Cutting Off Canaan


Why was the unique sacrificial rite in Genesis 15 required, and what did it signify? Was it simply a self-maledictory oath on the Lord’s behalf, or was there something deeper going on?

The Oath

The theory that the Lord was taking the curse upon Himself is based on Hebrews 6:13-14:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.”

Peter Golding writes:

A self-maledictory oath is the most likely explanation of the incident recorded in Genesis 15 where, at God’s instigation, Abraham takes a heifer, a she-goat and a ram and divides them in the midst, laying each piece one against another. The lamp of fire which passed between the pieces belongs to the same order as the burning bush (Exod 13:21) and the pillar of ire (13:21). It is a symbol of the presence of God, represented here as “cutting a covenant” with Abraham–in other words, God invoking upon himself the covenant curses if his promises should fail.1Peter Golding, Covenant Theology, 72.

This common explanation does highlight the truth that the fulfilment of the promises rested upon the faithfulness of God rather than Israel, the God who would keep raising Israel from the dead, by grace alone, until they were all fulfilled (Zechariah 4:6). It also understands that the curse was borne by Yahweh Himself in Christ. Yahweh took the Oath and Yahweh would Himself bear its Sanctions. However, it neglects to explain the requirement for animal sacrifices at this point, which are very specific, looking backwards to Noah and forwards to Leviticus. The curse upon sin was always borne by blameless animal substitutes after the sin, but what was the sin in this instance? Why were animal sacrifices required now?

The Ascension

James Jordan explains that the answer is not found in the later (historically-speaking) Covenant oaths but in events found earlier in Genesis. The reason for the animals slain in the Land is discovered in the animals slain in the Garden.

When Adam sinned he was sentenced to die. God killed an animal to provide covering for him, but still he had to leave the Garden. A boundary was set around the Garden that he might not cross on pain of death, for cherubim with flaming sword that turned in all directions were set at the eastern gate of the Garden to guard it. For Adam to get back into the Garden, he would have to ascend past the barrier, through sword and fire. Only then could he serve as God’s palace-servant again. In Leviticus 1, the animal will pass through sword and fire, bringing the adam back into a symbolic Garden.

From this every Israelite knew that it was God and not any adam who would kill the “animal” to provide covering. When the Israelite slaughtered his Nearbringing, he knew that he was only acting a role designed to affirm his faith in what God would someday do.

Two events in the life of Abraham must also be remembered. When God made the covenant with Abram in Genesis 15, five animals were divided (the same five that are brought near in Leviticus; contrast Noah’s offering of all “clean” animals), and God’s smoky presence passed between the parts of the animals. God said that this event linked Abram to the land, from which he had been estranged (the famine in Genesis 12, the weakness of the land in Genesis 13, the wars all over the land in Genesis 14), though that linkage would not take hold for several generations to come. Thus, the two parts of the animals represented Abram and the land. Abram and the land were dead to each other, rent asunder. But now God’s presence would knit them together. Thus, when God’s glory passes between the parts of the animals, it signifies putting them back together again in a new way. In Leviticus 1, putting the sectioned parts of the animal into the Communion Site (traditionally “altar”) signifies the same thing: resurrection, reunification with God and the world, and glorification.2James B. Jordan, Introduction to the Ascensions, Biblical Horizons 143.

The Mediators

While this is extremely helpful, I think it still fails to explain the need for the sacrifices. Much more needs to be made of the link between the barrenness of Sarai and the barrenness of Canaan as expressions of the curses in Genesis 3. Fruitfulness of the land and the womb are the results of faithfulness to God. But Abraham was not unfaithful. Adam’s sin eventually led to the destruction of “all flesh” in a global flood. What was being established in Abraham and Sarah was a microcosmic model of the world, a Social Land surrounded by a Social Sea. As Jordan describes above, Abraham’s estrangement from Canaan follows a familiar threefold pattern, but it is expressed in local events rather than global ones:

GARDEN: Genesis 12 Attack on the Bride Adam, Eve and the serpent Abram, Sarai and Pharaoh
LAND: Genesis 13 Dispute over Firstfruits Cain and Abel Abram and Lot
WORLD: Genesis 14 Nations and Flood Mighty men and Noah Abram and his household conquer the kings
GLORY: Genesis 14 God’s Table Noahic worship established (wine) Noahic worship superseded (Melchizedek)

In these three trials, Abraham is proven as a priest, a king and a prophet, dealing faithfully and wisely in all three domains. 3Abraham’s behaviour concerning Sarai in Egypt is misinterpreted as a faithless deception, rather than outcrafting the serpent. See James B. Jordan, Primeval Saints, for more discussion. As a result, he is made a father in God’s image, that the seed promised to Adam and Eve might be preserved, and also that his offspring might serve as mediators for the nations even before that seed should arrive to spare the world another Physical annihilation. The Abrahamic Covenant is the heavenly rainbow expressed upon the earth, a local “earth” that would suffer on behalf of all the earth.4For more discussion, see Cosmic Language.

Thus, when the Lord tells Abraham that the sins of the Amorites are not yet fully grown, not yet ripe for judgment, we might understand this in regard to all the surrounding nations. The first “Social flood” which Canaan would suffer was the invasion of the tribes of Jacob, four centuries in the future. It is my belief that the animals did not represent a divide between Abraham and the Land, but a divide between Abraham and the nations. These sacrifices were Abraham’s mediation on behalf of those living in Canaan, to whom he had preached the Gospel, proclaiming the name of the Lord (Genesis 12:8; 13:4; 26:25; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13; cf. Joel 2:32). This is because Genesis 15 not only follows the fivefold Covenant pattern, recapitulating the Creation week, it also recapitulates the history of the world from Adam to Noah:

Creation: Day 1 (Sabbath) Adam’s sin and barrenness God promises Abram a son
Division: Day 2 (Passover) Cain fails to rule over sin and Abel (the shepherd) is slain Abram’s offspring would be stars in the firmament 5See A Place For The Stars
Ascension: Day 3 (Firstfruits) Lamech replaces atonement with vengeance Yahweh calls for sacrifices
Testing: Day 4 (Pentecost) Seth’s priesthood is corrupted through intermarriage with the pagan kingdom Israel suffers slavery and worships Egypt’s gods
Maturity: Day 5 (Trumpets) Noah witnesses and musters “all flesh” into a new microcosmic “house” God sends plagues and Israel plunders Egypt
Conquest: Day 6 (Atonement) The Land is cleansed by a flood Israel escapes through the Sea and conquers Canaan
Glorification: Day 7 (Booths) Worship is re-established in a new world Worship is re-established in a new Land

Now, it must be said here that Israel’s failure to enter the Land ruined the pattern, and a new “washing” was required in the Jordan. But the correspondences do explain the need for substitutionary sacrifices. Ascension also corresponds to Leviticus (the Levites were a kind of Firstfruits who possessed no “Day 3″ Land, since they were its holy “fruits”).

The House

This brings us to an explanation of the five clean animals required by God. They prefigure the Tabernacle, which was itself a microcosmic house that served as a substitute for the sins of Israel and the nations. As the Tabernacle was cruciform, I believe these animals were laid out in a cruciform pattern, but with a very significant deficiency.


Abram had been in the Land for three years, so the animals were three years old, a kind of Firstfruits, flesh and blood as bread and wine. This represents a divided week, the failure of Adam at the center of the sevenfold Testing process, where he seized kingdom without prior priestly submission to God. Thus, these animals represent every fundamental element of the Tabernacle except for the Lampstand, the symbol of God’s domain over Israel, which would serve to enlighten the Gentiles of His kingdom over all nations. The reason it is missing here is that in Abram, Adam’s race was being divided into priests and kings, Jew from Gentile, bread from wine, that the sin of intermarriage might not eliminate a faithful representation of God’s mercy expressed in animal sacrifices, preserving the promise of the Messiah. Thus, this “cutting in half” is not only found in each animal, but in the entire bloody architecture. This “divided man” was the reason the Aaronic priests were bloodied and oiled only on their right ear, thumb and big toe. And it is the reason that wine was never consumed by men in God’s presence until Christ came to reinstitute a better “order of Melchizedek.” On the cross, He would make of the two halves “one new Adam,” bloodied and oiled on both sides to tear down the wall of circumcision and reunite the halves in a priesthood of all nations. So the animals do not represent Abraham and the Land, but prefigure the worship to be established in the priesthood of Aaron.

A heifer three years old

The heifer I have positioned in the place of the Bronze Altar, since it corresponds to the face of the Ox. The heifer represents the earth, in this case, the actual four-cornered Land with its horns representing the witness of blood, faithful worship which would keep “the Sea” at bay. In this case, the animal is female, presumably because the word “eretz” (Land) is feminine, the Creational “womb” so to speak. A heifer is a cow that has not borne a calf, or has borne only one calf. The sacrifice on this Altar is Adamic, however.

A female goat three years old

The female goat represents the Altar of Incense. This also had four horns, but they were the prophetic winds of heaven. The blood from the Bronze “Adamic” Altar of death was daubed on this fragrant “Evian” Altar of resurrection, its savour speaking of the burial spices on the raised body in place of the stink of death. We see the bloody Bronze Altar and the fragrant Incense Altar in Esau and Jacob, outside and inside the tent, with a reference to goat skin thrown in for good measure as Jacob presents himself before the “throne” of his father.

A ram three years old

The ram is the Firstfruits of the Firstfruits (just as the Levites gave a tenth to God of the tenth of Israel). This represents the Table of Showbread, which corresponds to Firstfruits in the Tabernacle pattern. Isaac was the firstfruits of the barren womb of Sarah. Just as the firstfruits of the Land were lifted up, so the firstfruits of the womb were lifted up on Mount Moriah, but substituted with a ram.

A turtledove and a young pigeon

The inclusion of black birds and white birds should remind us of the ark of Noah, physical representations of judgment/assessment, dividing between light and darkness over the waters. These would be represented in the Urim and Thummim in the ephod of the High Priest.6See “Return of the Raven” in Sweet Counsel. Yet, here the birds are multiplied. There is more than one black bird, representing the general curse of death, and there are two white birds, representing the Covenant blessing upon the faithful who seek covering under the shed blood. The dove and the pigeon were not cut in half, but instead their necks were broken. They represent the “Head” of this cruciform architecture, and the Head cannot be divided, or crushed, only temporarily separated from the Body. The same thing is observed in Jesus’ graveclothes (John 20:7). Since the dove is the wild animal and the pigeon its domesticated cousin, I believe these represent Land and World, the Spirit’s work in both Jew and Gentile, one with the Law and one without (Romans 3). The “sign of Jonah” (Jonah means dove) is the death of Israel through baptism/submersion for the sake of the nations, the Land for the Sea.

The order of the list of these animals expresses a priestly ascension. It works from the earth/Adam, to Eve, to Eve’s firstborn, to the promise of a combined Jew-Gentile priesthood in heaven, a reinstitution of a “Melchizedekian” or Noahic order in heaven through a grafting process, the cultivated field given new longevity through the grafting in of the wild branches (as we observe in the inclusion of Rahab, Ruth, etc.)

The serpent and the tree

So, what of the missing Lampstand? Moses sees it in the wilderness, and hears the words of Yahweh. In the structure of Genesis 15, that role is usurped by the serpentine Pharaoh of Egypt, representing lawlessness, a wisdom which is not of God. It is no accident that the Lord of the burning bush gives Moses three “serpentine” signs.7See Sweet Counsel, 147.

