I was watching an old movie the other night called “The Bible: In the Beginning…” Being made back in 1966, I expected it to be stale and not very entertaining. To my surprise, it was very engaging as it covered everything in Genesis. The movie went into great detail about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood as well as Abraham and Isaac.
One thing that really stood out to me was during Genesis 15, God’s covenant with Abraham. I’ve read over this part of the Bible before but it really never jumped out at me like it did when I watched the movie.
In Genesis 15, Abraham had a vision. God came to him and promised him a son as well as many more offspring…as many as there are stars in the sky. God also promised him the land that he stood on but Abraham remained in question on how this would happen.
Shortly after this, it seemed like God said to Abraham, “Hey, let’s make this official. Stop your worrying.” In Genesis 15:9, God asked Abraham to bring him a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon. He then asked Abraham to cut them all in half and lay them opposite of each other. The two birds were not cut in half. I know what you are thinking…”What in the world is going on?!”…I’ll explain more shortly.
After Abraham did all this cutting and arranging of the animals, he waited for God’s next move. Its unknown how long that he actually waited but scripture tells us that “birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away” (Genesis 15:11). Typically, vultures can smell and detect a meal within 12-24 hours so I am assuming that Abraham’s wait was probably about that long.
The sun went down while Abraham continued to wait and he grew very tired. Abraham couldn’t hold out any longer and he fell into a deep sleep. In his sleep, is where the Lord finally met him. God promised him a child and also explained to him about the difficult times ahead when his people will become slaves of Egypt and will have many struggles. He assured Abraham that his people will come out victorious in the end but the entire process will take about 400 years.
After all this was said, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the animal halves. This was God making the covenant official with Abraham.
So here are my thoughts and burning questions on a few details of what just happened: A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties. I know that it sounds odd to cut animals in half and lay them opposite of each other, but in ancient times, it was just something that people would do to “seal a deal” or “cut a deal”. It was often referred to as a “blood oath”. In the modern world, we would probably seek a lawyer to draw up the paperwork and both parties would sign. Not too long ago, people used to spit in their hands and then “shake on it”. Yuck!
With the animals cut in half, the two agreeing parties would walk or pass down the middle of them together to make it official. This is what Abraham was planning to do with God. What’s strange about this is that God decided to pass through by himself and not with Abraham. Its seemed like God was showing Abraham that with or without him, this covenant was going to stay faithful and God was going to keep his promise. Nothing depended on Abraham and God is indeed above all.
So what about the “birds of prey” that Abraham fought to keep away? I wonder if they were actually real birds or symbolized tormenting of the Satan? Abraham may have been mentally swatting away attacking thoughts of the enemy trying to talk him out of making the covenant with God. Was this the “great darkness” that fell onto Abraham (Genesis 15:12)? Whatever the meaning is behind the birds, it was clear that they were interfering between God and man.
Lastly, what is the significance of the animals? Why a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove and a young pigeon? Why was God so specific with Abraham on these animal requests? Believe me, I really dug into trying to figure this out during our study of Genesis 15! A website that I found goes into great explanation of this and suggests the following:
- Ram = The Father
- Heifer = The Mother-in-law
- Goat = The Mother
- Dove = Son
- Pigeon = Daughter
- Having just read that, look at it in further detail:
- Ram = The Father (God)
- Heifer = The Mother-in-law (Earthly Jerusalem)
- Goat = The Mother (Heavenly Jerusalem)
- Dove = Son (Jesus the Son of God, The Bridegroom)
- Pigeon = Daughter (New Jerusalem, The Church, The Bride)
Wait. What?! In Luke 12:52-53, Jesus says “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
There is also reference to this in Micah 7:6. “For a son dishonors his father, a daughter rises up against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– a man’s enemies are the members of his own household.”
It was starting to make a little more sense to me until I read that! What does that have to do with Abraham and God’s covenant? I can see how most can be split or cut in half as the animals were…split between good and evil. The dove and pigeon cannot and will not be split. But why is God cut in half? Is this supposed to represent Christianity and Islam? My mind is running 100 miles per hour on this!
Other thoughts that I had regarding the animals is that the heifer symbolizes patience and strength. The goat is the symbolizes nourishment of the soul. The ram is power or might. The birds are of spirit, grace and God. Its easy to see how all can be split, divided or cut in half except for the birds…for them, its one side or the other. Good or evil.
Another aspect that stands out is that there were five animals. Look at the diagram below borrowed from this article.
See the arrangement and the pentagram shape or five-pointed star? Trace your finger starting from God down to Jesus, up to The Mother and so on. Did you end up back to God? He is the beginning and the end! AHHHH! God is so clever and yet so mysterious! He’s clearly trying to tell us something thousands of years ago and this was no accident. I will get more into the actual pentagram at a later time but its was too awesome to keep that quick topic away from this article.
With that out of the way, it still brings me to wonder why the specific animals? Also, why did God show up as a smoking fire pot and a blazing torch? The torch probably represents faith that brings light to darkness and the fire pot is the burning Holy Spirit inside all of us…all from which are from God and is God.
As you can see, I’ve really been digging into Genesis 15. Some areas have been answered and some have only created many more questions.
If you have any positive thoughts to share on this, please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear from you! Also, for further reading, go here as this article goes much further in depth with this same topic.