Covenant (biblical)

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This article is about biblical covenants. For other uses, see Covenant (disambiguation).

A biblical covenant is a religious covenant that is described in the Bible. All Abrahamic religions consider biblical covenants important. Of the covenants found in the Pentateuch or Torah, the Noahic Covenant is unique in applying to all humanity, while the other covenants are principally agreements made between God and the biblical Israelites. In the Book of Jeremiah, verses 31:30-33 predict "a new covenant" that God will establish with Israel and Judah. Most Christians believe this New Covenant is the "replacement" or "final fulfilment" of the Old Covenant described in the Old Testament and as applying to the People of God, while a minority believe both covenants are still applicable in a dual covenant theology.

Noahic covenant[edit]

Noah's Thanksoffering (c.1803) by Joseph Anton Koch. Noah builds an altar to the Lord after being delivered from the Flood; God sends the rainbow as a sign of his covenant.

In Judaism, the Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נחSheva mitzvot B'nei Noach), or the Noahide Laws, are a set of moral imperatives that, according to the Talmud, were given by God[1] as a binding set of laws for the "children of Noah" – that is, all of humanity.[2][3] The Noahic covenant[Gen 9:8-17] applies to all of humanity and to all other living creatures.[4] In this covenant, God promises never again to destroy all life on Earth by flood[9:11] and creates the rainbow as the sign of this "everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth".[9:12-17]

Abrahamic covenant[edit]

The Abrahamic covenant found in Genesis 12-17 is known as the Brit bein HaBetarim, the "Covenant Between the Parts" in Hebrew, and is the basis for brit milah (covenant of circumcision) in Judaism. The covenant was for Abraham and his seed, or offspring,[5] both of natural birth and adoption.[6]

In Genesis chapters 12–17 three covenants can be distinguished based on the differing Jahwist, Elohist and Priestly sources.[7] In Genesis 12 and 15, God grants Abraham land and descendants but does not place any stipulations (unconditional). By contrast, Gen. 17 contains the covenant of circumcision (conditional).

1. To make of Abraham a great nation and bless Abraham and make his name great so that he will be a blessing, to bless those who bless him and curse him who curses him and all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham.[Gen 12:1-3]
2. To give Abraham's descendants all the land from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates.[Gen 15:18-21] Later, this land came to be referred to as the Promised Land (see map) or the Land of Israel.
3. To make Abraham the father of many nations and of many descendants and give "the whole land of Canaan" to his descendants.[Gen 17:2-9] Circumcision is to be the permanent sign of this everlasting covenant with Abraham and his male descendants and is known as the brit milah.[Gen 17:9-14]

Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing an animal, with the implication that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate. In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as "to cut". It is presumed by Jewish scholars that the removal of the foreskin symbolically represents such a sealing of the covenant.[8]

Mosaic covenant[edit]

The Ten Commandments on a monument on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol
Main article: Mosaic covenant

The Mosaic covenant, beginning in Exodus 19-24, contains the foundations of the written Torah and the Oral Torah. In this covenant, God promises to make the Israelites his treasured possession among all people[Exo 19:5] and "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation"[Exo 19:6], if they follow God's commandments. As part of the terms of this covenant, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. These will later be elaborated on in the rest of the Torah.

The form of the covenant resembles the suzerainty treaty in the ancient Near East.[9] Like the treaties, the Ten Commandments begins with Yahweh's identification and what he had done for Israel ("who brought you out of the land of Egypt"; Ex 20:2) as well as the stipulations commanding absolute loyalty ("You shall not have other gods apart from me"). Unlike the suzerainty treaty, the Decalogue does not have any witness nor explicit blessings and curses.[10] The fullest account of the Mosaic covenant is given in the book of Deuteronomy.

God gave the children of Israel the Shabbat as the permanent sign of this covenant.[Exo 31:12-17]

Priestly covenant[edit]

Main article: Priestly covenant

The priestly covenant[11] (Hebrew: ברית הכהונהbrith ha-kehuna) is the covenant that God made with Aaron and his descendants, the Aaronic priesthood, as found in the Hebrew Bible and Oral Torah. The Hebrew Bible also mentions another perpetual priestly promise with Phinehas and his descendants.[12][13]

Davidic covenant[edit]

The Davidic covenant[2Sam 7] establishes David and his descendants as the kings of the united monarchy of Israel[Jer 33:17-21] (which included Judah). The Davidic covenant is an important element in Jewish messianism and Christian theology. In Jewish eschatology, the messiah is believed to be a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who will be anointed with holy anointing oil, gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel, usher in an era of peace, build the Third Temple, have a male heir, re-institute the Sanhedrin and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.

Christian theologian John F. Walvoord maintains that the Davidic covenant deserves an important place in determining the purposes of God and that its exegesis confirms the doctrine of a future reign of Christ on earth.[14] While Jewish theologians have always held that Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of a Jewish messiah, the position of conservative Christian theologians is almost unanimous that Jesus fulfills the Davidic covenant, the provisions of which Walvoord lists as:

  1. David is to have a child, yet to be born, who shall succeed him and establish his kingdom.
  2. A son (Solomon) shall build the temple instead of David.
  3. The throne of his kingdom shall be established forever.
  4. The throne will not be taken away from him (Solomon) even though his sins justify chastisement.
  5. David’s house, throne, and kingdom shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).[14]

New Covenant[edit]

Main article: New Covenant

The New Covenant is a biblical interpretation originally derived from a phrase in the Book of Jeremiah, in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is often thought of as an eschatological Messianic Age or world to come and is related to the biblical concept of the Kingdom of God.

Generally, Christians believe that the New Covenant was instituted at the Last Supper as part of the Eucharist, which in the Gospel of John includes the New Commandment. A connection between the Blood of Christ and the New Covenant is seen in most modern English translations of the New Testament[15] with the saying: "this cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood".[16]

Christians see Jesus as the mediator of this New Covenant, and that his blood, shed at his crucifixion is the required blood of the covenant: as with all covenants between God and man described in the Bible, the New Covenant is considered "a bond in blood sovereignly administered by God."[17] It has been theorized that the New Covenant is the Law of Christ as spoken during his Sermon on the Mount.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ According to Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, Entry Ben Noah, page 349), most medieval authorities consider that all seven commandments were given to Adam, although Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) considers the dietary law to have been given to Noah.
  2. ^ Encyclopedia Talmudit (Hebrew edition, Israel, 5741/1981, entry Ben Noah, introduction) states that after the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people were no longer in the category of the sons of Noah; however, Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot M'lakhim 9:1) indicates that the seven laws are also part of the Torah, and the Talmud (Bavli, Sanhedrin 59a, see also Tosafot ad. loc.) states that Jews are obligated in all things that Gentiles are obligated in, albeit with some differences in the details.
  3. ^ Compare Genesis 9:4-6.
  4. ^ Jenkins, Everett (2003). The creation: secular, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim perspectives analyzed. Jefferson, NC: Google Books. p. 283. ISBN 0-7864-1042-6. 
  5. ^ "Blue Letter Bible: Dictionary and Word Search for zera` (Strong's 2233)". 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  6. ^ Genesis 17:11-13 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
  7. ^ Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 62–68
  8. ^ "Circumcision." Mark Popovsky. Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Ed. David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden and Stanton Marlan. New York: Springer, 2010. pp.153-154.
  9. ^ Kline, Meredith. "Deuteronomy". The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary
  10. ^ Michael D. Coogan, "A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament" page 103, Oxford University Press, 2009
  11. ^ Qumran and Jerusalem: studies in the Dead Sea scrolls p248 Lawrence H. Schiffman - 2010 This priestly covenant is also echoed in the poem in 1QM 17:2-3 that re- fers to the eternal priestly covenant. ... Num 18:19).57 That the priestly “covenant of salt,” a biblical expression denoting a permanent covenant,58 is to be ...
  12. ^ Jewish Encylopedia: Phinehas: "...for this act he was approved by God and was rewarded with the divine promise that the priesthood should remain in his family forever (Num. xxv. 7-15)."
  13. ^ Jewish Encylopedia: Covenant: "The term "berit" ... refers chiefly to God's covenant made with Israel, and with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Phineas, and David (Derek Ereẓ Zuṭa, i., end)."
  14. ^ a b Walvoord, John F. "Eschatological Problems VII: The Fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant." Web: 19 Mar 2010. Eschatological Problems VII: The Fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant
  15. ^ but not in the KJV for example
  16. ^ Luke 22:20
  17. ^ This definition of covenant is from O. Palmer Robertson's book The Christ of the Covenants. It has become an accepted definition among modern scholars. See this critical review of his book by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon.
  18. ^ George R. Law, “The Form of the New Covenant in Matthew,” American Theological Inquiry 5:2 (2012).

Further reading[edit]

  • Paul Fiddes (1985). 'Covenant - Old and New', in P. Fiddes, R. Hayden, R. Kidd, K. Clements, and B. Haymes, Bound to love: the covenant basis of Baptist life and mission, pp. 9-23. London: Baptist Union. 
  • Truman G. Madsen and Seth Ward (2001). Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. ISBN 0-8386-3927-5. 
  • Insight on the Scriptures, Covenant, Watchtower Online Library, pages 520-525

External links[edit]