Useful Bible Studies > Hebrews Commentary > chapter 9

Why did animals die as sacrifices?

Hebrews 9:13

You may ask why animals had to die for the sacrifices in the Bible. The answer is that blood is important in Godís plan. That is, his plan to save people and to give them a right relationship with himself.

A sacrifice is a gift that God considers valuable. If God does not consider it valuable, he will not accept that gift. But blood Ė even the blood of animals Ė is precious to God. The reason is that the life is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). In other words, the blood often means life in the Bible. And God considers life precious. He gave life to animals and people when he created them. And by it, God shows his nature. The most holy name of God in the Bible, YHWH, means Ďthe God who is always aliveí.

The author mentions the animals called bulls and goats. They were the special sacrifices on the day called the Day of Atonement (Hebrews 9:7). And they were sacrifices on other occasions too (see Hebrews 9:19).

The author also mentions a very special sacrifice here: the red heifer. A heifer is a young cow, that is, a female animal. You can read about it in Numbers chapter 19. The priests put its ashes in water. They used that water for a special ceremony.

If someone touched a dead body, Godís law considered him unclean. For the next week, that person had to separate himself. He could not join in the public ceremonies. But at the end of the week, that special water made him clean again. And so he was no longer separate.

The author says that these sacrifices made people holy. In other words, the people belonged to God; they received a relationship with him.

It seemed a strange mystery that death could bring life. The deaths of those animals gave people a living relationship with God.

Many people considered that idea hard to understand. But now its meaning can be clear to us, because of Christís death. We all deserve to die because of our sins (evil deeds) Ė Romans 6:23. In fact, God considers us as if we were already dead (Ephesians 2:1). But Christ suffered the punishment for our sins. He died instead of us. So his death can give us life. And that is life that never ends (John 3:16).

Perhaps you ask why Christ had to die. The answer is that he died as a sacrifice. His blood was important in Godís plan. And because of his death, you too can receive life that never ends.

Next part: The importance of Christís death (Hebrews 9:14)


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© 2014, Keith Simons.