I have seen some unbelievers/non-Christians ask, "Why did Jesus have to die?" Because of the widespread biblical illiteracy today, there are many people who don't understand why God would sacrifice His own Son. Others have accused God of being a bloodthirsty God. Still others (likely animal rights activists) have been shocked that there were animal sacrifices in the Old Testament, comparing that to ancient pagan sacrifices (which is ridiculous, because pagan sacrifices were usually human sacrifices, and were often baby sacrifices; i.e., when they would throw their babies in the fire as an offering to the (false) god Molech). I have seen others mock the ancient Jewish Kosher Laws, including the law against eating blood.
The following is an attempt to address some of these issues, at least in part.
“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." (Lev. 17:10-14)
The blood shed in the sacrifices was sacred. It epitomized the life of the sacrificial victim. After sin entered into the world, God required the blood sacrifice of animals for the atonement of sins.
"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." (Lev. 17:11)
Definition of atonement:
- satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends
- Theology: the doctrine concerning the reconciliation of God and humankind, esp. as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Christ
- Archaic: reconciliation; agreement
Why is blood representative of life?
We can’t live without blood in our body. Blood is essential for good health because the body depends on a steady supply of fuel and oxygen to reach its billions of cells. Even the heart couldn't survive without blood flowing through the vessels that bring nourishment to its muscular walls. Blood also carries carbon dioxide and other waste materials to the lungs, kidneys, and digestive system; from there they are removed from the body. Without blood, we couldn't keep warm or cool off, we couldn't fight infections, and we couldn't get rid of our own waste products. There are approximately 60,000 miles of capillaries in the body. Arterial circulation takes freshly oxygenated blood from the heart to all the cells throughout the body. The heart is the strongest muscle in the body. The body's blood is circulated through the heart more than 1,000 times per day. Between five and six thousand quarts of blood are pumped each day.
Since life was sacred, blood (a symbol of life) had to be treated with respect.
"And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." (Gen. 9:5-6)
Eating blood was therefore strictly forbidden. Practically every sacrifice included the sprinkling or smearing of blood on the altar or within the tabernacle, thus teaching that atonement involves the substitution of life for life.
"The priest is to sprinkle the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and burn the fat as an aroma pleasing to the LORD." (Lev. 17:6)
"He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting." (Lev. 1:5)
"He is to lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Then Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood against the altar on all sides." (Lev. 3:2)
"He is to dip his finger into the blood and sprinkle some of it seven times before the LORD, in front of the curtain of the sanctuary." (Lev. 4:6)
"Then the priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar." (Lev. 4:25)
"The guilt offering is to be slaughtered in the place where the burnt offering is slaughtered, and its blood is to be sprinkled against the altar on all sides." (Lev. 7:2)
"In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." (Heb. 9:22)
Note: The method of slaughter was a quick, deep stroke across the throat with a perfectly sharp blade with no nicks or unevenness. This method is painless, causes unconsciousness within seconds, and is widely recognized as the most humane method of slaughter possible.
"Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words." (Exodus 24:8)
"This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, "This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep." (Hebrews 9:18-20)
But the blood of animals really couldn't do the trick. The Israelites were still unfaithful to their God as evidenced by their whoring after other gods. A better sacrifice was needed.
God promised His people, the Jewish people, a new covenant about 600 years before the coming of Christ. We will see that this covenant would also require blood.
"The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." (Jer. 31:31)
In actuality, the blood of the Old Testament sacrifice pointed forward to the blood of the Lamb of God, Who obtained for His people “eternal redemption.” The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were only a picture of the ultimate sacrifice. When Jesus Christ went to the cross approximately 2,000 years ago, He was the ULTIMATE sacrifice.
"…because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Heb. 10:4)
"This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper." (Hebrews 9:9)
"He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption." (Heb. 9:12)
"The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are 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, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:13-14)
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matt. 26:28)
Speaking of Jesus Christ, our perfect and ultimate High Priest:
"But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." (Hebrews 10:12)
"Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." (Hebrews 7:27)