What did that innocent lamb ever do to you?
The Lord set the pattern in the Garden after the Fall. In reading the narrative, you are supposed to understand that something about this whole thing required blood shed. That’s the implication of God supplying animal skins for covering. That term “covering” has a specific symbolic meaning.
After the Fall, living under God’s wrath is the default for human existence. You cannot escape it unless you accept His offered path, unless you come under His covering. Bloodshed is a necessary element in gaining His covering. You can imagine how horrifying it must have been for Adam and Eve, after all that time living in tune with the natural world and having such a grand mission of care and guidance of all things in the Garden, to discover that their actions had caused bloodshed. They now cannot live without the death of something they cared for.
So at some point down the road, the Lord told Noah that all animal life is our “prey.” Then He told Noah that human life comes first, and those who take human life unjustly must have their lives taken. Not flatly stated, but assumed, is that the proper way of carrying out such justice is under a feudal covenant. There has to be a governing figure accountable to God, and this governing figure holds those he governs accountable for upholding covenant law. Thus, the shepherd is accountable to God to keep covenant order among the sheep, and that means being ready to execute a murderer from among his own clan. It’s not supposed to be easy; it’s supposed to hurt.
At this point in the Genesis narrative, we have seen several mentions of blood and how sacred it is to God. Not precious as humans measure such things, but that blood is sacred — it always belongs to God. The only proper way to present blood to Him is by following the guidance of covenant law. If you try to hide unjustified bloodshed, the natural world will cry out to Him. All bloodshed must be justified by covenant law for Him to accept it.
So eating meat to survive and using the hides to cover ourselves is just a symbol of how He expects us to live under His covenant law. The blood of animals is always His portion of anything you must kill. Kosher means you must drain the blood before eating the animal. It’s also in effect an offering to Him in executing murderers or people who commit other capital crimes. Human blood is also an offering, but only under very specific terms. It’s not just a desperate act to placate an angry and distant deity. He only accepts the blood of those who must die to account for dirty blood that pollutes and defiles.
It appears again in Acts 15. Even under Noah, you cannot consume meat with blood, because that is God’s portion of all animals consumed. If you kill an animal in self-defense or to protect domestic resources, that is not an offering as long as you don’t eat it. Only what you eat requires careful respectful handling of the blood. And even in Noah we see that other sins beside murder can warrant execution; it need not be blood spill, as other behaviors can threaten covenant life and become blood guilt. In all cases, the blood of execution is an offering to God to cleanse the tribe of blood guilt.
In Western minds, it is hard to justify the execution of the seven Benjamites at the hand of the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21. What did those men do to deserve death? The question assumes that life itself is precious, when everything in Scripture says otherwise. This life is not precious; it is a vale of sorrow. There are blessings possible within this life, but it requires a heart-led commitment to the eternal life that comes after this one. We aren’t supposed to value this fallen existence, but certain elements within it. And the issue with those seven men was that their lives were already forfeit to God as members of the Covenant Nation. If He demands their blood, they would have ideally been manful about such things and faced it with courage.
To whine about it was cowardly. To whine on their behalf shows you simply don’t understand. How did they become guilty? That is the wrong question. Saul was guilty, as was those who served him. He died in battle, but that didn’t satisfy God’s wrath; his death was the price for some of his other sins. From the context, we can be sure a lot more than just seven Gibeonites were killed. Tradition tells us that most likely Saul was trying to expand the holdings of his own family, since Gibeon was a choice valley very close to his home town of Gibeah. This is the most reasonable explanation for how the Gibeonites answered David, seeking only Saul’s descendants. It is wholly unlikely those seven men didn’t know about Saul’s crimes, and that his bloodlust stained their lives.
The blood of the Gibeonites that Saul spilled defiled the land. Given the demands of the Covenant of Noah, seven survivors of Saul’s family was a minimal number, based on ancient customs from Noah’s time. It was a symbolic representation of the whole clan, a clan that was forfeited by Saul’s sin. We should be glad the Gibeonites were doing their best to keep it small. As it was, virtually everyone who could have carried forward Saul’s DNA was executed, except for Mephibosheth, who was under David’s covenant protection as Jonathan’s sole surviving son.
It’s the same with Achan during the Conquest: Achan’s actions forfeited the lives of his whole household. It would never occur to them to protest as innocent beneficiaries of his sin. This was the same going all the way back to Adam and Eve, forfeiting access to the Tree of Life for the whole human race. God honors those decisions. This is why we can gain redemption through Christ, because His innocent blood was shed for the sins of God’s family. If we accept the invitation to be adopted into His family, then the blood of the Son covers us. But it applies only to His family. There remains no covering for those outside the Covenant Family.
It was God Himself who required the blood of His Son. It was God Himself who required the blood of innocent animal sacrifices until His Son replaced the sacrificial system. But blood is still sacred. The whole idea was to symbolize our accountability from the Fall. The blood of those animals could never clear a conscience, but they could make people aware of His wrath and to regard blood as sacred. Those ritual sacrifices could keep people under His covering so their lives on earth could continue as blessed until He was ready for them to pass. This is the system God came up with; it’s pointless to argue with Him. It doesn’t have to make sense to us; it makes sense to God.
The innocence of the Lamb was the whole point.