The Great Exchange: Understanding More About Covenants

When our monthly insurance premium surpassed our monthly house payment… that is when we desperately looked for an alternative. Enter Christian Health Sharing. We researched Medi-Share and Samaritan Ministries and chose Samaritan Ministries.

We contribute a set amount each month to another member with a financial need that is related to a health expense. Actually, most months our shares go to support medical for expectant and new mothers. πŸ™‚ We receive a letter at the beginning of the month with the name and address of who to send our check, and we send our gift by the 15th of each month.

A couple years ago we received a small package in the mail, with a thank-you card, from one of the families with whom we had shared medical expenses. This man and his wife have authored several books, and they sent us one on blood covenants.

I’m kind of a snob about what I read. I mean, my time alone is rare and precious, and I love to learn. God usually lays a topic on my heart and then I spend a lot of dedicated time praying and studying, allowing Him to teach me what He will. Yet, I was really touched by this couple’s gift, and so I decided to start reading and see what happened. I was totally captivated. When I finished I had to call them and tell them how thrilled I was by what I learned and thank them!!

Learning what covenants looked like in biblical times helps us better understand the covenant God made with Abraham, and with us, and deepens our love for the amazing God we have.

This post is based on this book:

The Great Exchange, Bound By Blood by Dr. Robert C. & Kay W. Camenisch

In John 6:53-59, we read:
53 Jesus said to them, β€œVery truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Afterward many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. Have you ever wondered why he said these things, and what he really meant? His followers understood better than we what Jesus was getting at.

A blood covenant was the “most binding of agreements”; even more binding than family relationships.

In the western world we barely know anything about covenants. Marriage is as close as we come to one, though some of the original elements are no longer included in our ceremonies, and divorce rates reflect the seriousness with which our culture esteems our vows.

In the Bible, covenant and testament can be used interchangeably. The Old Testament is the story of God’s people under the covenant God made with Abraham.

There were 7 exchanges that were part of the ancient ritual of cutting a blood covenant.

1– There was an exchange of cloaks. This exchange represented an exchange of their possessions with a promise of provision. “Everything I have is now yours.” They would care for and provide for one another whenever they were in need: their homes, flocks, servants, money, and their families belonged to each other. Only their wife was not shared.

When they traded cloaks, they exchanged identity.

2– There was an exchange of weapons. When two men faced each other and traded their weapon, they promised their strength and protection to each other. “I will give my life to protect you. Your enemies are now my enemies. Your battles are now mine. If you go to war, I will go with you. If anyone comes against you, I will be there for your defense. If anyone attacks you, I will hunt him down and get revenge–even if it costs my life.”

3– There was an exchange of names. The two men who entered into covenant exchanged a portion of their names. I would still have my name, but I may add your first or last name to my name, and you would do the same. “The men shared in all obligations, liabilities and advantages of the name.” Whenever one man introduced himself, he was also introducing his blood brother.

4– There was an exchange of blood. Without the letting of blood, it was not a blood covenant. They usually cut themselves on visible places on their body. You’ve seen the old westerns? If they cut their wrists, they somehow brought their wrists together so that their blood co-mingled. A blood covenant was more than an agreement or a promise; it was the joining of two lives into one.

Some cultures rubbed something into the wound so that the scar would be more visible. When you met someone with such a scar, you knew you were also dealing with a blood brother.

5– There was an exchange of blessings and curses. Usually during the cutting of flesh the men would state blessings and curses. They may have gone over the promise of shared resources and protection. They may have spoken blessings for health, prosperity and abundance. For curses, they would have pointed at one another and spoken angrily of consequences that would come to pass if the other ever broke the covenant.

Sometimes, animals were cut in the ceremony. They were split in two and the men walked among the pieces in a figure 8 and they spoke blessings as they went. Then they would stand on opposite ends of the animals and shout the curses.

6– There would be a Memorial Exchange. A blood covenant affected many people… families and servants for generations. Sometimes they raised a large stone with an inscription, or 7 stones for the 7 exchanges. They could plant a tree in an oasis. There are several memorials listed in the bible. In marriage, we exchange rings. Whatever the monument, it needed to last through the generations.

7– There was a Covenant Meal. It was a “joyous, but solemn celebration” where words of covenant were spoken. They took from a loaf of bread and said, “Take this and eat.. This represents my body. As you eat this, you are taking my body into yourself.”

They took a glass of grape juice or wine and offered it to each other saying, “Take this and drink it. This represents my life blood. As you drink this, you are taking me into yourself.

*Surprise.*

The covenant was established and they had become one. Those present at the meal were witnesses and agreed to help uphold the agreement.

Are you having any “OHHHH,” or “Aha!” moments there? πŸ™‚

An Interpretation of God’s Covenant with Abram as shared by the Camenisches.

1– Exchange of Weapons

God told Abram not be afraid, but that He Himself was a shield to him. (Genesis 15:1a) God was Abraham’s defense. There wasn’t anything Abram could really offer God here, so this part of the exchange was one sided.

2– Exchange of Cloaks

Remember the cloaks were symbols of sharing their wealth and provision? God told Abram in the second part of Genesis 15:1, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” Out of who God is, God would reward and provide for Abram. God didn’t just provide physically, but He also gave Himself.

These covenants were multi-generational, but Abram had no descendants. God provided!! God also promised land, which we know that Abram’s descendants, the nation of Israel, received (The Promise Land).

