The Stanley Covenant

By William Handschumacher

Rock of Offence Special Commentary

The following story is from the exploits of two famous British missionary/explorers named Stanley and Livingstone who traveled the continent of Africa from the late 1800's and early 1900. The story is actually about Stanley. It illustrates how a blood covenant can heal even a hopelessly hostile situation. Whether we realize it or not, a "hostile" situation existed between man and God. In the Garden of Eden man rebelled against God’s revealed will. Where a love relationship once existed—eternal death, judgment and division took its place. God's response to this unacceptable situation was to cut a blood covenant that would end forever the enmity and would bring eternal reconciliation between Himself and the human race.

Stanley set out on his missionary journey to Africa with no idea of the circumstances he would face and the strange customs he would encounter. Upon entering Africa, he ran into trouble with different African tribes. One Chief in particular was very determined that he should leave and not return. Stanley had a guide and advisor during his travels. Being familiar with the customs, this guide suggested that Stanley make a "blood covenant" with the Chief. This involved a ceremony where incisions were made on the wrists of both men. Drops of blood from each man was mixed in some kind of drink (either wine or goats milk) and both drank from the cup. They then clasped hands as in a handshake allowing the blood from the wounds on their wrists to mix together. Drinking the wine mingled with the two bloods and the handshake symbolized the two men becoming one blood, one life, one new man. A substance was applied to the wounds that left an indelible mark where the cut was made. Wherever these men went they bore the "mark of the covenant." At this point, these two men were considered "blood brothers." The ceremony concluded with an exchanging of gifts where each gave the other something of great value. What the Chief wanted from Stanley was the goat he owned. As he had a stomach disorder, Stanley needed the milk from this goat and didn’t want to give it up. The guide persuaded Stanley that it would be wise to give up this goat. In exchange, the Chief gave Stanley his spear that had a large copper coil near the head. Stanley thought to himself, "Great! I give up my only source of food and relief and all I get is this spear!"

At that time, Stanley didn’t know that this Chief was the head of the most powerful tribe in all of Africa—and this man was now his blood brother. He soon discovered that everywhere he went in Africa that spear was recognized as "the" symbol of authority. Whole tribes would literally bow their knee to it. That spear was the key that opened up the whole continent of Africa! Any tribe that chose to stand against Stanley knew they had to deal with this Chief, Stanley's blood brother.

Stanley and Livingstone stated that to their knowledge a blood covenant was never broken on the continent of Africa. To break a blood covenant made you a condemned man. A broken blood covenant caused your own family to hunt you down and kill you. The thing I find interesting in this story is reconciliation. These two men start out as being enemies. The blood covenant turned them into committed friends.

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