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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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Beside its proper sense, the fluid of the veins of men and animals, the term in Scripture is used,

1. For life. "God will require the blood of a man," he will punish murder in what manner soever committed. "His blood be upon us," let the guilt of his death be imputed to us. "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth;" the murder committed on him crieth for vengeance. "The avenger of blood;"

he who is to avenge the death of his relative, Numbers 35:24 ; Numbers 35:27 .

2. Blood means relationship, or consanguinity.

3. Flesh and blood are placed in opposition to a superior nature: "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven,"

Matthew 16:17 .

4. They are also opposed to the glorified body; "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God," 1 Corinthians 15:50 .

5. They are opposed also to evil spirits: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood," against visible enemies composed of flesh and blood, "but against principalities and powers," &c, Ephesians 6:12 .

6. Wine is called the pure blood of the grape: "Judah shall wash his garments in the blood of the grape," Genesis 49:11 ; Deuteronomy 32:14 .

7. The priests were established by God to judge between blood and blood; that is, in criminal matters, and where the life of man is at stake;—to determine whether the murder be casual, or voluntary; whether a crime deserve death, or admit of remission, &c.

8. In its most eminent sense blood is used for the sacrificial death of Christ; whose blood or death is the price of our salvation. His blood has "purchased the church," Acts 20:28 . "We are justified by his blood,"

Romans 5:9 "We have redemption through his blood," Ephesians 1:7 , &c. See ATONEMENT .

That singular and emphatic prohibition of blood for food from the earliest times, which we find in the Holy Scriptures, deserves particular attention. God expressly forbade the eating of blood alone, or of blood mixed with the flesh of animals, as when any creature was suffocated, or strangled, or killed without drawing its blood from the carcass. For when the grant of animal food was made to Noah, in those comprehensive words, "Even as the green herb have I given you all things," it was added, "but flesh with the life thereof, namely, its blood, ye shall not eat" Genesis 9:4 . And when the law was given to the children of Israel, we find the prohibition against the eating of blood still more explicitly enforced, both upon Jews and Gentiles, in the following words, "Whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people: for the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,"

Leviticus 17:10-11 . And to cut off all possibility of mistake upon this particular point, it is added: "Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood; and whatsoever man there be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, which hunteth and catcheth any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he shall even pour out the blood thereof and cover it with dust, for it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof; therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof; whosoever eateth it shall be cut off," Leviticus 17:12-14 . This restraint, than which nothing can be more express, was also, under the new covenant, enjoined upon believing Gentiles, as "a burden" which "it seemed necessary to the Holy Spirit to impose upon them," Acts 15:28-29 . For this prohibition no moral reason seems capable of being offered; nor does it clearly appear that blood is an unwholesome aliment, which some think was the physical reason of its being inhibited; and if, in fact, blood is deleterious as food, there seems no greater reason why this should be pointed out by special revelation to man, to guard him against injury, than many other unwholesome ailments. There is little force in the remark, that the eating of blood produces a ferocious disposition; for those nations that eat strangled things, or blood cooked with other ailments, do not exhibit more ferocity than others. The true reason was, no doubt, a sacrificial one. When animals were granted to Noah for food, the blood was reserved; and when the same law was reenacted among the Israelites, the original prohibition is repeated, with an explanation which at once shows the original ground upon which it rested: "I have given it upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls." From this "additional reason," as it has been called, it has been argued, that the doctrine of the atoning power of blood was new, and was, then, for the first time, announced by Moses, or the same cause for the prohibition would have been assigned to Noah. To this we may reply,

1. That unless the same reason be supposed as the ground of the prohibition of blood to Noah, as that given by Moses to the Jews, no reason at all can be conceived for this restraint being put upon the appetite of mankind from Noah to Moses; and yet we have a prohibition of a most solemn kind, which in itself could have no reason, enjoined without any external reason being either given or conceivable.

2. That it is a mistake to suppose that the declaration of Moses to the Jews, that God had "given them the blood for an atonement," is an "additional reason" for the interdict, not to be found in the original prohibition to Noah. The whole passage occurs in Leviticus 17; and the great reason there given of the prohibition of blood is, that it is "the life;" and what follows respecting "atonement," is exegetical of this reason;—the life is in the blood, and the blood or life is given as an atonement. Now, by turning to the original prohibition in Genesis, we find that precisely the same reason is given: "But the flesh with the blood, which is the life thereof, shall ye not eat." The reason, then, being the same, the question is, whether the exegesis added by Moses must not necessarily be understood in the general reason given for the restraint to Noah. Blood is prohibited because it is the life; and Moses adds, that it is "the blood," or life, "which makes atonement." Let any one attempt to discover any reason for the prohibition of blood to Noah, in the mere circumstance that it is "the life," and he will find it impossible. It is no reason at all, moral or instituted, except that as it was LIFE SUBSTITUTED FOR LIFE, the life of the animal in sacrifice for the life of man, and that, therefore, blood had a sacred appropriation. The manner, too, in which Moses introduces the subject, is indicative that, though he was renewing a prohibition, he was not publishing a new doctrine; he does not teach his people that God had then given, or appointed, blood to make atonement; but he prohibits them from eating it, because he had already made this appointment, without reference to time, and as a subject with which they were familiar. Because the blood was the life, it was sprinkled upon, and poured out at, the altar: and we have in the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, and the sprinkling of its blood, a sufficient proof that, before the giving of the law, not only was blood not eaten, but was appropriated to a sacred sacrificial purpose. Nor was this confined to the Jews; it was customary with the Romans and Greeks, who, in like manner, poured out and sprinkled the blood of victims at their altars; a rite derived, probably, from the Egyptians, who deduced it, not from Moses, but from the sons of Noah. The notion, indeed, that the blood of the victims was peculiarly sacred to the gods, is impressed upon all ancient Pagan mythology.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Blood'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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