One of the better summary discussions of Covenant in the Old Testament is found in following article from the conservative 1915 version of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia:
COVENANT, IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
The etymological force of the Hebrew berith is not entirely certain. It is probable that the word is the same as the Assyrian biritu, which has the common meaning “fetter,” but also means “covenant.” The significance of the root from which this Assyrian word is derived is uncertain. It is probable that it is “to bind,” but that is not definitely established. The meaning of biritu as covenant seems to come directly from the root, rather than as a derived meaning from fetter. If this root idea is to bind, the covenant is that which binds together the parties. This, at any rate, is in harmony with the general meaning of the word.
In the Old Testament the word has an ordinary use, when both parties are men, and a distinctly religious use, between God and men. There can be no doubt that the religious use has come from the ordinary, in harmony with the general custom in such cases, and not the reverse. There are also two shades of meaning, somewhat distinct, of the Hebrew word: one in which it is properly a covenant, i.e. a solemn mutual agreement, the other in which it is more a command, i.e. instead of an obligation voluntarily assumed, it is an obligation imposed by a superior upon an inferior. This latter meaning, however, has clearly been derived from the other. It is easy to see that an agreement, including as the contracting parties those of unequal position, might readily include those agreements which tended to partake of the nature of a command; but the process could not readily be reversed.
1. EARLY IDEA:
We consider first a covenant in which both contracting parties are men. In essence a covenant is an agreement, but an agreement of a solemn and binding force. The early Semitic idea of a covenant was doubtless that which prevailed among the Arabs (see especially W. Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites, 2nd edition, passim). This was primarily blood-brotherhood, in which two men became brothers by drinking each other’s blood (Ed Note: See illustration in pagan culture). Ordinarily this meant that one was adopted into the clan of the other. Hence, this act involved the clan of one of the contracting parties, and also brought the other party into relation with the god of this clan, by bringing him into the community life of the clan, which included its god. In this early idea, then, “primarily the covenant is not a special engagement to this or that particular effect, but bond of troth and life-fellowship to all the effects for which kinsmen are permanently bound together” (W. Robertson Smith, op. cit., 315 f). In this early ceremonial the religious idea was necessarily present, because the god was kindred to the clan; and the god had a special interest in the covenant because he especially protects the kindred blood, of which the stranger thus becomes a part. This religious side always persisted, although the original idea was much modified. In later usage there were various substitutes for the drinking of each other’s blood, namely, drinking together the sacrificial blood, sprinkling it upon the parties, eating together the sacrificial meal, etc.; but the same idea found expression in all, the community of life resulting from the covenant.
2. PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS:
The covenant in the Old Testament shows considerable modification from the early idea. Yet it will doubtless help in understanding the Old Testament covenant to keep in mind the early idea and form. Combining statements made in different accounts, the following seem to be the principal elements in a covenant between men. Some of the details, it is to be noted, are not explicitly stated in reference to these covenants, but may be inferred from those between God and men.
1. A statement of the terms agreed upon (Genesis 26:29; 31:50,52).. This was a modification of the earlier idea, which has been noted, in which a covenant was all-inclusive.
2. An oath by each party to observe the terms, God being witness of the oath (Ge 26:31; 31:48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53).. The oath was such a characteristic feature that sometimes the term “oath” is used as the equivalent of covenant (see Ezekiel 17:13).
3. A curse invoked by each one upon himself in case disregard of the agreement. In a sense this may be considered a part of the oath, adding emphasis to it. This curse is not explicitly stated in the case of human covenants, but may be inferred from the covenant with God (Dt 27:15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
4. The formal ratification of the covenant by some solemn external act.
The different ceremonies for this purpose, such as have already been mentioned, are to be regarded as the later equivalents of the early act of drinking each other’s blood. In the Old Testament accounts it is not certain that such formal act is expressly mentioned in relation to covenants between men. It seems probable, however, that the sacrificial meal of Genesis 31:54 included Laban, in which case it was a covenant sacrifice. In any case, both sacrificial meal and sprinkling of blood upon the two parties, the altar representing Yahweh, are mentioned in Exodus 24:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, with allusions elsewhere, in ratification of the covenant at Sinai between Yahweh and Israel.
In the covenant of God with Abraham is another ceremony, quite certainly with the same purpose. This is a peculiar observance, namely, the cutting of animals into two parts and passing between the severed portions (Ge 15:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18), a custom also referred to in Jeremiah 34:18. Here it is to be noted that it is a smoking furnace and a flaming torch, representing God, not Abraham, which passed between the pieces. Such an act, it would seem, should be shared by both parties, but in this case it is doubtless to be explained by the fact that the covenant is principally a promise by Yahweh. He is the one who binds Himself. Concerning the significance of this act there is difference of opinion. A common view is that it is in effect a formal expression of the curse, imprecating upon oneself the same, i.e. cutting in pieces, if one breaks the terms of the covenant. But, as W. R. Smith has pointed out (op. cit., 481), this does not explain the passing between the pieces, which is the characteristic feature of the ceremony. It seems rather to be a symbol that the two parties “were taken within the mystical life of the victim.” (Compare the interpretation of He 9:15, 16, 17 in COVENANT, THE NEW TESTAMENT.) It would then be an inheritance from the early times, in which the victim was regarded as kindred with the tribe, and hence, also an equivalent of the drinking of each other’s blood.
The immutability of a covenant is everywhere assumed, at least theoretically.
Other features beyond those mentioned cannot be considered as fundamental. This is the case with the setting up of a stone, (Pillar) a or raising a heap of stones (Heap Hebrew = gal) (Ge 31:45,46). This is doubtless simply an ancient custom, which has no direct connection with the covenant, but comes from the ancient Semitic idea of the sacredness of single stones or heaps of stones.
Striking hands is a general expression of an agreement made (Ezra 10:19; Eze 17:18, etc.)
