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Genesis 15:17-21

Sealing the Covenant

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 the LORD 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: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.


The sealing of the Abrahamic Covenant was so dramatic and so full of symbolic meaning that it continues to fascinate Biblical scholars, even today.

The root of the Hebrew word berith means to cut. It was common practice, when two parties covenanted with one another, to divide an animal in two and to have the covenanting parties pass between the two pieces.

The meaning of this practice is unclear. It might have symbolized that the differences that divided the parties were now dead and put aside. As the covenanting parties passed between them they became as one. In this sense marriage is considered a covenant between the husband and wife.

Another possible meaning is that, when the parties passed between the divided halves of the animal, they were taking an oath that, if they should break this covenant, they should be cut in half as the animal had been. It was a way of swearing by one's own life.

God had been speaking to the sleeping Abram out of the horrors of a terrible darkness. Now as the darkness of the evening comes over the scene, it appears that Abram is awakened to see the Lord seal His covenant with him. It is very important for us to understand that Abram was not asked to pass between the animal carcasses. This was a one sided covenant, a covenant of grace in which God's promises are made unconditionally.

Suddenly a smoking furnace and a burning lamp appeared to Abram and passed between the pieces of the animals. We have other scriptural examples with which to compare this. God appeared in a burning bush to Moses, led Israel with a pillar of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night, descended to Mount Sinai "in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace," etc. There is no doubt that it was God who passed between the pieces of Abram's sacrifice, swearing an oath on His own existence and saying, 'If I do not keep my word, let me be as these animals." I will allow the reader to draw his own conclusions concerning the absolute security that such an oath by God would imply.

The smoking furnace and burning lamp also typify God's leadership of Israel out of the darkness of slavery into the light of God's freedom and grace. It demonstrates His commitment to them. Abram certainly could not foresee the events of the future, but we have the advantages of history. We can see how God fulfilled His promise in the exodus of Israel from Egypt. We have the proof of God's faithfulness.

And, as God swore by His very own existence that Abram's seed should be a blessing to all of mankind, can we not see how His Son fulfilled that promise when he gave His life for us and became our blessed hope? Jesus was the light of the world who came to rescue mankind from the darkness of sin. By His resurrection from the darkness of death, He has lit the way so each of us can find the freedom and grace of eternal life with the Father.

The boundaries of the kingdom and the riches that we inherit through Jesus Christ our Lord, far exceed the small area of the land promised to Abram. Like Paul, I pray for you who read this devotion, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places , Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:17-23)

Before The Throne:

Meditate of the firmness of God's promise to Abram. Think about the meaning of passing between the pieces of the animals. What would happen if God broke His promise? Can you see how secure we are in Jesus Christ? Take time to worship Him. Jesus has suffered the torment of sin and death for your sake and is risen to secure your justification in eternity. How will you respond?

For Further Study:

(v.17)
** smoking. Ex 3:2,3; De 4:20; Jud 6:21; 13:20; 1Ch 21:26; Isa 62:1; Jer 11:4; ** a burning lamp. 2Sa 22:9; ** passed. Jer 34:18,19;

(v.18) made. Gen 9:8-17; 17:1-27; 24:7; 2Sa 23:5; Isa 55:3; Jer 31:31-34; 32:40; Jer 33:20-26; Ga 3:15-17; Heb 13:20; ** Unto thy. Gen 12:7; 13:15; 17:8; 26:4; 28:4,13,14; 35:12; 50:24; Ex 3:8; 6:4; 23:23; Ex 23:27-31; 34:11; Nu 34:3; De 1:7,8; 7:1; 11:24; 34:4; Jos 1:3,4; Jos 12:1-20; 19:1-38; 1Ki 4:21; 2Ch 9:26; Ne 9:8; Ps 105:11; ** from. Nu 34:5; Jos 15:4; Isa 27:12; ** Euphrates. Gen 2:14; 2Sa 8:3; 1Ch 5:9;

(v.19) ** Kenites. Nu 24:21,22;

(v.20) ** Rephaims. Gen 14:5; Isa 17:5;

(v.21) ** Amorites. Gen 10:15-19; Ex 23:23-28; 33:2; 34:11; De 7:1; ** Girgashites. Mt 8:28;

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