Q.

Please explain why Hebrews 9:22 states that “almost all things are by the law purged with blood.” Why doesn’t it say that all things are purged with blood?

A.
One theme we see in the book of Hebrews is the superiority of the sacrificial death of Christ over the animal offerings in the Old Testament law system. We also see the importance of the blood: “And without shedding of blood is no remission” (9:22).

The law system required all sorts of blood sacrifices. They, in turn, pointed to the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for the payment and cleansing of sin. Under the law system, ceremonial guilt—which came from breaking ceremonial law—broke ceremonial fellowship with God. The required sacrifices brought ceremonial forgiveness and restoration for external fellowship, and they averted punishment.

The sacrifices picture our relationship with Christ. Sin brings guilt and broken fellowship with God; confession of sin restores fellowship.

The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7–9).

As important as the blood sacrifices were in the Old Testament law system, a few exceptions to the blood requirement existed. These exceptions are the reason Hebrews 9:22 uses the word “almost” regarding the purging with blood.

In Leviticus 5:10 and 11 we note:

And he shall offer the second for a burnt offering, according to the manner: and the priest shall make an atonement for him for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him. But if he be not able to bring turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil upon it, neither shall he put any frankincense thereon: for it is a sin offering.

An Israelite who was poor could bring one-tenth of an ephah (four pints) of fine flour to the priest as his sin offering instead of a lamb or two turtledoves or two young pigeons. Therefore, no blood sacrifice was involved in this exception for the benefit of the poor. Verse 12 tells us this substitute offering was burned on the altar, probably on top of the blood sacrifices.

Most likely, Hebrews 9:22 refers specifically to the above example, but the Bible gives several other examples of cleansing without blood. Leviticus 22:6 reads,

The soul which hath touched any such shall be unclean until even, and shall not eat of the holy things, unless he wash his flesh with water.

Here we see ceremonial cleansing through water.

We find other examples in the book of Numbers. Chapter 16 records the rebellion of Korah and others against Moses and his authority. The Lord’s judgment fell upon these rebels, who were swallowed up by fissure in the earth’s surface. Instead of recognizing the seriousness of the rebellion, “on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Loiu” (v. 41). God would have consumed the nation but for the intervention of Moses and Aaron, who made atonement for the congregation through incense, which made “an atonement for them” (v. 46).

Numbers 31 describes God’s judgment on the heathen Midianites. God ordered Israel to battle against this people. The engagement was successful and resulted in death for every Midianite warrior. With this act of slaying the enemy, many Israelites became ceremonially unclean. Therefore, fire was used in purifying the metal objects from the war.

In Exodus 30:11–16, we find that God commanded the people to give a certain offering when the leadership took a census. Each Israelite 20 years and older was required to pay a tax to help with the upkeep of the tabernacle and its services. Verse 12 describes this offering as a ransom, and verse 15 states that it was considered an atonement, a covering for sins!

In all of these exceptions we have looked at, please note one important truth: not only were they rare, but they also acted only as a covering, or atonement, of and for sin. The law almost always required a blood offering for atonement. But when it came to remission, or payment, of sin, the law allowed no exception at all; blood had to be shed.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (May 1994).
© 1994 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.