3. DIFFERENT VARIETIES:
In observing different varieties of agreements among men, we note that they may be either between individuals or between larger units, such as tribes and nations. In a great majority of cases, however, they are between the larger units. In some cases, also, when an individual acts it is in a representative capacity, as the head of a clan, or as a king.
When the covenant is between tribes it is thus a treaty or alliance. The following passages have this use of covenant: Genesis 14:13; 21:27,32; 26:28; 31:44; Exodus 23:32; 34:12,15; Deuteronomy 7:2; Joshua 9:6,7,11,15,16; Judges 2:2; 1Samuel 11:1; 1Kings 3:12; 15:19 parallel 2Chronicles 16:3; 1Kings 20:34; Psalms 83:5; Isaiah 33:8; Ezekiel 16:61; 17:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19; 30:5; Daniel 11:22; Amos 1:9.
In other cases it is between a king and his subjects, when it is more a command or ordinance, as 2Samuel 3:12,13,11; 5:3 parallel 1Chronicles 11:3; Jeremiah 34:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14,1 5,1 6,1 7, 18; Daniel 9:27.
In other cases it is between individuals, or between small groups, where it is an agreement or pledge (2Kings 11:4 parallel 2Chronicles 23:1; Job 31:1; 41:4; Hosea 10:4).
Between David and Jonathan it is more specifically an alliance of friendship (1Sa 18:3; 20:8; 23:18), as also apparently in Ps 55:20 ("He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; He has violated his covenant.") (See illustration in pagan culture)
It means an alliance of marriage in Malachi 2:14, ("Yet you say, 'For what reason?' Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant."), but probably not in Proverbs 2:17 ("That leaves the companion of her youth, And forgets the covenant of her God"), where it is better to understand the meaning as being “her covenant with God.”
Ed Note: Most commentaries favor Proverbs 2:17 to at least in part represent an allusion to the covenant of marriage.
E.g., the Believer's Study Bible writes...
"The "companion of her youth" primarily is her husband. Instead of submitting to her husband, she is self-ruled. However, she breaks not only her covenant of marriage but also her covenant with God Himself (e.g., Jer. 3:4), including the seventh commandment (Ex. 20:14)
Warren Wiersbe writes that the woman described here in Proverbs 2
"She has no respect for God, because she breaks His law (Ex. 20:14); she has no respect for her husband because she violates the promises she made to him when she married him. She no longer has a guide or a friend in the Lord or in her husband, because she has taken the path of sin. Anyone who listens to her words and follows her path is heading for the cemetery." [Wiersbe, W. W. Be skillful. An Old Testament study. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books]
Finally the respected expositor John MacArthur writes that
"In a wide sense this could be the covenant of Sinai (Ex 20:14), but specifically looks to the marriage covenant of Gen. 2:24, with its commitment to fidelity." [MacArthur, J. J. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville: Word Pub])
4. PHRASEOLOGY USED:
In all cases of covenants between men, except Jeremiah 34:10 (see context Je 34:8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 - pay special attention to the ritual in Jer 34:18!) and Daniel 9:27-note, the technical phrase for making a covenant is Karath berith, in which Karath meant originally “to cut.” Everything indicates that this verb is used with reference to the formal ceremony of ratification above mentioned, of cutting animals in pieces.
BETWEEN GOD AND MEN.
1. ESSENTIAL IDEA:
As already noted, the idea of covenants between God and men doubtless arose from the idea of covenants between men. Hence, the general thought is similar. It cannot in this case, however, be an agreement between contracting parties who stand on an equality, but God, the superior, always takes the initiative. To some extent, however, varying in different cases, is regarded as a mutual agreement; God with His commands makes certain promises, and men agree to keep the commands, or, at any rate, the promises are conditioned on human obedience. In general, the covenant of God with men is a Divine ordinance, with signs and pledges on God’s part, and with promises for human obedience and penalties for disobedience, which ordinance is accepted by men. In one passage (Ps 25:14-note, Ps 25:15-note), it is used in a more general way of an alliance of friendship between God and man.
2. COVENANTS RECORDED IN THE OLD TESTAMENT:
A covenant of this general kind is said in the Old Testament to have been made by God with Noah (Genesis 9:9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,16, 17 and elsewhere). In this the promise is that there shall be no more deluge.
A covenant is made with Abraham, the thought of which includes his descendants. In this the promise of God is to multiply the descendants of Abraham, to give them the land of Canaan, and to make them a blessing to the nations. This is narrated in Genesis 15:18; 17:2-21, etc.
A covenant is made with the nation Israel at Sinai (Horeb) (Ex 19:5; 24:7,8; 34:10,27,28, etc.), ratified by a covenant sacrifice and sprinkling of blood (Exodus 24:4, 5, 6, 7, 8). This constituted the nation the peculiar people of God, and was accompanied by promises for obedience and penalties for disobedience. This covenant was renewed on the plains of Moab (Deut 29:1 "These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides [Hebrew word "bad" = core idea is to be separate & isolated, besides, in addition to, apart from a state of something being in addition to what already exists] the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb (the covenant of law, the "ten commandments".")
Ed Note on Deuteronomy 29:1: Some consider this declarations to be an "amendment" to the covenant at Sinai while others feel it represents allusion to a different covenant.
John MacArthur reasons that...
The majority of interpreters view the covenant stated here as a reference to the covenant made at Sinai. According to this view, the covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai (Horeb) was renewed in Moab. However, this verse clearly states that the covenant of which Moses now speaks was “besides,” or “in addition to,” the previous covenant. This was another covenant distinct from the one made at Sinai. This other covenant is viewed by some interpreters as the Palestinian Covenant, (see Ryrie and McGee below) which gave Israel the title to the land. However, the emphasis of these two chapters is not on the Land, but on the change of Israel’s heart (see the contrast between Deut 29:4 and Deut 30:6). It was exactly this change of heart which the later prophets would term “The New Covenant” (see Jer. 31:31, 32, 32, 34; Ezek. 36:26, 27). In response to Israel’s certain failure under the provisions of the Sinaitic Covenant (Deut 29:23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28), Moses anticipated the New Covenant under which Israel would be obedient to the Lord and finally reap His blessings (Deut 30:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10).(MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word or Logos) (Bolding added)
Charles Ryrie has this comment...
Moses now details the agreement under which the people would enter the land of Palestine. This Palestinian covenant was in addition to the Mosaic covenant given at Sinai (Horeb). (The Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody Publishers))
J Vernon McGee writes that...
The covenant which God is going to make with them here relates to the land, and it is called the Palestinian covenant. God makes this covenant with them just before they enter the land. (McGee, J. V. Thru the Bible commentary. Vol. 1, Page 9-600. Nashville: Thomas Nelson or Logos) ()
In these national covenants the individual had a place, but only as a member of the nation. The individual might forfeit his rights under the covenant, however, by deliberate rebellion against Yahweh, sinning "with a high hand" (Numbers 15:30), and then he was regarded as no longer a member of the nation, he was "cut off from among his people," i.e. put to death. This is the teaching of the Priestly Code (P), and is also implied elsewhere; in the mercy of God, however, the punishment was not always inflicted.
- A covenant with the tribe of Levi, by which that became the priestly tribe, is alluded to in Deut 33:9; Jer 33:21; Mal 2:4.
- The covenant with Phinehas (Numbers 25:12,13) established an Everlasting priesthood in his line.
- The covenant with Joshua and Israel (Joshua 24:15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27) was an agreement on their part to serve Yahweh only.
- The covenant with David (2Sa 7 parallel 1Chr 17; see also Ps 89:3,18,34,39; 132:12; Jeremiah 33:21) contained a promise that his descendants should have an everlasting kingdom, and should stand to God in the relation of sonship.
- The covenant with Jehoiada and the people (2Ki 11:17 parallel 2 Chr 23:3) was an agreement on their part to be the people of Yahweh.
- The covenant with Hezekiah and the people (2Chr 29:10) consisted essentially of an agreement on their part to reform the worship.
- The covenant with Josiah and the people (2Ki 23:3), of an agreement on their part to obey the Book of the Law.
- The covenant with Ezra and the people (Ezra 10:3) was an agreement on their part to put away foreign wives and obey the law.
- The prophets also speak of a new covenant, most explicitly in Jeremiah, but with references elsewhere, which is connected with the Messianic time (see Isaiah 42:6; 49:8; 55:3; 59:21; 61:8; Jer 31:31,33; 32:40; 50:5; Ezekiel 16:60,62; 20:37; 34:25; 37:26; Hosea 2:18).
3. PHRASEOLOGY USED:
Various phrases are used of the making of a covenant between God and men. The verb ordinarily used of making covenants between men, karath, is often used here as well. The following verbs are also used: heqim, “to establish” or “confirm”; nathan, “to give”; sim, “to place”; tsiwwah, “to command”; `abhar, “to pass over,” followed by be, “into”; bo, “to enter,” followed by be; and the phrase nasa’ berith `al pi, “to take up a covenant upon the mouth of someone.”
4. HISTORY OF COVENANT IDEA:
The history of the covenant idea in Israel, as between God and man, is not altogether easy to trace. This applies especially to the great covenants between God and Israel, namely, the one with Abraham, and the one made at Sinai. The earliest references to this relation of Israel to Yahweh under the term “covenant” are in Hosea 6:7; Hosea 8:1. The interpretation of the former passage is doubtful in details, but the reference to such a covenant seems clear. The latter is considered by many a later addition, but largely because of this mention of the covenant. No other references to such a covenant are made in the prophets before Jeremiah. Jeremiah and Ezekiel speak of it, and it is implied in Second-Isaiah. It is a curious fact, however, that most of the later prophets do not use the term, which suggests that the omission in the earlier prophets is not very significant concerning a knowledge of the idea in early times.
In this connection it should be noted that there is some variation among the Hexateuchal codes in their treatment of the covenants. Only one point, however, needs special mention. The Priestly Code (P) gives no explicit account of the covenant at Sinai, and puts large emphasis upon the covenant with Abraham. There are, however, apparent allusions to the Sinaitic covenant (Leviticus 2:13; 24:8; 26:9,15,25,44,45). The facts indicate, therefore, principally a difference of emphasis.
In the light partly of the facts already noted, however, it is held by many that the covenant idea between God and man is comparatively late. This view is that there were no covenants with Abraham and at Sinai, but that in Israel’s early conceptions of the relation to Yahweh He was their tribal God, bound by natural ties, not ethical as the covenant implies. This is a larger question than at first appears. Really the whole problem of the relation of Israel to Yahweh throughout Old Testament history is involved, in particular the question at what time a comprehensive conception of the ethical character of God was developed. The subject will therefore naturally receive a fuller treatment in other articles. It is perhaps sufficient here to express the conviction that there was a very considerable conception of the ethical character of Yahweh in the early history of Israel, and that consequently there is no sufficient reason for doubting the fact of the covenants with Abraham and at Sinai. The statement of W. Robertson Smith expresses the essence of the matter (op. cit., 319): “That Yahweh’s relation is not natural but ethical is the doctrine of the prophets, and is emphasized, in dependence on their teaching, in the Book of Deuteronomy. But the passages cited show that the idea had its foundation in pre prophetic times; and indeed the prophets, though they give it fresh and powerful application, plainly do not regard the conception as an innovation.”
A little further consideration should be given to the new covenant of the prophets. The general teaching is that the covenant was broken by the sins of the people which led to the exile. Hence, during the exile the people had been cast off, the covenant was no longer in force. This is stated, using other terminology, in Hosea 3:3, 4ff; Hosea 1:9; 2:2. The prophets speak, however, in anticipation, of the making of a covenant again after the return from the exile. For the most part, in the passages already cited, this covenant is spoken of as if it were the old one renewed. Special emphasis is put, however, upon its being an everlasting covenant, as the old one did not prove to be, implying that it will not be broken as was that one. Jeremiah’s teaching, however, has a little different emphasis. He speaks of the old covenant as passed away (Jer 31:32). Accordingly he speaks of a new covenant (Jer 31:31, 33). This new covenant in its provisions, however, is much like the old. But there is a new emphasis upon individuality in approach to God. In the old covenant, as already noted, it was the nation as a whole that entered into the relation; here it is the individual, and the law is to be written upon the individual heart.
