Covenant

In Theology covenant is an agreement which brings about a relationship of commitment between God and His people. The Jewish faith is based on the Biblical covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. An understanding of covenant also helps us to prove a specific order in the end times.

There are seven covenants in the Bible, some are layered and coexist. Four are made with Israel: Abrahamic, Palestinian, Mosaic and Davidic covenants. Three of those are unconditional in nature, not dependant on response by man. The Mosaic Covenant, is conditional, bringing either blessing or cursing depending on Israel's obedience or disobedience. The Adamic, Noahic and The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) are between God and mankind and are not limited to Israel.

To properly understand Biblical covenant we need to understand 'the covenants' in the order they appeared in the history of God’s relationship between mankind and Himself. In Genesis 15 God revealed himself to Abraham. Verses 7-10 shows us a culturally used form of contract before the widespread use of writing and written contracts. In ancient times two equal parties would have made an agreement, and then to prove this agreement they would set up in effect a curse. Furthermore, they would use a visual aid in the making of this agreement / curse to ensure that both sides of the agreement (covenant) where made and adhered to. 

It would go like this… Two parties would kill and animal and cut it from top to bottom and exactly in half. Then they would place each half of the carcass on the ground with enough room for them both to walk between the two halves. Finally they would walk between this 'cutting of agreement’ and say something like. "We agree to blah blah, if we fail to keep to blah blah may this happen to the one who breaks covenant". I.e. being cut into two. “Let it be done to me if I fail to keep the covenant.."

In the passage below we see this cultural methodology being played out after Abraham asks God how do I know you’ll keep your promise?

And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? And he said unto him, 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 turtledove, and a young pigeon.10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. (KJV).

One interesting feature of God’s actions here is that he has made a variation to the cultural practice of the time. The reason why he has done this is that God has no equal. Abraham is in no way equal to God. So instead God made the agreement with himself! God can do that of course. Instead God placed Abraham in to a coma as found in the text. Forbidding him to pass through the agreement. The Lord made the covenant, because man is incapable. The curse therefore falls on God (Jesus the Christ). We might consider why Jesus broke bread… We’ll see later.

Another interesting feature of this situation is that the Lord God revealed himself to Abraham by telling His name, the unspoken G-d name which is never spoken. When God does reveal His name it is again another sign of covenant. In the Hebrew we see that Abraham in effect says, “Sir, G-d, how shall I know you’ll keep your word?"

Covenant timeline.

After the fall of mankind, God killed animals to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness / self-consciousness. With their disobedience this new ‘awareness' from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil put them into a mind set of sin; feeling naked and ashamed. While not a covenant per say it sets the scene for the necessity of propitiation of one sort or another that is connected to proceeding covenant methodologies in the scriptures. It also foreshadows Israel's sacrifice proceedures, established by Abel and his offering.

1) The Edenic / Adamic Covenant - Innocence and grace: All People emerging from Eden

Edenic and Adamic Covenant factors found in Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17; 3:6-19, illustrate man’s responsibility toward the whole of creation. Aside God’s directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Similarly to the later Mosaic Covenant it included the curses pronounced against humanity for the sin of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3:15 we see a subtle reference to the New Covenant as the final outcome and death of sin.

2) The Noahic Covenant - Birth: All People not only Jews

'Covenants proper' begin with Noah and his descendants. The Noahic Covenant is an unconditional one not dependant on any reciprocation  Genesis 9:8-17. Through this promise God made covenant with every human on the earth from then on till today. Another part of the promise is with the animals and the earth v 8-10. The promise that he would never destroy the earth again by water (The rainbow is the visual aid for this). In science today we can appreciate that the atmospheric content of the skies would have been much different after the flood than before. That light passing through this new atmosphere by God’s design would engender the sign of the rainbow. [note that the destruction of the earth in 2 Peter 3..., Revelation 20:9…21:1... are destructions by fire not water.

3) The Abrahamic Covenant - Circumcision: Jews only

As we move to the second covenant we must appreciate that first the covenant still applies; both co-exist at the same time. The second is by birth or conversion and the sign is in circumcision (like the rainbow it in-itself is not the actual covenant. Interestingly failing to keep Torah doesn't break covenant because the covenant is made by God, to Abraham and is by birth or conversion.

Key scriptures include: Genesis 12:1-3,6-7; 13:14-17; 15;17:1-14; 22:15-18. God promised Abraham much indeed. Abraham’s name would become great (Genesis 12:2). Abraham would have numerous descendants (Genesis 13:16), and the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-5). God also made promises about Israel as a nation. Geographical boundaries are laid out and promised: Genesis (12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21). Through the Abrahamic Covenant the world will be blessed through the line of Abraham, pronouncements include a reference to the Messiah, coming his line. (Genesis 12:3;22:18).

4) The Palestinian Covenant - Land Covenant: Detailed in the Abrahamic Covenant above

The Palestinian Covenant, or Land Covenant, seen in Deuteronomy 30: 1-10 emphasises the land factor illustrated in the Abrahamic Covenant. This is a conditional agreement that disobedience would cause Israel to be scattered throughout the world. But with an eventual promise that He would restore the nation.

5) The Mosaic Covenant - Torah: Jews  

The Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19-24) is conditional and between God and Israel. Created on Mount Sinai: Man’s obligation to be obedient to God. It is still a blood covenant like the Abrahamic one, instead it centred around God’s divine law. It differs from the Abrahamic covenant because it is conditional. Deuteronomy 28. Bilateral agreement. Promise to Israel a holy nation and priestly nation called out and separated. Salvation is by faith through Abrahamic covenant. The coming New Covenant replaces the old (Mosaic) covenant found in Luke 24:20

6) The Davidic Covenant - Coming Messiah: Isreal and all  

The Davidic covenant is an unconditional covenant made between God and King David, through Nathan the Prophet. (2 Sam 7, 2 Chronicles 14, 2 Chronicles 16). God promises David and the nation of Israel that Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come from David's lineage, the tribe of Judah establishing an eternally enduring kingdom. This Covenant is unconditional because God places no conditions of obedience upon its fulfillment. This rests solely on God’s faithfulness, not depending on either David or Israel’s obedience. Key promises in this covenant reaffirm 1) possession of land (2 Sam 10). 2) appointment of a place for Israel and having to move no more, 3) fulfilment of David's seed which will succeed him in the coming Messiah (2 Sam 7).

7) The New Covenant - After the Spirit: Gentiles and Messianic Jews

Jesus said to Nicodemus that you must be born again of the spirit. 

The New Covenant is a covenant made first with Israel (in Jeremiah 31:31), but ultimately, with all humanity. In this convenant God promises to forgive sin, and enable universal knowledge of the Lord from within peoples hearts. Jesus Christ fulfils the Law of Moses in Matt. 5:17, creating a new covenant between God and His people. Jews and Gentiles fall within this New Covenant can be free from the penalty of the Law and sin. All being given the opportunity to receive salvation as a free gift (Eph 2:8-9).

Fascinatingly the Eucharist (taking of bread and wine) features a typology of the Abrahamic 'cutting' covenant in Jesus’ words. My 'body broken’ in the Greek it is ‘cut'. The separation of an animal for sacrifice. It can only be this reading because Psalmic prophecy states that none of his bones shall be broken. So the translation in some Bibles ‘broken’ is perhaps not an ideal Greek to English translation? 

When we understand covenants properly eschatology falls into place. We suddenly realise why the Church must be removed by rapture to the marriage supper of the Lamb. After Tribulation Christ returns for 1000 years. Why? Apart from judgement, so that he can fullfill the covenants. Interestingly animal sacrifice occurs in the Millennium.

Two interesting features:

Jews no longer have to adhere to Torah because of the New Messianic Covenant. Interestingly no believer, Gentile or Jew is permitted to eat meat with blood in the veins and arteries nor drink blood, as these refer to the Noahic ‘rainbow sign’ of covenant (Genesis 9:4) that is still in place today. This is not to be confused with the Mosaic Covenant which included Torah, later superseded by the New / Messianic covenant (even though that repeats the same command as well).

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