For Christians, this “God’s covenant with Abram” chapter is an extremely important chapter in the Bible, certainly the most important since the creation story. Although Christians talk about Jesus being a “new covenant” that supplants the Old Testament, they definitely still make a lot of noise about this Abramic covenant with God. With the help of its grandiloquent imagery about innumerable offspring, it is often inflated into a broad and far-reaching pact between God and humanity. Merciful and generous God promises to “be there for us.” In reality, it is really a disappointing and narrow covenant, and actually discriminatory in its scope.
First of all, let’s look at what motivated the covenant. It started with, and revolves around, material possessions. Abram complains that because he is childless his property will go to his servant when he dies. His spoils of war, his blood money and slaves, shouldn’t go to a lesser caste, is what this laudable father of Israel is getting at. God doesn’t rebuke him for this, but assures him that he will shit out a son to carry on his name. Seriously, look at Verse 4:
And lo, the word of Jehovah [is] unto him, saying, `This [one] doth not heir thee; but he who cometh out from thy bowels, he doth heir thee;
Heheh. Poop is where babies come from.
Sorry, I got distracted. Anyway, God sees that Abram is concerned about offspring, so he takes him outside and gives him the “your descendants will be as numerous as the stars” thing that Bible teachers always said with awe and reverence, like it would be (A) possible, and (B) desirable for Abram to have 300 sextillion children. Yes, the current estimate for number of stars in the universe is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. There are an estimated 300 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone. So the God who supposedly created the universe, either doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about or lies to Abram and fraudulently induces him to enter into this contract. Or more likely, God does not exist, and a superstitious fifth or sixth century BC author thought it sounded cool.
Anyway, like I said, as far as the terms covenant go, it’s actually very disappointing. Abram sacrifices a cow, a goat, a ram, and two birds and God promises that Abram will have innumerable children (which is objectively impossible, so God is either an idiot or a liar), and that he will die during a time of peace at a decent age. He also promises him land–again. Different land from what he just promised him. A promise from God must not mean very much if he has to keep renewing it, and if he changes it every time he revisits it. Oh, and there’s a huge caveat with this blessing: God says four generations and four hundred years of Abram’s offspring will be tormented wanderers who can’t live in this promised land. Great. Thanks.
That is a very different covenant than I remember from my Bible education. It is extraordinarily thin, only dealing with one man’s legacy and offspring and his concern for his material possessions. It doesn’t apply to anyone else on Earth except this guy who was randomly chosen for such reward for no good reason. It’s not a good deal from God’s perspective either: Abram didn’t really do anything to deserve it. He hasn’t led a particularly remarkable or honorable life. What did he do to ensure a personalized promise of success from God? What rule can be derived about how to garner favor from God? None. Absolutely nothing.
P.S. Did you get the pun in the title? Shit. Deliver. Because of the poo-baby? sorry.
1 After these things hath the word of Jehovah been unto Abram in a vision, saying, `Fear not, Abram, I [am] a shield to thee, thy reward [is] exceeding great.’
2 And Abram saith, `Lord Jehovah, what dost Thou give to me, and I am going childless? and an acquired son in my house is Demmesek Eliezer.’
3 And Abram saith, `Lo, to me Thou hast not given seed, and lo, a domestic doth heir me.’
4 And lo, the word of Jehovah [is] unto him, saying, `This [one] doth not heir thee; but he who cometh out from thy bowels, he doth heir thee;’
5 and He bringeth him out without, and saith, `Look attentively, I pray thee, towards the heavens, and count the stars, if thou art able to count them;’ and He saith to him, `Thus is thy seed.’
6 And he hath believed in Jehovah, and He reckoneth it to him — righteousness.
7 And He saith unto him, `I [am] Jehovah who brought thee out from Ur of the Chaldees, to give to thee this land to possess it;’
8 and he saith, `Lord Jehovah, whereby do I know that I possess it?’
9 And He saith unto him, `Take for Me a heifer of three years, and a she-goat of three years, and a ram of three years, and a turtle-dove, and a young bird;’
10 and he taketh to him all these, and separateth them in the midst, and putteth each piece over against its fellow, but the bird he hath not divided;
11 and the ravenous birds come down upon the carcases, and Abram causeth them to turn back.
12 And the sun is about to go in, and deep sleep hath fallen upon Abram, and lo, a terror of great darkness is falling upon him;
13 and He saith to Abram, `knowing — know that thy seed is a sojourner in a land not theirs, and they have served them, and they have afflicted them four hundred years,
14 and the nation also whom they serve I judge, and after this they go out with great substance;
15 and thou — thou comest in unto thy fathers in peace; thou art buried in a good old age;
16 and the fourth generation doth turn back hither, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.’
17 And it cometh to pass — the sun hath gone in, and thick darkness hath been — and lo, a furnace of smoke, and a lamp of fire, which hath passed over between those pieces.
18 In that day hath Jehovah made with Abram a covenant, saying, `To thy seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Phrat,
19 with the Kenite, and the Kenizzite, and the Kadmonite,
20 and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Rephaim,
21 and the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Girgashite, and the Jebusite.’