In the later usage the specific covenant idea is sometimes less prominent, so that the term is used practically of the religion as a whole; see Is 56:4, Ps 103:18-note
LITERATURE. Valeton, ZATW, XII, XIII (1892-93); Candlish, The Expositor Times, 1892, Oct., Nov.; Kraetzschmar, Die Bundesvorstellung im Altes Testament, Marburg, 1896; articles “Covenant” in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (five volumes) and Encyclopedia Biblica. George Ricker Berry (Orr, J., M.A., D.D. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia : 1915 edition)
HOW TO USE THIS TABLE: This table on COVENANT is meant to be an overview for quick review of select aspects of various Biblical Covenants. By holding your mouse pointer over the blue links you can delve into a deeper level of understanding of the life changing, faith strengthening truths found in the word "COVENANT" illuminated by the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27-note). Clicking the respective links allows you to read the Scripture in context or to read a more detailed discussion of the word being studied, which facilitates potentially an even deeper level of understanding of God's COVENANT. Ultimately however, you must remember that intellectual knowledge is not enough, for as David, the man after God's own heart, writes "The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, And He will make them know His covenant." (Ps 25:14) So fear the Lord (e.g., by turning away from evil - cp Job 1:1 explains why Job turned away from evil!) and He will disclose the profound truths of covenant to your heart.
SUMMARY OF THE BIBLICAL
Hebrew: Beriyth/ Berit (word study)
Greek: Diatheke (word study)
|WHO IS THE INITIATOR
(Initiate: cause beginning of, take first step)
|WHO ARE PARTIES INVOLVED||WHAT
REASON FOR COVENANT
|IS THERE A SACRIFICE||ARE OFFSPRING AFFECTED?||IS THERE A PROMISE OR OATH?||IS THERE A SIGN OR WITNESS?||WHAT IS THE LENGTH OF THE COVENANT?||IS THERE A MEAL,
A NAME CHANGE?
GOD > MAN
(First mention of "covenant")
(Read Ge 6-8) for context)
(see note in next column)
Unconditional covenant = declares God's purpose will be fulfilled regardless of man's response. This does not mean man makes no response but man's response doesn't leave fulfillment of covenant in doubt. Noah obeyed - he built ark in faith (Lesson - True faith obeys!)
Even an unconditional
Covenant entails responsibility!
Noah means rest, relief, quiet
Ge 5:29 "rest from our work"
"There it is: God obligating Himself to preserve man in the midst of judgment. Without anything on Noah's part-without any commitment, pledge, or guarantee-God obligated Himself -- Do you catch the faint but sweet scent of grace wafting in the wind?" (Arthur)
Read Ge 6:1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Wickedness of man was great
Ge 6:11, 12, 13
--Corrupt = 3x
--Filled with violence = 2x
God sorry He made man...
He was grieved
"It broke His heart" (NLT)
clean animal...’ (blood)
(Costly-sacrificial = 1/7 of his clean animals - Ge 7:2)
This was an act of worship & gratitude
in response to God’s covenant faithfulness in sparing Noah and his family.
every living creature
To keep alive
This is the reason for this covenant - if all died God could not keep Ge 3:15
I will never again destroy every living thing x3
Ge 8:21, 9:11, 15
Will not curse ground again
Seasons, day/night shall not cease
No Global Flood
‘My bow in the cloud’
The Rainbow "is the sign of the covenant"
Hebrew for "bow" also describes the weapon of war ("bow and arrow")!
"I will look upon it to remember the everlasting covenant"
(cf "all successive generations" Ge 9:12)
Application: God will not forget any of His covenants.
When man looked at the bow he remembers the covenant - be mindful that God is also looking at the bow and as He looks He too remembers!
Could that be why we see a rainbow in Rev 4:3-note?
|"Noah built an altar to Jehovah"
(Hebrew word for altar means "place of sacrifice" - NB: Use of this word implies blood)
(1) Expresses gratitude for salvation
(2) Sacrificial - offered 1/7th of clean animals (cp Ge 7:2)
(3) Emphasis on blood as way to approach God (cp Ge 3:21, 4:4)
(4) Consecration to God (surrender)
(cp NT parallel in Ro 12:1-note)
(see below for the repeating of this covenant to Isaac & Jacob)
GOD > MAN
Ge 17:7, 15:18
God Alone (symbolized by "a smoking oven & a flaming torch" Ge 15:17) passed through the pieces of flesh
Abram was in a deep sleep (LXX = ekstasis = trance)
|In you (Abram) all the families of the earth shall be blessed = prophecy of the Messiah
Ge 12:1, 2, 3
Abram cut animals in two, each half laid opposite other (blood)
Je 34:18, 19, 20
I will give the land to your descendants forever.
Jehovah cut covenant "to your seed I have given this land"
(note past tense - God promised it - it is as good as done!)
|The Lord God's promises to Abraham:
"The Seed" (Masc. Sing. ~ Messiah)
(cf Ga 3:16, Ac 3:25)
Descendants as numerous as stars
Ge 13:15, 15:7, 18
Be their God
(or see here)
"And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.
El Shaddai promises "I will establish My covenant between Me & you & your descendants (seed) after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant."
Isaac, Abraham's seed, is prophesied & granted the covenant promises.
Ge 17:19, 20, 21
1) Abram ("exalted father") to Abraham
("father of a multitude")
2) Sarai (meaning ? some say "contentious", others "princess") to Sarah ("princess") Ge 17:5,15
This man was a Philistine ruler over a pagan people, and yet he was the initiator of the covenant Implication? Pagans understood the solemn and binding nature of covenant
God was with Abe
|Not Stated but see
''the two of them made (Karath - cut) a covenant''. The fact that Abraham had given him sheep and oxen in the same verse strongly suggests they walked between the flesh of these slain animals as they "cut covenant" (blood)
"Swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me, or with my offspring, or with my posterity..."
|Abraham would not deal falsely with Abimelech (read Genesis 20 for why he may have prescribed this condition) but in kindness (a covenant word)
The two of them took an oath
|Abraham gave Abimelech seven ewe
Ge 21:28, 29, 30
Abraham planted a
Abraham "called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God" (El Olam)
Everlasting is implied in Ge 21:23
("well of seven fold oath"
"well of the oath")
(Often termed "parity" treaties"
This is probably the same one who cut covenant with Abraham (Ahuzzath &
Abimelech saw that the Lord was with Isaac
‘Do us no harm’
In essence a "peace treaty"
|The phrase "let us make (cut) a covenant" (suggests blood)
|Not Stated: Note that if this Abimelech is the same king the covenant he cut with Isaac's father Abraham should have been sufficient to ensure peace, pointing that men's covenants are not as trustworthy as God's covenants to men!||(Abimelech) said, 'Let there now be an oath between us, even between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, Ge 26:28
They exchanged oaths
(See ill. in pagan culture)
|--||--||Isaac ‘made them a feast’
GOD > ISAAC
Reaffirms the Abrahamic Covenant
to Abraham's Seed
|Preservation of the seed:
I am with you,
I will bless you & multiply your seed
Hebrew root for Altar is ‘sacrifice’ so it means "place of sacrifice" (suggests blood)
|YES||Jehovah promises Isaac "I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham
|--||"multiply your descendants" in Ge 26:24 implies
|Isaac built an altar at Beersheba
GOD > JACOB
Ge 28:13, 14, 15
Reaffirms the Abrahamic Covenant
|Reaffirms God's Covenant with Abraham
To do what God had He had promised
Ge 28:13, 14, 15
Jacob set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on its top
Luz now called Bethel
(House of God)
Ge 31:44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54,55
"So now come let us make a covenant you & I & let it be a witness between you & me"
I will not pass by this heap to you for harm... you will not pass by this heap & this pillar to me for harm.
"Then Jacob offered a sacrifice (blood) on the mountain & called his kinsmen to the meal & they ate the meal & spent the night on the mountain"
"If you mistreat my daughters or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us see God is witness between you & me."
|Not to mistreat daughters or take other wives
1) Covenant = a witness
2) God is witness between you & me Ge 31:50
1) Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha
(heap of witness)
3) Mizpah = Watch tower Ge 31:47, 48, 49
Sharing of a common meal
GOD > MAN
Ex 24:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Conditional = fulfillment depends on recipients meeting conditions imposed (Note however that even the "unconditional" covenants so not abrogate man's responsibility, e.g. Noah built an Ark; Abram cut animals in half, etc)
1/2 of blood on altar;
1/2 blood in basins & then sprinkled on the people (after they swore they would be obedient to the words of the book of the covenant)
Ex 24:6, 7, 8
Moses referred to it as "the blood of the covenant" (cf Jesus' words below)
|--||Israel Made a Promise:
‘’All that the Lord has spoken we will do.’’
|Twelve pillars at the foot of Mt Sinai
One of the purposes of "pillars" is to help remember the covenant conditions
at foot of Mt Sinai
They shared a common meal
GOD > MAN
Mt 26:26, 27, 28
Lk 22:20 ("New covenant")
|Isa 42:6 prophesies that the Messiah (Hebrew term corresponding to the Greek Christos - anointed one) is the Covenant
Malachi prophesies that the Messenger of the covenant will come to His Temple (first advent, Mal 3:1) and will come like "a refiner's fire" (second advent, Mal 3:2)
Jesus instituted with His disciples at time of the Passover Meal the night before He was crucified (Mt 26:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28)
|For the forgiveness of sins
‘My blood of the covenant"
"the blood of the eternal covenant"
|YES||THE NEW COVENANT
(prophesied - promised)
Jer 31:31, 32, 33, 34
THE NEW COVENANT
|"This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance (as a memorial) of Me."
Reminds us of the costliness of Covenant and motivates us out of love and gratitude to abstain from sin
The Mark on our Lord's Palms & Side
Jn 20:24, 25,26, 27
He 13:20, 21-note
|NEW COVENANT MEAL
Mt 26:26, 27,28
1Co 11:23, 24, 25, 26
They shared a common meal
A Few Explanatory Notes:
1) In the ancient world covenant was the closest, holiest, most solemn and most indissoluble compact conceivable. This truth is discussed in much greater detail in the other studies listed under Related Topics.
2) Even God's unconditional covenants with men did not absolve the human partner from some responsibility (Noah built an ark, Abram procured and prepared animals and birds for the covenant ritual of passing through the pieces of flesh). The only other annotation of "passing through flesh" is found in Jer 34:18, 19, 20
3) The motive for God's covenant for man is His grace and love (lovingkindness), whereas the primary motive for men's covenants in the examples above (and elsewhere in the Old Testament) is usually fear or distrust (the covenant Jonathan initiated with David is a clear exception - see Covenant: The Exchange of Robes).
4) Note that the covenants God made with man were ultimately made to fulfill His gracious purpose to redeem man from the penalty, power and presence of sin. In Ge 3:15 we see the prophecy of the seed of the woman Who would bruise Satan's head. The "seed of the woman" is accepted by most conservative commentators as a prophecy of the Messiah Who would take away the sins of the world. For example, God had to preserve a godly seed through Noah or otherwise He would not have been able to fulfill His promise of the Messiah in Ge 3:15.
5) Note that the Philistine Abimelech's initiation of and desire to "cut a covenant" with Abraham and later with his son Isaac clearly shows that the basic understanding of covenant was well known in the ancient world among the pagan nations.
