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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Covenant —In order to a correct apprehension of the term ‘covenant,’ as it is used by our Lord in the Gospels, a brief survey of the OT usage is necessary.

The covenant conception is of frequent occurrence in the OT. Used at first in connexion with single transactions and partial aspects of the religious intercourse between God and man, it later becomes the formula designating the entire structure and content of the religion of Israel in its most comprehensive sense. This latter representation occurs as early as  Genesis 17:1-14,  Exodus 19:5;  Exodus 24:7-8, and often in Deuteronomy. The earlier covenants belonging to the time of Noah and Abraham ( Genesis 6:18;  Genesis 9:8-17;  Genesis 15:18) do not yet possess this comprehensive character, but appear as solemn religious rites whereby some particular promise of God is made sure. Whether the word b e rith (בְּרִית) originally meant ‘enactment,’ ‘appointment,’ ‘law,’ a meaning which it undoubtedly has in several instances, or did from the beginning signify a two-sided agreement, cannot be determined with certainty, It seems easier to conceive of the former sense as developed out of the latter than the reverse. At any rate, the comprehensive signification in which it stands for the whole religious relationship between God and Israel, rests on the idea of the covenant as a two-sided agreement. It should be remembered, however, that the two-sidedness never extends so far that God and Israel appear on an equal footing in the determination of the covenant. The planning and proposing of the covenant belong exclusively to God. Still the fact that Israel voluntarily accepts the covenant is as strongly emphasized ( Exodus 19:5;  Exodus 24:3;  Exodus 24:7, and elsewhere). Indeed, the covenant idea serves primarily to express the free, ethical, historically originated bond that exists between God and Israel. Its covenant character marks off the religion of Israel as a religion of real, conscious, spiritual fellowship between God and His people, in distinction from the religions of paganism, in which either the Deity and the creature are pantheistically fused, or the God-head after a deistic fashion is so far removed from the creature as to render true communion impossible, and where the relation between a national god and his worshippers is not a matter of choice but of necessity on both sides.

In the early Prophets the conception of the covenant is not particularly prominent. With Hosea, the figure of marriage, probably not viewed as yet by the prophet as a species of covenant, serves the same purpose. There is no reason, however, for denying that Hosea knew the covenant conception in its comprehensive religious sense, and on this ground to call in question the genuineness of 8:1. Greater prominence the covenant idea obtains from the age of Jeremiah onwards. Besides the emphasis thrown on the ethical-historical character of Israel’s religion, two other important principles attach themselves to the term, partly developing out of the principle just stated. On the one hand, the covenant idea begins to express the continuity of God’s dealings with His people; as it is a bond freely established, so it is the fruit of design and the fountain of further history, it has a prospective reference and makes Israel’s religion a growing thing; in a word, the covenant idea gathers around itself the thoughts we have in mind when speaking of a history of redemption and revelation. On the other hand, inasmuch as God is the originator of the covenant and has solemnly bound Himself not merely to fulfil His promises to Israel, but also to carry out His own purposes contemplated in the covenant, the same bond which originally expresses the freedom of the relation between God and Israel can also become the pledge of the absolute certainty, that God will not finally break with His people, Israel’s infidelity notwithstanding. In Isaiah 40-66, and especially in Jeremiah, the covenant thus stands to express the continuity and sureness of the accomplishment of the Divine purpose with reference to Israel. Out of the combination of these two ideas arises the Messianic or eschatological significance which the covenant idea obtains in both these prophets. In Isaiah 40-66 it is more than once introduced to emphasize the infallible character of the Divine promise given of old ( Isaiah 54:9-10;  Isaiah 55:3;  Isaiah 59:21;  Isaiah 61:8). In two passages ( Isaiah 42:6;  Isaiah 49:8) the servant of Jehovah is designated as בּרִיתעָם, a somewhat obscure phrase, of which the two most plausible interpretations are, either that the servant will be the instrument of realizing the future covenant between God and Israel, or, placing the emphasis on עָם, that he will be the means of establishing a people e, a e in which Israel, in contrast to its present scattered condition, will once more become a unified, organized nation. These two passages are of importance, because they bring the idea of the covenant into connexion with the “figure of the Servant of Jehovah, which, assuming that the latter was Messianically interpreted by our Lord and applied to Himself, would explain that He represents Himself as the inaugurator of a new covenant.

In Jeremiah the covenant idea appears as a Messianic idea in two forms. In so far as the promise given to the house of David was a promise pledged in solemn covenant, the Messianic blessings are a covenant gift ( Jeremiah 33:20-21; cf.  Psalms 89:28,  Isaiah 55:3). This is an instance of the old application of the idea to a concrete promise, which, however, in the present case, owing to the wide scope of the promise involved, would easily become identified in the mind of later generations with the expectation of an eschatological covenant in the comprehensive sense. The latter is the other form in which Jeremiah uses the covenant with reference to the future ( Jeremiah 31:31;  Jeremiah 31:34). This is the only place where the notion of a new covenant occurs explicitly, although the thought itself is not foreign to the older prophets. Hosea has it in the form of the new marriage which Jehovah will contract with Israel. Jeremiah conceives of the new covenant as the outcome of the covenant character of the relation between God and Israel in general. To the prophet’s mind religion and the covenant have become so identified that the covenant idea becomes the stable, permanent element in the historical development; if in its old form the covenant disappears, then in a new form it must reappear. The newness will consist in the twofold feature, that the sin of the people will be forgiven, i.e. the former sin, and that the law of Jehovah, instead of being an outward, objective covenant obligation, will become an inward, subjective covenant reality, written on the heart in consequence of the universal and perfect knowledge of Jehovah which will prevail. This passage in Jeremiah lies at the basis of the NT use of the phrase ‘the new covenant.’

Two further passages in the prophets, to which a Messianic application of the covenant idea could easily attach itself, are  Zechariah 9:11 and  Malachi 3:1. In the former passage the original reads: ‘Because of the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water’; the LXX Septuagint has, in the second person of address to Jehovah, ‘Because of the blood of thy covenant, thou hast sent forth,’ etc. On the former rendering the covenant is the covenant made with Israel, or, since this interpretation of the suffix ‘thy’ is deemed impossible by some, we may refer the suffix to the compound phrase ‘covenant blood,’ and understand the phrase ‘thy covenant blood’ of the sacrificial blood by means of which Israel continually upholds and renews the covenant with Jehovah. On the rendering of the LXX Septuagint the covenant is represented as the covenant made and maintained by Jehovah. In the Malachi-passage the coming of the ‘angel’ or ‘messenger of the covenant’ is predicted. This ‘angel of the covenant’ is not identical with the Lord, but as a distinct person he accompanies the coming of the Lord to His temple. He is called ‘the angel of the covenant,’ either because he realizes the covenant, or because his coming is in virtue of the existing covenant. It is easy to see how on either view a significant connexion could be established between the Messiah and the covenant.

The LXX Septuagint regularly renders b e rith by διαθἡκη, the later Greek versions prefer συνθήκη. The latter term better expresses the idea of a two-sided agreement; but probably this was precisely the reason why the LXX Septuagint translators, desiring to emphasize the one-sided Divine origin and character of the covenant, avoided it. It should also be remembered that in not a few instances b e rith in the original meant not a covenant but an authoritative disposition, which, as stated above, is according to some scholars even the primary meaning of the word. On the side of the Greek, also, there were considerations which explain the choice of διαθήκη, in preference to συνθήκη. It is true, in classical Greek the former meant usually a testamentary disposition, and might in so tar have seemed unsuitable as a rendering for b e rith . But occasionally at least διαθήκη could stand for a two-sided agreement (Aristoph. Av. 432). The verb διατιθεσθαε was not bound to the notion of ‘testament,’ but signified authoritative arrangements generally. And above all things it should be noted that the testamentary διαθήκη among the Greeks before and at the time of the LXX Septuagint translation differed in many respects from our modern Roman-law ‘testament,’ and possessed features which brought it into closer contact with the Hebrew b e rith . The διαθὴκη was a solemn and public transaction of a religious character, by which an irrevocable disposition of rights and property was made, and which for its effect was not dependent on the death of the διαθέμενος, but immediately set in operation certain of the duties and relationships established. Thus conceived, the διαθἡκη could all the more easily become the equivalent of the b e rith between God and Israel, because already in the OT the idea of ‘the inheritance’ had significantly attached itself to that of the covenant.

In the NT the noun used is always διαθηκη, but the cognate forms of συνθήκη appear in the verb ( Luke 22:5) and the adjective ( Romans 1:31). διαθήκη occurs in the NT 33 times. The word retains the one-sided associations of the LXX Septuagint usage, yet in most cases the NT writers show themselves aware of the peculiar covenant-meaning descended with it from the OT. An additional possibility of interpreting it in the sense of testament was furnished by the fact that the blessings of the Messianic era were derived from the death of Christ. Hence in  Hebrews 9:16-17 the new covenant is represented as a testament bestowing upon believers the eternal inheritance, because the death of Christ had to intervene to make the bestowal effectual. As Ramsay has pointed out ( Expositor , Nov. 1898, pp. 321–330), this representation is based on Roman law, according to which a testament has no force until the death of the testator. On the other hand, the Pauline representation of  Galatians 3:17-18 is based on the Graeco-Syrian law of the earlier period, under which the διαθήκη, once made, could not be subsequently modified, and took effect in certain directions immediately. No reflexion is here made on the death of the testator. Still, that διαθἡκη, does not here have the unmodified OT sense of ‘covenant,’ but means ‘testamentary disposition,’ is plain from the fact that ‘sonship’ and ‘heirship’ are connected with it in the course of the argument. These two passages in Hebrews and Galatiana are the only NT passages which explicitly refer to the testamentary character of the διαθἡκη. In how far in other instances the associations of the testament idea lay in the speaker’s or writer’s mind cannot be determined with certainty (cf.  Acts 3:25 υἱαὶ τῆς διαθήκης;  Galatians 4:24 διαθήκη γεννῶσα εἰς δουλείαν)

