Narrow-minded literalists would just say “well, He must know something we don’t – blood MUST be bad for you somehow!” … but that’s just cheating. Yes, God said not to do it and so we shouldn’t – but that doesn’t tell us WHY! And knowing WHY is NECESSARY if we are to ever come to know the mind of God!
That the commandment against eating blood has nothing overtly to do with “health” is evident by the fact that many cultures around the world consume blood on a daily basis and rather than being unhealthy for it, are far healthier than we are. In African tribes such as the Masai it is a staple of the diet, and cattle are milked and bled on a regular basis. And yet God lays down the law repeatedly that blood is never to be consumed. So why? Ironically, this is one of those questions that is solved in the very verse that introduces the concept in the first place. It’s so simple it’s almost not worth writing about and yet… no one else seems to know the answer so I guess I might as well be the one. And who knows, I might even be able to make it interesting… and of course, I am going to tease the answer a bit – just for fun…
We know that once upon a time God made Adam. And Adam had no penalty of law hanging over his head, for Adam was sinless and God had no reason to kill him. After all, God said of the forbidden fruit “thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:17). Now it stands to reason that if the penalty for eating the fruit was death, then by NOT eating the fruit (and not sinning in any other way) they would never have died. After all, if the wages of sin IS death (Romans 6:23) then the wages of NOT sinning would be… NOT death!
Elementary stuff but humor me anyway. So then Adam sinned, and got himself kicked out of the garden – in the process, earning a death penalty according to the commandment of God.
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
So it was Adam who first brought sin upon the Earth, as we know. And his sin brought death. Bear in mind that before this, even the animals in the garden were herbivorous – to put it another way, the lion was eating straw like the Ox.
Genesis 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
By comparing that situation to our present one, we can deduce that after Adam’s forced exit from Eden, the animals began – for reasons that will be explained in a future article – to kill and eat one another. Now even though these animals were not consciously violating the commandment of God (since they don’t seem to have a consciousness in the sense that we do), they were definitely violating the will of God, who clearly intends that the animals “not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain”(Isaiah 65:25). And the will of God is obviously the right way to do things – I.E., righteousness. And “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). All of this is a long-winded way of saying that Adam’s sin inspired the animals to continue in his footsteps and sin as well.
Romans 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
And even though the animals didn’t really sin quite in the degree that Adam did – which, for that matter, none of us have – they still started dying as the law of the jungle began to take over. Thus far I’ve established that the animals sinned, and the wages of sin is death. So far so good.
Genesis 9:4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.
This adds an important fact in that the life resides in the blood. That doesn’t mean that there is a magical factor in the blood that gives us life, but it does mean that symbolically the blood of a person or animal represents it’s life. And of course the blood does play an active – okay, pivotal – role in maintaining life.
Genesis 9:5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
Now let’s take that verse apart. God says in the first part that He will require YOUR blood for your life. As the Young’s Literal Translation puts it:
Genesis 9:5 ‘And only your blood for your lives do I require; from the hand of every living thing I require it, …
It says God requires your blood to PAY for your life! Why? Because you have sinned!
Hebrews 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
Without shedding blood, there is no payment for sins! This means that while you are alive, walking around with your blood pumping through your veins, you carry within you the payment for your life – a payment which, since I assume you’ve already sinned, is already debited against your account! The penalty of the law which you are presently under has a post-dated check, drawn against the day of your death, which it will require to cancel out your sins and make the cosmic ledger balance!
So the blood of man is important because it is with OUR lifeblood that we pay for our sins! Of course, our blood, being tainted with sin, can only pay for our sins once. The wages of sin is death, and once we die… we have nothing else to pay with, so our bank account is empty. We’re flat broke, as it were. So if we want to have any future after we die, we’ll have to rely on God resurrecting us in the second resurrection just because He’s a nice guy, or else claim His blood for our sins.
