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“But we think it proper to hear from you what your thoughts are, for truly as regards this sect it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.”—Acts 28:22


Law, Mercy, and the Question of Property

Jehovah is undoubtedly the Supreme Owner of all things. As Owner he has placed certain things within man's prerogative, sometimes under certain conditions, such as withholding something for Himself. (Genesis 1:29; 2:16, 17; Psalm 115:16) Scriptures consistently teach that blood is a sacred substance, and one that he has withheld for Himself. (Genesis 9:3-6; Leviticus 17:11, 14; Acts 15:19, 20; cf. Ezekiel 18:4) For further information concerning the sacred nature of blood, please see the next article entitled "Pre-Law Society and the Apostolic Decree."

It therefore becomes clear that as the Owner of blood, Jehovah God is the authority to whom we look toward for setting the conditions in which blood may be used by humans. One thing that is helpful is examining how Jehovah delineates the use of things that are owned by his faithful servants, and are ultimately owned by Him. This is helpful because it may establish a precedent in viewing things that are owned and withheld by Jehovah, if it becomes clear that he has set a condition of usability for the thing owned.

What do the scriptures reveal God's thinking to be in relation to his property and even the property of others? A lesson of mercy can be learned by observing how God commanded the property of others (ultimately His property) to be handled.

Deuteronomy 23 tells us:

24 "In case you go into the vineyard of your fellowman, you must eat only enough grapes for you to satisfy your soul, but you must not put any into a receptacle of yours.
25 "In case you go into the standing grain of your fellowman, you must pluck off only the ripe ears with your hand, but the sickle you must not swing to and fro upon the standing grain of your fellowman.

This was a "general" legal provision that did not involve a specific day or time period as to its application. Why though, was this provision made? It was out of mercy for those who might find themselves in need of food such as the widow or the poor one in their midst or simply the one who found himself hungry while passing through his neighbor's field.

What does this teach us about God and his view of property under certain circumstances, His or otherwise in connection with human need? It clearly shows that in a time of need, a person could be shown mercy by a sharing of what we have that is rightfully ours with them for their benefit. How far though would this provision of generosity and mercy go? Would it be extended to the point that our own crop would be significantly depleted? No, such an abuse was not what God wanted out of that provision, either at the hand of one individual or at the hand of many individuals partaking of the provision. It was not a promotion of laziness or gluttony, but was based upon human need. This provision only allowed for the "ripe" grains to be plucked and only allowed for what their need was at the time. It was therefore limited to "amount" and "kind." It was not open-ended.

One must remember that if they abused the privilege that was given, they would be guilty of stealing, not only from the individual Israelite, but God himself. But, if he limited himself within the legal provision, he would not be considered stealing anything. It was his to take but only to a degree. Interesting are the words of Matthew Henry at this verse:

"It provided for the support of poor travelers, and teaches us to be kind to such, teaches us to be ready to distribute, and not to think every thing lost that is given away. Yet it forbids us to abuse the kindness of friends, or to take advantage of what is allowed. Faithfulness to their engagements should mark the people of God; and they should never encroach upon others."

The same mercy and compassion is shown in God's law to Israel specifically directing

"his people not to reap the edges of their fields completely, not to go over the boughs of the olive tree after having harvested the crop by beating the tree, nor to gather the leftovers of their vineyards. Even if a sheaf of grain was inadvertently left in the field, this was not to be retrieved. Gleaning was the God-given right of the poor in the land, the afflicted one, the alien resident, the fatherless boy, and the widow.—Le 19:9, 10; De 24:19-21.…It is evident that this arrangement for the poor of the land, while encouraging generosity, unselfishness and a willingness to share one's property to those in need in no way fostered laziness. It throws light on David's statement: 'I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.' (Ps 37:25) By availing themselves of the provision made for them by the Law, even the poor, by virtue of their hard work, would not go hungry, and neither they nor their children would have to beg for bread." ("Gleaning." Insight on the Scriptures. Published by Jehovah's Witnesses.)

The parallel that can be drawn to this in relation to blood is that first, blood is the property of God. Is there any indication that God may view a small allowance of blood to be used by humans without technically breaking the command to abstain from blood? Is there a legal provision in the area of blood of this nature; one that is limited by "amount" and "kind"? Scripturally of course there is no legal provision spelled out in the area of blood. But, is that therefore all there is to consider?

Before proceeding to the next point let us take with us this much. This provision at the very least demonstrates God's willingness to share property, whether his or otherwise, under certain conditions, with those who are in need of that property. That willingness is presented because of God's mercy combined with a human need; we can be certain of that much.


It is a scriptural axiom to us as Jehovah's Witnesses that God is not partial in his judicious dealings with humans. For all humans who have the SAME ASSIGNMENT AND RESPONSIBILITIES before Him, he deals with them judiciously the same. What is sin for one is sin for the other. That which he purposely does or gives for one he does not forbid to others. Such would be a display of partiality. In other words, if one person with the same assignment and responsibility before him was forbidden to do something as a deadly sin, yet another person of equal status was allowed to do such without consequence and even blessing, God could not escape the charge of judicious partiality being exhibited.

While it is true that God can do with what is His any way he pleases since it is His, that would not satisfy the charge of partiality in the above scenario, and, as we believe, God is not partial. Is this pertinent to the topic of the allowance of blood fractions below the cellular and whole plasma level? Consider this:

If it is observed that God has ordained the passing of certain fractions from the blood of the mother, through the placenta, to the fetus, is that tantamount to a legal provision for others to receive like fractions? Keep in mind that the reason the legal provision was given was ultimately because of the mercy of God and his caring for the needy among his people. Is such thinking divorced from his view of blood? Do we need a law in each and every case to demonstrate that God may be merciful and have the same attitude toward other things that are ultimately his property, in a time of need? Do we need a law to state that God may be merciful in the area of blood and allow the same thing for other humans that he has provided for the fetus, ESPECIALLY in view of that fact that he has ordained as well and good and proper for the fetus, a human being, to receive those fractions? Has God allowed the fetus fractions below the cellular and whole plasma level without consequence of sin and made the same level of fractions forbidden to us with the consequence of a deadly sin? Such would not seem reasonable and would lack spiritual discernment. It would not be in keeping with a God who expressed: "I want MERCY and not sacrifice."

In fact, if there yet remains a question or objection to this understanding, in one of the accounts that employs the words "I want MERCY and not sacrifice" supplies another important piece to this discussion. All of these considerations will work together to demonstrate why we have left the decision of blood fractions below the cellular and whole plasma level to the conscience of the individual. It will be demonstrated that to forbid this conscientious decision goes beyond the evidence available to make that forbiddance.


Before considering the Sabbath day incident involving the disciples of Christ plucking, threshing and eating grain on the Sabbath it would be good to first know what we are dealing with in the way of restrictions and allowances that were provided and required on the different Sabbaths observed by the Israelites.

Whereas every seven days the Israelites observed a Sabbath day, there were other Sabbaths also observed. There was a Sabbath year every seven years and a special Sabbath year called the Jubilee every 50 years. There were also other special Sabbaths during the year associated with different festivals and holy observances. It is important to note that not all Sabbaths were treated alike in regard to restrictions and allowances.

Let's first look at the Sabbath observed every seven years as there are some interesting provisions that are pertinent to our discussion. What was restricted and what was allowed during this Sabbath year?

Please note what is told to us in Leviticus 25:1-7 along with pertinent comments that follow:

25 And Jehovah spoke further to Moses in Mount Si´nai, saying: 2 "Speak to the sons of Israel, and you must say to them, 'When YOU eventually come into the land that I am giving YOU, then the land must observe a Sabbath to Jehovah. 3 Six years you should sow your field with seed, and six years you should prune your vineyard, and you must gather the land's produce. 4 But in the seventh year there should occur a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath to Jehovah. Your field you must not sow with seed, and your vineyard you must not prune. 5 The growth from spilled kernels of your harvest you must not reap, and the grapes of your unpruned vine you must not gather. There should occur a year of complete rest for the land. 6 And the sabbath of the land must serve YOU people for food, for you and your slave man and your slave girl and your hired laborer and the settler with you, those who are residing as aliens with you, 7 and for your domestic animal and for the wild beast that is in your land. All its produce should serve for eating.

Clearly, during this Sabbath year, people could eat from the volunteer crops that grew in the fields. The fields during this year were community property, for both men and animals to partake of. Of course, that was not the case on other years, but this year was different, it was a Sabbath year. It is clear that God did not present a contradicting command. He first stated that you could not REAP fields that year, yet you could clearly go into the fields, pluck the grain, thresh it if necessary to separate the hull from the grain and eat your fill. This was not "reaping." This was a gleaning of the fields. Reaping refers to the "cutting down" of the crop. Olive trees were not reaped, they were spoken of as "beaten." Grapes were not reaped but were spoken of as gathered. The only case of a reaping of grapes was when they were "cut" with a "sickle" (Revelation 14:15-20). "Gleaning" the edges of a field that had not been reaped involved plucking, threshing, and gathering, all a part of the harvesting process.

Notice that this Sabbath year was spoken of as a Sabbath where the LAND observed a Sabbath to Jehovah. It was a year of complete rest for the LAND, not for the Israelites themselves. Work was not forbidden for the entire year of the Sabbath year the way it was forbidden on the general Sabbath day. It was a Sabbath for the LAND to experience a complete rest as a Sabbath for the LAND to Jehovah. Did this mean that being in the fields during the Sabbath YEAR, plucking, threshing and cooking in preparation of a meal was not considered WORK by Jehovah? No, it did not mean that at all because the Israelites were not forbidden from doing WORK during the Sabbath year, except sowing, pruning and reaping. It was a Sabbath for the LAND to experience rest. To think that the restrictions and the allowances of the Sabbath YEAR carried over and applied to what was allowed and restricted on the Sabbath DAY would be a great mistake because such was clearly not the case.

For instance, on the Sabbath day, no fires were allowed to be lit. No cooking could therefore take place. Surely no one believes that cooking and fires were prohibited for the entire Sabbath year. What applied on the Sabbath year was clearly different then what applied on the Sabbath day. Is the fact that the Israelites were allowed to perform some work in the fields during the Sabbath year an indication that they could do such on the Sabbath day as well, and it not be considered work? That conclusion would surely be presumptuous. There was no legal provision for such stated on the Sabbath day although there was legal provision stated on the Sabbath year. To say one was allowed take all of the legal provision of the Sabbath year and apply it on the Sabbath day would be a great mistake because, whereas the Sabbath year did not forbid the individual Israelite to perform work, (except sowing, pruning, reaping, gathering) the Sabbath day clearly did forbid the individual Israelite from performing any work. The scriptures say:

Exodus 31:14-15
14 And YOU must keep the sabbath, for it is something holy to YOU. A profaner of it will positively be put to death. IN CASE THERE IS ANYONE DOING WORK ON IT, THEN THAT SOUL MUST BE CUT OFF FROM THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. 15 Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day is A sabbath OF COMPLETE REST. It is something holy to Jehovah. ANYONE DOING WORK ON THE sabbath DAY WILL POSITIVELY BE PUT TO DEATH.

Exodus 16:22-30
22 And it came about on the sixth day that they picked up twice as much bread, two omer measures for one person. So all the chieftains of the assembly came and reported it to Moses. 23 At that he said to them: "It is what Jehovah has spoken. Tomorrow there will be a sabbath observance of a holy sabbath to Jehovah. What YOU can bake, bake, and what YOU can boil, boil, and all the surplus that there is save it up for YOU as something to be kept until the morning." 24 Accordingly they saved it up until the morning, just as Moses had commanded; and it did not stink nor did maggots develop in it. 25 Then Moses said: "Eat it today, because today is a sabbath to Jehovah. Today YOU will not find it in the field. 26 Six days YOU will pick it up, but on the seventh day is a sabbath. On it none will form." 27 HOWEVER, IT CAME ABOUT ON THE SEVENTH DAY THAT SOME OF THE PEOPLE DID GO OUT TO PICK UP, BUT THEY FOUND NONE. 28 Consequently Jehovah said to Moses: "HOW LONG MUST YOU PEOPLE REFUSE TO KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS AND MY LAWS? 29 Mark the fact that Jehovah has given YOU the sabbath. That is why he is giving YOU on the sixth day the bread of two days. Keep sitting each one in his own place. Let nobody go out from his locality on the seventh day." 30 And the people proceeded to observe the sabbath on the seventh day.

Exodus 20:8-11
8 "Remembering the sabbath day to hold it sacred, 9 you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. 10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. YOU MUST NOT DO ANY WORK, you nor your son nor your daughter, your slave man nor your slave girl nor your domestic animal nor your alien resident who is inside your gates. 11 For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them, and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day. That is why Jehovah blessed the sabbath day and proceeded to make it sacred.

Exodus 34:21
21 "Six days you are to labor, but on the seventh day you will keep sabbath. IN PLOWING TIME AND IN HARVEST YOU WILL KEEP sabbath. [Plucking and threshing are a natural part of the work done by the poor in order to glean and harvest the unreaped edges of the field.]

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
12 "'Keeping the sabbath day to hold it sacred, just as Jehovah your God commanded you, 13 you are to render service and you must do all your work six days. 14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to Jehovah your God. YOU MUST NOT DO ANY WORK, YOU NOR YOUR SON NOR YOUR DAUGHTER NOR YOUR SLAVE MAN NOR YOUR SLAVE GIRL NOR YOUR BULL NOR YOUR ASS NOR ANY DOMESTIC ANIMAL OF YOURS NOR YOUR ALIEN RESIDENT WHO IS INSIDE YOUR GATES, IN ORDER THAT YOUR SLAVE MAN AND YOUR SLAVE GIRL MAY REST THE SAME AS YOU. 15 And you must remember that you became a slave in the land of Egypt and Jehovah your God proceeded to bring you out from there with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. That is why Jehovah your God commanded you to carry on the sabbath day.

Jeremiah 17:22-23
22 AND YOU MUST BRING NO LOAD OUT OF YOUR HOMES ON THE sabbath DAY; AND NO WORK AT ALL MUST YOU DO. And YOU must sanctify the sabbath day, just as I commanded YOUR forefathers; 23 but they did not listen or incline their ear, and they proceeded to harden their neck in order not to hear and in order to receive no discipline."'

It is amply clear that there was no "legal" provision for work of ANY kind on the Sabbath day. However, was everything that would be physical exertion be considered work? Evidently not from what follows.

Insight on the Scriptures under "Sabbath Day" informs us of the following:

"There was a distinction in requirements for the regular weekly Sabbath and the Sabbaths or "holy conventions" that were connected with the festivals. (Le 23:2) Generally speaking, the weekly Sabbath was more restrictive; no work, laborious or otherwise, could be done (except in the sanctuary). Even gathering wood or lighting a fire was prohibited. (Nu 15:32-36; Ex 35:3) Travel was also restricted, this apparently being based on Exodus 16:29. The Day of Atonement was likewise a time of rest from all sorts of work. (Le 16:29-31; 23:28-31) However, on the holy convention days of the festivals no laborious work, trade, or business activities could be engaged in, but cooking, festival preparations, and so forth, were allowed.—Ex 12:16; Le 23:7, 8, 21, 35, 36."

What about then, the incident of Jesus' disciples plucking, threshing and eating a small amount of grain on the Sabbath day. Was there legal provision to do such on the Sabbath day? Since we know that there was indeed legal provision to pluck a handful of grain as you passed through another's field there was certainly reason to think they were well within their rights to do so on even on the Sabbath. Otherwise, Jesus would not have said that they were "guiltless." They did nothing wrong because the Law allowed for that to happen even on the Sabbath.

Jesus explains exactly how we can understand why this small thing that the disciples did was not a violation of the Sabbath. He did so by cleverly trapping the Pharisees in their own teachings and views. He appealed to a case where David and his men performed something that was technically unlawful for him to do. Jesus even stated what the technical law was as recorded at Luke 6:2-4:

At this some of the Pharisees said: "Why are YOU doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" 3 But Jesus said in reply to them: "Have YOU never read the very thing David did when he and the men with him got hungry? 4 How he entered into the house of God and received the loaves of presentation and ate and gave some to the men with him, which it is LAWFUL for NO ONE TO EAT BUT FOR THE PRIESTS ONLY?"

Surely Jesus did not misrepresent what the truth was in this scenario. He obviously evaluated it correctly. If the Pharisees were without premise whatsoever in their accusation, one would have to wonder why Jesus would draw such a parallel, as that was surely not his style to find common ground with the Pharisees when they had no premise for their statements or accusations. That is overwhelmingly evident in the recorded dealings that Jesus had with the Pharisees elsewhere.

Did David do something that was technically unlawful? Yes, he did. Is that the view expressed by Jehovah's Witnesses? Yes, it is. For instance notice what is stated in the July 15, 1982 Watchtower on page 30:

"Also, it was technically 'not lawful for David to eat' the showbread because the Law said that this was for the priests. Yet Jehovah's high priest gave it to David. On what basis? The loaves removed from the showbread table were "holy," not to be treated as ordinary, such as by being given to a common laborer or eaten on a pleasure outing. They were to be used as food for the priests, men engaged in God's service. So when David came on what apparently was a special mission from God's anointed king, and the high priest determined that the men were ceremonially clean, it was not wrong to share the showbread. That was in accord with the basic use that God designated for it."

What do we see borne out in these comments? It WAS technically unlawful for David to eat the showbread. There was NO LEGAL provision for him to do so, yet it was NOT WRONG for him to do so. How can we harmonize such things? Really, it becomes simpler when you understand the phrase, "I want mercy and not sacrifice." In fact, that is how Jesus summed up his lesson to the Pharisees. (Matthew 12:7) What David did was technically against the law, which cannot be denied. Jesus even stated it was technically against the law, and the above Watchtower concurs, but there was more at work here than just the narrow view as held by the Pharisees.

Due to the mercy of God, as displayed in all of the legal provisions of his property and the property of the Israelites in general, what David did was not "wrong" in God's eyes, even though "technically" unlawful. God is merciful when there is a human "need" involved, and on that occasion there was a human need involved. But it is apparent that God specifically "allowed" for David to take the bread as the account reveals that Ahimelech made an inquiry of Jehovah to be able to do so on David's account. It was after this inquiry that Ahimelech then gave David the bread. What this demonstrates is that unless their is indication of divine permission, that which is HOLY, that which is SACRED, is not to be taken for one's own use. In this case, although technically unlawful, God gave permission to the high priest to give David the bread.

In regard to what David did, there was no robbing of Jehovah by this act. If Ahimelech had gone into the holy and taken the fresh bread that was to stay there for a whole week and used that to feed David and his men, then that would have been a sin against the institution of the bread; but as it had been taken out in the ordinary course of things, it was no robbing of Jehovah, and an inquiry was also made of Jehovah involving the situation. So there was no indiscriminate entitlement to David because he had a need, but that which was allowed had a particular status which contributed to its allowance. There was divine permission granted.

Otherwise, to think that he could indiscriminately take the bread because he was hungry, and break a law in so doing, would mean that mere hunger would be all that would be necessary to break the laws of God. Such a stance would be ridiculous to anyone who understands integrity to God in all his commands.

Also, in regard to what the disciples did, there was no indiscriminate amount of work on the Sabbath that was allowed to them. They had been given divine permission to use this "property" not their own, but only in regard to what was needed, nothing more. They broke no law. Jesus said they were guiltless and also showed that by divine permission, even David could break an established law. He basically argued using a literary device called by some, "from greater to less." If what their beloved David did was OK by God, even when there was a Law in place, how could what the disciples did be wrong when there was specific provision given by God to do so?

Whereas the Law stated that on the WEEKLY Sabbath they must not do ANY work of ANY kind without qualification, none was mentioned, there were obviously allowances because of the mercy of God to do "certain" NECESSARY things and only "certain" NECESSARY things. That is what the case of Jesus' apostles demonstrates. Although, "technically" work, it was not something God forbid on the Sabbath. He drew from an example that demonstrated a clear "bending" of the law to allow David to do something he was ordinarily forbidden to do. David remained guiltless. Jesus point was that although what the Apostles did was "technically" work, it was not the kind of work God forbid on the Sabbath, just like David did something that was technically forbidden to him but was allowed to do so by the mercy of God. God allowed "certain" kinds of work to be done on the Sabbath, even though it was technically work, because he is a merciful and reasonable God. That is the very same reason that he allowed the priests to perform a great deal of work on the Sabbath. Not because it wasn't "work," but because it was allowed by him as it was necessary for the atonement to take place for God's people. Therefore, it is clear that God does not always restrict "everything" that the law, from a strict, legalistic view of that law would call for.

What Jesus did was cut the Pharisees off from both angles. He first appealed to a case where God clearly bent the law to accommodate David. Why, because David was hungry and met certain criteria to be allowed to eat the showbread. David was NOT a PRIEST. This was offered, not as a statement that his disciples broke a command of God but to help them appreciate that even in the case where there IS a law, God is willing to bend at times, UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS, that law to a DEGREE, not carte blanc, but to a degree to accommodate the NEEDS of man. Then, he hit them from the other side by relating what the priest does EVERY Sabbath. He WORKS. Yet HIS work was not FORBIDDEN. Why? Because God allowed CERTAIN kinds of WORK of NECESSITY on the weekly Sabbath. These two sides of the argument completely disarmed the Pharisees because they had no where to turn to condemn the disciples. They knew what Jesus said about David was true, God did bend the law for David there is no doubt, and they were not about to condemn David in the same breath along with the disciples, EVEN IF THEY DID FEEL THEY BROKE Sabbath LAW, because then David would be condemned along with them. They also knew that because of the work the priest does, Jesus was right in indicating that works of NECESSITY were allowed because of the reasonableness and mercy of God. They had no way to come back to him because he covered the bases of their strict, legalistic view of the Law. They could not condemn the disciples because they were in effect guiltless from both standpoints. What an amazing stroke of genius on behalf of Jesus.

Up to this time, the Pharisees could argue: "It is irrational to allow the disciples to 'pluck' and 'thresh' on the Sabbath when the law says that you must not do ANY SORT of work. How can you perform WORK and yet abide by the Sabbath? It is irrational."

But, Jesus took that rug out from under them in a twofold sweep. He first demonstrated from a "great to less" lesson, that there was no way to condemn the disciples and then demonstrated that not everything that could be called WORK was condemned by God via the high priest and his duties on the Sabbath. In both cases, where it would appear that laws would be broken, divine permissions were the precedent for allowing such to take place. Likewise, with the gleaning of a handful of grain from someone's field as you walked through it. It was a divine permission that otherwise, would be both stealing and in this case, work on the Sabbath. It was God's PERMISSION that was the common denominator in all these instances.

However, those allowances did not erase the entire law of God concerning the showbread or the Sabbath. They were still very much intact and not "indiscriminately" violated.

So what we have before us is this:

  1. The Law stated that the Israelites were not to do ANY work on the weekly Sabbath.
  2. Certain physical exertion/work (plucking, threshing, priestly duties, the saving of a life) were allowed on the Sabbath, all based upon the merciful allowances and permissions of God.

Conclusion: Not everything that could technically be labeled work was forbidden on the Sabbath. This either means that God did not consider these things to be "work" because of their nature, or he considered it such a small fraction of the whole that its usage would not be a violation of its divine purpose.

This does not mean that God allowed the disciples to break his Law, it means that he did not consider what the disciples did as a PART of the Law against working on the Sabbath because he specifically allowed for them to do so without restriction on the Sabbath. It was not forbidden work.

The only objection to date raised against this understanding of the Sabbath/work scenario is that it is claimed that God provided a list to the Jews in the form of a Judaic Sabbitical Code as to what was considered forbidden work and what was not. However, no list of course has been forthcoming. Numerous implications have been presented but none that produces this list as claimed. It is therefore an empty claim.

The main implication has been made to try to show that "gleaning" was allowed on the weekly Sabbath because it was allowed on the seven-year Sabbath, but such a comparison is committing the error of irrelevance because we have already seen that simply because something was allowed on the seven-year Sabbath, does not mean that it was allowed on the weekly Sabbath. It is a comparison of apples and oranges. Therefore the above conclusions about the Sabbath Law in relation to all forms of work stands unrefuted unless it can be demonstrated otherwise.

What bearing however, does this have on the command to abstain from blood? That is what we shall consider next.


The Law that was stated that gave the disciples the right to "work" in the sense of gathering a handful of grain and thresh it in their hands did not mention the Sabbath. In fact, until this incident recorded for us in the word of God was presented, we would have had no precedent to assume such was allowed on the weekly Sabbath, but now we know that it was because of this incident. It was by the permission of God that these ones could glean a handful on the Sabbath or any day. Without that incident and the defense presented by Christ, we would not have known of such an allowance. Therefore, that incident established a "precedent" for us to realize that "certain" work was allowed, either because God did not consider it work at all or he allowed a fraction of work out of mercy toward humans.

Do we, however, have anything that might serve as a precedent that Jehovah exercises a like mercy in the area of abstaining from blood? By way of a scriptural account, no we do not. Does that mean therefore there is no precedent for allowing anything in connection with blood to be used by humans? Not necessarily so. Please consider the following.

Some would say in regard to what is seen in the womb, that we have a divine precedent of allowance expressed by that divinely ordained arena.

Divine revelation comes to us not only through his inspired words but also through what is revealed by means of his own creation. Such revelation through his own creation is so strong that it leaves the unbeliever without excuse, according to Romans 1:20:

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." (KJV)

What is seen in the arena of the womb? What is seen is the allowance of fractions derived from blood that exist below the cellular and whole plasma level. When that is observed, one also considers that God is not partial and He is judiciously consistent. From that they may decide for themselves, with prayerful consideration, whether they will avail themselves of the same kind of fractions, or at the same level that is observed in the womb, that is, fractions from blood below the cellular and whole plasma level.

A parallel then is seen between the command to abstain from work and the command to abstain from blood.

God allowed certain physical exertions which he either considered not work and therefore not in violation of the Sabbath Law or He allowed such "work" out of mercy for mankind. There was precedent to establish such due to the incident of the disciples plucking and threshing grain on the Sabbath in order to grab a handful of food. It was a small fraction of work that was performed that God did not hold them accountable for in regard to the Law of the Sabbath to abstain from ALL work. It was permitted by divine grant which otherwise would have been stealing and working on the Sabbath.

Might God allow certain things from blood that he either considers small enough to not constitute blood or could He allow such "blood" out of mercy for mankind? Some see what transpires in the womb as evidence for such an understanding and an allowance. Unless due cause can be shown to overturn this reasoning, no one should fault their decision to do so. To insist they must have a specific legal provision to do so smacks of a Pharisaical mindset. Although there was legal provision for what the disciples and high priest did, there was no legal provision for what David received. It was only upon divine permission against an established law that he was allowed to do so. Based upon the mercy and permission of God, there was no guilt to the disciples, to David or the high priest.

Does that mean that we therefore have the right to indiscriminately use blood if a need is established? No. To make that claim would mean that the disciples could have indiscriminately depleted the man's field on the Sabbath as long as they could have claimed a need to do so, or that David could have violated the law of God based on mere hunger. Such an action would be a deliberate misuse of the mercy of God. Never would anyone want to be presumptuous when relying upon the mercy of God.

For instance, in proof that human need and God's subsequent mercy do NOT overturn the "complete" law on any matter, is the account offered in the July 15, 1982 Watchtower. It has this to say on page 31:

"Contrast this with the incident when Israelite soldiers in Saul's army violated God's law on blood, as related at 1 Samuel 14:32-35. They had been in battle with the Philistines, enemies of Jehovah's people. Tired and hungry from the fight, some Israelites slaughtered animals and "fell to eating along with the blood." Whether it is claimed that this was a case of satisfying a powerful hunger or that it was an emergency situation, breaking the law on blood was not excusable. It was 'sinning against Jehovah' and it called for special sacrifices in behalf of those who 'sinned against Jehovah by eating along with the blood."

An important point to note here with this incident is that these men were near death. A thorough reading of that account clearly reveals that, yet their eating of the blood was NOT allowed without committing a sin, even in the face of death. Why? They had no divine permission to do so. Blood was God's sacred property and he did not permit them to misuse it even in the face of death.

Therefore, we will not move past what we have precedent to do, that being which we see demonstrated in the womb. To do that would be to presume without precedent to do so. We must obey the command to "abstain from blood" even in the case of need, yet, one may decide to avail themselves of the same kind of allowance that is demonstrated in the womb, which is the allowance of fractions below the whole plasma and cellular level.


What of the question that has been posed as such: "If every part of blood could therefore be used, theoretically leaving nothing behind once fractionated, how can it be said that we are abstaining from blood?"

In answer let us first note this: No one has ever taken a volume of blood and used every last piece of that blood in a fractionated form nor will such a thing feasibly ever be the case. Such would be a deliberate and indiscriminate misuse of that blood because they simply do not NEED it. Even if we so decide to take the fractions, we only take what is deemed necessary, nothing more. In effect, the rest is still in the possession of God. We do not presume to use any thing more than what is absolutely needed and absolutely precedented for use since blood belongs to God and he has the jurisdiction over it.

It would be much the same when we look at the situation that God allowed in regard to what the disciples did on the Sabbath. God allowed a tiny fraction of that field to be plucked, threshed and eaten on the Sabbath without a violation of the command to abstain from work or without being guilty of stealing. Theoretically though, just as in the above example of blood, if any portion of that field was available, then theoretically it was ALL available in a fractionated form and any portion or all of it in enough fractionated handfuls by enough different people could be plucked without ever violating the Sabbath if they ALL did it in the manner that the disciples did it. The entire field would have been plucked and threshed and no one person would have violated the Sabbath command to abstain from work if they had all performed their handful as did each disciple.

However, is such a thing even plausible? Would it not have taken a deliberate and concerted effort to deplete that man's entire field and a deliberate misuse and abuse of God's provision allowing what he did on the Sabbath? Of course it would and the same is true of the blood scenario. The question is a hypothetical conundrum invented for the purpose of trying to find any way possible to negate the validity of our view. It is Pharisaical. It never has and never will happen because it would take a deliberate abuse of the mercy of God to perform such a thing to begin with. To do such would have to be deliberate, just like the depletion of that man's field would have to be deliberate, and therefore punishable by abusing the mercy of God as an excuse to indiscriminately do as you wish for whatever purpose just to show it could be done. God's mercy does not allow for such things.


What of the argument: What happens at the mother's breast is a divinely arranged arena. With a certainty white blood cells are transferred from mother to child by the medium of the mammary gland.

Is this indication that blood at the cellular level should be acceptable in cases of need? To answer this one needs to take a close look at what is happening within the mammary gland and see what it demonstrates for us as regards white blood cells as they are found in blood.

At the start it must be said that I am certainly no scientist, so much of what is presented is based upon that which is stated by those that are, and I will present their statements as I have found them through research.

If man is able to imitate a transference of that which is part of blood, by whatever means, that takes place naturally within a God-ordained system in regards to blood, such as the womb scenario or the arena of the mammary gland, one could feasibly argue for their acceptance through ingesting or through some form of transfusion therapy.

From the outset, it is clear that although we can imitate the process of the womb, that of separating fractions from the primary components, before being introduced to the "other" person, what takes place in the mammary gland before those former blood components are introduced into the "other" person, cannot be duplicated by man. If man could take white blood cells and perform the morphological and essential differences that the body does before introducing them to the "other" person, then such a process might be argued just as the fractional argument is presented from the standpoint of the womb scenario, but, such is not possible for man to do. Man cannot make milk constituents from white blood cells. He cannot perform the morphological and essential differences that the body performs upon the white blood cells before they enter the "other" person as constituents of milk. Therefore, if the natural process as reflected in the mammary gland cannot be imitated by man, it is hardly valid to use that arena as a basis for invading the blood stream and using white blood cells as they are found in blood because that is not what the body does via the mammary gland. Those cells undergo significant changes for the sole purpose of being inclusive in milk.

These morphological and essential changes are amply clear in the following scientific observations: (all underscore added)

Excerpts from:


Kirsi-Marjut Järvinen
Department of Dermatology, Skin and Allergy Hospital
University of Helsinki
Helsinki, Finland
Mononuclear phagocytic cells. In the milk of healthy women delivered full-term, the predominant cellular component (60 to 90% of milk cells) is the macrophage (Smith and Goldman 1968, Ho et al. 1979, Eglinton et al. 1994), with a morphology resembling that of tissue macrophages (Pitt 1979). Despite expressing the monocyte markers Leu-M 3 and Leu-M 5 , they also appear phenotypically more similar to tissue macrophages (Xanthou 1997). Additionally, occa ional monocyte are found (Smith and Goldman 1968, Ho et al. 1979). The structural and functional characteristics of breast milk macrophages are not completely defined. They display unusual morphology, including many lipid-filled vacuoles, milk fat globules, and casein micelles (Smith and Goldman 1968, Smith et al. 1971, Crago et al. 1979, Ho et al. 1979, France et al. 1980, Baldus et al. 1995). Studies of mothers that have delivered preterm and at full term have shown that milk macrophages are a fully mature tissue macrophage population (Rodriguez et al. 1989). They adhere to glass, although less than do their counterparts in peripheral blood (Miler et al. 1990). They are activated, as indicated by their high motility (Özgaragoz et al. 1988), but their migratory activity and chemotaxis have also been shown to be significantly less than those of less mature blood monocytes (Clemente et al. 1986, Thorpe et al. 1986, Rodriguez et al. 1989). They have been demonstrated to mount a respiratory burst after in vitro stimulation (Tsuda et al. 1984, Cummings et al. 1985, Speer et al. 1985; 1986). Activation, as indicated by induction of the oxidative burst and prostaglandin production, has been suggested to occur through the IgA receptors they contain (Robinson et al. 1991). Moreover, they show high phagocytic activity (Smith and Goldman 1968, Goldman and Smith 1973, Rodriguez et al. 1989), but the number of particles engulfed per cell has been reported to be markedly lower than for blood leucocytes (Miler et al. 1990). They have also been demonstrated to kill ingested Candida Albicans (Cummings et al. 1985). That they exhibit strongly carbohydrate antigens in addition to peptide ones may be the result of cytokine-mediated stimulation or increased phagocytic activity (Baldus et al. 1995). They also possess the capability of producing toxic oxygen radicals for intracellular killing of microorganisms (Tsuda et al. 1984). Some authors suggest that, as elsewhere in the body, human milk macrophages may provide the first line of defense against pathogens (Waksman 1979). Neutrophils. According to the literature, neutro hil are rare in human milk (8-28%) in breast-feeding mother (Smith and Goldman 1968, Eglinton et al. 1994). However, one author reports a high 40-60% of neutro hil (Ho et al. 1979, Crago et al. 1979). Human milk polymorphonuclear cells are functionally exudate cells with less locomotive, adherence, microbicidal, and stimulated respiratory burst capabilities than those of their counterparts in blood (Ho and Lawton 1978, Kohl et al. 1980, Weaver et al. 1984, Thorpe et al. 1986, Buescher and McIlheran 1993, Grazioso and Buescher 1996).

In the studies using flow cytometry, the mean CD4+ and CD8+ ratio of T cells in human milk has been reported to be 1, meaning that the proportion of CD8+ cells is higher than in peripheral blood (Wirt et al. 1992, Eglinton et al. 1994). However, an older study using indirect immunoperoxidase staining and monoclonal antibodies claimed the ratio was 1.6 (Jain et al. 1991). Further, milk T cells have 2- to 3-fold higher percentages of activated CD8+ (HML-1+ or VLA-1+) cells than does blood (Gibson et al. 1991, Eglinton et al. 1994).

Natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells represent a small proportion of colostral cells and display low cytotoxic activity (Moro et al. 1985, Wirt et al. 1992). In contrast to peripheral blood, the majority of colostral NK cells exhibited a degenerated appearance with many vacuoles and no electron-dense granules (Moro et al. 1985).

Also we have these comments from others:

Representative Immune Factors in Human Milk Whose Production Is Delayed in the Recipient Infant.

The cells in milk, predominantly leukocytes, were initially considered to be the "mother's gift to the infant," but most studies examining milk cells have shown their functional inferiority to cells obtained from the blood (Prentice et al, 1987, Oksenberg et al, 1985, Buescher & McIlheran 1993; Thorpe et al, 1986). In addition, examination of the effects of milk exposure on fully functional cells (Grazioso & Buescher, 1996) plus better insight into the physiology and function of leukocytes now suggests precisely the opposite interpretation, i.e., that milk cells are not intended to function in the recipient infant.

Also this:

The Journal of Immunology, Vol 132, Issue 2 684-689, Copyright © 1984 by American Association of Immunologists
Secretion of immunoglobulin A by human milk leukocytes initiated by surface membrane stimuli

Thus, IgA is released from human milk leukocytes by secretory mechanisms that are initiated by certain membrane stimuli, some of which are shared by peripheral blood neutrophils and monocytes. Because human milk leukocytes appear to be refractory to C5a or other activated complement components and are blocked by cytochalasin B, it appears that these unusual cells may be uniquely adapted to play a role in the immunologic protection of the neonate.

Cellular Defenses
As is true of defensive molecules, immune cells are abundant in human milk. They consist of white blood cells, or leukocytes, that fight infection themselves and activate other defense mechanisms. The most impressive amount is found in colostrum. Most of the cells are neutrophils, a type of phagocyte that normally circulates in the bloodstream. Some evidence suggests that neutrophils continue to act as phagocytes in the infant's gut. Yet they are less aggressive than blood neutrophils and virtually disappear from breast milk six weeks after birth. So perhaps they serve some other function, such as protecting the breast from infection.

The next most common milk leukocyte is the macrophage, which is phagocytic like neutrophils and performs a number of other protective functions. Macrophages make up some 40 percent of all the leukocytes in colostrum. They are far more active than milk neutrophils, and recent experiments suggest that they are more motile than are their counterparts in blood. Aside from being phagocytic, the macrophages in breast milk manufacture lysozyme, increasing its amount in the infant's gastrointestinal tract. Lysozyme is an enzyme that destroys bacteria by disrupting their cell walls.

In addition, macrophages in the digestive tract can rally lymphocytes into action against invaders. Lymphocytes constitute the remaining 10 percent of white cells in the milk. About 20 percent of these cells are B lymphocytes, which give rise to antibodies; the rest are T lymphocytes, which kill infected cells directly or send out chemical messages that mobilize still other components of the immune system. Milk lymphocytes seem to behave differently from blood lymphocytes. Those in milk, for example, proliferate in the presence of Escherichia coli, a bacterium that can cause life-threatening illness in babies, but they are far less responsive than blood lymphocytes to agents posing less threat to infants. Milk lymphocytes also manufacture several chemicals—including gamma-interferon, migration inhibition factor and monocyte chemotactic factor—that can strengthen an infant's own immune response.

What have we seen from the above?

"their migratory activity and chemotaxis have also been shown to be significantly less than those of less mature blood monocytes"

"They display unusual morphology, including many lipid-filled vacuoles, milk fat globules, and casein micelles"

"but the number of particles engulfed per cell has been reported to be markedly lower than for blood leucocytes"

"milk T cells have 2- to 3-fold higher percentages of activated CD8+ (HML-1+ or VLA-1+) cells than does blood"

"In contrast to peripheral blood, the majority of colostral NK cells exhibited a degenerated appearance with many vacuoles and no electron-dense granules"

"but most studies examining milk cells have shown their functional inferiority to cells obtained from the blood"

"it appears that these unusual cells may be uniquely adapted to play a role in the immunologic protection of the neonate"

"Yet they are less aggressive than blood neutrophils"

"recent experiments suggest that they are more motile than are their counterparts in blood"

"they are far less responsive than blood lymphocytes to agents posing less threat to infants"

I think it is safe to say that a leukocyte in milk is not the same as a leukocyte in blood. To extract milk leukocytes from the breast as "milk" is entirely different then extracting white blood cells from blood and ingesting them. There are now milk leukocytes, having been altered divinely by that which He created within the mammary. There are essentially different than the blood leukocytes. If one extracted a milk leukocyte and ate it and extracted a blood leukocyte from blood and ate it they would be eating two essentially different things. The only precedent that this might set for the Christian is if there was a way to imitate the natural process that the body performs upon these white cells before introducing them to the "other" person. It surely does not draw a parallel with using white blood cells as they are found in blood since that is not what the body does via the mammary gland.

It has also been argued that because during mastitis, whole plasma or blood cells can pass from mother to child, that this should allow for the use of whole blood or major components in transfusion therapy.

To this it is stated that one could hardly use a scenario that is the result of Adamic sin, resulting in disease and imperfection, as a divinely intended arena for transfer between mother and child. This would be tantamount to saying that because God allows spontaneous abortion, that we should be able to perform abortion at our discretion. If it is argued that abortion could be permissible upon the event of the unavoidable death of either the mother or the child or both, such as a tubal pregnancy, and therefore, the taking of blood would be permissible in the event of possible death, the difference is this. In the event of an abortion made to actually SAVE a life is not the violation of a law of God in allowing one or the other to die. That is surely not tantamount to "killing" one of them when both or one would have naturally died left in their current state. In saving the life of one or the other, no command of God is violated. It's not the taking of a life but rather the saving of a life that transpires.

In the event of blood it is different, because even in the face of death, as related at 1 Samuel 14:32-35, there would be a violation of God's law, which would be using God's sacred property without divine permission. You would violate the law to abstain from blood, whereas in the abortion case, no law would be jeopardized as the efforts are to SAVE life, not take it.


It is apparent from what we have considered that God has possession over blood, he has commanded that we abstain from it, so we must only use it in a manner that we see having divine precedent. From a biblical standpoint that includes "sacrifice" for the forgiveness of sin. Except for what one might see as a merciful allowance of the kind of fractions demonstrated in the womb (see above) the only other use allowed by man was for the purpose of forgiveness of sin through sacrifice.

The command to pour the blood onto the ground as water was primarily for the purpose of giving the blood back to God. The one sacrificing the animal for food or otherwise demonstrated by his action that they were giving the "life" of that animal back to God. The blood represented the "life" that was owed to God. Those who wanted to eat meat were instructed to take it to the priests to be first slaughtered as a "communion sacrifice" before they were given their portion to eat. The priest was to pour the blood onto the ground as water in symbol of that life being poured out to Jehovah. Even the case of an animal caught while hunting to be used for food, the hunter had to pour the blood onto the ground in symbol of it being given back to God.

Again the question has arisen: Since Jehovah's Witnesses can use all of the blood after fractionation, what is left to pour out to Jehovah? As was stated before, this question presents an unrealistic and impractical scenario, one that never has and never will play out in real life experiences. (See above.) Since Jehovah's Witnesses have never used and never would use all of another's blood or even a volume of blood in a fractionated state, using only what they would individually need, they show their appreciation for the fact that all blood belongs to God and they will only accept what God mercifully allows and nothing more, rejecting the rest as it were to the possession of God. As long as we hold intact the practice of giving to God what is his, it matters not whether it is technically poured onto the ground. Since all blood belongs to him, in one's using a perceived merciful allowance of only what is needed and nothing more, God retains what is his. Therefore the principle of what was accomplished by pouring the blood on the ground is maintained.


Why then do Jehovah's Witnesses not donate blood since it could be used for fractionation purposes? Primarily it seems to be because we as Jehovah's Witnesses cannot reasonably guarantee its proper use once donated. If it could be guaranteed that the blood donated would be for the purpose of fractionation, only then would it appear to be up to the individual to decide, but such a guarantee could prove to be an impossible task in many situations.


It has also been objected that Jehovah's Witnesses are inconsistent when it comes to allowing the reentering of autologous (one's own) blood back into the body after it has been removed and treated with medicine or some other purpose and then transfused back into the body. They regard this as a transfusion of one's own blood and state that it is therefore inconsistent with our views elsewhere.

The answer to this lies in the designation of a "current therapy." For a long time now, Jehovah's Witnesses have made it a matter of conscience that blood removed from the body to pass through certain equipment for whatever purpose was a matter of conscience, such as a dialysis machine which would perform the function of the kidney. This was all a part of a current therapy. It was never the removal and storage of one's blood for some later use that could be considered part of a current therapy or treatment.

The reasoning for this allowance is that there would be no significant difference if this blood was sectioned off in a machine for treatment than if it was removed into a test tube or another piece of equipment to transport it to where the same or similar treatment could be performed and then immediately or within the same therapy or treatment be put back into the body. It has never been a concern whether or not the blood was being sectioned off by valves or chambers in these machines that are directly connected to the body, because that has always been the case. What makes the difference if it is sectioned off in a machine or in a test tube or vial for the same purpose and then put back into the body performing manually what the machine would have performed mechanically? Because of that, it is now a matter of conscience for the individual Witness to decide if such a therapy would violate their conscience.


It therefore seems, everything having been said, that at times, Jehovah's Witnesses are being judged because of their understanding of the mercy of God in relation to divine law. It would seem that those who promote the above arguments against the use of blood fractions below the cellular and whole plasma level would be more apt to see the rationale behind absolute refusal of ANYTHING from blood. To them, that would be rational. And that would be fine for "them," for this is not a "defined" area; it is one that is up to the conscience of the individual. However, in regard to those who oppose us, because we try to be keen to ways that might reflect a more divine view of law and mercy and its connection with human need, especially in an area that is life-threatening, we are judged. But that judgment ignores the mercy of God that manifested itself when it came to human need and a law that would affect that need. Therefore, if we, as humans, can mimic in some mechanical fashion the transfusion of that which occurs naturally between mother and child when it comes to blood components and/or fractions, and God is not judiciously partial, then accepting blood fractions below the cellular and whole plasma level is certainly feasible. However, comparing the transfusion or ingesting of white cells as they occur in blood to the ingesting of milk leukocytes which have been morphologically and essentially adapted to be included in mother's milk misses the target completely. (See above.) Man cannot imitate through any mechanical means the bringing about of the morphological and essential changes that "naturally" take place in the mammary gland before those former blood components are introduced into the baby. Therefore the comparison attempted does not work, until such time as they are able to do what the body does naturally, even if it is done mechanically, but then, even if they did, what they would have would be constituents of "milk" and of course when it comes to constituents of milk, they could drink until their heart is content.

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