Why a Blood Sacrifice?

I received this question from the question box: Why a blood sacrifice – why was salvation set up like this from the beginning – God could’ve chosen any type of salvation – why did blood have to be shed – why require this type of sacrifice?

Let’s first consider the concept of blood from a biblical perspective. The ancient Hebrew meaning of the word “blood” is “the moving back and forth of water, or the flowing of blood. The grapevine is considered by taking in water from the ground and moving it to the fruit where the water becomes the blood of the grape. Likewise, both mankind takes in water and produces blood. Science today considers blood to be the primary lifeforce of the body, but long before mankind understood this fact, God had addressed this point all throughout His word.

God explained to the children of Israel that the life of our bodies is in our blood; God further explained that He has given blood to the Israelites upon the altar to make atonement for their souls. Read the text below for yourself (I will highlight two words that we will look into afterward):

Leviticus 17:11  “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 makes atonement for the soul.”

This scripture essentially answers the question of “why a blood sacrifice”, but I would like to look even closer into this matter. The words I highlighted above are “life” and “soul”. Unfortunately, they appear to be two different words in English, but in Hebrew they are the same word: nephesh. This Hebrew word is translated “life” 102 times in the Old Testament text, but it is translated “soul” 411 times. Why the translators flipped-flopped throughout the English text, I do not know. Nonetheless, the word “life” means the same as the word “soul”. In Hebrew, nephesh means: the whole of a person. Thus, according to God, the life (soul, the whole of a person) is in the blood. In the shedding of blood there is the loss of life.

In John 1:4, John speaks of our God and Creator, saying that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” However, since the first sin in the garden of Eden, sin separated us from a sinless God, thus separating us from “life” and man not only died in terms of spiritual separation from God, but man also died physically. Paul stated: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22). So, Christ, who is called our God and Creator in John chapter one, can make us alive again, but how? Back to John, he explains that our Creator “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). This is a very important point concerning salvation, for it is evident that the Savior had to put on human flesh and dwell as a man among men. This requirement is due to the fact that God is just, and it is justifiable for a soul/life and blood that is equal to man (not animal blood) be given as a redeeming value for man’s loss of life. In John 6:53-54, John records Jesus’ words the day after he had fed the 5,000. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Later in the chapter, Jesus will explain that eating His flesh and blood means to make His words your life (v.63). It is by obedience to His words that we receive life again, this is how we take part in the redemption from His flesh and blood given for us. This redemption not only removes our separation from God (spiritual death) but, as Jesus said in the verse above, He will give life to our bodies of death again: “I will raise him up at the last day”. The resurrection has everything to do with the victory we have over bodily death, because of the victory that Jesus had over bodily death.

Our atonement by blood is also called “propitiation” in the New Testament (Romans 3:24-25, 1 John 2:2). Long ago, God had taught man this necessary concept by use of the model of the “mercy seat” (same word as “propitiation”) which covered the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place; this was the place of God’s presence near the people, although separated from the people by walls of curtains. It was upon the mercy seat where the High Priest would make atonement for the sins of the people once a year. The High Priest would use the very best of spot-free, blemish-free, illness-free animal blood, but it still could never take away sin (Hebrews 10:1-4). Nevertheless, this was set up by God till the Savior would come, to teach man the need for such a blood sacrifice that our Savior could provide.

Why blood, you ask? Because it is our life/soul. Because it is the way we are made and the way that we are sustained alive. Hypothetically, If we were made different way, then the appropriate sacrifice would still have to be from whatever our lifeforce is. To regain our lives, we must be redeemed by that which is equal to our lifeforce: blood.

Article by Tanner Campbell.