God created man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). God has told us that the life of the flesh is in the blood (Gen. 9:4). So when God created man a living soul, He created him with the life-blood flowing through his veins. Anyone, whether man or beast, who shed man’s blood was under a penalty of death (Gen. 9:5). The only exception was death as a penalty for taking another’s life (Gen. 9:6; cf. 4:11-15).
When man sinned in the garden and brought death into the world (Gen. 2:16,17), man tried to cover his guilt and shame with fig leaves. But God took the skins of animals to make a covering for man. In taking the skin of the animal, God took the life of that animal, and thus shed its blood. This was the first death and it was at God’s hands. This was the first sacrifice for the sins of man. It was not that the fig leaves man had made for his own covering were not enough, it was that they did not adequately represent the necessary guilt or the shedding of blood that God’s law required as a penalty (Gen. 2:16,17).
Just as Adam tried to use the life of a plant to cover his sin-guilt, Cain also tried to do the same. Cain gave to God of the fruit of the ground as an offering to the Lord. Abel offered the “firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:4). Now Paul tells us that Abel offered his sacrifice by faith (Heb. 11:3), which means he did it according to the commands of God for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So Abel offered a blood sacrifice according to the commands of God and Cain did not follow God’s will and therefore sin lay at the door (Gen. 4:7).
After the children of Israel had been in Egypt for four-hundred thirty years, God raised up Moses to deliver them from their bondage. After nine plagues had fallen upon the Egyptians, the heart of Pharaoh was still hardened. The tenth and final plague was the death of all the first born, both of man and beast. In order to escape this plague, the children of Israel had to slay a lamb and strike the blood of the lamb on the door posts and lintel of their house and the destroyer would pass over them. But for those who did not cover their house with the blood of the lamb, death would be visited upon their firstborn (Ex. 12:12,13).
After leaving the land of Egypt and when they were on their way to the promised land, God gave Moses and the children of Israel a law of commandments. Moses ascended mount Sinai and received the law in tables of stone. In ratifying this law, Moses constructed an altar and took the blood of peace offerings and sprinkled it upon the altar and upon the people saying, “Behold of the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words” (Ex. 24:6-8).
The law that was given to Moses was full of commands for sacrifices. There is no telling how many gallons of animal blood had been shed down through the centuries to cover the sins of man. However, it was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). This blood and all these ordinances were but a shadow of things to come (Heb. 10:1). Even though God had introduced the shedding of animal blood in place of man’s, He never had pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices (Heb. 10:6). It never fully satisfied the demands of divine justice for breaking God’s law.
When man sinned initially, God had promised a remedy that ultimately involved the seed of the woman. The seed of the woman would be bruised but He would crush the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). This promise was fulfilled in the sending of God’s only begotten Son to shed His blood for the sins of many (Heb 9:28). God gave His only begotten Son (John 3:16). When Jesus instituted the New Covenant, He inaugurated it with His own blood (Matt. 26:26). “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14).
When Adam sinned, God clothed him in the bloody skin of an animal. That skin should have reminded Adam of his transgressions just as our own clothing today should be a reminder that we are to be ashamed of the guilt of sin. Furthermore, in order for our sins to be removed today we must clothe ourselves not in the skin of any animal, but we must clothe ourselves in the blood of Christ. Paul said that as many of us that have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:26,27). We are washed from our sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5) when we are baptized to wash away our sins (Acts 22:16). We make our robes white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14).
Eric L. Padgett