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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Why God Required Animal Blood Sacrifice, In The Bible?

I was asked the following questions:

Why did God forbid the eating of animals, with the blood in them? What does "the life of an animal is in the blood" mean and why did God require animal blood sacrifice?

In researching the answer to these questions, I noticed them being asked many times. I thought you may find it useful to know the answers, so I write this article with the answers. I will also include within the answer the whole implication of animal blood sacrifice and why it was necessary.

God makes it clear throughout Scriptures that it is only by the shedding of blood that sins can be forgiven. So the primary purpose of blood sacrifice is to cover, cleanse and deliver us from sin. This article will now tackle why God holds such importance in the blood, but will first tackle the first question. The title of this article and the above question are BOTH relevant.

To make sense of why blood could not be eaten and why "the life is in the blood" let us firstly read Leviticus 17:10-14:

" 'Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people.  For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, "None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood."   " 'Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, "You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off."

First of all, these verses are saying that neither the Israelites nor those who lived with them could eat the blood of animals. It is not saying they could not  eat the flesh of animals, because they were permitted to eat animals, but not the blood. So why could they not eat the blood? They could not eat the blood  because
 the blood represents its life source. Let us keep that at the forefront of our thinking, ie there is life in the blood.

Before I give a scriptural and spiritual explanation let us just look at the scientific evidence that life is in the blood of animals and humans.

This is a summary for humans, but surely it applies to animals also. Blood contains proteins, nutrients and oxygen and it needs to be circulated to all parts of the human body to allow every part of the body to be supplied with food and oxygen. If that wasn't happening, the tissue would die and this can cause infection and other problems. However, it is just the living parts of  the body that needs  oxygen etc. Your hair (fur?) and toenails, which are not living, do not use oxygen and nutrients. 

The Franklyn Institute  provide this information:

“The average adult has about five litres of blood living inside of their body, coursing through their vessels, delivering essential elements, and removing harmful wastes. Without blood, the human body would stop working. Blood is the fluid of life, transporting oxygen from the lungs to body tissue and carbon dioxide from body tissue to the lungs. Blood is the fluid of growth, transporting nourishment from digestion and hormones from glands throughout the body. Blood is the fluid of health, transporting disease fighting substances to the tissue and waste to the kidneys.  Because it contains living cells, blood is alive.” 

So in the natural or scientific there is life in the blood!

From Genesis through to Revelation, much is said about blood, sacrifice and its spiritual significance.
Let us start with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:21. God covered over their nakedness (sin) by providing animal skins. Abel must have been given some type of revelation, by sacrificing an animal to God – a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s. Hebrews 11:4:

 “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.”

It is not that Cain’s sacrifice was not appreciated but Abel’s spoke spiritual volumes about the eternal covenant of God to redeem us by the blood of Jesus. How did Abel know that the blood of animals would be accepted by God as a sacrifice for sin?  It must have been a direct revelation! The book of Hebrews indicates this. This blood has always been a representative and  forerunner to the death of the Messiah, which would result in an everlasting covenant to eternally forgive our sins.

When God made a covenant with Abraham it also had to be done by blood and sacrifice ie a blood covenant: 

Genesis 15:9-10 and 17-18:
 "So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon."  Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other" and 

"When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram"

Then we have Abraham who (in faith and trust in God) was about to sacrifice Isaac. Genesis 22:8 says:
And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering”. Jesus said to the Jews., Abraham saw my day and rejoiced John 8:56 which means that (at that moment) Abraham understood that God HIMSELF would be sacrificed for us.

Now, the examples I have given were leaving a principle, foreshadow and precursor in the Abrahamic covenant BEFORE the Law was given by God to Moses. The New Testament shows that the Law was just a shadow (symbolic) of the things to come (in Jesus).

As a conclusion,  God forbid the blood of animals from being eaten because of what it represented. It represented the blood and death of Jesus. The blood was to be used for only one purpose and that was to atone for our sins. To use it for other purposes would be to dilute the power of what the blood represents. 

The blood symbolised cleansing, forgiveness and LIFE. How could the people decimate this symbol by “eating it”.? It was the blood that was poured upon the altar, because the blood was the life source of the animals.