In the Authorized Version of the NT διαθήκη is in 14 instances rendered by ‘testament’ ( Matthew 26:28,  Mark 14:24,  Luke 22:20,  1 Corinthians 11:25,  2 Corinthians 3:6;  2 Corinthians 3:14,  Hebrews 7:22;  Hebrews 9:15 bis .  Hebrews 9:16-18;  Hebrews 9:20,  Revelation 11:19). As a marginal alternative ‘testament’ is also offered in  Romans 9:4,  Galatians 3:15;  Galatians 4:25,  Hebrews 8:6;  Hebrews 12:24;  Hebrews 13:20. In all these cases, except in  Hebrews 9:16-17, the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 has replaced ‘testament’ by ‘covenant,’ offering, however, the former as a marginal alternative in  Matthew 26:28,  Mark 14:24,  Luke 22:20,  1 Corinthians 11:25,  2 Corinthians 3:6;  2 Corinthians 3:14,  Galatians 3:15;  Galatians 3:17,  Hebrews 7:22;  Hebrews 8:6-9bis.,  Hebrews 8:10;  Hebrews 8:13;  Hebrews 9:15bis.,  Hebrews 9:20,  Revelation 11:19. In the American Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 the marginal reading ‘testament’ has in all these cases been dropped, except in  Hebrews 9:15;  Hebrews 9:20. The principle by which the Revisers were guided is plain. The only question can be whether, in view of what was stated above, they were right in rendering ‘covenant’ and not ‘testament’ in  Galatians 3:15;  Galatians 3:17. The point to be determined in each case is not whether the associations of ‘testament’ were present to the speaker’s or writer’s mind, but whether those of ‘covenant’ were absent: only where the latter is the case ought ‘covenant’ to be abandoned, and  Galatians 3:15;  Galatians 3:17 seems to belong to this class. What motives in each case underlie the choice of ‘testament’ and ‘covenant’ in Authorized Version is not so plain. Possibly these motives were not always exegetical, but derived from the usage of earlier (English and other) versions. The following explanation is offered tentatively: wherever the contrast between the old and the new διαθηκη is expressed or implied, ‘testament’ was chosen, because ‘testament’ had long since, on the basis of the Latin Bible, become familiar as a designation of the two canons of Scripture, in the forms ‘the Old Testament,’ ‘the New Testament.’ This will explain  Matthew 26:28,  Mark 14:24,  Luke 22:20,  1 Corinthians 11:25,  2 Corinthians 3:6;  2 Corinthians 3:14,  Hebrews 7:22. In  Hebrews 9:15-20, of course, the import of the passage itself required ‘testament.’  Hebrews 8:6. (‘a better covenant ’)  Hebrews 8:7. (‘that first covenant ’)  Hebrews 8:8. (‘a new covenant’)  Hebrews 8:9-10; Heb_8:13 (‘a new covenant ’),  Hebrews 9:1 (‘the first covenant ’),  Hebrews 12:24 (‘the new covenant ’), seem to run contrary to the explanation offered, but in each of these instances the context furnished a special reason for favouring ‘covenant’: in  Hebrews 8:6-13 the discourse revolves around the quotation from Jeremiah, which had ‘covenant’;  Hebrews 9:1 is still continuous with this section, and in  Hebrews 12:24 the contrast between the mediatorship of Moses and that of Jesus, and the reference to the transaction of Exodus 24, suggested ‘covenant.’ In  2 Corinthians 3:6;  2 Corinthians 3:14 ‘testament’ was especially suitable, because here the idea of διαθἡκη might seem to approach that of a body of writings ( 2 Corinthians 3:14 ‘the reading of the Old Testament’). Strange and unexplained is  Revelation 11:19 (‘the ark of his testament’), cf.  Hebrews 9:4 (‘the ark of the covenant’).

It seems strange at first sight that a conception so prominent in the OT is so little utilized in the NT. Perhaps the main reason for this was the intensity of the eschatological interest in that age, which made other terms appear more suitable to describe the new order of things felt to be approaching or to have already begun. On the whole, the covenant idea had not been intimately associated with eschatology in the OT. The consciousness that the work of Christ had ushered in a new state of things for the present life of the people of God, distinct and detached from the legal life of Judaism, for which latter the word ‘covenant ‘had become the characteristic expression, dawned only gradually upon the early Church. The phrase ‘Kingdom of God,’ while emphasizing the newness of the Messianic order of things, leaves unexpressed the superseding of the Mosaic institutions by the introduction of something else.

With this agrees the fact that the conception of Christianity as a covenant is most familiar to precisely those two NT writers who with greatest clearness and emphasis draw the contrast between the Mosaic forms of life and those of the Christian era, viz. St. Paul and the author of Hebrews. Even with St. Paul, however, the contrast referred to finds only occasional expression in terms of the covenant: as a rule, it is expressed in other ways, such as the antithesis between law and grace, works and faith. The Epistle to the Hebrews is the only NT writing which gives to the covenant idea the same central dominating place as it has in the greater part of the OT.

In the Gospels the word ‘covenant,’ in a religious sense, occurs but twice, in  Luke 1:72, and in the words spoken by our Lord at the Supper. In the former passage the covenant with Abraham is referred to, and the Messianic salvation represented as a fulfilment of the promise of that covenant. The emergence of the idea here is in harmony with the best OT traditions: it expresses the consciousness of the sovereign grace and undeserved faithfulness of God which pervades the prophetic pieces preserved for us in the gospel of the incarnation according to St. Luke. Of course, in a broad sense the idea of the relation between God and Israel embodied in the word ‘covenant’ underlies and pervades all our Lord’s teaching. Notwithstanding the so-called ‘intensive universalism’ and the recognition of religion as a natural bond between God and man, antedating all positive forms of intercourse, our Lord was a thoroughgoing supernaturalist, who viewed both the past relationship of God to Israel and the future relationship to be established in the Kingdom not as the outcome of the natural religion of man, but as the product of a special, historic, supernatural approach of God to man, such as the OT calls ‘covenant.’ While probably the legalistic shade of meaning which the word had obtained was less congenial to Him, He must have been in full accord with the genuine OT principle expressed in it.  Mark 8:38 and  Matthew 12:39 speak of the Jews as an ‘adulterous generation,’ and probably the later prophetic representation of the covenant as a marriage-covenant lies at the basis of this mode of statement.

The words spoken at the Supper were, according to St. Matthew ( Matthew 26:28) and St. Mark ( Mark 14:24), τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης (AD in Matthew and A in Mark τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης); according to St. Luke ( Luke 22:20) and St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 11:25) τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐν τῷ αἵματί μου [in 1 Cor. ἐμῷ αἵματι]. There is some doubt, however, about the genuineness of the context in St. Luke in which these words occur. In D [Note: Deuteronomist.] and some other MSS [Note: SS Manuscripts.] ,  Luke 22:19 b (beginning with τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν) and  Luke 22:20 are lacking. The textual-critical problem is a very complicated one (cf. Westcott and Hort, Notes on Select Readings in the Appendix, pp. 63–64; Haunt, Ueber die ursprüngliche Form und Bedeutung der Abendmahlsworte , pp. 6–10; Johannes Weiss, Das älteste Evangelium , pp. 294–299; Johannes Hoffmann, Das Abendmahl im Urchristenthum , pp. 7, 8 [all of whom adopt the shorter text]; Schultzen, Das Abendmahl im Neuen Testament , pp. 5–19; R. A. Hoffmann, Die Abendmahlsgedanken Jesu Christi , pp. 7–21 [who are in favour of the TR [Note: R Textus Receptus.] ]. It ought to be remembered, though it is sometimes overlooked, that the rejection of  Luke 22:19 b,  Luke 22:20 as not originally belonging to the Gospel is by no means equivalent to declaring these words unhistorical, i.e. not spoken by Jesus. Wendt, e.g. ( Die Lehre Jesu 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 496), assumes the originality of the shorter text in St. Luke, and yet believes, on the basis of the other records, that Jesus spoke the words which St. Luke, for reasons arising out of his ‘combination-method,’ omitted. (Similarly Haupt, p. 10). Still, as a matter of fact, with some writers the adoption of the shorter text is accompanied by the belief that it represents an older and more accurate tradition of what actually took place. On the other hand, it remains possible, even in retaining the TR [Note: R Textus Receptus.] as originally Lukan, to believe that St. Luke’s source supplied him with a highly peculiar version of the occurrence preserved in  Luke 22:15-19 a, and that he assimilated this to the other more current representation by borrowing  Luke 22:19 b, 20 from St. Paul. On the whole, however, the acceptance of the genuineness of the longer text naturally tends to strengthen the presumption that a statement in regard to which all the records agree must be historical. Contextual considerations also seem to speak in favour of the genuineness of the disputed words. If  Luke 22:19 b,  Luke 22:20 do not belong to the text, St. Luke must have looked upon the cup of  Luke 22:17 as the cup of the Sacrament, for it would have been impossible for him to relate an institution sub una specie . But this assumption, viz. that the cup of  Luke 22:17 meant for St. Luke the cup of the Sacrament, is impossible, because  Luke 22:18 comes between this cup and the bread of  Luke 22:19. Further,  Luke 22:18 so closely corresponds to  Luke 22:18 as to set  Luke 22:15-18 by themselves, a group of four verses with a carefully constructed parallelism between the first and the third, the second and the fourth of its members respectively; and inasmuch as  Luke 22:17 belongs to this group, it cannot very well have been connected by the author with  Luke 22:19 in such a close manner as the co-ordination of the cup and the bread in the Sacrament would require. In general, the advocates of the shorter text do not succeed in explaining how the author of the Third Gospel, who must have been familiar with the other accounts, and can hardly have differed from them in his belief that the Supper was instituted as celebrated in the Church at that time, could have regarded  Luke 22:15-19 a as an adequate institution of the rite with which he was acquainted. It is much easier to believe that a later copyist found the cup of the Sacrament in  Luke 22:17, and therefore omitted  Luke 22:20, than that a careful historian, such as St. Luke was, should have deliberately entertained this view, even if he had found a version to that effect in one of his sources.

Altogether apart from the textual problem in St. Luke, the historicity of the words relating to the covenant-blood has been called in question. Just as the saying about the λύτρον in  Mark 10:45 and  Matthew 20:28, so this utterance has been suspected since the time of Baur on account of its alleged Paulinizing character. Recently this view has gained renewed advocacy by such writers as W. Brandt, Die Evangelische Geschichte , pp. 289 ff., 566; Bousset, Die Evangeliencitate Justin des Märtyrers , p. 112 ff.; Wrede, ZNT W [Note: NTW Zeitschrift für die Neutest. Wissen. schaft.] , 1900, pp. 69–74; Hollmann, Die Bedeutung des Todes Jesu , p. 145 ff. The principal arguments on which these writers rest their contention are, that whilst to St. Paul the idea of the new covenant is familiar, no trace of it appears elsewhere in the teaching of Jesus; that it is expressive of an antithesis to the OT religion and its institutions out of harmony with Jesus’ general attitude towards these; that in Justin Martyr’s version of the institution the disputed words do not occur (so Bousset); that the structure of the sentence in Matthew and Mark still betrays the later addition of the genitive τῆς διαθήκης (so Wrede). The mere fact, however, that a certain conception occurs with a degree of doctrinal pointedness in Paul, does not warrant us in suspecting it when it occurs in the mouth of Jesus. With St. Paul himself the shade of meaning of the word is not in every passage the same. It cannot be proved that the Apostle read into what were to him the words of the institution an anti-Judaistic significance, such as belongs to the conception in  Galatians 4:24 and  2 Corinthians 3:6. Even the characterization of the διαθήκη as καινή does not require us to assume this. Even to St. Paul, we shall have to say, the phrase καινὴ διαθήκη has in the present instance the more general soteriological associations, in view of which the antithesis of the new to the old and the superseding of the old by the new recede into the background. The new covenant is the covenant which fulfils the OT promises, rather than the new covenant which abrogates the OT law. With still more assurance we may affirm this of the words as ascribed to Jesus in Mark and Matthew. Here (apart from the hardly original reading of A and D [Note: Deuteronomist.] in Matthew and A in Mark) the explicit designation of the διαθήκη as καινή is not found. While the thought of the substitution of one covenant for another is undoubtedly the logical correlate of the statement even in this form, yet such an inference, if present at all, can have lain in the periphery only, not in the centre of the consciousness of Him who thus spoke.

