The Scriptorium

Meat and Blood

The blood goes on the ground or on the altar. Deuteronomy 12.20-28

Concerning Worship: Deuteronomy 12 (5)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 85.1-3
LORD, You have been favorable to Your land;
You have brought back the captivity of Jacob.
You have forgiven the iniquity of Your people;
You have covered all their sin.
You have taken away all Your wrath;
You have turned from the fierceness of Your anger.

Psalm 85.1-3

(Lyons: O Worship the King)
O Lord, You Your favor showed to Your land;
Your people You saved by Your mighty hand.
Their sins You forgave, all Your wrath You withdrew;
You turned back the anger which to them was due.

Today’s Text: Read Deuteronomy 12.20-28

1. Why were the Israelites forbidden from eating blood?

2. Which offerings were the people required to take to God’s dwelling place?

God permitted His people to eat meat – as much as they wanted. They didn’t have to come to the central dwelling place of the Lord to be able to enjoy meat. They were free to enjoy meat as part of their regular diet, with some restrictions relative to clean and unclean meats (v. 20, Deut. 14.3ff.).

Only the “holy things” and “vowed offerings” – like the firstborn, the Paschal lamb, and other offerings made to seal vows – were to be sacrificed and eaten there (v. 26). Israel had one God, not many; only one place would serve to make offerings to Him.

It seems to me from verse 21 that people may have associated eating any meat with eating it before the Lord, perhaps for the joy of it, or to make sure they were meeting the needs of the Levites. That was fine with the Lord, but not required, especially if “the place where the LORD your God chooses to put His name is too far from you…” Otherwise, the people should feel free to eat meat in their own homes.

I’m sure there are many practical reasons for not eating the blood of meat, but here God emphasized that blood was a symbol of life (vv. 23, 24). Eating “life” would send a wrong signal to the people who ate it, that somehow they were being reinvigorated by the life of animals when they ate their blood. Perhaps the pagan peoples of Canaan practiced this sort of ritual. We can’t be sure. What we do know is that God forbade it.

Again, Moses promised the blessings of God to the people and their children for attending carefully even to these rules about eating meat and offering sacrifices (v. 28).

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17.11). Our salvation is covered in the blood of Christ. So beginning with the Israelites, God was teaching them about this. They didn’t need to understand all the ramifications; they just needed to obey. Now we are allowed to understand what God was talking about – His incredible love shown through the life blood and death of His dear Son. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5.8, 9). And Jesus says to us, “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26.28). Now we can see the truth of God’s words: “Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God” (Deut. 12.28). For just a little obedience, we receive the eternal gift of life.


1. God warned His people against eating blood. How did He explain this proscription?

2. What is the significance of God telling His people that life is in the blood? How was this evident in their sacrifices?

3. How does the blood of Jesus cover our sins and provide us the gift of salvation?

Moses emphasized the potential greatness of God’s blessings on the people. The land might become so large that for many people frequent journeys to the central sanctuary would be impossible. In this case, provisions were made for the enjoyment of meat at home.
Earl Radmacher (1931-201), NKJV Study Notes for Deuteronomy 12.20

Lord, You are so gracious and generous in providing for our needs. Thank You! Help me to live out my gratitude by…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 85.4-13
Thank the Lord for all the ways He provides for you each day. Rejoice in your daily bread, and offer yourself to the Lord for this day as a living sacrifice unto Him.

Psalm 85.4-13
(Lyons: O Worship the King)
Restore us, O God, renew us in peace,
and cause all Your wrath against us to cease.
Will You evermore all Your wrath to us show?
Revive us that we may Your joy again know.

Lord, show us Your love; restore us, we pray!
And help us to hear the words that You say.
Speak peace to Your people; in truth let us stand.
We fear You; let glory and grace fill our land.

In Jesus God’s grace and truth are combined;
both goodness and peace in Him do we find.
Truth springs from the earth as He walks in our midst,
and righteousness flows from the heav’ns as a gift.

The Lord by His grace will give what is good;
our land will produce abundance of food.
And righteousness will go before the Lord’s face,
and make of His footsteps a way in this place.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore