Like most people, I’ve always assumed that the saying “blood is thicker than water” meant that family comes before friends. I never really thought about what the water meant. I figured it was a way to refer to anyone outside of your family. But in the context of Biblical covenant relationships, this phrase doesn’t seem to work. I’ve wondered to myself, “Is blood really thicker than water?”
Recently I came across an interesting interpretation from a Messianic rabbi. He says the original meaning of this phrase has been lost. The original meaning of the phrase is:
“The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”
As I thought through this, it started to make sense. I began to look at covenants in scripture. They are always sealed by blood. It began with Abraham and ended with Jesus. Every covenant was sealed with blood. Even the Hebrew word (karath) translated “made” is literally “cut”. In other words, you cut a covenant. The cut draws the blood. The blood is the bond and seal.
With this interpretation, a few other verses seem to make more sense. I look at the verse, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother” from Proverbs 18:24. I think of the covenant between David and Jonathan. They cut a covenant as well. They were closer than brothers.
I think of one of the hardest verses in the Bible to process in Luke 14 where Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” Does he really mean that you have to hate your family, or is Jesus saying that the blood covenant with Him is more important than any other relationship? It seems to point to the latter with this interpretation.
I highly value family. Hispanic culture puts an incredibly strong focus on family. I’m thankful that my immediate family is all serving the Lord. More than water relations, I have covenant relationship we them through the blood Christ. But that’s not the case for everyone. That can make the passage in Luke 14, that much more difficult. It’s definitely not your “watered-down” Gospel message any way you cut it (both puns intended).
If I’ve been misinterpreting this phrase, this gives God’s covenant even deeper meaning for me. It gives it even more validity in my life and relationships. It helps me realize how important it is to maintain relationships in the body of Christ. These relationships have to go beyond agreeing on doctrinal positions. We are in blood covenant with each other. It’s not something that can be easily broken by offense and disagreement. Jesus died for relationship with us. I want to honor that.
How do you interpret this saying? Does the rabbi’s version resonate with you? Are you close with your family?