Some of the final instructions to the Israelites before they crossed the Jordan River into the land of Canaan gave them important principles that we in modern times should have heeded, but did not. They display the character and intent of God, which ultimately His people ignored, and which we likewise have disdained in the sophistication of our civilized age.
God’s bottom line command in the directives He gave are found in Numbers 35:33:
“You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”
Read that again. Blood pollutes the land. No atonement can be made for the land…except by the blood of the one who shed it.
This statement was made in the context of God’s decrees regarding the killing of another person. Yahweh described two instances of this sin:
- The killing of someone without intent (Numbers 35:11)
- The deliberate murder of someone (Numbers 35:16)
Basically, these two conditions speak of unintentional manslaughter and deliberate homicide. The text also relates what the punishment shall be for these crimes and who is to carry out the sentence.
Someone who committed manslaughter could flee to a city of refuge where he could remain safely until his trial. The city of refuge was his safe haven; but even if judged not guilty, if he strayed beyond this city’s boundaries, he was subject to being killed by the one tasked with avenging the death of the person whose life he inadvertently took. The sentence remained in effect until the high priest died. Only then could he go in peace back to his actual home.
The one who deliberately murdered another could similarly go to the city of refuge. At his trial, at least two witnesses were required to accuse him. The testimony of a single witness wasn’t sufficient. If found guilty, the killer was to be put to death immediately.
The tracking down of someone who killed another under either condition fell to a person known as the avenger of blood (Numbers 35:19). He was the executioner, usually the nearest male relative of the deceased. When a person took that role, he had the solemn duty to carry it out. Why? Because of God’s decree in Numbers 35:33.
Polluting the land with blood has been a problem from the very beginning. When Cain killed Abel in an act of deliberate homicide, the Lord knew and was grieved. He said the following in Genesis 4:10-11:
“What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”
The act of murder – the shedding of blood upon the land – brings forth a curse. The blood must be avenged in order for atonement to be made.
As Israel fell further from Yahweh in her years of disobedience, have no doubt that this command went ignored. Worse, it was the shedding of Jesus’ blood that brought about the curse of the final destruction of Israel that led to the diaspora of the Jewish people. Consider what the people cried out when Pilate gave them the choice of freeing Barabbas or Jesus in Matthew 27:25:
And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Did they have any idea how serious this vow was? The Pharisees and other leaders had incited the mob. The blood of Jesus was upon them all. Within one hundred years, Israel was no more. Jesus’ blood, and that of many others, had polluted the land. There was no human avenger of blood for Jesus, so God Himself took on that role.
What about us today? Has the blood of innocents been shed? Has it been avenged? Think, of course, of the 60 million unborn children callously murdered in the womb. Does their blood cry out? Consider the perversion of our justice system where murderers spend their lives in prison. Is the blood they shed avenged?
Our nation has forgotten God in many ways. This is only one such instance. We have not only allowed murder to go unpunished, we have encouraged it through the passing of laws that actually facilitate it. We even contribute huge sums of taxpayer money to an organization that has literally poured a river of blood onto the land. Does the land not cry out to God against Planned Parenthood and all those who support it? Do we really think God will let this atrocity stand?
He will not. The Tribulation for the unbelieving world is coming. God will indeed execute judgment upon all who have not confessed Jesus as Lord. He will pour out blood upon the guilty as part of their punishment (e.g. Revelation 8:8 – the 2nd Trumpet Judgment). When Jesus returns at the final death throes of these most horrible seven years, avenged blood will flow freely (e.g. Revelation 14:20 – the final harvest).
We have mocked God all these years, but He will uphold His holy Name against all who have profaned it. We grieve now at the injustice, but God’s Word will prevail. We can rest assured that all innocent blood will be accounted for. God is sovereignly in charge. His will, unquestionably, will be done.