Forbidden to be eaten (Genesis 9:4) under the Old Testament, on the ground that "the life (soul) of the flesh (the soul which gives life to the flesh) is in the blood," and that "God gave it upon the altar to make atonement with for men's souls" (Leviticus 17:11). Translate the next clause, "for the blood maketh atonement by virtue of the soul." The blood, not in itself, but as the vehicle of the soul, atones, because the animal soul was offered to God on the altar as a. substitute for the human soul. Now that Christ's one, and only true, sacrifice has superseded animal sacrifices, the prohibition against eating blood ceases, the decree in Acts 15 being but temporary, not to offend existing Jewish prejudices needlessly. In Leviticus 3:17 the "fat" is forbidden as well as the blood. God reserved the blood to Himself, investing it with a sacramental sanctity, when allowing man animal food. Besides the atoning virtue it typically had, it brought a curse when not duly expiated, as by burial (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:13).
The blood of victims was caught by the priest in a basin, and sprinkled seven times (that of birds was squeezed out at once) on the altar, its four corners or horns, on its side above and below the line running round it, or on the mercy-seat, according to the nature of the offering; the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts (Exodus 12; Leviticus 4:5-7; Leviticus 16:14-19). A drain from the temple carried the blood into the brook Kedron. A land was regarded as polluted by blood shed on it, which was to be expiated only by the blood of the murderer, and not by any "satisfaction" (Genesis 4:10; Genesis 9:4-6; Hebrews 12:24; Numbers 35:31; Numbers 35:33; Psalm 106:38). The guilt of bloodshed, if the shedder was not known, fell on the city nearest by measurement, until it exculpated itself, its elders washing their hands over an expiatory sacrifice, namely, a beheaded heifer in a rough, unplowed, and unsown valley (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).
The blood and water from Jesus' side, when pierced after death, was something extraordinary; for in other corpses the blood coagulates, and the water does not flow clear. The "loud voice" just before death (Luke 23:46) shows that He did not die from mere exhaustion. The psalmist, His typical forerunner, says (Psalm 69:20), "reproach hath broken my heart." Crucifixion alone would not have killed Him in so short a time. Probably the truth is, if we may with reverence conjecture from hints in Scripture, that mental agony, when He hung under the Father's displeasure at our sins which He bore, caused rupture of the pericardium, or sac wherein the heart throbs. The extravasated blood separated into the crassamentum and serum, the blood and the water, and flowed out when the soldier's spear pierced the side.
Hence appears the propriety of Hebrews 10:19-20, "having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil (which was 'rent' at His death), that is to say His flesh." Also, "this is My body which is broken for you" (1 Corinthians 11:24) is explained by the breaking of the heart, though it was true "a bone of Him shall not be broken" (John 19:32-27); compare also 1 John 5:6, "this is He that came by water (at His baptism by John in Jordan) and blood" (by His bloody baptism, at Calvary).
THE AVENGING OF BLOOD by the nearest kinsman of the deceased was a usage from the earliest historical times (Genesis 9:5-6; Genesis 34:30; 2 Samuel 14:7). Among the Bedouin Arabs the thar, or law of blood, comes into effect if the offer of money satisfaction be refused. So among the Anglo-Saxons the wer-gild, or money satisfaction for homicide, varying in amount according to the rank, was customary. The Mosaic law mitigated the severity of the law of private revenge for blood, by providing six cities of refuge (among the 48 Levitical cities), three on one side of Jordan, three on the other, for the involuntary homicide to flee into. The avenger, or goel (derived from a Hebrew root "pollution," implying that he was deemed polluted until the blood of his slain kinsman was expiated), was nearest of kin to the man slain, and was bound to take vengeance on the manslayer.
If the latter reached one of the six cities, (Kedesh in Naphtali, Shechem in mount Ephraim, Hebron in the hill country of Judah, W. of Jordan; Bezor in Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead (Gad), Golan in Manasseh, E. of Jordan,) he was safe until the elders of the city, and then those of his own city, decided whether it was an involuntary act. In this case he was kept safe from the avenger in the city of refuge, so long as he did not go 2,000 cubits beyond its precincts. After the high priest's death he might return home in safety (Numbers 35:25; Numbers 35:28; Joshua 20:4-6). The roads were to be kept clear, that nothing might retard the flight of the manslayer, to whom every moment was precious (Deuteronomy 19:3). Jewish tradition adds that posts inscribed "Refuge," "Refuge," were to be set up at the cross roads. All necessaries of water, etc., were in the cities.
No implements of war were allowed there. The law of retaliation in blood affected only the manslayer, and not also (as among pagan nations) his relatives (Deuteronomy 24:16). Blood revenge still prevails in Corsica. The law of blood avenging by the nearest kinsman, though incompatible with our ideas in a more civilized age and nation, is the means of preventing much bloodshed among the Arabs; and its introduction into the law of Israel, a kindred race, accords with the provisional character of the whole Mosaic system, which establishes not what is absolutely best, supposing a state of optimism, but what was best under existing circumstances. Moreover, it contained an important typical lesson, hinted at in Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 2:14-15.
The Son of man, as He to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, is the goel or avenger of blood on guilty man, involved by Satan the "murderer from the beginning" in murderous rebellion against God. He, in another sense, is the goel or redeemer of man, as the high priest whose death sets the shut up captive free; He is also the priestly city of refuge (His priestly office being the mean of our salvation), by fleeing into which man is safe; but in this latter sense, as our High priest "ever liveth," we must not only eater the city, and moreover abide in Him, but also abide in Him forever for eternal safety (John 15:1-11). "The way" to Him is clearly pointed out by God Himself (Isaiah 30:21). "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of hope" (Zechariah 9:12) Once in Christ, He can defy avenging justice (Romans 8:33-34).
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