GENESIS 15:7-11, 17-21
7Then he said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess." 8But he said, "O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?" 9He said to him, "Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon."10He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
17When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."
The word 'covenant' comes from the Hebrew בְּרִית berith. From yesterday's Hebrew lesson, the triconsonantal root is b-r-th. The root verb behind 'covenant' is "to cut." Therefore, to make a covenant means "to cut." Etymological origins for our "to cut a deal" goes way back to the ancient notion of making/cutting a covenant.
In the world of the Ancient Near East, the act of making/cutting a covenant was enacted. An animal was cut in two and the lesser power in the covenant agreement would walk between the divided animal carcass as a symbolic act that said in essence, "If I don't keep my end of the bargain, may you split me in two just like this animal." The greater power did not walk through the sacrificed animal; only the subservient party did.
In the above passage, a covenant agreement is made. A heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon were presented. With the exception of the small animals, the birds, all the rest of the animals were cut in two.
If this covenant were an agreement between a benefactor and the recipient of the benefaction, the recipient would have walked between the divided animals, with all the implications noted above.
The covenant above -- the Abrahamic covenant -- is the agreement that YHWH makes toward Abram/Abraham that as long as Abram/Abraham remains faithful to YHWH, YHWH will make Abram/Abraham's descendants as numerous as the stars in the night sky.
What is absolutely unusual about what happens after the animals are split in two is who walks through the divided animals.
It is YHWH! It is the LORD.
Verse 7 says, "a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces." A smoking fire pot and a flaming torch are Old Testament theophanies -- the visible manifestations of the living God.
Rather than Abram passing between the divided animals, it is the Lord God!
YHWH takes Abram's place. The guarantee for the covenant fulfillment is God Himself. In essence, the Lord God is saying, "May I be split in two if you fail to keep your end of the bargain."
The God of Abram/Abraham foreshadows Jesus Christ and Him Crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). The blood of Jesus will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins under the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28). The Son of God is the sacrificed Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Despite the eventual unfaithfulness of Abraham's descendants, Israel, God fulfills the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants.
Check out, the Bible Project short on covenants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ferLIsvlmI
Let's pray: O Father God, thank you for the covenant that you made with Abraham and because of that covenant all of us have entered into an everlasting covenant with you as our God and we as your beloved people. O Son of God, thank you for taking our place, for suffering and dying for us in order that this everlasting covenant we enter into is forever guaranteed, sealed with your blood and your death on the cross. O Spirit of God, help us today to live with the appreciation of the love and forgiveness that come through you from the Father and the Son. In Jesus' amazing name, amen.