YHVH LEMOR

דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל בָּנָיו וְאֶל כָּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵיהֶם זֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה לֵאמֹר

KJ: Speak unto Aaron, and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them; This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, saying,

BN: Speak to Aharon, and to his sons, and to all the Beney Yisra-El, and say to them: This is the Word of YHVH which he has instructed, saying:


DAVAR is usually translated as "thing", which is a word of rather nebulous vagueness, and not helpful in our understanding of the intent. The root yields the verb LEDABER in the Pi'el form, meaning "to speak", which is what YHVH is doing, and the verb he is using, to give his instruction here. I have therefore translated DAVAR as "the word", and capitalised it as "the Word", because that is what it is: "This is the Word of God." The very logos of St John of Patmos.

KAL: note that sometimes the pointing asks us to pronounce the word as KOL (כֹל), but at other times as KAL (כָּל). Why? That it is sometimes CHAL is simple: the standard grammatical change that we see in most letters when they are preceded by a second consonant or a prefictual preposition or conjunctive; thus VE CHAL in the next verse is because of the prefictual VE = "and", which soften Kaf to Chaf. But the change from KOL to KAL is different, and again, I think, it reflects a specific historical period; but which? I have, because I am uncomfortable with KAL, rendered it as KOL on every occasion, in this chapter and elsewhere.


17:3 ISH ISH MI BEIT YISRA-EL ASHER YISHCHAT SHOR O CHESEV O EZ BA MACHANEH O ASHER YISHCHAT MI CHUTS LA MACHANEH

אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁחַט שׁוֹר אוֹ כֶשֶׂב אוֹ עֵז בַּמַּחֲנֶה אוֹ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁחַט מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה

KJ: What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp,

BN: Any man of the house of Yisra-El who slaughters an ox, or a lamb, or a goat, inside the camp, or who slaughters it outside the camp...


BEIT YISRA-EL: In what way is the Beit (house) different from the Beney (children), the Am (nation), the Edat (congregation) or indeed the Mateh (TRIBE)? 

YISHCHAT: As noted previously, the translations all render this as "kill", but this is quite specifically Shechitah, the ritual slaughtering of an animal, and not an accidental running down with your donkey-cart, or more barbaric hunting it with bow and arrow. This is a law precluding men from slaughtering for food anywhere except within the holy precinct and under the auspices of the Kohen.



BEIT YISRA-EL: I don't believe we have ever had this phrasing before. There are also some other phrases in this passage, or ways of phrasing things (eg ISH ISH) which are at the very least uncommon. Are we looking at yet another text from yet another different period of history, that reflects the wording of its day? And if so, an earlier or a later period?

CHESEV: Yet again that dyslectic reversal of letters; this should be CHEVES (כבש)


17:4 VE EL PETACH OHEL MO'ED LO HEVIYO LEHAKRIV KARBAN LA YHVH LIPHNEY MISHKAN YHVH DAM YECHASHEV LA ISH HA HU DAM SHAPHACH VE NICHRAT HA ISH HA HU MI KEREV AMO

וְאֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֹא הֱבִיאוֹ לְהַקְרִיב קָרְבָּן לַיהוָה לִפְנֵי מִשְׁכַּן יְהוָה דָּם יֵחָשֵׁב לָאִישׁ הַהוּא דָּם שָׁפָךְ וְנִכְרַת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא מִקֶּרֶב עַמּוֹ

KJ: And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the LORD before the tabernacle of the LORD; blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people:

BN: ...but has not brought it to the door of the tent of meeting, to present it as an offering to YHVH before the tabernacle of YHVH, blood shall be imputed to that man; he has shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people.


This is a hugely significant piece of legislation. It claims sovereign authority for slaughtering animals to the sacrificial ceremony; no man may kill any animal, unless by proper sacrifice. This outlaws hunting as well as private butchers' shambles and abattoirs; and to emphasise its importance, breach is counted as equivalent to the murder of a human, and the punishment is exile, which in the case of the Mosaic desert meant almost certain death. The problem of the absence of a Temple today has been resolved by insisting that a trained Shechitah Rabbi (called a "shochet" for that reason) be present at the slaughterhouse to ensure conditions as close to those in the Temple as achievable can be obtained. 


