Walking Through the Pieces

I love the story of Abraham. I mean everything from when he lied about who his wife was to protect his own hide, to the amazing promises God gave him. But there’s a story nestled in the Genesis account that paints a powerful picture – to miss it is to miss the core message of the Bible. You can find this story in Genesis Chapter 15, verses 1-21 (but I encourage you to read a few chapters before and after that as well, to get it in context). In a nutshell, God reiterated His promise to Abram (for the third time) then Abram asked for a sign. So God gave Him one. First God told Abram to cut some animals in half. Afterward, he put Abram to sleep and talked to him about his future. Finally God appeared as a smoking fire and passed between the pieces of the animals.

This section of Scripture describes a common practice in those days called ‘cutting a covenant.’ Basically, when two people wanted to make a pact, a deal, or a bargain with each other, they would cut some animals into pieces and lay them apart on the ground. A space was left between them forming a sort of aisle. Each party would then state their oath(s) aloud as they walked down the aisle. The meaning of the ritual was simple: ‘May I be cut into pieces like these animals if I don’t keep my promise(s) as I’ve stated in this agreement (covenant).’ Normally there were commitments made on both sides, but not in Genesis 15. Did you catch it?

The covenant was between God and Abram (Abram’s descendants are also mentioned) but only God made the commitment to suffer the consequences in case of a breach of contract. Of course, God doesn’t break contracts, we do.

The Old Testament is a collection of stories that teach spiritual truths. The writers of the Bible would often take a common practice in the Ancient world and turn it on its head in order to teach the God-followers of Israel something about their God that set Him apart from the gods of the surrounding cultures. That’s why it can be so dangerous to take the Biblical texts and stories literally. That’s why we should not try to bring ancient practices into today’s world and live by them as if they were laws. The sole purpose of Scripture is to teach us what God is like.

The story of God walking through the torn carcasses of animals is a strange one no doubt. But it speaks a beautiful truth: God always keeps his promises. Abram did not need to walk through the pieces because he had no part in this covenant. The point was to show that God always keeps his promises, period, whether we participate or not.

Let’s look at this a little more closely. In verses 1-5 God restated His earlier promise to Abram that he would be given an heir. Verse 6 tells us that Abram took God at His word. By all means, believe God. Belief is a good thing when it is rightly placed. But Abram’s belief in this part of the promise played absolutely no part in the cutting of the covenant about to take place. In other words, nothing Abram did or believed in any way impacted the promise God made to him about the land. This is important.

The land was a separate promise from the heir.

The land represented God’s presence with the Israelites. But the promise in regards to the land extended way beyond establishing the Jews in Israel. Consider why God called Abraham in the first place:

I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (emphases mine)

Genesis 18:18, 22:18, and 26:4 comprise God’s promise to all mankind: The world renewed.

In other words, the land – and by implication, intimacy with God in loving relationship – was not for the Jews alone. Not by a long shot.

God’s end game has always been global.

On the heals of the promises regarding the land, note that we are not told that Abram believed God, but instead that he asked God a question: “How will I know that it will one day be mine?” Sounds like Abram was looking for proof. This time he did not believe God. Little did Abram know he was asking the one question that concerns all of humanity. How do we know that God has a plan to bless us, to renew us, and to renew the world?

I know because some 4,000 years ago God cut a covenant with me.

No, that’s not a typo. Shadows and types and representatives, oh my! The Bible is full of them. Abram was my  – your, our – representative in this covenant. Just like Adam stood for all of mankind in the Garden of Eden, and Jesus is named the second Adam in his suffering, so Abram was mankind’s representative, cutting the covenant of grace, securing the promise of God to renew the earth.

Now it is time to consider the position of this story within a greater historical context. Abram was an ancestor of Moses through whom the Law came. As a reminder, we are not told that Abram did anything to earn God’s promise. The covenant was purely an act of grace. So, before the Law came, the covenant of grace was established. Think about it. If the covenant of grace had come after the Law, we would have reason to believe that there is something we must do for God to keep His end of the bargain. This story puts it out there on display: there is nothing for us to do (not even to believe). Why? you ask. Because if we have a part now in keeping this covenant, then Abram would have believed and been required to walk through the pieces as our representative back then.

I don’t have to believe it to be a part of it.

Genesis 15:10: As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram… God put Abram to sleep so that he would have no chance of walking through the pieces. Why? Because God knew something we must all understand:

None of us will ever be able to keep covenant with God (Romans 3). We can’t even keep covenant with each other – or ourselves! If there was any covenant to be made with mankind, it had to be on God’s side only. Our works and beliefs have nothing to do with God’s love for the creation or His absolute and unwavering commitment to make all things new. God Almighty cut a covenant with Abram as my representative, and now there is nothing I can do that will ever make God love me more or less than He did in that moment when He walked through the pieces! But there was a little part in the story that for many years I somehow missed. I bet you who are reading this have already seen it because it is so obvious.

One day it hit me what the pieces of those animals really were:

The broken body of Jesus.

When God walked through the pieces, He knew that we were going to make a sacrifice out of His Son! “This is My body, broken for you…” Who cut the animals up? Abram did – in my place. I did it, through Abram. We did it. We cut up the sacrifice. The Romans stood for me, for you, for us, crucifying Jesus on a cross. The Son’s death at our hands was the price that God paid – in grim, gory detail. A shout to the cosmos that love trumps all, that there is nothing we can do – not even murder – that will ever stop His love for us.

I pray that you understand – really understand – that God has no expectations of you as regards relationship with Him. He initiated it, He accomplished it, He will finish it, in your life and mine – all for the love He feels for everything and everyone He has made. Now that is Amazing Grace.


An update on this post can be found here.

32 thoughts on “Walking Through the Pieces

  1. Hello Cindy,

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I agree that the Bible is book of stories—stories about a love relationship between Divinity and humanity. The love is what makes it so powerful and life changing. And the stories did not end at Revelation. They continue on in the story of your life and mine; in fact, in the stories of everyone who seeks to know Love personified with all of their heart, soul and mind.

    My experience is that when God’s love is separated from his word, the result at best is dysfunctional, but at worst, is very destructive. Perhaps this is what you mean by a literal application of the Bible—an application founded on a distorted image of God that misrepresents his character. One might consider such an application a form of idolatry. I think this is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote that any act that is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). True faith must be founded on Someone who loves truly and completely, and can be trusted; otherwise, it cannot be faith at all. Instead, it is delusion and deception.

    I came across a series of lectures “The Beautiful Believable Basics” which resonates with the thoughts above.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello C,

    I do not seek mysteries, but often encounter them in my search for truth.

    This is a quote from:
    “Cutting Covenants and Cutting Animals: Biblical Rituals and Idioms” Unpublished Paper, Bruce William Jones, (1996?) URL: http://www.csub.edu/~bjones/cutdeal2.txt Accessed 18 February 2014.
    Bruce W. Jones (retired), Religious Studies Dept., California State University, Bakersfield, California 93311, U.S.A.

    “This kind of agreement was known in many parts of the ancient world, but I know of no instance, in Israel or elsewhere, in which the superior party, much less a divine party, moves between the dismembered parts of an animal and thus assumes the implied self-curse. Here, amazingly, it is God, not Abram, who passes symbolically between the pieces, as if he is humbling himself, cursing himself, asking that he be cut into pieces, even, if he should violate his promises to Abram.”

    So when Jehovah asked Abram to prepare to cut a covenant with him, Abram would fully expect that he would be walking between the halves, not Jehovah. The promise of God is not conditioned by man’s actions and beliefs. They are unconditional.

    I did a fair amount of digging trying to find information on the how the smoking furnace and blazing torch related to the cutting of a covenant. In the darkness of the night, these two elements moving between the halves would have been graphic. But I could find nothing definitive from those who study ancient near eastern customs. However, there were many religious expositors that imposed all sorts of interpretations on these two objects in Abram’s vision.

    Maybe the Truth is found in a Person, so it might not be collectable, but is relational.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for these insights, Richard, and for reading my blog post. This entire story is quite mysterious and certainly centers around relationship, as you assert. I suppose that I have come to a place in my life where the Bible is great for spiritual insight but terrible for literal application. The inconsistencies (whether they be due to translation errors, or language barriers) have made it impossible for me to take pretty much anything from it in a literal sense (even whether or not this story actually happened or what the basis of it might have been in Abram’s contemporary society). I view stories like these as just that – stories, perhaps fictional, perhaps supernatural experiences – but there to teach us something, much like the parables do.

      As to what the spiritual meaning or application of this particular tale would be, my guess is that Abram was learning (as we all must) that there was no power beyond himself imposing rules or requirements on him in order to see his dream realized. Nor is there some standard we must hold to in order to have relationship with the greater part of ourselves. Rather there is ONLY intimacy with the divine spirit if we will seek it in the depths of our being.

      The broader meaning for me now is that it was Abram’s faith that brought his desire (for a son and a land) into his reality. Again, no conditions to be met in order to achieve his desire excepting the belief that it would happen in time. It really is all about faith, and on that point, at least, I imagine we would agree. 🙂


  3. 1. God does not require human sacrifice, he detests it. The bible is riddled with references to it. 2. God did not kill his son or require his son to be killed. This ideology started in the middle ages and grew even stronger in the protestant era. 3. God and jesus walked through the blood, not Abraham. Grace covenant. Jesus was the torch and god was the furnace.


    1. Were I still in the Christian paradigm, I would completely agree with you. Thanks for explaining the theology of Grace Covenant, of which I used to be a part, actually. Take care, Hotzpacho! ❤


  4. Silly self righteous people still haven’t learned even with thousands of years of history. The covenant was not cut with Abraham. Abraham witnessed God cut a covenant with Jesus. There was a smoking furnace and a firey torch that walked through the pieces. If you study the ancient cultures of the area you will notice that two parties walk through the pieces. There were two parties and Abraham was not one of them.


  5. Good morning “C”,
    Your writing about the covenant was really good and helpful. I almost stopped reading when I saw the hint of universalism but decided to continue and was glad I did because I still learned and gained understanding about that passage. I am curious to know if you embrace all religions? Or is your compassion for truth limited to Judeo-Christian biblical values? I pray the latter is true, and if not, I stand on the scriptures that if you ever received salvation according to Romans 10:9-10 that now nothing can separate you from the love of God, Romans 8:38-39, in which case I’ll see you in Heaven😊


    1. Good morning, Jan. Thank you so much for reading, and much more so for commenting! I am glad to know that my take on this O.T. passage has contributed something (however small) to your journey. 🙂

      To satisfy your curiosity, I do not embrace religion of any kind. I have learned to ask the same question attributed to Pilate in the N.T., “What is truth?” But rather than search for “truth”, which I believe to be a useless quest, I choose to embrace mystery. The world contains more mystery than we can possibly imagine! Just the diversity of the genetic code from one person to another is enough to occupy the natural mind for a lifetime. On a more personal, spiritual level, I am learning to tune in to my intuition and to trust my body when it comes to knowing which way to turn (much like a Christian would ‘follow their peace’). In fact, Christianity is where I learned to listen to my inner being, although I would not have called it that at the time.

      If I were to adopt a motto, it would be this: Only Love Signifies. There is no higher calling than this, but for me, gratitude, appreciation, and joy are right there with love. I learned long ago that a dogmatic belief in any man’s interpretation of what people consider to be Holy Writ has done little to nothing in terms of increasing love. Sadly, in the 30+ years I spent in your paradigm, the complete opposite was true. I came to know that Christians were by far among the meanest and most unloving people I had ever met. But then, most legalistic, exclusive religions do that to a person. There seems to be no avoiding it. When someone believes they have the corner on “truth”, the only road to god, and that it is their responsibility to convince others of the same, wars will happen. It is inevitable. I have made the conscious decision to live another way. I am sorry that this distresses you, but never fear! You may not see me in heaven, but we will most certainly meet again! ❤

      Sending you much love and light,


  6. The last comment was rather sad.

    I firmly believe that it’s not possible to arrive at correct (and satisfactory) explanations of world situations without the context of a Great Controversy.

    Satan’s attack against God is real. His casting out to earth really happened. His methods of warfare against us to hurt God are cruel.

    The Bible stories are parables for us to understand context & outcome. Noah preached about repentance & God’s judgement came. So too Christian believers in His soon advent are to preach about coming judgement.

    The Bible itself predicts a sorry state of affairs in the church influenced by Satan.
    See 2Th 2:1-10

    Be encouraged, believe the Bible literally as God’s infallible Word of Truth!

    God Bless.


  7. I really enjoyed reading your article but I am concerned about your response to Everette McGowin’s comment that referred to universalism. Abraham believed and it was counted to him as rightousness. It also concerns me that you couldn’t answer Leo’s question without knowing what he believes about atonement. It doesn’t matter what Leo believes. It matters what the Bible says on the subject and the Bible is very clear that not everyone will be in heaven with Him.


    1. Hi, Nancee! Thank you so much for reading and commenting. 🙂 The reason I asked Leo his view is because I am really not interested in engaging in an argument here. Finding out where he stands at this time would have been helpful for me in continuing a dialogue. I did a lot of arguing for a very long time – from your side of the fence, in fact! Since I at one time believed exactly as you do (and likely as Leo does), I am already well aware of the arguments regarding penal substitutionary atonement. Please know that I completely understand where you are coming from but that I am no longer where you are by conscious choice.

      I once was a universalist. I now do not consider myself a part of what organized Christianity identifies itself with at all. I would be more of the flavor of the early church father, Origen, were I to believe that anything in the Bible were absolute truth.

      Instead, I have come to see that the Scriptures can have many interpretations. (An old proverb stated that if you asked 10 Rabbis a question of the O.T. text, you would get 20 answers.) I no longer hold to a literal view of any of it. It is my personal opinion that it is the literal view of so-called inspired writings (i.e. the Koran, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, etc.) that has led to the dismal state of the world we face today. Religion is, in my mind, a terrible evil, and I want nothing to do with it any longer.

