Jeremiah 34:18
And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in two, and passed between the parts thereof,
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(18) When they cut the calf in twain . . .—The passage is interesting, as showing the survival of one of the oldest rites of Patriarchal times. So, when Jehovah made a covenant with Abraham, the victims that had been slain were cut up and arranged opposite each other, and when the “burning lamp” passed between the pieces it was the token that Jehovah had completed the covenant, even as men complete it (Genesis 15:10-17). The implied thought thus symbolised was that the parties to the contract prayed, as in the analogous case of 1Samuel 11:7, that they might be torn limb from limb like the victims if they broke the covenant, The antiquity and wide extent of the symbolism is shown by its appearing in the ritual of Greece, as in the phrase ὅρκια τέμνον —to ratify (literally, to cut) oaths, in Homer (Iliad, ii. 124, Od. xxiv. 483, and elsewhere), and the Latin fœdus ferire. In Livy (i. 24) we have both the phrase, the act which it implied, and the prayer which accompanied it, that if the Roman people proved unfaithful to their covenant Jupiter would slay them as the priest slew the victim. “Tu illo die, Jupiter, populum Romanum sic ferito, ut ego hunc porcum hic hodie feriam, tantoque magis ferito, quanto magis potes pollesque.” (“Do thou, Jupiter, on that day so smite the Roman people [if they break the covenant] as I this day smite this swine—yea, so much the more smite them as thou art mightier and more prevailing.”)

Jeremiah 34:18. When they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts — In order to ratify the covenant, they killed a calf, or young bullock, which they cut in two, and placing the two parts at some distance from each other, they passed between them; signifying by this rite that they consented to be served in the like manner, in case they violated their part of the covenant. We learn from the Holy Scriptures, and from heathen authors, that the same or similar ceremonies were in use in making and ratifying covenants and treaties in ancient times. In this way Abraham’s covenant with God was confirmed, Genesis 15:10. And, according to Livy, lib. 1. cap. 24; and lib. 21. cap. 45, rites of a similar kind were in use among the old Romans; as we find from Homer they were also among the Greeks. Thus he tells us, when they had entered into a solemn agreement with the Trojans to put an end to the war, by the single combat of Paris and Menelaus, at the pouring out of their wine upon their sacrifice, they made the following imprecation upon those who should not observe their part of the treaty, Iliad, 3. l, 298.

Οπποτεροι προτεροι υπερ ορκια πημηνειαν,

Ωδε σφεγκεφαλος χαμαδις ρεοι, ως οδε οινος.

“So may their blood who first the league confound. Shed, like this wine, distain the thirsty ground.” POPE.34:8-22 A Jew should not be held in servitude above seven years. This law they and their fathers had broken. And when there was some hope that the siege was raised, they forced the servants they had released into their services again. Those who think to cheat God by dissembled repentance and partial reformation, put the greatest cheat upon their own souls. This shows that liberty to sin, is really only liberty to have the sorest judgments. It is just with God to disappoint expectations of mercy, when we disappoint the expectations of duty. And when reformation springs only from terror, it is seldom lasting. Solemn vows thus entered into, profane the ordinances of God; and the most forward to bind themselves by appeals to God, are commonly most ready to break them. Let us look to our hearts, that our repentance may be real, and take care that the law of God regulates our conduct.The words ... - The Jews spoke of "cutting" a covenant, because the contracting parties cut a calf in twain and passed between the pieces. Thus cutting a covenant and cutting a calf in twain, meant the same thing.18. passed between the parts thereof—The contracting parties in the "covenant" (not here the law in general, but their covenant made before God in His house to emancipate their slaves, Jer 34:8, 9) passed through the parts of the animal cut in two, implying that they prayed so to be cut in sunder (Mt 24:51; Greek, "cut in two") if they should break the covenant (Ge 15:10, 17). This was a ceremony which they used in making of covenants, not without something of a warrant from a Divine precedent, Genesis 15:9,10: it is said, Jeremiah 34:18, that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham (that covenant was a promise that Abraham’s seed should possess the land of Canaan). Genesis 15:8. Abraham said unto God, Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? Genesis 15:9, God bids him take an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, &c. Genesis 15:10, it is said, that he took them, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another. Indeed we read nothing there of the parties covenanting passing betwixt the parts of the beasts so divided, but this was afterwards used in making covenants betwixt men, which had in it a secret imprecation or wishing that they might be cut in pieces like those beasts, if they did not keep the covenants which they made. It should seem that these Jews, in the making of their solemn promise or covenant with God about releasing their servants, used this rite; they caused a calf or heifer to be cut in pieces, and the parts to be laid in the temple right over against one another, then they recited this covenant, and in the way of a solemn promise, or confirmation of their resolution to make their promise good, they passed betwixt the parts of the calf or heifer so cut; silently agreeing that God should cut them in pieces like that beast if they did not make their words good. Hence is the Hebrew phrase of cutting a covenant, for making it. This was a ceremony ordinarily used also amongst the heathens, as we are informed by Cicero, Livy, and others. And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant,.... The covenant the king, princes, and all the people made, to let their servants go free, is called the Lord's covenant, because made in his name, in his presence, and before him as a witness; and very probably the calf that was cut in pieces on this occasion, after mentioned, was sacrificed to him, which made him a party concerned; unless this is to be understood of the covenant of God in general made with Israel on Mount Sinai; and so is distinct from the other covenant, which may be more especially designed in the next clause:

which have not performed the words of the covenant made before me; did not perform what they promised to do in the presence of the Lord, as in Jeremiah 34:15;

when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof; which was a rite or custom used in making and confirming covenants; a calf, or some other creature, were cut in pieces, and the parts laid in order, and the covenantees passed between these parts; signifying thereby, that if they did not fulfil the engagements they entered into, they imprecated to be cut to pieces as that creature was. Some footsteps of this practice are to be seen as early as the times of Abraham, Genesis 15:9; upon which place Jarchi observes, that it was the way of making a covenant to divide a beast, and pass between the parts of it; and this custom obtained among the Chaldeans, Greeks, and Romans; or what was very similar to it. Cyril (u) says this custom was by the Chaldeans, who might take it from Abraham. A people called Molotti had something of this kind among them: for they confirmed the covenants they swore to by cutting oxen into little pieces (w); and Homer seems to have a respect to such a practice when he says that the priest, after he had prayed to Apollo, slew the sacrifice, and flayed it, and cut it in pieces, making duplicates (x), alike to one another. Cicero (y) is thought to have the same custom in view; and likewise Virgil (z), when he speaks of the covenant made between Romulus and Tatius king of the Sabines, whom he represents as standing armed before the altar of Jupiter, holding caps, and joining in covenant by killing a swine, and cutting it in pieces; in like manner Livy (a) describes the covenant made between the Romans and Albanians, when the herald at arms, reciting the conditions, called aloud

""hear, O Jupiter", &c.''

if the Roman people first fail in observing these,

"strike them as I now strike this hog; and so much the more, as thou art more able and mighty;''

which being said, he struck it with a flint stone; hence the phrase, "ferire foedus", to strike or make a covenant; and, in allusion to the above custom, making a covenant is commonly called, in the Old Testament, "cutting a covenant". Some versions, as the Syriac interpreter, render it, "I will make the men as the calf they cut in twain", &c. they shall be cut in pieces as that is; see Matthew 24:51.

(u) Contra Julian, l. 10. apud Grotium in Genesis 15.17. (w) Zenobius apud 10. (x) ' ------ , ' ' . Iliad 1. v. 461, 462. (y) De Inventione, l. 2. sect. 20. (z) "Armati Jovis ante aram, paterasque tenentes Stabant, et caesa jungebant foedera porea". Aeneid. l. 8. (a) Hist. l. 1. p. 14.

And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, who have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they {h} cut the calf in two, and passed between the parts of it,

(h) Concerning the manner of solemn covenant which the ancients used by passing between the two parts of a beast, to signify that the transgressor of the same covenant should be so divided in pieces, read Ge 15:10.

18. when they cut the calf in twain] This rendering, which simplifies the construction, is obtained from the literal Heb. as given in mg. by transposing two words of the clause in the original. See Genesis 15:10 for a ceremony of this kind as attendant upon a covenant. Its significance is probably that “the parties to the covenant are united by being taken within the life of the same sacred victim.” Pe., who compares the eating of the same sacrifice by the two parties to a covenant.Verse 18. - When they out the calf in twain, etc. This clause should be translated differently, and placed, for clearness, in a parenthesis (the calf which they cut in twain, and between the parts of which they passed). The division of the calf might, in fact, be called in Hebrew either "the covenant" or "the token of the covenant" (comp. Genesis 17:10, 11). It was a solemn assurance that he who should transgress God's Law should share the same fate as the victim. The same idea seems to have dictated the Hebrew phrase, "to cut a covenant," and the Greek and Latin equivalents (ὅρκια τέμνειν: foedus icere); comp. the parallel narrative in Genesis 15:10. The threat of punishment. - Jeremiah 34:12. "Then came the word of Jahveh to Jeremiah from Jahveh, saying: Jeremiah 34:13. Thus saith Jahveh, the God of Israel, 'I made a covenant with your fathers in the day when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from a house of bondmen, saying, Jeremiah 34:14. At the end of seven years shall ye set free each man his brother, who is a Hebrew that sold himself to thee; and he shall serve thee six years, then shalt thou send him away from thee free: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear. Jeremiah 34:15. But you had turned just now, and had done what is right in mine eyes, because each man proclaimed liberty to his neighbour, ad ye had made a covenant before me in the house on which my name is called. Jeremiah 34:16. But ye turned again and profaned my name, and each one made his man-servant and his handmaid, whom he had sent away free, at their pleasure, to return, and ye brought them into subjection, to be men-and maid-servants to you. Jeremiah 34:17. Therefore, thus saith Jahveh, Ye have not hearkened unto me in proclaiming liberty each man to his brother, and each man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith Jahveh, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to famine, and I will deliver you up for maltreatment to all the kingdoms of the earth. Jeremiah 34:18. And I shall make the men who have transgressed my covenant, that have not kept the words of the covenant which they concluded before me, like the calf which they cut in two, and between whose pieces they passed. Jeremiah 34:19. The princes of Judah and the princes of Jerusalem, the courtiers, and the priests, and all he people of the land, who passed through between the pieces of the calf, Jeremiah 34:20. Them will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life, so that their corpses shall be for food to the birds of heaven and to the beasts of the earth. Jeremiah 34:21. And Zedekiah, king of Judah, and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life, and into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon, that has departed from against you. Jeremiah 34:22. Behold, I will command, saith Jahveh, and will make them return to this city, and they shall fight against it, and shall take it, and shall burn it with fire; and the cities of Judah will I make a desolation, without an inhabitant."
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