February 15, 2009
C. The Hebrew people understood themselves to be in a covenantal relationship with God. What do the Abrahamic Call/Covenant and the Mosaic/Sinai Covenant suggest about the Hebrew understanding of the divine-human dialectic? How does the Hebrew covenantal interrelationship with God compare to other ancient near eastern peoples?
What is Covenant? In all the definitions it shows as a formal agreement between two parties. It can be oral or written. In Religion we see that covenants appear not just between two individuals but between deities and man. In the archeological discoveries and research of the last two hundred years there is, 1) a public reading of a covenant and then 2) a deposit of the treaty in a public place, especially shrines of the witnessing deities. These covenants are sealed by an oath and ritual sacrifice. The covenant between the pieces (Gen. 15:7-21)
From the Encyclopedia of Judaism for the “ Abrahamic Covenant”: “ In response to Abraham's query as to how he will know for certain that he is to inherit the Land of Canaan, God instructs him to take a number of animals and cut them in half. Abraham arranges the halves opposite one another. God promises Abraham the land between "the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates," informing him that his right to the land will not be realized until his descendants have undergone an extended exile. A "flaming torch" (symbolically representing God) then passes between the animal parts. Based upon this passage it seems clear that a common way of enacting a covenant was for both parties to pass through the halves of slaughtered animals. The meaning of this was probably something akin to a curse being laid upon anyone violating the agreement---that he suffer the same fate as the animals between whose parts he has passed. This method of finalizing an agreement explains the Hebrew terminology "to cut a covenant". Traditional sources view the covenant between the pieces as a...