Saturday, November 22, 2014

Genesis 9:4, Blood, and Life

Gen. 9:4 is a generic statement and should not be understood as "a particular individual's life." This is not to say that a specific individual's life fails to be in his/her blood, so to speak, but the injunction at Gen. 9:4 concerns how Noah--and by extension, all of his descendants--was supposed to treat animals in general. Therefore, the text is evidently saying that blood constitutes the life (NEPHESH/YUXH) of the creature in a generic sense(in this case, we are talking about animals). Id est, every creature's YUXH (what plays an integral part in the creature's concrete life) is its blood.

The RSV reflects this understanding:

"Only you shall not eat flesh with its life [NEPHESH], that is, its blood."

So 9:4 does not appear to be suggesting that a particular individual's life is in blood; to the contrary, blood is the life of all creatures (animal or human).

In this regard, I note that the Amplified Bible also declares: "you shall not eat flesh with the life of it, which is its blood."

Commentator G. J. Wenham also writes that Gen. 9:4 points out that man "is forbidden to eat 'flesh with its life, i.e., its blood'" (Wenham "Genesis 1-15" 193). He goes on to observe: "It is easy to see why blood is identified with life . . . a beating heart and a strong pulse are the clearest evidence of life" (193).

Keil-Delitzsch offer these remarks: "'Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; even as the green of the herb have I given you all (את־כּל equals חכּל).' These words do not affirm that man then first began to eat animal food, but only that God then for the first time authorized, or allowed him to do, what probably he had previously done in opposition to His will. 'Only flesh in its soul, its blood (דמו in apposition to בּנפשׁו), shall ye not eat;' i.e., flesh in which there is still blood, because the soul of the animal is in the blood. The prohibition applies to the eating of flesh with blood in it, whether of living animals, as is the barbarous custom in Abyssinia, or of slaughtered animals from which the blood has not been properly drained at death."

For a nice discussion of the broad range of YUXH, see Louw-Nida's Greek-English Lexicon, especially semantic domain 23.88ff.

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