For the soul (life) of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is by reason of the soul (life) in the blood that makes atonement.
In the above translation, which is rather harsh, I have translated nephesh to mean soul, because that is what nephesh means. When you look at Adam, you have a Hebrew word dam at the end. Dam is blood. The aleph at the beginning represents God. What is man? Man is God breathed into blood, making a living soul (Genesis 2:7). In Genesis 1, the birds, fish, and cattle also have nephesh – souls. The soul is the life in the blood, the very thing that causes you to be “alive”. Because we believe we’re more than machines, going through the motions of daily life and interaction by chemical processes, the question comes up as to how we can prove that there is something more. Yet, philosophically, I don’t know how anyone can argue that there is not something more.
For example, we have a conscience that bears witness to good and evil. Yet, on the basis of chemistry, what is good? What is evil? On natural science, there is no such thing as good and evil. This, of course, does not mean to imply by any means that the atheist cannot discern between good and evil, nor that they are all evil, but to ask the much more fundamental question of how you can even claim something is good or evil? To say that what is good is that which brings about human flourishing just doesn’t cut it. For one, how do you know what brings about human flourishing? For two, why would we be so egotistical to think that we’re at the center of the universe, and that what is “good” would be based upon human flourishing? Why not assume that it is based upon what brings about good to the creation – which, lets face it, means our annihilation as the human race.
There simply isn’t a good argument that you can bring to say that there are objective moral values, simply because there is good and evil. In order for there to be objective moral values, there must be an objective moral code, or law. That objective moral code or law cannot come from humanity, for humanity is objectively held responsible to it. It has to come from some higher source than humanity.
The very fact that we cannot explain our moral dilemma, and that we cannot say why there should be any purpose to life at all, tells us that there must indeed be something more than just chemicals. We all have that desire to be something greater than just chemicals that go through the motions. That feeling in and of itself betrays us. Without God, there is no purpose to life. All is vanity, and all is hopeless. We’re left to subjective moralism, where nothing that I do is right or wrong, it is simply a matter of my own decision. We’re left to nihilism, because by what reasoning can you say that the animals have purpose, morality, rights, or any kind of objective goals or requirements? If the animals don’t have it, then why should humanity, seeing as we’re only a type of primate – animals with intelligence?
That life is in the blood. God has breathed into the very blood of the being a consciousness that defies scientific explanation. The animals have this too, for anyone with more than one animal can testify that they will all have different personalities.
What exactly is the importance of the blood? It really isn’t enough just to say that the life is in the blood. God continues in the verse to say that the life is in the blood so that we would have atonement. Any guesses as to what He is saying when He says that? I don’t have anything concrete on this, but I do have a guess.
The first sacrifice that we find in the Bible is in Genesis 3. A lot of people think that it is Cain and Abel who bring sacrifices for the first time, but it isn’t. God offers a sacrifice. In Genesis 3:21, God makes garments of skins and clothes Adam and Eve with them. Previously, they were clothed in fig leaves. This is the first time where we find the pattern that it takes the blood of an animal – or in this case, the skins of an animal – to cover over your nakedness and shame. It is not without blood, as Hebrews 9:7 tells us in a different context.
When we read the book of Ephesians, we come to 1:7 and read that it is through Christ’s blood that we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The thought continues to show that the consummation of that redemption is that all things would be brought under the one Head. We find in Ephesians 2:11-14 that Christ’s blood is the very thing that has brought us near to God, while we were far away and foreigners to the promise. Verse 14 tells us the importance of Christ’s body – that it is never just the blood alone, but even the body of Christ has immense importance (this is why we take the body and the blood in communion).
Jesus tells us in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life,” and again in verse 48, “I am the bread of life.” Yet, we shouldn’t neglect that this takes us directly into the dialogue that Jesus has with them gathered around, “This bread is my flesh”, and “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” It is not simply about the body, but also about the blood. Our communion with God – life eternal – is founded solely upon whether we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus. But what does that mean, especially seeing that Leviticus 17 tells us not to drink blood?
