In the culture of Abraham, it was common for tribal chiefs or heads of city-states to enter into covenants or alliances with one another. So when God wanted to communicate to humanity, He used the covenant because it was the vehicle that people would immediately understand. Entering into covenant was a language that even the pagan cultures would understand.
A covenant ceremony would contain the following:
1. The exchange of robes. This represented an exchange of identity.
2. The exchange of belts. This represented an exchange of strength.
3. The exchange of weapons. This symbolized an exchange of enemies.
4. The sacrifice of an animal. The animal must be cut in two and this is where the “blood” of the “blood covenant” comes from.
5. The “walk of death”. At this point in the ceremony, the covenant partners stood facing each other in an open field. The animal lay cut open between them. The partners literally walked through the mass of blood. One would walk through and come back on the left side. The other would come back through turning to the right. Together the patterned a figure eight.
6. They marked their bodies. In the old culture it was the “striking of hands”. In the Hebrew culture, the hands included the wrist. The covenant partners made an incision in their wrist and the two would then put their wrists together mingling their blood. This suggests the origin of the handshake or hand clasp.
7. The pronouncement of blessing and curses. At this point in the ceremony the partners faced each other and spoke the terms of keeping the covenant – the good things that would happen if it was kept and the bad things that would happen if it was broken.
8. The covenant meal. The covenant partners sat at a table before witnesses and shared a meal. But the partners did not begin by feeding themselves. Thye fed each other the first few bites saying “As you are ingesting this food, you are ingesting me; you are taking me into your life”. This is where the wedding custom of the bride and groom feeding each other cake comes from.
9. The exchange of names. A good example of this would be a wife taking the last name of her husband in current society’s wedding ceremony. This way when people introduced themselves you would know who their covenant partner is.