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It is worthy of note that when the Lord enters into covenant with Abraham by means of a prescribed sacrifice (Gen. 15: 7-18), it is said that the Lord "cut a covenant with Abram"; but when the Lord calls on Abraham to cut a covenant of blood-friendship, by the rite of circumcision (Gen. 17: 1–12), the Lord says, for himself, “I will make [or I will fix] my covenant between me and thee." In the one case, the Hebrew word is karath (♫?) “to cut”; in the other, it is nathan (1)" to give," or "to fix." This change goes to show that the idea of cutting a covenant includes the act of a cutting-of a cutting of one's person or the cutting of the substitute victim-as an integral part of the covenant itself; that a covenant may be made, or fixed, without a cutting, but that the term "cutting" involves the act of cutting.
Thus, again, in Jeremiah 34: 18, there is a two-fold reference to covenant-cutting; where the Lord reproaches his people for their faithlessness to their covenant. "And I will give [to destruction] the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they made [literally, 'cut'] before me [in my sight] when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof." In this instance, there is in the Hebrew, a pun, as it were, to give added force to the accusation and reproach. The same word 'abhar (7) means both "to transgress" and "to pass over" [or, “between”], so that, freely rendered, the charge here made, is, that they went through the covenant when they had gone through the calf; which is another way of saying that they cut their duty when they claimed to cut a covenant.
The correspondence of cutting the victim of sacrifice, and of cutting into the flesh of the covenanting parties, in the ceremony of making blood-brotherhood, or blood-friendship, is well-illustrated in the interchanging of these methods in the primitive customs of Borneo.1 The pig is the more commonly prized victim of sacrifice in Borneo. It 1 St. John's Life in Far East, Comp. I., 38, 46, 56, 74-76, 115, 117, 185.
A chief ad
323 seems, indeed, to be there valued only next after a human victim. In some cases, blood-brotherhood is made, in Borneo, by "imbibing each other's blood." In other cases, "a pig is brought and placed between the two [friends] who are to be joined in brotherhood. dresses an invocation to the gods, and marks with a lighted brand1 the pig's shoulder. The beast is then killed, and after an exchange of jackets, a sword is thrust into the wound, and the two [friends] are marked with the blood of the pig." On one occasion, when two hostile tribes came together to make a formal covenant of brotherhood, "the ceremony of killing a pig for each tribe" was the central feature of the compact; as in the case of two Kayans becoming one by interchanging their own blood, actually or by a substitute pig. And it is said of the tribal act of cutting the covenant by cutting the pig, that "it is thought more fortunate if the animal be severed in two by one stroke of the parang (half sword, half chopper)." In another instance, where two tribes entered into a covenant, "a pig was placed between the representatives of [the] two tribes; who, after calling down the vengeance of the spirits on those who broke the treaty, plunged their spears into the animal ['cutting a covenant' in that way], and then exchanged weapons. Drawing their krises, they each bit the blade of the other [as if drinking the covenant'], and so completed the affair." So, again, "if two men who have been at deadly feud, meet in a house [where the obligations of hospitality restrain them], they refuse to cast their eyes upon each other till a fowl has been killed, and the blood sprinkled over them."
In every case, it is the blood that seals the mutual covenant, and the "cutting of the covenant" is that cutting which secures the covenanting, or the inter-uniting, blood. The cutting may be in the flesh of the covenanting parties; or, again it may be in the flesh of the substitute victim which is sacrificed.
1 A trace of the burnt branch of the covenant-tree. See page 270, supra.
3 See pages 9, 154, supra.
In the Midrash Rabboth (Shemoth, Beth, 92, col. 2.) there is this comment by the Rabbis, on Exodus 2: 23: "And the king of Egypt died.' He was smitten with leprosy.
Israel sighed.' Wherefore did they sigh?
"And the children of
Because the magicians of
save by the slaying of the
Egypt said: There is no healing for thee little children of the Israelites. Slay them in the morning, and slay them in the evening; and bathe in their blood twice a day.' As soon as the children of Israel heard the cruel decree, they poured forth great sighings and wailings." That comment gives a new point, in the rabbinical mind, to the first plague, whereby the waters of the Nile, in which royalty bathed (Exod. 2: 5), were turned into blood, because of the bondage of the children of Israel.
