Leviticus 17:7 Commentary - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
(7) And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils.—The word (sçirim) 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 Jos. 24:14; Eze. 20:7; Eze. 23:3, &c.; and especially 2Ch. 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 (Lev. 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. Deu. 12:13-15.)
Consult other comments:
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)
Charles John Ellicott (1819 - 1905) was a distinguished English Christian theologian, academic and churchman. He briefly served as Dean of Exeter, then Bishop of the united see of Gloucester and Bristol.
His works include:
- An Old Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1897. (Editor)
- A New Testament Commentary for English Readers, 1878.