The simplest way to understand the prohibition again eating blood is to place it in context of the general health regulations in the OT. These included:
- Prohibition of animal fat in the diet, Lev 3:17, 7:22-25
- Prohibition of blood in the diet, Gen 9:4, Lev 3:17, 7:26, 27, 17:10-14, 19:26, Deut 12:16, 23, 24, 15:23. (see also Ps 50:13, Eze 33:25, Acts 15: 20, 29, 21:25)
- If meat (without blood) is eaten, it must be only that of selected animals, Lev 11, Deut 14:1-20:
(a) Mammals that chew the cud and have a divided hoof
(b) Fish that have both scales and fins
(c) Birds that are not birds of prey
(d) A selected list of insects
(e) A selected list of other animals (mostly rodents and lizards) are prohibited
- Various hygiene regulations such as child birth, bleeding, contamination and defecation, Lev 11:31-40, 12:1-5, Deut 23:12-14
- Regulations amounting to quarantine laws about contagious skin disease, Lev 13:1-46, 14:1-32, Num 5:1-4
- Regulations about moulds and mildew, Lev 13:47-59, 14:33-57
- Quarantine laws concerning diseases of body discharges, Lev 15, Deut 23:9-11
- Care laws about handing dead bodies and carcasses, Lev 17:15, 16
- Prohibition of incest, promiscuity & bestiality, Lev 18
- Prohibition of eating old (more than 2 days) meat, Lev 19:5-7
In all of these cases, the regulations are worded and couched in terms of religious rules about what was "clean" or "unclean" because "I am the LORD", etc. It must be recalled that Moses had no language to express in health and physiological effects on the body; thus all regulations were expressed in spiritual terms.
The blood regulations were no different and originally came from the Noahide covenant in Gen 9:4. Indeed, this is all consistent with the instruction found in 3 John 2 and Gal 6:7, 8.
Now, it is precisely because of this predilection of the OT to couch all moral and ethical principles in spiritual terms that we have the blood regulations so stated. The Hebrew word "nephesh" occurs about 755 times and is translated “soul” (rarely), "life", “person”, “wind”, “breath”, “myself”, “himself”, “me”, “I”, “life”, “mind”, etc. The context determines the correct meaning. In this case I agree with BDB that it should in most cases be rendered "living being" (whether human or animal).
Therefore, in Deut 12:23, 24, I believe it should be translated "life".
APPENDIX - More Bible health advice (for completeness only)
- Prov 3:7, 8 – Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. See also Rom 12:3 about not having inflated ideas of one’s importance.
- Prov 10:27 – The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.
- Prov 12:4 – A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.
- Prov 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
- Prov 14:30 – A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.
- Prov 15:4 – The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.
- Prov 15:13 – A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.
- Prov 15:30 - Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.
- Prov 16:24 - Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
- Prov 17:22 - A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
- Prov 19:23 – The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
- Ex 15:26 – doing what is right for the Lord will prevent disease.
- Ps 32:1-5 – forgiveness and confession imparts health.
- Ps 34:11-14 – doing good and not speaking lies imparts life and prolongs it.
- Ps 103:3 – forgiveness promotes healing.
In modern terms only, many of these will now be recognized as promoting good mental health and psychological well-being as well.