Innocence by Respect for Sacredness of Blood
“I am clean from the blood of all men.”—Acts 20:26.
1. How precious is our blood to us, and how does the attitude of Christ as King differ from that of exploders of atomic bombs?
HOW precious the blood in our bodies is! Our lives are dependent upon blood, and it makes up one tenth to one twelfth of our bodies. Naturally, we shudder at the threat of any increase in that uniformly fatal disease of the blood known as leukemia, as a result of the radioactive fallout from the exploding of atomic bombs above ground. In one month of intensive atomic testing during the autumn of 1958 the Soviet Union virtually doubled the amount of radioactive debris in our earth’s atmosphere. So said Dr. W. E. Libby, the scientist member of the American Atomic Energy Commission. This increases the world-wide threat to blood. How so? In the hazards to man from fallouts, the radioactive product of most importance from atomic bomb explosions above ground is the chemical known as strontium 90, a long-lived radioactive material that can cause bone cancer and leukemia. In the marrow of our bones our blood is manufactured. (New York Times, March 14, 1959) Surely the attitude of men who explode such threats to mankind’s blood is far different from the attitude of Christ, whom our Creator has appointed King of a new world. Of this King the sacred prophecy says: “The souls of the poor ones he will save. From oppression and from violence he will redeem their soul, and their blood will be precious in his eyes.”—Ps. 72:13, 14.
2. What do men in general today little appreciate about God’s laws concerning blood, and why should we inform ourselves on this?
2 The value of blood and the close connection between blood and life no one knows this better than the Creator of this living, moving tissue in animal bodies. As our Creator and Giver of life he long ago gave laws concerning blood. These laws showed that he attached a sacredness, a sanctity, to blood. Little do men in general appreciate today that they are under the Creator’s law concerning blood and that they will be punished for violating its sacredness. It is no light punishment, but it will call for their very life. Over 4,327 years have passed since the flood of Noah’s day, but the law that God then proclaimed regarding blood still applies. What is more, it applies to all mankind; for all of us, whether Jews or non-Jews, descended from non-Jews to whom this holy law was proclaimed, Noah and his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth. Our life hinges on our informing ourselves on this law and on keeping it. We shall be benefited and enlightened if we note the language of this law for all mankind alive today.
3, 4. (a) What may be said as to whether Noah’s sacrifice after the flood violated the sacredness of blood? (b) In his law to Noah concerning blood what did Jehovah say?
3 When Noah and his fellow passengers came out of the ark in which they and the animals and birds had passed alive through the biggest flood in human experience, Noah led his family in offering sacrifice to God. Noah killed some of all the clean beasts and birds there at Mount Ararat. This proved to be no violation of the sacredness of blood. More than fifteen centuries before the Flood faithful Abel, the second son of Adam, had offered up a sacrifice, which meant the killing of some firstlings of his flock of sheep. But God accepted this sacrifice and bore witness to Abel that he was righteous, innocent. (Gen. 4:1-4; Heb. 11:4) Likewise God approved of Noah’s sacrifice of the clean animals and birds, and Noah “became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (Gen. 8:18-22; Heb. 11:7) It was when expressing his approval toward Noah and his sons that God, the Savior of the human race, stated his law concerning blood, to govern us. We read:
4 “God went on to bless Noah and his sons and to say to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth. And a fear of you and a dread of you will continue upon every living creature of the earth and upon every flying creature of the heavens, upon everything that goes creeping on the ground, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Into your hand they are now given. Every creeping animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat. And, besides that, your blood of your souls shall I ask back. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of man, from the hand of one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.”—Gen. 9:1-6, NW; Elberfelder; Segond; Lienart; DeVaux.
5. Why had God-fearing men not eaten flesh before the Flood, and in what way did God authorize men to eat flesh after the Flood?
5 Abel never ate flesh with its blood, which is its soul or life. Abel was a God-fearing man, and the divine permission for mankind to eat the flesh of the lower animals and birds and fish had not yet been given. Likewise, Noah and his fellow flood survivors had not eaten flesh before the deluge, for the same reason. With full respect for the precious value and meaning of blood, God now permitted mankind to eat the flesh of animals and birds, but not along with the blood of the creature eaten.