In the greater picture, the Lampstand is the Day of Pentecost, the coming of true kingdom. The animals represent Adam, laid out as a lifeless, empty body awaiting breath from heaven. The five animals form the house, and the fire, in this case a smoking fire pot (the “clouds” or hosts of Israel’s armies) and a blazing torch (the fiery “head” or Captain, Joshua/Jesus) come to fill it. The Head and Body are burnt separately but united by fire in the Ascension offering in Leviticus 1, which recapitulates the Creation Week. Moreover, this new Israel was circumcised outside Jericho before cutting off “all flesh” in that city as a firstfruits to God. If you know your matrix icons, you might notice that the flaming sword icon is positioned at the Laver, not only the site of circumcision but also the spring of Eden, the womb and the Land. In all cultures except the most degenerate, this is the part of the human body which is covered. The architecture of Eden is represented in our bodies as earthly Tabernacles.

The Inheritance

This Covenant with Abraham was entirely fulfilled.

Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And theLord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)

Since this was, in my thinking, a Covenant which sheltered the Canaanites temporarily, they were accountable to God when Israel returned with Joshua. There are no genocides in the Bible. There are only Covenant Oaths and the resulting Sanctions. Sacrificial blood was offered at the Oath, and if that substitutionary blood was “trampled underfoot,” the human blood would be shed. This is exactly the process we see from the death of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, the tearing of the Temple veil to the end of Judaism in AD70, and it is the context of Hebrews 10:29.

So, the conquest of Canaan fulfilled the symbolic sequence in Genesis 15. Yet the Lord works in fractals. He keeps moving the goal posts, just as He did with Adam and Abraham, from the Garden, to the Land, to the World. The Triune pattern is measured out in every part of the Scriptures, including sacred architecture. But there is one facet of Israel’s inheriting the Land which has been overlooked as far as I know, and once again it must be understood in the context of the Noahic priesthood.

Because Ham attempted to steal an inheritance from Noah,8See Out of His Belly. his son Canaan would serve Shem as a slave. Yet this is not what occurred during Israel’s sojourn in Egypt after the death of Joseph. Shem was in slavery “in the Land of Ham.” (Egypt is referred to as “the land of Ham” in Psalms 78:51; 105:23, 27; 106: 22; 1 Chron. 4:40.) Not only this, but the divide between priests and kings, first expressed in Cain’s hatred for Abel, is present here in the fact that the Egyptians despised shepherds, requiring the Hebrews to dwell on their own (Genesis 46:34). This fulfills the distance between the serpent and ram in the Abrahamic “Tabernacle.”

While the “seed,” the house of Jacob, was “dying” in Egypt that it might be multiplied as a great harvest, the oak trees planted and wells dug in Canaan by the patriarchs were also bearing fruit, along with the houses and vineyards of the Canaanites. The cursed womb had born a nation in the “grave,” while the cursed Land now promised an abundance (Numbers 13:24). Shem would inherit everything from Ham, but only through a process of death and resurrection. Shem had to die in the Land of Ham (the father) and be resurrected to inherit the Land of Canaan (the son).

Circumcision was tied to the Abrahamic promises concerning the Land and the womb. These ended at the baptism of Christ, the first sign of the dove, a Noahic Jew-Gentile immersion which cut off Canaan forever, and promised instead a heavenly country, a blessing for all nations. But then, Abraham knew that all along (Hebrews 11:16). The rainbow was back in the heavens.

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1. Peter Golding, Covenant Theology, 72.
2. James B. Jordan, Introduction to the Ascensions, Biblical Horizons 143.
3. Abraham’s behaviour concerning Sarai in Egypt is misinterpreted as a faithless deception, rather than outcrafting the serpent. See James B. Jordan, Primeval Saints, for more discussion.
4. For more discussion, see Cosmic Language.
5. See A Place For The Stars
6. See “Return of the Raven” in Sweet Counsel.
7. See Sweet Counsel, 147.
8. See Out of His Belly.

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