The Hebrew word that the translators have translated as “made” is the word karat, which does not mean “made” but instead means “cut.” In Biblical times, covenants were not just “made,” they were literally “cut.”
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Excavating the Bible Newsletter #007

Greetings Excavators:

Jeff A. Benner In a previous newsletter, I discussed the meaning of the word “testimony,” from the phrase, “the ark of the testimony.” As the ark is also called the “ark of the covenant,” we will need to examine the meaning of the word “covenant” as well, but first, we need to learn how covenants were made.

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Heading: Cutting Covenants

And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27, ESV)

The Hebrew word that the translators have translated as “made” is the word karat, which does not mean “made” but instead means “cut.” In Biblical times, covenants were not just “made,” they were literally “cut.” Why do mainstream translations ignore the Hebrew word karat and instead choose to translate it as “made?” The answer is simple, but disturbing. If they translated this phrase literally, as in “cut a covenant,” the readers would not understand what is meant. So instead of educating the reader, they ignore the Hebrew and change the word to eliminate the problem.

How then, is a covenant “cut?” We find allusions to it in various places in the Bible, but because the idea of “cutting” a covenant is lost to the reader, these allusions to it are also lost to the reader.

He (the LORD) said to him (Abram), “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old…” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other… When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made (cut) a covenant with Abram… (Genesis 15:9,10, 17, 18, ESV)

So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made (cut) a covenant. (Genesis 21:27, ESV)

…let us make (cut) a covenant with you… So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. (Genesis 26:28,30, ESV)

And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made (cut) before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts. (Jeremiah 34:18-20, KJV)

In the Ancient Near East, covenants were made by taking an animal and cutting it into two pieces. The two parties of the covenant would then pass through the pieces, signifying, that if one of them has violated the terms of the covenant, then the other can cut him into two, just as they did to the animal. Interestingly, after Israel broke their covenant with God, they were divided into two nations, Israel and Judah.

Jeff A. BennerJeff A. Benner
Excavating the Bible
December 4, 2023

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