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AT THE WELLS OF BEER-SHEBA.
who were in covenant with-literally, were masters of the covenant of "-" Abram the Hebrew." After this, comes the record of a covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, at the wells of Beer-sheba. Abimelech sought that covenant; he sought it because of his faith in Abraham's God. "God is with thee in all that thou doest," he said: "Now, therefore, swear unto me here by God, that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned. And Abraham said, I will swear." Then came the giving of gifts by Abraham, according to the practice which seems universal in connection with this rite, in our own day. "And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech." And they two "made a covenant,”—or, as the Hebrew is, "they two cut a covenant." This covenant, thus cut between Abraham and Abimelech-patriarchs and sovereigns as they were-was for themselves and for their posterity. As to the manner of its making, we have a right to infer, from all that we know of the manner of such covenant-making among the people of their part of the world, in the earliest days of recorded history.
Herodotus, who goes back well-nigh two-thirds of the way to Abraham, says, that when the Arabians 1 Gen. 21: 22-24. 2 See pages 14, 16, 20, 22, 25, 27, etc., supra.
would covenant together, a third man, standing between the two, cuts, with a sharp stone, the inside of the hands of both, and lets the blood therefrom drop on seven stones which are between the two parties.1 Phicol, the captain of Abimelech's host, was present, as a third man, when the covenant was cut between Abimelech and Abraham; at Beer-sheba—the Well of the Seven, or the Well of the Oath.2 Instead of seven stones as a "heap of witness" between the two in this covenanting,“ seven ewe lambs" were set apart by Abraham, that they might "be a witness "4-a symbolic witness to this transaction.
In the primitive rite of blood-covenanting, as it is practised in some parts of the East, to the present time, in addition to other symbolic witnesses of the rite, a tree is planted by the covenanting parties, "which remains and grows as a witness of their contract.” "5 So it was, in the days of Abraham. "And Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned [was a sojourner] in the land of the Philistines many days "6-while that tree, doubtless, remained and grew as a witness of his bloodcovenant compact with Abimelech the ruler of the
1 See page 47, supra.
3 Comp. Gen. 31: 44-47.
5 See page 53, supra.
2 Gen. 21: 31.
4 Gen. 21: 30.
6 Gen. 21: 33.
CUTTING AND STRIKING.
Philistines. Abimelech was, as it were, the first-fruits of the "nations"2 who were to have a blessing through the covenanted friend of God.
It is a noteworthy fact, that when Herodotus describes the Scythians' mode of drinking each other's mingled blood, in their covenanting, he tells of their cutting covenant" by "striking the body" of the covenanting party. In this case, he employs the words tamnomenon (Tapvopévwv) "cutting," and tupsantes (rÚavtes) “striking," which are the correspondents, on the one hand of the Hebrew karath (n) “to cut," and on the other hand of the Latin ferire, "to strike;" as applied to covenant making. And this would seem to make a tri-lingual "Rosetta Stone" of this statement by Herodotus, as showing that the Hebrew "cutting" of the covenant, and the Latin “striking of the covenant, is the Greek, the Arabian, the Scythian, and the universal primitive, method of covenanting, by cutting into, or by striking, the flesh of a person covenanting; in order that another may become a possessor of his blood, and a partaker of his life.
Yet later, at the same Well of the Seven, another Abimelech came down from Gerar, with "Ahuzzath his friend, and Phicol the captain of his host," and,
1 See references to the blood-stained covenant-tree, in Appendix, infra.
2 Gen. 22: 18.
3 See page 61 f., supra.
prompted by faith, sought a renewal of the covenant with the house of Abraham.' It is not specifically declared that Abimelech and Isaac cut a covenant together; but it is said that "they did eat and drink” in token of their covenant relations, and that they “sware one to another."2 Apparently they either cut a new covenant, or they confirmed one which their fathers. had cut.3
When Jacob and Laban covenanted together, in "the mountain [the hill-country] of Gilead," before their final separation, they had their stone-heap of witness between them; such as Herodotus says the Arabs were accustomed to anoint with their own blood, in their covenanting by blood, in his day;3 for Jacob, perhaps, had more tolerance than Abraham, for perverted religious symbols. "And now let us cut a covenant, I and thou," said Laban; "and let it be for a witness. between me and thee. And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar [a pillar instead of a tree]. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there on the heap [the Revisers have translated this, by the heap"] And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha: but
1 Gen. 26: 25-29. 2 Gen. 26: 30, 31. See page 62, supra.
♦ Comp. Gen. 12: 6–8; 28: 18–22; 31: 19–36.
5 Mr. Forbes tells of a custom, in Sumatra, of taking a binding oath above the grave of the original patriarch of the Passumah. An animal
DAVID AND JONATHAN.
Jacob called it Gilead. And Laban said, This heap is witness between me and thee this day.
The God of
is witness betwixt me and thee. Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their
father, judge betwixt us. And Jacob sware by the Fear of his father Isaac. And Jacob offered a sacrifice in the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread." Here, again, the cutting of the covenant and the sharing of a feast in connection with the rite-the "cutting" and the " eating”—are in accordance with all that we know of the primitive rite of blood-covenanting in the East, in earlier and in later times.
Yet more explicit is the description of the bloodcovenanting which brought into loving unity David and Jonathan. It was when the faith-filled heroism of the stripling shepherd-boy was thrilling all Israel with grateful admiration that David was brought into the royal presence of Saul, and of Saul's more than royal hero-son, Jonathan, to receive the thanks of the is sacrificed, cut into small pieces, and cooked in a pot. "Then he who is to take the oath, holding his hand, or a long kriss of the finest sort, over the grave-stone, and over the cooked animal, says: If such and such be not the case, may I be afflicted with the worst evils.' whole of the company then partake of the food" (A Naturalist's Wanderings, p. 198 f.). This seems to be a vestige of the primitive custom of eating on the witness-heap of an oath.
1 Gen. 31: 44-54.