God’s One-Sided Covenant
In Genesis 15, God makes a covenant with Abram that his “reward will be very great” (Gen. 15:1). God also promises to give him land to possess (Gen 15:7). As a way to officialize this covenant with Abram, God orders him to gather a few animals, cut them in half, and create a lane bordered with their half-bodies.
He said to Him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other.
Genesis 15:9-10 (ESV)
It is widely understood that this procedure was a common way to symbolize a serious agreement between two people at that time. After this gruesome lane was constructed, the two people who were making the agreement (or covenant) would walk between the animals. It basically meant “If you break this covenant, what has been done to these animals will be done to you.” (See Jeremiah 34:18-20 for an instance of this in the Bible).
After making this lane of dead animals, Abram fell asleep. He awakes to see God in the form of a flaming torch walking down the lane of animals.
When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates…”
This is such good news. God knows that man is flawed and will not be able to uphold a covenant with him, so He alone walks between the animals. God makes this covenant with Abram and takes full responsibility to see that it is completed.
God has taken the responsibility for our sin and given us Jesus that we would be made right with Him. All this he knew at the time of Abram, foreshadowing his ultimate plan of redemption.