“Moses wrote down all the words of Adonai. He rose early in the morning, built an altar at the base of the mountain and set upright twelve large stones to represent the twelve tribes of Israel.”-Exodus 24:4
We are continuing to look at the ratification process of the Mosaic Covenant.
This part of Scripture is just loaded with scenes that give us keen insight into the customs and mindset of the peoples of the ancient Middle East.
We’re told that Moses built an altar.
Understand that the purpose of an altar was NOT to serve as a monument.
It was a place where an animal was ritually slaughtered for a sacrifice to a god.
However, the actions Moses took next was for the purpose of establishing a monument.
He set up 12 stones to represent the 12 Tribes of Israel.
These are normally called “standing stones” and they were quite common in the ancient Middle East.
The scene then progresses to the next necessary and standard part of every Middle Eastern covenant: the ceremonial sacrifice.
The sacrificial animal was cut up into pieces that were placed around the altar.
What happened next was that the two covenanting parties would TOGETHER walk between the pieces of the cut-up animal.
We’re not told specifically that this is what occurred here, but it would have been unthinkable that it didn’t.
Recall we saw this same scene in Genesis when the Lord made a covenant with Abraham.
After the sun had set and there was thick darkness, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared, which passed between these animal parts. That day Adonai made a covenant with Avram: “I have given this land to your descendants — from the Vadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates River”-Genesis 15:17-18
However, when the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, it was only the Lord Himself who passed between the animal parts because as I mentioned before, this was a uni-lateral or unconditional covenant.
Abraham was NOT under obligation to fulfill the conditions of this covenant, it was all on the Lord.
However, the Mosaic Covenant was not so, it was a bi-lateral covenant that put both parties under obligation to fulfill the covenant’s conditions.
Moving on, what happened next was some of the blood was captured in basins and sprinkled upon the people.
This signified that the people of Israel were now covered by the blood of the Mosaic Covenant.
It is actually from this ancient Middle Eastern ceremonial covenant-making ritual that we get the phrase “to cut a deal”.
Also, although we typically say the animals were “cut up into pieces”, the literal nuance from the Hebrew is that the sacrificial animal was “RIGHTLY DIVIDED“.
That common Christian saying “to rightly divide the word” was lifted completely out of context.
“Rightly dividing” was always about the proper ritual procedure in cutting up the sacrificial animal.
Originally, it has NOTHING to do with Bible interpretation.