What Were God's Solution(s) in the Flood Account, Again?
How Not Knowing The Answer(s)
Leads Jehovah's Witnesses To Mistake a Blessing For An Obligation
Everyone knows the story of Noah's Flood, right? Most people will tell you it goes something like this:
"God was upset with wicked men who were doing really bad stuff, so He commanded Noah to build an ark, load animals and his family on-board, so God could drown all the evil men in a great Flood. When the water resided and the Ark came to rest on Mt Ararat, Noah off-loaded the animals and offered a sacrifice to God to thank him for saving him and his family. Oh, and that's where rainbows came from: they're God's promise never to do it again. The End."
Of course, that's the version people tell their kids (if not the version they believe, too). However, many people who THINK they understand the story don't realize they've "missed the boat" as it were, as the Flood narrative in Genesis Chapters 6 to 9 is a bit more complicated than that.
Here's an animated video produced in 1998 by the WTBTS which follows the bog-standard plot of Noah's Ark:
Most people don't have a difficult time remembering the PROBLEM God wanted to address with the Flood, the reason God was grieved in His heart and felt the Flood was needed: it's clearly stated in a single verse in Genesis 6:5 (and in the video above):
"Every inclination of the thoughts of the hearts of men were evil all the time".
Most know that God saw men's hearts were prone to evil, which led men to commit acts of violence resulting in death to their victims:
Genesis 6:11 says:
"The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence."
The problem was BLOODSHED (aka homicide), often committed by evil men; that's mentioned in the Bible AND the video above.
Where most readers "miss the boat" is in failing to understand that God's SOLUTION to the problem of violence was not just a SINGLE action, but consisted of a sequence of THREE specific actions.
Thus the challenge in understanding the Flood narrative arises in identifying God's tripartite SOLUTION, which admittedly is made more difficult since the answer isn't found in only one verse, but spread across THREE (two of which are found some distance from the first). Worse, those two verses are buried in Hebraic legalese, so it's easy for readers to miss their significance as vital elements of the strategy God used to address the problem of "evil thoughts in the hearts of men".
Of course, the 3-step SOLUTION is the entire POINT of the Flood account, so missing two elements is a bit like getting lost in the details of a joke and missing the punch-line! If there were a test, most people would get a score of 33%, only getting 1 out of 3 correct.
Worse, not being able to identify the role which those verses serve in the account allows readers to improperly apply them for OTHER situations, thus leading to scriptural doctrinal abuse (eg to use as the basis of the WT Society's blood doctrine).
Is that too cryptic? Did I lose anyone there?
Alright, let's try this, but let's start off with a question:
What THREE SPECIFIC STEPS did God take to address the PROBLEM that drove Him to carry out the Flood, in the first place?
In other words, what THREE SPECIFIC STEPS did God take that constituted the SOLUTION to the problem of the 'evil thoughts of men'?" What did God actually DO to address the problem of rampant violence and bloodshed?
In fact, let's make that today's pop quiz! Grab a piece of paper and answer this question:
"List the three steps God took to address the problem of violence."
(You can make it an open-book quiz if you want, so grab your Bible and scour Genesis Chapters 6 to 9 to find the answers, if you don't know them off the top of your head.)
I've already given you all the first step, the obvious one where God wiped out all evil men and animals with a Flood (it's found in Genesis 7:23).
That's the one everyone knows, since we've all seen unforgettable images of condemned souls looking wistfully at the Ark, waving 'bon voyage!' as it floats off, leaving them stranded on a rocky ledge to drown like plague-ridden wharf rats:
Or, if desperate pleading is more of your style, there's the image below which just BEGS viewers to engage in a bit of vicarious schadenfreude, imagining Noah standing on the other side of the door saying, "Suckas! You had your chance to repent and be saved, but NOOOOOOO! You had MORE IMPORTANT things to do, like eating, drinking, being given in marriage....."
(Of course, if you read my prior article on Noah (here), the Genesis account itself rules out Noah having been a "preacher of righteousness", as 2nd Peter claims.)
Maybe you're more 'old-school' and prefer the work of French artist Gustave Dore', who offered the scene of a father futilely struggling to loft his children to higher ground, and the tigress trying to save her cubs:
The relative ease of depicting such emotionally-wrenching scenes likely explains why artists have often focused on the first step of the Flood (a 'stop-gap' measure, a short-term fix that effected only those living at the time of the Flood). Thus artists have often overlooked the two more-mundane subsequent steps, although these are actually MORE IMPORTANT, being LONG-TERM solutions to the problem of man's tendency towards evil (remaining in effect to this current day).
Enough vague hints! Time's up, so set your pencils down!
Here's the answer:
God addressed the PROBLEM of "evil thoughts in the hearts of men" with a three-step SOLUTION:
1) God eliminated ALL evil flesh off the face of the Earth by drowning (Genesis 7:23), after 'just' Noah built an ark and loaded his family and animals on board to save them from God's wrath.
(Hopefully you all got THAT one; it was a gimme!)
2) After the ark came to rest on Mt Ararat and animals off-loaded, God told Noah He was unveiling a NEW law prohibiting the spilling of blood of living beings (where man was permitted to spill animal blood, just as long as he doesn't EAT 'the animal's lifeblood with the flesh').
God promised to hold ALL living beings accountable for the blood THEY spill, i.e. the untimely deaths THEY cause.
(And note that 'bloodshed' refers to any action that results in the DEATH of another living creature, man or animal: if the victim doesn't die, it's NOT considered bloodshed; so God's "no bloodshed" rule doesn't apply.)
So for the very first time in human history, God is prohibiting bloodshed. That's HUGE!
The "no bloodshed" law is considered a BLESSING for mankind, since God is announcing that killing another being has officially been declared a sin, and God will demand that justice be served up to the killer. This promise, this BLESSING, is found in Genesis 9:5.
Note that it's a blessing ONLY if you're NOT a murderer, but is a blessing for anyone who enjoys living in a society which respects the rule of law; humans are allowed to flourish ("be fruitful and become many") in a World where lawlessness has been eradicated.
(Note that the pre-Flood World existed in a state of anarchy, where "might made right"; bloodshed wasn't considered a sin, since God hadn't yet officially declared it to BE a sin).
3) In order to ensure the newly-crafted law is respected, God had to put some "teeth" into it, so God delegated Divine authority to 'just' Noah, deputizing him and ordering Noah to establish a system of criminal justice that gave men the authority to regulate the behavior of others; God was allowing men to place not only animals under his dominion (an order given to Adam in Genesis 2), but also his fellow men (Genesis 9:6).
To be more specific, Noah in fact was OBLIGATED to enforce the newly-created Divine command so that all other men could enjoy the BLESSING of living under the peace and security provided by laws. God is thus authorizing Noah to act on His behalf, with God "putting boots on the ground" (maybe 'sandals on the ground'?).
So THAT'S why "just" Noah was spared in the Flood: NOT for his preaching ability, but because he alone was seen by God as 'righteous and upright amongst his generation', having been described in Genesis 6:9 as 'just' (Hebrew word, ṣad·dîq). He was the ONLY human on the entire Planet recognized for possessing that trait, a definite prerequisite which gave him a leg-up for landing the job of establishing the World's first judicial system.
For the first time in the history of human existence, God has extended to mankind the BLESSING of being able to live in a freshly-cleansed World, where anarchy has been eliminated and men are able to live under a new system of self-governance that OBLIGATES duly-appointed authorities to enforce the Divine prohibition against bloodshed.
So THAT'S what the Noahic Covenant is all about, God's three-step solution to address the problem of "evil thoughts in the hearts of men".
So how'd you do? (If not so hot, don't worry: we'll be grading on a curve....)