      That said, I do believe the Bible itself has much to teach as wisdom literature, but not in the way of absolute truth, infallibility, or something a god breathed forth through men.

      Thanks again for commenting! I wish you peace, light, and love on your journey forward. Many blessings, ~C ❤


  8. I loved the article you posted. My wife and I have started doing marriage conferences. I have been studying a lot about marriage covenants in the Old Testament. I do have an issue about the universalism idea that ALL will be saved. But there is much truth to your teaching of the blood covenant. I especially liked the part where you stated “who cut the animals”. God established a blood covenant with us when WE cut (sacrificed) HIS SON.

    One new thing I’ve learned in my study of marriage covenants I thought I might share: scientists and doctors can find no reason a woman has a hymen as a virgin. There seems to be no biological reason it exists. But when a man and woman have sexual relations for the first time, the hymen breaks pouring forth blood. Could this be how God has set up a “blood covenant” between a man and woman? It sure appears to be so.
    Twitter: @iCovenantMarriage
    Facebook: iCovenantMarriage

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It could be, Ben. I never thought of that! Interesting stuff. So are you saying that there is a ‘blood covenant’ between husband and wife? I might have to disagree with that if I don’t better understand what that actually would mean… Feel free to elaborate. 🙂


      1. History has shown that a marriage ceremony in the Old Testament was carried out much like the story of Abram and God in Genesis 15. A couple would walk through the blood of animals stating their vows. Thus stating that only death will separate or come between us. As you stated about Genesis 15 “This section of Scripture describes a common practice in those days called ‘cutting a covenant’.” The Hebrew word for covenant is briyth, which is defined as “sense of cutting; a compact made by passing through (between) pieces of flesh. Malachi 2:14 uses that same Hebrew word where it states that a marriage is a covenant,
        14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your MARRIAGE COVENANT.

        In searching for Jewish wedding customs I came across this statement,
        “When the wedding party arrived at father’s house the newly weds went into the wedding chamber for a seven day honeymoon and the groom’s best friend stood outside waiting for the groom to tell him that the marriage had been consummated. The proof of this was the bed-sheet bearing the blood shed by the bride as a result of her first sexual intercourse. This is notable for two reasons. It speaks of purity before marriage, but it also shows a blood covenant (the most solemn and binding kind) such as God’s covenant with his people.”

        I appreciate you responding and I really enjoy studying and learning through studying scripture and discussing it with others. May God continue to bless your ministry through your writing.

        Ben Bruce
        Twitter: @iCovenantMarriage
        Facebook: iCovenantMarriage

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Very interesting article. This was the topic of our Bible Study tonight and I was searching for a scripture, using Google and found this article.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I really enjoyed reading this. I found it upon searching for blood covenant, and sacrifice while I was studying about covenants between God and His people, and the covenant between God and man and woman as it pertains to a marriage covenant. I got chills when I read the part about God himself passing between the pieces and how that foreshadowed Christs death for us. Thank you for a very thought provoking view!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. So, where’s the evidence of the promise? Where’s the proof? How can I know that one day I – in fact, the whole world – will experience salvation?

    No penny required. Excellent insight and articulation for those that are chilren of promise. But the statement above requires clarification for me – it sounds like universalism. Doesn’t it?

    Just sayin…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have been very interested in this passage in the bible, but I am confused about how it connects to Jesus’s death.

    In the covenant, Abram was put to sleep and God walked through the pieces, so if God kept his deal, which he did, was there a need for Jesus to die for the covenant? Is it right to attribute these two events with one another?


    1. I’m not certain how to answer your question without knowing more about what you believe about the atonement (the purpose of Jesus’ death on the cross). If I knew that, I could probably tell you how the passage I wrote about relates (or doesn’t) to what you believe. Without that knowledge, I am not certain how to answer your question but thanks so much for reading and commenting!! 🙂 Peace, C


  13. Thanks for sharing, really enjoyed reading about walking between the pieces of the sacrifice. Learned something didifferent, but very good info. This is why we should never think that we have all there is to know and experience about God, because once we do that, we put a lid on the of our teaching, doctrines and although we don’t limit God from working we just limit our perspective of all the different ways he wishes to reveal himself to use. God bless you so much for sharing that beautiful tread of truth, my heart was touched and I was truly blessed to have read it. Again thanks and God bless!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jimmy, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! It’s interesting because I’ve noticed over the past year that this post is consistently my most read on a daily basis. That fascinates me since I can only think people are searching for this information – the post is buried in the archives and not easy to find unless you’re looking for it. Anyway, most people don’t comment, so thank you for doing so. I’m happy that you were blessed by my “take” on it. I agree with you, that it is too easy to limit our thinking about God. Keep seeking, keep knocking, keep asking – Jesus promised that when we do that, we will find the answers we need. Peace to you, C


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