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Biblical Covenants

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 sig