NICHRETAH:


17:5 LEMA'AN ASHER YAVIY'U BENEY YISRA-EL ET ZIVCHEYHEM ASHER HEM ZOVCHIM AL PENEY HA SADEH VE HEVIY'UM LA YHVH EL PETACH OHEL MO'ED EL HA KOHEN VE ZAVCHU ZIVCHEY SHELAMIM LA YHVH OTAM

לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יָבִיאוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת זִבְחֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹבְחִים עַל פְּנֵי הַשָּׂדֶה וֶהֱבִיאֻם לַיהוָה אֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד אֶל הַכֹּהֵן וְזָבְחוּ זִבְחֵי שְׁלָמִים לַיהוָה אוֹתָם

KJ: To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest, and offer them for peace offerings unto the LORD.

BN: To the end that the Beney Yisra-El may bring their sacrifices, which they sacrifice in the open field, even those they may bring to YHVH, to the door of the tent of meeting, to the Kohen, and sacrifice them for sacrifices of peace-offerings to YHVH.


This appears to moderate the above; you may kill the animal yourself in the field, but you still have to bring it to the Temple for the Kohen to make it a proper sacrifice. Or does this only apply to peace-offerings? Or is the peace-offering itself an atonement for breaking the law of sacrifice by doing it in the field?

The wording of the text infers that the law was not made at the time of the Mosaic desert, but later; after all, they had no fields, but only sands. It also indicates that the custom of bringing to the Kohen for sacrifice was not the norm, and hardly surprising in the world of Yehoshu'a and the Judges, when there was no central shrine, and even if there was, is a man from Asher or Dan supposed to take his beast all the way to 
Yeru-Shalayim every time he wants to eat meat? There were local "temples", in the refuge-cities administered by the Leviyim, and we have to assume that local slaughter took place even after the Temple was in use in Yeru-Shalayim – simply because of the logistics.


17:6 VE ZARAK HA KOHEN ET DAMAM AL MIZBACH YHVH PETACH OHEL MO'ED VE HIKTIR HA CHELEV LE REYACH NIYCHO'ACH LA YHVH

וְזָרַק הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הַדָּם עַל מִזְבַּח יְהוָה פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְהִקְטִיר הַחֵלֶב לְרֵיחַ נִיחֹחַ לַיהוָה

KJ: And the priest shall sprinkle the blood upon the altar of the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and burn the fat for a sweet savour unto the LORD.

BN: Then the Kohen shall dash the blood against the altar of YHVH at the door of the tent of meeting, and burn the fat for a sweet savour to YHVH.


17:7 VE LO YIZBECHU OD ET ZIVCHEYHEM LA SE'IRIM ASHER HEM ZONIM ACHAREYHEM CHUKAT OLAM TIHEYEH ZOT LAHEM LE DOROTAM

וְלֹא יִזְבְּחוּ עוֹד אֶת זִבְחֵיהֶם לַשְּׂעִירִם אֲשֶׁר הֵם זֹנִים אַחֲרֵיהֶם חֻקַּת עוֹלָם תִּהְיֶה זֹּאת לָהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם

KJ: And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.

BN: And they shall no longer make their sacrifices to the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever to them throughout their generations.


SE'IRIM: translated here as "devils" in the King James, as "satyrs" in several more recent Christian translations. The word properly means "goats", as we see particularly in the stories of Esav (Esau) throughout Genesis, and from innumerable goat sacrifices in the previous chapters of this book, including the Azaz-ElEsav takes his tribe to live on Mount Se'ir in the land of Edom (Genesis 36:22, Deuteronomy 2:12), which was presumably the mountain of the goat-god before the Redactor removed that element. Se'ir of the Beney Chor (Horite) gave his name to the mountain, and his descendants are listed in Genesis 36:20 ff). 
   Sefaria, which is one of the more broadly scholarly of orthodox Jewish translations, renders SE'IRIM here as "goat-demons", which seems to me an excellent compromise, given that we don't really know beyond the etymology what precisely was being prohibited.


