The term “cutting a covenant” describes the ancient treaty recorded in today’s text. Animals were divided lengthwise into two pieces; and then, those responsible for fulfilling the covenant walked between the two halves:
7 Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”
8 And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
13 Then He said to Abram:
“Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. 14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying:
“To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— 19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”
The three-year-old heifer, female goat and ram along with a young turtledove and pigeon marked the seriousness ascribed to the covenant between God and Abram. In this case, however, only God walked between the divided animals because He alone took responsibility for fulfillment of the covenant.
God demonstrated His faithfulness by confirming His original promises to Abram and by detailing the boundaries of the land He gave Abram as an everlasting possession. The Abrahamic Covenant is a unilateral covenant. God is responsible for its fulfillment; it will never fail!
1) Bible opened to Isaiah. By, Ken Horn, [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) A Deep Sleep Fell Upon Abram and a Horror Seized Him. By illustrators of 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt, The Hague, 1728 [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture from the NKJV, emphasis added.