"Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye!"
I used to hear other kids saying this quite a bit during my childhood days. I don't think my friends and I really comprehended the gruesomeness of it. This saying came back to me today when I stopped to reflect on a phrase in my study Bible: "self maledictory oath."
Many covenants in Bible times were sealed with a self maledictory oath, and sometimes a bloody ceremony to act it out. Circumcision was one example. According to the NIV Study Bible, circumcision meant: "If I am not loyal in faith and obedience to the Lord, may the sword of the Lord cut off me and my offspring as I have cut off my foreskin." To paraphrase Genesis 17:14, "Either cut it off or God will cut you off!"
Sometimes animals were slaughtered and torn apart as in the case of God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. The shocking thing about this story is that it was God not Abraham who took upon Himself the curses that would come as a consequence of violating the covenant. Of course God did just that in an ultimate sense on the cross.
I may be getting in over my head here, but I wonder if there might not have been an allusion to a self-maledictory oath in Jesus words at the Last Supper: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20)