Questions From Readers
● How is Genesis 9:5 to be understood, where God said that he would ‘ask back the blood’ from an animal that killed a human?
Basically this means that if an animal killed a man, it must be slain. For taking a human life, it must lose its own life.
After the Flood, Jehovah God first allowed humans to kill animals for food, though blood was not to be eaten. (Gen. 9:3, 4) Then God pointed out the superiority of human life over animal life, man having been created in God’s image. Jehovah said:
“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 each 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. 9:5, 6.
So, even though animals could be killed for food, humans were not to be killed. If a man murdered another human, taking a life that he was not authorized to take and thus incurring bloodguilt, he was to forfeit his own life. And this pattern was to be applied even with man-killing animals. True, an animal would not know that in killing a human it had violated a divine law. But this requirement certainly would impress on humans how precious is a man’s life, for not even a dumb animal could take a human life with impunity.
In his Law to Israel Jehovah later provided a regulation pertaining to man-killing animals. According to Exodus 21:28-32, a bull that gored a man to death was to be killed by stoning. It is widely understood that this law was not limited to bulls; the case of a goring bull could well be appreciated in an agricultural society, and it illustrated what should be done with any animal that killed a human. If it took a human life, the killer creature must surrender its own life.
Such a consequence has proved to be true in many societies of people descending from Noah. For example, The International Wildlife Encyclopedia observed: “Once a tiger has turned man-eater or cattle-killer, for whatever reason, every man’s hand is against it. Whole villages will turn out and not rest until it is killed, even in areas where the tiger is protected by law.”
Some persons may view this simply as a self-protective measure. But the statement in Genesis 9:5, 6 should forcefully impress on us the preciousness of human life. It cannot be taken with impunity. Thus we should strive to be free of bloodguilt, and should use the precious human life we have to the honor of the provider of life, Jehovah God.—Acts 20:26, 27; Ps. 36:7, 9.
● Does Matthew 27:52, 53 mean that at the time of Jesus’ death some persons in the grave were resurrected?
Many Bible commentators feel that this is what these verses mean. Yet scholars admit that the sense and proper translation of these verses is unusually difficult. Actually, there are reasons to believe that these verses mean that when Jesus died the accompanying earthquake broke open tombs near Jerusalem and thus exposed corpses to passersby.
Matthew 27:52, 53 says that “the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”—Common Bible.
But if a resurrection occurred when Jesus died, as this and other translations suggest, would the resurrected ones have waited until after Jesus’ own resurrection, on the third day after this, before leaving their tombs? Why would God resurrect such “saints” or “holy ones” at this time, since Jesus was to be “the firstborn from the dead”? (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20) Also, it was during Christ’s future presence that anointed Christians or “holy ones” were to share in the first resurrection.—1 Thess. 3:13; 4:14-17; Rev. 20:5, 6.
Observe that, strictly speaking, the account does not say that the “bodies” came to life. It merely says that they were raised up or thrown out of the tombs by the earthquake. A similar thing happened in the town of Sonson in Colombia in 1962. El Tiempo (July 31, 1962) reported: “Two hundred corpses in the cemetery of this town were thrown out of their tombs by the violent earth tremor.” Persons passing by or through that cemetery saw the corpses, and, as a result, many of the people in Sonson had to go out and rebury their dead relatives.
Without wresting the Greek grammar, a translator can render Matthew 27:52, 53 in a way that suggests that a similar exposing of corpses resulted from the earthquake occurring at Jesus’ death. Thus the translation by Johannes Greber (1937) renders these verses: “Tombs were laid open, and many bodies of those buried there were tossed upright. In this posture they projected from the graves and were seen by many who passed by the place on their way back to the city.”—Compare the New World Translation.
Along with the rending of the temple curtain separating the Holy from the Most Holy, this violent earthquake, which exposed corpses that were soon seen by travelers who brought the news into Jerusalem, served as additional proof that Jesus was no mere criminal executed for wrongdoing. He was the Messiah and the one who would shortly be the firstborn from the dead destined for heavenly life.