Symbols in Leviticus: Blood

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This beautiful photograph comes from Lawrence OP, who takes many marvelous pictures of religious artwork. His work is shared here under the Creative Commons license.  This stained glass is a depiction of the blood of martyrs.  This window, in the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, City of London, was crafted by John Hayward (1929-2007), British stained glass maker.  The original piece is entitled, “Encrimsoned with Martyrs’ Blood”

 

Leviticus is full of symbolism, and I believe it will be vitally helpful for anyone studying Leviticus to get familiar with its major thematic symbols beforehand.  The storytelling that takes place in Leviticus is done through the use of imagery.  Unlike all of the other Mosaic books (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), Leviticus is not a narrative book.  It does, however, tell a lot of stories through the use of symbolic pictures.

The most vivid, most repeated, most consistent, and most important symbol in Leviticus is the blood.

Blood is all over Leviticus, and it’s not just on the altar for sacrifices.  I’ll give you a quick list here for illustration.  This is by no means a complete list, and we will go into each mention of blood with depth when we read Leviticus together properly in March.  The purpose of having you look at this list today is to get you thinking about the variety of ways blood can appear in the text. I want you to look at these few examples and spend some time considering that blood can be presented in many different ways but display a consistent meaning in each context.  

“Wherever you live, you must not eat the blood of any bird or animal. Whoever eats any blood is to be cut off from his people.” Lev. 7:26-27

“Then Moses slaughtered it, took the blood, and applied it with his finger to the horns of the altar on all sides, purifying the altar. He poured out the blood at the base of the altar and consecrated it so that atonement can be made on it.” Lev. 8:15

“Why didn’t you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? For it is especially holy and he has assigned it to you to take away the guilt of the community and make atonement for them before the Lord.  Since its blood was not brought inside the sanctuary, you should have eaten it in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.” Lev. 10:18

“She will continue in purification from her bleeding [after childbirth] for thirty-three days.” Lev. 12:4

“When a woman has a discharge, and it consists of the blood from her body, she will be unclean because of her menstruation for seven days.” Lev. 15:19

“For the life of a creature is in the blood.” Lev. 17:11

Blood is everywhere in Leviticus, but blood carries the same symbolic and theological meaning in every place you see it mentioned in Scripture.  Blood holds a consistent significance, not just in Leviticus, but in the entire Bible.  Leviticus is the book that was written to teach us that meaning and demonstrate that significance.

This is my Blood church window
“This Is My Blood,” a stained glass window in the Merriam Christian Church, Merriam, KS, USA

In Leviticus, blood always means life.  Blood is life.  The shedding of blood is death.  Blood in the body is life. Blood removed from the body is death.  Life belongs to God, therefore blood belongs to God.  Blood spilled for God brings life. Blood spilled for the profane brings death. This is a crucial theme, and in the rest of the Bible, you need to view blood through the lens of Leviticus.  Always.  Blood equals life, and life belongs to God alone.

Blood = Life

This is the primary and most critical theme in the book of Leviticus, and it holds as a universal symbol in every place that you see blood in the Bible.  In both the Old and New Testaments, in the books of prophecy and the books of historical narrative, in the Psalms, in the Gospels, in the letters, and in the apocryphal writings.  Everywhere, blood means life, and life belongs to God.  Leviticus will teach you this symbol, and when you’ve finished studying Leviticus, the meaning of blood will shout out at you from the pages of God’s Word.  You’ll see…and it is stupendously cool.  It’s worth the time and effort.

See you next time.

 

 


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