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In Lev. 3:16 it says,

"And the priest shall burn them upon the altar: it is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the LORD'S."

The blood understandably is the Lord's(Lev. 17:14/Deut. 12:23).

But why is the "fat" the Lord's?

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    Interesting question! Of note, ḥēleb ("fat") is also occasionally used metaphorically to mean "best". Whether it was the LORD's first or "best" first would be interesting to try to sort out.
    – Susan
    Mar 24, 2016 at 12:48

3 Answers 3

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Leviticus 3 gives the details of the peace offering as it pertained to God, but not as it pertained to the priests. Leviticus 7 adds:

And the priest shall burn the fat upon the altar: but the breast shall be Aaron's and his sons'. And the right shoulder shall ye give unto the priest for an heave offering of the sacrifices of your peace offerings. He among the sons of Aaron, that offereth the blood of the peace offerings, and the fat, shall have the right shoulder for his part.

Either the whole beast was burnt and the ashes taken outside the camp, or the fat parts and innards were burnt, the ashes dumped by the altar, and the remainder given to, and eaten by, the priests and their families.

This is why I celebrate the Communion with bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). For me, the wine is the Father's portion: symbolising the life of the sacrifice as the necessary cost of forgiveness; but, the bread is mine: symbolising the body of the sacrifice, i.e. Jesus as the Word of God, by which I am sustained.

Additional Comments

There is an expression "sweet aroma" that might be associated with the burning of the fat. But, as far as I can see, all offerings that are burnt on the altar are referred to as giving off a sweet aroma, which I take to be a reference to the pleasure God gets from the genuine desire of His people to deal with sin in the way He prescribed.

There is, however, in Psalm 66 a specific reference that directly connects "the sweet aroma" to "the fat", alone.

I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals,
With the sweet aroma of rams;
I will offer bulls with goats.
Selah
-- Psalm 66:15 (NKJV)

Conclusion

The blood and fat were the Lord's, as were the innards, because those parts were not consumable by the priests.

The sacrificial system was not just about slaughtering animals. It was also about sustaining the people responsible for administering the system, who had been given no possession in the land.

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Look at how the fat encompasses the entrails of certain organs. To the ancient people the organs represented the personality and character of a person. When God wanted the fat surrounding the entrails it was because he was telling the hebrews that the heart, feeling and character of man belonged to him and only him and through him will he change your character to match his own. That's the real meaning.

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You'll notice that God says: all the fat. But that's impossible! Anyone who knows a thing about meat knows that every piece of meat has some fat. God is not asking us all to go vegan though. God continues to define what He means by "all the fat."

Leviticus 3:14-16

14Then he shall offer from it his offering, as an offering made by fire to the Lord. The fat that covers the entrails and all the fat that is on the entrails, 15the two kidneys and the fat that is on them by the flanks, and the fatty lobe attached to the liver above the kidneys, he shall remove; 16and the priest shall burn them on the altar as food, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma; all the fat is the Lord’s.

You'll come to notice that only visceral fat is mentioned. This is consistent throughout the Bible.

One common answer explains the prohibition as a consequence of the high status of this fat. The fat attached to the vital organs is the best part of the animal; as such, it belongs to God, and human consumption of this fine delicacy amounts to theft from the divine. You see this underlying attitude in a more narrative moment in the Bible, when Pharaoh tells Joseph to bring his family to Egypt where, rather than experiencing famine, they will eat “of the fat (helev) of the land” (Genesis 45:18), clearly a poetic way of saying “the very best.” That best piece, of course, should be reserved for the Divine Being who is the object of all this cultic worship.[1]

Leviticus 7:22-25 NKJV

22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. 24 And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. 25 For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the Lord, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people.

This verse says:

it also tells us that unlike, say, pork, the fat is not unclean; because it “may be used in any other use”. Other uses for fat include soap, grease, candles, waterproofing, and quite a few other things.


