We have studied in general terms the definition of a covenant, principles of making a covenant, and the importance of the exchange of power, authority and wealth. Let us now examine in more detail seven primary covenants in the Old Testament, and then the New Covenant.
COMPONENTS OF EACH COVENANT
- Name of the Covenant – Each covenant name describes either the human “covenant head” or the location where the covenant was made. These are not all names that God gave to the covenants. They are names given by theologians to help distinguish the covenants one from another.
- Covenant Heads – In each covenant, God was one of the covenant heads. The person(s) with whom God made the covenant was the other covenant head.
- Survey and Terms of the Covenant – This will give a brief overview of the times, places and people of the covenant, as well as the terms of the covenant.
- Christ Revealed in the Covenant – Old Covenant characters sometimes “foreshadow” the character or actions of Jesus Christ. For instance, Moses was an intercessor for the people (Num 11:2; 21:7); Christ is our Intercessor today (John 17:9; Heb 7:23-25). This kind of foreshadowing or symbolism is called typology. We would say that Moses is an Old Testament type of Jesus Christ.
These typologies provide a prophetic glimpse into what will come. For example, the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis Chapters 6 and 7) is later referenced as a symbol for baptism (1Pet 3:21). So “Christ Revealed” in a particular covenant references the person or events that symbolize what is to come in Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Keys to the Covenant – Many volumes of books would be needed to thoroughly examine the details of each covenant. Our purpose here is to highlight some important “keys” of each covenant that lead us to the ultimate covenant – the New Covenant that was purchased through the blood of Jesus Christ.
- Concluding Thoughts about the Covenant – Closing thoughts for summary and reflection.
THE EDENIC COVENANT
God made the first covenant with Adam in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve had sinned. This period before the “fall of man” is often called the Age of Innocence because Adam and Eve knew no evil.
The Edenic covenant is found in Genesis 2:15-17: “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
God said, “You shall not eat.” With that command was the immediate ability for Adam to choose: he could either obey or disobey God.
God made the covenant with Adam; therefore, both God and Adam were the covenant heads. However, everyone joining Adam’s family or future clan would also be subject to the terms of the covenant. This means that the entire human race was represented by Adam, the first man, in this covenant.
At the time of the Edenic covenant, Eve had not yet been created. When God created Eve (Gen 2:21) she also became subject to the terms of the covenant.
TERMS OF THE COVENANT
The covenant in the Garden of Eden is the first “universal covenant,” meaning it pertains to all mankind. In it, Adam is charged with three responsibilities, two general and one specific:
- General: To be fruitful and multiply (produce children) and to subdue (manage) the earth and have dominion (rule) over all the living things. “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen 1:28).
- General: To maintain and care for the Garden of Eden and enjoy its fruit (Gen 1:29; 2:15).
- Specific: To not eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, under penalty of death (Gen 2:16,17).
SURVEY OF THE EDENIC COVENANT
The Scriptures show that when God created the world, He created a perfectly moral earth. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Gen 1:31).
God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was truly a paradise. There was no struggle to survive, no physical wants – every need was met. There was no hunger, sickness or disease. There was no sin, nor the horrible consequences of sin. Adam was unaware of sin; he lived in a state of “innocence.”
Adam was blessed in every way. The greatest blessing Adam enjoyed was a personal relationship with God the Father, his Creator (Gen 2:8,9). God also had perfect communion and fellowship with His child, Adam (Gen 2:1-25).
It is understood that mankind, through Adam, was created to walk with God and enjoy the benefits of His blessings. God gave opportunity for Adam to use his own free will, and choose to love God in return. The blessings of this relationship between God and man could continue as long as no one rebelled against God and ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This would test Adam’s obedience and acceptance of God’s sovereignty over him. Would Adam obey or rebel?
CONFRONTATION WITH THE SERPENT
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14,15).
In Genesis 3:1, the serpent (Satan) approaches the woman and uses lies (John 8:44) to deceive her. Eve, being drawn away by her own desire, is tricked into disobeying what Adam had taught her about the Edenic Covenant with God.
TOOLS OF THE DEVIL
“Has God indeed said?” (Gen 3:1). The devil begins his trickery by sowing seeds of doubt about God. Then Eve makes a tragic mistake. She stops and enters into conversation with the devil (v2). In her innocence, she does not run away, but ponders the lies the devil is sowing.
Eve responds with what God has said about the fruit in the Garden, but adds to it: “nor shall you touch it” (v3), which God had not said. The devil, having hooked Eve into conversation, boldly tells her that God lied and falsely threatened her with death (v4).
Then the devil appeals to Eve’s pride, and uses his age-old method of a half-truth and half-lie: you will be like God (a lie) and know good and evil (a truth). Deception is a key strategy of Satan even to this very day. His goal is to create doubt about what God has said in order to lead people into destruction and death.
SIN ENTERS THE WORLD
Eve is seduced by the false offers and her desire for the fruit (Gen 3:6). Eve chose to believe the lies (1John 2:16). She takes the fruit and eats, and then gives some of it to Adam.
The Bible reveals that Eve was deceived, and then sinned (1Tim 2:14). But Adam, as the covenant head, knew exactly the choice he was making when eating the fruit. He simply chose to disobey the covenant he had made with God.
Thus, sin entered Adam’s heart and through him, as the covenant head, sin also entered the entire human race. Sin and death were now part of mankind’s spiritual inheritance (Rom 5:12).
Adam and Eve were aware of their sin because their conscience had been awakened. They also knew that they were naked, so they covered themselves and hid. For the very first time Adam and Eve knew guilt, shame and condemnation.
CONFRONTATION WITH GOD
In their guilt and shame, Adam and Eve tried to run and hide from God in the Garden. God called to Adam, “Where are you”? (Gen 3:9). Their open fellowship of holiness and righteousness had been broken by sin.
Adam’s statement that he was afraid and naked reveals his lost innocence. God already knew what Adam had done. God was not surprised. Our God knows all things; nothing is hidden from His sight.
In response to God’s inquiries, Adam does what mankind continues to do today. He puts the blame on someone else. “Then the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate’” (Gen 3:12).
Eve does not accept responsibility for her sin either. Instead, she blames the serpent. “And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ Eve responded with, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (v13).
The Edenic covenant was broken by man’s disobedience. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The consequences of their disobedience resulted in their spiritual and eventual physical deaths.
But rather than leave mankind in this hopeless state, God’s response to the failure of Adam and Eve was to establish another covenant with Adam.
