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FAT (Heb. hēlev, helev)

The subcutaneous layer of fat around the kidneys and other viscera, which, like the blood, was forbidden by the Mosaic law to be used for food, but was burned as an offering to the Lord, for a sweet aroma to him (Lev.4.31). This had to be done on the very day the animal was killed, apparently to remove temptation (Exod.23.18). The purpose of the law was to teach the Israelites that their best belonged to God. Long before the Mosaic Law was given, Abel brought the fat of the first-born of his flock to the Lord; and we read that the Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering (Gen.4.4).Sometimes used in the KJV to refer to a wine vat, a receptacle into which the grape juice flowed from the “press” above (Isa.63.2; Joel.2.24).

2. The KJV uses “fat” for “vat” (RSV) in Joel 2:24; 3:13, and “winefat” for “wine press” (RSV) in Isaiah 63:2 and Mark 12:1.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The layer of subcutaneous fat and the compact suet surrounding the viscera and imbedded in the entrails, which, like the blood, was forbidden as food in the Mosaic code (Le 3:17). It was to be sacrificed to God by being burnt upon the altar (Le 3:16; 30). This had to be done on the very day on which a beast had been slaughtered, to remove temptation from the Israelite to use it otherwise (Ex 23:18). The law was probably a sanitary restriction, for, at an early date, leprosy, scrofula and disfiguring cutaneous diseases were thought to be caused by the use of fat as food. It was, moreover, an important pedagogical provision teaching the idea of self-denial, and the maxim that the richest and best meat of the edible animal belonged to Yahweh.


The expression "fat" is often used in figurative senses, e.g. abundant, exuberant, lusty, fertile, robust, outwardly successful (De 32:15; Ps 92:14 the King James Version; Ps 119:70; Pr 11:25; 13:4, etc.).