It ought to be observed that the literal rendering of the words is not: ‘This is my covenant-blood,’ with the emphasis on the pronoun, but: ‘This is my blood, covenant-blood.’ The enclitic μου is too weak to bear the stress the former rendering would put upon it. Accordingly, μου belongs neither to διαθήκη nor to the compound idea ‘covenant-blood,’ but to the noun ‘blood’ only, as is also required by this, that τὸ αἷμά μου should be the exact correlate of τὸ σῶμά μου. The other construction, ‘my covenant,’ could only mean either ‘the covenant concluded with me,’ as in the original of  Zechariah 9:11, or ‘the covenant made by me as a contracting party,’ as in the LXX Septuagint rendering of that passage, hardly ‘the covenant inaugurated by me between God and you.’ And yet the last it would have to mean here, if μου went with διαθήκη. By these considerations we are led to adopt the rendering ‘this is my blood, covenant-blood’; and this rendering makes it appear at once, that our Lord does not in the first place contrast His covenant-blood with the Mosaic covenant-blood, but simply speaks of His blood as partaking of the character of covenant-blood after the analogy of that used by Moses. But even if the comparison with the Mosaic covenant bore more of an antithetical character than it does, it would still be rash to assert that such an antithesis between the relation to God inaugurated by Himself and that prevailing under the Mosaic law could find no place in our Lord’s consciousness, especially towards the close of His life. His attitude towards the Mosaic law, as reflected in the Gospels, presents a complicated problem. This much, however, is beyond doubt, that side by side with reverence for the Law there is, both in His teaching and conduct, a note of sovereign freedom with regard to it. From the position expressed in such sayings as  Mark 2:21-22;  Mark 7:15-23 to the conception of a new covenant superseding the old there is but one step.

We take for granted that the words were actually spoken by Jesus. In view of the fact that He uttered them in Aramaic, the question, whether the rendering of Matthew and Mark or that of Paul and Luke more nearly reproduces the original, becomes difficult to decide and also of minor importance. Zahn ( Evan. d. Matt . p. 686, note 52) suggests that from the Aramaic form רמידדיתקא both renderings might, without material modification of the sense, have been derived. That the thought is in both forms essentially the same will appear later, after we have inquired into the content of Jesus’ statement.

The intricate problems connected with the institution of the Supper can here be touched upon in so far only as they bear upon the meaning of the words relating to the covenant. We give a brief survey of the various interpretations placed upon those words.

First we may mention the interpretation according to which the covenant spoken of by Jesus stands in no real connexion with His death. Most modern writers who detach the original significance of the act of Jesus from His death, assume that the reference to the covenant is a later addition. Thus Johannes Hoffmann makes Jesus say no more than ‘This is my body,’ ‘This is my blood,’ and interprets this as meaning, that the disciples must be closely knit together as members of one body, Himself forming the centre. The meal is a meal of friendship. The Saviour even at this eleventh hour did not expect to die, but confidently looked forward to the immediate glorious appearance of the Kingdom of God. With this thought in mind He asked the disciples to unite themselves symbolically into the little flock for which the Kingdom was appointed.

Dismissing this and similar views, because they leave the covenant words out of consideration, we note that Spitta has developed a hypothesis which, while cutting loose the Supper from the death of Christ, nevertheless interprets its symbolism as a covenant symbolism ( Zur Geschichte und Literatur des Urchristenthums, i. pp. 207–337). According to Spitta, the covenant is none other than the Davidic-Messianic covenant promised by the prophets, and inasmuch as this covenant had been frequently represented under the figure of a great feast, our Lord could by means of the Supper give to the disciples a symbolic anticipation of its approaching joys, the more so since the figure of a banquet to describe the eschatological Kingdom occurs also elsewhere in Jesus’ teaching. The partaking of this Messianic least could be represented as a partaking of the Messiah (‘This is my body,’ ‘This is my blood’), because the Messiah was the Author and Centre of these future blessings. Jesus, while knowing that His death was at hand, yet in faith projected Himself beyond death into the time of the Kingdom: the Supper was to Him a feast of joy, not a memorial of death. It was a single triumphant anticipation of the great feast of victory, not intended to be repeated as a rite. The present description of the covenant as a new covenant in the Pauline-Lukan record is, according to Spitta, a later modification of the conception in an anti-Judaistic direction. So far as its understanding of the term ‘covenant’ is concerned, this hypothesis has a certain OT basis to rest upon. To be sure, the Davidic covenant, to which Spitta makes Jesus refer, is in the OT a past covenant, a covenant made with David, the pledge and basis of future blessings, not a name for the blessings of the Messianic age themselves. But this might easily become blended with the prophetic prediction of a new covenant in the Messianic time, and then actually the covenant of David could become equivalent to the Messianic blessedness (cf.  Isaiah 55:3 ‘the sure mercies of David’). There is, however, no prophetic passage which joins together the conceptions of the Messianic covenant and of a feast, so that no explanation is offered of the association of the one with the other in the mind of Jesus. The account of Exodus 24 far more plausibly explains the combination of these two ideas, for here the covenant and the feast actually occur together. And if this be the more direct source of our Lord’s reference to the covenant, then it follows that the blood and the covenant stand in a much more direct connexion with each other than Spitta assumes. According to Spitta, it is the blood which represents the personality of Jesus, who is the Author and Centre of the covenant. According to  Exodus 24:8 it is the blood directly inaugurating the covenant. Apart from every reference to Exodus 24, when the blood is brought into connexion with the covenant (‘this is my blood of the covenant’), it becomes entirely impossible to think of anything else than a covenant based on sacrificial blood: every other mode of joining these two terms is artificial. Spitta’s further assumption, that the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine stand for a partaking of the Messiah’s body and blood, as a symbol of the eating of the Messiah, altogether apart from His death, is highly improbable. The feast as a whole might be the symbol of a participation in the Messiah, though even the examples quoted by Spitta of this mode of speaking are not sufficient to prove a current usage, if the sacrificial meal be left out of account. Assuming, however, that the general phrase ‘eating the Messiah’ was familiar to Jesus and the disciples outside of every connexion with the sacrificial meal, the distributive form in which the records present the thought, that of eating the Messiah’s body and drinking His blood, could hardly have possessed such familiarity, and compels us, while not rejecting the idea of appropriating the Messiah, to think of Him as appropriated in His sacrificial capacity.

We turn next to the theories which recognize that the covenant stands through the blood in connexion with the death of Jesus. When the blood is called ‘covenant-blood,’ this undoubtedly implies that Jesus’ death is instrumental in introducing the covenant. Justice is not done to this when merely in some indirect way the death is supposed to prepare the way for the covenant, viz., in so far as it forms the transition to a higher life which will enable Jesus to bestow upon His disciples the covenant-blessings. Thus the direct nexus between the blood and the covenant is severed. The view stated is that of Titius ( Die neutestamentliche Lehre von der Seligkeit , i. p. 150 ff.). According to this writer, the Supper is to be explained not from the idea of the forgiveness of sin, but from that of the communication of life. Titius does not identify this covenant with the consummate eschatological state; it is something intermediate between that and the communion with God into which Jesus introduced His disciples before His death. The new covenant is made possible by the death of Jesus, because through this death He will be raised into heaven, whence the powers of eternal life can descend upon His Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit. It may be justly objected to this construction, that in it the death of Jesus appears not as a source of blessing by itself, but as a more or less accidental entrance into the life of glory, from which the blessing flows. As Titius himself admits, in the abstract it would have been quite possible to procure the new covenant and the perfected communion with God without the intervention of Jesus’ death, viz., if it had pleased God to exalt the Messiah in some other way. Thus it becomes difficult to understand how so much emphasis can be placed by Jesus upon the appropriation of His death, or how He can require the disciples to drink His blood. The appropriation symbolized certainly cannot relate to the accidental form in which the blessing is prepared, it must have reference to the substance of the blessing itself. If the death is the object of appropriation, then it must possess a direct and intrinsic significance for the covenant in which the disciples are to share.

This is recognized by Wendt ( Lehre Jesu 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 502 ff.), according to whom Jesus regarded His death as a covenant-sacrifice, standing in the same relation to the new covenant predicted by Jeremiah as the sacrifice brought by Moses sustained to the Sinaitic covenant. In his opinion, the record of Exodus 24 shows that the Mosaic sacrifice had nothing to do with atonement, but consisted of burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, meant as a gift to God expressing the people’s consent to His revealed law, and hence became a seal of covenant relation. The sacrifice pledged both God and the people. In analogy with this, Jesus represents His death as a gift dedicated to God, for the sake of which God will establish the new covenant, i.e. the state of salvation in the Kingdom of God, not, to be sure, on any strictly legal principle of recompense, but in harmony with His inexhaustible goodness and grace. Wendt’s interpretation is wrong, not so much in what it affirms as in what it denies. That Jesus regarded the sacrifice of His life as a gift to God, and ascribed to it saving significance because it was an act of positive obedience, may be safely affirmed. The confidence, however, with which He appropriates the effects of this act to the disciples does not favour Wendt’s assumption, that He made these effects dependent on a gracious will of God, imparting to the sacrifice a value which intrinsically it did not possess. But, apart from this, the analogy with the Mosaic sacrifice leads us to believe that Jesus did not confine Himself to viewing His death under the aspect of a gift. The prominence here given to the blood forbids us to interpret the sacrifice as exclusively, or even primarily, a symbol of gratitude or consecration to God. Even though the sacrifices brought were not specific sin-offerings, but burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, this does not eliminate from them the element of expiation. The Law itself speaks of expiation in connexion with the burnt-offerings ( Leviticus 1:4), and the Passover-sacrifice, closely akin to the peace-offerings, certainly had expiatory significance. It may even be doubted whether the idea of a gift to God, except in the most general sense in which every sacrifice is a gift, was present to the mind of the author of Exodus 24. When Moses calls the blood sprinkled on the people ‘the blood of the covenant which Jehovah has made with you,’ this can scarcely mean ‘the blood by the dedication of which God is induced to make the covenant.’ It must mean either ‘the blood by whose expiatory power the covenant is inaugurated,’ or ‘the blood by which, as a bond of life between God and the people, the covenant is established and maintained.’ Perhaps it may express both of the thoughts just mentioned, since the ideas of expiatio and communio were often united in the conception of sacrifice. Besides this, the association in the mind of Jesus between the new covenant and the forgiveness of sine is rendered highly probable by the joint-occurrence of the two ideas in the Jeremiah-passage, where the forgiveness of sins is named as the great blessing of the new covenant. Now, if Jesus had this thought in mind, and spoke at the same time of the sacrificial pouring forth of His blood, then it was almost impossible for Him not to unite the two thoughts, so as to conceive of the blood as a blood of expiation securing forgiveness. It is by no means necessary to rest this argument on the words in Matthew ‘unto the forgiveness of sins.’ Supposing that these words are a later interpretation of the thought, we shall still have to recognize them as an essentially correct interpretation, which merely resolves the ὑτερ of Mark and Luke into περι + εἰς.

A further argument may be added to this from the part which the covenant conception plays in the second part of the Book of Isaiah in connexion with the figure of the Servant of Jehovah, who is called, as we have seen, the בִּרִיתעָם. In our opinion, although this has been denied by Ritschl and others, there can be no doubt that the Servant-of-Jehovah-prophecy, and particularly Is 53, was an influential factor in determining the Messianic consciousness of Jesus. In this prophecy, however, the sacrificial role of the Servant, in an expiatory, vicarious sense, is so distinctly delineated, that, once fioding Himself in the chapter, Jesus could not conceive thereafter of His death, or of the relation of His death to the covenant, on any other principle than is here set forth (cf. Denney, Death of Christ, pp. 13–56).

