“Hands that are shedding innocent blood” have been one of the most detestable things to Jehovah ever since righteous Abel’s blood cried out from the ground. (Pr 6:16, 17; Ge 4:10; Ps 5:6) Men also have long been aware of the sacredness of blood; when Noah and his family came out of the ark they were informed of the dire consequences befalling those upon whom there was bloodguilt.—Ge 9:6; 37:21, 22; 42:22.
In due time laws were published, spelling out what constituted crimes worthy of death, and in this way, everyone could avoid doing that which would bring bloodguilt upon his own head. Other legislation was enacted as preventive safeguard to protect people from spilling innocent blood. Parapets had to be built around the edge of the flat-topped houses so people would not fall off. (De 22:8) A man had to provide safeguards to prevent his bull from goring people. (Ex 21:29) If a thief was killed while breaking in at night, there was no bloodguilt; but if he was killed during the daylight, it was a different matter. (Ex 22:2, 3) Cities of refuge were set up to protect the accidental manslayer from the avenger of blood. (Nu 35:25; De 19:9, 10; Jos 20:2, 3; see AVENGER OF BLOOD.) If Ezekiel failed in his duty as a watchman to Israel, the blood of the inhabitants would be upon him. (Eze 3:18, 20; 33:6, 8) With this in mind we find understandable what the apostle Paul meant when he said that he was innocent of bloodguilt.—Ac 18:6; 20:26.
The Bible lists both those that were free of bloodguilt and those that were not free of it, and these well serve as warning examples. There was Saul, who at one time escaped bloodguilt because he refrained from killing David; yet later Saul brought bloodguilt upon his whole household when he foolishly killed off some of the Gibeonites. (1Sa 19:5, 6; 2Sa 21:1) There were others too that in various ways became bloodguilty. (Jg 9:24; 2Sa 1:16; 4:6-12) David, on the other hand, escaped such guilt when he heeded Jehovah’s warning sent to him through Abigail. (1Sa 25:24-26, 31, 33) The city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C.E. because of gross bloodguilt. (Eze 22:2-4; 23:37, 45) The false religious leaders of Jesus’ day could not deny their bloodguiltiness any more than the leaders of Jeremiah’s time, for, in both instances, their skirts were crimson red with the blood of Jehovah’s faithful ones. (Jer 2:34; Mt 23:35, 36; 27:24, 25; Lu 11:50, 51) The great “harlot” Babylon the Great is so bloodguilty that she is said to be drunk with the blood of Jehovah’s people.—Re 17:5, 6; 18:24.
Truly such bloodguilty ones are not worthy of living half their lives, as David said. (Ps 55:23) As David did, all should likewise pray that Jehovah will deliver them both from bloodguiltiness and from the bloodguilty ones. (Ps 51:14; 59:2; 139:19) As the Revelation prophecy foretold, the time will shortly come when a mighty chorus of praise will ascend to Jehovah because the last elements of Babylon the Great will have been destroyed and the blood of all these innocent ones will have been forever avenged.—Re 19:1, 2.
The Christian Greek Scriptures outline three distinct ways in which a Christian could become bloodguilty before God: (1) by bloodshed, murder—this would include those actively or tacitly supporting the activities of a bloodguilty organization (such as Babylon the Great [Re 17:6; 18:2, 4] or other organizations that have shed much innocent blood [Re 16:5, 6; compare Isa 26:20, 21]); (2) by eating or drinking blood in any way (Ac 15:20); and (3) by failing to preach the good news of the Kingdom, thereby withholding the lifesaving information it contains.—Ac 18:6; 20:26, 27; compare Eze 33:6-8.