The Bible is divided into two divisions: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word Testament comes from the Latin word, testamentum. The more proper name for these divisions is “covenant”.
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word is:
beri yth (ber-eeth’) to cut until blood flows
In the New Testament Greek the word is:
Diatheke (dee-ath-ay’-kay) contract, will or testament
The covenant is the very foundation of our contact with God and His contact with us.
A Blood Covenant between two parties is the most solemn and sacred of all contracts. It absolutely cannot be broken.
When you enter in blood covenant with someone, you promise to give them your life, your love and your protection forever… till death do you part. Marriage is a blood covenant.
- When the bride and groom feed each other the wedding cake, they are symbolically saying, “The two of us are becoming one.”
- The reason we wear a wedding ring on the third finger is because man believed that the third finger had a nerve that lead all the way to the heart. And, since the heart is the central part of the body that keeps the blood circulating, it became the symbol of life.
- When the husband and wife come together to consummate their union, the blood covenant is consummated when blood is shed as the women loses her virginity. This is one of the reasons that God views pre and extra-marital physical intercourse as sin.
Let’s look at the Hebrew ritual of the covenant. All nations practiced blood covenant because even apart from God, man instinctively looks for this relationship. The practice of blood covenant is not unique to the Hebrews.
When two Hebrew males entered into a blood covenant, they went through a very specific ceremony.
There are nine steps to the ceremony:
- Take off Coat or Robe
The first thing that I do is to take off my coat or robe and give it to you. To the Hebrew, the robe represents the person.
By taking off my robe and giving it to you, I’m symbolically saying, “I’m giving you all of myself. My total being and my life, I pledge to you.” Then you would do the same to me.
- Take Off the Belt
The next thing I do is to take off my belt and give it to you. Belts did not hold up their pants but they did hold their weapons. My belt holds my armor together: my dagger, my bow and arrow, my sword.
Symbolically, in doing this, I’m giving you all my strength and pledging to you all of my support. As I give you my belt, I’m saying, “Here is my strength and all my ability to fight. If anybody attacks you, they are also attacking me. Your battles are my battles and mine are yours. I will fight with you. I will help defend and protect you.”
- Cut the Covenant
We would then “cut the covenant” by taking an animal and splitting it right down the middle. In the Bible this only happens during a covenant ceremony. After we split the animal, we lay each half to the side of us and stand in between the two bloody halves of flesh, with our backs to each other. Then we walk right through the bloody halves, making a figure eight, and come back to stop and face one another.
In doing so, we are saying two things: First, we are saying that we are dying to ourselves, giving up our rights to our own life and beginning a new walk with our covenant partner unto death. You see, in this covenant, each half of the dead animal represents each of us. Second, since the blood covenant is the most solemn pact, we each point down to the bloody animal split in two and say, “God, do so to me and more if I ever try to break this covenant. Just split me right down the middle and feed me to the vultures because I tried to break the most sacred of all pacts.”
Genesis 15:8-12 NKJV
(8) And he said, “Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
(9) So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
(10) Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
(11) And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
(12) Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.
Genesis 15:17 NKJV
(17) And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
- Raise the Right Arm and Mix Blood
Then we raise our right arms, cut our palms and bring the together. As we do, our blood intermingles. Then we swear allegiance to each other. As the blood intermingles, we believe our lives are intermingling and becoming one life. Remember, the life is in the blood. (Leviticus 17:11)
So we are putting off our old nature and putting on the nature of our blood covenant partner. We two are becoming one.
- Exchange Names
Then as we stand there with our blood intermingling, we exchange names. I take your last name as part of my name, and you take my last name as part of your name.
- Make A Scar
The next step is to rub our blood together and make a scar as a permanent testimony to the covenant. The scar will bear witness to the covenant we have made. It will always be there to remind us of our covenant responsibilities to each other. It is the guarantee of the covenant. Sometimes, they would take small amounts of dirt or gravel and rub it into the wound to ensure that it made a visible scar.
If anyone tries to harm us, all we have to do is to raise up that right arm and show our scar. By that we are saying, “There’s more to me than meets the eye. If you are coming after me, you’re also going to have to fight my blood covenant partner. And you don’t know how big he is. So what are you going to do? Are you going to take your chances or back off?”
Henry Stanley, on his explorations through Africa, cut covenant 50 times with various chiefs. Anytime he would come across an unfriendly tribe, he would just hold up that right arm with those 50 scars on it and any would-be attacker would take off running in the other direction.
- Give the Terms of the Covenant
Then we would stand before all of the witnesses and give the terms of the covenant. I say, “All of my assets are yours. All my money, all my property, and all my possessions are yours. If you need any of them, you don’t even have to ask. Just come and get what you need. What’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. If I die, all my children are yours by adoption and you are responsible for my family.
But at the same time you get all my liabilities. If I ever get into trouble financially, I don’t come and ask you for money. I come to you and say, ‘Where’s your checkbook?’ We are in covenant. Everything I have is yours and yours is mine, both assets and liabilities.”
- Eat A Memorial Meal
Then we eat a memorial meal to complete the covenant union. In place of the animal and blood, we have bread and wine. We take a loaf of bread and break it in two and feed it to each other saying, “This is symbolic of my body and I’m now putting it in you. Then we serve each other the wine and say, “This is symbolic of my life blood which is now your blood. I’m in you and you’re in me. We are now one together with a new nature.
