Ancient Near-Eastern Covenant Distinctions

Question
I have heard that the covenant ceremony in Genesis 15 served as ratification of God's Covenant with Abram, which existed in its whole as a suzerain-vassal treaty, like the one God used at Sinai. My understanding is that these are two completely different covenant ceremonies. In Genesis 15 we have an example of one common covenant ceremony (royal land grant), and in Exodus a different common treaty model (suzerain-vassal). What is your understanding of these passages?
Answer
I believe that sharp distinctions between different kinds of covenants paralleling ancient Near-Eastern texts are not as sure as they once were (Compare NIV Study Bible on Genesis 6). Abram's covenant was very much like a suzerain-vassal treaty, as were all biblical covenants. It was like it in the sense that it was not a parity treaty or an unconditional royal land grant treaty. All covenants, like treaties, had conditions either explicitly or implicitly (including royal land grant treaties, which should probably be seen as a kind of suzerain-vassal treaties).

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries and adjunct Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.