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Lesson Eight: The Abrahamic Blood Covenant (Pastor Barbara Caesar-Stephenson)
Important Terms: Blood Covenant, circumcision.
In our study we saw that after man died spiritually his need of a Mediator, Righteousness and Eternal Life, could be met only by the Incarnation of God’s Son.
- We traced the working of the Grace of God from the time He gave to man the promise of the Incarnation to the time of the flood, and through His preserving a righteous line for the Redeemer’s heritage.
- We saw that Satan, in his effort to stop the incarnation, corrupted humanity to the extent that destroying mankind through the great flood became imperative. Noah, who knew God, was spared along with his family. Noah preserved the true faith in Jehovah and handed it to his sons.
- We remember two means Satan used to thwart the purpose of God in the Incarnation: Satan’s efforts to destroy the knowledge of God upon the earth, and his efforts to destroy the righteous line.
From the time of the flood until the building of the tower of Babel, there was worship of God. Not that all men accepted it – many wickedly rebelled against it – but the knowledge and revelation of the true God was too fresh in their minds for them to set up other gods.
The earth was flooded in Genesis chapter 7. In chapter nine of Genesis a command was given to replenish the earth. By the eleventh chapter of Genesis we see the whole earth was of one language and one speech. The unity of the race was untouched. The ark in which Noah and his family were preserved, had rested in Armenia. As men began to multiply, this barren tableland no longer sufficed. Men must either separate and fill the earth as God had told them to do, or a more fertile territory must be found if they are to keep together. They chose the latter course and moved down into the rich, fertile lowlands in the plain of Shinar. (Genesis 11:2) They resolved upon a permanent settlement there in order to build a city and tower, that they might not be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth (Gen 11:4). But Jehovah came down and confounded their language which caused them to scatter over the earth (Gen 11:7-9).
This scattering sent streams of human people to all parts of the world: northwest to Europe, west to Asia Minor, southwest to Egypt and Africa, south to Arabia, southeast to Persia and India and east to China. Of course this was not the work of a day. It took ages and ages for the more distant lands to be settled. After men had been scattered, the worship and knowledge of Jehovah passed into the worship of the powers of nature and then into idols. Sense knowledge took the place of God’s revelation which had been given to spiritually dead men. The oldest sacred books and traditions of each nation bear witness to the account in the scripture. Romans 1:18-32 shows that each nation originally possessed a revelation of God. From these ancient writings and traditions, with the aid of monumental inscriptions, we can get quite a clear picture of the passing from the worship of one God into the worship of many gods and of many idols.
Three-hundred-and-sixty years after the flood, Abraham appears among the idolators. Noah was alive for fifty years after the birth of Abraham. The world had lapsed into idolatry. Abraham lived among pagans and idolators until he was seventy-five years age. He was born and raised in Ur of the Chaldees, one of the most splendid ancient cities, until he received his call from God.
We can understand why God revealed Himself to Abraham. The Revelation of God was practically lost. If a righteous line were to be preserved through which God could send His Incarnate Son, He must choose one man who knew Him, and make of him a nation that would preserve the knowledge of Himself upon the earth.
Abraham’s countrymen and his father were idolators. If Abraham was to found a nation that would both preserve all that God had revealed to man, and be able to recognize it’s Redeemer when He arrived, he must be removed from these influences. There are many legends that tell of Abraham’s being persecuted for his refusal to worship idols. So, under a call of God, he set out in search of a land where a nation could be founded free from idolatry (Genesis 12).
Twenty-five years after Abraham received his call the greatest event in human history until the birth of Christ, took place: The Blood Covenant into which Jehovah and Abraham entered.
The Meaning of the blood covenant
Before we can understand the significance of this Covenant which God cut with Abraham we must know the meaning of the Blood Covenant.
The Blood Covenant existed before Abraham. Proofs of the existence of this rite of Blood Covenanting have been found among primitive peoples of every quarter of the globe, and its antiquity is carried back to a date long prior to the days of Abraham.
It is evident that God cut the covenant or entered into a covenant in the very beginning with the first man, Adam. A common revelation of the Blood Covenant from God must have been given to primitive man. Noah evidently must have possessed a knowledge of the significance of the Blood Covenant which he handed to his children, so that even as the nations were formed after the dispersion at the tower of Babel, each one possessed a knowledge of the Blood Covenant.
From the very beginning in every nation, blood seems to have been looked upon as the preeminent representation of Life as indeed – in a peculiar sense – life itself. The transference of blood from one organism to another has been counted as the transference of life with all that that life includes. The intermingling of blood has been understood as equivalent to the intermingling of natures, thus the intermingling of blood has been deemed possible between man and man, and Deity and man. A covenant of blood has been recognized as the closest, the holiest, and most indissoluble compact conceivable.
There are three reasons for men cutting the Covenant with each other:
- If a strong tribe lives by the side of a weaker tribe, and there is danger threatening, the weaker will seek to cut the covenant with the stronger tribe that they may be preserved.
- If two business men want to go into business and one is going to leave the country and travel as a foreign representative, he will cut the covenant with his partner.
- If two men love each other as devotedly as David and Jonathan they will cut the covenant.
The moment the blood covenant is solemnized, every thing a Blood Covenant man owns is at the disposal of this blood brother; yet this brother would never ask for anything unless he were absolutely driven to do it
Also, as soon as this covenant is cut, they are referred to by others as “blood brothers.”
Blood covenants hold throughout the generations, it is an indissoluble covenant that generations cannot erase. If a man cuts the covenant with his friend, the children of the two families are bound to observe it.
If two men in Africa cut the Covenant, (the explorer Mr. Stanley tells us and Livingstone bears witness) and one man should break the Covenant, his nearest relatives would seek his death. No man can live in Africa who breaks the Covenant; he curses the ground.
There is nothing that is absolutely sacred with us, but in Africa the Covenant is sacred. Mr. Stanley and Dr. Livingstone both testify to the fact that they never knew the covenant to be broken.
The method of the blood covenant
The method of cutting the covenant is practically the same the world over.
In some places it has degenerated into a very grotesque rite, but it is the same blood covenant. The method which is practiced by the Africans, Arabians, Syrians and Balkans is this: two men who wish to cut the covenant come together with friends and a priest. First, they exchange gifts. Then they bring a cup of wine. The priest makes an incision in the arm of each man, allowing the blood to drip into the wine. Then they mingle the wine and drink it. Now they are blood brothers.
The seventeenth chapter of Genesis takes on a new meaning for us now. We see that when God appeared to Abraham to make a covenant with him, Abraham knew what that meant. God was forming a covenant of strong friendship with him. The blood covenant was called the covenant of strong friendship. That is why Abraham was called the friend of God (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8 and 2 Chronicles 20:7).
Abraham is the only human being who was called the friend of God in the Old Testament
The covenant that God cut with Abraham was to bring the Israelitish nation into being as a covenant people (Genesis 17:7). God gave Abraham a specific method for cutting the Covenant. The seal of the Covenant was circumcision. Every male child was to be circumcised at the age of eight days and that circumcision was the entrance into the covenant (Genesis 17:26). In the selfsame day, Abraham was circumcised and thenceforth bore in his flesh the evidence that he had entered into the Blood Covenant of friendship with God. To this day in the East, Abraham is designated the friend of God.
The testing of the blood covenant
After the formal covenant of blood had been cut between God and Abraham, there came a testing of Abraham’s fidelity to that Covenant. This testing would give evidence to the future generations of the fact that the cutting of the covenant on the part of Abraham in the rite of circumcision had not been an empty ceremony. But that in that he had pledged his very life to Jehovah, He reckoned it to him for righteousness. The Hebrew word (‘aman) here translated, believed in, carries the idea of an unqualified committal of one’s self to another. Abraham so trusted Jehovah that he was ready to commit himself to Jehovah as in the rite of the blood covenant. Therefore, God counted Abraham’s spirit of loving and longing trust as ready for a blood covenant friendship between them.
The testing came when Isaac, a blood covenant child that God had miraculously given to Abraham, was eighteen or twenty years old (Genesis 22:1-19).
“And it came to pass that God did prove Abraham and said unto him, Abraham and he said Here am I. and He said take now, thy son, thy only son whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I tell you of” (Genesis 22: 1-2). And Abraham rose instantly to respond to the call of his Divine Friend.
Just here, it is well to recognize the Oriental thought in a transaction like this. An Oriental father prizes an only son more than he prizes his own life. For an Oriental father to die without a son is a terrible thought, but with a son to take his place, he is ready to die.
For Abraham to have surrendered his own toil-worn life at the call of God now that a son of promise had been born to him would have been a minor matter, but for Abraham to surrender his son and to become again a hopeless, childless old man, was a different matter. Only a faith that would neither reason nor question, only a love that would neither fail nor waver could meet a request like that. All the world over men in the covenant of blood friendship were ready to give that which was dearer than life itself to their Blood Covenant brothers or their gods. Would Abraham do as much for his Divine Friend as men would do for their human friends? Would Abraham surrender to his God all that the worshippers of other gods were willing to surrender in proof of their devotedness? These were questions to be answered before the world.
Abraham showed himself capable of even such friendship as this in his Blood Covenant with Jehovah (Genesis 22:3-10). And when he had manifested his spirit of devotedness he was told to stay is hand (Hebrews 11:17-19).
“Then it was that the angel of Jehovah called unto Abraham a second time out of heaven and said, by myself have I sworn [by my life].” (Genesis 22:15-17)
The Foundation of the blood covenant
Here is the foundation of that covenant: Godward. There was nothing that God could swear by except Himself. To the Oriental it meant “I swear by myself. Now if this fails, I become your slave, you own me, I put myself in bondage to you.”
They are bound together in this Covenant Relationship – all that God is belongs to Abraham, and all that Abraham has or ever will have – belongs to God.
Now you can understand why so many times He said “I Am Jehovah who keepeth covenants.” He is the Covenant keeping God. Backing up Israel was this solemn covenant that God had sealed on His side by putting Himself in utter absolute bondage to it.
1 Why did God confuse their languages at the building of the Tower of Babel?
2 Why was the call from God that is recorded in Genesis 12:1-2 given to Abraham?
3 Tell of the significance of the Blood Covenant as it existed among primitive peoples.
4 What were the three reasons for cutting the covenant?
5 Why was Abraham called the friend of God?
6 What was the seal of the Abrahamic Covenant?
7 What does the Hebrew word in Genesis 15:6 translated as “believe” really mean?
8 What was the test that was given to prove Abraham’s fidelity to the Covenant?
9 What did his obedience to God’s command reveal?
10 What did the phrase “By myself have I sworn” in the promise God gave mean?