As a matter of fact, the trend of recent investigation of the problem of the Supper is towards the acknowledgment, that the words, as they stand, not merely in Luke and Paul, nor merely in Matthew, but even in Mark, clearly express, and were intended by the writers of the Gospels to express, the expiatory interpretation of the death of Jesus. So far as the purely exegetical determination of the sense of the words ex animo auctorum (in distinction from the estimate put upon their historic credibility) is concerned, the traditional Church-doctrine is being more and more decisively vindicated. True, many modern writers, while granting this, emphatically deny that our Lord spoke, or could have spoken, the words which St. Paul and the Synoptists attribute to Him, or that what He spoke can have had the meaning which the words in their present setting and form convey. The two main reasons for this denial are, that, on the one hand, the teaching of Jesus about the sinner’s relation to God is such as to leave no room for sacrificial expiation as a prerequisite of the sinner’s acceptance, forgiveness flowing from God’s free grace; and that, on the other hand, in the early Apostolic Church the expiatory interpretation of the death of Jesus is not present from the beginning, as it would have been if Jesus had taught it, but marks a subsequent doctrinal development. Neither of these contentions has sufficient force to discredit the unanimous witness of St. Paul and the Synoptists. In point of fact, Jesus nowhere represents the forgiveness of sins as absolutely unconditioned. It is one of the gifts connected with the state of sonship in the Kingdom. Consequently, it is bound to His own person in the same sense and to the same degree as the general inheritance of the Kingdom is. Unless one is ready to assert with Harnack, that in the gospel, as preached by Jesus Himself, there is no place for His person, it will be necessary to believe that our Lord considered His own Messianic character and work of supreme importance, not merely for the preaching, but also for the actual establishment of the Kingdom of God. This being so, it became necessary for Him to combine with the specific form He gave to His Messiahship a specific conception of the manner in which the blessings of the Kingdom are obtained by the disciples. His views about the forgiveness of sins would be less apt to be determined by any abstract doctrine as to the nature of God, than by the concrete mode in which the developments of His life led Him, in dependence upon Scripture, to conceive of the character of His Messiahship and its relation to the coming of the Kingdom. If He anticipated death, as there is abundant evidence to show He did, from a comparatively early point in His ministry, then He could not fail to ascribe to this death a Messianic meaning; and this Messianic meaning, if there was to belong to it any definiteness at all, could hardly be other than that portrayed by the prophet Isaiah in the suffering Servant of Jehovah.

It is quite true that the silence observed by our Lord in regard to this important matter till very near the close of His ministry is calculated to awaken surprise. But this silence He likewise preserved till the same point with regard to His Messianic calling in general; the problem is not greater in the former respect than in the latter; the reasons which will explain the one will also explain the other. Nor should it be forgotten that, side by side with His high conception of the love of God, Jesus ascribed supreme importance to the Divine justice. He carefully preserved the valuable truth contained in the exaggerated Jewish ideas about the forensic relation between God and man (cf. Keim, v. 331, ‘A continual oscillation between the standpoint of grace and that of Jewish satisfaction can be established’). Recognizing this element in His teaching as something He did not hold prefunctorily, but with great earnestness of conviction, we have no right to assert that every idea of expiation and satisfaction must have been on principle repudiated by Jesus as inconsistent with the love of God. Nor is there much force in the second contention, namely, that the absence of the expiatory interpretation of the death of Jesus from the early Apostolic preaching proves the impossibility of deriving this doctrine from Jesus. The doctrine is certainly older than St. Paul, who declares that he ‘received’ ἐν πρώτοις, as one of the fundamental tenets of the Apostolic faith, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ( 1 Corinthians 15:3). This ‘receiving’ on the part of St. Paul is separated by no more than seven years from the death of Jesus; according to recent schemes of chronology, by an even shorter interval. When in the discourses of the earlier chapters of Acts the emphasis is placed on the resurrection rather than on the death of Jesus, this must be explained from the apologetic purpose of these discourses. They were intended to prove that, notwithstanding His death, Jesus could still be the Messiah. Probably even upon the disciples themselves, at that early date, the full meaning of the teaching of Jesus concerning His death had not dawned; but if it had, to make this the burden of their preaching to the Jews would have been an ill-advised method. We know from these same discourses in Acts that the disciples looked upon the death of Jesus as foreordained. It is not likely that, holding this, they can have rested in it as sufficient for their faith, and entirely refrained from seeking the reasons for the Divine forcordination, which in this, as well as all other cases, must have appeared to them teleological. In the light of this, the references to Jesus as the Servant of God, which occur in these early discourses, sometimes in connexion with His suffering, become highly significant, partly because they sound like reminiscences of Jesus’ own teaching, partly because they render it probable that our Lord’s death was interpreted in dependence on Is 53. Finally, attention should be called to the central place which the forgiveness of sins occupies in the early Apostolic preaching. The prominence of this theme requires for its background a certain definite connexion between the Messiahship of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins, and this is precisely what is afforded by the expiatory interpretation of the Saviour’s death (cf. Denney, The Death of Christ , pp. 65–85, where the preceding points are luminously discussed).

On the grounds stated we conclude that there is neither exegetical nor historical necessity for departing from the old view, that Jesus represented His death as the sacrificial, expiatory basis of a covenant with God. The next question arising is, Who are meant as the beneficiaries of this expiation on which the covenant is founded? At first sight it would seem as if only one answer were possible, viz. those to whom He gives the cup in which the wine, the symbol of the expiating blood, is contained. Nevertheless, the correctness of this view ha

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [2]

The word "covenant, " infrequently heard in conversation, is quite commonly used in legal, social (marriage), and religious and theological contexts.

The Idea of Covenant . The term "covenant" is of Latin origin ( con venire ), meaning a coming together. It presupposes two or more parties who come together to make a contract, agreeing on promises, stipulations, privileges, and responsibilities. In religious and theological circles there has not been agreement on precisely what is to be understood by the biblical term. It is used variously in biblical contexts. In political situations, it can be translated treaty; in a social setting, it means a lifelong friendship agreement; or it can refer to a marriage.

The biblical words most often translated "covenant" are berit [   Genesis 26:30;  31:54 ); others have emphasized the idea of cutting an animal (an animal was cut in half [15:18]); still others have seen the ideas of perceiving or determining as root concepts. The preferred meaning of this Old Testament word is bond; a covenant refers to two or more parties bound together. This idea of bond will be explicated more fully.

The New Testament word for covenant has usually been translated as covenant, but testimony and testament have also been used. This Greek word basically means to order or dispose for oneself or another. The though of the inequality of the parties is latent.

The generally accepted idea of binding or establishing a bond between two parties is supported by the use of the term berit [   Genesis 26:26-31 ). Joshua and the Gibeonites bound themselves, by oath, to live in peace together ( Joshua 9:15 ), although Yahweh commanded that Israel was not to bind themselves to the people living in the land of Canaan ( Deuteronomy 7:2;  Judges 2:2 ). Solomon and Hiram made a binding agreement to live and work in peace together ( 1 Kings 5:12 ). A friendship bond was sealed by oath between David and Jonathan ( 1 Samuel 20:3,16-17 ). Marriage is a bond (covenant) for life.

The covenants referred to above were between two equal parties; this means that the covenant relationship was bilateral. The bond was sealed by both parties vowing, often by oath, that each, having equal privileges and responsibilities, would carry out their assigned roles. Because a covenant confirmed between two human parties was bilateral, some scholars have concluded that the covenant Yahweh established with human beings is also bilateral. This is not the case. God initiated, determined the elements, and confirmed his covenant with humanity. It is unilateral. Persons are recipients, not contributors; they are not expected to offer elements to the bond; they are called to accept it as offered, to keep it as demanded, and to receive the results that God, by oath, assures will not be withheld.

Scholars have learned by studying tablets found by archaeologists that legal treaties between kings (suzerains) and subjects (vassals) existed during the time of the biblical patriarchs, Moses, Joshua, the judges, and the first kings of Israel. These treaties were written on tablets for the purpose of establishing a continuing relationship as determined and authorized by the suzerain. Once written, the covenants were not to be altered or annulled although parts could be explicated or elaborated. Did biblical writers borrow the idea of the covenant and its integral elements from pagan sources when the Old Testament was written—elements such as a self-presentation of the suzerain and his activities, including those done on behalf of the vassals, statements of intent, stipulations, and assurances of well-being if obedient and of curses if disobedient? The legal covenants included provisions for continuity, with emphasis on the suzerain's claim to vassals' children, and were confirmed by an oath or a special ratification ceremony, like the cutting in half of an ox or cow or the sharing of a meal as the conclusion of the act of covenanting.

These nonbiblical covenants were intended to serve a number of purposes, two of which are especially important to understand. The suzerain stated that as victor and lord over the vassals he had spared them in battle, delivered them from extenuating circumstances, and placed them in situations of life and well-being. This was an undeserved favor. The suzerain's covenant was also intended to serve an administrative function. It informed the vassals how the king would govern them and what they were to do in obedient response to him. These two purposes, the reminder of deliverance and the information on administration of affairs in daily life, appear in Yahweh God's covenanting with his people but in radically different ways.

Covenants, neither suzerain-vassal nor biblical, were not made (nor did they function) in a vacuum. Covenants presupposed a king, a domain, a way of life, people, and often mediating servants. The covenant was an important administrative means within a kingdom.

Did biblical writers borrow from pagan sources when they wrote about Yahweh God's covenantal activities on behalf of and his relationships with his people? There is no reference of any kind in the Bible that this was done. There are marked similarities between biblical and the nonbiblical covenants. The most satisfactory and acceptable position is that Yahweh God is the source and originator of the entire covenant concept and phenomenon. He included the covenant relationship in his creation activity and handiwork. Covenant is germane to human life; it is God-implanted and -unfolded. Pagan kings gave concrete expression, in their proud and self-sufficient attitudes, to what Yahweh God had implanted and maintained within his created cosmos. This explanation calls for an answer to three important questions. When did Yahweh God first establish his covenant? What was the nature of that initial covenant? According to biblical revelation, did Yahweh God, after the initial one, establish any more covenants?

The Old Testament . The Hebrew word for covenant does not appear in  Genesis 1-5 . Some scholars say that this is evidence that there was no covenant in humankind's earliest history. Some say that the idea of covenant arose initially in the minds of the Israelites after they had been at Mount Sinai. To account for references to the covenant in the Noahic and patriarchal accounts, scholars have incorrectly said that later editors of Genesis inserted the idea of covenant to give historical evidence and credence to what Israel later believed. Other scholars, who accept Genesis as a record of Yahweh's revelation, also have difficulty accepting that God established his covenant when he created the cosmos mainly because of the lack of direct verbal reference to it.

