THE COVENANT BETWEEN THE PIECES:

THE ABRAHAMIC  COVENANT AND THE LAND
Bruce Satterfield
BYU- IDAHO

 

The Covenant Between the Pieces -The Abrahamic Covenant

Abraham 2:6-11

The Abrahamic covenant may be generalized into three categories of earthly promises with each having eternal significance: (1) he was promised a land to live in (the ultimate fulfillment being the celestial kingdom); (2) he was promised a posterity to fill that land (the ultimate fulfillment being the promise of eternal increase); and (3) he was promised that he and his posterity would have the gospel and priesthood (the ultimate fulfillment being the promise of eternal life). Often, LDS scholars emphasize the last two promises. Nevertheless, the land is of major importance in Old Testament theology. It is quite evident that for Abraham and his descendants, the land became the symbol of the Lord honoring the covenant he made with Abraham. If Abraham's descendants kept the covenant they would receive and maintain a prosperous life in the land. However, breaking the covenant would result in losing the land which was paramount to losing prosperity, divine protection, and the Lord's saving grace.

Genesis 12: 1-3

The initial promise of a land was given to Abraham.

                12:6-7

Abraham established Shechem as a holy place in the center of the promised land

   

 13: 14-17.

Having magnanimously given the best portion of the land to Lot, Abraham received the promise that he has lost nothing, the land is still to be given to him and his seed. He then is commanded to walk the length and breadth of the land much like an ancient Near Eastern king who ceremonially tours his kingdom establishing his sovereignty over the land.

15:7-21

In response to Abraham's query , "Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit" the land, the Lord made (heb. cut) a covenant with Abraham to give to him both the land and seed by passing between the pieces of animals cut in half -an ancient retributive covenant making ritual suggesting that even as the animals were destroyed the same destruction would befall the one passing between the pieces of the severed animals if he did not keep his word. (Scholars, however, debate the issue of whether the ceremony in Gen. 15 is in fact retributive or not.) Abraham then knew the land would be given him and his seed.

17:1-27   

The token of circumcision was given to Abraham as a reminder of the covenant. The symbolism of circumcision was similar to the ritual of passing between the pieces of animals cut in half. In essence the one being circumcised was saying, "If I am not loyal in faith and obedience to the Lord, may the sword of the Lord cut off me and my offspring even as my foreskin has been cut off. "

22: 1-18  

Having fully tested him, the Lord assured Abraham that his seed will inherit the promised land ("thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies").

26:1-5

The Abrahamic covenant was renewed with Isaac.

28:10-22

The Abrahamic covenant was renewed with Jacob.

 

 

 

The Sinai Covenant -The Blood of the Covenant

Exodus 2:24

After the children of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians for several centuries, God remembered the covenant he made with Abraham and called Moses, a descendent of Abraham, to lead them out of bondage and take them to the promised land -the land promised Abraham and his seed. The Exodus story has become a type or shadow of what man must do to escape the bondage of this world so that he might enter into the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom.

12:1-13:22

The first step to getting to the promised land was accomplished by the death of the first born (representing the death of Christ). This allowed the Israelites to escape the bondage of Egypt (sin). The passover meal was instituted to remind the Israelites of their being freed from bondage making their journey to the promised land possible. All who participate in the passover must be circumcised (a symbol of baptism).

14:1-31

The death of the first born was only part of what was necessary to escape the Egyptian bondage. The children of Israel had do their part. To escape the Egyptian bondage the children of Israel were led to the Red Sea and required to pass through it to escape the destruction of the Egyptians. Paul tells us (I Cor. 10:1,2) that this symbolized the covenant of baptism (similar to circumcision). The passing through the Red Sea is reminiscent to the passing “between the pieces"-in the covenant making procedure of Gen. 15.

19-24

The children of Israel were brought to Mt. Sinai, the mountain of the Lord (or temple) where they entered into a covenant with the Lord to be his people and kingdom in the land of promise. The covenant was made after the terms of the agreement were disclosed. The retributive nature of the covenant was expressed when the blood of sacrificed animals was sprinkled on the altar (which represented God) and the children of Israel (perhaps represented by the twelve stones). Moses referred to this ritual as the "blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made (Heb. cut) with you concerning these words. " If they were faithful to the covenant, God would give them the promised land (23:20-33).

32-34

While Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving instructions concerning the construction of a portable temple (the tabernacle) where the covenant could be continually renewed, the children of Israel broke the covenant by building a pagan idol and participating in the rites associated with idol worship. God wanted to execute the penalties of the broken covenant. However, Moses (a type for Christ) interceded on Israel's behalf reminding the Lord of the Abrahamic Covenant, i.e., that he would bring Abraham's seed to the promised land. After Moses' mediation the Lord had the children of Israel renew the covenant (though in a different form -the law of Moses).

