17:11 for the life of every living thing27 is in the blood.28 So I myself have assigned it to you29 on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.30
tn Heb “for the soul/life (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) of the flesh, it is in the blood” (cf. the note of v. 10 above and v. 14 below). Although most modern English versions begin a new sentence in v. 11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood” (see, e.g., NJPS, NASB, NIV, NRSV), the כִּי (ki, “for, because”) at the beginning of the verse suggests continuation from v. 10, as the rendering here indicates (see, e.g., NEB, NLT; J. E. Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 261; and G. J. Wenham, Leviticus [NICOT], 239).
sn This verse is a well-known crux interpretum for blood atonement in the Bible. The close association between the blood and “the soul/life [נֶפֶשׁ] of the flesh [בָּשָׂר, basar]” (v. 11a) begins in Gen 9:2–5 (if not Gen 4:10–11), where the Lord grants man the eating of meat (i.e., the “flesh” of animals) but also issues a warning: “But flesh [בָּשָׂר] with its soul/life [נֶפֶשׁ], [which is] its blood, you shall not eat” (cf. G. J. Wenham, Genesis [WBC], 1:151 and 193). Unfortunately, the difficulty in translating נֶפֶשׁ consistently (see the note on v. 10 above) obscures the close connection between the (human) “person” in v. 10 and “the life” (of animals, 2 times) and “your (human) lives” in v. 11, all of which are renderings of נֶפֶשׁ. The basic logic of the passage is that (a) no נֶפֶשׁ should eat the blood when he eats the בָּשָׂר of an animal (v. 10) because (b) the נֶפֶשׁ of בָּשָׂר is identified with the blood that flows through and permeates it (v. 11a), and (c) the Lord himself has assigned (i.e., limited the use of) animal blood, that is, animal נֶפֶשׁ, to be the instrument or price of making atonement for the נֶפֶשׁ of people (v. 11b). See the detailed remarks and literature cited in R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:693–95, 697–98.
tn Heb “And I myself have given it to you.”
tn Heb “for the blood, it by (בְּ, bet preposition, “in”] the life makes atonement.” The interpretation of the preposition is pivotal here. Some scholars have argued that it is a bet of exchange; that is, “the blood makes atonement in exchange for the life [of the slaughtered animal]” (see R. E. Averbeck, NIDOTTE 2:694–95, 697 for analysis and criticism of this view). It is more likely that, as in the previous clause (“your lives”), “life/soul” (נֶפֶשׁ, nefesh) here refers to the person who makes the offering, not the animal offered. The blood of the animal makes atonement for the person who offers it either “by means of” (instrumental bet) the “life/soul” of the animal, which it symbolizes or embodies (the meaning of the translation given here); or perhaps the blood of the animal functions as “the price” (bet of price) for ransoming the “life/soul” of the person.