Thank you for reading Genesis with us! This week I’m sending an extra email with study resources and a map. Genesis begins in the garden of Eden, takes us to Babel (ie. Babylon), and then with Abram we journey from Haran to Canaan to Egypt and back again. It’s time for a map!
We also have recently encountered the Old Testament concept of a “covenant”. God makes a covenant agreement with Noah after the flood (Genesis 9) and then with Abram (Genesis 15). In our modern world we do not use the word covenant the way it was used back then – we generally use it only for home owner’s association documents that specify what you can and cannot do (and then people promptly ignore most of it and continue parking boats or campers in their driveways, etc.)
A covenant in the era of the Bible could be made at an individual, tribal, or national level. The example that is most useful to us is that of an international treaty, an alliance between nations. Every covenant treaty-alliance was structured like a legal document with a title, a historical prologue, the obligations of each party, the list of witnesses, and the curses and blessings that were to fall on each party as they upheld (or broke) their agreement. The whole act of treaty-making was sealed in a ratification ceremony involving the taking of oaths and sacrifices. Keep this in mind as you read Genesis 15 (and 17), and even as you later read Exodus 20-24 and the covenant God made with Moses and the people of Israel when the law was given, and the New Covenant made by the blood of Christ.
For more on covenants, read Sandra Richter’s Epic of Eden, chapter 3 and check out this Bible Project video on covenants: