These are notes I took during a teaching from a Bishop at a clergy conference-- perhaps a dozen years ago. I added some of my own notes at the end.
1) Two Hebrews would meet and take off their coats (their outer garments symbolized who they were to others, what was their position, etc.) and exchange them.
Colossians 3:9-10 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices 10 and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Note also the Host paid was expected to pay for the wedding garments of those who did not have their own. New meaning is understood when the King casts out the guests who were compelled to come (perhaps the Jews?) and yet had not taken the garment rightfully theirs because of the Covenant (Matthew 22:11-14). 1 Samuel 18:4 indicates this and the next step between David and Jonathan.
2) The two Hebrews next swap belts. Belts were not for keeping pants up, belts were for hanging swords and daggers. Thus, taking off one's belt indicated trust. Swapping belts which held their arms indicated that one's enemies were now shared--the battles of one, became the battles of the other. (1 Samuel 18:4 is example of this, and not the despicable worldly interpretation made popular by politically correct sodomites).
3) An animal was hewn in two-- down the spine so that it was split in two even halves. Among the bloody halves, the two entering into the Blood Covenant, would dance in a sort of figure-eight while saying something to the effect of "We have cut the covenant. As this animal, I too am dying to all of the rights I once had. If I break this covenant with you (then pointing to the animal) may God do to me as to this animal. Genesis 15:9ff.
4) The two men would then cut themselves. If they were men who worked with their hands, they cut their wrists, if aristocracy, they would cut their hands--so that they could return to work while it healed. They would then hold their right hand up so that the blood would flow down to their elbows (consider swearing an oath with a hand on the Bible and the right hand raised--consider a hand shake). When the blood was running down, the two would clasp hands, mingling the blood. To a Hebrew, the life was in the blood. They are now blood brothers.
5) To stop the scar from fading, they would then rub dirt, or something into the wounds of their hands to insure that the scar would remain as a constant reminder of their covenant--always speaking to them, "I am not my own, and nor is my blood brother alone."
6) As one's name was most unique to an individual, the two would take the name of the other and include it in their own. The wife, taking the name of the man is the modern example, but I believe the name of the other would become a sort of middle name for the Hebrews. Taking names in vows, of marriage, or of orders, or of the monastic life come to mind as having originated in this covenant. The new name would indicate the clan of the partner, and so others would recognize the association. God gave new names to Abram and Sarai in Genesis 17.
7) Witnesses called to hear the reading of property and talents. The witnesses were to be younger than the two the covenant so that they would likely outlive them and remain useful witnesses until both had died. They were also to have been old enough to serve as witnesses. Before these, each would read out their land, cattle, and all possessions as well as their abilities. If one was a mason, and the other a framer, then both had accesses to masonry and farming when in need. Each was allowed to take form the other whatever he needed (usually asking first), and each to use the talents of the other as if they were his own. Consider, then, the power God gives to us when making a covenant with man. Consider also, the giving of the ring in marriage, "With all that I have, and all that I am..."
8) Ebenezer. A memorial set up of all kinds. Frequently twelve stones piled on top of each other, as in where the Jews crossed the Jordan. These symbolize great deeds of God, and here, the outward sign of the covenant as a great event in their lives. Consider, if we were to erect Ebenezers every times God did wonders for us, how could we look back and then have fear of what He will do for us in the future? [Gen. 31:45 (Jacob and Laban--pillar); Gen. 21:33 (Abimelech and Abraham--tree); Gen. 9:8ff (God and Noah--rainbow)]
9) A meal. A covenant meal has two necessary components: Bread and Wine! The connection to our current Marriage tradition is obvious: The two would tear bread in half and then lock arms, feeding it forcefully to the other, saying, "This bread is me, it is who I am. I am pushing me into you." The Wine was, to a Hebrew, the "blood of the grape" and thus, "I am pouring my life into you, and yours is being poured into me." Genesis 14:18f indicates the foreshadowing of the Passover (seal of the Old Blood Covenant), the Eucharist (the New Blood Covenant) and the Covenant with Abraham that is to be with God. Melchizedek is the Priest with which the meal is made. Note the Priest's words that God has made the enemies of Abraham His own enemies (Step 7).
10) (really a footnote). As all of the children of a Hebrew were believed to be in the loins of the man, the covenant would continue with his children until such time as they were able to make the adult decision to remain faithful to the covenant or not. It was their decision. Unborn children, thus, were in the covenant. The prodigal son, Luke 15:11ff.--the younger son knew two secrets: He knew when to stop begging for forgiveness to allow his father to do what only a father could do--bring him back into family, and that his father was not an employer (as the other son believed--one whose love and position in family was earned). Father says to son, "Everything I have is yours!:" Do we hear the Father in Heaven saying this to us? Note the feast in that Parable as well.
Important references to consider in light of this ancient ritual:
Genesis 17:4: Step 10
Genesis 17:5: Step 6
Genesis 17:10: Step 4 and (sort of 5) of a Covenant.
Genesis 17:15: Bringing her into Covenant by changing name (step 6 of a covenant)
Genesis 17:16: The blood of birth is probably step 4 of a covenant.
Genesis 21:33: An ebenezer of a covenant.
Genesis 31:45: An ebenezer of a covenant.
1 Samuel 18:1-4
1 Samuel 18:1: As Blood brothers of a Covenant.
1 Samuel 18:4: Step 1 and 2 of a Blood Covenant
1 Samuel 18:17-29
1 Samuel 18:25: Saul making a Blood Covenant with David--or trying to.
1 Samuel 18:29: Saul breaking the blood covenant with David.
1 Samuel 19:1-7
1 Samuel 19:7: Jonathan's giving of information privy to the king's son is not a break with Father, but honoring covenant with David (Step 7).
2 Samuel 9
2 Samuel 9:1: From step 10 of a blood covenant with Jonathan.
2 Samuel 9:7: David here (and following) tells Mephibosheth of the blood covenant he made with his father Jonathan. Probably showing him the scar.
Ephesians 1:13: You also=the Gentiles. The indelible scar of the Covenant.
Ephesians 1:14: The giving of the Holy Spirit is proof that they do indeed have inheritance in God's kingdom.
Colossians 3:9: A reference to Step 1.
Copyright © 2010 W. Crews Giles