Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This chapter, in its immediate bearing on the daily life of the Israelites, stands as the first of four Lev. 17-20 which set forth practical duties, directing the Israelites to walk, not in the way of the pagan, but according to the ordinances of Yahweh.
Every domesticated animal that was slain for food was a sort of peace-offering Lev 17:5. This law could only be kept as long as the children of Israel dwelt in their camp in the wilderness. The restriction was removed before they settled in the holy land, where their numbers and diffusion over the country would have rendered its strict observance impossible. See Deu 12:15-16, Deu 12:20-24.
Blood shall be imputed unto that man - i. e. he has incurred guilt in shedding blood in an unlawful manner.
Cut off - See Exo 31:14 note.
Rather, May bring their beasts for slaughter, which they (now) slaughter in the open field. even that they may bring them before Yahweh to the entrance of the tent of meeting unto the priests, and slaughter them as peace-offerings to Yahweh.
Devils - The word in the original is the "shaggy goat" of Lev 4:23. But it is sometimes employed, as here, to denote an object of pagan worship or a demon dwelling in the deserts Ch2 11:15; Isa 13:21; Isa 34:14. The worship of the goat, accompanied by the foulest rites, prevailed in Lower Egypt; and the Israelites may have been led into this snare while they dwelt in Egypt.
This law for the slaughtering of animals was not merely to exclude idolatry from the chosen nation. It had a more positive and permanent purpose. It bore witness to the sanctity of life: it served to remind the people of the solemnity of the grant of the lives of all inferior creatures made to Noah Gen 9:2-3; it purged and directed toward Yahweh the feelings in respect to animal food which seem to be common to man's nature; and it connected a habit of thanksgiving with the maintenance of our human life by means of daily food. Ti1 4:3-5. Having acknowledged that the animal belonged to Yahweh the devout Hebrew received back its flesh as Yahweh's gift.
The strangers which sojourn - The foreigners who dwell. See Lev 16:29 note.
Or sacrifice - i. e., a slaughtered offering of any kind, generally a peace-offering.
The prohibition to eat blood is repeated in seven places in the Pentateuch, but in this passage two distinct grounds are given for the prohibition: first, its own nature as the vital fluid; secondly, its consecration in sacrificial worship.
Rather, For the soul of the flesh is in the blood; and I have ordained it for you upon the altar, to make atonement for your souls, for the blood it is which makes atonement by means of the soul. In the Old Testament there are three words relating to the constitution of man;
(a) "life" as opposed to death Gen 1:20; Deu 30:15;
(b) the "soul" as distinguished from the body; the individual life either in man or beast, whether united to the body during life, or separated from the body after death (compare Gen 2:7);
(c) the "spirit" as opposed to the flesh Rom 8:6, and as distinguished from the life of the flesh; the highest element in man; that which, in its true condition, holds communion with God. The soul has its abode in the blood as long as life lasts. In Lev 17:14, the soul is identified with the blood, as it is in Gen 9:4; Deu 12:23. That the blood is rightly thus distinguished from all other constituents of the body is acknowledged by the highest authorities in physiology.
"It is the fountain of life (says Harvey), the first to live, and the last to die, and the primary seat of the animal soul; it lives and is nourished of itself, and by no other part of the human body." John Hunter inferred that it is the seat of life, because all the parts of the frame are formed and nourished from it. "And if (says he) it has not life previous to this operation, it must then acquire it in the act of forming: for we all give our assent to the existence of life in the parts when once formed." Milne Edwards observes that, "if an animal be bled until it falls into a state of syncope, and the further loss of blood is not prevented, all muscular motion quickly ceases, respiration is suspended, the heart pauses from its action, life is no longer manifested by any outward sign, and death soon becomes inevitable; but if, in this state, the blood of another animal of the same species be injected into the veins of the one to all appearance dead, we see with amazement this inanimate body return to life, gaining accessions of vitality with each new quantity of blood that is introduced, eventual beginning to breathe freely, moving with ease, and finally walking as it was wont to do, and recovering completely." More or less distinct traces of the recognition of blood as the vehicle of life are found in Greek and Roman writers. The knowledge of the ancients on the subject may indeed have been based on the mere observation that an animal loses its life when it loses its blood: but it may deepen our sense of the wisdom and significance of the Law of Moses to know that the fact which it sets forth so distinctly and consistently, and in such pregnant connection, is so clearly recognized by modern scientific research.
Rather, For the soul of all flesh is its blood with its soul (i. e. its blood and soul together): therefore spake I to the children of Israel, Ye shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the soul of all flesh is its blood, etc.
This law appears to be grounded on the fact that the body of an animal killed by a wild beast, or which has died of itself, still retains a great portion of its blood. The importance ascribed to this law in later times may be seen in Sa1 14:32-35; Eze 4:14; Eze 44:31, and still more in the apostolic decision regarding "things strangled," which are pointedly connected with blood Act 15:20.