The Bible teaches that blood is sacred because it represents life. This principle is first introduced in Genesis 9:4, where God tells Noah, “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” The instruction not to consume blood is repeated in the laws God gives to Moses for the Israelites in Leviticus 17:14: “For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life.”
There are a few key reasons why blood is so significant in the Bible:
1. Blood represents life
Leviticus 17:11 states, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Blood flows through our veins and arteries, bringing oxygen and nutrients to every cell of our body. Without blood, there is no life. The shedding of blood represents the loss of life. Blood also carries our DNA and genetic code that makes us who we are.
Leviticus 17:14 further explains, “the life of every creature is its blood.” This applies not just to human beings, but to all living creatures. An animal’s life is also contained in its blood.
2. Blood atones for sin
In the Old Testament sacrificial system, the blood of animals was shed as a substitute for the sinner’s life. Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” The phrase “blood makes atonement” is repeated multiple times in Leviticus.
The principle established in the Old Testament sacrificial system foreshadowed the atoning work of Christ in the New Testament. Jesus shed his own blood to make final atonement for our sins (Hebrews 9:11-14).
3. Blood seals covenants
In biblical times, blood was used to seal covenants and agreements. An example of this is Abraham sacrificing animals and God passing through the pieces as a smoking oven and burning torch when making his covenant (Genesis 15:9-17).
The New Covenant was also established with blood. At the Last Supper, Jesus said of the wine, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Hebrews 9:18-22 reiterates that blood is required to inaugurate a covenant: “Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats…saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.'”
4. Blood sanctifies and cleanses
In the Old Testament, blood was used to cleanse people and objects from impurity. Blood applied to the altar sanctified it (Exodus 29:12). Blood applied to the right ear, thumb, and big toe of Aaron and his sons consecrated them as priests (Leviticus 8:23-24).
The New Testament also speaks of blood as purifying and cleansing. 1 John 1:7 declares, “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Hebrews 9:13-14 contrasts the blood of goats and bulls with Christ’s blood, saying “For if the blood of goats and bulls…sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
5. Blood unites people with Christ
In John 6, Jesus emphasizes the need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. He states, “Truly, truly, 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 feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6:53-55).
Jesus was speaking figuratively here, not about literally drinking his blood. His point was that we must be united to him if we want to share in eternal life. We spiritually partake of Christ’s flesh and blood when we trust in his sacrificial death on our behalf.
6. Blood represents death and judgment
While blood gives life, the shedding of blood results in death. Bloodshed brings God’s judgment and wrath.
After Cain murdered his brother Abel, God said to him, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). Murder pollutes the land with bloodguilt and demands justice (Numbers 35:33).
The plagues on Egypt turned their waters to blood as a judgment (Exodus 7:17-21). Prior to the fall of Jerusalem, Ezekiel prophesied, “Make the land full of the slain; in my wrath make the land full of blood” (Ezekiel 35:8).
The book of Revelation describes end times judgments involving blood: rivers and seas turning to blood (Revelation 8:8, 16:3-4), blood rain (Revelation 14:20), and blood up to horses’ bridles (Revelation 14:20).
Overall, the many references to blood throughout Scripture convey its supreme value and sacredness in God’s eyes. He has imbued blood with deep spiritual meaning and purpose.
7. Blood signifies Christ’s humanity
Blood is a reminder that Jesus was fully human. He was not just God but became flesh and blood like us. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things.” Jesus bled when the crown of thorns was placed on his head before crucifixion (John 19:1-3).
1 John 5:6-8 declares, “This is he who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” Here, Christ’s blood testifies together with the Spirit that he is the Son of God in human form.
8. Blood and the Eucharist
For Christians who hold to transubstantiation, the Eucharist (communion) literally becomes the blood and body of Jesus Christ when consecrated. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and some other Protestant groups believe Christ’s words “This is my body” and “This is my blood” mean the elements are transformed into Jesus’s actual body and blood.
Other Protestants view the Eucharist as symbolic only, an act of remembrance and proclamation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The bread and wine (or juice) do not miraculously change substance, but represent his body and blood given for us.
9. Blood in modern medicine
Blood transfusions and organ/tissue donations raise ethical issues for some Christians seeking to honor the Bible’s mandate not to consume blood. Many Christians accept transfusions and donations as an act of preserving life, which aligns with scriptural values. But groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid transfusions, while Eastern Orthodox churches prohibit donations after death.
Blood also represents life in modern science. Doctors speak of circulation, blood pressure, bleeding disorders, and blood as a life source. Losing large amounts of blood or a damaged cardiovascular system leads to death. In this sense, the Bible’s symbolism of blood as life remains very relevant.
10. Jesus’s blood demonstrates God’s love
Ultimately, the blood Christ shed on the cross provides the most profound demonstration of God’s love. Romans 5:8-9 proclaims, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” No other sacrifice could pay our sin debt.
Ephesians 1:7-8a beautifully sums up the power of Jesus’s blood: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” His precious blood redeems us and declares we are forgiven and loved beyond measure.