Of course, that comes with conditions – repenting of our sins, changing, being good, etc. But if we arrange all that then we do not HAVE to pay for our sins with our own blood – we can pay for them with His, and we can pass straight from this life into the next, if we happen to be here at His return. (1 Corinthians 15:51)
This is important, and will explain a few awkward scriptures before we’re through. But meanwhile, back to the subject at hand…
Genesis 9:5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; …
Here He essentially says that we are not to consume ANY of the blood, because in order to make His books balance in the payment for sin, He has reserved every bit of it to pay for your life. And He will require it of you at your death. Metaphorically speaking.
He also says that the same rule applies to beasts – all beasts have sinned, just as all men have sinned, so God requires all of their blood to pay for their sins as well! Just to prove that I’m not making this up as I go along, there is a scripture (the one I alluded to up front) that pretty much says that word for word.
Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
The blood makes an atonement – pays for – the soul. The word “soul” here being from the Hebrew word “nephesh”, which according to Genesis 1:30, God not only put in man, but also gave to every mammal, bird, and reptile. (In that verse, “nephesh” is mistranslated “life”.) So the blood is reserved for God because you sinned and that act signed your life away, as it were.
I could have quoted that scripture and said that up front, yes, and just handed you the answer, but
A: that would have been no fun and…
B: I have another point to make that may make all this worthwhile to you.
Leviticus 17:12-13 Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. And whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof, and cover it with dust.
The blood of these animals was to be poured out on the ground, and covered with dust. This was how God told us to return the blood to Him, thereby paying for that animals sins. God presumably collects it from the ground – again, not literally, but metaphorically – to make His books balance. Now the fun part!
What if that animal hadn’t sinned? Or what if there was already some other payment for that animal’s sin so that it didn’t have to die? Would the same law apply? What if God didn’t “require” that particular animal’s blood for his tallybooks? What if it was already covered by some other animal? One that had lived a perfect life, not earned the death penalty, and died for His friends?
You see, once you are called, repent, are baptized, and receive the holy spirit, according to Acts 2:38 your sins are forgiven. You’re no longer under the penalty of the law, and Christ has paid for your sins IN YOUR PLACE
Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
Now as we well know, the penalty of the law has no sway over us if our sins are paid for through Christ. So we needn’t die for our sins anymore! And furthermore, God does not demand OUR blood to pay for our sins! Which means that if our blood IS shed, God doesn’t need it, and IT BOTHERS GOD!
Genesis 4:10 And he [God said to Cain] said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.
That verse has always troubled me. When Cain killed righteous, innocent Abel, God said that Abel’s blood cried to Him from the ground. What did God mean? How was (dead) Abel’s blood crying to God from the ground? The dead “know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), so Abel’s blood couldn’t be consciously crying to God. But now we can explain it!
Abel had just concluded the first recorded passover service in the Bible the night before his death. The primary reason for that service is to show that your sins are symbolically paid for by Christ’s death! And therefore that you don’t have to die for your own sins! And therefore, when Abel’s blood was wrongfully shed the next day, it cried to God from the ground because God DIDN’T REQUIRE IT OF HIM!
Each time someone who hasn’t sinned, or whose sins are paid for by Christ’s blood, dies wrongfully, it shows up as an extra payment in God’s ledger. It’s as if at the end of the day you check your cash register and find you have receipts for $200 worth of goods, but you have $210 in the register. That extra $10 doesn’t belong there, and you’re going to dig until you find out why it’s there, and what you sold to earn it! And that’s how God felt when He “saw” Abel’s blood on the ground!
Matthew 23:34-35 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
Abel had already purchased blood to pay for his own life by drawing a post-dated check on the death of Christ. As did the prophets, wise men, and scribes that were sent and have been sent to the world. They had to reason to die, and the world had no reason to kill them. But they did anyway.
Hebrews 11:37-38 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:)
And the blood of those men, blood which the world did not deserve and which God did not require of them, remains in the earth in those cities as a stain, a stain that survives in the mind of God to this day. A stain that will survive until God exacts payment for that innocent blood with the blood of the guilty –
Because bottom line, when it comes time for an audit, God’s books have to balance.