- Plant A Memorial
We now leave a memorial to the covenant. We want to always remember it. We do this by planting a tree that we have sprinkled with the blood of the animal. The blood sprinkled tree, along with our scar, will always be a testimony to our covenant.
This completes the ceremony. From now on we are known as friends. In Bible times, one didn’t use the word friend loosely as we do today. You became friends only after you had cut covenant.
James 2:23 NKJV
(23) And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” And he was called the friend of God.
John 15:12-15 NIV
(12) My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
(13) Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
(14) You are my friends if you do what I command.
(15) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Anytime you see these happenings or these words referenced in the Bible, either actually or symbolically, you know the parties are entering into blood covenant. You won’t find all the details spelled out step by step as we have now, because in Bible Days, everyone knew all the details and it wasn’t necessary to record it all.
Let’s look at one example of many of the covenants from the Bible:
1 Samuel 18:1-9 NLT
(1) After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David.
(2) From that day on Saul kept David with him and wouldn’t let him return home.
(3) And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself.
(4) Jonathan sealed the pact by taking off his robe and giving it to David, together with his tunic, sword, bow, and belt.
(5) Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.
(6) When the victorious Israelite army was returning home after David had killed the Philistine, women from all the towns of Israel came out to meet King Saul. They sang and danced for joy with tambourines and cymbals.
(7) This was their song: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!”
(8) This made Saul very angry. “What’s this?” he said. “They credit David with ten thousands and me with only thousands. Next they’ll be making him their king!”
(9) So from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.
Let’s review the characters in the story:
David is the giant killer. He is the great warrior who could crush all his foes and all the enemies of Saul. David loves Saul and has Saul’s best interests at heart. David could have killed Saul on several occasions, but he kept forgiving him. David wants to show love to Saul but Saul won’t let him.
Saul is just the opposite of David. He has a knack for being outside the will of God. He is rebellious and seeks to do his own thing rather than God’s thing. This rebellion continuously brings grief and sorrow to Saul.
Saul is afraid of David. This soon becomes an obsession to him so he hunts David down and tries to kill him. Saul makes everyone in his family believe that David is out to get them. “Don’t get too close to David or he’ll kill you. He’s mean and unjust and he’ll destroy you if he gets the chance.” The truth is that David is just the opposite of everything they are told to believe.
This is Saul’s son. Jonathan is just the opposite of Saul and his family. He is actually more like David. Jonathan loves David as his own self and he and David entered into a blood covenant.
Jonathan is always trying to bring peace between Saul and David. But the harder he tries, the angrier Saul becomes.
Jonathan later marries and has a son named Mephibosheth. When Mephibosheth is just 5 years old, Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle. When the news of their deaths reaches Jerusalem, out of fear of David, the nurse grabs up Mephibosheth and flees. In her haste, she falls and both of his feet are crushed. The nurse then takes him to hid out east of the Jordan River in a town called Lodebar.
While in Lodebar, his heart hardens more and more towards David. His lame feet are a constant reminder of the belief that David is out to get them and even kill them. The sad truth is he does not know that he is in covenant with the king through his father, Jonathan.
David begins his reign as king. In 2 Samuel 9, he begins to wonder of any of the family of Saul are still alive. He wants to show them kindness because of his covenant with Jonathan but out of fear, no one tells him the truth. Finally a former servant of Saul confides in David that there is a relative still alive down in Lodebar.
David searches out Mephibosheth and finds him and brings him to the palace.
Mephibosheth must choose whether to believe that all of David’s goodness is true and to receive it. He does choose and he chooses to receive it. He chooses to throw away all that he has always believed about David and to receive his goodness and mercy.
- David represents God.
- We are in the family of Saul.
- Jonathan was in the family of Saul but just like David. This is Jesus – born into our family but just like God.
- Jesus was born of the seed of the woman and not of man so His blood was not contaminated with the defiled blood of man.
- Jesus cuts the covenant in His own blood. He ate the meal. He planted a tree sprinkled with His own blood.
- Jesus remembers the covenant and seeks you out.
- You and I must choose to receive it.
God says, “Here are the terms of the covenant. I’ll take your liabilities, all your sins, on Myself and become sin for you. I’ll forgive your iniquities and remember them no more. I’ll take your self-righteousness and give you My own righteousness, which is pure and holy. You clothe Me with your robe of sin and I’ll clothe you with My garment of salvation and righteousness. You’ll take of My own nature by the intermingling of our blood. You can become a part of me and I’ll live in your heart. My house will be your house. You can feast at My table. I’ll be a Father to you and adopt you as my own son. You will reign with Me and have eternal life with Me.
John 6:53-58 NLT
(53) So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.
(54) But anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day.
(55) For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
(56) Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him.
(57) I live because of the living Father who sent Me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
(58) I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV
(21) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
(22) set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Ephesians 1:13 NIV
(13) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
We have exchanged names!
Ephesians 1:17-23 NKJV
(17) that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
(18) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
(19) and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
(20) which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
(21) far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
(22) And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,
(23) which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV
(9) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
(10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,(11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.