6) The Hebrew idiom "cut a covenant", although not always clearly stated in the text suggest that the making a bloody sacrifice as part of the covenant ritual, is a combination of the Hebrew verb Karath (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance defines "karath" as to covenant, i.e. make an alliance or bargain, orig. by cutting flesh and passing between the pieces) and the noun berith (beriyth, berit - see below for all OT uses). Although God initiated a covenant with Noah in Genesis 6 ("establish a covenant"), the idiom "to cut a covenant" is first used in Ge 15:18. (Cp made a covenant - 34x in 34 verses - Ge 15:18; 21:27, 32; Ex 34:27; Dt 5:2; Josh 9:15, 16; 24:25; 1Sa 18:3; 20:16; 23:18; 2Sa 5:3; 21:2; 1Ki 5:12; 8:9; 20:34; 2Ki 11:4, 17; 17:35; 23:3; 1Chr 11:3; 2Chr 5:10; 23:3, 16; 34:31; Neh 9:8; Job 31:1; Ps 50:5; 89:3; Is 28:15; Je 34:8, 13, 15; Ezek 17:13. See related phrase "make a covenant" = 17x in 17 verses - Ge 26:28; 31:44; Ex 34:10, 15; Josh 9:6, 7, 11; 1Sa 11:1; 2Sa 3:13, 21; 2Chr 29:10; Ezra 10:3; Job 41:4; Ps 83:5; Ezek 34:25; 37:26; Ho 2:18).
Concerning Karath berith Vine writes that...
From the arrangement of the dividing of the parts of the victims came the expression which literally denoted “to cut a covenant” (similar idioms are found in Greek and Latin). (Vine, W: Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words Vol. 1, Page 11-53. Old Tappan NJ: Revell)
7) As noted on the chart the covenant ritual included a variety of associated actions including...
- SACRIFICE - Sacrifice • Sacrifice, Human • Sacrifice, In The New Testament, 1 • Sacrifice, In The New Testament, 2 • Sacrifice, In The Old Testament, 1 • Sacrifice, In The Old Testament, 2 • Sacrifice, In The Old Testament, 3
Frequent notation is made to the Septuagint (LXX) translation which is the Greek rendering of the corresponding Hebrew text.
Recommended Article from Bakers Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Covenant
Clary Trumbull in his book The Blood Covenant has a section subtitled "The Bond of Covenant" in which he describes the custom of covenant in pagan lands. Clearly "remnants" of covenant are found in many pagan cultures. Such remnants of covenant should not be surprising, as similar remnants of truth regarding the Genesis Flood can be found in most pagan cultures.
Trumbull writes that...
Another recent traveler in the Malay Archipelago, who, also, is a trained and careful observer, tells of this rite, as he found it in Timor, and other islands of that region, among a people who represent the Malays, the Papuan, and the Polynesian races. His description is : "The ceremony of blood-brotherhood...or the swearing of eternal friendship, is of an interesting nature, and is celebrated often by fearful orgies [excesses of the communion idea], especially when friendship is being made between families, or tribes, or kingdoms. The ceremony is the same in substance whether between two individuals, or [between] large companies. The contracting parties slash their arms, and collect the blood into a bamboo, into which kanipa (coarse gin) or laru (palm wine) is poured. Having provided themselves with a small fig-tree (halik) they adjourn to some retired spot, taking with them the sword and spear from the Lull chamber [the sacred room] of their own houses if between private individuals, or from the Urna-Luli of their suku [the sacred building of their village] if between large companies. Planting there the fig-tree, flanked by the sacred sword and spear, they hang on it a bamboo-receptacle, into which—after pledging each other in a portion of the mixed blood and gin—the remainder [of that mixture] is poured. Then each swears,
"If I be false, and be not a true friend, may my blood issue from my mouth, ears, nose, as it does from this bamboo!"'
The bottom of the receptacle being pricked at the same moment, to allow the blood and gin to escape. The [blood-stained] tree (Ed Note: does this picture not bring to mind another "blood stained Tree" at which the Almighty God personally opened the way for an eternal covenant of friendship through the shedding of His own precious blood?!) remains and grows as a witness of their contract." (The Blood Covenant) (Bolding added)
As you study covenant, you will begin to understand that "friendship" as in this story was frequently a covenant term in the Biblical world (See discussion of friend). Note the parallels with the Biblical covenants discussed above - a blood stained tree serving as a witness, an oath sworn between the covenant partners, the use of blood to ratify the covenant and the association of the sword and spear with the covenant ritual. For the probable significance of this last component, study the section entitled Covenant: The Exchange of Armor and Belts.
- Unger's Summary of the Covenants of Scripture
- Covenant, in the Old Testament - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Covenant, in the New Testament - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Covenant - American Tract Society Bible Dictionary
- Covenants - Torrey's Topical Textbook
- Covenant - Bridgeway Bible Dictionary
- Covenant - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- New Covenant - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
- Covenant, the New - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
- Covenant - Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
- Covenant - Holman Bible Dictionary
- Covenant - Fausset's Bible Dictionary
- Covenant - Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
- Covenant - Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
- Covenant - Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words
- Covenants - Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Sacred, Josh 9:18, 19, 20, 21; Gal 3:15
Binding, Josh 9:18, 19, 20; Jer 34:8-21; Ezek 17:14, 15, 16, 17, 18; Gal 3:15
Binding, not only on those who make them, but on those who are represented, Dt 29:14, 15.
Blood of, Ex 24:8
Book of, Ex 24:7
The Mosaic law called a covenant, Ex 34:28
Of Men with Men
Breach of, punished, 2Sa 21:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; Je 34:8-22; Eze 17:13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.