VE LO YIZVECHU: This does not moderate the new law, but it appears to clarify why the law was needed, and tells us more about the pre-Mosaic practices, which must have included sacrifices to a goat-god (I have commented on this in relation to Ya'akov in his parallels with the god Pan). How would the people have felt about this centralisation? To which the answer is: that depended on whether you lived in the southern kingdom of Yehudah and Bin-Yamin or the northern kingdom of Ephrayim; this was probably the most contentious point of dispute between them between the death of Shelomoh (Solomon) and the disappearance of the northern tribes two hundred years later.

The inference of this last verse is that the sacrifices in the fields were not simply a breach of the requirement to bring all meat for killing to the tent; but more significantly that the animals were sacrificed in some pagan rite to another god. Yet nothing in the preceding text suggests that this was taking place.

This modification of the law is repeated in 2 Chronicles 11:15.


17:8 VE AL'EHEM TOMAR ISH ISH MI BEIT YISRA-EL U MIN HA GER ASHER YAGUR BETOCHAM ASHER YA'ALEH OLAH O ZAVACH

וַאֲלֵהֶם תֹּאמַר אִישׁ אִישׁ מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן הַגֵּר אֲשֶׁר יָגוּר בְּתוֹכָם אֲשֶׁר יַעֲלֶה עֹלָה אוֹ זָבַח

KJ: And thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice,

BN: And you shall say to them: Any man of the house of Yisra-El, or of the strangers who dwell among them, who offers a burnt-offering or sacrifice...


BETOCHAM: Note the use of the plural even though BEIT YISRA-EL is seemingly singular.


17:9 VE EL PETACH OHEL MO'ED LO YEVIY'ENU LA'ASOT OTO LA YHVH VE NICHRAT HA ISH HA HU ME AMAV

וְאֶל פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֹא יְבִיאֶנּוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֹתוֹ לַיהוָה וְנִכְרַת הָאִישׁ הַהוּא מֵעַמָּיו

KJ: 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.

BN: And does not bring it to the door of the tent of meeting, to sacrifice it to YHVH, that man shall be cut off from his people.


Throughout Torah we find laws that are required both of the Beney Yisra-El, and of the "ger asher yagur betocham", the "stranger who dwells among you", including both abstract moral law, which makes sense because it provides common standards for the whole of society, but also, as here, for practices such as food-slaughtering, which really can't make any difference to society as a whole if you do or if you don't; so there is a level of religious ideology being imposed which Jews in later history will find uncomfortable when it is required the other way around: effectively it says, you may live among us, but only if you accept our ways and abandon yours.


17:10 VE ISH ISH MI BEIT YISRA-EL U MIN HA GER HA GAR BETOCHAM ASHER YOCHAL KAL DAM VE NATATI PHANAI BA NEPHESH HA OCHELET ET HA DAM VE HICHRATI OTAH MI KEREV AMO

וְאִישׁ אִישׁ מִבֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכָם אֲשֶׁר יֹאכַל כָּל דָּם וְנָתַתִּי פָנַי בַּנֶּפֶשׁ הָאֹכֶלֶת אֶת הַדָּם וְהִכְרַתִּי אֹתָהּ מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּהּ

KJ: 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.


BN: And any man of the house of Yisra-El, or of the strangers who dwell among them, who eats any manner of blood, I will set my face against that soul who eats blood, and I will cut him off from his people.


HA GAR: Why the change of phrasing from YAGUR in the previous verse to HA GAR in this one?

VE NATATI PHANAI: We have the Yevarechecha blessing, in which YHVH "turns his face to shine on us", making life good and rich and fertile. We have Histir Panav, when YHVH turns his face aside, closing a blind eye so to speak, and thereby allowing bad things to take place. Now we have the third "soundbite", VE NATATI PHANAI, in which YHVH once again turns his face towards, but for the purpose of bringing death. The sun that creates is also sometimes hidden by clouds, and is also the sun that destroys. YHVH is One.

