on Genesis 15 :10
Divided them in the midst - The ancient method of making covenants as well as the original word, have been already alluded to, and in a general way explained. See Genesis 6:18. The word covenant from con, together, and venio, I come, signifies an agreement, association, or meeting between two or more parties; for it is impossible that a covenant can be made between an individual and himself, whether God or man. This is a theological absurdity into which many have run; there must be at least two parties to contract with each other. And often there was a third party to mediate the agreement, and to witness it when made. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi says, "It was a custom with those who entered into covenant with each other to take a heifer and cut it in two, and then the contracting parties passed between the pieces." See this and the scriptures to which it refers particularly explained, Genesis 6:18. A covenant always supposed one of these four things:
1. That the contracting parties had been hitherto unknown to each other, and were brought by the covenant into a state of acquaintance.
2. That they had been previously in a state of hostility or enmity, and were brought by the covenant into a state of pacification and friendship.
3. Or that, being known to each other, they now agree to unite their counsels, strength, property, etc., for the accomplishment of a particular purpose, mutually subservient to the interests of both. Or,
4. It implies an agreement to succor and defend a third party in cases of oppression and distress.
For whatever purpose a covenant was made, it was ever ratified by a sacrifice offered to God; and the passing between the divided parts of the victim appears to have signified that each agreed, if they broke their engagements, to submit to the punishment of being cut asunder; which we find from Matthew 24:51; Luke 12:46, was an ancient mode of punishment. This is farther confirmed by Herodotus, who says that Sabacus, king of Ethiopia, had a vision, in which he was ordered μεσους διατεμειν, to cut in two, all the Egyptian priests; lib. ii. We find also from the same author, lib. vii., that Xerxes ordered one of the sons of Pythius μεσον διατεμειν, to be cut in two, and one half to be placed on each side of the way, that his army might pass through between them. That this kind of punishment was used among the Persians we have proof from Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:29. Story of Susanna, verses 55, 59. See farther, 2 Samuel 12:31, and 1 Chronicles 20:3. These authorities may be sufficient to show that the passing between the parts of the divided victims signified the punishment to which those exposed themselves who broke their covenant engagements. And that covenant sacrifices were thus divided, even from the remotest antiquity, we learn from Homer, Il. A., v. 460.
Μηρους τ' εξεταμον κατα τε κνισοῃ εκαλυψαν,
Διπτυχα ποιησαντες, επ' αυτων δ' ωμοθετησαν.
"They cut the quarters, and cover them with the fat; dividing them into two, they place the raw flesh upon them."
But this place may be differently understood.
St. Cyril, in his work against Julian, shows that passing between the divided parts of a victim was used also among the Chaldeans and other people. As the sacrifice was required to make an atonement to God, so the death of the animal was necessary to signify to the contracting parties the punishment to which they exposed themselves, should they prove unfaithful.
Livy preserves the form of the imprecation used on such occasions, in the account he gives of the league made between the Romans and Albans. When the Romans were about to enter into some solemn league or covenant, they sacrificed a hog; and, on the above occasion, the priest, or pater patratus, before he slew the animal, stood, and thus invoked Jupiter:
Audi, Jupiter! Si prior defecerit publico consilio dolo malo, tum illo die, Diespiter, Populum Romanum sic ferito, ut ego hune porcum hic hodie feriam; tantoque magis ferito, quanto magis potes pollesque! - Livii Hist., lib. i., chap. 24.
"Hear, O Jupiter! Should the Romans in public counsel, through any evil device, first transgress these laws, in that same day, O Jupiter, thus smite the Roman people, as I shall at this time smite this hog; and smite them with a severity proportioned to the greatness of thy power and might!"
on Genesis 15 :10
on Genesis 15 :10