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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
Avenger of blood
Issue of blood
• Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Blood, & fat Fat
• Torrey's Topical Textbook
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
Avenger of Blood
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
Avenger of blood
Jezreel, Blood of
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Avenger of Blood, The
Avenging of Blood, The
• Smith's Bible Dictionary
Blood, Revenger of
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Blood and Water
Blood, Avenger of
Blood, Issue of
Flesh and Blood
Issue (of Blood)
Greek - shedding of blood
Greek - diseased with an issue of blood
Greek - blood
Hebrew - blood, bloodguiltiness, bloodthirsty, bloody, bloodguilt, bloodshed, guilt of blood, lifeblood
Hebrew - blood relative, blood relatives
Hebrew - blood, lifeblood

has great significance in the Bible. Its meanings involve profound aspects of human life and God's desire to transform human existence. Blood is intimately associated with physical life. Blood and “life” or “living being” are closely associated. The Hebrews of Old Testament times were prohibited from eating blood. “Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water” (Deuteronomy 12:23-24). For agricultural people, this command stressed the value of life. Though death was ever-present, life was sacred. Life was not to be regarded cheaply.

Even when the Old Testament speaks of animal sacrifice and atonement, the sacredness of life is emphasized. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). Perhaps because an animal life was given up (and animals were a vital part of a person's property), this action taken before God indicated how each person is estranged from God. In giving what was of great value, the person offering the sacrifice showed that reconciliation with God involved life—the basic element of human existence. How giving up an animal life brought about redemption and reconciliation is not clear. What is clear is that atonement was costly. Only the New Testament could show how costly it was.

Flesh and Blood This phrase designates a human being. When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus told Peter, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:1;Matthew 17:1). No human agent informed Peter; the Father Himself disclosed this truth. When “flesh and blood” is used of Jesus, it designates His whole person: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me and I in him” (John 6:56). The next verse shows that eating “blood and flesh” is powerful metaphorical language for sharing in the life that Jesus bestows—”so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me” (John 6:57).

When Paul used the phrase “flesh and blood” in 1 Corinthians 15:50, he referred to sinful human existence: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” The sinfulness of human beings disqualifies them as inheritors of God's kingdom. In Galatians 1:16, Paul used “flesh and blood” as a synonym for human beings with whom he did not consult after his conversion. Paul said his gospel came directly from God.

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul portrayed Christians in conflict—their wrestling is “not against flesh and blood” but with higher, demonic powers, “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Of course, Christians do meet opposition to Christ and the gospel from other human beings, but behind all human opposition is a demonic-Satanic opposition. Human beings choose to identify with moral evil. We wrestle with the demonic leaders of moral revolt.

Finally, the phrase “flesh and blood” sometimes designates human nature apart from moral evil. Jesus, like other children of His people, was a partaker “of flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14). Because He did so, He could die a unique, atoning death. He was fully human, yet more than human; He was both God and man.

After the flood, God renewed the original command that Noah and his sons be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 9:1). They were not to eat the flesh with its life, that means the blood (Genesis 9:4). Then murder is forbidden (Genesis 9:5-6). The reason is explained thus: “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6). Since a murderer destroys one made in God's image, murder is an attack upon God.

In Deuteronomy 21:1-9, we read of an elaborate ceremony by elders concerning a person murdered in the fields near their city. They were to pray for the Lord's forgiveness by atonement: “Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel's charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them” (Deuteronomy 21:8; see Deuteronomy 21:9). The victim is assumed to be innocent, and the community is held responsible. A person who killed another accidentally had six cities to which he could flee and there establish his innocence (Joshua 20:1-9). He had to flee because the avenger of blood (the nearest of kin to the person murdered) was obligated to kill the individual who had murdered his relative (Numbers 35:1).

Jesus condemned the scribes and Pharisees of His day who would kill some of the “prophets, and wise men, and scribes” sent by Jesus (Matthew 23:34). This generation would be held accountable not only for their own sins but for “all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zecharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Matthew 23:35; compare 2 Chronicles 24:20-21).

