Parker, Jared T. “Cutting Covenants.” In The Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, edited by D. Kelly Ogden, Jared W. Ludlow, and Kerry Muhlestein, 109-28. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009. [Israel/Sacrifice/Offerings/Covenants]
According to this article covenant making is important as indicated by the fact that some form of the term appears 555 times in the Standard Works compared to 627 instances for “faith” and 628 for “repentance,” (and I might add, 50 times for “grace”). The Hebrew term for “cut a covenant” appears about 90 times, although it is not always translated that way in English. It involved the ritual of slaughtering an animal, separating its parts, then entering into a covenant. The metaphor of the sacrificed animal appears to be that if the parties to the covenant violated it they would suffer a similar fate. Two examples of “cutting a covenant” are in the Old Testament: (1) between God and Abram in Genesis 15:7-21, and (2) between Zedekiah and the people of Judah in Jeremiah 34:8-22. Three major purposes relating to the covenant with Abram are discussed on pp. 114-115. The historical and cultural background of these episodes may be found in several extra-Biblical examples of similar treaties and covenants made in the ancient Near East. Also, echoes can also be heard in the Old Testament practice of circumcision, the Sinai covenant of Exodus 24, episodes of blessing and cursing, and in the mention of the new covenant. The cursings are penalties for violating the covenant.