By Wayne Nelson
What do we mean by a Blood Covenant? This term, used widely in our world and found in every culture that has ever been discovered, has lost most of its significance in today’s society, especially here in America.
Even though the concept is found in every society of mankind from the earliest of times to the present, we do not understand it’s meaning as this most ancient of all rites has come down to us throughout history. What the Blood Covenant meant to the earliest of peoples, it still means today. The force it carried in antiquity is the same today as it was in ancient times. But, because we in America (and other modern countries as well) do not understand the meaning behind the blood covenant, we have failed to understand its true meaning to us today. Christians, particularly, are not able to understand their rights and obligations under a Blood Covenant.
The importance of understanding the Blood Covenant is found in the fact that the basis of Christianity is rooted in a Blood Covenant. The Blood Covenant between God and Abraham, the foundation for the relationship of God to His chosen people, appears in the New Testament as a New Covenant, this time between God and those who choose to serve Him in Christ. In the Old Testament, the people were the chosen of God, those whom He had chosen to represent Him to the world. In the New Testament the covenant people are the ones who choose God, who represent Christ to a dying world. This New Covenant is between God and Jesus, whereas the Old Covenant was between God and Abraham. In each case, the meaning of the Blood Covenant remains constant. What it meant to David in the Old Testament it means to us in the New Testament.
So, what is the basic meaning behind this Blood Covenant? Simply put it means that two covenant individuals share such a close relationship with each other that all they have or possess in this life is available to each upon demand. For example say that Joe and Sam have entered into a Blood Covenant with each other. What belongs to Joe also belongs to Sam and what belongs to Sam also belongs to Joe. Say Joe has a short payday, but has a pressing debt due that he cannot pay. He simply goes to Sam and says, “Sam, give me your checkbook, I’m in dire need of $500”. Sam is obligated, by the Blood Covenant between them, to hand his checkbook to Joe so that Joe can meet his debt obligation. This sharing of the personal properties of both Joe and Sam extend to everything either possesses, including wives. For a Blood Covenant individual to refuse to meet the needs of his covenant partner means that he broke the blood covenant between them and this means that he will die a most horrible death as well as the rest of his family, usually at the hand of the individual he so severely mistreated. You can understand then, the motive that causes these two blood covenant individuals to share all they possess with each other whenever called upon. To refuse was a certain death sentence as well as probable death to his family. Perhaps now the times in the Old Testament where God seemed to wipe out His chosen can be better understood. He always said, before the drastic action took place, that they had broken the Covenant with Him. But also God always left a remnant behind so He could reestablish His Covenant with them.
Just how ancient is the Blood Covenant? In his book “The Blood Covenant”, Dr. H. Clay Trumbull states “This fact [the commonality of the rite in all cultures] in itself would seem to point to a common origin of its various manifestations, in the early Oriental home of the now scattered peoples of the world” (page 57). So what would be the early Oriental home that Dr. Trumbull talks of? What about the Garden of Eden? In Genesis 3:21, it says, “Unto Adam also and to His wife did the Lord God make coats of skin, and clothed them.” Eve was the first woman to wear a fur coat and that in the heat of the Mid-East as she was evicted from her birth home! But what does this have to do with the Blood Covenant of the Bible?
Adam, as well as Eve, had sinned in the sight of God. He could not look on that sin which meant that He would have to forsake His new creation, mankind. God was unwilling to turn His back on His creation, so He covered their sin with blood. Now, He would not have to look at their sin, for all He would see was the blood that covered this sin. This is the basis for all the Old Testament sacrifices of blood, which pointed to the Ultimate sacrifice, the shedding of the innocent blood of the Lamb of God. But where in this chapter of Genesis does it mention the shedding of blood to cover their sin? Well, you would have to kill the beast that surrendered their skin before you skinned them, both acts resulting in the shedding of innocent blood. But how do you get to the point that this blood was used by God to cover the sins of Adam and Eve? Go to the next chapter in Genesis, Chapter 4 and you immediately find Cain and Abel making an offering to God. He was pleased with Abel’s offering; the first born of his flock for it was an offering that involved the shedding of blood, the covering for his sins. However, God did not accept Cain’s offering, for no shedding of blood was performed to cover Cain’s sin.
So how did Cain and Abel learn about the shedding of blood to cover their sins? Their parents told them, probably recounting how their mother came into possession of her prized fur coat that no one dared touch or play with. Now we have, in the Genesis account, the establishment of the fact that the shedding of innocent blood would cover over the sins of the people so that God could continue to interact with His Creation. From this concept sprang the genesis for the Blood Covenant where God cut the covenant with Abraham. Since God is a spirit and not flesh and blood, there has to be a substitutionary contributor to provide the blood necessary for the Blood Covenant. God’s contributors were a 3-year-old heifer, a 3-year-old female goat, a 3-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon (Genesis 15:9). Abraham’s blood contribution was to be his foreskin, which bleeds profusely when it is cut, especially in an adult male. Genesis 17:11 and following gives the particulars of Abraham’s contribution to the Blood Covenant cut between him and God Almighty. This was to be an everlasting covenant between man, represented by Abraham, and God, a never-ending compact between two covenant partners for all time (Genesis 17:7).