God later tested Abram to see if he would give of himself as well. He asked him to sacrifice his son, but did not allow him to follow through.

3– Bloodletting: Cutting the Animals/Cutting the Flesh

When Abram asked God by what could he know that he truly would receive the land God promised, God instructed Abram to prepare animals by dividing them and laying the parts opposite each other. (Gen. 15:9) The Camenisches believe that there were three animals, instead of the usual one, because there are 3 persons in our God.

God passed through the pieces, while speaking blessings to Abram.

Blood also flowed from Abram, his sons and all the males of his household when God commanded him to be circumcised. It didn’t need to be in an obvious place.

“Rather than cutting to let blood flow and leave a mark, flesh is actually removed from Abram. The removal of the flesh is symbolic of what must happen when joining into covenant with the holy God. As sinful men, in order to be one with God, believers must put off flesh.”

We’re no longer asked to circumcise our bodies, but we are told to circumcise our hearts, put off our old nature, and leave behind the things of the flesh.

4– Exchange of Blessings and Curses

God spoke blessings over Abram several times. He said he would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed him. (Genesis 12:3)

God said He would make Abram a father of a multitude of nations… and he spoke of the covenant he would establish through him. (Genesis 17)

In covenant talk, God continues to reiterate the blessing through generations, “I am your God, you are my people.”

God did not speak curses to Abram, but we can find throughout generations when God would reiterate the promise of blessing and protection if Israel would be faithful, and warned them of the consequences (curses) that would be imposed if they were not faithful.

5– The Memorial

“The blessing of a son and descendants were memorials to the covenant as well as a blessing.”

The land was also a memorial.

6– The Memorial Meal

There is not a clear mention of a memorial meal. We do see that Abram broke bread and drank with Melchizedek, a representative of God, and many aspects of a covenant were included.

7– Exchange of Names

When Abram was 90, God confirmed his covenant with him, and he changed his name.

“There is a strong, breathy consonant in YHWH, the name of God. God took the most prominent sound ha out o his name and added into Abram’s. From that day forward, Abram is known as Abraham, with part of God’s name added to his.”

God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, also including the breathy sound of God’s name. πŸ™‚ “God makes it clear that women are equal to men in relationship with Him.”

Wait, but this is an exchange, right? From then on, God is known as “God of Abraham,” and later he added, “The God of Isaac, and of Jacob, and of Israel.” He also uses the possessive term, “I am your God.”

God gave Abraham a foundation for faith. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

New covenant

And what of the New Covenant in Christ’s blood? Remember John 6 and how many of his followers turned back and no longer followed him? They understood Jesus was speaking covenant talk, and though they were infatuated with His miracles, they were not ready for this kind of commitment!!

The following is a list of the 7 Exchanges and scriptural references for how they were fulfilled for us. (Page 166, The Great Exchange, Bound by Blood)

Exchange of Cloak

{Promise of provision/possessions & Exchange of Identity}

Phil. 2:7 Jesus became a man

1 Cor. 1:30 He became our righteousness.

Gal. 3:27 We put on Christ

Col. 3:10 We put on new man.

Luke 12:31 Promise for provision

Exchange of Weapons

{Promise of protection}

Eph. 6:11 Put on the armor of God

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 Weapons are divinely powerful

2 Thess. 3:3 The Lord will protect us.

Exchange of Names

{Identities joined & responsibilities shared}

John 1:12 We become children of God

Acts 11:26 Disciples are called Christians

Romans 8:14-17

Exchange of Blood

{Cutting human flesh, Joining two lives into one, Mark of covenant, Cutting of animals, Death of self if unfaithful, Importance of pact demonstrated}

John 19 Crucifixion, 7 wounds

Galations 2:20 We are crucified with Christ

Romans 2:29 Circumcision of the heart

Col. 2:11-12 Removal of the flesh

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. No animal is needed!

Exchange of Blessings and Curses

{Speak blessings for fidelity, Speak curses for Infidelity}

1 Cor. 6:11 Justified in Christ

Col. 2:10 Complete in Christ

Matt. 3:11 Anointed by Holy Spirit

Matt. 28:18-19 Authority in Jesus’ name

Gal. 3:13 Jesus became our curse

Exchange of Memorial Gifts

{A permanent witness to and reminder of the covenant}

2 Cor. 1:22 Seals us with the Spirit as a pledge

Luke 22:15-20 The Lord’s Supper

Exchange of Bread (flesh) and Wine (blood)

{Taking in flesh and blood of one another, Two are joined as one, Celebration of Covenant}

John 5:53-58 Eat my flesh and drink my blood to be in Me

John 17:23 Jesus in us

Eph. 2:6-7 We are in Christ

John 15 talks about Abiding in Christ

Can you think of other verses that you now recognize as covenant talk? I hope this gives you a greater understanding of the covenant talk in Galations, Chapter 3, the promise we have through Christ and a deeper appreciation for what He did for us! We are so blessed!

This book is just a goldmine. I highly recommend reading it yourself! It goes far beyond what I have shared here. It is a self published book, available on Amazon.

The great exchange

4 thoughts on “The Great Exchange: Understanding More About Covenants

    1. Linda

      Thank you for reading, Lynn, and for your kind words. God bless your day! Hope you’re feeling well and strong again.

      Like

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