6. Who was the first to mention blood, and under what circumstances?
6 Even before the Flood God had permitted and approved that blood be shed from sacrificial victims at his holy altar, but neither blood nor the flesh that contained it was to be taken into the human body as food. In the Bible the first one to mention blood was God himself. When Cain refused to confess that he had murdered his brother Abel, God said to Cain: “Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground. And now you are cursed in banishment from the ground which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hand.”—Gen. 4:10, 11.
7. What fact did Jehovah set forth fifty-five centuries before medical scientists proved it, and what does medical science ignore today?
7 By mentioning Abel’s blood rather than his body of flesh, God pointed up the fact that the life is in the blood. Fifty-five centuries before it was proved by medical scientists God set forth the fact that the life-principle is in the blood. In his law given to Noah right after the flood God plainly said that the life, the very soul, was in the blood. But modern medical science refuses to recognize God’s own law that commands respect for the sanctity of blood. Modern medical science ignores that all mankind today are bound by that blood decree and are subject to punishment at God’s hand for breaking that sacred law concerning blood.
8, 9. (a) In Nimrod’s day what did mankind get away from, and why? (b) How did Reuben’s language respecting Joseph emphasize that life is represented by the blood?
8 Noah had a great-grandson named Nimrod, who became king of Babylon. Under his influence the greater part of the world of mankind began to get away from keeping God’s own law concerning the sacredness of blood. That was to be expected, since King Nimrod became outstanding as a “mighty hunter in opposition to Jehovah.” (Gen. 10:8-10) Abraham, the man of faith in Jehovah God, came from the neighborhood of Nimrod’s former kingdom. Through Isaac and Jacob, Abraham had twelve great-grandsons, who became heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jealousy arose and the life of one of these tribal heads, Joseph, was threatened at the hands of his brothers. In an effort to save him, his oldest brother Reuben said: “Do not spill blood.” Finally his brothers saw no selfish profit in killing Joseph and trying to “cover over his blood” and they sold him into slavery. Years later Jehovah God raised Joseph up out of slavery and imprisonment in Egypt to the position of prime minister of Pharaoh, Egypt’s king.
9 To offset a famine in Palestine, the ten formerly jealous brothers of Joseph were sent down to Egypt to buy needed food supplies. They were brought before Joseph but did not recognize him as Egypt’s prime minister. To put them to a test of their heart condition, Joseph through an interpreter accused them of being spies and held over them the threat of the death penalty. Threatened with the loss of their own lives, the ten brothers recalled their guilt and began to talk in Hebrew about how they had sold Joseph possibly to his death. Then Reuben spoke out: “Did not I say to you, ‘Do not sin against the child,’ but you did not listen? And now his blood, here it is certainly asked back.” (Gen. 37:21-28; 42:21, 22) Thus the Israelite Reuben used the very expression that Jehovah God had used when he imposed the law concerning the sanctity of blood upon all mankind. By his language Reuben emphasized that human life is represented by the all-necessary blood.
10. In making his covenant with Israel, how did Jehovah insist on Israel’s keeping his law to Noah?
10 Centuries afterward Jehovah delivered the twelve tribes of Israel from slavery in Egypt and brought them to Mount Sinai in Arabia. There through the prophet Moses as mediator he set up a covenant, a contractual relationship, between himself and the twelve tribes of Israel, for him to be their God and for them to be his chosen people. Besides the Ten Commandments, he gave them hundreds of other laws. That they might be to him a holy people, different from the non-Israelite peoples of the world, Jehovah God insisted that they keep the law that he had given to their forefather Noah concerning the sanctity of blood. Hence he forbade them to take blood from man or animal into their bodies as food or drink.
11. By Jehovah’s law what was prohibited to alien residents as well as to Israelites, and why?
11 One of his laws to them said: “You must not eat any blood in any places where you dwell, whether that of fowl or that of beast. Any soul who eats any blood, that soul must be cut off from his people.” Not even alien residents among their nation were to be allowed to take blood for food. Jehovah’s law said: “As for any man of the house of Israel or some temporary resident who is residing for a while in your midst who eats any sort of blood, I shall certainly set my face against the soul that is eating the blood and I shall indeed cut him off from among his people. For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it. That is why I have said to the sons of Israel, ‘No soul of you should eat blood and no temporary resident who is residing for a while in your midst should eat blood.’”—Lev. 7:26, 27; 17:10-12.
12. What does McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia say regarding the prohibition of blood as food and the transgressing of this prohibition?
12 McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume I, page 834, says on prohibiting blood as food: “In cases where the prohibition is introduced in connection with the lawful and unlawful articles of diet, the reason which is generally assigned in the text is that ‘the blood is the soul,’ and it is ordered that it be poured on the ground like water. But where it is introduced in reference to the portions of the victims which were to be offered to the Lord, then the text, in addition to the former reason, insists that ‘the blood expiates by the soul.’ (Lev. xvii, 11, 12). This strict injunction not only applied to the Israelites, but even to the strangers residing among them. The penalty assigned to its transgression was the being ‘cut off from the people,’ by which the punishment of death appears to be intended (compare Hebrews x, 28), although it is difficult to ascertain whether it was inflicted by the sword or by stoning.”
13. What vital facts did God’s laws to Israelite hunters emphasize?
13 Hence God told each Israelite hunter not to be like the mighty Babylonian hunter Nimrod but to respect the blood of the prey: “He must in that case pour its blood out and cover it with dust. For the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood by the soul in it. Consequently I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You must not eat the blood of any sort of flesh, because the soul of every sort of flesh is its blood. Anyone eating it will be cut off.’” (Lev. 17:13, 14) The blood was as the soul. So Jehovah God further said to each hunter in the covenant with him: “Simply be firmly resolved not to eat the blood, because the blood is the soul and you must not eat the soul [nephʹesh, Hebrew] with the flesh. You must not eat it. You should pour it out upon the ground as water.” (Deut. 12:23, 24) Eating the soul means eating a God-given life, and this makes the eater responsible as taking a life away from God.
CHRISTIANS NOT EXEMPT FROM BLOOD LAW
14, 15. (a) What did the early Jewish Christians recognize concerning the Law covenant and God’s own law unto Noah? (b) Hence what instructions did the governing body send to non-Jewish Christians?
14 What, now, about Christians, those truly following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ the Son of God? Jesus established the Christian congregation on earth. For three and a half years after his death and resurrection the congregation was made up exclusively of circumcised Jews or Israelites and proselytes. These Jewish Christians recognized that the Law covenant, which Jehovah God made with the nation of Israel through Moses, had been canceled, nailed, as it were, to the torture stake on which Jesus Christ was impaled as a perfect human sacrifice. The Christian apostle Paul, who was formerly a Jewish Pharisee, affirmed this fact. (Eph. 2:13-16; Col. 2:13-17) The Christian congregation was in a new covenant with Jehovah God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, they recognized that they were still under Jehovah’s own law unto Noah concerning the sacredness of blood, which holy law had never been canceled or recalled. Hence the twelve apostles and other mature Christians of the congregation at Jerusalem, as a governing body, sent out these instructions even to the baptized Christians who formerly had not been circumcised Jews:
15 “The holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you, except these necessary things, to keep yourselves free from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things killed without draining their blood and from fornication. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”—Acts 15:28, 29; 21:24, 25.
16. Despite the revoking of the Law covenant and the bringing in of the new covenant, what may the Christians not do, and why?
16 No, despite the revoking of the Law covenant and despite his bringing in of the new covenant validated by the sacrificed blood of Jesus Christ, Jehovah God had not changed his law concerning idolatry and blood and sexual immorality. Thus the Christians could not worship God through the use of images or symbols; they could not commit adultery or fornication; they could not shed blood in murder or feed their bodies with blood from bird, beast or man.
17. Why is drinking of the common cup at the Lord’s evening meal no violation of the covenant concerning blood?
17 True, those first-century Christians did celebrate the Lord’s evening meal or supper each year, in which celebration each congregation partook of a common cup of wine. But by drinking from this common cup they were not drinking the literal blood of the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ. Hours before ever the Roman soldier jabbed the left side of the impaled Jesus so that blood and water came out, the Lord Jesus had passed the emblematic cup to his eleven faithful apostles in the upper room in Jerusalem and said to them: “Drink out of it, all of you; for this means my ‘blood of the covenant’ which is to be poured out in behalf of many for forgiveness of sins. But I tell you, I will by no means drink henceforth any of this product of the vine [that is to say, wine] until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.” (John 19:33-37; Matt. 26:26-29) The red wine in that cup was only symbolic. It was a symbol of Jesus’ lifeblood that was to be poured out in sacrifice to God to cleanse away our sins.
18. In what way do celebrators of the Lord’s evening meal share in the blood of the Christ?
18 Years later the apostle Paul wrote to celebrators of the Lord’s evening meal: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of the Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16) Their drinking of this memorial cup of wine was pictorial of how they partake of the benefit of Jesus’ sacrificed human life, represented by his blood. They do so by means of their faith in him as the One who died in order to purchase them back from sin and death.
19. How did God authorize blood to be used toward the gaining of life, and so how do true Christians regard Christ’s blood?
19 God had authorized the blood of a sacrificial victim to be poured out upon his holy altar as an offering of a life to him. Accordingly the Christians recognized Jesus’ perfect human blood as poured out upon God’s true altar of sacrifice in order to provide everlasting life for all those accepting his sacrifice. So it was precious blood and had purchase power with God. The apostle Peter wrote to his fellow Christians: “You know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, as a ransom that you were released from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.”—1 Pet. 1:18, 19.
20. Why did the pouring out of Christ’s blood affect differently the Jews who insisted that Pilate have Jesus executed?
20 Thus the pouring of his blood out upon God’s altar did not affect those believing Christians in the same way that it affected the Jews who insisted that the Roman governor put Jesus to death on a torture stake. Governor Pilate washed his hands in water before the crowd, saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this man. You must see to it.” They agreed to see to it, saying: “His blood come upon us and upon our children.” (Matt. 27:24, 25) Willingly they agreed to take upon themselves the responsibility for shedding Jesus’ blood and to pass this responsibility on to their sons.
21. Because of drinking from the cup at the Lord’s evening meal, of what were the early Christians accused, and what does their defense show regarding the law stated to Noah?
21 Each year the early Christians celebrated the Lord’s evening meal, at which they drank from the common cup of wine symbolic of Jesus’ blood. Doubtless, or partly, because of this the pagan unbelievers accused these faithful Christians of drinking human blood. This was one of the false charges against which spokesmen for the Christian congregation had to defend themselves. They stopped the mouths of these foes of Christianity by explaining that human blood was far superior and more valuable than animal blood; and the Christians were so far from drinking human blood that it was contrary to the law of their God to drink the blood of even the lower animals, dumb, unreasoning creatures. Numerous is the testimony to the effect that those faithful Christians did not take human blood into their systems for any purpose.—See Origines Ecclesiasticae, or, Antiquities of the Christian Church, by Joseph Bingham [1668-1723], Book 17, chapter 5, paragraph 20.a
22. When did pretending Christians begin to argue against the law of God given to Noah? And how?
22 It was only after the time of the Roman Catholic theologian Augustine (354-430), bishop in North Africa, that persons claiming to be Christians began to argue that the divine rule prohibiting Christ’s followers from partaking of blood as food was merely a temporary prohibition and that it did not apply now. This argument, however, was part of the falling away of Christian pretenders from the true faith that the apostle Paul foretold.—2 Thess. 2:1-3.
23. Since Jehovah does not change, in what way do Christians follow Jude’s exhortation and keep themselves innocent?
23 After God foretold the coming of his Son Jesus Christ to the temple for judgment work, God said: “I, Jehovah, change not.” (Mal. 3:1-6, AS) True, faithful Christians of today follow the exhortation of the disciple Jude, “to put up a hard fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the holy ones.” (Jude 3) According to this faith they keep innocent regarding blood. They avoid the penalty of violating God’s unchanged holy law of sanctity of blood. The life or soul of no man is demanded by God at their hand.
a Origines Ecclesiasticae was published by Joseph Bingham in eight volumes, the first in 1708 and the last in 1722. “This great work is a perfect repertory of facts in ecclesiastical archaeology and has not been superseded or even approached in its own line by any book since published.”—McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume I, page 814, column 2. (1891 edition)