Alice C. Linsley
Blood and wine are associated in Christianity as sacramental signs that point to salvation through Jesus Christ. We also find these associated in 2 sets of Old Testament stories, suggesting that the sacramental association pre-dates Christianity. For some Protestant readers the meaning of sacrament may be unclear, so before we turn to the stories, we must define “sacrament.”
A sacrament is an action that God performs for humans that we can’t do for ourselves. In the sacrament of Baptism, God unites us to Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection and makes us heirs of the Kingdom. The sign of the sacrament is water. In the sacrament of Holy Communion, God nourishes us with spiritual food and communes with us as if we were present in Paradise. The sign of Holy Communion is wine and water mixed with bread.
Remembering that a sacrament is something only God can do for humanity, we turn to the Old Testament story sets of 2 Passovers and 2 Drunken Fathers.
The first story set involves the Passover in Egypt and the Passover in Jericho. In Egypt, the door posts were marked with blood from the sacrificed Lamb and seeing the blood, the angel of death passed over, and the people of Israel were led out to a new life. This is the Passover of the tribes who were in Egypt.
Another Passover takes place in Jericho. The scarlet cord was hung from the window of Rahab’s house and when the Israelites swept through that city, Rahab and her whole household were spared and led out to a new life, God redeeming their lives from destruction. Rahab became an ancestress of King David and Messiah. This is the Passover of David's ancestors who never were in Egypt.
A study of the scarlet cord in Scripture reveals that it symbolizes blood, so the sacramental sign in both stories is blood and Christians understand this to be the Blood of Jesus.
In the second set of stories, we find 2 fathers who became drunk with wine. The first is Noah and the second is Lot. In Noah’s case, his 3 sons decide what to do while their father sleeps in a drunken stupor. In Lot’s case, his 2 daughters decide what to do while their father sleeps. In both stories, the results are not good. One of Noah’s sons comes under a curse, and Abraham’s descendents find their lives troubled by Lot’s Ammonite and Moabite descendents. Wine in these stories is not sacramental. These stories are about what mankind does and stand in contrast to the first set of stories. Yet we find a note of redemption even in these stories.
The descendents of Ham will help the Israelites make their escape from Egypt. Jethro, the Priest of Midian (a descendent of Ham through Keturah’s line) will act as an advisor to Moses, his son-in-law. A daughter of Moab will trust God to care for her and her mother-in-law in Bethlehem. There she will marry Boaz and become the great grandmother of King David and ancestress of Messiah. (Notice the symmetry of a father-in-law and a mother-in-law.) Even when we sinners take matters into our own hands, God shows us mercy that we might move to newness of life.
The symmetry of these story sets is remarkable. In the Egyptian Passover Moses is the central figure, but in the Jericho Passover, it is the woman Rahab. Clearly God uses both males and females to bring about salvation and deliverance. In the story of Noah’s drunkenness, 3 sons take action (a mystery), but in the story of Lot’s drunkenness, 2 daughters take action to procreate and from them comes not one kingdom (as with 2 wives), but two peoples.
Let us return to the sacramental signs of blood and wine. The association of blood and wine is made in the prophecies concerning Judah, who will be elevated above his brothers and from whom “the scepter shall not depart… nor a lawgiver until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the expectations of the nations…who will “wash his garments in wine, And his clothes in the blood of grapes” (Gen. 49:10-11).
We notice concerning Judah that 4 promises are given.
Judah shall be elevated above the other tribes.
Judah shall rule and give the law until Christ appears.
Christ shall be the hope and expectation of the nations.
He shall wash his clothes in blood.
This parallels the Passover Seder which involves 4 promises given to Israel, symbolized by the 4 cups of wine. These speak of God’s 4 promises to Israel in Exodus 6:6-7: “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (1st cup), and I will deliver you from their slavery (2nd cup), and I will redeem you with a outstretched arm, and with great judgments (3rd cup); And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God (4th cup).”
The promises concerning Judah and the promises concerning Israel can be fulfilled only by God. In that sense the wine used in the Seder is sacramental. It points to the mighty acts of God to deliver and redeem His people and to consummate a love relationship. Jesus told his disciples that he would not drink the fourth cup again until the last promise is fulfilled: “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. I say to you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:28-29)