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Why Blood?

We ended last week’s post with the question, “Why blood?” This referred specifically to the blood of circumcision, which we saw as the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham in Genesis 17. We shall see, as we continue looking at the thread of God’s covenants with mankind, that blood is extremely important in all of them.

While the first sign of a covenant we read about in Genesis, the sign of the rainbow, is not bloody itself it represents blood because blood is life. The covenant with Noah and God’s promise never again to destroy life in a flood as He had done was made over the life of all who perished in the Flood. There is a direct connection there. We see it in God’s blessing to Noah and his son’s immediately after the Flood. “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Gen. 9:3-4) While God was now giving Man permission to eat meat, He required that they not eat the blood for the blood was the life of the animal and that life came from God and belonged to God and was to be “poured out on the ground like water.”

“However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your gates, whatever you desire, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and the deer. Only you shall not eat the blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water.” Deuteronomy 12:15-16

“Just as a gazelle or a deer is eaten, so you will eat it; the unclean and the clean alike may eat of it. Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water. You shall not eat it, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 12:23-25

“You shall eat it within your gates; the unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as a gazelle or a deer. Only you shall not eat its blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water.” Deuteronomy 15: 22-23

The references to the “clean and unclean alike” in the passages above refer to those who are ritually clean or may be, for a variety of reasons, ritually unclean. Eating meat was permissible for everyone. The only prohibition is the strong one against eating the blood because it was the life and life comes from God the Creator and life giver and belongs to Him. So, we see that blood represents life. This is true throughout the Scriptures. But what does this have to do with the signs of the covenant?

Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden. In Genesis, Chapter 3, we read about the temptation of Eve by the Serpent. She gave in to that temptation and ate the forbidden fruit. She then gave some to her husband, Adam, and he ate. God had told them that eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil would lead to their death, “for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) However, the Serpent knew that they would not instantly die completely so he told them that they would not die. In John 8:44, Jesus calls the Devil a “murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Like all skillful liars, the Serpent, which was the Devil, speaks a half truth. By lying and enticing Eve to eat of the fruit that would bring about her death, he murdered her. He knew that she would not fall instantly to the ground with no life in her but he also knew that the moment she disobeyed God she would begin the process of dying; yet, to her husband, it would appear that she was fine, alive, not dead.

As soon as Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, they knew that they could no longer be in His presence. They were now corrupt and unholy. God is perfect and holy. The two cannot exist together. So, they covered their nakedness and hid from God. They knew that they needed a barrier between them and God to protect them from His holiness and the consequences of their disobedience. The problem for them was that only thing they could take to cover themselves with were leaves—a pretty poor protection. Of course, God found them. Nothing can hide from the eyes of God. After pronouncing the consequences of their sin, he gave them a garment that would cover their nakedness; that would come between His holiness and their sin. “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21) Think about this for a moment. How did God get “garments of skin”? What had to have happened? In order for God to make leather garments for Adam and Eve, He had to have killed an animal. This is the first shedding of blood recorded in Scripture. An animal had to die, to give its blood, its life so that Adam and Eve could live out their own lives protected from the deadly (to them) Holiness of God. Their own lives were now forfeit, but God did not want the story to end there. He was beginning a process that ultimately would bring mankind back into relationship with Him, back into His presence. The process began with the shedding of blood. Blood is life and in exchange for one life, another must be given, blood must be shed.

From this point on, whenever God made a covenant between Himself and mankind, He called for the shedding of blood. This makes it very clear that these are solemn, life and death, covenants. Never to be taken lightly. So far, in this series, we have looked at God’s covenant with Noah and all living things after the Flood. We have discussed the covenants with Abraham in Genesis 15 and 16—the Covenant of Circumcision. We then jumped ahead to the incident where God threatened Moses with death until his wife circumcised his sons. We are going to look further in Exodus but, before we do, it is worth noting the story in Genesis Chapter 22 where God calls on Abraham to sacrifice his son, the son of the Covenant, on an altar. When Abraham is proven ready to do so (the old Jewish rabbis say that Abraham’s knife actually cut the skin of Isaac—his blood was shed), God immediately substituted a ram to take Isaac’s place. God then promises to bless and multiply Abraham’s descendents. Again, blood shed to seal God’s promise.

As we bring this article to a close, we now jump forward to the exodus of Israel from slavery in Egypt at the Passover. Moses, having now complied with God’s covenant through his wife’s doing what he should have done and circumcising his own sons, goes on to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh and calls for him to release the Israelites from their slavery. As we read in the opening chapters of Exodus, Pharaoh refuses and God sends the plagues. In Exodus 11, God pronounces the final plague—the death of the first born of Egypt—man and beast. In Chapter 12, He explains what the Israelites are to do and how this will protect them from the death that God will deal to the Egyptians. They are to take a lamb, slaughter it and place its blood on the uprights and cross pieces around the doors of their houses—the door posts and lintels.

“For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments -- I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:12-13

The wonderful thing about this command was that whoever wanted to could go under the blood of that Passover lamb, entering the house of an Israelite, and be spared when God’s Angel of Death went through the land. This, too, was a sign of a covenant, the covenant of the Passover. The blood of the lamb, like the bloody skin covering Adam and Eve and the blood of the circumcision, came between any who took that sign to themselves and the wrath of God. In verse 38, we read that a “mixed multitude” went out of Egypt that night—Israelites and non-Israelites together. It appears that there were many—some may have been Egyptians, some may have been other foreigners in the land—who took Moses’ words to heart and believed in the salvation through the blood of the Passover lamb, who went under the blood into Israelite houses.

In the next post, we will see what happened when this mixed multitude came before God at Mount Sinai and became a new nation. We will also see, again, the sign of the Covenant between God and His people and how this prefigured the sign of God’s final covenant with mankind.

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