Blood Covenant

Blood Covenant in the Bible


To better understand how God’s covenants relate to us, we want to explore them in the context in which they were written. It is under this way of studying that we can gain a richer and fuller understanding of what they meant to the people at the time when they were written and how they apply to today. As with reading Shakespeare, the modern day reader relies heavily on foot notes to understand the context, we want to understand the ancient Hebrew context of covenants written in scripture to glean their true meaning.


We first start by exploring the blood covenant. In the Old Testament, the covenant process began with an exchange of garments and also weapons. This occurs in 1 Samuel 18 when David and Jonathan make a covenant with each other as friends. “3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” The covenant making process goes deeper when the two parties exchange names or parts of their names. In Genesis 17, God makes a covenant with Abram and Sarai who both then take on new names Abraham and Sarah.


The next step in the process serves to remind both sides just how serious the covenant is. Animals would be split in two and divided. God commanded Abraham to do this in Genesis 15:9 – 10. What made this part of the covenant so significant is that it served as a warning to both sides of the impending consequences if one side were to break the covenant. “And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like[a] the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts— 19 the officials of Judah, the officials of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the parts of the calf.” (Jeremiah 34:18 – 19). Both parties knew that they would face the same fate as the split animals if they broke the covenant terms.


What then would follow would be for both sides to cut the palms of their hands in order and clasp each other’s hand in order to mingle their blood. This would also leave a scar which would serve as a reminder of the oath they had taken. It was not until after this step that the terms of the covenant would finally be drafted. After this, a memorial would be set up such as a tree or a stone and then the two sides would close the blood covenant process by sharing a meal together. Jacob and Laban do this in Genesis 31 by heaping pile of stones and closing with a meal. 



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