posted on Sep, 26 2014 @ 05:02 PM
One of the reasons for sacrifice, in the Old Testament, was that the Israelites were not supposed to eat meat without sharing it with their God.
The original principle is laid down in Leviticus;
“If any man of the house of Israel kills an ox or a lamb or a goat in the camp, or kills it outside the camp, and does not bring it to the door of
the tent of meeting, to offer it as a gift to the Lord before the Tabernacle of the Lord, bloodguilt shall be imputed to that man; he has shed blood;
and that man shall be cut off from among his people”- Leviticus ch17 vv3-4
This goes back to the basic premise that the Lord is the source of life and therefore the ultimate provider of the animals themselves.
Therefore his people should recognise their dependence upon him when they take these animals.
Their chosen way of expressing this recognition is to give him a share of the slaughtered beast.
To be exact, he receives the blood, which is sprinkled upon the altar, and he receives the fat, which is burnt upon the altar.
Since “the life is in the blood”, the offering of blood is returning the essence of the animal’s life to the one who gave it in the first
Part of the reason for this demand, as we learn from the end of the passage, is to divert the offerings away from the other deities, the “satyrs”,
who had been receiving them previously (vv5-7)
The Lord has no need, of course, for the blood and fat of animals, and we ought not to suppose that he wants them for their own sake.
What he wants more, it seems, is the symbolism of having them offered upon his own altars instead of elsewhere.
The ideal of taking every animal to the tent of meeting is only workable as long as the people are close to the tent of meeting.
It becomes impossible once they are spread across the land, so the basic rule is modified in Deuteronomy.
“When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say “I will eat flesh”…If the place where the Lord your God
will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock…and you may eat within your towns as much as
The only condition is that the portion which has been reserved to God may still not be consumed.
The blood must be poured away upon the earth (which might be regarded as another way of returning it). Deuteronomy ch12 vv20-24
This applies to ordinary meals.
However, the special offerings which are expected from them, or which they choose to make, are not to be consumed at home.
“You shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God shall choose” (v18).
But the special offerings are to be sacrificed by a priest, in which case the priests are also entitled to a portion of the animal.
The division becomes clear in the law on “peace offerings” (Leviticus ch8 vv28-34).
These are the more voluntary offerings, made for thanksgiving or similar purposes.
As usual, the Lord receives the blood and the fat.
The right thigh of the animal belongs to the individual priest who makes the sacrifice.
The breast of the animal is passed on to the priesthood in general (“shall be for Aaron and his sons”).
Leviticus is not interested In what happens to the rest of the peace-offering, so that is apparently left for the people who brought the animal for
sacrifice- “eaten before the Lord”, as we saw from Deuteronomy.
As we learn from the story of the sons of Eli, this three-way division of the animal was a source of temptation to the priesthood, who might not be
able to resist taking more than their fair share.
The general custom in their period of service was that whenever a man was offering a sacrifice and the meat was being boiled (to remove the fat, I
would assume), the servant of the priests would come along with a three-pronged fork.
He would thrust this fork into the cauldron and take for the priests whatever the fork brought up.
Obviously there was no guarantee that this would be restricted to the appointed portions of “right thigh and breast”.
He would do this, overriding any protests, even before the fat had been burnt- which seems to mean that some of the fat, the Lord’s portion, would
have been taken as well.
“Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord; for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt”- 1 Samuel ch2
Once again (for it is a common problem) human impulses were distorting their God’s intentions.
Nevertheless, the basic principle holds good, that this kind of sacrifice was a shared meal.
So Paul says about the sacrifices of Israel that those who eat of the sacrifice are KOINONOI TOU THUSIASTERIOU (1 Corinthians ch10 v18).
This is commonly translated as “partners in the altar”, but the phrase is clearly meant as a contrast with “partners with demons” (KOINONOUS
TON DAIMONION) in v20.
So part of Paul’s meaning must be that the Israelites eating the sacrifice are partners with the altar, “the altar” being an indirect way
of naming God; that is to say, they’re sharing a meal with God as well as with each other.
He then develops this thought into an understanding of the Christian communion as a meal of the same kind, “eaten at God’s table”.
An eating of the same bread, going back to the time when Jesus and his disciples were eating from the same bread.
The result of these customs is that the meat on the table, which would have been eaten anyway, becomes a means of giving the people of Israel a sense
of close contact with their God, in acknowledging their dependence upon him.