Biblical testimony points to the fact that God covenanted when he created. Hosea (6:7) refers to Adam breaking the covenant. Jeremiah spoke of the covenant of the day and the night that no one can alter (33:19-20); this covenant is understood to have been initiated in creation when God separated light from darkness and gave the sun and moon their appointed place and role ( Genesis 1:3-5,14 ). When Yahweh God first spoke to Noah, he said he was going to wipe humankind from the face of the earth ( Genesis 6:7 ). But he assured Noah he would uphold and cause his covenant to continue. Hence Noah did not have to fear that God's plan for and method of administering his cosmic kingdom would be different after the flood. But why, if God covenanted when he created, is the word "covenant" not in  Genesis 1-2 ? Those who wish to speak of only the covenant of grace, referred to briefly and indirectly in the Noahic account ( Genesis 6-9 ), believe that some of the basic elements of the covenant of grace were enunciated when Yahweh God promised victory through the woman's seed ( Genesis 3:14-16 ). When Yahweh God covenanted with David, according to  2 Samuel 7 , the term "covenant" does not appear but when David referred to what Yahweh had said and done, he said, "Has he not made with me an everlasting covenant?" ( 2 Samuel 23:5; cf.  Psalm 89:3 ). As the elements included in covenant were present in the account of the covenanting with David ( 2 Samuel 7 ), so the elements constituting covenant are recorded in  Genesis 1-2 .

The basic elements of a covenant are imbedded in the Genesis account. God, in his revelation of creation, presented himself as the Creator. The historical record of what he has done was outlined. He created his image-bearers by means of which he placed and kept man and woman in a close relationship with himself and had them mirror (reflect) and represent him within the created cosmos. Humanity was given stipulations or mandates. As image-bearers they were to maintain an intimate and obedient fellowship with their Creator; the Sabbath was to enhance this. Humanity was to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth; this was to be done by establishing families; a man was to leave his parents and cleave to his wife ( Genesis 2:24 ). Becoming one flesh, they would have children. As families increased, community would be formed. This social mandate thus was an integral aspect of covenant. So was the cultural mandate; man and woman were to cultivate (subdue NIV) and rule over the creation. When God saw all that he had done, he confirmed, not by expressing an oath or performing a ratifying ceremony, but by declaring all to be very good ( Genesis 1:31 ). This he confirmed by ceasing from creating activity and establishing the seventh day as a day of rest, sanctity, and blessing ( Genesis 2:1-3 ).

Yahweh God did more; he spoke of assured blessings. God blessed Adam and Eve; he thus gave them ability and authority to serve as his covenant agents. He provided for their sustenance ( Genesis 1:28-30 ). He also spoke of the possibility of disobedience, if they ate of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil ( Genesis 2:17 ). The ideas of blessing (life) and curse (death) thus were also included. The forbidding of eating has been referred to as the probationary command but also as the integral aspect of "the covenant of works." An increasing number of biblical students and scholars have come to consider, on the basis of biblical testimony, that it is preferable to speak of the covenant of creation and that what was considered to constitute the "covenant of works" is but an integral part of the covenant of creation.

Yahweh's covenant agents were tempted by Satan. They doubted Yahweh's words; they accepted the lie. They fell. They broke the covenantal relationship between Yahweh and themselves. Creation was affected, for it too suffered the consequences of Adam and Eve's sin. It too began to groan ( Romans 8:22 ). But Yahweh did not break his covenant with creation and his vicegerents. He came to the fallen, shamed, and humiliated image-bearers and set about restoring humanity to fellowship with and service for him. Yahweh, graciously maintaining his mandates, revealed that Adam and Eve could still work under them. Spiritual fellowship was restored by Yahweh's assurance that the woman's seed would be victorious over Satan and his seed. The social mandate was maintained; Adam and Eve as one flesh would have offspring, but pain would be suffered. The cultural mandate was still to be obeyed, but it would cause labor and sweat. All the elements of the creation covenant remained. Then Yahweh added another dimension to this covenantal relationship. He pronounced in germinal form his plan for the full redemption and restoration of his image-bearers and their royal, priestly, and prophetic roles with their attendant privileges and responsibilities. Yahweh revealed how this was to be done by adding to his creation covenant the redemptive and restorative promises and implied stipulations of faith and obedience. He established what has been widely known as the covenant of grace.

Misunderstanding must be avoided. God has established an all-embracing binding relationship (covenant) with his creation, of which humanity is the central establishment of a second covenant within the context and framework of the creation covenant. As Yahweh God continued revealing himself, and how the redemptive/restorative "second covenant" was to be administered, it was always done with the context and framework of the creation covenant. Because the covenant of grace received direct and fuller "divine attention" as Yahweh God revealed his kingdom plan, goal, and certain consummation, many biblical students and scholars have concentrated their attention on it, failing to see, understand, or believe its position and role within the context and framework of the creation covenant that Yahweh certainly maintained and continues to maintain as he carries out and fulfills his plan and goal for his ever enduring kingdom.

 Genesis 6-9 presents Noah as a faithful covenant man. In the midst of a very sinful, corrupt society, which God determined to wipe out, Noah lived obediently. Socially, he had one wife and three sons; he was blameless, so that others could not accuse him of wrongdoing. Spiritually he was in constant fellowship with God. He walked with God and was righteous; he lived according to God's will (6:9-10; 7:1). When commanded to build the ark, he proved to be a capable servant in the cultural dimension of life (6:14-16; 7:5). Yahweh assured Noah that his covenant of creation and its correlate, the covenant of gracious redemption and restoration, would be maintained with him and his family (6:18). After the flood had removed corrupt society and then receded, Noah the covenant man worshiped; he built an altar and sacrificed. Yahweh responded to Noah's worship and determined to continue his relationship with the cosmos (8:20-9:17). Parts of the creation covenant mandates were repeated; some were explicated. In confirming his creation covenant with humanity, God said every living creature was included (9:9-10); God included the death penalty for murder (9:5-6), and meat as legitimate food for humanity (9:2-3). This assurance concerning the continuity of the creation covenant certainly includes the implication that Yahweh would continue his gracious redemptive/restorative covenant. This continuity would be worked out particularly with Shem, blessed by Yahweh to serve as the builder of the tent that even Ham's offspring, Canaan, would enter. Japheth's offspring would benefit from it and enlarge it. Thus, Yahweh God maintained and explicated his covenant with Noah and his offspring.

After Yahweh God had given absolute assurance to Noah and his sons that the creation covenant would continue, there are not many direct references to it again. But its presence and role are constantly and consistently present.

Yahweh, revealing himself as the Sovereign One to Abram, gave him covenantal promises: spiritual well-being, making a great nation of him, making him famous, and using him as a channel of blessing to all peoples. Yahweh added to the assurances of blessings the certainty of the curse on despisers and rejectors of Abram and his sovereign God.

The process of God's covenanting with Abram was unfolded throughout the course of Abram's life. When Abram was afraid after his separation from and rescue of Lot ( Genesis 13-14 ), Yahweh assured Abram of his abiding presence and protection for him (shield) and of the blessed spiritual future Yahweh had for him (great reward,  Genesis 15:1 ). Abram realized his great future included children; he inquired about this. Yahweh assured him he would have many ( Genesis 15:5 ). In this way the continuity of the covenant was assured. An added promise was given: that he would possess the land (15:7). A covenant ratification ceremony was performed in a vision to Abram in which the blessing of peace for Abram and a curse (punishment) was pronounced on those enslaving covenantal seed (15:12-21).  Genesis 15 includes covenantal elements: (1) Yahweh's sovereign presence; (2) Abram's assured rich future; (3) continuity through much seed; (4) a place to live and serve in the midst of the nations; (5) a curse on opponents of the blessed; and (6) the response of faith and blessing of justification.

The covenanting process continued after Abram sinfully followed Sarai's suggestion to take Hagar the Egyptian maid as a concubine ( Genesis 16 ). Yahweh came to Abram and gave further explication of the redemptive/restorative covenant within the context of the creational covenant.

Yahweh presented himself as the invincible, powerful, and exalted God. Yahweh emphasized the stipulations of the covenant: "walk before me" (remain in constant, everyday spiritual fellowship with me); "be blameless" (live uprightly according to my will among your fellowmen). Implied in these stipulations was Yahweh's awareness of Abram's lack of faith and obedience in his sovereign, exalted God and of his sin of adultery with Hagar. Abram had sinned spiritually and socially but Yahweh graciously confirmed his covenant(s) with Abram. The verb used in Hebrew is "give." The continuity of the covenant with Abram was a gift of Yahweh's grace . Abram responded in humility and worship (17:3). Covenantal elements were then repeated. Abram was promised many offspring; they would form nations and give rise to kings. This emphasized repetition of seed was strongly affirmed by the change of his name to Abraham and the assurance that the covenant with his offspring was for all time. The life-love bond between Yahweh and Abraham and his seed was strongly affirmed by the promise "to be your God and the God of your descendants" (17:8). Yahweh, by these words, assured Abraham of his abiding presence, his availability, his sure help, and his unfailing love, support, and comfort in all circumstances of life. Abram was also assured that he would possess the land (17:7-8). To the stipulations to walk and be blameless, Yahweh added the command to circumcise the male offspring who in turn would generate offspring. In the context of assuring Abraham of much seed, Yahweh gave the covenantal sign of circumcision (17:11), which sons were always to carry and by which he demonstrated that he claimed the seed as people in covenant with him. Circumcision was given such an emphatically important role in Yahweh's covenanting with Abraham and his offspring, that it was referred to as the "covenant of circumcision" (17:13). This was not a separate covenant, but was such an integral part of the redemptive/restorative covenant that it was referred to as representing the entire covenant (a part representing the whole). Also in the context of Yahweh's claim to Abraham's seed as his, the concept of divine election is included. Abraham pled that his son Ishmael be considered a covenant progenitor, but Yahweh emphatically stated Isaac, to be born of Sarah, was to be that one (17:15-21).

After God had tested Abraham's obedience, by oath (22:1-6) he repeated and confirmed elements of his covenant (22:17-18a). Of fundamental importance is Yahweh's statement "because you have obeyed me" (22:18b). This stress on obedience is strong evidence that the covenant with Abraham should not be considered basically as a covenant of promise with the response of faith. Important as promise and faith are, they should not be used to minimize the emphasis on stipulations: leave, go, fear not, walk before me, be blameless, circumcise, offer your son. Abraham was never given options that he could choose to accept or reject. As a "vassal" he was given commandments, laws, orders, regulations, requirements, and decrees (26:4). Yahweh's covenant with Abraham was characterized by promise and law. As these were not to be separated, so faith and obedience were not to be either.

As Yahweh had promised that his redemptive/ restorative covenant in the broader context of the creation covenant was to be continued with Isaac (17:19-20), and because Abraham had obeyed Yahweh and kept his laws (26:5), Yahweh did accordingly confirm his covenant with Isaac (26:3-4,24).

The gracious character of Yahweh's covenant with the patriarchs was highlighted in Yahweh's interactions with Jacob, who was chosen in spite of his covetousness (25:29-34), deception (27:19), and clever manipulations (30:31-43). Election to covenantal privileges and responsibilities was not on the basis of merit, but according to Yahweh's sovereign will and mercy ( Romans 9:10-18 ).