The Bible contain scenes where God speaks with humans, but this is one of the rare situations where God actually enters into a covenant relationship with men (it's the second of four covenants recorded in the Old Testament). Unlike the others covenants, God produced the sign (the rainbow) that serves as the visible symbol or 'marker'. God told humanity that the Noahic Covenant would remain in effect for all time, for all generations; this makes the Noahic Covenant a very significant event, a very-important passage in the Bible since it's "everlasting" and hence still in play (i.e. it hasn't been superseded by the Mosaic Covenant, as some erroneously claim).
The Noahic Covenant contains the KEY scriptures which broadly state God's policy on spilling of ALL blood, whether spilled by humans or by animals; thus it serves as the very foundation with which ALL subsequent Biblical passages on the subject must harmonize, whether Levitical law, or those found in the New Testament. So if you're discussing God's wishes for handling of blood, you MUST understand the Noahic Covenant to see what it says, since it contains God's recorded words, his spoken policy which is to serve as the guiding principle. The Noahic Covenant IS God's very first words on the subject of blood found in the Bible.
In fact, the eminence of the Noahic Covenant is quite analogous to that of the Constitution of the United States, which serves as the benchmark which all lower laws must follow: if there's a conflict, then lower law is declared as unconstitutional by the SCOTUS and taken off the books: the Constitution trumps ALL other law, which is 'lower'. Since the Noahic Covenant contains Jehovah's words on blood matters, all interpretations of later scripture MUST conform to it's principles, since all the others represent attempts to codify its spirit, i.e. putting it's message into specific legal statutes that stipulate what actions are permitted.
Thus the Noahic Covenant contains the controlling principle that all later scriptures must comply: it's the controlling principle that determines later law.
Sounds like a pretty important passage to understand, right? Then why is it so misunderstood?
Primarily for two reasons:
1) The Flood account itself contains TWO slightly-different versions (from the Priestly and Yahwist sources) that have been merged into one, such that blending mixes the elements of the covenant; this results in a more-difficult reading, where the sequence of events is altered (esp. in Ch 8-9). For the most part though, the blending works such that we're able to read the account as a whole, and few readers will even notice the account is merged.
2) Genesis 9 is written in covenant form, the language of contract law; so if you don't understand the basics of legal terminology, you're going to be at a disadvantage.
Therefore, a quick review of the language of covenants (AKA religious contracts) is helpful:
ALL contracts are based on the principle of reciprocity, where one side promises to do something, and the other party agrees to do something in exchange (eg I agree to cut your lawn, and you agree to pay me $10). In legal parlance, this would constitute a 'performance contract'.
If you read the prior article on Noah, you'll remember the covenantal agreement that God offered Noah, PROMISING to save him and his family IF Noah accepted the OBLIGATION to build the ark and load it with animals. That was a performance contract, and it was fulfilled after Noah constructed the ark and loading the animals aboard; God then allowed Noah and his family to survive on the ark. Thus the 'Ark Construction Covenant' was successfully completed (as pointed out in Genesis 6:22) BEFORE the Noahic Covenant was offered to Noah: it's a separate agreement which differs from the first by being open-ended, i.e. one that is never fulfilled, but is perpetual, lasting for ALL generations.
Since we're reading a contract, pay particular attention to the words PERMISSION and OBLIGATION in caps, as that's going to be important to untangling the meaning of Genesis 9.
As a broad overview, realize that Genesis 9 records where YHWH offered the Noahic Covenant to Noah (mankind) after the Flood, where YHWH thereafter granted mankind:
1) Divine PERMISSION to eat animal flesh, with an OBLIGATION not to ingest (eat) animal blood, since it contains 'nephesh' (the soul, or life-force),
2) Divine PERMISSION (AKA a BLESSING) to enjoy living under a system of rule of law, protected by God's promise to demand an accounting for spilled blood of men and animals. In return, men have an OBLIGATION to implement a criminal justice system to rule over one's fellow men, in order to enforce the Divine prohibition for spilling of blood (murder/manslaughter).
So let's break it down, a verse at a time, using 'New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures' (NWT), the version used by Jehovah's Witnesses (which basically says the same thing as other translations, except with ONE critical difference: more on that point, when we come to it).
Here's the passage (and I'll meet you on the other side)!
Genesis 9: 1-7 (NWT)
1 And God went on to bless Noah and his sons and to say to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth. 2 And a fear of YOU and a terror of YOU will continue upon every living creature of the earth and upon every flying creature of the heavens, upon everything that goes moving on the ground, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Into YOUR hand they are now given. 3 Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to YOU. 4 Only flesh with its soul—its blood—YOU must not eat. 5 And, besides that, YOUR blood of YOUR souls shall I ask back. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of man, from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man. 6 Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man. 7 And as for YOU men, be fruitful and become many, make the earth swarm with YOU and become many in it.”
That's some pretty dense cryptic reading, with 'from the hand of each one who is his brother' (which most people skip over, since it doesn't make any sense to them, so they dismiss it as irrelevant).
What it says is easier to understand if we break it down, verse-by-verse:
1 And God went on to bless Noah and his sons and to say to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.
Note that what follows in the ENTIRE paragraph is offered in the spirit of being a BLESSING, a 'thank you' from God for a job well-done during the Flood.
God gave Noah and sons the same BLESSING He gave to Adam and Eve, with an OBLIGATION to replenish the Earth's population. That's a bog-standard element ('term') of a contract, and it's self-explanatory.
2 And a fear of YOU and a terror of YOU will continue upon every living creature of the earth and upon every flying creature of the heavens, upon everything that goes moving on the ground, and upon all the fishes of the sea. Into YOUR hand they are now given. 3 Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for YOU. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to YOU.
In verse 2, God is describing that animal's fear of humans will continue, as it wouldn't be sporting if they didn't try to flee while being hunted (apparently God didn't apply that idea to docile sheep, cows, etc). That's not an element of the contract, but an explanation that man's dominion over animals will continue, as before.
Notice in verse 2-3 that for the first time in Biblical history, God has given mankind His PERMISSION to eat animal flesh, just as He gave vegetation to Adam and Eve; God is thus broadening the dietary palette to include animal flesh, which is a BLESSING, extending a privilege to mankind which theretofore hadn't been enjoyed.
4 Only flesh with its soul—its blood—YOU must not eat.
Note the word "ONLY", which implies an OBLIGATION. Just after having given mankind the PERMISSION to eat animal flesh, God is telling man that he has an OBLIGATION not to eat the blood of the animal. The words "must not" makes it clear that it's a COMMAND, an OBLIGATION tied to the PRIVILEGE that's just been given, hence it's limited by having some string attached. In legal terminology, that's called a 'condition'.
Verse 5, however, is where the New World Translation goes awry:
5 And, besides that, YOUR blood of YOUR souls shall I ask back. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of man, from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man.
See what they did there?
The NWT treats verse 5 as if it's a continuation ("And, besides that") of the OBLIGATION found in verse 4; they treat verse 5 as if it's an addendum, like there's some string attached to verse 4. That's an improper translation, and it's just flat-out wrong.
It's easier to spot the error NWT is making by comparing verse 5 to ANY OTHER TRANSLATION, eg KJV:
Genesis 9:5 (KJV)
5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.
In this rendering, it becomes clear that God has given mankind His BLESSING ('surely', implying God is giving His assurance to man, in the same way Jesus said, 'truly') by promising that God will require an accounting for ALL spilled human blood (i.e. the blood of Noah and his sons) if THEIR blood should be spilled at the hands of someone else, whether man or beast.