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE EDENIC COVENANT
Adam as a Type of Christ
Despite their perfect circumstances and the innocence of Adam and Eve – and the simple yet beautiful covenant made by God – they still chose disobedience and rebellion. This choice brought devastating consequences for them and the entire human race.
The Bible clearly states that through the one man, Adam, sin entered the world. This was followed by death (spiritual and physical) for them and all mankind, because all have sinned (Rom 5:12-19).
Adam was a foretype of Jesus (v14), but with these important differences:
- Through Adam’s disobedience, mankind received death through sin; through Jesus, the obedient Son, we have been given the gift of eternal life through His grace.
- Through the sin of one man (Adam), death came to all men; but through the righteous sacrifice of the one God-Man (Jesus), all have been offered the free gift of eternal life (v15).
The end result of Adam’s sin was condemnation. The end result of the free “gift of God” in Jesus is justification (being judged innocent, or saved; Rom 5:18,19).
Sin came into the world through one man, Adam. Salvation would come into the world through one Man, Jesus. There is no other way to salvation than through Jesus. He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
THE KEYS TO THE EDENIC COVENANT
The key to understanding the Edenic Covenant: The Garden of Eden is the beginning of God’s progressive (step-by-step) revelation of Himself and His plan of redemption for mankind.
It is as if mankind were being “tutored” by the experiences of life that God would arrange. God began with Adam and Eve in the Garden and continued through the ages until the New Covenant at the Cross of Calvary.
Age of Innocence
In a perfect environment such as the Garden of Eden, where every need was met, man still chose that which was forbidden. Even innocence (without evil) is no guarantee that one will not choose sin.
“If only my circumstances were different, I would not sin.” We see from the Garden the false premise of this common reasoning. Thus, this argument can be eliminated from man’s thoughts about having holiness and righteousness due to his own merit.
All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). No man can ever say to God, “I am holy and righteous because I am innocent!” For no man or woman is innocent through his or her own effort. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10).
God knows our frame (Psalm 103:14). He shows us by experience that we cannot make ourselves holy or righteous. Even innocence will not change the human tendency toward rebellion against God.
Human nature wants to be independent of God. We want to “work or earn” our own salvation. But this is not possible, for our own attempts at righteousness are like filthy rags (Isa 64:6).
There can be no boasting in Who truly does the work of making one holy and righteous (Eph 2:9). It is clear that it can ONLY be God!
CONCLUSION OF THE EDENIC COVENANT
A Glimpse of Heaven
The Edenic Covenant gives us a preview of what Heaven will be like (Rev 22:1-5). It will be like the Garden of Eden before man’s fall, without sin, which is a “type” of Heaven. Heaven is the place where Jesus Christ is now (Acts 3:20,21).
Heaven is also the final destiny of all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior (John 14:2-4) as promised by the New Covenant.
Ruling and Reigning
In the Garden of Eden, man was given rule and reign over all things on the earth. As a result of Adam’s disobedience, his right to rule and reign was given to the serpent, Satan. This is because Adam, the covenant head, chose to obey Satan and disobey God.
We see evidence of Satan’s rule during the temptation of Christ, when Satan offered Jesus the authority that had been delivered to him (Luke 4:5-7). In Scripture, Satan is called the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2; 6:12); and the “god of this world” (2Cor 4:4).
The final covenant, the New Covenant, restores man’s authority. It was regained by Christ and given to every believer. The early disciples experienced this when they went out to minister. They came back to Jesus rejoicing for victories and He affirmed the authority He was giving them (Luke 10:18-20).
The Matter of Innocence
Another insight we gain from the Edenic Covenant is that innocence cannot keep us holy and righteous. Eventually, that which is forbidden will attract people to do what they should not do (Prov 9:17). Now that sin has entered the human race (Rom 5:12), we are powerless in our own strength to resist temptation (Rom 7:15-23).
It is only through Christ and the New Covenant that we are set free from the power of sin (Titus 3:4-7). And, we are given a “helper,” the Holy Spirit (John 15:26, 16:5-10). The Holy Spirit helps us see the truth (John 14:17), leads us away from temptation (Rom 8:14) and empowers us to live only for Christ!
THE ADAMIC COVENANT
The second covenant that God made with man was with Adam and Eve. This time, Adam and Eve were in a different spiritual condition than at the time of the first covenant. They were no longer innocent because they had sinned and their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:7).
Adam and Eve could discern good and evil. Since they were able to make clear choices, this period of time is often referred to as the Age of Conscience.
THE ADAMIC COVENANT
The second covenant God made is found in Genesis 3:14-21. Turn in your Bible and carefully read that passage.
The Adamic Covenant was between God and Adam and Eve.
TERMS OF THE ADAMIC COVENANT
The conditions of the Adamic covenant are:
- The Serpent is cursed (Gen 3:15)
- The curse affects not only the serpent, but also the evil force behind the serpent, Satan.
- Satan is judged. Though he will have some power and success, it will be for a limited time. “You shall bruise His heel” prophecies that Satan will seem to have victory over Jesus the Messiah as He hangs upon the Cross with His weight upon His heel. But ultimately, Satan will be judged by Christ and trampled at the Cross: “He shall bruise your head” (see 1Corinthians 2:7,8). In a broader sense, the human race will one day completely triumph over the evil one (Rom 16:20).
- A Savior is promised (Gen 3:15)
The first prophecy in the Bible of the coming of a Savior or Messiah is given in the reference to a Seed.
- The woman comes under God’s general curse (Gen 3:16)
- Includes pain in childbirth.
- The man comes under God’s general curse (Gen 3:17-19)
- The ground is cursed and will bring forth weeds among man’s food.
- The man’s role is changed, damaged, crippled; his work will be filled with sweat, challenge and futility, and will end in death.
- Due to sin, all of mankind dies spiritually and ultimately will die physically. His flesh will decay until it returns to the dust from which it originally came (Gen 3:19; Rom 5:12-21).
SURVEY OF THE ADAMIC COVENANT
The Curse of the Fall
The covenant with Adam is the second of the universal covenants (pertaining to all mankind). It could be called the “Curse of the Fall” for the covenant establishes the conditions that will remain in the world until the curse of sin is lifted (Isa 11:6-10; Rom 8:8-23).
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE ADAMIC COVENANT
Jesus Christ Foreshadowed
God speaks a prophetic word to the serpent, Satan (‘serpent’ or ‘dragon’ are used in Scripture as symbols of Satan). “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15).
There are 3 important issues to examine; (1) the enmity between the serpent and the woman, (2) the Seed and (3) the bruisings. All of these are foreshadows of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.
The word enmity speaks of the struggle started in the Garden of Eden that continues to this very day. The battle is between the devil and his followers, and the godly line of believers in Christ who are the faithful remnant of God (Eph 2:2; 6:12).
The devil will continue to use deception and temptation to release his destruction upon mankind. This battle will continue until that day when Jesus, the Seed, comes to totally defeat the enemy and cast him into the Lake of Fire (Rev 20:10).
Until that day comes (Revelation 20:19), we are called to:
- “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11).
- “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1Pet 5:8).
- Do warfare in prayer and use our Christ-given authority: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…” (2Cor 10:4,5).
In reference to the enmity, God addresses the serpent (Satan) and “your seed” (Gen 3:15). This seed refers to all people who will follow Satan, as well as demonic forces.
In the same verse, God also refers to the “Seed” of the woman. This refers not only to the righteous seed that will be born of her throughout the generations, but ultimately to the Seed of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1-4; also see Luke 3:23-38 for Christ’s genealogy).
In the midst of the tragedy of man’s fall, God implants the hope of a Redeemer!
“He [the Seed] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15). This expression means that Jesus would pay the price to defeat Satan. Jesus was “bruised in His heel” at the Cross. He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for our redemption. It cost Jesus His life, but the Father raised Him up from the grave as a testimony of His victory over sin and death (1Cor 15:20-26). At the Cross, the power of Satan was broken (Col 2:13-15; Heb 2:14,15; 1John 3:18). “It is finished!” (John 19:30).
The bruising of Satan’s head, which began at the Cross of Calvary, will be completely finished when Satan and all of his followers are cast into the Lake of Fire. “And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts’” (Rev 21:6).
See also: Christ Revealed in the Edenic Covenant.
THE KEYS TO THE ADAMIC COVENANT
The “school” or tutoring of God’s progressive revelation continued. For about 950 years, man relied on his own conscience to do what was right in God’s eyes – and failed miserably. Choosing instead to do what was right in their own eyes, the entire world became corrupt (Gen 6:5).
Thus, we see that the human conscience was eliminated as a sole means of holiness and righteousness. The conscience alone is not enough to keep mankind from sin
At the same time, the hope of a Savior (Seed) was kept alive by the remnant, a small group of people who trusted in God. Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, had a son named Enosh. People then began to worship and pray to the Lord (Genesis 4:26). In the midst of the decades of evil that followed, there remained a godly line that would lead to the family of Noah.
CONCLUSION OF THE ADAMIC COVENANT
One by one, the excuses a person might make to be found acceptable to God are being removed. In the Edenic Covenant, man showed that being innocent would not prevent one from choosing sin. The Adamic Covenant reveals that even having a conscience, discerning good and evil, is not enough to keep one from choosing evil or sin.
God makes a prophetic promise of a Seed (Jesus Christ). Yet, in God’s foreknowledge He knew that man had not yet learned how desperately he needed a Savior. Another covenant was needed. This time it would be with a man named Noah.
THE NOAHIC COVENANT
The third covenant is the Noahic Covenant. God made this covenant with Noah and his descendants just after the Great Flood. Noah and his family were the only survivors of the flood.
Biblical scholars refer to this period of time as the Age of Human Government. We read in the Scriptures of God’s displeasure and sorrow at the violence and sin that had spread throughout the earth during the time of the Adamic Covenant (Genesis 6:11-13).
The covenant between God and Noah and his descendants is found in Genesis 9:1-17. Please turn to this passage in your Bible and read this covenant.
THE COVENANT HEADS
The covenant heads of the Noahic Covenant are God and Noah.
THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT
The provisions of the Noahic Covenant:
- The responsibility to populate the earth is restated (Gen 9:1; cf. Gen 1:28).
- Man having dominion over the animal kingdom is restated (v2; cf. Gen 1:28).
- Up to this point, man had been vegetarian. Man is now permitted to eat the flesh of animals, though not the meat with blood in it (vs3,4). God established the shedding of blood as a substitutionary sacrifice for man’s sin. Therefore, blood belongs to God; man is not to partake of blood (Lev 17:11).
- All human life is sacred. Any man or animal that sheds a man’s blood must be put to death (vs5,6). The judgment upon sin is ultimately death; this is affirmed by the Edenic, Adamic and Noahic Covenants.
- God confirms the covenant with Noah, with all mankind, and with every living creature on the face of the earth (vs 9,10).
- God promises to never again destroy the earth by a universal flood (v11). The next time God destroys the earth, it will be with fire (2Pet 3:10).
- The rainbow is given as God’s testimony to the existence of this covenant and His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood. The rainbow reminds us that the Noahic Covenant remains in effect (vs12-17).
SURVEY OF THE NOAHIC COVENANT
The covenant with Noah is the third universal covenant (pertaining to all mankind). Noah has just passed through the Great Flood in which the world’s entire population was destroyed.
Only Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives (eight people) represent the world’s total population. It is virtually a new beginning. Noah, in a sense, is the new Adam. All the world’s populations are to be descendants of Noah (Gen 9:19).
THE CURSE OF THE FALL STILL IN EFFECT
When God made the Noahic Covenant, He reaffirmed to Noah (and all of humanity to follow) that the Edenic and Adamic Covenents were still in effect. What is new in the Noahic Covenant is the provision of human government. This human government was intended to limit the spread of sin and violence. If this was the result, it would not be necessary to destroy life on the earth again.
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE NOAHIC COVENANT
Noah as a Type of Jesus
We see Noah as a prophetic type of Jesus because:
- Noah is the deliverer or savior of his family; Jesus is the Deliverer and Savior of the world.
- Noah (1 Peter 3:20)
- Jesus (John 4:42)
- Noah was a preacher; Jesus also preached the Kingdom.
- Noah (2 Peter 2:5)
- Jesus (Luke 4:43)
- Noah found favor in God’s eyes and walked with Him; Jesus did the same.
- Noah (Genesis 6:8-9)
- Jesus (Luke 2:52)
- Noah did all God showed him to do; Jesus did what the Father showed Him to do.
- Noah (Genesis 6:22)
- Jesus (John 5:19)
- Noah was proclaimed righteous; Jesus is proclaimed as righteous.
- Noah (Gen 7:1)
- Jesus (1 John 2:1)
The Flood as a Type of Baptism
The Great Flood, which was God’s judgment upon sin, is a prophetic foretype of the baptism of the New Covenant (1 Peter 3:20,21).
Noah’s Obedience as a Type of Faith
God introduces the importance of faith as part of His progressive revelation of holiness and righteousness. “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Heb 11:7).
THE KEYS TO THE NOAHIC COVENANT
The purpose of human government within the Noahic Covenant is to hold back the outbreak of sin and violence. It was unrestrained sin and violence that made it necessary to destroy those on the earth by flood.
Here is the key to understanding the Noahic Covenant: Though God introduced human government, it would soon become clear that human government cannot control how human beings act toward one another. Human government cannot lead people to become holy and righteous.
Human government may control external behavior to some extent, but still does not change the motivations or issues of the heart. Laws are important, and provide a measure of restraint. But external laws that dictate how society should operate are not enough to prevent lawless behavior.
Step by step, we see that God is revealing to mankind the futility of human attempts to becme holy or righteous. We have seen thus far that innocence (Edenic Covenant), conscience (Adamic Covenant) and human government (Noahic Covenant) cannot make people morally or spiritually good.
CONCLUSION OF THE NOAHIC COVENANT
The Tower of Babel
The building of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) reflects man’s sinful pride and rebellion. It is clear that the corruption of man was not restrained by human government. Man was symbolically trying to reach or approach God on their own terms. This is a human problem that still exists today: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1).
At Babel, God confused the languages of the people. As a result of not being able to communicate with each other, they abandoned their efforts to build the tower and scattered as various tribes throughout the earth.
Man’s failure to fulfill his part in the Noahic Covenant (righteousness through human government) necessitated yet another covenant, this time through a man named Abraham.
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
The Abrahamic Covenant is the fourth in a series of covenants in Scripture that demonstrate mankind’s need for a Savior. This covenant was made with Abraham, known as “the Father of Faith” (Heb 11:8-10).
Through the promises God made to Abraham, the beginnings of a nation were instituted – Israel, God’s chosen people. “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deut 7:6). And through Abraham, all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 11:10-22; 12:1-3).
God promises to use the people of Israel as an example of the kind of relationship He desires in a people He can call His own. “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people” (Lev 26:12). This is why this time period is often called The Age of Promise.
The Abrahamic Covenant is initiated in Genesis 12:1-3. It is an unconditional covenant, which means it will be fulfilled solely by God. It is a covenant of grace that is not dependent on man’s behavior. It depends solely upon God Who promises to fulfill the blessings.
The Abrahamic covenant was first given in simple, general terms (Gen 12:1-3). It was later confirmed to Abraham in greater detail (Gen 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-8).
The Abrahamic Covenant is made between God and Abraham.
TERMS AND SURVEY OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
God adds something new to the covenant with Abraham. It is the first of the theocratic covenants. The word “theocratic” or “theocracy” means that God is the supreme ruler of the government. God is looking for a people to call His own. Because He is a Sovereign King, His will is to rule and reign over His people.
The Abrahamic Covenant is the foundation of all future theocratic covenants. It provides for blessings in three general areas:
- National – “I will make you a great nation” (Gen 12:2)
- Personal – “I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing” (v2)
- Universal – “In you all families of the earth shall be blessed” (v3)
There is a national aspect to the Abrahamic Covenant. God promises that, through Abraham, a nation will be formed. That nation is the biblical nation of Israel, which exists to this day.
- Abraham had a son, Isaac. Isaac had a son, Jacob. Jacob’s name was changed by God to Israel (Gen 32:28; 35:10).
- Jacob (Israel) had 12 sons named Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin. These 12 tribes were collectively known as the nation of Israel.
- Jacob (Israel) and his sons were forced by famine to go down into Egypt. When they arrived, they and their families were 70 in number (Gen 46:27). Within 400 years, the nation of Israel had increased to 600,000 men of fighting age (Ex 1:7; 12:37).
The personal aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant is specifically for Abraham:
- To be the father of a great nation, fulfilled in the nation of Israel (see above).
- To receive personal blessing, including Abraham and Sarah having a son at well past childbearing age (Gen 17:1-22).
- To receive personal honor and reputation (Gen 24:1).
- To be a source of blessing to others.
The universal aspects of the covenant, which extend far beyond Abraham, are:
- Blessings for the people and nations that bless Abraham and the nation that comes from him.
- Cursing upon those people and nations that curse Abraham and Israel.
- Blessings upon all the families of the earth through the Messiah Who, according to the flesh, is Abraham’s son and provides salvation for the entire world (Matt 1:1-17).
God seals His covenant with Abraham by the splitting of animals. He then indicates that the sign of the covenant will be circumcision (Gen 15:9-21; 17:10,11).
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
The Son of Promise
God gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age (Gen 21:1,2), fulfilling what He had promised (Gen 15:4). Their son was Isaac, and through his descendants a new nation would be formed. Through this nation, all the nations of the earth would be blessed.
Abraham had a previous son through Hagar, but that son (Ishmael) was not the son of promise (Gen 17:15-21). Ishmael and Hagar left Abraham’s household and went to live in the land of Egypt (Gen 21:14). Therefore, only Isaac remained at home, the one born according to God’s promise.
Within Abraham’s story, the Bible unveils an amazing foreshadowing of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Genesis Chapter 22). God asked Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited and only beloved son, Isaac (vs1,2), as a test of Abraham’s faith and obedience.
What an incredible thing God was asking. Abraham had waited 25 long years (Gen 12:4) to see God’s promise of a son fulfilled. Now God was telling him to sacrifice that very same son! What is even more amazing is that we see no indication of Abraham arguing with God.
Though it must have been agonizing for Abraham, he still trusted in God and obeyed God’s word to him (v3). For three days, Abraham and Isaac walked toward the mountain. We can only imagine Abraham’s heart breaking with each step, thinking he would be sacrificing the son he loved so deeply (vs4-6).
Who Will Provide the Sacrifice?
Finally, Isaac speaks: “But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together” (vs7,8).
Isaac asked a perfectly reasonable question. When Abraham answered, he was speaking in faith, both in the present and prophetically, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a sacrifice” (v8). Yes, we now know that Abraham was speaking of a ram stuck in the thicket by its horn (Gen 22:13). But he was also speaking of a far-off day when God would provide the perfect sacrifice for all mankind: Jesus, the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
The Story Continues
“Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ So he said, ‘Here I am.’ And He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.’ Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided’ (Gen 22:9-14).
THE SYMBOLS IN THIS STORY
We are all like Isaac, condemned to death. We are all sinners and deserve God’s judgment. In this account, God in His grace saves Isaac from death by providing a substitute. This is a beautiful foretype of how God, in His grace, has come to mankind’s rescue by providing a substitute Lamb to be slain for our salvation.
The story of Abraham’s sacrifice teaches us that the only way one can be saved is through the way of the Perfect Sacrifice that God provided (Rom 5:6-10).
God provided a ram to die in the place of Abraham’s son, Isaac. The Bible gives us insight into the symbolic nature of the sacrificial system (see Hebrews Chapter 10). The sacrificial animals were merely used until “the Perfect” came.
Therefore, the ram that replaced Abraham’s son on the altar was an illustration of a greater, more perfect sacrifice that would one day come. It is an illustration of the Savior whom God promised to send into the world. That Savior would take the place of sinners who deserve God’s righteous judgment!
Remember what Abraham said to his son as they were climbing the mountain? He said: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” He also said of the place of sacrifice: “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
In both cases, God was speaking prophetically through Abraham of a future event (see John 3:16). The event was the crucifixion of Jesus on the Mount of Calvary. On that Cross was the Lamb slain for our salvation, Jesus Christ. “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9,10).
THE KEYS TO THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
The Promise of God
The key to understanding the Abrahamic Covenant: Throughout the Old Testament, mankind is being tutored by God. Man has experienced innocence, conscience and human government as a means of securing holiness and righteousness. We can clearly see that none of these was sufficient. Now God makes an unconditional promise.
With each covenant, man has failed to keep his part of the covenant. This is because the covenants required man to be holy and righteous in his own power and strength, or by enforced external means. Of course, God knew before each covenant that man could not succeed. But man needed to realize his own desperate need for God and a Savior.
With each covenant failure by man, God had planned for our failure by providing another covenant step. Each step brought us closer to the final step, the new and “better covenant” (Heb 8:6).
It is Unconditional
The Abrahamic Covenant provides something new, an unconditional covenant of promise though Abraham (Rom 4:16). This Covenant is not about what man must do, but instead what God Himself has promised to do.
Abraham saw the fulfillment of the promise in his own life because he walked by faith in God and not by sight (2Cor 5:7). Abraham trusted God even when it seemed impossible: “Being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom 4:21,22).
Our faith is accounted to us as righteousness as well, when our faith is in Christ for salvation. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Rom 1:17); “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom 4:5).
God made great promises to Abraham and his people. Yet, we see in the Scriptures and in the life of the nation of Israel that many will forget the promises of God and lose their way.
CONCLUSION OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
The splitting of an animal as a covenant rite may seem very odd to some of us today. But in ancient times it was a fairly common custom. As a matter of fact, the sacrifice of animals is a non-Christian practice that still takes place in various parts of the world.
The Need for Purification
A sacrifice was considered a necessary part of a covenant agreement. The word beriyth (“covenant” in Hebrew) also means to purify or cleanse. In all covenants between God and man, sin and sinfulness were always associated with man. A holy God could not enter into a covenant with sinful man unless there was a purifier. Therefore, in all covenants, a sacrifice was offered for the removal of offences and for the reconciliation of God to the sinner.
So the word beriyth signifies not only a covenant, but also the sacrifice that was offered on the occasion. This sacrifice was made by a priest or anointed one.
Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, is not only our High Priest, but also the Sacrifice that became our atonement and purifier before God (Heb 9:11-15). Hallelujah!
Abraham and God
We see an example of the splitting of animals for covenant purposes when God established a covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:9,10). It is interesting to note that every animal on this list is also sacrificed later under the Mosaic Law (v9). Only the birds were not split (see Leviticus 1:17).
The animal sacrifices represent a foreshadowing of what was to come when Moses received the Law and the sacrificial system from God.
The sacrificial system given to Moses was also a prophetic foreshadow of the sacrifice of the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) in the New Covenant.
Passing Between the Sacrifice
“And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces” (Gen 15:17). In this mysterious and symbolic dream, God manifests Himself to Abraham in fire and smoke. God would later actually appear to the people of Israel in the pillar of cloud and fire (Ex 13:21,22).
In Abraham’s dream, God passes through the sacrificial pieces to authorize the covenant that He had made with Abraham. God’s glory was enveloped in fire and smoke. Abraham could not pass between the sacrificial pieces, because only the One Who had initiated the covenant and made the promises could ratify the covenant; this was God alone.
Covenant of Promise
“On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates’” (Gen 15:18). The same promise had been previously made to Abraham in general terms (see Genesis Chapters 12 and 13). But it is important to note that the promise is not termed a covenant until it is ratified by a sacrifice.
In this instance, the covenant is not a contract between two parties with mutual conditions. It is rather an unconditional promise because it is an act of grace on the part of God. There was nothing that Abraham needed to do except embrace this covenant by faith. “For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal 3:18).
The Bible often foretold a promised Savior that God would send. But those covenant promises were not fulfilled until blood was spilled and the sacrifice made through Jesus Christ at His death on the Cross for us. This promise of salvation is an unconditional covenant promise from God. It is a covenant of grace, and one that we cannot earn. Therefore, the only thing we can do is to embrace the covenant promise and receive our salvation by placing our faith in Jesus Christ.
THE MOSAIC COVENANT
The fifth major covenant we will study is the Covenant of the Law or the Mosaic Covenant. It was made between God and the people of Israel through Moses.
THE AGE OF THE LAW
There is a period of time that began at the giving of the Law to Moses and ended at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is known by theologians as the Age of the Law. During this time, there were three covenants instituted by God. They are the Mosaic Covenant, the Palestinian Covenant and the Davidic Covenant.
The Mosaic Covenant is probably the best known because it relates to the Law. A large part of the Bible is about the Law. Fully 38 of the 39 Old Testament books in some way involve the Law or the Mosaic Covenant.
The word law (or laws) appears 460 times in the Bible. When God gave the Law to Israel, He was communicating to them the kind of behavior – personal, societal and national – that would both please Him and most benefit the people. But they would need to be willing to embrace and live by His Law.
WILLING AND OBEDIENT
God was looking for a people who were “willing and obedient” (Isa 1:19). This went beyond obedience as just a way to receive a blessing or some other benefit from God. A person’s motive for obedience is important to God, and is also a key to understanding the purpose of the Law.
The right heart motive could come only from a heart that loved God (Deut 6:4-6; 10:12,13,16). When questioned by the learned Law experts (the scribes) of His day, Jesus affirmed the heart of the whole law and its requirements of man (Matt 22:35-40).
THE MOSAIC COVENANT
The requirements and blessings for the Mosaic covenant are found in Exodus 19:5-8. Please read this passage before we continue in the study.
THE COVENANT HEADS
The Mosaic Covenant heads were God and Moses. Moses was acting on behalf of the people of Israel.
SURVEY OF THE MOSAIC COVENANT
The covenant with Moses is the second of the theocratic covenants (the first is the Abrahamic Covenant). The Mosaic Covenant is conditional because of the following language: “if you will indeed obey My Voice… then you shall be a special treasure” (Ex 19:5). If the people would do their part, then God would do His part. From the time of Creation to this point in history, the overwhelming human challenge continued to be obedience to God from the heart.
The Mosaic Covenant was given to the nation of Israel. It was given so that those who believed in the promise to Abraham through the Abrahamic Covenant would know how to conduct their lives – both toward one another and toward God.
The Mosaic Covenant governs the lives of God’s chosen people in relation to Him, His people and His Tabernacle. Some of the provisions include:
- God’s Special Possession: To make the children of Israel His special possession among all people if they would obey God and keep His covenant (Ex 19:5).
- A Kingdom of Priests: To make the children of Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Ex 19:6).
- The Ten Commandments: As part of the terms of this covenant, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17). These commandments are explained in detail in the remainder of the Pentateuch (Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). The Ten Commandments were to govern their personal lives, mainly in relationship to God and to one another.
- The Judgments: To govern their social lives, particularly as they related to one another (Ex 21:1–24:11).
- The Ordinances: To govern their religious lives so that the people would know how to approach God in a way that would please Him (Ex 24:12–31:18).
- The Sabbath: To give the children of Israel the Sabbath as the permanent sign of this covenant (Ex 31:12-17).
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE MOSAIC COVENANT
As we learned in the study of the Abrahamic Covenant, Jacob and his sons were forced by famine to go to Egypt. When they arrived, there were only 70 of them (Gen 46:27); but within four hundred years there were 600,000 men (Exo 12:37).
The Pharaoh of Egypt became concerned by the growing number of Israelites and enslaved them. In order to reduce their numbers even further, Pharaoh ordered the death of all male Hebrew children. During this time, Moses was born a Levite (priestly line) and was miraculously saved by Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus Chapters 1 and 2). Moses spent the next 40 years living in Pharaoh’s court.
OUT OF EGYPT
After 40 years in Pharaoh’s court, Moses spent the next 40 years in exile in the land of Midian. It was during this time that the God of Israel revealed Himself to Moses in a “burning bush” (Exodus 3:4). God then revealed His purpose for Moses: “Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (vs9,10).
MOSES AS A TYPE OF CHRIST
The Book of Exodus is about God’s deliverance through a man named Moses. It is the story of God delivering His Promised People out of slavery and bringing them to the edge of entering the Promised Land.
Exodus includes several important events: Moses confronting Pharaoh; the Passover; the crossing of the Red Sea; the giving of the Covenant of Law. All of these events are types and foreshadows of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant.
- Moses confronts Pharaoh. As Moses led his people (the Israelites) out of the bondage of Pharaoh and Egypt, so Jesus Christ leads His people out of the bondage of Satan and the world:
- Moses: “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites” (Ex 3:8).
- Jesus: “…to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18).
- The Passover. Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage and adoption by God were sealed by the Passover (Ex 12:23; Heb 11:28). Those who believed (had faith) in God’s instruction about the Passover would have life; those who did not would die.
- There was instruction given for the Passover before the exodus from Egypt (Ex 12:1-14). Following the Passover instructions was an act of faith toward a faithful God.
- The same is true today of our faith in the grace-gift of God through Christ that saves us. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8,9).
- The Passover was a type of sacrifice that joined Israel to God. This was an act of God’s grace toward them.
- The slain lamb is a foretype of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Those who place their faith in Jesus Christ will live; those who do not will die.
- The unleavened loaves, called “bread of affliction” (Deut 16:3), were a reminder of past affliction. They symbolized the new life that had been cleansed from the leaven of the old “Egyptian-like” nature (1Cor 5:8).
- God’s Passover sacrifice (Ex 23:15-18; 34:25) came first. Then, because of God’s provision, came the seven-day feast of unleavened bread. This symbolized that they now walked in the strength of the pure bread of a new life and in fellowship with God.
- Crossing the Red Sea. In crossing the Red Sea, the people of Israel had already been redeemed by blood (Passover lamb) and had left Egypt (the old life) forever. They were entering into a “new life” and taking on a new “leader.”
In order to embrace the new life, they had to leave the old life behind. Isn’t this also true about a Christian’s baptism? It symbolizes the “death of the old man” and being raised to new life in Christ. Paul the apostle writes of the believer’s baptism: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3,4).
The crossing of the Red Sea foreshadows water baptism for the Christian. “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1Cor 10:1,2). Note the reference to being “baptized into Moses.” In the same way, the Christian is “baptized into Jesus.” We can see that Moses foreshadows or is a type of Christ, the One Who leads us out of bondage to sin and Satan and into new life as we follow Him.
THE KEYS TO THE MOSAIC COVENANT
Introduction of the Law
The Law was introduced to explicitly guide people into the behavior God knew was best for His people. The Law dictated what every aspect of life should look like for those who were in covenant with God. It was meant to regulate worship, business, social and family interactions. The Law defined what God would bless and what God would curse.
Remember: Each new covenant that God established with Man did not cancel out the previous covenant. Each new covenant simply built upon or added to the prior. For example, the Mosaic Covenant did not replace the Abrahamic Covenant. The purpose of the Mosaic Covenant is clearly set forth by Scripture (Gal 3:17-19):
- The Mosaic Covenant came 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant.
- The Mosaic Covenant was added alongside the Abrahamic Covenant so that the people of Israel would know how to conduct their lives until “the Seed” prophesied by the Adamic Covenant – the Christ or Messiah – would come and make the complete and perfect sacrifice.
- The laws and sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant are merely a copy or shadow of the very real salvation and deliverance that the New Covenant provides (Heb 8:5-7; 9:23-28).
Helpless and Hopeless
The Law was given so that man would recognize that he is helpless and hopeless to perfectly obey what is required for righteousness and holiness before God. The Mosaic Covenant was never given to provide salvation for those who would keep it perfectly, since no one could.
The Mosaic Covenant was given so that all would realize that they cannot do what God wants them to do, even when God writes it down on tablets of stone. All of the covenants we have studied thus far, step by step, have pointed us to this truth.
CONCLUSION TO THE MOSAIC COVENANT
In the Old Testament, 38 of the 39 books (Exodus to Malachi) cover the period of the Covenant of the Law. During this span of about 1,500 years in the life of Israel, we learn some important things (1Cor 10:1-11):
- God never changes (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8). God’s purpose and plan for man has not changed since the Creation in the Garden of Eden. That purpose and plan for man was – and still is – for God to be in personal relationship and fellowship with His creation, man.
- Man is born with a “sin nature” (Ps 51:5) as a spiritual inheritance from our father, Adam (Rom 5:19). This sin nature will always strive to have its own way.
- “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 21:25).
- “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” (Prov 12:15).
- “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts” (Prov 21:2).
- The Old Testament gives many examples of God’s chosen people “drifting away from” or “rebelling against” the laws of God and experiencing His wrath. That wrath would come by allowing the enemies of Israel to defeat and enslave them. This would happen time and time again throughout their history.
- The Law provided a contrast so that sin could be seen for what it is. Man then had a clear choice about who or what to serve and obey: God and His ways, or sin and its consequences:
- “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20).
- “For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Rom 5:13).
- “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law” (1Cor 15:56).
Israel quickly discovered that the heart condition required to lovingly keep God’s commandments was not attainable. The “law of sin” was already at work within them (Deut 5:28,29; Rom 7:7-22).
Israel’s history under the Law revealed an important truth: Unless God provided a means for man’s heart to be transformed, man was not capable of fully obeying the Lord’s righteous requirements for a blessed life in relationship with Him.
Free from the Curse
The Law was given to prepare God’s people for the New Covenant to come – one that would bring them the possibility of a new heart (Ezek 36:24-27). This principle is clarified when we read the words of Paul, a Jew raised under the Law.
In Paul’s discourse about the nature of sin and the Law (Romans Chapter 7), he cries out in anguish, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:23,24).
Paul answers his own question with the glorious Good News: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:1,2).
God in His wisdom was setting the stage for a final covenant that would be completely different from anything He has done before. This new Covenant of Grace would deal with the sin nature once and for all! But first, let us study two more covenants pertaining to the Law: the Palestinian and the Davidic covenants.
THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT
The next covenant is the Palestinian Covenant. It concerns the promised land of Palestine. The Palestinian Covenant is about the “land” that God had promised the people of Israel through the Abrahamic Covenant. This is not to be confused with the present-day Palestinian people.
A LAND OF MILK AND HONEY
The Promised Land was a land “flowing with milk and honey.” The expression “milk and honey” in Hebrew culture meant that the land was filled with fields for raising cattle (milk from the cattle) and was good for farming (honeybees are essential to farming).
The Bible describes in detail how Moses sent out twelve men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, to spy out the Promised Land (see Numbers Chapters 13 and 14). After 40 days, the spies returned to give their reports. They all agreed it was a lush land flowing with milk and honey (13:23-27).
However, ten of the spies reported that the inhabitants of the land were fierce and could not be defeated. Only Joshua and Caleb gave a positive report. They believed the Israelites could go in and take the land because their faith was in God, not in the appearance of circumstances (13:30; 14:6-9).
UNBELIEVERS DIE IN THE WILDERNESS
When the Israelites heard the negative report from the ten spies, they became fearful. They did not trust God to help them take the land He had promised to give them. God’s judgment on their sin of unbelief was about to be unleashed; but Moses interceded on behalf of the people, and God showed them mercy (Num 14:11-38).
God let the people live. But He declared that not one of that unbelieving generation would see the Promised Land. The only ones from that generation who would get to see the promised land of Palestine were Joshua, Caleb and Moses. A new generation of people would actually enter the Promised Land with Joshua and Caleb.
The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years until the old generation passed away and a new generation came into being. After 40 years of wandering, the Israelites were still in the same place where they had begun, but with a new leader, Joshua. Moses was still used by God to re-affirm His plan and purpose.
THE COVENANT HEADS
The Palestinian Covenant is made between God and Moses on behalf of the people, and is a re-affirmation of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants.
SURVEY AND TERMS OF THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT
The actual Palestinian Covenant language is found in Deuteronomy 29:10-15 and 30:11-20. Please read those passages in your Bible. This covenant took place during the Age of the Law, and was given 40 years after the Mosaic Covenant.
The Palestinian Covenant is the third theocratic covenant. It is theocratic because it deals with God’s rule over His people, the Israelites; and because it repeats the language of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants.
In the Palestinian Covenant, God reaffirmed to the new generation that all of the theocratic covenants were still in effect. He also reaffirmed that the promised land of Palestine was theirs, and that He would be with them to overcome the occupants of the land.
It had been 40 years since crossing the Red Sea from slavery to freedom (darkness to light). The new generation of Israelites was now about to cross the Jordan River and enter into the promised land of Palestine under Joshua’s leadership. God used this time to affirm to the people of Israel Who He is, and to reveal His purpose and plan for the nation. The Palestinian Covenant is what God chose to use to remind the people of His faithfulness.
The Mosaic Covenant Initiated Again
Carefully read again Deuteronomy 29:10-15:
- The covenant is with all those who are preparing to cross the Jordan River and possess the land, Palestine, promised to the people of Israel (vs10-12).
- God reminds the people that He is their God and they are His people (v13).
- God reminds the people that this is an everlasting covenant He is making with them and with all future generations (vs14,15).
The Mosaic Covenant Ratified Again
Now read Deuteronomy 30:11-20:
- The covenant is to take immediate effect; it is not for some future date (vs11-14).
- God calls for blessings on those who obey His commandments, statutes and judgments, and upon those who will love Him. He also pronounces cursings upon those who disobey Him (vs15-18). You may read Deuteronomy Chapters 27 and 28 for details of the blessings and cursings.
- The choice of living under the blessings or cursings belongs to the Israelites. The choice to walk with God in love or rebel against God is theirs to make. The final admonition reveals God’s heart: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (vs19,20).
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT
Joshua as a Type of Christ
Joshua is a foreshadow or type of Christ as he leads the people through the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Jesus was immersed in the Jordan River at His baptism (Matt 3:13-17) and will lead His people to a heavenly promised land (John 14:2,3). It is also interesting to note that the Hebrew name for Jesus is Joshua.
Also see: “The Christ of the Mosaic Covenant” for more detail.
THE KEYS TO THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT
Palestine Belongs to Israel
The Palestinian Covenant is a reaffirmation of the commitment God made: The land of Palestine belonged to Israel.
God is a Faithful God
God always keeps His promises, even when people do not (Num 23:19; 2Tim 2:13; Heb 6:13-18). The history of Israel provides many examples of God’s chosen people promising to follow Him – yet repeatedly failing to keep their promises and rebelling against Him. Of course there were consequences for their actions. But still God never forgot them, rejected them or turned His back on them.
CONCLUSION TO THE PALESTINIAN COVENANT
The history of Israel from Exodus to Malachi reveals that the Israelites were a “stiff-necked” or stubborn people (see Deuteronomy Chapter 9; 10:16; 2Kings 17:14-16).
Although their father was Abraham, the Father of Faith, they did not choose to walk by faith (2Cor 5:7).
Over and over again, the Israelites would walk by what they saw or thought was right in their own eyes (Deut 12:8-12; Judg 17:6), ignoring the laws and counsel of God. Instead of listening to God and choosing to walk with Him, they would choose their own way, and with it, the horrible consequences. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov 14:12).
But please remember that God was preparing Israel – and through them, all of mankind – to receive the ultimate revelation of Himself and His salvation through the New Covenant. The prior covenants were not designed to be sufficient to save (Heb 10:4). Rather, they served as a constant “tutor” or reminder that – because sin had entered the human race – every man, woman and child must have a Savior.
In the New Covenant, God would provide the “eyes,” “ears” and “heart” to see, hear and follow Him by His Holy Spirit (1Cor 2:9-16). That way was not yet available. Man first had to realize that the Law could not save or enable one to be holy and righteous.
THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
The Palestinian Covenant concerned the land (Promised Land). The Davidic Covenant relates to the “Seed” prophesied in the Adamic Covenant (Gen 3:15; Rom 1:3).
The Davidic covenant takes place during the Age of the Law (that was ushered in by the Mosaic Covenant). The Davidic covenant was made about 500 years after the Mosaic Covenant, and reaffirmed the lineage of the “Seed.”
The “Seed” spoken of is important because the ultimate “Seed” is Jesus Christ.
King David had a heart to build a house, a permanent dwelling place, for the Lord (see 1Chronicles 28:1-8). Prior to this time, the Ark of the Covenant was housed in a portable tent or tabernacle. David went so far as to draw up the plans for a place to house the Ark in Jerusalem.
But God told David that he was not to build the house, because David was a man of war and had shed blood (v3). God revealed to David that his son, Solomon, would build the Temple (vs6,7).
It is in this context of building a house for God that the Davidic Covenant was established. The building of a physical structure would be temporary and of limited value. But this physical temple was a prophetic foretype of a “spiritual house” from which the Messiah or “Seed” would come.
The actual language of the Davidic Covenant is found in 2Samuel 7:4-17. Important key words are found in this passage. Many interpret the key words found in the covenant in the following way:
- House: refers to a family line or dynasty (v11).
- Kingdom: refers to a realm of political power and to a people who are governed by a king (v12).
- Throne: refers to the authority of the king’s rule (v13).
- Forever: refers to the eternal and unconditional nature of this promise to David and Israel (v13).
THE COVENANT HEADS
The Davidic Covenant was between God and King David, delivered through the prophet Nathan.
SURVEY OF THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
Unconditional and Theocratic
The Davidic Covenant is an unconditional covenant between God and David. It is the fourth theocratic covenant, and is theocratic in nature because it has to do with God’s rule through the lineage of David.
- God promises David and Israel that the Messiah would come from the lineage of David and the tribe of Judah, and that He would establish a kingdom that would endure forever (2Sam 7:10-13).
- God reaffirms the promise of the Promised Land (Palestine) that He made in the first two covenants with Israel, the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants (2Sam 7:10).
- God promises that David’s descendent (Solomon) will succeed him as king of Israel. God declares that He will establish Solomon’s kingdom and throne, and that Solomon will build a house for God’s name (2Sam 7:12,13).
- God told David through Nathan the prophet, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (2Sam 7:16). This is important because it reveals that the Messiah will come from the lineage of David; and the Messiah will establish an eternal kingdom over which He will reign (Rev 11:15).
CHRIST REVEALED IN THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
David is a Type of Christ
David is a type of Christ because of his obedience to God that was demonstrated in his life. Jesus was characterized by His obedience to the Father: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38; see also John 8:29; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 5:8,9).
However, unlike Christ, David was not perfect. But when David failed, he was quick to repent (Psalms Chapter 51). David was one of those rare people of the Old Testament who obeyed the Lord from a loving heart – so much so that God even called David, “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22-24).
The Davidic Covenant is part of the Law. Please see “Christ Revealed in the Mosaic Covenant” for more details.
THE KEYS TO THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
From the Line of David
The Davidic Covenant is so important because God reveals an unbroken line through which will come the Messiah (Jesus Christ). The Messiah will establish an eternal Kingdom over which He will reign.
- “One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (John 1:40,41).
- “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Rev 17:14).
Clearly Jesus is the King of all kings and Lord of all lords! There is none like Him (Phil 2:9-11).
CONCLUSION TO THE DAVIDIC COVENANT
God’s Perfect Plan
Jesus’ human father, Joseph, was His legal father but not His physical father (Luke 1:31-35). Joseph could trace his lineage to David through Jeconiah (Matt 1:1-17). This would mean that Jesus had a legal right to David’s throne. But Jeconiah (Coniah or Jehoiachin in Hebrew) was rejected because of sin; Jeremiah prophesied that no descendent of Coniah would sit on the throne of David (Jer 22:24-30).
However, David had another son, Nathan. His line was not cursed. Mary, the physical mother of Jesus, traces her bloodline back to David through Nathan (Luke 3:23-38). Mary, Jesus’ natural mother, provides the “blood line” to David through David’s son, Nathan.
Jesus in the Line of David
It is clear that Jesus receives His “blood right” to David’s throne through His earthly mother, Mary, and His “legal right” to David’s throne through His adoptive earthly father, Joseph.
God always keeps His Word! God ordained the “virgin birth” by Mary to keep His Word and to preserve its truth. The virgin birth (Isa 7:14) was absolutely essential not only to ensure the sinless character of Jesus (Heb 4:15), but also to fulfill the Davidic Covenant.
The Forever King
The primary promise of the Davidic Covenant was one of kingship forever in the line of David. This promise included the New Covenant, and is expressed and fulfilled in the Person of Jesus. “And of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isa 9:6,7). Jesus Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, forever! Hallelujah!