A survival of the blood-baths of ancient Egypt, as a means of re-vivifying the death-smitten, would seem to exist in the medical practices of the Bechuana tribes of Africa; as so many of the customs of ancient Egypt still survive among the African races (See page 15, supra). Thus, Moffat reports (Missionary Labours, p. 277) a method employed by native physicians, of killing a goat "over the sick person, allowing the blood to run down the body."
Among other Bible indications that the custom of balancing, or canceling, a blood account by a payment in money, was well known in ancient Palestine, appears the record of David's conference with the Gibeonites, concerning their claim for blood against the house of Saul, in 2 Samuel 21: 1-9. When it was found that the famine in Israel was because of Saul's having taken blood-or life-unjustly from the Gibeonites, David essayed to balance that unsettled account. "And the Gibeonites said unto him, It is no matter of silver or gold between us and Saul, or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in
325 Israel; "which was equivalent to saying: "Money for blood we will not take. Blood for blood we have no power to obtain." Then said David, "What ye shall say, that will I do for you." At this, the Gibeonites demanded, and obtained, the lives of the seven sons of Saul. The blood account must be balanced. In this case, as by the Mosaic law, it could only be by life for life.
In some parts of Arabia, if a Muhammadan slays a person of another religion, the relatives of the latter are not allowed to insist on blood for blood, but must accept an equivalent in money. The claim for the spilled blood is recognized, but a Muhammadan's blood is too precious for its payment. (See Wellsted's Travels in Arabia, I., 19.)
It is much the same in the far West as in the far East, as to this canceling of a blood-debt by blood or by other gifts. Parkman (Jesuits in No. Am., pp. lxi.-lxiii.; 354-360) says of the custom among the Hurons and the Iroquois, that in case of bloodshed the chief effort of all concerned was to effect a settlement by contributions to the amount of the regular tariff rates of a human life.
Another indication that the mission of the goel was to cancel the loss of a life rather than to avenge it, is found in the primitive customs of the New World. "Even in so rude a tribe as the Brazilian Topanazes," the Farrer (citing Eschwege, in Prim. Man. and Cust., p. 164), " a murderer of a fellow tribesman would be conducted by his relations to those of the deceased, to be by them forthwith strangled and buried [with his forfeited blood in him], in satisfaction of their rights; the two families eating together for several days after the event as though for the purpose of [or, as in evidence of ] reconciliation,"-not of satisfied revenge.
Yet more convincing than all, in the line of such proofs that it is restitution, and not vengeance, that is sought by the pursuit of blood in the mission of the goel, is the fact that in various countries, when a man has died a natural death, it is the custom to seek blood, or life, from those immediately about him; as if to restore, or to equalize, the family loss. Thus, in New South Wales, "when any one of the tribe dies a natural
death, it is usual to avenge [not to avenge, but to meet] the loss of the deceased by taking blood from one or other of his friends," and it is said that death sometimes results from this endeavor (Angas's Sav. Life, II., 227). In this fact, there is added light on the almost universal custom of blood-giving to, or over, the dead. (See, e. g. Ellis's Land of Fetish, pp. 59, 64; Stanley's The Congo, II., 180-182; Angas's Sav. Life, I., 98, 331; II., 84, 89 f.; Ellis's Polyn. Res., I., 527–529; Dodge's Our Wild Indians, p. 172 f.; First An. Rep. of Bureau of Ethn., pp. 109, 112, 159 f., 164, 183, 190.)
It has already been shown, that the blood-stained record of the covenant of blood, shielded in a leathern case, is proudly worn as an armlet or as a necklace, by the Oriental who has been fortunate enough to become a sharer in such a covenant; and that there is reason for believing that there are traces of this custom, in the necklaces, the armlets, the rings, and the frontlets, which have been worn as the tokens of a sacred covenant, in well-nigh all lands, from the earliest days of Chaldea and Egypt down to the present time. There is a confirmation of this idea in the primitive customs of the North American Indians, which ought not to be overlooked.
The distinctive method by which these Indians were accustomed to confirm and signalize a formal covenant, or a treaty, was the exchange of belts of wampum; and that these wampum belts were not merely conventional gifts, but were actual records, tokens, and reminders, of the covenant itself, there is abundant evidence. In a careful paper on the "Art in Shell of the Ancient Americans," in one of the reports of the Bureau of Ethnology, of the Smithsonian Institution, the writer 1 says: "One of the most remarkable customs practiced by the Americans is found in the mnemonic use of wampum. It does not seem probable .. that a custom so unique and so widespread could
1 W. H. Holmes, in Second Annual Report of Bureau of Ethnol., pp. 240-254.