God is promising to provide justice to ALL victims who lose their lives at the hands of another; that's a BLESSING, very good news to anyone who doesn't relish the idea of becoming someone's murder victim and the killer gets off scot-free (as I discussed in my article about how Cain seemingly got away with murder after killing Abel, or where Lamech even bragged that he'd be more protected by God than Cain was, since he claimed to kill TWO people, even a boy)!
Hence, God has PROMISED that even ANIMALS are to be held responsible for the blood of men they spill (Exodus 21:28), even the blood of other animals they spill (Exodus 21:35); animals also will now face being stoned to death for violating God's Law against bloodshed. That explains why animals were wiped out in the Flood; animals had become corrupt, too.
'At the hand of every man's brother' is a reference to the Hebrew practice of 'blood vengeance' (go'el), wherein the next-of-kin was required to chase down and murder the killer of his relative in order to avenge their death (Numbers 35:19).
This 'blood avenger' practice was not some anomaly that existed outside the justice system: it WAS how the criminal judicial system operated, part-and-parcel of the system implemented in Israel to enforce the Divine prohibition against murder/manslaughter. The 'blood avenger' played a key role in God's system of justice of demanding retribution for spilled blood, and is the implementation of God's BLESSING to mankind found in Genesis 9:5-6.
(I discuss the 'city of refuge' system in the article on Cain above, link above is in blue)
In that light, the meaning of Genesis 9:5 becomes crystal-clear, shown to be a BLESSING for citizens living on the Earth; verse 5 is NOT offered as an OBLIGATION.
(And don't just take my word for it: check ALL the other translations of the same ancient Hebrew passage of verse 5 for yourself:
Then compare ALL of those to way the NWT handles the translation, improperly attaching it to verse 4:
You don't need to be fluent in Hebrew to look up the adverb 'ak' in Strong's Concordance to see how the NWT is distorting the word to alter the message of the verse.)
The NWT gets back on the right track though, in verse 6:
6 Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.
This is the key verse where Divine authority has been delegated from God to mankind, where duly-appointed authorities are OBLIGATED to enforce the law ("anyone shedding man's blood, BY MAN WILL his own blood be shed"). God is no longer personally handling all cases of bloodshed by doling out Divine justice for bloodshed (eg by cursing the ground, as he did for Cain), but MAN is now expected to perform this duty AFTER the Flood on God's behalf.
In fact, those officials in positions of authority in ancient Israel felt so strongly about their OBLIGATION to enforce God-given laws they believed failure to do so meant God would turn His back on ALL inhabitants of the Land, and they'd be "vomited out of the Promised Land" (i.e. exiled); their failure to enforce the laws was offered as an explanation as to why God had allowed the Chosen People to fall under Babylonian and Assyrian defeat and exile.
Notice how verse 6 concludes with Divine reassurance, a little pep-talk from God ("being made in God's image"): this is God's way of reminding mankind they're up to the task of administering criminal justice, being capable of making proper decisions in matters of life and death (capital punishment). Again, this explains WHY "just" Noah was chosen for the task.
Let's go back and take a look again at Verse 5 in NWT:
5 And, besides that, YOUR blood of YOUR souls shall I ask back. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of man, from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man.
The NWT turns a statement intended as a BLESSING into an OBLIGATION, as if God will demand that an individual's blood be returned to God, as if a man's blood is on temporary loan (like a library book that's checked out), where a person might be obliged to provide THEIR own blood upon request by God! Huh?
It literally means that God WILL ask the INDIVIDUAL to sacrifice their very life, EVEN IF they didn't commit any sin or crime! The misinterpretation implies that God WILL kill anyone (including animals) without having ANY GOOD reason, and even WILL kill the 'blood avenger' who simply followed the system of justice established by God. Huh?
That misreading also leaves Genesis 9:6's 'delegation of authority' clause equally inexplicable, as if duly-appointed authorities ALSO are authorized to kill any living creature for ANY reason whatsoever, even if they're innocent.
That rendering is so completely contradictory to other principles of sanctity of life (not to mention God's sense of justice) found elsewhere in the Bible, that it's proof-positive of a translation being the work of uninspired men.
However, if you're not convinced the New World Translation goes awry in their handling of the translation, the cincher is looking at the Hebrew grammar used in the Bible.
In Hebrew, the word for blood is 'dam', but it also appears in the Bible in plural form ('damim'). But unless you're looking at the Hebrew characters found in an interlinear translation, you're going to completely miss that important distinction, since translations aren't going to render the Hebrew word with an awkward English translation that maintains the plural sense (eg 'bloods"), since such usage doesn't even exist in the English language.
So why does the Bible use a plural form ("bloods") vs the singular ("blood")? What difference could THAT grammatical difference possibly make, you ask?
In English, we use the same word ('blood') as BOTH a singular AND plural (unless you're a member of the LA street gang, 'The Bloods'), since there's no attempt to differentiate between, say, blood found inside a living body vs the massive amount of blood found at a crime scene for a murder by slashing the victim's throat.
HOWEVER, Biblical Hebrew is quite different, since it reserves the singular case ('dam' and derivatives, like 'damow') to refer to physiological blood which is functioning inside a living body (where it's often translated as 'life-blood' to convey the sense of being in a living organism) OR to refer to the blood of an animal, whether alive or dead. In contrast, the plural form ('damim') is used EXCLUSIVELY in reference to bloodshed, or to suggest the blood-guilt incurred by the killer, so that's a KEY distinction.
To demonstrate this idea, consider the account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, where God says that Abel's "bloods" cries out from the ground demanding justice. What is the explanation behind this odd usage?
'Bloods' reflects the Hebraic belief that the victim's bloodshed prevents the propagation of descendents of his 'bloodline', since Hebrews believed offspring were derived from mixing of their parent's blood: the male's semen was thought to be a highly-clarified form of blood, with the mother's menstrual blood seen as evidence of the woman's contribution of her blood (a concept likely based on the observation that pregnancy became progressively more difficult after the onset of menopause, eg Sarah).
So to speak of blood in the plural implies that murder doesn't just take the life of one person, but takes the lives of the person's potential offspring, as well, and the voice of the "bloods" crying out from the ground was actually the voices of ALL of the future descendants of Abel who would have ever lived, mourning their being snuffed out before they were even conceived. Thus the rabbis have a saying, "To take the life of one person is like taking the life of a whole world, and to save the life of one person is like saving a whole world!"
On the word 'blood', Pamela Barmash notes the following in "Homicide in the Biblical World":
The singular form denotes both “blood” and “bloodguilt, culpability for death,” while the plural refers to “bloodguilt, culpability for death,” the responsibility for the unlawful spilling of blood. The meaning of the plural form has been extended to refer to crime in general (e.g., Isa 1:15). The blood of animals is always referred to in the singular.
With that in mind, re-examine Genesis 9:3-6 in the Hebrew interlinear, seeing how this information is critical to understand the meaning of this important and misunderstood passage, where God gave mankind permission to eat animal flesh as long as no animal blood (singular) was consumed; as a separate matter, God promised to demand an accounting for HUMAN spilled blood (plural).
In my opinion, the New International Version renders the passage most accurately to conserve this sense (although it goes off-track by dropping the reference to the go'el blood avenger practice, i.e. "at the hand of the victim's brother", which some of the other translations retain, likely done in the name of modernization):
Genesis 9 (NIV)
3 Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. 4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.
(Some rabbis think the passage reflects a prohibition of a practice in the days before preservation or refrigeration of cutting the leg off a live animal and cauterizing the wound so the animal wouldn't bleed to death, but could be kept alive for piece-meal consumption! Remember: the definition of bloodshed requires DEATH of the living being, and the animal wouldn't die right away, which is why the restriction deserved separate mention.)
Now, the passage moves on from the dietary changes to the Noahic Covenant's bloodshed prohibition (which should be presented as a second paragraph, since it's a new thought; note how God is building up to a grand finale, with the promise not to flood the Earth even again, since along with cursing the ground, such drastic measures won't be needed in order to punish actions stemming from evil thoughts of men):
Genesis 9 (NIV)
5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting (from the murderer). I will demand an accounting from every animal (for any human blood it spills). And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being (as mentioned above, this is the part that refers to the brother seeking vengeance). 6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind."
And let's not forget that the Noahic Covenant only applies to SHEDDING of blood (i.e. manslaughter/murder), so God's promise of justice and retribution applies ONLY if the victim DIES. Since no one dies from donating blood (and their life may in fact be SAVED from a blood transfusion), Jehovah's Witnesses' blood policy is based on a 'false equivalency', trying to conflate a non-lethal LIFE-SAVING medical procedure with intentional murder and/or manslaughter.
Furthermore, the Noahic Covenant only addresses INGESTING an animal's blood with its flesh (where EATING or DRINKING animal blood is a forbidden practice for Jews, primarily NOT because of Genesis 9:4, but due to separate prohibitions found elsewhere in the Torah, due to its association with idolatry and pagan practices).
However, accepting a blood transfusion doesn't involve EATING (the ingestion of) blood, but INJECTING it directly into the bloodstream. The process is analogous to an organ transplant (actually a 'cell transplant'), since eating blood accomplishes nothing: the blood is quickly broken down by proteolytic enzymes in the digestive tract and becomes amino acids which don't carry oxygen. The bone marrow produces the complex metalloprotein molecule hemoglobin that provides the oxygen-carrying benefits of blood, but there's simply not enough time to wait around for the body to make more endogenous blood: hence why time is of the essence in order to save lives in massive blood loss.
So although Jews still follow the Noahic Covenant's prohibitions against eating blood with the flesh, Jews WILL accept blood transfusions, simply because the accounting that God demands in Genesis 9:5 is met by saying, "But God, no one died, so there was no bloodshed! Besides, I didn't EAT blood, it was INJECTED into my bloodstream! But most importantly of all: I was going to DIE if I didn't receive a blood transfusion!"
That last part is the MOST-important reason, since depriving someone of a life-saving blood transfusion based on a misunderstanding of the Noahic Covenant is EXACTLY the kind of bloodshed for which Genesis 9:5 DOES demand "an accounting for", with retribution doled out by duly-appointed secular authorities, since such an act represents the very kind of preventable loss of innocent life the BLESSING actually provides. God doesn't accept excuses like, "Well, we misunderstood your Will, since we didn't understand ancient Hebrew!" Ignorance is no excuse.
But even overlooking THAT distinction, how exactly does allowing an otherwise-preventable loss of human life demonstrate that a person respects the SANCTITY of human life? That kind of topsy-turvy inversion of logic is just baffling, as if losing one's life somehow DEMONSTRATES RESPECT for human life?
All the more ironic is how Witnesses enjoy the right to spill their own blood by refusing a life-saving blood transfusion, which is their right under the man-made Constitutionally-guaranteed 'freedom of religious worship' doctrine (which apparently includes their right to misunderstand Bible scriptures). It's important to remember those 'duly-appointed' secular authorities are acting under their God-given authority, too (given to them in Genesis 9:6), by demanding an accounting for spilled blood; they're actually trying to prevent a preventable death from occurring!
It should be noted that any deaths that result from refusing blood based on not understanding Hebrew won't get chalked on God's "death by martyrdom" column, since it's actually more analogous to MURDER or SUICIDE (depending on whether the victim was an adult, whether it was a coerced decision, etc).
Remember that Jews (the people who speak Hebrew and WROTE the Tanakh) believe that protecting the sanctity of life is so important, it even trumps observing the Sabbath, which is part of the Ten Commandments! God formed the Sabbath Covenant with His people to create an everlasting contractual obligation to observe it (apparently the fellow in Numbers 15:32 who was stoned to death for playing pick-up sticks on the Sabbath didn't get the memo).
HOWEVER, Jews long ago modified their strict interpretation of the Sabbath Covenant, partly due to pressure exerted by a certain critic of Pharisees: a fellow by the name of 'Jesus Christ'. Jesus broke Sabbath by performing miraculous healing, but defended it by pointing out he was performing such acts NOT for HIS personal benefit, but instead was pointing to the glory of his Father, Jehovah, healing mortals of their diseases which, if untreated, would lead to death.
This is what Jesus said, in Mark 3:4:
"And He said to them, 'Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?''
When Jesus defended his actions of healing (a form of work) on the Sabbath, he was actually referring to a Jewish legal concept of pikuach nephesh, which literally means, "preserving life", a principle which was emerging in rabbinical traditions. The idea was that human life is extremely precious, and that every other law can (and MUST) be set aside to save a life. So even though the Sabbath laws found in the Torah potentially carried a death penalty, they could (and should) be temporarily suspended if there were a life at stake.
And sure, there were many ongoing debates about exactly WHAT circumstances constituted "life-threatening", but Jesus was demonstrating his opinion on the issue when he referred to pikuach nephesh.
So along those lines, Jehovah's Witnesses need to ask themselves exactly who's glory is being honored by suffering a needless and preventable death when refusing to accept a blood transfusion, based on their flawed misunderstanding of Genesis 9:5?
How does the death of a religious devotee, who's Pharisaical leadership misreads the Noahic Covenant, point to God's glory? Wouldn't it instead point to the glory and power of a group of elderly men sitting in Brooklyn?
The fatal misreading of Jehovah's Witnesses' Governing Body who perpetuates their toxic blood policy is reminiscent of the extremist Imams who eggs on an Islamic suicide bomber, but the would-be martyr only manages to blow himself up, thinking he's dying in the name of service to Allah. While he may have intended to take the lives of others in the name of carrying out God's will, Jehovah's Witnesses are no better: they'd allow their own family members to die in the name of service to God, except it's not in the name of Jehovah or Jesus, but in service to the Governing Body, whom they believe is their mediator. Such foolish deaths are the very definition of manslaughter, blood spilled due to the lethal (and arguably, intentional) misinterpretation of the Flood account by clearly-fallible mortals.
It's ironic that Jehovah's Witnesses will continue to die due to their tragic misunderstanding of the Hebrew words appearing in the Noahic Covenant, as many have the hubris to believe that Jews improperly rejected Jesus by repeating the tired old cliche that Jews were a hard-headed people who couldn't understand their own messianic prophecies found in the Tanakh, and instead followed the man-made oral laws of the Pharisees rather than listening to Jesus (who warned against reliance on the man-made laws and oral traditions of the Pharisees).
Sadly, the SOLUTION is out of the hands of rank-and-file JW member, since they're not PERMITTED to exercise independent thought or control, or to speak out against misinterpretations based on inaccurate translations, at the risk of being shunned: hence they do as they're told, even if that includes dying quietly on cue.
Unfortunately, expecting the Governing Body to own up to their fatal misinterpretation (which has been ignored and even shunned for the past 6 decades now!) is tantamount to admitting to not being the "Spirit-directed organization" they claim to be, so they're trapped (at least, not without claiming any policy changes on blood policy as "New Light"). Need I mention the avalanche of 'wrongful death' lawsuits that threaten, as well?
Thus I wouldn't hold my breath, waiting for anything to change.
Interesting expression, "hold my breath": doing so causes hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in the cells which can be fatal, and not coincidently is also the cause of death after massive blood loss and refusing blood. You could hold your breath and die from hypoxia, or die from loss of blood and reject life-saving blood.
All members have an OBLIGATION to learn the truth of the matter under their own steam in order to protect themselves, before they or their loved ones have to pay 'the ultimate price' for not knowing any better.