I am looking for evidence in the text to help determine if this is a document from an earlier or a later period than others in Leviticus. The Yom Kippur chapters, especially other Azaz-El fragments, reflect a very ancient animism that residues the practices of the shamans almost to a point of black magic; in this verse we have a much more sophisticated notion, belonging to the later epoch of abstract thought: the notion of a deity that can destroy a soul, not simply by turning its face aside, but worse, by looking directly into it; a prelude to that fuller concept of HISTIR PANAV which is not completely elaborated until the era of Talmudic Judaism, but clearly present from the Babylonian exile onwards.


17:11 KI NEPHESH HA BASAR BA DAM HI VA ANI NETATIV LACHEM AL HA MIZBE'ACH LECHAPER AL NAPHSHOTEYCHEM KI HA DAM HU BA NEPHESH YECHAPER

כִּי נֶפֶשׁ הַבָּשָׂר בַּדָּם הִוא וַאֲנִי נְתַתִּיו לָכֶם עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ לְכַפֵּר עַל נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם כִּי הַדָּם הוּא בַּנֶּפֶשׁ יְכַפֵּר

KJ: 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.

BN: For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.


This is not a very fluent translation; mostly because the original is not terribly coherent. But the ultimate intention is crucial to our understanding of literally everything else: it is the blood, always, finally, the blood, that defines life, and is therefore holy to YHVH. Not the act of sacrifice, not the clean or unclean animal, not the peace or sin or burnt, not the feast or festival or sabbath occasion - all these are secondary, the mere theatre and ceremony. What matters is the blood.

For once, we are given an explanation of a law, and a most fundamental law at that. Blood exists not only to be the source of life, but to be the substance of atonement. And why should that be? Because the blood of life is in every creature, and we cannot take life; but at the same time we need to, to eat, so we bring the meat for sacrifice, asking YHVH's permission, atoning for the sin of killing, and receiving the special permission of Kohanic blessing to eat. This, a moral not a hygienic position, is the basis of Shechitah and of Kashrut. The word "sacrifice" is itself critical in this context. In Latin it means "to make holy"; we make the meat holy in order to have divine permission to eat it.


17:12 AL KEN AMARTI LIVNEY YISRA-EL KOL NEPHESH MIKEM LO TO'CHAL DAM VE HA GER HA GAR BETOCH'CHEM LO YO'CHAL DAM

עַל כֵּן אָמַרְתִּי לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כָּל נֶפֶשׁ מִכֶּם לֹא תֹאכַל דָּם וְהַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם לֹא יֹאכַל דָּם

KJ: 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.

BN: Therefore I have said to the Beney Yisra-El: No soul living among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who lives among you eat blood.


How much is this a matter of respect for the source of life, how much a squeamishness, and how much a reflection of the original eucharist of the long, long ago pre-Beney Yisra-El, neolithic primordials for whom human blood was drunk liturgically, and for whom theophagy, the symbolic eating of the flesh and blood of the god, was normal ritual? Note that nothing in the texts thus far has replaced that drinking of the blood with the drinking of red wine, as would be the norm in Christianity (Matthew 26:27/28 ff, John 6:54 ff, Luke 22:19/20 ff et al), where the wine is stated as being Christ's blood, as well as the later Jewish Kiddush, where the wine is simply fermented grape juice; on the other hand, the eating of both bread and matzah are already part of liturgy and ritual among the Beney Yisra-El.


17:13 VE ISH ISH MI BENEY YISRA-EL U MIN HA GER HA GAR BETOCHAM ASHER YATSUD TSEYD CHAYAH O OPH ASHER YE'ACHEL VE SHAPHACH ET DAMO VE CHISAHU BE APHAR

וְאִישׁ אִישׁ מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמִן הַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכָם אֲשֶׁר יָצוּד צֵיד חַיָּה אוֹ עוֹף אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל וְשָׁפַךְ אֶת דָּמוֹ וְכִסָּהוּ בֶּעָפָר

KJ: 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.

