See: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 9:3-4 (a)
Genesis 9:3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
“…lifeblood…” Right after Abel made his animal sacrifice; he is murdered by his brother Cain. Here after Noah’s animal sacrifice God speaks to Noah about the sacredness of blood, each person’s blood – life is sacred. This law for all mankind demands an absolute adherence to the sanctity of human life. God lays down a rule that if anyone or even if any animal sheds a man’s life, the murderer shall be put to death. God does not want Cain’s sin to be down played or accepted. Murder is punishable by death. But this certainly reflects the fact that everything has changed on earth and none can live together in peace. God has accepted that the human heart apparently cannot be washed clean of its wickedness, but now He lays down a law forbidding murder. God does not prevent murder from happening (and His Son will suffer the consequence of His decision!), but His law demands that humans must control themselves. And if a human can’t control himself and kills another human, the rest of the humans by God’s command are to deal with the killer. This will become the foundation for Old Covenantal civil society. God does not offer nor promise to deal with human wickedness such as murder. Humans are to practice self-control. But if they can’t control themselves, then humans must band together and take control of the person who refuses to practice self-control. This is God’s expectation of humanity – humans must begin to police themselves because God has ordered it. In the New Covenant, in the new order, in the new world instituted by Jesus Christ however, on the cross He does not demand Old Covenantal justice, rather He prays, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He inaugurates a new Kingdom not of this world, nor of its values, not even of the ones from the Torah.
“Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” God forbids the eating of flesh with blood still in it even before Moses exists and he is given the law from God to teach to the people. Genesis puts this law as one of the first laid down by God for all people – not just for observant Jews, for the law is given before Abraham or Moses lived. It is interesting that in Acts 15 when the Apostles are considering what religious laws Gentile converts to Christianity must keep, they adopt only three rules mandatory for all Christians and one of them is the Genesis 9:4 prohibition against eating meat with blood still in it: “abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood” (Acts 15:20). They do not require all 613 laws of the Torah, nor even the Ten Commandments! This same set of rules is repeated in Acts 21:25. To be a Christian, you do not need to be an observant Jew – no requirements for keeping Torah nor kosher. But Gentile Christians were expected to recognize the universality of certain moral laws.
“Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” One lesson God may have wanted to convey to the survivors of the flood is that life is still sacred. They get out of the ark and witness the mass devastation which has taken place – all flesh has been destroyed. But God doesn’t want the survivors to misunderstand the events. All flesh was destroyed because of the distortions brought about by wickedness. The destruction of all flesh was not a pronouncement that life has no value, nor that God favors ethnic cleansing or endorses mass murder. God affirms the value, the sanctity of life by telling the humans the blood is holy, life is sacred. God wanted the survivors of the flood, and all who read their story to learn that sacredness is still part of creation. They may no longer be living in the Holy Paradise of Eden. They may no longer be residing in the antediluvian world of Noah’s forefathers. This however has not changed the holiness of life itself. Meat eating is allowed, but humans must recognize the sacredness of all life and the sanctity of every human life. God wants the humans He has saved to understand this most significant lesson. The significance of the story is not that there is now law governing human behavior; the importance of the story is that life is holy, and in the face of the destruction of all life by the flood, humans must be told that God still sees life as sacred and He expects His chosen humans to do the same. God will say that He will never again destroy all human life to rid the world of evil and sin; nor does He command His humans to try this method to perfect their world.
Already in this Genesis text we seen an understanding that a price to be paid for human holiness and perfection is human blood. The rest died that the righteous might survive. This idea is repeated in the Passover Story of Exodus where too some die in order that others may live. The theme finds its fullness and complete meaning in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, where again a death was necessary for holiness and perfection of humanity to be attained. In the New Covenant however, it is God who dies rather than God who purifies humanity through the death of some ungodly humans. The death of the ungodly cannot perfect humanity, whereas the death of the perfect God-man reveals the purity of humanity.
Next: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 9:5-7