It was God who created blood with the “life” in it and only the life of one sacrificed would be sufficient to cover over our sins. As the whole sacrificial system was to serve as a temporary measure until the total fulfilment in Jesus, God would not allow abuse of the blood as it would empty it of its power before Jesus was sacrificed for us.

So, The ultimate sacrifice was of Jesus the “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World” who now (and always has) eternally exists in Heaven as “a lamb who had been slain”

Revelation 5:6-9 “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:    "You are worthy to take the scroll  and to open its seals,  because you were slain,  and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”.

This is why God needed to keep the blood of animals holy in the sacrificial process


Expected Imminently said...

Hello John
As a former hairstylist, I can agree that hair is dead - but- the roots need a healthy blood supply. Hair is not just a covering, it is a warning as well. Since my hubby lost his on top, he is really battered and bruised because the hair (like a cat's whisker) warns through nerve signals that a person's head is close to a low or narrow object. Without those hairy warnings, blood will flow quite regularly! :)

Must add that my word verification is 'hairoap', that me! an oap and former hair tweeker. :D

Same with nail cuticles.
Ever tried clipping a dog's claw? A fraction too close to the sensitive cuticle and you could lose your hand inside canine gnashers.

Rani said...

Thanks John, this was very helpful in understanding better the power of life in blood & understanding the surpassing excellence of Jesus blood,
Bless u

Anonymous said...

I understand blood as a life force, however I don't understand why it must spill, why a living creature must die. How does spilled blood take away sin? If blood is sacred, why take it from a living creature where it can remain alive? It is so brutal.

Maurice McCarthy said...

Why do you think contact with blood would render a priest unclean?

Unknown said...

Hi Maurice

What verse/s are you referring to? I am unfamiliar with this. I have just looked through Leviticus chapters 16 to 22 but cannot find anything that states what you are saying, unless you are referring to human blood or unclean animal.

Once you let me know the scripture verses, I will then take a look at it in context to see what it is saying and then (with God's help) seek an answer.

If you are referring to human blood or blood of unclean animals, then that would make sense as the priest would be defiled by contact with sinful flesh. Only animals without spot, wrinkle or blemish would be acceptable blood in God's eyes.

This is because only perfection is a satisfactory sacrifice. Remember this sacrifice was pointing to Jesus the perfect lamb of God and only perfection could cleanse sin.

Any imperfect/sinful blood had to be washed off first otherwise the priests would me mingling unclean blood with perfect blood which would defile the sacrifice.

Unknown said...

Hi Anonymous

You asked: "why a living creature must die. How does spilled blood take away sin? If blood is sacred, why take it from a living creature where it can remain alive? It is so brutal."

I appreciate your questions and DO understand why you are asking them.

The first thing is to consider Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts" says the Lord.

Your questions show that you are trusting in your own thoughts and ways, as if they could be reliable. The fact is that our minds have great limitations, being finite, imperfect and sinful. We really know very little about God's holy, righteous and perfect standards.

You may think it brutal to kill animals, but who sets the standards of right and wrong?

Secondly, God has placed a FAR greater value on redeeming mankind. He created us in His own image (likeness) for the sole purpose of us enjoying fellowship with Him for eternity. The animals will serve us for a brief time and then cease to be, anyway.

Finally, although God probably does not take pleasure in the death of animals, as a holy righteous and Just God, He will not allow imperfection to enter into eternity/Heaven but sin MUST be punished or cleansed.

God made a way for cleansing/forgiveness to be possible - through the spilling of blood.

If God is omnipotent, omniscient and omni present (all powerful, all knowing, and fills the Universe with His presence) then He has absolute right to determine what is best for us. If He created the animals to serve us, then it is surely better for animals to be sacrificed for sin, rather than humans to suffer eternal death?

Unknown said...

Very informative article. I particularly like your response to the question of why a creature must die. Although, it may seem harsh to kill a creature, it all boils down to the fact that in order for there to be a sacrifice, something precious must be offered up as an atonement for the offense committed.

Thus, if we understand that the blood is the life force of living beings, then what greater sacrifice can there be but a life itself. I don't think it pleased God one bit that creatures had to be sacrificed but the fact remains that the "wages of sin is death" and through our own error, innocent blood had to be shed. Thankfully, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for us so that we no longer have to be accountable for our sin we can be justified by faith in his blood that was shed for us.