What is the significance of the animals Abram sacrificed in Genesis 15?

Abram Guarding His Sacrifice, c. 1896-1902, by...

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Question: : In Genesis 15:1-18 it discusses 5 animals that Abram was asked to use as a sacrifice. Is there any significance to the number and types of animals in this?

Answer: I’m not sure I really know the answer to this. Each of the animals are those accepted as sacrifices. Maybe having one of each was a way of showing the seriousness of the covenant being “cut” (the Hebrew for making a covenant is “cut a covenant” because of this procedure Abram does). Typically both parties in the covenant would walk between the pieces, but in this case only the burning torch (symbol of God) passes between the pieces. The person passing through is saying, in essence, “so may it happen to me (be cut in half) if I fail to keep this covenant.” This is why we would say there is an unconditional element to this covenant with Abraham. Only God is obligating himself to the agreement. That doesn’t mean he did not require anything of Abram, but that he would make sure Abram would keep his part of the covenant.

Randall Johnson


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