Yahweh God confirmed the covenant in all its aspects and ramifications with Jacob. When fleeing from Esau, Jacob was assured of these; the reassurance of Yahweh's presence was captured by the phrases "I am with you"; "I will watch over you"; "I will bring you back to the land"; "I will not leave you"; and "I will accomplish all I promise you." With these assurances Jacob could travel, live, work, and prosper anyplace in Yahweh's cosmic kingdom, for Yahweh had repeated his determination to uphold and carry out his creation covenant and its redemptive/restorative correlate. Jacob, having a home with his Uncle Laban, enjoyed the fulfillment of the covenant mandate to be fruitful and multiply, and the fulfillment of the covenant promise of seed (29:31-30:24). Jacob was blessed with prosperity (a creation covenantal cultural reality 30:25-43; 35:23-26). When returning to the land of his fathers as Yahweh directed him (31:3) Jacob was assured of Yahweh's covenantal promise to be with him. When the time came to confront Esau, Jacob depended on Yahweh's covenantal relationship with his forbears and the promises made to them and him (32:9-12). After Jacob's wrestling with the Lord, he was named "Israel" because he overcame in his struggles (32:28; 35:10) and was blessed (32:29). Upon his return to Bethel, Yahweh God again confirmed the covenant with him, assuring Jacob he was El Shaddai and commanding him to be fruitful (35:11), confirming that nations and kings would come from him (35:11) and that he would receive land for himself and his children (35:12). When Jacob had been in the land for some time and was advised to go to Egypt, Yahweh assured him that he was not breaking covenant if he did (46:3-4). Rather, it was Yahweh's plan to fulfill his covenant word to Abraham that Israel was to spend 400 years in a foreign land (15:13-14) in which a son, Joseph, proved to serve as a type of Christ, the mediator of the covenant, and Judah was prophesied to become the ancestor of David, the covenant servant, and of Christ (49:8-12).

The Book of Exodus commences with covenantal statements. Patriarchal progeny increased as it was promised it would (1:2-5). The Israelites were obedient to the command to be fruitful, multiply, and become numerous (1:7). But the Israelites were under severe strain, because of oppressive slavery, to obey the cultural and spiritual mandates. The reality was that the Israelites as a whole seemed oblivious to the covenantal responses of faith and obedience demanded of them. In their misery, they groaned and cried out, and Yahweh heard them (2:23-24a). It is stated categorically that Yahweh God remembered his covenant with the patriarchs (2:24b). That he did is demonstrated by his call of Moses to be the covenant mediator who was to serve in the Israelites' deliverance and gaining of freedom. Yahweh identified himself as the covenant Lord of the patriarchs (3:6), as the ever faithful One (3:14) who would be with Moses (3:12a) as he served in the fulfillment of Yahweh's promise to Abraham to bring his descendants from a strange land (3:8). Moses was commanded to perform wonders before the doubting Israelites so that they would believe that their covenantal Lord had called Moses to be the "Old Testament redeemer" (4:1-7).

After Yahweh had humbled and broken powerful Egypt, he instituted a second covenantal sacrament, the Passover, a feast to commemorate Israel's deliverance and at which fathers were to instruct their children about Yahweh's faithful words and deeds (12:24-28).

The actual process of confirming the covenant with Israel took place at Mount Sinai. The first stage of the process included the following. First, Yahweh presented himself as the covenant-keeping, delivering, guiding, and protecting God of Israel who brought Israel to himself. He confirmed the life-love bond (19:3-4).

Second, he made an all-inclusive stipulation: obey my covenant. The stipulation was explicated later. This stipulation was not presented as a condition that Israel could choose to obey or reject. Rather, Yahweh revealed in what manner a rich, full-orbed, covenantal relationship would function. Israel, responding obediently to Yahweh's covenant demands, would realize the promises.

Third, the promises were in the form of four assurances that included responsibilities. (1) Israel would realize the life, love, and blessedness of being Yahweh's precious possession, chosen from all the nations. (2) Israel was to be a kingdom, a royal people, children in the family of the sovereign Lord of the cosmic kingdom. Implied was that all kingdom privileges, blessings, and responsibilities were to be theirs. (3) Israel was, as a kingdom, to be priestly in character and service. They were to see themselves as standing and serving in the presence of Yahweh as they ministered to and on behalf of the nations of the world. Thus the covenantal task of being a channel of blessing would be realized. (4) Israel was to be a sanctified, dedicated, and consecrated nation. As an organized people ruled by Yahweh, they were to avoid and fight against sin and corruption and reflect the purity, majesty, and grandeur of their holy Lord among the nations (19:5-6).

Fourth, Israel responded covenantally: "We will do everything Yahweh has said." They did not say, "We choose to" (they were not given an option) or "We will try"; they made a full commitment.

Fifth, Moses was reconfirmed as the mediator between Yahweh and the people. He was to be spokesman for Yahweh to the people and on behalf of the people to Yahweh. He was the representative of Yahweh whom the people were to trust; their trust would be motivated by their hearing of Yahweh promulgating his will (19:9).

Sixth, the Israelites had to consecrate themselves to Yahweh while keeping a distance from Mount Sinai (19:10-15).

The second stage in the process of covenant renewal and confirmation was the speaking by Yahweh, and hearing by the people, of the law. First the ten commandments were spoken; these were inclusive principles governing all aspects of kingdom living. The first four concerned the character of King Yahweh, how and when he was to be honored and worshiped. These explicated how life and worship would meet requirements of the creational covenant's spiritual mandate. The next three elaborated on fulfilling the social mandate and the last three on the cultural mandate. The interrelatedness of the commandments demonstrated how integrated faithful, obedient, covenant people would find kingdom life to be. For example, to steal would hurt a neighbor (social) while acting disobediently against Yahweh (spiritually) in the cultural area.

The speaking of the ten commandments was followed by explication and application. Instruction was given on how to worship (20:22-26), keep Sabbath laws, and when, and why, and how to celebrate the three major feasts (23:10-19). Concern for working people, slaves, and injured and violated individuals was explained (21:1-36; 22:16-23:9). Instruction concerning ownership of property, rights involved, punishment, and ways of making restitution was added.

After the laws were promulgated, the people were given assurances of Yahweh's guidance, protection, and bringing them into the promised land, where they were to remain covenantally faithful to Yahweh and not make a covenant with the people living in the land or with their gods (23:20-33). This was a strong reminder to trust Yahweh, believe in him, and love only him.

Moses told the people all that Yahweh had given as instructions and laws for them. The people made a second solemn response, saying they would do all that Yahweh had said. This response of trust and obedience came spontaneously (24:3).

Moses then wrote all the explications, applications, assurances, and responses (24:4). This writing of a covenant gave it permanence and authority. Once written, it was not to be altered; it would be explicated and more fully applied.

The third stage in the process of Yahweh's renewing and confirming of the covenant he had made previously with Adam, Noah, and the patriarchs was the actual ratification ceremony (24:4b-18). The ceremony consisted of the building of an altar to serve as the actual intimate meeting place of Yahweh and the people. Sacrifices were then offered. Blood had been collected and half of it was sprinkled on the altar. Then Moses read all of the covenant material he had written, to which Israel made a third spontaneous response, saying "We will do, we will obey." The climactic point of the ceremony followed; the people were sprinkled by the blood of the covenant. Thus, by the blood, in which is life, but which also speaks of the death of what is sacrificed, the people as a whole were signified and sealed as Yahweh God's precious possession. The holy marriage had taken place. Yahweh, the Husband, had taken the patriarch's progeny as his bride. The ratification of the covenant was finalized by Yahweh writing the ten commandments on tablets of stone and giving them to Moses. The whole ceremony ended with Yahweh displaying himself in his majesty, splendor, grandeur, and awesomeness as a consuming fire (24:17).

The Israelites did not remain faithful to their covenantal vow for long. While Moses was receiving instructions concerning worship (building of the tabernacle, its furnishings, ordaining Aaron and sons as priests) the Israelites made an idol and worshiped it (32:1-6). This breaking of the covenant aroused Yahweh's anger; he spoke of carrying out the curse of the covenant on them (32:9-10). Moses, however, served as a covenant mediator; the people were largely spared (32:28,35).

The covenant was reconfirmed when Moses interceded further for the people and Yahweh declared that he was truly Yahweh, compassionate, gracious, patient, full of love, faithful, forgiving, righteous, and just (34:6-7). Promises of what he would do were repeated and stipulations, relevant to the immediate circumstances just experienced, were added. The call was repeated to worship only Yahweh, who as a jealous God would tolerate no rivals (34:14). Yahweh again enjoined the people to remember to celebrate the prescribed festivals (34:18-26). A forgiven people, with whom Yahweh reconfirmed his life-love bond with all its implications and ramifications for all aspects of life, were to be a joyous, feasting people.

In the context of Yahweh confirming his covenant with Israel, two other covenants are referred to. In  Leviticus 2:13 the command was given not to leave "the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings." Then later the phrase "covenant of salt" is used when Yahweh assures the priests and Levites that their offspring would always be supplied with sustenance from offerings (  Numbers 18:19 ). The institution and purpose of this covenant of salt are not recorded. From the context it can be understood that when covenantally prescribed offerings were made, they had to be seasoned and given a means of preservation so that what was offered could be kept in good condition until eaten by the families of priests and Levites. In this way, one provision in covenantal life, work, and worship, namely, food for those not given a large portion of Canaan, was used to refer to the entire covenant. The permanency of the covenant was expressed by salt; for this reason the covenant with David was also referred to as a covenant of salt ( 2 Chronicles 13:5 ).

Likewise, to not honor and keep the Sabbath was to break the entire covenant ( Exodus 31:13,16; see also  Nehemiah 9:14;  10:31,33;  13:15-22;  Isaiah 56:2-6;  Jeremiah 17:19-29 ). Keeping the Sabbath was a definite requirement for faithful covenantal life and worship.

Within the scope of Yahweh's covenant with Israel as a nation, a "subcovenant" was made with the priesthood. This covenant is referred to as an everlasting covenant. Because one of Aaron's sons demonstrated great zeal for Yahweh's covenantal demand for holy living, assurance was given that the office of priest would remain with Aaron's progeny ( Numbers 25:10-13 ).

When the Israelites were prepared to enter the land promised to their patriarchal ancestors, Moses, Yahweh God's mediator for Israel, gave extended addresses that constitute the content of the Book of Deuteronomy.

The Hebrew term for covenant appears twenty-seven times. Once it should be translated "league" (7:2); it appears a number of times in the phrase "ark of the covenant." In some contexts the law is referred to as the covenant (4:13; 19:9,11, 15; 29:1).

In his addresses, Moses reviewed a number of important events experienced during their desert travels (chaps. 1-3) in which the people's behavior was not commendable but Yahweh had remained faithful: He "blessed you He has watched over your journey" (2:7). Moses urged the people to remain faithful to Yahweh God's covenant (4:13) and to remember Yahweh as a jealous God demanding absolute loyalty (4:24). Moses stressed that Yahweh was merciful; he would not forget the covenant made with the forefathers that he had confirmed by an oath. Yahweh had covenanted with them because he loved them and chose their descendants (the people whom Moses was addressing) (4:37). Reminding the Israelites of the character and deeds of Yahweh (two essential aspects of Yahweh's covenant), Moses urged the people to follow Yahweh's commands (4:1) not add to but to keep them (4:2), to hold fast (4:4), to observe them faithfully (4:6), and to show their wisdom and understanding by so doing (4:6). They were to seek Yahweh their God with all their heart and soul (4:29). This call to loving obedience was followed by a repetition of the ten commandments (chap. 5) and the command to love Yahweh, to have his will in their hearts, and to teach their children (5:4-9).