 

 

 

The Covenant of Shechem Between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal

Deut. 27-29:1        

Before being taken by the Lord, Moses gave a command to the children of Israel telling them that once they entered the land of promise, they were to go to Shechem to renew the covenant. The significance of this sacred setting is enhanced when the proper orientation of the ancient map is understood. Instead of north being the primary direction for orientation as in western societies, east was the primary direction. Therefore, south is on the right hand and north is on the left. With this in mind, the children of Israel were to locate themselves at Shechem which was located in the heart of the land between two mountains. (It should be recalled that when Abraham entered the promised land, he first went to Shechem, built an altar to the Lord who then promised Abraham, "Unto thy seed will I give this land" – Gen. 12:6,7.)  Once there, six of the tribes were to be placed on Mt. Gerizim, the mountain on the right hand (or blessing hand) and the other six tribes would be placed on Mt. Ebal, the mountain on the left hand (or cursing hand). As part of the covenant renewal, those tribes on Mt. Gerizim were to yell out the blessings of obedience to the covenant followed by the tribes on Mt. Ebal yelling out the cursings of disobedience. The parable of the sheep and goats found in Matthew 25: 31-46 is analogous to this event.

Joshua 4:1-24       

The children of Israel entered into the promised land by passing through the Jordan river. In language similar to that found in Gen. 15, Joshua tells the children of Israel that they "shall know" that God will give them the land when they see the waters of the Jordan river which flow from north (right-hand) to south (left-hand)  “cut” in half allowing the children of Israel and the ark of the covenant (representing God) to pass between the halves (or "between the pieces"). Having passed between the halves of the river, the people then knew that the land was theirs (the whole procedure being comparable to the covenant making procedure in Gen. 15). This event foreshadowed the covenant that was to be made at Shechem.

The crossing of the Jordan river is also reminiscent of the crossing of the Red Sea. One has to wonder if the symbolism is the same, for the Israelites who passed through the Jordan river were the next generation of Israelites and had not passed through the Red Sea (or the covenant of baptism).

5: 1-9      

Once in the land the children of Israel were all circumcised (in preparation for passover and a reminder of the Abrahamic covenant).

5:10-11

The children of Israel then kept the passover before the battles commenced incident to the land of Canaan becoming their promised land.

8:30-35   

The covenant renewal took place at Shechem. With the 12 tribes divided between the two mountains and the tabernacle placed between, the ceremony was once again similar to the covenant ritual in Genesis 15. Mt. Gerizim and Ebal represented the pieces of the slain animals. The tabernacle with the fire and smoke rising from the altar of burnt offering is similar to the "smoking furnace, and burning lamp that passed between those pieces. "The yelling of the blessings and cursings dramatically showed the retributive nature of the ceremony. It seems obvious that the Lord had Abraham's descendants enter into the Abrahamic covenant in a fashion similar to that done between the Lord and Abraham himself.

24: 1-28 

Before he died, Joshua once again gathered all Israel to Shechem where the covenant was renewed.

 

The Rending of the Kingdom at Shechem

1 Kings 11:29-40

Ahijah prophesied of the rending of the kingdom of Israel because of they had broken the covenant.

1 Kings 12:1-24

Rehoboam went to Shechem to be crowned king over all Israel. While there the northern ten tribes revolted and the kingdom was divided in two. Like the animal cut in half in the covenant ritual, the retributive curses of a broken covenant began to be felt by Israel.

 

Later Attempts of Reform and Covenant Renewal

2 Kings 17:6-23

Because of a complete disregard for the covenant, the northern kingdom felt the full effects of the broken covenant. The Assyrians, who came from the north or left hand (the cursing hand) were Gods instrument for executing the penalties of the broken covenant. The Israelites who were not killed by the Assyrians were carried captive into the lands of the north where they were eventually lost. They would remain in the north countries (or under the curse) until their eventual redemption in the last days when they would be brought back to the lands of their inheritance (or from under the curse).

2 Chron. 29:1-36

After Hezekiah cleansed the land of idolatry he had his people renew the covenant at the temple of Jerusalem

30:1-27

Hezekiah reinstituted the passover celebration.

2 Chron. 34:1-33

Judah once again returned to idolatry .Upon the discovery of the Book of the Law, Josiah cleansed the land of idolatry and had his people renew the covenant at the temple in Jerusalem.

35:1-19

Josiah reinstituted the passover celebration.

Nehemiah 9-10

Under the guidance, of Nehemiah, the Jews who had returned from exile renewed the covenant.

