For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough



In Genesis chapter 15, the Lord, responding to Abraham’s question as to how the divine promises would be fulfilled, replied, “Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon.”  In this response God was using a Chaldean covenant form familiar to Abraham, who had come from Chaldea.  The custom was that the covenanting parties took a calf, split it in two, and stood between the two halves while they declared the terms of the covenant or contract, thus binding themselves by those terms just as firmly as do those who enter into a legal agreement today.  In this ritual the covenanting parties were calling upon their gods to inflict upon the violator the fate of the slain calf.

But God was going far beyond binding Himself by the terms of an earthly contract.  He was showing Abraham that all the promised blessings were being guaranteed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is He Who is represented by the five creatures mentioned.

The heifer (a young cow that has not produced a calf) is a biblical symbol of Christ as the willing Servant of God and man, that service extending all the way to death, even the death of the cross.  As the male animal portrays the activity of Christ’s will in carrying out the will of the Father, the female portrays the Lord’s will in perfect submission to the Father’s will, as expressed, for example, in His prayer in Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done,” Lk 22:42. 

The animal’s virginity represents the moral purity of Christ.

Three is the biblical number of resurrection, so that the ages of the animals are the symbolic revelation of the truth that the Lord, after dying to make atonement for our sins, would rise again as the mighty Conqueror of death.

The goat, the animal most frequently used for the sin offering, portrays Christ made sin for us, as it is written in 2 Cor 5:21, “For he (God) hath made him (Christ) who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  Its being a three-year old female has the same spiritual significance as in the case of the heifer.

The three-year old ram (a male), the leader of the flock, portrays Christ exercising His Own will to overcome every obstacle that Satan or men might use to prevent Him carrying out His Father’s will.  It points to Him also as the Leader of men, God’s anointed, King of kings, and Lord of lords, the One to Whom every knee will yet bow.

The turtle-dove and the pigeon, creatures of heaven, represent Him as the heavenly One Who left the glory of heaven and came to earth as Man yet without ceasing to be also God.

Since they were all slain, the lesson being taught is that all the blessings promised to Abraham, and to every believer, are guaranteed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For a more detailed exposition of these verses, please see the comments on Genesis chapter 15 in BIBLE STUDIES



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough