THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT - The Covenant of Promise

B. Childress
Apr 4 2008 08:00AM

The 'Third' Covenant of Redemption (Part 2)

The Sovereign aspect of God's relationship with Abraham was made quite apparent at the time of the patriarch's initial
call.  God did not suggest meekly that if Abraham would depart from his fatherland, he would be blessed.  Instead, the
word of God came in terms of a solemn charge:  "
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy father's house, unto a land
that I will shew thee:
"  Genesis 12:1.  

This same tone appeared at the institution of the covenant seal of circumcision.  The Lord declared to Abraham, "
I am
the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will
multiply thee exceedingly.
"  Genesis 17:1-2.  Nowhere does any suggestion of "agreement" or "contract" emerge from
these narratives.  The Lord God sovereignly dictates the terms of his covenant with Abraham.  

By far the most significant passage in the patriarchal narrative dealing specifically with the covenant concept is the
intriguing description of the formal inauguration of the Abrahamic covenant found in Genesis 15.  This narrative clearly
indicates the essence of a covenant to be a "bond in blood sovereignly administered."

This particular administration of God's commitment to effect redemption appropriately may be designated "the covenant
of promise."  God sovereignly confirms the promises of the covenant to Abraham.

The Formal Inauguration of the Abrahamic Covenant

A heart-rending question occasions the formal establishment of God's covenant with Abraham.  The patriarch asks with
concern, "
Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it (the land)?"  Genesis 15:8.  Abraham believes God's
word.  But he needs a strengthened assurance.

God had granted magnanimous promises to Abraham.  But now the patriarch was aging.  His wife remained childless.  
The culture of Abraham's day sensibly had made provision in the event of barren parents.  It was possible to "adopt"
into the family a household servant.  This adopted "son" would become legal heir.

Was this legal procedure of adoption the way in which the childless Abraham must interpret God's word of promise?  
Was it inevitable that Eliezer of Damascus would become his heir? (Genesis 15:2,3).

The Lord declares unequivocally his sovereign intentions.  None other than a son born of Abraham's own loins shall
possess Abraham's promises (Genesis 15:4).

The Lord graciously assures the patriarch by formal ratification of a covenant-bond.  He orders Abraham to present
certain animals before him (Genesis 15:9).

The patriarch needs no further instruction.  He knows the procedure well.  In accord with the custom of the day,
Abraham halves the animals and sets the corresponding pieces over against each other.  The birds he slays, but does
not divide.

At this point, the narrative indicates that the symbolic meat of the slaughter attracts birds of prey which attempt to
devour the flesh which Abraham has prepared.  The patriarch finds it necessary to intervene, and to frighten away the
wild creatures with their rabid appetites (Genesis 15:11).

As Abraham passes into a visionary state, God communicates to him the course of events which must precede the full
realization of the promises.  Abraham must not despair.  He must not become uneasy because of delay in fulfillment.  
God provides an overview of the course of the history which shall lead eventually to the possession of the land by the
seed of Abraham.  Having been granted this perspective, the patriarch is encouraged to wait patiently.

For 400 years, Abraham's descendants will endure oppression in a strange land.  After this period they shall come out
with great possessions.  Finally they shall enter the land that has been promised (Genesis 15:13,14).  

Why must such an extended period of deprivation be endured:  Why should not Abraham himself possess the land of
promise immediately?

Only God's grace to sinful men provides an adequate response to this question.  The grace of God's longsuffering
expressed toward the current inhabitants of the land explains the delay.  Because "the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet
full" (Genesis 15:16), The descendants of Abraham must endure 400 years of exile from the land of promise.

At the conclusion of these words of prophecy, Abraham witnesses a most amazing phenomenon.  A "smoking oven"
and a "flaming torch" pass between the pieces of torn flesh which had been arranged earlier (Genesis 15:17).

What is the meaning of this striking ceremony?  Why does a visible manifestation of the godhead "pass between the

The immediately succeeding statement of the narrative supplies the needed insight, "
In the same day the LORD made
a covenant with Abram...
"  Genesis (15:18).  The dividing of the animals, coupled with the passing between the pieces,
results in the "making" (literally "cutting") of a covenant.

By dividing animals and passing between the pieces, participants in a covenant pledged themselves to life and death.  
These actions established an oath of self-malediction. If they should break the commitment involved in the covenant,
they were asking that their own bodies be torn in pieces just as the animals had been divided ceremonially.

Extra-biblical parallels have confirmed the significance of this self-maledictory action involved in the covenant-making
ceremony. Several instances of the symbolic slaying of an animal in covenant-making procedures have been
uncovered recently.  

By the inherent pledge to death of the covenant-inauguration procedure, a "bond in blood" is established.  Parties of
the covenant commit themselves for life and for death in the covenantal relationship.

In the case of the Abrahamic covenant, God the Creator binds Himself to man the creature by a solemn blood-oath.  
The Almighty chooses to commit Himself to the fulfillment of promises spoken to Abraham.  By this divine commitment,
Abraham's doubts are to be expelled.  God has solemnly promised, and has sealed that promise with a self-maledictory
oath.  The realization of the divine word is assured.

Subsequent Allusions to the Inauguration Ceremony of the Abrahamic Covenant

God's commitment to Abraham as vivified in the ceremony of covenant inauguration continues to swell with significance
throughout redemptive history.  The Lord's pledge-to-death made to Abraham casts its distinctive mold on the whole of
subsequent Israelite history.

A reference to this same ceremony of covenantal inauguration just before the kingdom of Judah was carried into
captivity indicates that the significance of this covenant-making ceremony continued throughout history without being
diminished.  Fourteen hundred years had transpired.  Yet the covenant inaugural ceremony witnessed by Abraham had
lost none of its cultural relevance.

The reappearance of a reference to such a concrete method of covenant inauguration after an intervention of 1400
years merits careful analysis.  According to the context of Jeremiah 34, Jerusalem was under siege by Babylon
(Jeremiah 34:6,7).  In an apparent effort to recover the lost favor of Israel's God, King Zedekiah assembled all the
people for a ceremony of covenant renewal (Jeremiah 34:8,9).  The people responded to this call to rededication by
complying with the elementary stipulations of the original Mosaic covenant regarding the sabbatical release of Israelite
slaves Jeremiah 34:10.

However, the firmness of resolve on the part of the people wavered.  No sooner had all Israelite slaves been released
than they were reclaimed again by their masters (Jeremiah 34:11).  At this point the prophet brought to king and people
the word of their slighted covenant God:

    "There thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother,
    and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the
    pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

    And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant
    which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, The
    princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land,
    which passed between the parts of the calf;

    I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead
    bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth."  Jeremiah 34:17-20.

To appreciate fully the potent significance of this passage, several points must be noted:

1)  The language of Jeremiah 34 echoes quite distinctly the language of Genesis 15.  The double reference to the
"passing between the parts of the calf" (Jeremiah 34:18,19) and the detailed description of the devouring of the
covenantally-cursed bodies by birds of prey (verse 20), reflect unmistakenly the language describing the inauguration
of God's covenant with Abraham.  This allusion to the experience of Abraham is even more remarkable in its
specificness because of the confirmed antiquity of Genesis 15.  Yet Jeremiah's allusion gives no impression whatsoever
of drawing from the dusty pages of antiquity.  The prophet has no fear that his particular description of covenant
renewal will appear irrevelant or incomprehensible to his audience.

2)  Jeremiah's appeal to a covenantal pledge-to-death cannot involve only a literary allusion to Abraham's experience.  
Instead, it is a very real description of an actual covenant-renewal ceremony just enacted by Zedekiah and his people.  
Notice again the language of verses 18 and 19, ".
..they cut the calf in twain and passed between the parts thereof; the
princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land...passed
between the parts of the calf.
"  In effect, Jeremiah says, "Your princes, your priests, your people yourselves, you are
the ones who pledged yourself to death by passing between the covenantal pieces."  This language is not the
language of mere literary allusion to the ancient experience of Abraham.  The context of an actual covenant-renewal
ceremony argues against this interpretation.  Something the people did in Jeremiah's day corresponded to the pledge-
to-death involved in the Abrahamic covenant.

3)  What did Zedekiah and people do to renew the covenant?  The simplest conclusion would suggest that Zedekiah
copied rather literally the covenant-making ceremony followed by Abraham as described in Genesis 15.  However,
other considerations point to a more complex situation than might be imagined at first.  Despite the straightforwardness
of references to "passing between the pieces," it would appear much more certain that Zedekiah followed the covenant-
making ceremony instituted in Moses' day rather than the ceremony of Abraham's day.

The procedure for covenant-making developed in Moses' day provided Zedekiah with his pattern for covenant-
renewal.  The formal assembly, the reading of the law, the response of the people - these elements belong integrally to
the making of a covenant as established by Moses, not Abraham.  Evidence within the text of Jeremiah 34 indicates that
just such a procedure was followed.  The pivotal point of the narrative turns about the sabbatical release of Hebrew
slaves (Jeremiah 34:8-12).  Quite obviously, Zedekiah was attempting to regain the favor of God in a context of
impending doom by this action.  But why should he select this single ordinance from all the Old Testament legislation?  
Why should he begin with the dramatic release of all fellow-Hebrews who had become slaves?

Zedekiah begins by the release of Hebrew slaves because such an action would follow naturally as the outworking of a
covenant-renewal ceremony according to the Mosaic pattern.  The reading of the law would have been an essential
part of this ceremony.  The first of the list of specific ordinances in the book of the covenant (Exodus 20-24) concerns
the sabbatical release of Hebrew slaves:

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them.  If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall
serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.  If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he
were married, then his wife shall go out with him.
" (Exodus 21:1-3).

It therefore seems clear that the procedure followed by Zedekiah conformed to the pattern of Mosaic covenant renewal
ceremonies, involving as a crucial factor the reading of the book of the law.

4)  But some explanation must be given for the evident consciousness of the significance of the Abrahamic procedure
on the part of Zedekiah and the people.  If the ceremony of covenant renewal followed the Mosaic pattern, why does
the prophet indicate that the people "passed between the pieces?"

The circumstances of Jeremiah's narrative indicate that something in the reenactment of the Mosaic ceremony
corresponded to the pledge-to-death associated with the Abrahamic covenant.  The entirety of the people may not
have paraded literally between divided animal carcasses.  But inherent in the Mosaic ceremony must have been an
activity which involved the same commitment.

A ritual which was embedded in the formal inauguration procedures of the Mosaic covenant committed the people to a
life-and-death involvement with the Lord of the covenant.  Apparently the blood-sprinkling ritual described in Exodus 24:
8 substituted for the literal "passing between the pieces" of Genesis 15.

First the law was read.  The people responded with a verbal commitment to obedience (Exodus 24:7).  Then Moses
sprinkled the blood on the people as he declared: "
Behold, the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with
you concerning all these words.
"  Exodus 24:8.  This blood of sprinkling symbolized not only the cleansing of the
people, it also consecrated them to keep the convenant on pain of death.  The same pledge-to-death which played
such a prominent role in the inauguration of the Abrahamic covenant manifested itself in the inauguration of the Mosaic
covenant.  Sheer statistical considerations may have occasioned the substitution of the blood-sprinkling ritual for the
ceremony of passing between the pieces.  An entire nation hardly could be paraded between the pieces of slain
animals.  But an equally significant ceremony of blood-sprinkling could be instituted.

The suggestion that Jeremiah saw, in the Mosaic ceremony, the same pledge-to-death found in the Abrahamic ritual
finds strong support from the repeated appearance of the distinctive curses implied in the Abrahamic covenant
throughout Israel's history.  In his vision, Abraham drove away the birds of prey which gathered about the ceremonial
carcasses (Genesis 15:11).  This portion of his vision symbolized the ultimate fate of the covenant-breaker.  Not only
would his body be slain; it would be devoured by the wild birds of the heavens.  Woe to the covenant-breaker who once
has pledged himself to death!

The identical woe is spoken over Israel in the context of the curses and blessings involved in the Mosaic covenant.  The
Lord solemnly warns Israel's potential covenant-breakers, "Your carcasses shall be food to all birds of the sky and to
the beasts of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away"  (Deuteronomy 28:26).

The subsequent history of Israel displays most vividly the consequences of covenant violation.  Israel under Moses had
pledged itself to death if it should break the covenant.  As a consequence, the prophet Ahijah declared the covenant
curse on the house of Jeroboam:

    Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat.  And he who dies in the field the birds of the
    heavens will eat; for the Lord has spoken it (I King 14:11).

The same curse rests on the house Baasha:

    Anyone of Baasha who dies in the city the dogs will eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the
    heavens will eat (I Kings 16:4).

Nor does the house of Ahab escape the ultimate curse of covenantal judgment:

    The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of
    heaven shall eat (I Kings 21:24).

This curse is applied in particular to Jezebel, Ahab's queen:

    And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her (II kings 9:10).

This same specific curse permeates the prophecy of Jeremiah himself:

    And the dead bodies of this people will be food for the birds of the sky, and for the beasts of the earth; and no
    one will frighten them away (Jeremiah 7:33).

    ...and their carcasses will become food for the birds of the sky and for the beasts of the earth (Jeremiah 16:4).

    ...and I shall give over their carcasses as food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth (Jeremiah 19:

A later reference to this curse of the covenant appears in the Psalmist's lament over fallen Jerusalem:

    They have given the dead bodies of Thy servants for food to the birds of the heavens, the flesh of Thy godly
    ones to the beasts of the earth.  They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem and there
    was no one to bury them (Psalm 79:2,3).

The continuing prophetic application of these curses throughout Israel's history demonstrates the vitality of covenantal
self-consciousness throughout the nation.  The ultimate judgment of devastation can be understood only in terms of
the original pledge to life and death at Sinai, which in turn reflected the covenantal form employed by God in binding
himself to Abraham.

This awareness of the threat of covenantal curses also explains the vitality of the Abrahamic covenantal pattern as it
appears in Jeremiah 34.  No other passage in Scripture reflects the specifics of the Abrahamic covenant-ritual with the
vividness of detail found in this text as it describes the termination of Israel's national history.

At first glance, it would appear that a 1400 year gap occurred in Israel's conscious reflection on the covenant-making
ritual of Abraham.  But if the sprinkling of the nation under Moses had the same effect as "passing between the
pieces,"  no gap at all existed.  The ceremony of the Mosaic covenant embodies the substance of the commitment
under Abraham, although the form had changed.  Israel's subsequent history indicates that no diminishing of
consciousness concerning the covenantal pledge ever occurred.

New Testament Reference to the Inauguration Ceremony of the Abrahamic Covenant

Reference to the covenantal curses instituted under Abraham does not cease with the prophecy of Jeremiah and of
Israel's destruction.  Most significantly, the New Testament interprets the new covenant in terms of relief from these
same curses.

While promise of future relief from the curses of the covenant may be found in the Old Testament, witness to the actual
realization of this promise first occurs in the New Testament.  This witness appears particularly in Hebrews 9:15-20 and
in gospel record of the inauguration of the new covenant (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20).

Hebrews 9:15-20

Most interestingly, the presentation of deliverance from the curse of covenant-breaking as it occurs in the book of
Hebrews appears in a context discussing the inauguration ceremony of the Mosaic covenant.  If the blessed relief of the
new covenant is to be appreciated fully, it must be considered on the background of the pledge-to-death involved in the
inauguration of God's covenant with Israel as mediated through Moses.

The key to understanding the significance of these verses lies in an analysis of the relation of death and a
This single concern unites the entire progress of thought in Hebrews 9:15-20.

The term
diatheke in Greek may be rendered either as "last will and testament" or as "covenant."  While these two
concepts may be confused in the mind of twentieth-century readers of the Bible, they maintained quite distinctive
significances in the biblical period.  The crucial factor for deciding between these possible meanings of the term in
Hebrews 9 is the relation of death to
diatheke throughout the passage.

The connection between death and a "last will and testament" is obvious. This concept registers immediately in the
mind of the modern interpreter, since "last will and testament" plays a continuing role in current culture.  The death of a
testator activates the provisions of his will.  By death the testament takes effect.

The relation between death and a "covenant" is not so immediately obvious.  Since "covenants" according to the
biblical pattern do not play a vital role in modern cultures today, the current reader finds it more difficult to maintain a
grasp on the essence of the concept.  Particularly, the integral relation of death to a "covenant" escapes the modern

Yet death is as inseparably related to "covenant" as to "testament."  If the present study of God's covenant with
Abraham establishes anything, it indicates the vital relation of death to covenant.  Essential to the inauguration both of
the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants was the symbolic representation of the death of the covenant-maker.  The long
history of God's terminal judgements on Israel finds prophetic interpretation in the light of God's execution of the death-
curse on covenant breakers.

Death and covenant clearly relate.  They relate concretely in two ways.  First, the death of the covenant-maker
receives symbolic representation at the time of the inauguration of the covenant.  The covenant-making procedure is
not complete without this pledge-to-death aspect.  Secondly, the death of the covenant-violator receives historical
actualization when covenantal judgment is executed.  Once a transgression of covenantal commitment has occurred,
death is inevitable.

So both "testament" and "covenant" involve death.  Death activates a testament, Death inaugurates and
vindicates a covenant.

Clearly the opening verse in the section of Hebrews is concerned with the relation of death to "covenant:"

And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the
transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal
"  Hebrews 9:15

A death has taken place for the redemption of transgressions committed under the first covenant.  The diatheke in
Hebrews 9:15 is the Mosaic covenant, God did not establish through Moses a "last will and testament."  He established
instead a "covenant."

This verse speaks of Christ's death as the factor which removes transgressions committed under the first diatheke.  In
no way does the death of a "testator" remove transgressions committed against a last will and testament.  The death of
a testator is not a vicarious, substitutionary death.

But the death of Christ the maker of the new covenant provided redemption from the curses incurred due to the
violation of the old covenant.  His "blood of the covenant" inaugurated the new covenant while at the same time
removing the curses of the old covenant.  
Diatheke in Hebrews 9:15 refers clearly to "covenant," not "testament."

The relation of death to "covenant" is the subject of Hebrews 9:18-20 even more clearly than in verse 15:

    "Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.  For when Moses had spoken every
    precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet
    wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE

"Blood" and "
diatheke" in these verses recall the inauguration ceremony of Sinai.  By sprinkling the blood, Moses did
not institute a last will and testament.  God did not die in order to activate a "will" for Israel.  Instead, the ceremony at
Sinai instituted a covenantal relationship.  The sprinkled "blood of the covenant" solemnly consecrated God and Israel
to one another for life and death.

The "blood" of Sinai as discussed in Hebrews 9:18-20 represented a covenantal rather than a testamentary
arrangement.  Death sealed the covenant.

The relation of death and
diatheke in Hebrews 9:16,17 arouses greater debate.  Sandwiched between verses that
clearly relate "death" to a covenantal framework, these verses nonetheless raise again the question of the significance
of the term

Because of the clarity of Hebrews 9:15 and 18-20, it seems appropriate to begin by supposing that the term
would possess the same meaning in Hebrews 9:16,17.  From this perspective, the phraseology at the beginning of
verse 17 is most striking: "For a covenant is made firm over
dead bodies."

A testament (singular) is not made firm "over dead bodies" (plural).  Only one body is required for the activation of a
last will and testament.  But a multiple of dead bodies is associated immediately with the inauguration of a covenantal
relationship.  Many beasts are slain to symbolize the potential of covenantal curse.

With the covenant-inauguration ceremony in mind, the language of verse 16 also should be noted, "For where [there is]
a covenant, of necessity the death of the covenant-maker must be brought forward."  The language conforms precisely
to the procedure by which covenant commitment was vivified in the Old Testament.  As the covenantal relationship was
sealed, the death of the covenant-maker was "brought forward."

The contextual connection of Hebrews 9:16 with the preceding verse lends support to the assumption that "covenantal"
not "testamentary" arrangements provide the framework for understanding the writer's argumentations.  Christ died to
redeem from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (verse 15).  This death was made necessary
because "the death of the covenant-maker" was "brought forward" at the point of covenantal inauguration (verse 16).  
By the grace of God, Christ has substituted himself in the place of covenant-violators. He has died in their stead, taking
on himself the curses of the covenant.

The last phrase of verse 17 presents the most difficult problem for a consistent translation of
diatheke as "covenant"
throughout the passage.  The phrase reads literally, "for [a covenant] is not strong [valid] while the covenant-maker

It is understandable that this phrase has inclined interpreters toward the translation "testament."  Clearly a "testament"
is not valid while the testament-maker lives.  But the opposite would seem true with respect to a "covenant."  A
covenant is indeed valid while the covenant-maker lives.

However, this last phrase of verse 17 does not occur in isolation from its context.  It is a secondary clause, dependent
grammatically on what has preceded.

The first part of verse 17 indicates that a covenant is "made firm" over dead bodies.  This language harmonizes quite
appropriately with the ancient covenant-making procedures.  The second part of verse 17 refers to the "making strong"
of the covenant.  It would appear that the "making firm" of the covenant and the "making strong" of the covenant allude
to the same principle at work in covenantal relations.  The secondary portion of the verse should be interpreted in the
light of the primary portion.

Furthermore, the strong connective between verses 17 and 18 must be considered.  "Wherefore," according to verse
18, "the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood."  Now the reference clearly is to the blood-shedding
procedure associated with
covenant inauguration.  If verse 18 is drawing an inference from verse 17 with respect to the
blood-shedding of covenant inauguration, it would appear mandatory to read verse 17 in terms of covenant
inauguration rather than in terms of testamentary disposition.

For these reasons, it would seem more appropriate to read the latter portion of verse 17 in terms of covenant
inauguration.  A covenant does not become strong (valid) "while the covenant-maker lives, "because the making of a
covenant must include the symbolic death of the covenant-maker.  No covenant-making procedure is complete apart
from the symbolic representation of the death of the one making the covenant.

The detailed argumentation of the previous discussion must not be allowed to detract from the major point of the
passage.  The curses incurred because of the transgressions of the old covenant have fallen on Jesus Christ.  His
death is to be understood in terms of the long history of God's dealing with his people.  By bearing the full
consequences of covenantal pledge-to-death, Christ delivers from the curse of the covenant.  No remission from guilty
transgression could be gained without the shedding of blood. Christ therefore presented his body as the sacrificial
victim of the covenantal curse.

The Inauguration of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20)

With this perspective in view, it is appropriate to look more closely at the record of the original inauguration of the new
covenant by the Lord Jesus Christ as found in the Gospels.  Matthew 26:28 may be compared with Luke 22:20 to
provide a fuller picture of the event.

In presenting the cup to his disciples, Jesus says, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto
remission of sins"  (Matthew 26:28).  The "pouring out" of Christ's blood reflects the sacrificial language of the Old
Testament, and the process by which the curses of the covenant were heaped on a substitutionary victim.  Christ
explains his death to be "unto remission of sins."  

His death effects deliverance from the covenantal death-curse by the removal of old covenant violations.  Jesus offers
his blood as the basis for deliverance from the curses of the covenant.

The gospel of Luke adds a further dimension to this procedure by mentioning the "new" covenant being established by
Christ, ".
..This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."  Luke 20:22. Not only does Christ's blood
remove the curse of the old covenant; simultaneously it introduces the blessed condition of the new covenant.

This dual significance of Christ's blood echoes the dual role of God's words to Adam in the original institution of the
covenant of redemption.  The infliction of the curses of the covenant of creation was coupled immediately with the
announcement of the blessings of the covenant of redemption.  While both man and woman experienced curse for sin,
at the same time they received promise of blessing through redemption.

Now in Christ this dual role of curse and blessing finds its consummative significance.  As Christ takes to himself the
curses of the old covenant, he simultaneously inaugurates the blessed condition of the new.


In conclusion, God's covenant with Abraham may be characterized particularly as the covenant of promise.  By the
solemn ceremony described in Genesis 15, God promised redemption.

The emphasis on divine promise in this covenant is brought out strikingly by one distinctive aspect of the narrative.  
Contrary to what might be expected, Abraham does not pass between the divided pieces representing the covenantal
curse of self-malediction.  The Lord of the covenant does not require that his servant take to himself the self-
maledictory oath.  Only God himself passes between the pieces.

By this action, God promises.  The Lord assumes to himself the full responsibility for seeing that every promise of the
covenant shall be realized.  It is not that Abraham has no obligations in the covenant relation.  Already, he has been
required to leave his fatherland (Genesis 12:1).  Later he shall be required unequivocally to administer the seal of the
covenant to all his male descendants (Genesis 17:1,14).  But as the covenant is instituted formally in Genesis 15, the
Lord dramatizes the gracious character of the covenantal relation by having himself alone to pass between the pieces.  
This covenant shall be fulfilled because God assumes to himself full responsibility in seeing to its realization.

The pleading voice of the patriarch had urged, "How can I
know?  How can I be sure?"  

The solemn ceremony of covenantal self-malediction provides the Lord's reply, "I promise.  I solemnly commit myself as
Almighty God.  Death may be necessary.  But the promises of the covenant shall be fulfilled."

In Jesus Christ God fulfills his promise.  In Him God is with us.  He offers his own body and his own blood as victim of the
covenantal curses.  His flesh is torn that God's word to the patriarch might be fulfilled.

Now he offers himself to you.  He says, "Take, eat; this is my body.  This is my blood of the covenant shed for many.  
Drink, all of you, of it."


The Christ of the Covenants, by O. Palmer Robertson, Copyright 1980, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing

The Covenants, by Keith J. Conner and Ken Malmin, Copyright 1983, Bible Temple Publishing.