Significance of the Ceremonial Slaughter of the Animals

Not open for further replies.


Staff member
I've benefited greatly from reading Michael Morales, Who May Ascend the Mountain of the Lord. (My morning study is, by necessity, very short so I will be in this book a long time.) I'm wondering about the significance of the ceremonial slaughter of the sacrificial animals. He argues the participant is acknowledging the right judgment of God and willingness to die to self. These might be important aspects, but it seems that reference to the covenant is absolutely essential. I.e., under Abraham, when the animals were divided, the parties of the covenant took to themselves the oath they would be torn asunder if they did not keep the provisions of the covenant. The animals in the sacrifices take the result of the fall (death) and the legal requirement of the covenant. Ultimately this transference is taken onto the perfect Lamb himself. The author goes on to acknowledge there is no remission of sin apart from the blood, but it seemed he might be missing the particular significance of the ceremonial slaughter?


Puritan Board Freshman
I hope someone can speak to this! I read this book maybe a year or so back and found it very interesting, but I don't remember it in enough detail to comment on this question.


Puritan Board Junior

You are right that the covenant idea is the main point behind the ceremonial slaughter. Note that it is only God himself though, who passes between the pieces in making the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 (Abraham is asleep). This speaks to the rock solid certainty of the promises God makes to us in the Covenant of Grace. These thoughts may be helpful on that passage (taken from:

A) What is this oath? We referred to this passage in the first Lesson, when we were defining what a covenant was. And there we saw that what God is doing here is taking a self-maledictory oath upon himself. God is saying, in effect: May I become just like these animals if I do not make good on My promise to you. We know this because of a similar passage in Jeremiah 34:13-22. The Babylonians come up to attack Israel, and the people are terrified and so they make promises to God and engage in this same covenant ceremony. They slaughter animals and walk between the pieces and tell God they'll get rid of their Hebrew slaves. But when the Babylonians go away, they go back on their word; they take their Hebrew slaves back. And Jeremiah comes to them and tells them that they are going to become just like the animals they had slaughtered and passed between the pieces. Why? Because when they took the oath, they were saying: “May I become like these animals if I break my promise.” And they did break their promise; so God is saying: “Alright, I will deal with you just as you said.”5

B) Who takes this oath? And so notice what is happening here in Genesis 15. It's not Abram that is making a covenant with God. It's not Abram who is passing between the pieces of the slaughtered animals and taking upon himself the self-maledictory oath to keep God's covenant. Abraham doesn't even walk through the pieces at all—in fact—it seems he had actually fallen asleep (v12). God is the One who passes between the pieces, in the form of “a smoking oven and a flaming torch.” God is the One who takes upon himself the self-maledictory oath: “May I become like these animals if I do not make good on My promise.” It's amazing what is happening here. God puts His own name on the line as He swears a solemn oath to Abram. And the outcome is so certain that, for the first time, the promise God had made to Abram is put in the past tense. We read in Genesis 15:18, “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your descendants I have given this land. . .'”6

C) How to understand this oath? One question might arise here: Didn't God already promise to give the land to Abram and his seed? Why the need for this formal ceremony? It might help to give an illustration, though it's from from a perfect one: Think of a father, who had acquired at some point in his life a very special car; and this father had promised his son many times over that one day he would give the car to him. Well, it's one thing for the father to make that promise, but it's another thing for him to actually deed over that car. To legally deed over the car to his son, there's a process that must take place. So, imagine that the father comes to his son one day and says: “Today, I'm deeding the car over to you.” He signs the back of the title; he submits the ownership documents; he fills out the application forms and pays the fees. And after that, the ownership of the car transfers in such a way that it now belongs legally to his son. At that point, the father could no longer legally take the car back as his own—even if he wanted to. This is what God is doing here for Abram in Genesis 15. He had been making promises to him, but now it's as though He's actually “putting it in writing.” Here in this passage, it's as though the Lord is saying: “Abram, while you were sleeping, I went ahead and officially deeded over the land to you. I put it in writing. It's a done deal now. It's yours.”7

It's the same for us in Christ. God has given us promises, He's put them in writing, and He will never go back on them. The reason He will continue to lead and guide us, and the reason He'll never cast us away, and the reason He'll do a thousand other things He's promised to do, is that He has bound himself by solemn oath to fulfill His promises to us. His own name is on the line.8 As a believer, you will fall again and again. But God will never cast you away. You are secure in your Savior. The Lord has put His promises to you in writing, and He has sealed them with the blood of His own Son.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Horton has a section on this in the second volume of his justification that I am slowing going through. I could send some photos probably Saturday on how he connects many of, not only animal sacrifices, but wave offerings, With Christ's death and resurrection of purification, consecration, etc. of the earth.
Not open for further replies.