Moses explicated and expanded on how the covenant of love Yahweh had made with the patriarchs (7:12) was to be known, obeyed, and followed in all of life. Reminders of Yahweh's love and his election of them and his calling them to be holy were repeated (see esp. chaps. 7-11). The place and manner of covenant worship and feasting were outlined again (chaps. 12-13,16, 26). Instructions on social and legal matters as required by Yahweh's covenant were repeated (chaps. 14-15,17, 19-24). Assurances that Yahweh would provide covenant leaders/mediatorskings, priests, and prophetswere explicated (17:14-18:22). Following this expansion on the law, with repeated references to the blessings that followed obedience (see esp. chap. 8), Moses reiterated the call to Yahweh's people to be holy, to obey and walk with Yahweh, and to be set in praise, fame, and high honor above all people (26:16-19).

Integral to a covenant, in addition to the Lord's self-presentation, review of deeds, stipulations and call to obedience, and assurance/promises were the blessings and curses. Moses emphatically presented these; first he stressed the curses (27:14-26), which were to be repeated by the Levites and to which the people were to respond with "Amen" (so it shall be). Moses summarized the blessings (28:1-14; 30:1-20) he had referred to before. In graphic detail he related what curses to expect if the people were disobedient (28:15-68).

Before Moses concluded his "covenant-reminding addresses, " he ordained Joshua as his successor (31:1-8), wrote what he had preached and had it placed in the ark (31:9-29), wrote a song in which Yahweh's character and deeds were extolled and Israel's failures and the tragic consequences of these (32:1-43), and pronounced a blessing on the Israelites (chap. 33). He then told the Israelites that as they were standing before Yahweh, they were in covenant with Yahweh because Yahweh confirmed his covenant made first with the patriarchs.

Joshua reconfirmed this same covenant with Israel after they had taken possession of Canaan. He reviewed Yahweh God's work on their behalf ( Joshua 24:1-13 ). He called on them to fear and serve Yahweh with all faithfulness (24:14-23). The people responded, "We will serve and obey" (24:24). Joshua wrote the decrees and laws, undoubtedly as these applied to the circumstances of settled life in "The Book of the Law of God." Joshua did not alter what Moses had written; he repeated, expanded, and made relevant to the new situation what Yahweh had given through Moses.

In the times of the Judges, Yahweh assured Israel that he would never break his covenant made with the forefathers ( Judges 2:1 ). Israel repeatedly broke the covenant, yet Yahweh remained faithful. He provided deliverance when the people repented and called on him. There are no biblical references to ceremonies of covenant renewal, although some scholars consider Samuel to have led in a covenant renewal at Gilgal. This was when Saul was confirmed king and Samuel made his farewell address ( 1 Samuel 11:14-12:25 ). This renewal marked a definite progress in Yahweh God's revelation. As with each covenant-expanding, -renewing, and -confirming ceremony, additional revelation had been given by Yahweh, so significant added revelation was given in the time of Samuel and David. It pertained particularly to the role of a royal covenant mediator in the person of a king as promised through Moses. Samuel initiated the process of covenant expansion and renewal by the covenant renewal at Gilgal and the anointing of David as Yahweh's chosen king ( 1 Samuel 16:1-13 ).

The climax of added revelation and expansion of God's covenant came when Yahweh addressed David through Nathan the prophet ( 1 Samuel 7:1-17 ). The revelation to David commenced with a reference to how Yahweh had dwelt with his people since Mosaic times. Here there is a direct tie-in with the patriarchal covenant that was expanded and ratified at Sinai (7:5-8).

Essential features in the expansion of the covenant with David are as follows. David the shepherd was chosen to be king (7:8; cf.  Psalm 78:70-72 ). The covenant formula "I have been with you" was repeated. Yahweh gave him victory. David's name was to be great. A place was to be given, and victory, rest, and peace were assured. Seed would continue after him. Sons would be kings. The throne of the kingdom of the son was to be established forever. Yahweh would be His father; he, David his son. Wickedness would be punished (curse of covenant). Yahweh's love would never leave (bond of love is assured). This covenant made with David was an initial fulfillment of Jacob's prophecy concerning Judah ( Genesis 49:8-12 ) that a ruler would come forth from him. The fuller and complete fulfillment of Jacob's prophecy and Nathan's to David was realized in Jesus Christ, the mediator of the new covenant.

David's son Solomon expressed his awareness and loyalty to Yahweh and the covenant with the Davidic dynasty in the first years of his reign. He did this particularly when he dedicated the temple; the temple gave permanent expression to the covenant promise, "I am your God; I will be with you." Most of the kings succeeding Solomon, with exceptions such as Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, were covenant breakers. They were not to be considered excusable or ignorant because the psalms, many written in the period of the kingdom, called attention to the covenant (at least 20 times). Even more so, the prophets called on the kings and the people to remember the one, all-embracing creation and redemptive/ restorative covenant, with all its wonderful elements and serious warnings.

The kings of Judah, like Ahaz, ignored, disbelieved, and rejected the prophetic warnings, but Yahweh through his covenantal spokesman, the prophets, continued to hold his promises concerning his covenant and the promised mediator of the covenant before the people.

The prophets had repeatedly warned that Yahweh would uphold his covenant with persistent covenant breakers and despisers by executing the curse of the covenant on them. Jeremiah eloquently warned of impending doom by destruction and dispersion.

The New Covenant . Jeremiah, prophesying that the curse of the covenant would surely be executed by means of the exile, also prophesied concerning the sure continuity of the covenant (30:1-33:26). He gave absolute assurance that Israel and Judah would be brought back from captivity (30:3); Yahweh would restore blessings (30:18; fortunes NIV). He would love them with an everlasting love and continue to be Father to them (31:3-9). Yahweh would give cause for tears to dry and hope for the future (31:15-17) because Israel would be replanted (31:27-30). A renewed covenant would be confirmed (31:31-34). This covenant would be as sure and inviolable as Yahweh's covenant with David, the Levites (33:15-18), and creation (33:19-26). As he spoke of the renewed covenant he did so in the context of Yahweh's covenant with creation, the patriarchs (33:21), Israel at Sinai and in the desert (Levites taken as a part of the whole), and David (33:15,26). Jeremiah does not speak of a discontinuity of past covenants. He makes it clear that Yahweh's covenant made, expanded, and administered in various situations, is one continuing covenant. A time is coming when the covenant would be renewed, expanded, and applied in a radically new way. Hence he spoke of what is translated as the "new covenant" with Israel and Judah (31:31) that would not be like the covenant made at Sinai (31:32). Some important points must be stressed: (1) The Hebrew term translated "new" basically refers to what was there before but appears in another (new, renewed) form like the moon, appearing as full, changes in appearance and is spoken of as the new moon. (2) A main aspect of the covenant with the patriarchs, Israel, and David will characterize the future covenant. "I will be their God, and they will be my people" (31:33b). (3) The law will continue to be an integral aspect (31:33a) but it will be internalized in the minds and hearts of the covenant people. (4) Yahweh remains the same; he is a forgiving and forgetting God (33:34).

The renewed covenant for the future will uphold the promises made throughout the Old Testament period. The greatest change will be in regard to the administrator of the covenant. No longer will this one be a Moses, a David, a high priest, or a great prophet like Isaiah. Jesus Christ, who had been typified by these Old Testament mediators, will be the Mediator of the covenant. He will inaugurate, fulfill, and permanently establish the renewed covenant. He did this by becoming the High Priest who offered himself as the Passover Lamb. He capsulized all this by his "I am" statements ( John 4:26;  6:35;  8:12;  9:5;  10:7,9 ,  11,14;  11:25;  14:6;  15:1,6 ) by which he identified himself with Yahweh, who, when he called Moses to be the mediator in the Old Testament era said, "I am who I am" ( Exodus 3:14 ) and "this is my blood of the covenant" ( Matthew 20:28 ). The Book of Hebrews expands on how Jesus and his blood are essential elements of the new covenant (9:11-10:18).

The renewed covenant Jeremiah prophesied was ushered in by Jesus Christ. It inaugurated the entire New Testament era, covers it entirely, and reaches into the eternal reign of Christ and the Father. The latter part of that renewed covenant that reaches into the future, the eternal state when heaven and a renewed earth are joined into regained and consummated Eden. This is inferred to be Ezekiel as the covenant of peace (34:25). This covenant is to be a complete consummation of the creation covenant. Fields will not longer have wild beasts; forests will be places of security; showers of blessing will fructify the orchards and fields ( Isaiah 11:6-9 ). This covenant of peace will be initiated, fulfilled, and consummated by the promised descendant of Judah referred to by Isaiah as the shoot and branch of David (11:1), and as the divinely provided One shepherd, David, Yahweh's servant's Son ( Ezekiel 34:24 ). The life-love bond established by God when he created the cosmos and placed Adam and Eve as his mediators in Eden, attacked by Satan and broken by humanity, ever maintained by Yahweh, will be fully restored, enriched in every respect, and fully realized under the mediatorial service of Yahweh's Son, Jesus Christ.

Gerard Van Groningen

See also The Church; Israel

Bibliography . H. Buis, The Encyclopedia of Christianity, 4:219-29; W. J. Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation  ; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, vol. 1; M. J. Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority  ; idem, The Treaty of a Great King  ; D. J. McCarthy, Old Testament Covenant  ; T. E. McComiskey, The Covenants of Promise  ; J. Murray, The Covenant of Grace  ; O. P. Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants  ; G. Van Groningen, MessianicRevelation in the Old Testament  ; G. Vos, Biblical Theology  ; J. Zinkand, Covenants: God's Claims .

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Near Eastern Covenants Biblical covenants do not represent something brand new in their world. They are built on normal patterns used in economics and politics of the day. Studies of political and economic agreements in the Ancient Near East have revealed the basic structure of a treaty, agreement, or covenant. Two types of treaties are available for study: those from the Hittite empire about 1400-1200 B.C. and those from the Assyrian Empire about 850-650 B.C. We have several Hittite examples but few Assyrian ones for study. Neither fits a rigid, unchangeable pattern, but the Hittite treaties between a king and vassal kings or between two kings of equal authority can be described with the following structure:

1. Royal Titles naming and identifying the Hittite king making the treaty;

2. Historical prologue reviewing in personal terms the past relationships between the two parties to the treaties, emphasizing the gracious acts of the Hittite king;

3. Treaty stipulations or agreements, often stating first the primary agreement or obligation agreed to by the two parties and then detailing the specific demands or agreements in a longer list;

4. A clause describing the way the treaty is to be stored and to be read regularly to the citizens affected by it; this does not always appear;

5. List of witnesses to the treaty including the gods and natural phenomena such as mountains, heaven, seas, the earth, etc.;

6. List of curses and blessings brought on by violating or observing the treaty demands.

The Assyrian treaties often do not have the historical prologue or the blessings.

The Book of Deuteronomy,  Joshua 24:1 , and other Old Testament texts show that Israel was familiar with these treaty forms and used them in their literature. They may also show that Israel used these forms in their worship, renewing regularly the covenant relationship with God. No Old Testament text precisely follows the treaty forms without change, and no text states explicitly that covenant renewal ceremonies formed the center of Israel's worship.