 

 

 

The Last Supper and the Blood of the New Covenant

Matt.26:17-29

During passover, Christ instituted the sacrament and called it the "blood of the new covenant" recalling the original covenant Jehovah made with Israel at Mt. Sinai (cf. Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-20).

26:36-45

What had been typified in the Exodus story as recounted in the passover seder service was now carried out in reality. The suffering and death of the first born would take place so that man could, by covenant, escape from the bondage of sin and enter into the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom. The suffering of Christ occurred on two mountains. In both places his blood would be shed recalling both the blessings and the cursings associated with the covenant. First, Christ suffers in Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olives where the pain was so intense that he sweats blood (cf. Mark 14:26-41; Luke 22:39-46).

27:29-50

Second, Christ is crucified and his blood is shed on Golgotha, an extension of Mt. Moriah (cf. Mark 15:22-27; Luke 23:33-46; John 19:17-37).

27:24-25

Before the crucifixion when the Jews cried out for the death of Christ, they declared that "his blood be on us, and on our children. " This seems to be an obvious reflection back to the covenant made at Mt. Sinai when the "blood of the covenant" was "sprinkled" upon the people, Perhaps there is dual meaning in Matthew's inclusion of this incident. Because the blood sprinkled on the people was retributive in nature, the curses of the broken covenant would then be executed on the people of the Jews at that time. We know that happened. But also the sprinkling of the blood suggests the Lord's promise to keep his part of the agreement and bring repentant man back into the presence of God if they came underneath the protective power of the atonement.

27:51

Upon Christ's death the vail of the temple is rent in twain symbolizing the completion of God's part of the covenant; i.e. man could now enter into the promised land of the Celestial Kingdom (cf. Mark 15:38).

Acts 1:1-12

Before his ascension into heaven from on top of the Mt. of Olives, the apostles ask if Christ will restore the kingdom of Israel. He tells them it is not for them to know. Christ ascends to heaven with the promise that he will return.

 

 

 

 

 

The Abrahamic Covenant and The Last Days

D&C 38:17-22

Latter-day Israel is promised " a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse. "

D&C 52:42; 57:2

The land of Missouri is the land of promise where Zion is to be built

D&C 58:44-45

Israel will receive the land of inheritance only after many years (cf. Doc. of Sal. 3:78). Israel must first be gathered from the four quarters of the earth: i.e.  Ephraim and Manasseh must "push the people together from the ends of the earth." (Cf. Deut. 33:17).

DHC 1:196

2 Aug 1831, twelve men representing the twelve tribes of Israel placed a log for a foundation of a house near Independence, Missouri, symbolizing the laying of the foundation for Zion in the latter-days. Sidney Rigdon stood up and said to the men representing the twelve tribes: "Do you receive this land for the land of your inheritance with thankful hearts from the Lord?" They relied: "We do." He then said, "Do you pledge yourselves to keep the law of God in this land which you never have kept in your own lands?" They replied, "We do." This ritual is reminiscent of the covenant their forefathers made at Shechem between Mt. Gerizim and Ebal when they had first entered the land of promise.

D&C 110:11-12

Moses commits "the keys for the gathering of lsrael from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north" to Joseph Smith. Also, the "dispensation of the gospel of Abraham" was committed to Joseph Smith. This is the Abrahamic Covenant!

D&C 130:30-32

Abrahamic Covenant is renewed in the last dispensation.

Zechariah 14:1-5

Prior to the second coming, the Jews will be besieged in Jerusalem, having lost most of the "land" of Israel in battle. At the very moment when they are about to be destroyed and all the land lost, the Lord returns to this remanant of the covenant people of Abraham to fulfill his covenant. When he comes, he will stand upon the Mt. of Olives where the blood of the the other towards the south or right-hand -a reminder of the covenants made with Abraham in Gen. 15 and at Shechem covenant was spilt. A great earthquake will split the Mt. of Olives in two, with half going towards the north or left-hand and in Joshua 8! The Jews will escape their destruction by passing between the two halves of the Mt. of Olives -symbolizing that only by covenanting with the Lord can we be saved as shown in the passing between the two halves of the Red Sea.

D&C 45:48-59

As the Jews pass "between the pieces" of the Mt. of Olives they will see their Messiah with wounds in this hands and his feet (a token of the blood of the covenant). They ask, "what are these wounds in thine hands and thy feet?" When they learn that this is the Savior, Jesus Christ, they are converted and the final fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant commences. The "earth shall be given unto them for an inheritance; and they shall multiply and wax strong and their children shall grow up without sin unto salvation " (vs. 58). After this, the ten tribes shall be brought back from the lands of the north (or the land of cursing) to receive their lands of inheritance. The earth enters into the millennial stage, preparatory to becoming the celestial kingdom, the promised land to the faithful of Abraham's seed.