Leviticus 17:7 MEANING

Leviticus 17:7
(7) And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils.--The word (s?irim) here translated "devils," literally denotes hairy or shaggy goats, and then goat-like deities, or demons. The Egyptians, and other nations of antiquity, worshipped goats as gods. Not only was there a celebrated temple in Thmuis, the capital of the Mendesian Nomos in Lower Egypt, dedicated to the goat-image Pan, whom they called Mendes, and worshipped as the oracle, and as the fertilising principle in nature, but they erected statues of him everywhere. Hence the Pan, Silenus, satyrs, fauns, and the woodland gods among the Greeks and Romans; and hence, too, the goat-like form of the devil, with a tail, horns, and cloven feet, which obtain in medieval Christianity, and which may still be seen in some European cities. The terror which the devil, appearing in this Pan-like form, created among those who were thought to have seen him, has given rise to our expression panic. This is the form of idolatrous worship which the Jews brought with them from Egypt, and to which reference is continually made. (See Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7; Ezekiel 23:3, &c.; and especially 2 Chronicles 11:15.) The expression "and they shall no more offer" shows that the Israelites were hitherto in the habit of first dedicating their ordinary food to these deities; whilst the words "gone a whoring" indicate the orgies connected with this form of idol worship, It has been urged that the demand to offer up, in so confined a space as the entrance of the sanctuary, the domestic animals intended for the daily consumption of more than 600,000 people, imposed a task upon the people which it was impossible for them to carry out. Hence it has been urged that the injunction here (Leviticus 17:2-7) must refer to sacrifices. But this difficulty arises from importing our modern notions into the ancient mode of living. The ancient Israelites, like the modem Orientals, especially the nomadic tribes, ate very little flesh meat apart from the seasons of sacrifice, which were the occasions of feasting. Besides, those who urge this difficulty ignore the fact that the injunction before us is restricted to the three kinds of animals; that none of the wild clean quadrupeds, as stags, roes, &c, nor any of the feathered tribes, as pigeons, turtle doves, &c, which formed an essential part of the daily diet, is here included; and that even the three kinds of sacrificial quadrupeds only come within this restriction when they are qualified by age, which was within two years, and by physical condition, which demanded that it should have no external defect, as blindness of one eye, lameness of one foot, &c., to be offered first to the Lord. Moreover, the injunction was only intended to operate temporarily, whilst the Jews sojourned and wandered about in the wilderness, where, besides the propensity to sacrifice these animals to idols, they would have been in danger of extirpating their most useful animals. The law was repealed when the Israelites entered the promised land. (Comp. Deuteronomy 12:13-15.)

Verse 7. - And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. The word rightly translated devils means, literally, shaggy goats (see 2 Chronicles 11:15; Isaiah 13:21; Isaiah 34:14; where the word occurs). It is generally supposed that the Israelites borrowed their worship of the goat-like spirits of the woods and fields from Egypt. That goat-worship prevailed there in a very foul shape we know (Herod., 2:42), but sacrifices in the open fields are rather a Persian habit (Herod., 1:132). Pan-worship, however, was common to most if not to all agricultural nations. The injunction which follows, This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations, which cannot be confined to the last few words or verses, shows that the command of verse 3 refers to sacrifices, not to ordinary slaughtering. Had slaughtering been meant, the statute could not have been intended to be more than temporary in its obligation. The importance attributed to the regulation is further shown by the declaration previously made, that whoever transgressed it should be cut off from among his people, or excommunicated. In fact, it makes an era in the history of the chosen people. The old patriarchal priesthood having ceased, and the Aaronic priesthood substituted for it, the tabernacle is appointed to serve as a religious centre to the race. Whenever, from this time onwards, sacrifices were offered, without offense, elsewhere than in the court of the tabernacle or temple, as by Samuel (see 1 Samuel 13:8), and by Elijah (1 Kings 18:32), it was done by the direct order or dispensation of God.

17:1-9 All the cattle killed by the Israelites, while in the wilderness, were to be presented before the door of the tabernacle, and the flesh to be returned to the offerer, to be eaten as a peace-offering, according to the law. When they entered Canaan, this only continued in respect of sacrifices. The spiritual sacrifices we are now to offer, are not confined to any one place. We have now no temple or altar that sanctifies the gift; nor does the gospel unity rest only in one place, but in one heart, and the unity of the Spirit. Christ is our Altar, and the true Tabernacle; in him God dwells among men. It is in him that our sacrifices are acceptable to God, and in him only. To set up other mediators, or other altars, or other expiatory sacrifices, is, in effect, to set up other gods. And though God will graciously accept our family offerings, we must not therefore neglect attending at the tabernacle.And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils,.... As it seems they had done, which was monstrously shocking, and especially by a people that had the knowledge of the true God. Such shocking idolatry has been committed, and still is among the Indians, both East and West: when Columbus discovered Hispaniola, and entered it, he found the inhabitants worshippers of images they called Zemes, which were in the likeness of painted devils, which they took to be the mediators and messengers of the great God, the only one, eternal, omnipotent, and invisible (a); and so at Calecut and Pego in the East Indies, and in other parts thereof, they sacrifice to the devil (b): one can hardly think the Israelites would give into such gross idolatry as this; wherefore by "devils" may be meant idols in general; for if men do not worship God and Christ, let them worship what they will, it is only worshipping devils, 1 Corinthians 10:20; and so the calves of Jeroboam are called devils, 2 Chronicles 11:15; hence the golden calf also, the Israelites worshipped but lately in the wilderness, might go by the same name; to which sense is the Targum of Jonathan,"and they shall not offer again their sacrifices to idols, which are like to devils.''The word here used signifies "goats", and these creatures were worshipped by the Egyptians, and so might be by the Israelites, while among them; this is asserted by several writers. Diodorus Siculus says (c), they deified the goat, as the Grecians did Priapus, and for the same reason; and that the Pans and the Satyrs were had in honour by men on the same account; and Herodotus (d) observes, that the Egyptians paint and engrave Pan as the Greeks do, with the face and thighs of a goat, and therefore do not kill a goat, because the Mendesians reckon Pan among the gods; and of the Mendesians he says, that they worship goats, and the he goats rather than the she goats; wherefore in the Egyptian language both Pan and a goat are called Mendes; and Strabo (e) reports of Mendes, that there Pan and the goat are worshipped: if these sort of creatures were worshipped by the Egyptians in the times of Moses, which is to be questioned, the Israelites might be supposed to have followed them in it; but if that be true, which Maimonides (f) says of the Zabii, a set of idolaters among the Chaldeans, and other people, long before the times of Moses, that some of them worshipped devils, whom they supposed to be in the form of goats, the Israelites might have given in to this idolatry from them, and be the occasion of this prohibition:

after whom they have gone a whoring; idolatry being a spiritual adultery, a forsaking God, who had taken them into a conjugal relation, and been as an husband to them, and cleaving to idols, which were as paramours; see Jeremiah 31:32,

this shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations: not only this of not sacrificing to devils, but all before commanded, particularly that they should bring their sacrifices to the priest, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.

(a) P. Martyr. de Angleria, Decad. 1. l. 9. (b) Vartoman. Navigat. l. 5. c. 2. 23. & 1. 6. c. 16. 27. (c) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 58, 79. (d) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 46. (e) Geograph. l. 17. p. 551. (f) Moreh Nevochim, p. 3. c. 46.

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