If this were to be an everlasting covenant between God and Man, what role would Jesus play in the New Covenant of the New Testament? Why was it necessary for Him to shed His blood on the cross, since an everlasting covenant was established between God and Abraham? The problem was that the weak link in the Old Covenant was man, who continually broke the covenant between him and God, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes deliberately and with malice. Study the lives of the Old Testament Prophets, especially Isaiah and Ezekiel to gain a better understanding of the treachery that the false prophets of Israel put on God’s people. However, if the people wanted to actually follow God, they could, thus the blame for Israel’s downfall was shared by all, prophet and people alike. It was obvious that man, try as he might, was a poor choice for a Blood Covenant partner, since he repeatedly violated the Covenant and repeatedly paid the price for his folly. A man had to be found who would not repeatedly break the Covenant by disobedience to his Covenant partner, Almighty God. And right here is where Jesus fits in, as He was both Son of God and Son of Man. By His very nature, He would not disobey or dishonor His Covenant partner, God, the Father. Thus, the New Blood Covenant, based on the saving work of Jesus replaced a covenant that was based on Abraham, which was continually violated by man. Thus the New Covenant, based on Jesus, became a better Blood Covenant than the Old Covenant, which was based on Abraham’s relation to God.
In the Abrahamic Blood Covenant, God made the covenant only with Abraham, no one else. Others entered into the Covenant between God and Abraham through the rite of circumcision. In Genesis 17:7-14, God outlines how others will enter into the Blood Covenant cut between Him and His friend, Abraham. God did not cut a personal Blood Covenant with every Hebrew male, He provided for an entrance into the Blood Covenant He had with Abraham through the rite of circumcision, the very vehicle Abraham used to provide his blood for his Blood Covenant with Almighty God. Later, in the New Testament, Paul writes about the Circumcision of the Heart, where the old nature is thrown away and the new nature from God is placed within the new believer in Jesus. Thus the New Blood Covenant, based on the covenant relationship between God, the Father and Jesus, the Son of Man is patterned after the original Abrahamic Covenant. The covenant now is indeed everlasting, for it cannot be broken as it was in ancient times. The New Blood Covenant is now between God, the Father and His Son, representing man. Those who enter into this relationship with God the Father and Jesus His Son, do so by the rite of circumcision, the circumcision of the heart. As Paul explained it to the Christians in Rome “For he is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God.” (Romans 2:28-29, KJV). Paul, in writing to the Colossians, elaborated further “And ye are complete in Him which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:10-11, KJV).
When a person accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, there is a lot going on in the spiritual realm that we generally are unaware of when it is happening. Not even the person who is receiving all this spiritual activity knows what is happening, they just know they somehow feel “different”, “better”, “at peace” or some other way describes that they aren’t the same as they were moments before. Not only are they accepting Jesus as their Savior and thereby have their entire sin debt, from that moment on, wiped out but they are also cut into the New Blood Covenant between God, the Father and Jesus, His Son representing mankind. This cutting into the Blood covenant is done by Jesus, man’s representative in the Blood Covenant and is performed in the heart, not on the foreskin. Thus all who come to Jesus, male and female, have equal access to the terms of the Blood Covenant.
What are the terms of this Blood Covenant we are now in? Remember, in a blood covenant relationship everything you have or possess is freely available to your covenant partner. Likewise everything he has or possesses is now available to you, you only need to ask and it is yours. If we treated our relationship with our Heavenly Father as a relationship within a Blood Covenant that means anything we need that He has is ours for the asking! Conversely anything He asks of us we are covenant bound to provide Him. You say He wants you to be a teacher or a writer? Then under the Blood Covenant all you can say is “Here’s your teacher or writer, Lord”. So you feel that He wants you preaching the Gospel and you get butterflies when you stand in front of two people and they are your family members? Your response, under the Blood Covenant, is the response of Samuel when he answered God’s call on his life. “Speak, for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10, KJV). If we only understood the obligations we have in our Blood Covenant relationship with our Heavenly Father, He would not have to use people in jobs He never designed them for and we would be much happier in our lives that is centered in God’s will.
Currently, I am in need of a sum of money to finish a book project I’ve started at God’s behest. So, what do I do? Do I seek another part-time job for additional income, borrow the amount and put my family and myself in deeper debt? Or do I turn to my Blood Covenant Partner and say, “I have need of this amount of money to finish that book project you gave me. So, where’s your checkbook?”. If this sounds rather cheeky, view it in the light of Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (KJV). Paul was able to write this because God understands the relationship found in a Blood Covenant. That’s why He cut one first with Abraham and then improved on it with Jesus. If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are in a Blood Covenant relationship with God Almighty. Why not live like it? What He has promised you He will honor, so take Him at His word and start living a victorious life! And don’t forget the requests of your Blood Covenant partner. You are bound, by the Blood Covenant, to provide Him with anything He asks of you, even if it means your life.
Wayne Nelson is Child of God who has known Jesus since 1959 when he accepted Him as his Savior. He realized a lifelong dream in 2002 when he received his PhD in Theology.