The blood would be sprinkled upon the altar, and there were even drains around the altars at the Temple because of the amount of blood that would be spilt. It is almost as if Christ is saying that we are like this altar that is supposed to “drink” the blood. It is quite possible that drinking of the blood of Christ, seeing as this is supposed to make it so that we will not thirst, is paralleled to “drinking” the Spirit (see John 4:10, 7:37-39, and 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Another possibility – which it might indeed be both – comes from the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus takes the third cup of wine and blesses it, He gives it to His disciples saying, “This is my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Yet, in Luke, we don’t have this “for the forgiveness of sins” phrase. Instead, Luke only records Jesus’ words as, “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” The reason this is important goes back to the Jewish custom for engagement.
When you would become betrothed to a woman, you were now “married”. In order to break the betrothal, you had to divorce your “wife”. This was so, even though the wedding hadn’t actually taken place yet. Now, when a young man wanted to marry a woman, he would go to his father and tell his father about this wonderful lady that he is attracted to. His father would then either tell the young man to find someone else, or would go with the young man to the young lady’s home. While at the home, they would sit down with her father, and they would discuss the marriage agreements. Because the woman was considered the father’s “property” (for lack of a better word), they had to pay him a certain amount in order for this young man to take her from her father’s care.
After it is all arranged and agreed upon, the young man would take a cup and fill it with wine. He would pray a blessing over it, and hand it to his soon-to-be wife, saying, “This cup is a new covenant in my blood. Take and drink of it.” In this, the young man is saying that he would rather shed his own blood and die than be without this young woman. The woman then has an option: either take it and drink it, saying essentially the same thing, or kindly refuse. For the young woman to take the wine, she has now married herself to this man.
When we look at the blood of Christ, it is more than just sacrifice, although that is extremely important. The blood of Christ represents to us a wedding vow. We are His, and He is ours. He shall return unto us, taking His bride unto Himself. It is for this reason that we must not pollute ourselves with idols and other forms of spiritual adultery. It is for this reason that there is a massive dialogue about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. To take of that cup is to be in remembrance that we are dedicated to God through Christ, and not just dedicated like a soldier, but like a bride.
Now, the way that the blood makes atonement (Leviticus 17:11) is thoroughly explained in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 9:13-14, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those whoa re ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death…” Notice verse 22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” 10:19, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence in the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body… let us draw near to God with a sincere heart…” 12:24, “But you have come… to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word that the blood of Abel.” 13:12, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.”
Notice the focus upon the blood. Romans 3:23-25, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (remember in Ephesians 1:7 that it is through His blood that we have redemption). God present him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood…” Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”
Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” Before moving on, notice that Christ’s blood is God’s blood. This is a verse to prove the belief in a trinity.
Colossians 1:20, “For God was pleased… to reconcile through himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” 1 Peter 1:2, “To God’s elect… who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood…” Notice that Peter is taking this idea of the sprinkling of the blood from Exodus 24:8, where Moses sprinkles the people with the blood to seal the covenant made with them at Sinai.
Now, in regard to Christ being a high priest, and how it could be that a human sacrifice would be acceptable to God, we find in Numbers 35:25 that the death of the high priest is redemptive. In fact, many Jewish scholars have taken this verse to mean that when the righteous die, they die on behalf of the sins of all of Israel.
Lastly, to sum up, we find the book of Revelation also containing a lot to say about the blood. In Revelation 1:5, Jesus freed us from our sins by His blood. 5:9, with His blood, Jesus purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 7:14, these great many clothed in white have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” 12:11, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
The life is in the blood. How impressive is it that God would not simply say in Leviticus that the blood is what atones, but that life itself is found in the blood? Here it is that we find not only atonement for our sins, and redemption, but even life itself – eternal life – to eat and drink the body and blood of Christ.