We of the New Testament era see the importance of our Messiah and His willingness to obey God’s command to be the blood sacrifice that removes the stain of sin. This is a concept that is vital to our understanding of redemption and Scripture itself. However, what we may not be aware of is that God has always maintained the concept of sacrificial blood shed. Interestingly enough, the concept of sin being covered by blood was not begun in the book of Exodus, but with Genesis. Within the opening chapters of Genesis we find two instances of covering sins with blood.
The first instance is found in Genesis 3.21. We generally focus our attention on Adam and Eve receiving clothing from God. But from what source did they receive their clothing? The clothing God gave them was not fig leaves; the fig leaves were the clothing that Adam and Eve made for themselves. The clothing God gave them was a garment of skin, made by God Himself. God took their garments from an animal. In other words, Adam and Eve sinned and an animal’s blood was shed in order to cover them.
We will take our second instance of blood shed from Genesis 9.5a. Various interpretations have been given to this passage, but based on the context of Genesis 8.15-9.17 the following commentators seem to have missed the meaning of the passage Genesis 9.5a. One stated, “This [passage] is very obscure, but if taken literally it seems… [humanity] shall be obliged to give an account to God for every creature they have wantonly destroyed.”1 Another stated, “man must not take away his own life… [and that] the beasts must not be [allowed] to hurt the life of man… [this was] to show how tender God was of the life of man, though he had lately made such destruction of lives, he will have the beast put to death.”2 While these concepts may seem reasonable in the scope of righteous living, extrapolating these concepts does not seem harmonious with the passage.
When considering the context of Genesis 8.15-9.17 (a covenant is established between God and humanity – cf. 8.20-21; 9.9), Genesis 9.5a states that part of that covenant is a system of blood sacrifice. If Genesis 9.5a spoke of a blood sacrifice, then the following was true: each person’s life was to be covered by the blood of an animal sacrifice; the sacrifice was to be killed by a man; and this sacrificial system was to apply to all people.
Both Genesis 3.21 and 9.5a show that God has always required sin to be covered by blood. The blood from animals was never intended to replace the salvation giving blood sacrifice of Jesus, because Hebrews states that it is impossible for a bull or goat to shed its blood and take away our sins (10.4). However, God has always expected humanity to understand the consequences of sin – sin brings death. Jesus’ blood is the only sacrifice that can remove our sins, forever blotting them out. May we never forget that it took the death of our Savior to give us life.
1 Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, commentary on Genesis 9.5; e-Sword.
2 Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, commentary on Genesis 9.5; e-Sword.