BLOOD—The Liquid of Life
Blood always has been a curious substance whose vast mysteries and capabilities have yet to be fully explored. Doctors in the twenty-first century transfuse it, draw it, separate it, package it, store it, ship it, and sell it. And, although modern-day scientists have not uncovered completely all of the wonders of blood, they have discovered that it is the key to life. Without this “liquid of life,” humans and animals would have no way to circulate the necessary oxygen and proteins that their bodies need in order to survive and reproduce. Hemoglobin found in the red blood cells carries oxygen to the brain, which in turn uses that oxygen to allow it to control the entire body. A brain without oxygen is like a car without gas or a computer without electricity. Blood makes all of the functions in the body possible.
In the past, ignorance of blood’s value caused some “learned” men to do tragic things. For instance, during the middle ages, and even until the nineteenth century, doctors believed that harmful “vapors” entered the blood and caused sickness. For this reason, leeches were applied to victims of fever and other illnesses in an attempt to draw out blood containing these vapors. Also, the veins and arteries located just above the elbow were opened, and the patient’s arms were bled to expunge the contaminated blood. George Washington, the first President of the United States, died because of such misplaced medical zeal.
Maybe you have seen a red and white striped, twirling pole at the entrance to a barbershop. In the middle ages, barbers did much more than cut hair. They also performed minor surgeries (such as tooth extractions). One of their most frequent feats was bloodletting. Barbershops generally kept on hand a fresh supply of leeches—stored in a basin on top of the pole.
But what does all this have to do with the Bible? Thousands of years before the lethal practice of bloodletting was conceived, mankind had been informed by God that blood was indeed the key to life. In Leviticus 17:11, Moses wrote: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Because red blood cells carry oxygen (due to hemoglobin in the cells), life is made possible. In fact, we know today that human red blood cells carry approximately 270,000,000 molecules of hemoglobin per cell. If there were any less, there would not be enough residual oxygen to sustain life after, say, a hard sneeze or a hefty pat on the back.
Today, we understand completely the truthfulness of Moses’ statement that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” But how did an ancient shepherd like Moses come to know such information? Just a lucky guess? How could Moses have known almost 3500 years ago that life was in the blood, while it took the rest of the scientific and medical community thousands of years (and thousands of lives!) to discover this truth? That answer, of course, is that Moses was guided by the Great Physician—and therein lies the difference between life and death.