Ratified: By giving the hand, Ezra 10:19; Lam 5:6; Ezek 17:18; loosing the sandal, Ru 4:7, 8, 9, 10, 11; written and sealed, Neh 9:38; Je 32:10, 11,12; by giving presents, Ge 21:27, 28, 29, 30; 1Sa 18:3, 4; by making a feast, Ge 26:30; by a monument, Ge 31:45, 46, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53; by salting, Lv 2:13; Nu 18:19; 2Chr 13:5 (See Trumbull's Covenant of Salt); by offering a sacrifice, Ge. 15:9-17; Je 34:18, 19
Abraham and Abimelech, Ge 21:22-32.
Abimelech and Isaac, Ge 26:26-31.
Jacob and Laban, Ge 31:44-54.
Jonathan and David, 1Sa 18:3, 4; 20:16, 42; 2Sa 21:7.
Jews with each other, to serve God, 2Chr 15:12, 13, 14, 15; Neh 10:28, 29, 30, 31, 32.
King Zedekiah and his subjects, Je 34:8
Ahab with Ben Hadad, 1Ki 20:34.
Subjects with sovereign, 2Chr 23:1, 2, 3, 16
Of God with Men
Confirmed with an oath - Ge 22:16; 26:3; 50:24; Ps 89:35; 105:9; Lk 1:73; He 6:13, 17, 18.
Binding - Lv 26; Jer 11:2, 3; Gal 3:15.
Everlasting - Ge 8:20, 21, 22; 9:1-17; Ps 105:8, 10; Is 54:10; 61:8.
God faithful to - Lv 26:44, 45; Dt 4:31; 7:8, 9; Jdg 2:1; 1Ki 8:23; Ps 105:8, 9, 10, 11; 106:45; 111:5; Mic 7:20
Repudiated by God on account of Jews' idolatry - Je 44:26, 27; He 8:9
Broken by the Jews - Je 22:9; Ezek 16:59; He 8:9.
Punishments for breaking of - Lv 26:25-46.
Of the sabbath, Ex 31:16
Of the Ten Commandments, Ex. 34:28; Deut. 5:2, 3; 9:9
With Adam, Ge 2:16, 17; Noah, Ge 8:16; 9:8-17; Abraham, Ge 12:1, 2, 3; 15; 17:1-22; Ex 6:4, 5, 6, 7, 8; Ps 105:8, 9, 10, 11; Ro 9:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
With Isaac, Ge 17:19; Jacob, Ge 28:13, 14, 15
With the Israelites to deliver them from Egypt, Ex 6:4, 5, 6, 7, 8
With Phinehas, Nu 25:12, 13
With Israel, at Horeb, Dt 5:2, 3; in Moab, Dt 29:1-15
Of the Levites, Neh 13:29; Mal 2:4, 5
With David, 2Sa 7:12, 13, 14, 15, 16; 1Chr 17:11, 12, 13, 14; 2Chr 6:16
With David and his house, 2Sa 23:5; Ps. 89:20-37; Je. 33:21
With his people, Is 55:3; 59:21
To be confirmed, Da 9:27
The Second Covenant
Je 31:31, 32, 33, 34; He 8:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13; He 12:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24; He 13:20
Of Mankind with God
Jacob, Ge 28:20, 21, 22
Joshua, Josh 24:25,19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28. Absalom, 2Sa 15:7, 8
Jehoiada and Joash, 2Ki 11:17
Josiah, 2Ki 23:3
Asa, 2Chr 15:12, 13, 14, 15
Nehemiah, Neh 9:38; 10
Israelites, Jer 50:5
Agreements between two parties
Ge 26:28; Da 11:6
Establishing friendship -1Sa 18:3
Procuring assistance in war -1Ki 15:18,19
Mutual protection -Ge 26:28,29; 31:50, 51, 52
Establishing peace -Josh 9:15,16
Promoting commerce -1Ki 5:6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Selling land -Ge 23:14, 15, 16
Clearly specified -1Sa 11:1,2
Conformed by oath -Ge 21:23,31; 26:31
Witnessed -Ge 23:17,18; Ru 4:9-11
Written and sealed -Neh 9:38; 10:1
God often called to witness -Ge 31:50,53
When confirmed, unalterable -Gal 3:15
Made by passing between the pieces of the divided sacrifices -Ge 15:9-17; Je 34:18,19
Salt a sign of perpetuity in -Nu 18:19; 2Chr 13:5 -
Ratified by joining hands -Pr 11:21; Ezek 17:18
Followed by a feast -Ge 26:30; 31:54
Presents given as tokens -Ge 21:27-30; 1Sa 18:3,4
Pillars raised in token of -Ge 31:45,46
Names given to places where made -Ge 21:31; 31:47, 48, 49
Forbidden to make, with the nations of Canaan -Exodus 23:32; Deuteronomy 7:2
Frequently made with other nations -1Ki 5:12; 2Ki 17:4
Condemned for making, with idolatrous nations -Isaiah 30:2-5; Hosea 12:1
Regarded, as sacred -Joshua 9:16, 17, 18, 19; Ps 15:4
Violated by the wicked -Ro 1:31; 2Ti 3:3
Of the contract of marriage -Mal 2:14
Of God’s promises to man -Ge 9:9, 10, 11; Ep 2:12
Of the united determination of a people to serve God -2Ki 11:17; 2Chr 15:12; Neh 10:29
Of good resolutions -Job 31:1
(With death and hell,) of carnal security -Is 28:15,18
(With stones and beasts, of the earth,) of peace and Prosperity - Job 5:23; Ho 2:18
Christ, the substance of - Is 42:6; 49:8
Christ, the Mediator of - He 8:6; 9:15; 12:24
Christ, the Messenger of - Mal 3:1
Abraham - Ge 15:7-18; 17:2-14; Lk 1:72, 73, 74, 75; Ac 3:25; Gal 3:16
Isaac - Ge 17:19,21; 26:3,4
Jacob - Ge 28:13,14; 1Chr 16:16,17
Israel - Ex 6:4; Acts 3:25
David - 2Sa 23:5; Ps 89:3,4
Renewed under the gospel -Je 31:31, 32, 33; Ro 11:27; He 8:8, 9, 10,13
Fulfilled in Christ -Lk 1:68-79
Confirmed in Christ -Galatians 3:17
Ratified by the blood of Christ -He 9:11, 12, 13, 14,16-23
Is a covenant of peace -Is 54:9,10; Ezek 34:25; 37:26
Is unalterable -Ps 89:34; Is 54:10; 59:21; Gal 3:17
Is everlasting -Ps 111:9; Is 55:3; 61:8; Ezek 16:60-63; He 13:20
All saints interested in -Ps 25:14; 89:29-37; He 8:10
The wicked have no interest in -Ep 2:12
Blessings connected with -Is 56:4-7; He 8:10, 11, 12
God is faithful to -Dt 7:9; 1Ki 8:23; Neh 1:5; Da 9:4
God is ever mindful of -Ps 105:8; 111:5; Lk 1:72
Be mindful of -1Chr 16:15
Caution against forgetting -Dt 4:23
Plead, in prayer -Ps 74:20; Je 14:21
Punishment for despising -He 10:29,30
Ge 6:18; 9:9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 14:13; 15:18; 17:2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 19, 21; 21:27, 32; 26:28; 31:44;
Ex 2:24; 6:4, 5; 19:5; 23:32; 24:7, 8; 31:16; 34:10, 12, 15, 27, 28;
Lev 2:13; 24:8; 26:9, 15, 25, 42, 44, 45;
Nu 10:33; 14:44; 18:19; 25:12, 13;
Deut 4:13, 23, 31; 5:2, 3; 7:2, 9, 12; 8:18; 9:9, 11, 15; 10:8; 17:2; 28:69; 29:8, 11, 13, 20, 24; 31:9, 16, 20, 25, 26; 33:9;
Josh 3:3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17; 4:7, 9, 18; 6:6, 8; 7:11, 15; 8:33; 9:6, 7, 11, 15, 16; 23:16; 24:25;
Jdg 2:1, 2, 20; 20:27;
1Sa 4:3, 4, 5, 11:1; 18:3; 20:8; 23:18;
2Sa 3:12, 13, 21; 5:3; 15:24; 23:5;
1Ki 3:15; 5:26; 6:19; 8:1, 6, 21, 23; 11:11; 15:19; 19:10, 14; 20:34;
2Ki 11:4, 17; 13:23; 17:15, 35, 38; 18:12; 23:2, 3, 21;
1Chr 11:3; 15:25, 26, 28, 29; 16:6, 15, 17, 37; 17:1; 22:19; 28:2, 18;
2Chr 5:2, 7; 6:11, 14; 13:5; 15:12; 16:3; 21:7; 23:1, 3, 16; 29:10; 34:30, 31, 32;
Neh 1:5; 9:8, 32; 13:29;
Job 5:23; 31:1; 40:28;
Ps 25:10, 14; 44:18; 50:5, 16; 55:21; 74:20; 78:10, 37; 83:6; 89:4, 29, 35, 40; 103:18; 105:8, 10; 106:45; 111:5, 9; 132:12;
Isa 24:5; 28:15, 18; 33:8; 42:6; 49:8; 54:10; 55:3; 56:4, 6; 59:21; 61:8;
Jer 2:22; 3:16; 11:2, 3, 6, 8, 10; 14:21; 22:9; 31:31, 32, 33; 32:40; 33:20, 21, 25; 34:8, 10, 13, 15, 18; 50:5;
Ezek 16:8, 59, 60, 61; 17:13, 14, 15, 18, 19; 20:37; 30:5; 34:25; 37:26; 44:7;
Da 9:4, 27; 11:22, 28, 30, 32;
Hos 2:20; 6:7; 8:1; 10:4; 12:2;
Zech 9:11; 11:10;
Mal 2:4, 5, 8, 10, 14; 3:1, 2
- Titus 1:1-4; Ro 9:1-15 Covenants - Everlasting & Historical
- Genesis 2:8-17 The Edenic Covenant
- Genesis 6:18, 9:8-17 The Noahic Covenant
- Isaiah 42 The Servant of Jehovah - Covenant of the People & Light of the Gentiles
- The Covenants of Scripture Bible.org
Abrahamic Covenant (Related: Twelve Tests of Abraham)
- Genesis 12:1-3, 15:7-21 The Abrahamic Covenant - Pt 1
- Romans 11:1-10 The Abrahamic Covenant - Pt 2
- Romans 11:11-27 The Abrahamic Covenant - Pt 3
- Genesis 9:1-17 The Universal Covenant
- Genesis 12:1-3 Abrahamic: Fundamental Covenant
- Genesis 15:7-21 Ratification of Abrahamic Covenant
- Genesis 17:9-27 Sign of the Abrahamic Covenant
- Genesis 17:1-8 The Sealing of the Covenant
- Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Covenant and Prophecy - Pt 1
- Matthew 26:26-29 New Covenant and Prophecy - Pt 2
- Hebrews 8:1-13 New Covenant and Prophecy - Pt 3
- Romans 11 New Covenant and Prophecy - Pt 4
- Hebrews and the New Covenant
- Mediation of the New Covenant
- Revelation 19:11-16 The Covenants Consummated
- Introduction to the Biblical Covenants - Noachic and Priestly - Irvin A. Busenitz
- The New Covenant - Larry Pettegrew
- The Mosaic Covenant - William D. Barrick
- The Davidic Covenant - Michael A. Grisanti
- The Abrahamic Covenant - Keith H Essex
- Introduction to New Covenant Theology - Dennis M. Swanson
- The New Covenant and New Covenant Theology - Larry Pettegrew
- New Covenant Theology Compared with Covenantalism - Michael J. Vlach
- New Covenant Theology and the OT Covenants - William Barrick
- Bibliography of Works on the Biblical Covenants - Dennis M. Swanson
- Bibliography of Works on New Covenant Theology - Dennis M. Swanson
- New Covenant Theology and Futuristic Premillennialism - by Richard Mayhue