Fat is considered by many cultures, particularly those in the middle east, to be a delicacy. And as we saw, only the visceral fat is prohibited. Here God promises that they will eat the fat of the land. There is also a dual meaning because here the fat (the same Hebrew word is used as elsewhere in Leviticus) is pictured as a blessing of plenty of food and good land.[2]

Fat is the best of us that we can give to the Lord. Biblically, the Lord always asked for the best of the holocaust for himself, and it is the same today: “God asks us to give him the best.Giving the fat to the Lord implies giving the best of our lives in all areas. At both the secular and spiritual levels we must offer an acceptable and pleasing sacrifice to our God.

Everything you do on this earth becomes an offering. So the best of your time, talent and strength cannot be taken away by the world, but must be for the Lord. Do not forget that your service is very valuable to God, that is why everything you do, you have to do it with excellence, to please the Lord, not men.[2]

the idea that the fat belonged to the Lord represented a fundamental belief that we should give the best to God. Many people are in the habit of doing just the opposite – keeping the best for themselves, and giving the rest (the left-overs) to God. [3]

This presents this command as a protection against the vulnerable:

That blood is central—both literally and symbolically—to maintaining life aligns with the second striking aspect of the Torah’s depiction of helev, namely, that the fat forbidden is typically described as that which “covers” vital internal organs, including in particular the kidneys. The fat surrounding the kidneys is a protective layer, safeguarding these essential—and vulnerable—organs from damaging impacts. In this sense, the helev is an awful lot like blood. Without the helev, life would be even more precarious than it already is. Kidneys, of course, are essential; they are relatively easily damaged; but, unlike, for example, a limb, they are not capable of movement, of protecting themselves through escape or attack. The helev, then, is a guardian—it looks after those parts of the animal body that are central to the maintenance of life, but also unable to protect themselves.

Leviticus’s prohibition on eating the helev, understood in this light, is a statement about the value of those things that stand in the breach and protect the vulnerable. To consume the helev, the primary purpose of which is protective, is to engage in the kind of callous cruelty that the Torah aims to root out of us. Moreover, the helev is not only forbidden for human consumption, but it is the choicest part of the animal, the part that God Godself takes as the personal divine portion. God chooses not the largest cut, nor the most well-muscled. Rather, that which stands guard over the organs least seen but most essential—that is God’s very own.[1]

Let me quote one more:

In Bible times, the “fat” of an animal was considered the most important part of it. Unlike today, it was considered a delicacy. Today, we know to limit our fat intake, because eating too much fat is unhealthy, but in those days, they had no such knowledge. However, because their daily food was so low in fat content, they rarely had health problems from eating too much fat (unlike us today, where much of the food we eat is LOADED in fat).

Because “fat” was so rare in Bible times, it was valued. Over and over in the Bible, God asks His people to sacrifice their best for Him. Because the “fat” of animals was considered the “best,” God asked them to sacrifice it (Lev 3:14-16)(Lev 4:26)(Lev 6:12)(Ex 29:13), and they were told not to eat it (Lev 7:23-25)(Lev 3:17).

Of course, God also knew that eating too much fat was unhealthy, even though the Israelites did not. In having them sacrifice it, God likely had their health in mind as well, just as He did in prohibiting them from eating “unclean animals.” [4]

Here's the summary:

  • Only visceral fat is prohibited, which is consistently mentioned throughout the Bible.
  • The prohibition is not due to the fat being unclean; rather, it is considered the best part of the animal, symbolizing a fine delicacy reserved for God.
  • In ancient cultures, fat was regarded as a delicacy, especially the visceral fat, hence its value and significance in offerings to God.
  • Offering the fat to the Lord symbolizes giving the best of one's life and possessions, reflecting the principle of giving the best to God.
  • Prohibiting the consumption of fat, particularly the protective fat surrounding vital organs, symbolizes valuing and protecting the vulnerable aspects of life.
  • The fat's prohibition for human consumption aligns with God's concern for the well-being and health of His people, considering the potential health risks associated with excessive fat intake.

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