BN: And any man of the Beney Yisra-El, or of the strangers who dwell among them, who takes in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood, and cover it with dust.


HA GER: How much does this repeated emphasis on the additional presence of strangers also reflect a later text; tent-dwelling nomads of the early generations post-conquest would not have had significant numbers of strangers in their midst, unless slaves; this seems to reflect a period of established town and city settlement when the major Yisra-Elite cities were on the major trading routes of the Levant and strangers were a normal feature of life.

And then bring the beast for proper sacrifice to the Ohel Mo'ed, as above. And even though the meat may now be eaten, the blood, which was the divine source of life, may not be eaten. The prohibition is not against the meat, but only against the blood.

And of course this only applies to kosher animals. The other animals are prohibited altogether, and for quite different reasons.



17:14 KI NEPHESH KOL BASAR DAMO VE NAPHSHO HU VA OMAR LIVNEY YISRA-EL DAM KOL BASAR LO TO'CHELU KI NEPHESH KOL BASAR DAMO HI KOL OCHLAV YIKARET

כִּי נֶפֶשׁ כָּל בָּשָׂר דָּמוֹ בְנַפְשׁוֹ הוּא וָאֹמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל דַּם כָּל בָּשָׂר לֹא תֹאכֵלוּ כִּי נֶפֶשׁ כָּל בָּשָׂר דָּמוֹ הִוא כָּל אֹכְלָיו יִכָּרֵת

KJ: For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.

BN: For as to the life of all flesh, its blood is all one with its life; therefore I have said to the Beney Yisra-El: You shall not eat the blood of any type of meat; for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.


Repeated for emphasis and absolute clarity. No steak "à point", no beef sushi. Dry, leathery and tasteless, but approved by YHVH.


17:15 VE CHOL NEPHESH ASHER TO'CHAL NEVELAH U TEREPHAH BA EZRACH U VA GER VE CHIBES BEGADAV VE RACHATS BA MAYIM VE TAM'E AD HA AREV VE TAHER

וְכָל נֶפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תֹּאכַל נְבֵלָה וּטְרֵפָה בָּאֶזְרָח וּבַגֵּר וְכִבֶּס בְּגָדָיו וְרָחַץ בַּמַּיִם וְטָמֵא עַד הָעֶרֶב וְטָהֵר

KJ: And every soul that eateth that which died of itself, or that which was torn with beasts, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger, he shall both wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even: then shall he be clean.

BN: And any person who eats that which has died by natural causes, or been torn by wild beasts, whether he be home-born or a stranger, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be considered unclean until the evening; then he shall be clean.


The point here being that the blood-source of life is already gone, because the beast is dead, so that particular sin has not been committed; however eating the meat of an animal that died or was killed in the wild is also prohibited, and eating the meat of an unsacrificed animal likewise.

And of course every piece of legislation has its loophole. Go eat your steak "à point", then go home, put your clothes in the wash, take a shower, and you are clean again by nightfall. How does this work if you eat your steak "à point" for supper rather than lunch? Can I do the same with my pork spare ribs and my chili prawns?

But there is another layer to our attempt to locate this in time: this imposes a Yisra-Elite law on the non-Yisra-Elite citizen (EZRACH) and on the passing stranger on the trade route (GER), as well as on the household slave. There were few points in Yisra-Elite history (some of the Davidic and all of the Solomonic but not much more) when the central authority was strong enough to impose its law in this way; unless this was an Ezraic manifesto, to build the new Yisra-El after the return from exile, and therefore expressed more in hope than as history.


17:16 VE IM LO YECHABES U VESARO LO YIRCHATS VE NASA AVONO

וְאִם לֹא יְכַבֵּס וּבְשָׂרוֹ לֹא יִרְחָץ וְנָשָׂא עֲוֹנוֹ

KJ: But if he wash them not, nor bathe his flesh; then he shall bear his iniquity.

BN: But if he does not wash them, nor bathe his flesh, then he shall be responsible for his iniquity.


Which makes it sound as if the sin lies less in the eating of the blood than in the failure to wash properly.

pey break



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