Updated: Jan 22, 2022
I believe covenants are one important aspect we need to understand as believers, the Bible itself is separated between the Old Testament and the New Testament, known respectively as the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. It is only prudent that we ask ourselves what Covenants are, what do they mean and how do they apply to us.
Let’s start by having a look at what the word covenant itself means in simple English - it is a mutual agreement between two or more individuals, each binding himself to fulfill specified obligations. An easy modern example of a covenant is a contract you have with your employer, for example in this contract you are obliged to perform certain tasks and the employer is expected to pay you for the tasks and there are rules in place that guide this interaction between you and the organization. If you break the rules there are certain repercussions that you face.
From the above, we can establish that a covenant from a Biblical perspective is an ancient system set in place by individuals who wanted to transact with each other, let's have a look at how Covenants apply in the Bible. In The Old Testament Hebrew, the root meaning of the word is “to cut” from the custom of confirming a covenant by killing animals, cutting them in two and having the parties of the covenant walk between the parts. We see this type of confirmation of entering into a covenant between God and Abraham in Genesis 15.
Genesis 15:9 -11 9 "So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two, and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away…. When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants, I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates"
Individuals entered into covenants for various reasons for example, establishing friendships - we see this in the case of Jonathan and David in 1 Samuel 18:3 "Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul." Other reasons were for procuring assistance in war, for mutual protection, and for commerce reasons amongst others seen in the Bible.
There are 8 types of Biblical Covenants that we need to know to help us in this topic, namely:
1. The Edenic Covenant
We see the Edenic covenant take place between God and Adam however this covenant also applies to all of humanity. It can be found in Genesis 1:28-30. In this passage, God gives mankind the mandate to procreate and God gives mankind dominion over the earth and all the animals.
Genesis 1:28 – 30 "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so."
We all know how the story goes - Adam and Eve could not keep their side of the agreement, they rebelled and fell into sin and the penalty of sin is death. Another covenant came into place because of this fall of man and the key aspect of this covenant is the redemption of God.
2. The Adamic Covenant
The redemptive act of God was a way to rectify the rebellion of Adam and Eve and we see the Adamic covenant come into effect in Genesis 3:15 – "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."
After Adam and his wife were kicked out of Eden we see man fall into terrible sin and God was sorry that he created man in Genesis 6:6 "And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart."
God concluded that he will wipe out the entire human race, however, because our God is a God of love and immense mercy, He preserved Noah and his family. This leads us to the next covenant.
3. The Noahic Covenant
God entered into a Covenant with Noah mentioning that he will never wipe out the human race again; God gave Noah and the earth the rainbow as a sign of that covenant promise.
Genesis: 9 – 15 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life."
Man, however then started worshipping idols and falling into sin again thus another covenant came into effect with Abraham in which God wanted to begin a new nation with himself and this leads us to the fourth Covenant.
4. The Abrahamic Covenant
When we look at this covenant we see a key word of restoration, God’s intent was to restore the people to himself by entering into a Covenant with one man - Abraham.
God promises in this covenant
A - land
B - A people
C - Blessings
The land was Israel, the people were the Jews and the blessing was that they will be a blessing to all nations.
Genesis 17:4-6 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you."
As the story goes the people of God are enslaved in Egypt and we see God rise again to enter into another covenant to save his nation.
5. The Mosaic Covenant
This is the covenant God establishes with the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai after He led them out of Egyptian slavery. With it, God supplies the Law that is meant to govern and shape the people of Israel in the Promised Land. This Law was not a means of salvation but would distinguish the people from the surrounding nations as a special kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:1-7). This covenant was conditional and defined blessings and curses based on obedience or disobedience.
The first 4 covenants were all up to God but the Mosaic covenant had conditions for man to fulfill and adhere to. The Mosaic covenant made man see the need of a savior which was also a type and shadow of what Jesus would later fulfill – The perfect eternal sacrifice for all that believed.
6. The Palestinian Covenant
This covenant has similarities with the Mosaic covenant This covenant, stated in Deuteronomy 29:1-29; 30:1-10 was made between God and Israel right before Moses died and Israel entered the Promised Land. This covenant guarantees Israel’s permanent right to the land.
7. The Davidic Covenant
More chaos took place as the chosen nation of God rebelled against God despite the Lord calling them back to himself time and time again. God then entered into covenant with David promising him a King in his lineage. 2 Samuel 7:12 "When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom."
8. The New Covenant
The Children of Israel continued to worship foreign gods, this resulted in their captivity into Babylon. To this effect, God makes a covenant with them which points to the Messiah and the new creation with the laws of God written on their hearts.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 The Lord says, "The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. Although I was like a husband to them, they did not keep that covenant. 33 The new covenant that I will make with the people of Israel will be this: I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 None of them will have to teach a neighbor to know the Lord, because all will know me, from the least to the greatest. I will forgive their sins and I will no longer remember their wrongs. I, the Lord, have spoken."
The journey through the various covenants speak of a relentless God who is forever faithful towards his creation and the attestation of his eternal love that wants us as his own despite mans continuous rebellion. If the persons of the Trinity didn’t make this pact—and keep it—we would all be under God’s condemnation without any hope for meeting his holy standards. God did not have to save any of us from the consequences of our sin, but he did so out of his unfathomable love.
I see the covenant prevail for you as it did for our fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) May everything that is against you begin to bow to the power of this covenant, In Jesus Mighty name Amen
Shalom Kay King