Blood (דָּם, dam; αϊvμα: both occasionally used, by Hebraism, in the plural with a sing. sense), the red fluid circulating in the veins of men and animals. The term is employed in Scripture in a variety of senses.
1. As Food. — To blood is ascribed in Scripture the mysterious sacredness which belongs to life, and God reserved it to Himself when allowing man the dominion over and the use of the lower animals for food, etc. (See Thomson, Land and Book, i, 136.) In Ge 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 De 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 Le 3:7; Le 7:26 (in both which places blood is coupled in the prohibition with the fat of the victims); 17:10-14; 19:2; De 12:16-23; De 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" (Le 17:11; Le 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 (comp. Heb 10:28), although it is difficult to ascertain whether it was inflicted by the sword or by stoning. It is observed by Michaelis (iMos. Recht. 4:45) that the blood of fishes does not appear to be interdicted. The words in Le 7:26, only expressly mention that of birds and cattle. This accords, however, with the reasons assigned for the prohibition of blood, inasmuch as fishes could not be offered to the Lord, although they formed a significant offering in heathen religions. 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 (Ac 15:29). It is perhaps worthy of notice here that Mohammed, while professing to abrogate some of the dietary restrictions of the Jewish law (which he asserts were imposed on account of the sins of the Jews, Sura 4:158). still enforces, among others, abstinence from blood and from things offered to idols (Koran, Sur. v, 4; 6:146, ed. Flugel).
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 1Sa 14:32; and the prophet also lays it to the charge of the Jews in Eze 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 Ps 16:4 appears to allude (comp. Michaelis, Critisth. Colleg. p. 108, where several testimonies on this subject are collected).
Among Christians different views have been entertained respecting the eating of blood, some maintaining that its prohibition in the Scriptures is to be regarded as merely ceremonial and temporary, while others contend that it is unlawful under any circumstances, and that Christians are as much bound to abstain from it now as were the Jews under the Mosaic economy. This they found on the facts that when animal food was originally granted to man, there was an express reservation in the article of the blood; that this grant was made to the new parents of the whole human family after the flood, consequently the tenure by which any of mankind are permitted to eat animals is in every case accompanied with this restriction; that there never was any reversal of the prohibition; that most express injunctions were given on the point in the Jewish code; and that in the New Testament, instead of there being the least hint intimating that we are freed from the obligation, it is deserving of particular notice that at the very time when the Holy Spirit declares by the apostles (Acts 15) that the Gentiles are free from the yoke of circumcision, abstinence from blood is explicitly enjoined, and the action thus prohibited is classed with idolatry and fornication. After the time of Augustine the rule began to be held merely as a temporary injunction. It was one of the grounds alleged by the early apologists against the calumnies of the enemies of Christianity that, so far were they from drinking human blood, it was unlawful for them to drink the blood even of irrational animals. Numerous testimonies to the same effect are found in after ages (Bingham, Orig. Eccl., bk. 17:ch. v, § 20). SEE FOOD.
2. Sacrificial. — It was a well-established rabbinical maxim (Mishna, Yoma, v, 1; Menachoth, xciii, 2) that the blood of a victim is essential to atonement (כפרה אלא בדם אין, i.e. "there is no expiation except by blood"), a principle recognised by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (χωρὶς αὶματεκχυσίας οὐ γίνσται ἄφεσις, 9:22). See Bahr, Symbol. ii, 201 sq. SEE EXPIATION. The blood of sacrifices was caught by the Jewish priest from the neck of the victim in a basin, then sprinkled seven times (in the case of birds at once shed out) on the altar, i.e. on its horns, its base, or its four corners, or on its side above or below a line running round it, or on the mercy-seat, according to the quality and purpose of the offering; but that of the Passover on the lintel and door-posts (Ex 12; Le 4:5-7; Le 16:14-19; Ugolini, Thes. vol. x and xiii). There was a drain from the Temple into the brook Cedron to carry off the blood (Maimon. apud Cramer de A ra Exter. Ugolini, viii). It sufficed to pour the animal's blood on the earth, or to bury it, as a solemn rendering of the life to God. SEE SACRIFICE.
3. Homicidal. — In this respect " blood" is often used for life: God " will require the blood of man ;" he will punish murder in what manner soever committed (Ge 9:5). " His blood be upon us" (Mt 27:25), let the guilt of his death be imputed to us. "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth;" the murder committed on him crieth for vengeance (Ge 4:10). "The avenger of blood;" he who is to avenge the death of his relative (Nu 35:24,27). The priests under the Mosaic law were constituted judges between "blood and blood," that is, in criminal matters, and when the life of man was at stake; they had to determine whether the murder were casual or voluntary, whether a crime deserved death or admitted of remission (De 17:8). In case of human bloodshed, a mysterious connection is observable between the curse of blood and the earth or land on which it is shed, which becomes polluted by it; and the proper expiation is the blood of the shedder, which every one had thus an interest in exacting, and was bound to seek (Ge 4:10; Ge 9:4-6; Nu 35:33; Ps 106:38). SEE AVENGER OF BLOOD. In the case of a dead body found and the death not accounted for, the guilt of blood attached to the nearest city, to be ascertained by measurement, until freed by prescribed rites of expiation (De 21:1-9). The guilt of murder is one for which a satisfaction" was forbidden (Nu 35:31). SEE MURDER.
4. In a slightly metaphorical sense, " blood" sometimes means race or nature, by virtue of relationship or consanguinity: God "hath made of one blood all nations of men" (Ac 17:26). It is also used as the symbol of slaughter and mortality (Isa 34:3; Eze 14:19). It also denotes every kind of premature death (Eze 32:6; Eze 39:18). "The bold imager' of the prophet," says Archbishop Newcome, " is founded on the custom of invitations to feasts after sacrifices; kings, princes, and tyrants being expressed by rams, bulls, and he-goats." Blood is sometimes put for sanguinary purposes, as in Isa 33:15, "He that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood," or, more properly, who stoppeth his ears to the proposal of bloodshed. To "wash the feet in blood" (Ps 58:10) is to gain a victory with much slaughter. To "build a town with blood" (Hab 2:12) is by causing the death of the oppressed laborers as slaves.
Wine is called the blood of the grape; "He washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes" (Ge 49:11). Here the figure is easily understood, as any thing of a red color may be compared to blood. See Wemyss, Symbol. Dict. s.v.
FLESH AND BLOOD are placed in opposition to a superior or spiritual nature: " Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17). Flesh and blood are also opposed to the glorified body: "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Co 15:50). They are opposed to evil spirits: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood," against visible enemies composed of flesh and blood, "but against principalities and powers," etc. (Eph 6:12). SEE EUCHARIST.