Professor Rev. Fr. Arni Visitacion

Chinnapparaj D. Paul Theology Second Year SMIRS

COVENANTS IN THE PENTATEUCH 1. INTRODUCTION In General Covenant is an agreement between two people and involves promises on the part of each to the other. The concept of a covenant between God and His People is one of the central themes of the Bible. In the Biblical sense, a covenant implies much more that a contract or a simple agreement between two persons or parties. The word for “Covenant” in the Old Testament also provides additional insight into the meaning of this important idea. The English word "covenant" obviously means "to come together", and is derived from the Latin con "with", venio "to come", and is cognate with such words as "convention" and "convenient" where the basic idea of "coming together" either of persons, or the fitness and aptness of circumstances underlies the meaning and usage of such words. The Hebrew word "covenant" is berith, and this word refers to something that has been "cut". ( But when we hear the meaning as “cut” really we won’t understand it really. But in the Hebrew, the covenant or the berith was confirmed by sacrifice and a reference to Jeremiah 34:18,19 will show what lies behind the choice of this expression. We learn that Zedekiah the king had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them, but afterwards the king and the people turned and caused the servants who had been set free to become bond slaves again (Jer. 34:8-11). To these men who had thus violated their covenant, Jeremiah addressed these words: "And I will give the men that have transgressed My covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before Me, WHEN THEY CUT THE CALF IN TWAIN, and passed through the pieces thereof" (Jer. 34:18). By means of this strange ceremony, the contracting parties seem to say "The Lord do so to me and more also, if I keep not my promise". Covenant plays an important role in the life of Israel. Among many major and minor covenants in the Bible we will just see about Three important Covenant in the Old Testament.


2.1. Context: Centuries before the time of Abraham, God made a covenant with Noah, assuring Noah that He would never again destroy the world by flood (Genesis 9). Noah lived at a time when the whole earth was filled with violence and corruption – Noah did not allow the evil standards of his day to rob him of fellowship with God. stood out as the only one who “walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), as was also true of great-grandfather Enoch (Genesis 5:22). “Noah was a just man, perfect in generations” (Genesis 6:9). The Lord singled out Noah from among all contemporaries and chose him as the man to accomplish a great work. yet He his his his

When God saw the wickedness that prevailed in the world (Genesis 6:5), He told Noah of His intention to destroy the ancient world by a universal flood. God instructed Noah to build an ark in which he and his family would survive the universal deluge. Noah believed God “according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22). With steadfast confidence in God, Noah started building the ark. During this time, Noah continued to preach God’s judgment and mercy, warning the ungodly of their approaching doom. But people did not listen to him, instead, they continued in their evil ways and ignored his pleadings and warnings until the flood overtook them. When the ark was ready, Noah entered in with all kinds of animals “and the Lord shut him in” (Genesis 7:16, cut off completely from the rest of mankind. Noah was grateful to the Lord who had delivered him from the flood. After the flood, he built an altar to God (Genesis 8:20) and made a sacrifice, which was accepted graciously by God. 2.2. Content:
    

God so pleased with the sacrifice of Noah and makes covenant with him. Breed and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1 ,7) Every living thing that moves will be yours (Genesis 9:3) He who sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed (Genesis 9:6) Never again shall all living things be destroyed by the waters of a flood (Genesis 9:11)

2.3. Concerned Persons:


I am now establishing my covenant with you and with your descendants to come, and with every living creature and that was with you: birds, cattle and every wild animal with you; everything that came out of the ark, every living thing on earth. (Genesis 9: 9 – 10) 2.4. Connected Sign: And this is the sign of the covenant which I now make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I now set my bow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9:12) 3. GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAHAM 3.1. Context: Abraham’s story begins with his passage with the rest of his family from Ur of the Chaldeans in ancient south Babylonia (Genesis 11:31). He and his family moved north along the trade routes of the ancient world and settled in the prosperous trade center of Haran, several hundred miles to the northwest. While living in Haran, at the age of 75, Abraham received a call from God to go to a strange, unknown land that God would show him. The Lord promised Abraham that He would make him and his descendants a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). The promise must have seemed unbelievable to Abraham because his wife Sarah was childless (Genesis 11:30-31; 17:15). Abraham obeyed God with no hint of doubt or disbelief. Abraham took his wife and his nephew, Lot, and went toward the land that God would show him. Abraham moved south along the trade routes from Haran, through Schechem and Bethel, to the land of Canaan. Canaan was a populated area at the time, inhabited by the war-like Canaanites; so, Abraham’s belief that God would ultimately give this land to him and his descendants was an act of faith. “Abram put his faith in Yahweh and this was reckoned to him as uprightness.” (Genesis 15:6). The circumstances seemed quite difficult, but Abraham’s faith in God’s promises allowed him to trust in the Lord. In Genesis, the Lord reaffirmed His promise to Abraham. The relationship between God and Abraham should be understood as a covenant relationship – the most common form of arrangement between individuals in the ancient world. In this case, Abraham agreed to go to the land that God would show him (an act of faith on his part), and God agreed to make Abraham a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). For his faithfulness and righteousness, for the first time in the history, God explicitly and in a proper way like human being makes covenant with Abraham. “He (God) said to

him, ‘Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, split the animals down the middle and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not divide.” (Genesis 15:9-10) “When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking firepot and a flaming torch passing between the animals’ pieces.” (Genesis 15:17) The covenant was systematic and proper. “That day Yahweh made a covenant with Abraham in these terms: ‘To your descendants I give this country, …” (Genesis 15:18). 3.2. Content:
 I will give you descendants like stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5)  I will give your descendants the land from the River of Egypt to the Great River

(Genesis 15:18)  Your descendants will be taken into slavery but I will save them (Genesis 15:13)  You will join your ancestors in peace (Genesis 15:15) 3.3. Concerned Persons: This covenant is made between God and Abraham, through God speaks about the giving of the land to the descendants of Abraham but he makes this covenant with Abraham personally. 3.4. Connected Sign: As a sign of the covenant in chapter 17 God asks “ … every one of your males must be circumcised. You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin and that will be the sign of the covenant between myself and you” (Genesis 17:10b-11). 4. GOD’S COVENANT WITH THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL 4.1. Context: The Israelites moved to Egypt during the time of Joseph. “Then there came to power in Egypt a new king who had never heard of Joseph,” (Exodus 1:8) and turned Israelites into common slaves. The people cried out to the God of their forefathers. “So God heard their groaning, and God remembered covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exodus 2:24). He chooses Moses, appears to him in a burning bush, and commissions him for this great task as a mediator between him and his people. After a series of ten plagues upon the land of Egypt, God brought the Israelites out “of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand” (Exodus 32:11).


Three months after leaving the land of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at the base of Mount Sinai (Exodus (19:1). God promised to make a covenant with the Israelites (Exodus 19:3-6). Before they even knew the conditions of the contract, the people agreed to abide by whatever God said (Exodus 19:8). 4.2. Content:          No other gods but Me Do not take the name of the Lord in vain Observe the Sabbath Honor your father and mother Do not kill Do not commit adultery Do not steal Do not give false witnesses Do not covet

4.3. Concerned Persons: This covenant was made “Between myself (God) and the Israelites…” (Exodus 31:17a) 4.4. Connected Sign: As a first sign “Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it over the people, saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you, entailing all these stipulations.” (Exodus 24:8) As a second sign God asks “The Israelites will keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath for all their generations to come: this is an eternal covenant. Between myself and the Israelites, this is a sign for ever….” (Exodus 31:16-17). 5. COMPARISON In all the three covenants the initiation comes from God. It is God who voluntarily comes down, out of love, and makes covenant with his people. In all the three covenant God separates his people from the other people of nations. There is specific sign is given in all the three covenants. In the first covenant with Noah the sign is his bow, in the second covenant with Abraham it is circumcision and in the third covenant with the people of Israel it is the blood of the lamb and asks the people to keep holy the Sabbath as a sign of the Covenant. In all the three covenants God promises that he would be steadfast in keeping up the covenant. He makes the covenant in order to have an eternal relationship with his chosen ones.

If we see as differences, the first covenant is with Noah, animals and nature which means it is with the whole universe. So it can also be called universal covenant. In the second covenant it is with God and with his faithful servant Abraham it is something personal where as if we take the third covenant it is with the people of Israel whom he chose for himself. The second differences we see in these three covenants are: the first two covenants speak of blessings and there are not much conditions or curses. The blesses them to breed and multiply and fill the earth and he promises to give the land for the descendants but where as in the third covenant there are conditions, commandments. Blessings are given in the fulfillment of the commandments. If they don’t follow the commandments there are curse. In the first two covenants God directly makes covenant with Noah and Abraham where as in the third covenant God choses Moses as a mediator between him and the people of Israel and Moses proves that God is right in choosing him as a mediator and he does his job excellently. The covenant of God with the people of God comes as the fulfillment of all the other covenants which God made before. 6. CONCLUSION All these covenants prefigure the New Covenant in one way or the other. In the new covenant it is between God and his New Israel. Here the sign that God places in the clouds is not the bow but his own son who will be coming in the clouds. The covenantal seal is not just the blood of lamb but the blood of Christ who intercedes before the throne of God. That’s why Jesus said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.” (Luke 22:20) Jesus plays a role of New Moses in the covenantal relationship between God and his beloved people, the church. Noah became the Father of the New Creation, savior of the whole creation through whom God carried out the salvation of the universe, in the case of Abraham he became the Father of all the nations through his faith. And in the new covenant Jesus becomes the ‘first born of all creation.’ (Colossians 1:15) Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Old Covenants.