Gen 15:17

Jonathan D. Safren yonsaf at
Fri Jan 18 00:56:57 EST 2002

>  In Genesis 15 God is "Cutting a Covenant" with Abram. Abram does the
>  "cutting", but God "passes between the pieces" in token that He, for His
>  part, will certainly keep and perform His covenant promises. Abraham did
>  not pass between the pieces. He was a sleeping spectator of the vision
>  (verse 12). This Covenant is a unilaterally imposed covenant of Grace.

Unlike typical suzerainty treaty ceeremonies in the Bible (Circumcision,
Gen. 18: the Sinai Covenant, Ex. 20-24; the Shechem Covenant; Josh. 24),
here in Gen. 15 it is only God who is undertaking a treaty obligation, which
is why He passes through the two rows of dismembered animals. Abraham
undertakes no obligations at all. Abraham is not so much a "sleeping
spectator" (even though that is what he was doing at the time) as a
"beneficiary" of the covenant promise. He asked for proof of God's
intentions towards him, and this is what God is giving him. I would call
this a "role reversal". most definitely not the typical suzerainty treaty in
which the Divine suzerain, or his human representative (Joshua) makes
promises, or states that He has fulfiled His promises, and the Israelite
vassal undertakes all the obligations.
Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
Beit Berl Post Office
44905 Israel

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