There are three areas of the Old Testament that I really enjoy reading…the story of Abraham, the story of Moses and the Exodus (I enjoy reading the entire book), and the story of David. With each of those key figures, God established covenants that are pivotal in scripture. In seminary they are referenced as Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic. Prevailing seminary theology teaches that they are separate and distinct with each one standing alone. While I do agree that there are specific elements that are unique to each protagonist, I see these covenants as a continual thread where God makes a promise about the future and seals it in blood, which scripture says was necessary (see Hebrews 9:16-22). The common denominator throughout these is the covenant and is what fascinates me the most.
The concept of covenant was not unique to God’s people. It was a common practice among other nations in the Ancient Near East (ANE), including the Hittites (the very ones destroyed during the conquest of Canaan) and the Assyrians. Though the rituals were sometimes different, the basic principles remained the same. In each circumstance animals were sacrificed, split into two, and separated so that the blood would spill out into a pathway. Once the blood was completely drained, the partners who were entering into covenant would each walk through the blood to seal it for perpetuity. By doing so, the parties were symbolically saying to each other, “Let this happen to me if I break this covenant.”
The first record of such a practice found in scripture is in the story of Abraham. Genesis 12 is where we first find Abraham (Abram) hearing from God and being given the promise that his descendants would be made a great nation, and God reiterated it in chapters 13 and 15. However, in chapter 15, God established His covenant with Abraham, and He did so in a way that Abraham would have understood. If you remember, Abraham originated from Mesopotamia with his origins being in modern-day Iraq, so he would have been familiar with covenant practices of the region.