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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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There are two respects in which the ordinances of the Old and New Testaments concerning blood deserve notice here—the prohibition of its use as an article of food, and the appointment and significance of its use in the ritual of sacrifice; both of which appear to rest on a common ground.

In Genesis 9:4, where the use of animal food is allowed, it is first absolutely forbidden to eat 'flesh with its soul, its blood;' which expression, were it otherwise obscure, is explained by the mode in which the same terms are employed in Deuteronomy 12:23. In the Mosaic law the prohibition is repeated with frequency and emphasis although it is generally introduced in connection with sacrifices, as in Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26; Leviticus 17:10-14; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16-23; Deuteronomy 15:23. 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 victim 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' (Leviticus 17:11-12). 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 (cf. Hebrews 10:28), although it is difficult to ascertain whether it was inflicted by the sword or by stoning. To this is to be added, that the Apostles and elders, assembled in council at Jerusalem, when desirous of settling the extent to which the ceremonial observances were binding upon the converts to Christianity, renewed the injunction to abstain from blood, and coupled it with things offered to idols (Acts 15:29).

In direct opposition to this emphatic prohibition of blood in the Mosaic law, the customs of uncivilized heathens sanctioned the cutting of slices from the living animal, and the eating of the flesh while quivering with life and dripping with blood. Even Saul's army committed this barbarity, as we read in 1 Samuel 14:32; and the prophet also lays it to the charge of the Jews in Ezekiel 33:25. This practice, according to Bruce's testimony, exists at present among the Abyssinians. Moreover, pagan religions, and that of the Phoenicians among the rest, appointed the eating and drinking of blood, mixed with wine, as a rite of idolatrous worship, and especially in the ceremonial of swearing. To this the passage in Psalms 16:4, appears to allude.

The appointment and significance of the use of blood in the ritual of sacrifice belongs indeed to this head; but their further notice will be more appropriately pursued in the article: Sacrifices.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Blood'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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