Swords to Plowshares

Promoting a faith-based love for all creation.

What does it mean in Genesis 9:4-5 that an accounting for the lifeblood will be demanded?

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man” (Genesis 9:4-5).

The context of the verse is God saying that the consequence of us following our own evil imagination (Gen 8:21) instead of God’s instructions (Gen 1:27-31) is animal fear and a world of violence where everyone is killing each other. The accounting may refer to any or all of the following:

  1. Judgment Day (but that means animals are judged, Revelation 20:12),
  2. A causal relationship (you reap what you sow, Galatians 6:7),
  3. A description of how the world will operate when following our own wickedness (parallel to Genesis 3:14-19). For instance, if you kill my brother, then I avenge my brother’s death by killing you; then your brother avenges your death by killing me, then my brother avenges my death by killing my killer, etc. Instead of living in a world of healing, forgiveness, peace, and love, we will live in a world of violence, vengeance, and destruction.

It is hard to tell specifically which of three it is referring to since, contextually speaking, all three scenarios come about, at least in part, and each has scriptural support.

What is clear is that bloodshed and its consumption has negative consequences and results in a world that is the opposite of the kind of world God created and described as “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

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