When Pilate saw that justice was being distorted at the trial of Jesus, he washed his hands symbolically and declared his own innocence: “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it [i.e., that's your affair]” (Matthew 27:24). The people replied naively, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).

Blood of sacrifices, blood of the covenant The great historic event of the Old Testament was the Exodus from Egypt. Central to that event was the offering of a lamb from the sheep or from the goats (Exodus 12:5). The blood of that lamb was put on the top and the two sides of the door frame (Exodus 12:7,Exodus 12:22-23). When the angel passed through, destroying the firstborn in Egypt, he would pass by the houses in Israel's part of Egypt that were marked in this fashion. In terms of its redemptive effects, none of the daily sacrifices made throughout the Old Testament (see Leviticus) were as dramatic as the Passover sacrifice.

Almost as dramatic as the Passover was the ceremony at the dedication of the covenant treaty at Sinai between Yahweh and His covenant people, the Israelites (Exodus 24:1-8). Moses took the blood of oxen and placed it in two bowls. Half of it he dashed upon the altar and half he dashed upon the people (Exodus 24:6-8). Moses declared “Behold the blood of the covenant which the LORD hath made (literally, cut) with you concerning [or in agreement with] all these words.” The people solemnly promised to act in agreement with this covenant (Exodus 24:3,Exodus 24:7).

When Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant after His last Passover with the disciples, He declared: “This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Luke reads: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Testament means covenant here. Jesus, the God-man, gave up His life and experienced the reality of death so that those who identify themselves with Jesus might experience His life and never taste death as He did. He died as a sin-bearer that we might live for righteousness and become healed (1 Peter 2:24).

Blood of Christ—meaning and effects The term “blood of Christ” designates in the New Testament the atoning death of Christ. Atonement refers to the basis and process by which estranged people become at one with God (atonement-one-ment). When we identify with Jesus, we are no longer at odds with God. The meaning of Christ's death is a great mystery. The New Testament seeks to express this meaning in two ways: (1) in the language of sacrifice, and (2) in language pertaining to the sphere of law. This sacrificial language and legal language provide helpful analogies. However, the meaning of Christ's death is far more than an enlargement of animal sacrifices or a spiritualization of legal transactions. Sometimes, both legal and sacrificial language are found together.

In the language of sacrifice we have “expiation” (removal of sins, Romans 3:25); “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus” (1 Peter 1:1-2); “redeemed by precious blood as of a lamb without spot and without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19); “blood of His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7); “blood that cleanses the conscience” (Hebrews 9:14); and “blood of an eternal covenant” (Hebrews 13:20). In legal language we have “justification” (Romans 5:9); “redemption” (Ephesians 1:7); been redeemed to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9). Such metaphors show that only God could provide atonement; Jesus, the God-man was both Priest and Offering, both Redeemer and the One intimately involved with the redeemed.

Blood is a symbol and indicator of apocalyptic judgment In Acts 2:17-21, the apostle Peter quotes Joel 2:28-32. Peter emphasized that the coming of the Spirit upon various groups was accomplished in his day. The Spirit came upon Jew and Gentile (all flesh), sons and daughters, younger men and older men, and upon men-servants and maid-servants. Peter urged his audience to respond by calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21). Although Peter also quoted Joel 2:30-31 (Acts 2:19-20), he did not develop the apocalyptic theme of judgment when the age to come breaks forth into this age. The text of Joel that Peter quoted in Acts speaks of “wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath—blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke” (Acts 2:19; compare Joel 2:30). In the next verse (Joel 2:31; Acts 2:20), the sun is pictured turning into darkness and the moon into blood before the great day of the Lord comes. Here the term “blood” describes the physical changes both in the heavens and upon earth. Even the balance of nature will reflect God's hand of judgment as Christ takes up His reign. Nature off balance reflects the disharmony between human beings and God. The bloody red color symbolizes this.

A. Berkeley Mickelsen

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'BLOOD'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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