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A quick search reveals that the phrase "without defect" appears at least 46 times in the Old Testament. What happened to the animals that had defects? What is a defect, and were they fit for consumption by people?

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    In the 46 examples, were any in a context of other than offerings for sacrifice? – KorvinStarmast Mar 24 '16 at 19:12
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What is an animal with a defect?

According to Deuteronomy 15:21 (NIV) lameness or blindness would be considered a defect. In my personal experience around cattle not having both testicles is a defect. So to protect the quality of your herd you wouldn't want to breed that animal back into the herd. It would however be o.k. for consumption. Even though I don't have anything to reference this too an illness and a defect would be two different things. Obviously you wouldn't want to eat a sick or ill animal.

What would they do with these animals with defects, and could they eat them?

According to Deuteronomy 15:22-23 (NIV) You are to eat it (the animals with the defect) in your own towns. Both the ceremonially unclean and the clean may eat it, as if it were a gazelle or a deer. 23 But you must not eat the blood; pour it on the ground like water.

So just because it wasn't acceptable for sacrifice doesn't mean the animals with defects were wasted or destroyed. Waste not want not!

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I think Malachi offers a little more insight into this:

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. - Malachi 1:8 ESV

These are animals that would not be eaten or bred due to illness or other problems. The idea is that it's not really a sacrifice if it has little value to begin with.

  • That passage seems to me to be talking about particularly egregious defects. What about those with minor defects, as presumably most would have had? – Nathaniel Mar 24 '16 at 18:44
  • Good question. That passage in Malachi is the only biblical source I know of that begins to eloaborate on the idea at all. Deuteronomy 17:1 hits on the idea of simple blemishes, but is fairly silent on the why aspect. – Jon the Architect Mar 24 '16 at 19:11

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