The Covenants

An agreement between two people or two groups that involves promises on the part of each to the other. The concept of covenant between God and His people is one of the most important theological truths of the Bible. For example, by making a covenant with Abraham, God promised to bless His descendants and to make them His special people. Abraham, in return, was to remain faithful to God and to serve as a channel through which God's blessings could flow to the rest of the world

The Edenic Covenant

Gen 2:15-17 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." NKJV

The pre-fall covenant with Adam governs the entire era from the creation until the coming of Christ. The new covenant in Christ is a fulfillment rather than a replacement of the original covenant. In other words, the entire Biblical story of the growth of God's kingdom is grounded in the Edenic covenant given in Genesis 1-3. If we do not understand these chapters properly, we will not be able to understand the rest of Scripture either. Thus, to begin our study, we will consider first the condition of the kingdom at the time of creation, the five points of the covenant in the Edenic Covenant, and man's response to the covenant and God's judgment.

The Adamic Covenant

Gen 3:14-21 So the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel." To the woman He said: "I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you." Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them. NKJV

As the result of Adam’s sin the following curses were pronounced: Enmity between Satan and Eve and her descendants. Painful childbirth for women. Marital strife.
The soil cursed. Introduction of thorns and thistles. Survival to be a struggle. Death introduced.
Death will be the inescapable fate of all living things.
Although these curses are severe and inescapable, a wonderful promise of grace was also included in the Adamic Covenant. Genesis 3:15 is often referred to as the “Proto-Gospel” or “First Gospel.” Speaking to Satan, God says: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. ”Here God promises that one born of a woman be wounded in the process of destroying Satan. The “seed” of the woman who would crush the Serpent’s head is none other than Jesus Christ (see Galatians 4:4 and 1 John 3:8). Even in the midst of the curse, God’s graceful provision of salvation shines through.

Noahic Covenant

Gen 9:1-19 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them:"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man's brother I will require the life of man. "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man. And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it."

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: "And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."

And God said: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth."

Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. NKJV

Noah emerges from the ark and builds an altar of sacrifice. He offers burnt offerings, tokens of dedication and atonement, which produce a "sweet savour" to the Lord (Gen 8:21, AV). Contrast the imagery of the Babylonian version at this point:

The gods smelled the savor

The gods smelled the sweet savor

The gods gathered like flies over the sacrifice.

What God had once commanded Adam (Gen 1:28), He now reiterates to Noah and his sons (9:1; see Kline, p. 90). This COVENANT (Gen 6:18; 9:8-17) is remarkable for its breadth (9:10; 12:1-13:18; 15; 17) and permanence. It is an everlasting covenant (Heb 9:16), initiated by the beneficent Creator. He promised that never again would the world be destroyed by a flood (9:15). The rainbow (Usually denoting the weapon) was the covenant sign, a seal of the promise to mankind and a reminder to God of His commitments.

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, Copyright © 1979 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

The Abrahamic Covenant

Gen 12:1-3 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.

I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." NKJV

God's Covenant with Abraham. The end of history is focused on the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant is specific in its explanation of how biblical conflict will end in the Day of the Lord. God promised to give Abraham a land and a lineage (Gen 12:1-3). These two items, the result of God's blessing of Abraham, are the specific blessings promised the Hebrew people. What began as a small national boundary for a small group of people (the Jews) became international in scope, including all races (Acts 3:25-26). Eschatology reveals that Abraham's land, ultimately, is the new heaven and earth and that Abraham's lineage is the redeemed community in Christ.

Abraham was also promised by God that those who blessed him would be blessed and those who cursed him would be cursed (Gen 12:3). In eschatology this interplay between blessing and curse depends on how people respond to God's work through His people Israel, and ultimately through His work in Christ. Hell is the ultimate curse; heaven the ultimate blessing.

(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

The Mosaic Covenant

Ex 19:5-8 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him. Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. NKJV

Mosaic Covenant . A sociological point in the context of the Exodus can be made from the present knowledge of the Hittite treaty form used in Egypt at that time. This particular treaty refers to two previous Egyptian-Hittite treaties, the earlier of the two dating to the middle of the preceding century. These are parity treaties, in which the two great kings treated each other essentially as equals. The other type of covenant known from the Hittites is the suzerainty type, used by Hittite kings to make vassal treaties with the kings of smaller states. G. E. Mendenhall noted that there are a number of significant resemblances between the Mosaic covenant of the Bible and the suzerainty covenants of the Hittites (BA, 17 [1954], 24-46; 50-76; see COVENANT [OT]). These resemblances could be most easily explained if Moses was in Egypt during the 13 th century.

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, Copyright © 1979 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

The Palestinian Covenant

Deut 29:10-16 "All of you stand today before the LORD your God: your leaders and your tribes and your elders and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones and your wives — also the stranger who is in your camp, from the one who cuts your wood to the one who draws your water — that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today, that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. "I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today NKJV

Some see this verse as an introduction to the fourth address of Moses beginning in verse 2, but probably it concludes the covenant renewal ceremony in Moab. This preference is reflected in the Hebrew text which numbers this verse as 28:68 rather than 29:1. The words, the covenant... in Moab, in addition to the covenant He had made with them at Horeb, have led some to posit the existence of a separate covenant (i.e., a Palestinian Covenant ) in addition to the Mosaic Covenant. The wording, however, was not meant to reflect the making of a new covenant, but the renewing of the Mosaic Covenant made at Horeb. Moses' fourth address introduces no new covenantal provisions that were not already made explicit in his other speeches. So Deut 29:2-30:20 recapitulates the covenant details laid down in the preceding chapters.

(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament (c) 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament (c) 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries)

The Davidic Covenant

2 Sam 7:4-17 But it happened that night that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying, "Go and tell My servant David, 'Thus says the LORD:" Would you build a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, 'Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?'"' Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel, and have caused you to rest from all your enemies. Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house.

"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever."'" According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. NKJV

The Davidic Covenant and the Modification of the OT View. The rise of human kingship in Israel brought a new and different type of covenant idea. God no longer judged His people solely by their common obedience to the law. Instead, He judged the anointed kings' obedience (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 89:30-32). Thus, the fortunes of God's people rested in large part on their king's obedience to God. If the king sinned, his punishment (the curse) would befall him and his people in history, as the Deuteronomistic historian noted (2 Kings 21:10-15; 23:26). If the king was righteous, his due reward (the blessing) would also be shared by his subjects.

(from International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, revised edition, Copyright © 1979 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

The New Covenant

Jer 31:31-34 "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." NKJV

Jesus taught His men that His death would mean the beginning of the New Covenant . The symbolism about the bread and the fruit of the vine was given to show that Jesus' body and blood were necessary to institute the New Covenant

(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament (c) 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament (c) 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries)

Jer 31:31-37 In addition to a new beginning God promised to make a New Covenant with His people. This New Covenant was expressly for the house of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and the house of Judah (the Southern Kingdom). It would not be like the covenant God had made with Israel's forefathers at the time of the Exodus because that covenant had been broken by the people (cf. 11:1-8). The earlier covenant God referred to was the Mosaic Covenant contained in the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

(from Bible Knowledge Commentary/Old Testament (c) 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries; Bible Knowledge Commentary/New Testament (c) 1983, 2000 Cook Communications Ministries)

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