TODAY’S READING: Genesis 13–15
It’s a dizzying, crowded, and technologically booming time. Drains, sewers, and pottery are being developed in Crete. Egypt launches a postal system. Babylon is using soap, and cities are flourishing in Lebanon, so it’s timely to have soap on the scene. A confusing array of tribes, peoples, and places (Shinar, Ellasar, Elam, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, Zoar, the Rephaim, the Zuzim, the Emim, the Horites, Seir, El Paran, En Mishpat, Amalekites, and Amorites) surround Abraham and Lot—with Iranians causing the most trouble (Gen. 14:1). God delivers these nations into Abraham’s hands, yet through Melchizedek is quick to remind Abraham that war only serves to make peace and that all things and peoples belong to God. People are after all the greatest of God’s treasures (v. 21)—a point He will shortly, dramatically demonstrate to Abraham.
In that day covenant relationships were verified by public ceremony. The Hittites (who hailed from present day Turkey) had a ceremony that purified their soldiers after a defeat:
The troops are required to perform the ritual “behind a river,” where a man, a goat, a puppy, and a small pig are cut in half. The sections, thus divided, are arranged oppositely parallel on one side and the other…fires are lit on both sides of the arranged pieces. Then the troops are obliged to pass between the fires and are sprinkled with water upon reaching the bank of the river.
Biblical covenants had similarities to the above but were different on key points. In Genesis 15:3, Abraham, bearing the disappointment of unfulfilled promises, asks the Lord in essence: Are you sure? Will You really bless ALL nations through my seed? For I have no child, and no natural heir. God, do you really intend to bless all peoples? God tells Abraham to bring a cow, a goat, a ram, a turtle dove, and a pigeon. These animals were cut down the middle, separated on the path, and then God Himself walked in between the bloody pieces, appearing as a flame of fire.
In the usual covenants of the time, the lesser (or vassal) promised a litany of services to the greater (or suzerain), and by walking over the blood the lesser demonstrated his fate should he not fulfil his oath. In this startling contextualization of “cutting the covenant,” the great God of all power walks over the blood, saying in effect: “He would die before He would allow His covenant with Abraham to fail.” And that is exactly what God did. God died to fulfil His promise, the promise that representatives of every people group on earth would be brought into His family. “I am sure Abraham! I am so sure, I promise by my Calvary blood. I promise that I will bless all peoples of earth.” If God would promise and generously pay such a price for the nations, should we not also in the same spirit and for the same cause be just as liberal? So we should, and so by His grace we shall be.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 22.
 The definition of vassal is “a holder of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance”.
 The definition of suzerain is “a sovereign or state having some control over another state that is internally autonomous”.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 23.