Covenants among Humans In biblical language, people “cut” a covenant with another person or group of people. Abraham and Abimelech cut such a covenant as equal partners, agreeing that the well at Beersheba belonged to Abraham ( Genesis 21:22-34 ). Sacrifices accompanied the covenant making. Apparently, Abraham gained the right to live among Abimelech's people, the Philistines ( Genesis 21:34 ). Jonathan and David cut a covenant of friendship in which Jonathan acknowledged David's right to the throne ( 1 Samuel 18:3;  1 Samuel 23:18 ). Such an agreement was a “covenant of the Lord” ( 1 Samuel 20:1   8 ), that is the Lord was its witness and guarantee. At the time Jonathan possessed greater authority than David, but in the covenant he acknowledged David's coming authority over him. Abner led the tribes of northern Israel to cut a covenant with David, making David king over the north as well as over southern Judah ( 2 Samuel 3:1; Compare  2 Samuel 5:3;  1 Chronicles 11:3 ). David, who occupied the position of power and authority in the agreement, demanded that Abner also produce Saul's daughter who David had married earlier. Solomon and Hiram made a covenant of peace which apparently included certain trade agreements ( 1 Kings 5:12 ). Bible students differ as to whether Hiram or Solomon had authority over the other or whether the covenant was between equals. In any case, both sides entered into obligations with the other to provide certain commodities.

King Zedekiah made a covenant with the people of Jerusalem, releasing the Hebrews from slavery ( Jeremiah 34:8 ). In so doing, he apparently implemented the laws concerning the year of Jubilee ( Leviticus 25:10 ), but he also conducted good politics in providing additional soldiers to protect Jerusalem against Babylon and in freeing Jerusalem's slaveholders from responsibilities to feed so many people in an economically insecure time.

When the danger appeared over, the people tried to take back their slaves ( Jeremiah 34:11 ). A ceremony accompanied this covenant ritual—the two sides of the covenant agreement cut a calf in two and solemnly paraded between its parts ( Jeremiah 34:18 ). This covenant was made “before Yahweh” ( Jeremiah 34:18 ). What modern business might call a secular transaction was a religious one involving God as witness and guarantor. Covenant violation brought condemnation in public worship ( Psalm 55:20 ).

Ezra reformed the restored Jewish community by leading them to make a covenant together in God's presence. They would agree to divorce foreign wives and separate themselves from the children so strongly influenced by the foreign mothers ( Ezra 10:3 ).

The Hebrew language used different prepositions to state that a covenant has been made between parties. That such change of prepositions indicated difference of meaning is a debated topic. The ability to use such expressions as synonyms probably indicates that the Hebrews did not hear any significant difference in meaning when they heard the varying expressions.

This is seen in comparing Isaac's covenant concerning the digging of wells ( Genesis 26:28 ) with Abraham's ( Genesis 21:22-24 ) discussed above. Isaac's covenant did involve an oath sworn before God that the parties would deal peaceably with one another. Feasting and drinking accompanied the covenant making.

Hosea denounced the northern kingdom's covenant or vassal treaty with Assyria ( Hosea 12:1; compare  Hosea 7:8-14;  Hosea 8:9;  Hosea 10:4;  2 Kings 17:3-4 ). Such treaties sought to gain military protection from foreign countries rather than relying upon Yahweh, the covenant God. (See  Exodus 23:32;  Exodus 34:12 ,Exodus 34:12, 34:15;  Deuteronomy 7:2 ). God used a sarcastic tone to ask Job if he could impose a vassal treaty on the leviathan monster, Leviathan agreeing to become Job's docile slave ( Job 41:4 ).

When Athaliah tried to usurp the throne and kill off the royal family, the priest Jehoiada made a covenant agreement with the army ( 2 Chronicles 23:1 ) and with all the people ( 2 Chronicles 23:3 ) to support the king Joash against Athaliah (compare  2 Kings 11:1 ). They made the covenant in the Temple, thus in the presence of God, seeking His blessing on the covenant and making Him a witness to it.

Israel's enemies plotted against Israel and made military covenants or alliances to support an attack on Israel ( Psalm 83:4-8 ). They entered into economic covenants or agreements with one another ( Isaiah 33:8 ).

Israel had a long history of making covenant agreements with foreigners, despite God's warnings not to do so. The Gibeonites deceived Israel under Joshua into making a vassal treaty. Israel easily occupied the position of authority in the treaty and subjected the Gibeonites to temple service, but still this violated God's commandments ( Joshua 9:1; compare  Judges 2:2 ). The Israelites in Jabesh Gilead begged for a treaty from Nahash, the Ammonite, but he demanded severe conditions. Saul delivered them, leading to affirmation of Saul's kingship ( 1 Samuel 11:1 ).

Ben-Hadad, king of Damascus in Syria, promised to return captured cities to Israel and to provide Israel with markets for its products in Damascus if the king of Israel would make a peace treaty or political alliance with him ( 1 Kings 20:31-35 ). Earlier, Asa, king of Judah, had used the Temple treasury to pay tribute to Ben-Hadad of Damascus to entice Ben-Hadad to break his vassal treaty with Baasha, king of Israel, and enter into a similar treaty with Judah ( 1 Kings 15:19;  2 Chronicles 16:3 ). This is the typical example of a political covenant. One party desires privileges from the other party and pays for the privileges. Such payment may be enforced by a victorious king or may be offered by a weak king needing help against enemies. Members of such a covenant alliance were called “baals of the covenant” or lords, owners of the covenant ( Genesis 14:13 ), a technical term for allies. They could also be called “men of the covenant” ( Obadiah 1:7 ). Covenant treaties carried expectations of humane and moral treatment of other members of the covenant, the covenant being literally a covenant of brothers ( Amos 1:9; compare  1 Kings 20:32-33 ).

Each covenant had special conditions effecting the power in authority and the one becoming a vassal or imposing demands on each partner of a covenant between equals. Breaking covenant conditions meant treason and extreme punishment ( Ezekiel 17:12-18; compare  Amos 1:9 ).

Marriage involved covenant obligations with God as the witness ( Malachi 2:14 ). This could be used to describe the covenant relationship between God and His people ( Ezekiel 16:8;  Hosea 2:19-20 ).

Isaiah spoke menacingly of a covenant of death political leaders had made ( Isaiah 28:15 ). They thought they had bought protection from their enemies. The prophet reminded them nothing made them secure against God's judgment. The action behind the covenant of death can be variously interpreted: a ritual with a foreign god of the underworld or of death, a mutual alliance to fight to the death, a treaty with a foreign power that brought God's judgment and thus death.

God's Covenants with His People God's grace in relating to His people by initiating covenants with them is a major theme of the Bible. The Old Testament story can be related as the story of God making covenants with His people and responding to them out of that covenant relationship. The New Testament can be described as the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant hope in the establishment of God's new covenant in Jesus Christ.

Noah received God's first covenant ( Genesis 9:9-17 ). This was a divine oath or promise not to repeat the flood. This covenant extended beyond Noah to all the animals who had experienced the massive destruction and death associated with the flood. The rainbow stands eternally as a sign of God's promise. This covenant called for no human response. It was solely a promise and oath from God. God's covenant with Noah was not a divine afterthought to the flood, a way of making up to His creation for all the destruction. God established the covenant relationship prior to the flood ( Genesis 6:18 ). The Hebrew verb here means literally, “to cause to stand.” Some interpreters take this to mean that even in  Genesis 6:1 God was confirming a covenant already established, though most see this as a formula for the establishment of the covenant. All agree that the formula underlines the lasting guarantee behind the covenant. The covenant is established and will stand. God's first covenant protected life—both human and animal—in the face of massive destruction. That priority on and protection of life remains the foundation of God's relationship with His creation. Neither “natural” catastrophe nor human sin (compare   Genesis 6:5;  Genesis 8:21 ) can prevent God from maintaining His priority on life.

God made His second covenant with Abraham ( Genesis 15:18;  Genesis 17:2 ). As the covenant with Noah involved a righteous man ( Genesis 6:8-9 ), so the covenant with Abraham involved a man of faith ( Genesis 15:6 ). God initiated His covenant with this type of person, but this does not mean that the person earned God's covenant with good works. Rather, this type of person was open to God's actions and could be directed by God for His purposes. The covenant with Abraham, like that with Noah, involved divine promises, not human obedience. God promised to give the land of Canaan to Abraham's descendants after a long sojourn to a foreign land. He symbolized this promise through an ancient covenant ceremony (compare  Jeremiah 34:1 ), known from other cultures also, in which animals are cut and covenant participants pass through. Normally, the human covenant partners swear that they will abide by covenant conditions or will face the fate of the animals. For Abraham, the rite became a sacrifice to God and a sign of his devotion to the rite even when attacking birds threatened to spoil it. Abraham did not walk through the divided animals. Symbols of God's presence did. God made the oath to keep His promise.  Genesis 17:1 shows the initiation of circumcision as the sign of the covenant. God's covenant promise was extended to include international-relations, many descendants, and to be God of the people descended from Abraham forever.

Redemption from Egyptian slavery found its climax in God's covenant with Israel. This covenant differed from those with Noah and Abraham. The situation was not an affirmation of human faithfulness or righteousness, but the confession of God's salvation ( Exodus 19:4 ). The oath or promise came not from God but from the people. They were to “obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant.” Then they would be “a peculiar treasure unto me above all people a kingdom of priests an holy nation” ( Exodus 6:5-6 ). Covenant law was then revealed to God's people. They had responsibilities within the covenant relationship. The people accepted this responsibility in a solemn ceremony in which covenant law was read from the “book of the covenant” and “the blood of the covenant” was sprinkled on the altar and on the people ( Exodus 24:3-8 ). The covenant with Yahweh meant Israel could make covenants with no other gods ( Exodus 23:32 ). Within the covenant agreement, God included the Sabbath covenant, Israel's perpetual promise to observe the seventh day as a day of rest, reflecting God's practice in creation ( Exodus 31:16 ).

Israel refused to take covenant commitment seriously almost from the start. While Moses climbed the mountain and stayed in God's presence to receive the Ten Commandments, the people worshiped golden calves ( Exodus 32:1 ). God renewed the covenant with His people, making explicit His covenant promise to conquer miraculously the land of Canaan promised to Abraham ( Exodus 34:1; note  Exodus 34:10 ). Again, covenant with Israel involved Israel's pledge to make no other covenants ( Exodus 34:12 ,Exodus 34:12, 34:15;  Deuteronomy 7:2 ) and God's commandments as His expectations of a covenant people ( Exodus 34:27-28;  Deuteronomy 4:13 ). See Ten Commandments .

Israel's sacrificial worship included reminders of the covenant relationship. Salt added to offerings was the “salt of the covenant” ( Leviticus 2:13 ). Salt symbolized covenant relationships among Arabs and Greeks and probably other peoples of Israel's day. The symbolic meaning is not precisely known. It may have reflected on understanding of salt as something eternal and thus as a sign of the everlasting effect of the agreements reached in a covenant relationship (compare  Numbers 18:19;  2 Chronicles 13:5 ). The bread of the altar also symbolized Israel's everlasting covenant ( Leviticus 24:8 ).

Israel apparently celebrated its covenant with ceremonies helping the people identify themselves as the covenant people as they heard, “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” ( Deuteronomy 5:2-3; compare  Deuteronomy 29:1 ,Deuteronomy 29:1, 29:12 ,Deuteronomy 29:12, 29:14-15;  Joshua 8:30-35;  Joshua 24:1-28 ). Israel's ceremonies had some of the same components that Near Eastern covenants or treaties had, particularly blessings for covenant obedience and cursings for disobedience ( