Do Covenants Require Death?

Do Covenants Require Death

Hebrews 9:15 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 inheritance.
16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
18 Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.
19 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,
20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.

This passage has raised the idea that covenants always require the death of the one making it or, in substitutionary fashion, a sacrifice representing the covenant maker's death. Alternatively, this passage is not exactly about covenants between two living people, but a testament or specific covenant to give an inheritance to a particular person after death. I hold to the latter view and attempted to go through the stories of covenants that we have in the Bible and see if the idea that the death of the covenant maker is a theme that we find across covenants or not.

1 Corinthians 11:24  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

So, what we have here is a command to eat and drink food products as a sign of our covenant with Yeshua.  Which leads right into my counter theory to the idea that a covenant requires the death/blood of the one making the covenant.  My take is that a covenant consists of the promise or promises made, but that it is often sealed by eating the other party's food.


So, to compare the theories I plan to go through the stories where we have a covenant being made in the scripture in chronological order.  (Skipping some where there aren't enough details to even hazard a guess as to which theory makes more sense.)

A: God's covenant with Noah

Genesis 8:20  And Noah builded an altar unto Yahweh; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
21  And Yahweh smelled a sweet savour; and Yahweh said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
Genesis 9:8  And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9  And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10  And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11  And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12  And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13  I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
14  And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15  And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16  And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

Here, Noah does offer burnt offerings before God makes the covenant.  It even seems like it is after/because of smelling the sweet savor.  However, it is pretty clear here from both the language (My covenant, covenant which I make, My covenant) and the fact that only Yahweh makes any promises that this is Yahweh's covenant.  So Noah's sacrifices wouldn't fit the bill of requiring the blood of the one making the covenant.  Also, the covenant here is made with the animals as well, and they did not offer any sacrifices.  Overall, this covenant seems to simply consist of a promise from God to all creatures on the earth.  God doesn't have to die to make it.  There is no physical meal to seal it, but the rainbow is given as the token.


B: God's covenant with Abram

Genesis 15:8  And he said, Lord Yahweh, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?
9  And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
10  And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
11  And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.
12  And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
13  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
14  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15  And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
16  But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.
17  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
18  In the same day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

Here we have Yahweh instruct Abram to kill some animals.  The phrase is, "Yahweh made a covenant" and again consists of one-sided promises from God.  Here there seems to be more possibility that the animals were meant to symbolize God's death so He could make a covenant.  There is no physical meal involved.  Again, the major theme is the promise, (E.g. "made a covenant saying").

To be circled back to later, nothing is stated as to what happened to the animals afterwards.  Were they consumed by the smoking furnace as in "Our God is a Consuming Fire?"


C: God's covenant with Abraham

Genesis 17:1  And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Yahweh appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3  And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4  As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5  Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6  And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
9  And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10  This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
15  And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16  And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
17  Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18  And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.
20  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
21  But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
22  And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.
23  And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24  And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25  And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26  In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27  And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.
18:1  And Yahweh appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
2  And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3  And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
4  Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
5  And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.

This time there are no sacrifices with the covenant made between Yahweh and Abraham.  For the first time, there are responsibilities on both sides of the covenant.  Yahweh promises to be the God of Abraham and his seed after him, and requires circumcision from them.  Very tellingly, Yahweh then appears to Abraham in human form for the very purpose of eating a meal with Abraham ("therefore are ye come to thy servant.")  This covenant definitely fits the promises-with-a-meal paradigm and breaks the sacrifice-symbolic-of-the-covenanter's-death mold.


D: Abraham's covenant with Abimelech

Genesis 21:22  And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:
23  Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
24  And Abraham said, I will swear.
25  And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech’s servants had violently taken away.
26  And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.
27  And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
28  And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
29  And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
30  And he said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
31  Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.
32  Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.

This time, there are no sacrifices to represent the death of those who made the covenant (though live animals are handed around) and the major theme of the whole story is that they swore to each other.  There is no meal following.  Basically, just a covenant of mutual promises.


E: Rebekah's marriage covenant

Genesis 24:31  And he said, Come in, thou blessed of Yahweh; wherefore standest thou without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels.
32  And the man came into the house: and he ungirded his camels, and gave straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and the men’s feet that were with him.
33  And there was set meat before him to eat: but he said, I will not eat, until I have told mine errand. And he said, Speak on.
34  And he said, I am Abraham’s servant.
48  And I bowed down my head, and worshipped Yahweh, and blessed Yahweh God of my master Abraham, which had led me in the right way to take my master’s brother’s daughter unto his son.
49  And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left.
50  Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, The thing proceedeth from Yahweh: we cannot speak unto thee bad or good.
51  Behold, Rebekah is before thee, take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife, as Yahweh hath spoken.
52  And it came to pass, that, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, he worshipped Yahweh, bowing himself to the earth.
53  And the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things.
54  And they did eat and drink, he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they rose up in the morning, and he said, Send me away unto my master.

Here we have Abraham's servant asking for Rebekah for Isaac refusing to eat until the covenant is agreed upon.  He declared his intention to leave if they would not give Rebekah, but once the agreement was made he did eat the meal, again fitting with the covenant sealed by eating template.


F: Isaac's covenant with Abimelech

Genesis 26:26  Then Abimelech went to him from Gerar, and Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army.
27  And Isaac said unto them, Wherefore come ye to me, seeing ye hate me, and have sent me away from you?
28  And they said, We saw certainly that Yahweh was with thee: and we said, Let there be now an oath betwixt us, even betwixt us and thee, and let us make a covenant with thee;
29  That thou wilt do us no hurt, as we have not touched thee, and as we have done unto thee nothing but good, and have sent thee away in peace: thou art now the blessed of Yahweh.
30  And he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink.
31  And they rose up betimes in the morning, and sware one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace.

Here we have oaths and covenant being equated again.  There are no sacrifices mentioned and while there is a meal they ate it before they actually swore the covenant.


G: Laban and Jacob's Covenant

Covenant MealGenesis 31:43  And Laban answered and said unto Jacob, These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine: and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?
44  Now therefore come thou, let us make a covenant, I and thou; and let it be for a witness between me and thee.
45  And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar.
46  And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there upon the heap.
47  And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed.
48  And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and thee this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed;
49  And Mizpah; for he said, Yahweh watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.
50  If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness betwixt me and thee.
51  And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;
52  This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.
53  The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac.
54  Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount.

Here we have an unusual addition of the heap of stones for a witness to the covenant.  They then ate on the heap which seems like it must be significantly part of the covenant.  Jacob did offer an offering after they swore the covenant and they also ate again.  So here the covenant-maker's-death template has at least a reasonable fit, though if a covenant requires the death of the one making it, it would seem strange to not offer the sacrifice symbolic of that until after.  So perhaps the meal-to-seal template is still a slightly better fit.


H: Yahweh's and Israel's Covenant as Sinai

Exodus 24:3  And Moses came and told the people all the words of Yahweh, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.
4  And Moses wrote all the words of Yahweh, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
5  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto Yahweh.
6  And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
7  And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that Yahweh hath said will we do, and be obedient.
8  And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which Yahweh hath made with you concerning all these words.
Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
10  And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
11  And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

When Israel agreed to the Sinai covenant, there were sacrifices and blood is sprinkled on the altar and the people.  Yet, something also happens here that is very, very unique.  The leaders of Israel are all called up into heaven to eat and drink with God!  This covenant could fit with either template, but the absolutely uniqueness of the elders eating a meal with God in heaven makes me think there must be serious significance to that needing to happen as part of the covenant.


I: The Deuteronomy Covenant

Deuteronomy 29:1  These are the words of the covenant, which Yahweh commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.
2  And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that Yahweh did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land;
3  The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles:
4  Yet Yahweh hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
5  And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.
6  Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am Yahweh your God.
7  And when ye came unto this place, Sihon the king of Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, came out against us unto battle, and we smote them:
8  And we took their land, and gave it for an inheritance unto the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to the half tribe of Manasseh.
9  Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.
10 Ye stand this day all of you before Yahweh your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel,
11  Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water:
12  That thou shouldest enter into covenant with Yahweh thy God, and into his oath, which Yahweh thy God maketh with thee this day:
13  That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
14  Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath;
15  But with him that standeth here with us this day before Yahweh our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day:

The book of Deuteronomy is mostly a covenant.  The words of the covenant contained in it outline responsibilities both for Yahweh and for Israel.  The words of the covenant and the oath are stressed, but there are no sacrifices or meal mentioned in the narrative.  One could say that it is after they eat from the land that they are fully entered into covenant and then break it as implied by the verse following.

 Deuteronomy  31:20 "For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant."

Another possible take is that once they setup the altar on Mount Ebal, offered sacrifices and spoke the blessings and curses from the mountains there (Joshua 8:30-35) that that was when the covenant was finalized.

Overall though, with the emphasis Moses put on the covenant being made that day. Deuteronomy seems to be a covenant consisting of words alone.  Promises by Yahweh and promises by Israel.


J: Israel's Covenant With Gibeon

Joshua 9:3  And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4  They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5  And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
6  And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a covenant with us.
7  And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a covenant with you?
8  And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?
9  And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of Yahweh thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
10  And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
11  Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a covenant with us.
12  This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy:
13  And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.
14  And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of Yahweh.
15  And Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.
16  And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a covenant with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.
17  And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim.
18  And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by Yahweh God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.
19  But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by Yahweh God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them.
20  This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them.

Again, the swearing is paramount to the covenant and is given as the reason why they must keep the covenant.  There are no sacrifices, but we do have an interesting meal.  Even though the Gibeonites' bread was dry and moldy, the Israelites ate of it!  This doesn't make much sense because as hosts, who had plenty of spoil from the land by that point, it would seem that Israel should supply the meal.  The only explanation I can see is that the eating of the food of the ones they were swearing to was an important part of the covenant that they made.


K: David's covenant with Abner

2 Samuel 3:12  And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy covenant with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.
13  And he said, Well; I will make a covenant with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul’s daughter, when thou comest to see my face.
14  And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.
15  And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.
16  And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.
17  And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:
18  Now then do it: for Yahweh hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies.
19  And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.
20  So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast.
21  And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.

Here we have David and Abner making a covenant and David making a feast for Abner and his men.  The rest of the story, where Joab kills Abner and then David refuses to eat in mourning and as an outward sign that he had not approved of the deed and had not broken his covenant with Abner is also interesting.


L: Asa and Israel's covenant to seek Yahweh

2 Chronicles 15:10  So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa.
11  And they offered unto Yahweh the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep.
12  And they entered into a covenant to seek Yahweh God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul;
13  That whosoever would not seek Yahweh God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
14  And they sware unto Yahweh with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets.
15  And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and Yahweh gave them rest round about.

Here we have a covenant made again with significant emphasis on the oath and swearing.  There are also plenty of sacrifices and no meal is mentioned, so this fits the first template better.


M: Zedekiah and Israel's covenant to set Hebrews free

Jeremiah 34:8  This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from Yahweh, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them;
9  That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.
10  Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.
11  But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.
12  Therefore the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying,
13  Thus saith Yahweh, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying,
14  At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.
15  And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:
16  But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.
17  Therefore thus saith Yahweh; 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 Yahweh, 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.
18  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,
19  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;
20  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.

This covenant that was made to let Hebrews go free involved oaths and passing between the halves of a calf in the temple.  This is reminiscent of when Yahweh caused the smoking furnace to pass between the halves of animals when He swore a covenant to Abram.  Nothing is stated about whether they then ate the calf or offered it as a burnt offering, so it is hard to make a certain statement about which template this fits.


N: Esau's confederacy

Obadiah 1:6  How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!
7  All the men of thy covenant have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.

Here is another association of a covenant with eating the other party's food.


O: The New Covenant

Jeremiah 31:31  Behold, the days come, saith Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith Yahweh:
33  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith Yahweh, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know Yahweh: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Yahweh: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Matthew 26: 26  And as they were eating, Yeshua took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
27  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
28  For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

1 Corinthians 11:23  For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Yeshua the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24  And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25  After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26  For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
27  Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

Here, the most important covenant of all time, is sealed by our eating and drinking the food provided by Our Savior.  In so doing we are in covenant with Him and judgment (as in the other examples of covenant breaking) awaits if we do so unworthily.

Interesting here is that when Yahweh provides His Son as the sacrifice we eat of it.  What about the reverse?  That leads into the solution to those first two covenants we find in the scripture where there appear to be no meals when Yahweh swears to Noah and then to Abram after they killed animals.  We also find Israel making sacrifices in a couple other covenants with Yahweh, Sinai and when Asa was king.


Matthew 5:13  Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Mark 9:49  For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.

Numbers 19:18 All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto Yahweh, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before Yahweh unto thee and to thy seed with thee.

Leviticus 2:13  And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.

2 Chronicles 13:5  Ought ye not to know that Yahweh God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?

Deuteronomy 4:24  For Yahweh thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Leviticus 9:24  And there came a fire out from before Yahweh, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.

1Kings 18:38  Then the fire of Yahweh fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

So, in light of the above, we see that salt is only good for flavoring.  Flavoring something that won't be eaten is pointless.  We see that every sacrifice is to contain "the salt of the covenant."  This in itself implies that the sacrifices are like food offered to Yahweh.  It explains why only clean animals can be sacrificed.  Only edible animals, not just useful ones even though in some ways it might be a greater loss to give up a horse or an elephant if you had one tamed.

On top of that, the very word used to describe the consumption of the sacrifice is the main Hebrew word for "eat" and is translated that way most of the time.  So, to be quite literal, when Yahweh's fire consumes the sacrifice, the Hebrew reads that the sacrifice is eaten!  To me, this completes the circle and shows that covenants are promises sealed by eating of the other's food even though in a few cases, that eating takes place as a fire-consumed sacrifice.



Just because it might be of interest, here are other covenants of note with no associated meal or sacrifices mentioned.  Most of them involve a promise, oath or agreement.

  • Yahweh giving a priesthood to Phinehas (Numbers 25)
  • Israel to serve Yahweh (Joshua 24)
  • Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18:3, 1 Samuel 20:8, 1 Samuel 23:16)
  • Yahweh giving a kingdom to David (2 Samuel 7, Psalm 89:3, Jeremiah 33:21, 2 Samuel 23:5)
  • Solomon and Hiram (1 Kings 5)
  • Asa to Benhadad against Baasha (1 Kings 15:18-20, 2 Chronicles 16)
  • Jehoiada's covenants (2 Kings 11:3,17, 2 Chronicles 23:1,3,16)
  • Josiah and Israel to walk before Yahweh (2 Kings 23:1-3, 2 Chronicles 34:29-33)
  • Covenant to put away foreign wives (Ezra 10:3-5)
  • Zedekiah breaking covenant with Babylon (Ezekiel 17:13-19)

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