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INDICATIONS OF THE RITE IN THE BIBLE.
I. LIMITATIONS OF INQUIRY.
AND now, before entering upon an examination of the Bible text in the light of these disclosures of primitive and universal customs, it may be well for me to say that I purpose no attempt to include or to explain all the philosophy of sacrifice, and of the involved atonement. All my thought is, to ascertain what new meaning, if any, is found in the Bible teachings concerning the uses and the symbolism of blood, through our better understanding of the prevailing idea, among the peoples of the ancient world, that blood represents life; that the giving of blood represents the giving of life; that the receiving of blood represents the receiving of life; that the inter-commingling of blood represents the inter-commingling of natures; and that a divine-human inter-union through blood is the basis of a divine-human inter-communion in the sharing of the flesh of the sacrificial offering as sacred food.
Whatever other Bible teachings there are, beyond
these, as to the meanings of sacrifice, or as to the nature of the atonement, it is not my purpose, in this investigation, to consider.
In the days of Moses, when the Pentateuch is supposed to have been prepared, there were as we have already found-certain well-defined views, the world over, concerning the sacredness of blood, and concerning the methods, the involvings, and the symbolisms, of the covenant of blood. This being so, we are not to look to the Bible record, as it stands, for the original institution of every rite and ceremony connected with blood-shedding, blood-guarding, and blood-using; but we may fairly look at every Bible reference to blood in the light of the primitive customs known to have prevailed in the days of the Bible writing.
2. PRIMITIVE TEACHINGS OF BLOOD.
The earliest implied reference to blood in the Bible text is the record of Abel's sacrifice. "And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain
ABEL'S PROFFER OF HIMSELF TO GOD. 2II
and to his offering he had not respect.' An inspired comment on this incident is: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had witness borne to him that he was righteous, God bearing witness in respect of [or, over] his gifts and through it he [Abel] being dead yet speaketh." 2
Now, on the face of it, in the light of all that we know of primitive customs in this matter of the bloodcovenant, and apart from any added teachings in the Bible concerning the nature and meanings of different sacrifices, this narrative shows Abel lovingly and trustfully reaching out toward God with substitute blood, in order to be in covenant oneness with God; while Cain merely proffers a gift from his earthly possessions. Abel so trusts God that he gives himself to him. Cain defers to God sufficiently to make a present to him. The one shows unbounded faith; the other shows a measure of affectionate reverence. It is the same practical difference as that which distinguished Ruth from Orpah when the testing time of their love for their mother-in-law, Naomi, had come to them alike. "And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her." No wonder that God counted Abel's unstinted proffer of himself, in faith, an acceptable sacrifice, and received it, as in inter-communion
1 Gen. 4: 2-5.
2 Heb. II: 4.
3 Ruth 1: 14.
on the basis of inter-union; while Cain's paltry gift, without any proffer of himself, won no approval from the Lord.
Then there followed the unhallowed shedding of Abel's blood by Cain, and the crying out, as it were, of the spilled life of Abel unto its Divine Author.1 "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground, said the Lord to the guilty spiller of blood. "And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand." Here, as elsewhere, the blood is pre-eminently the life; and even when poured out on the earth, the blood does not lose its vitality. It still has its intelligent relations to its Author and Guardian; 2 as the world has been accustomed to count a possibility, down to modern times.3
After the destruction of mankind by the deluge, when God would begin anew, as it were, by the revivifying of the world through the vestige of blood— of life-preserved in the ark, he laid new emphasis on the sacredness of blood as the representative of
1 Gen. 4: 10, II.
2" For it must be observed, that by the outpouring of the blood, the life which was in it was not destroyed, though it was separated from the organism which before it had quickened : Gen. 4: 10; comp. Heb. 12:24 (Tapà Tòv "Aßɛλ); Apoc. 6: 10" (Westcott's Epistles of St. John, p. 34).
3 See pages 143–147, supra.
See pages 110-113, supra.
A NEW COVENANT WITH NOAH.
that life which is the essence of God himself. Noah's first act, on coming out from the ark, was to proffer himself and all living flesh in a fresh blood-covenant with the Lord. "And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar."1 From all that we know of the method of the burntoffering, either from the Bible-text or from outside sources, it has, from the beginning, included the preliminary offering of the blood-as the life—to Deity, by its outpouring, around, or upon, the altar, with or without the accompaniment of libations of wine; or, again, by its sprinkling upon the altar.2
It was then, when the spirit of Noah, in this covenant-seeking by blood, was recognized approvingly by the Lord, that the Lord smelled the sweet savor of the proffered offering," the savor of satisfaction, or delectation," 3 to him, was in it,-and he established a new covenant with Noah, giving commandment anew concerning the never-failing sacredness of blood: "Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; as [freely as] the green herb, have I given you all [flesh]. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof
1 Gen. 8: 20.
2 Exod. 24: 5, 6; 29: 15-25; Lev. 1: 1-6, 10-12, 14, 15; 8: 18, 19, etc.
See also pages 102, 106-109, supra.
3 See Speaker's Commentary, in loco.