The Doctrine of Bloodguiltiness
May 15, 2015


The cry of “Judgment is coming to America” has been trumpeted forth from numerous evangelical pulpits in America in a manner that would suggest to many that the American Church is suffering from some type of Chicken Little complex – “The sky is falling”. It would seem that every time a major catastrophe hits our shores some conservative Christian talking head is proclaiming that America’s comeuppance is at hand, an idea that may be all too readily dismissed by the general population, Christians included. One example of this is Pastor and author David Wilkerson, of The Cross and the Switchblade fame, who has warned of the possibility of judgment for national sin in cities across America – and worldwide, saying, “We are under God’s wrath.” No doubt most consider his remarks extreme and out of hand. But what if there actually is some warrant to the idea that America, or any nation for that matter, would actually be held accountable for atrocities and injustices committed, within its borders or abroad? Is there biblical warrant for such assertions, or are they merely baseless accusations from hot-tempered clergymen?

It turns out that the prophetic books of the Bible do in fact set forth principles of national judgment and retribution, and even respected scholars and teachers in our time warn of the possibility of national judgment. To understand the concept of national judgment, we need to understand the Biblical principle of “bloodguilt”. Two of the most crucial scripture passages communicating the doctrine of bloodguiltiness are Genesis 9:5-6 and Numbers 35:33-34

Genesis 9:5-6 says, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Numbers 35:33-34 says, “You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

These are the passages that provide the specific outline of the doctrine, but to fully understand it we will need to look at key portions of scripture that lay the foundation, going back to an earlier incident in Genesis. After the fall of mankind and subsequent expulsion from the Garden of Eden through the disobedience of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3), sin infected mankind and introduced into our world the curse of death. Soon after, the first recorded instance of murder – fratricide – is detailed for us. Cain, in a jealous rage, rises up and slays his brother Abel.

Genesis 4: 8–11 reads, “Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”

This is actually the first passage of scripture alluding to bloodguiltiness – Abel’s blood is described as having a voice that cries out to God from where it has been shed on the ground. The main point being driven home is that of justice – that crimes against the innocent are demanding of justice. The cry rises in the beginning of God’s word in Genesis 4, and the cry remains to the end of God’s word in Revelation 6:9–10, the nature of which remains the same: that the shedding of innocent blood demands a righteous response in order to alleviate wrongdoing, that justice can be established in the land, making it possible for the inhabitants to coexist peacefully within the framework of the society they live in.

The responsibility for administering said justice rests with the civil magistrate. After judgment came upon the inhabitants of the Earth via Noah’s flood, in Genesis 9 we get an overview of the criteria for justice in the cases of shedding innocent blood – murder – a crime that was a major deciding factor in wiping the slate clean through the judgment of mankind.

Specifically Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

This passage, along with the reference to one being his brother’s keeper in Genesis 4, represents the establishment of civil authority in the stages of infancy. From this point on, throughout scripture, the entity, role and responsibility of civil government on the Earth is expounded on and detailed not only for pre-Israelite nomadic tribes (such as Abram and Lot), pre-monarchical (tribal) Israel, and the Israelite kingdoms, but ultimately all civil authority throughout the world. Scripture maintains the standard of establishing justice throughout the land and underscores this establishment as paramount for the health and survival of all earthly societies. Which brings us back to Numbers 35, the specific directive regarding the doctrine of bloodguiltiness. 

The consequences for accumulating bloodguilt could be quite severe – perhaps in direct proportion to the harm caused by letting the most vile crime against humanity, that is, the murder of an image bearer of God, run rampant. We can learn about this in Leviticus 18:24-25, where “all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants”. Exile and captivity plagued God’s people throughout their history for this very reason.

2 Kings provides us with a biblical illustration of the doctrine of bloodguilt in action. In the account of the reign of King Manasseh over Judah, we observe how God judged the entire nation for bloodguilt. We read in chapter 21 that King Manasseh “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.” Specific reference is made to child sacrifice, in that “he erected altars for Baal”, worship of whom always included child sacrifice, and “he burned his son as an offering”. (2 Kings 21:2,6)

The idolatry, and more specifically the child sacrifice that accompanied it, brought bloodguilt on the entire nation, as not only was justice not established through the lawful punishment of murder in Judah, injustice was actually legislated by Judah’s highest ranking official, King Manasseh. The actions of the king were especially reprehensible due to the fact that when the civil authorities give their blessing to wickedness, then that wickedness has the tendency to expand exponentially throughout the land, and indeed we are told in verse 9 that “Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel”.

Therefore God pronounced judgment on the entire nation, Leviticus 18 style, promising that Judah and Jerusalem would be visited with destruction, wiped away, given over to their enemies, and sent into captivity (2 Kings 21:11-16). Even though King Manasseh repented, and was eventually followed by a better king, Josiah, God still fulfilled His retribution upon the nation, sending other nations as conquering invaders. “Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon.” (2 Kings 24:3-4

The kingdom of Judah fell, and fell hard. The famine was so severe that the Israelite soldiers deserted their families and fled through the city walls. It was a terrible, unimaginable time of suffering and anguish. Would other nations deserve such a punishment? Would America deserve such a punishment? Think of the innocent blood running throughout the United States due to abortion, not to mention pornography, sexual immorality, rebellion, idolatry, materialism and greed – all rampant throughout America. Think of how we export pornography (89% of the world’s porn is created in the US) and coerce developing nations into legalizing abortion through economic blackmail.   

Every nation that came under judgment during the time of the Old Covenant, every nation that was overthrown, whose people were sent into exile, immersed in civil war, whose borders were overrun with bloodthirsty and barbaric enemies, ultimately held at least one thing in common: the shedding of innocent blood, and that mainly through the act of child sacrifice. But what of the New Covenant? It may seem that with the emphasis now pointing to individuals rather than nations, seeing that God is no longer dealing exclusively with one nation of special people, the doctrine of bloodguilt is no longer collectively applied. But we see absolutely no evidence whatsoever for the negating of national responsibility in regards to the failure of the people of a nation to deal with sin. Sin and judgment are still very much a reality in the New Covenant. We read in John 5 “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (verse 22), and “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (verses 26-27). Hebrews 10 speaks of a “fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire” (verse 27), and goes on to speak of a worse punishment in the New Covenant era. Not only that, but Jesus indicates a future judgment coming to Jerusalem, an entire city, in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

So does God’s pattern change? Consider Revelation, which tells of judgments on cities and nations as well. What He does in the Old Testament is seen repeatedly throughout the Revelation of John, especially chapters 17 and 18. In these chapters, a greedy, materialistic city, referred to as Babylon, who lived luxuriously, exporting their sins to foreign nations, is judged harshly.

“And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come’” (Rev. 18:9-10). 

“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
and will be found no more” (Rev. 18:21b). 

It is important to understand these principles in light of the current situation America finds herself in – she is under the curse of bloodguilt. Christians cannot be complacent, blaming lost pagans for the dire condition of our nation. 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” The church of Jesus Christ has been complicit in the abortion holocaust by keeping silent, being complacent, and lacking any action to demanding its total abolition. Hiring out special groups to do the work of the gospel for us is unacceptable, yet we are content to pay a small group of specialists to love our neighbors for us, and we think that voting once every four years for a pro-life politician somehow fulfills the responsibility we have to the least of these in our midst. The people of God first and foremost need to repent of their apathy towards abortion – child sacrifice – within the borders of a “Christian nation”. The church is the vessel God chose to establish His kingdom on earth. But we have abdicated the throne to the kingdoms of this world. We are the ones who have the Holy Spirit’s power to accomplish all that He calls the church to do. We must tremble in fear in light of passages such as Ezekiel 36:18: “So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it.”

What would judgment look like in the United States? A hurricane? An earthquake? Falling towers? Before attempting to make prophetic claims about certain disasters, natural and otherwise, within the borders of our country, it would be instructive to consider the blind man in John 9, Luke 13’s Roman massacre and fallen tower, and of course Job’s lessons, and accept the fact that we cannot arbitrarily attribute every catastrophe that happens in the world to the wrath of God. A more instructive text for understanding the nature of God’s judgment on nations post-Calvary might be the judgment Paul describes in Romans. The wrath of God is described in Romans 1:18 as “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” and as a giving over to the base desires cultivated in their hearts, seen in 1:24 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” and 1:26 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions” and yet again in 1:28, “God gave them up to a debased mind”. All of these things lead up to verses 29-32, a more public expression of being given over to their own sinful lusts, i.e. they are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness” and the list goes on.

And so the wrath of God could be described as a country led by those given over to their baser desires, a culture immersed in the ever-shifting standards of those who have defined the very essence of their being by the perversions they fancy the most at the moment. Our judicial branch of government hijacked by judges filled with all manner of unrighteousness, and every office from the executive branch on down the line is full of of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and maliciousness. It is in these conditions that we try to raise our families, train and protect our children, spread the gospel, build the kingdom. This is the judgment of God on our nation, and it gets worse when we consider that every nation that gets family and morality wrong, every nation that rejects any semblance of objective standards of right and wrong, any nation that trades in order for self indulgent chaos, is ripe for economic and military conquest. And maybe this is how the judgment of God for the bloodguilt of the nation manifests itself.

Lamentations 4:11-13 says, “The LORD gave full vent to his wrath; he poured out his hot anger, and he kindled a fire in Zion that consumed its foundations. The kings of the earth did not believe, nor any of the inhabitants of the world, that foe or enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem. This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous”.

Prior to the terrorists attack on September 11, 2001, who would have believed that a foreign enemy could enter our “gates” and bring such death and destruction? The sins of our nation have rendered us without the Lord’s protection. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12

What then is the solution? Isaiah 1:16-17 tells us, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Innocent babies slated for abortion – child sacrifice – are in essence fatherless, for their fathers have abandoned them, they are orphans, for their mothers are abandoning them, single mothers in need of assistance are similar to the widows of Biblical days, and each one of these is the neighbor Jesus commands us to love as we love ourselves. Isaiah continues, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isa. 1:18-20)

What does God call us to do? “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19). Each one of us must specifically repent with broken-hearted prayer and fasting for the sin of abortion. We need solemn assemblies of repentant prayer.

Then we must get to the work of abolishing child sacrifice. We must go to the abortuaries, pray and plead with the abortion-bound mothers and fathers to repent and spare their children’s lives. We must demand no less than total abolition to end the killing and close down the killing centers. We must do all that we can do to stop this terrible atrocity.

Judgment is already upon us, and a judgment more severe is on the horizon. Our nation is culpable for the mass murder of over 60 million innocent preborn babies by abortion – the intentional killing of of a pre-born human being, child sacrifice. God has endured patiently for 43 years as the massacre has grown too immense to fathom. The blood of countless millions cries out to God, and that blood is on our hands. We need to act, and we need to act now – the time for justice is always now!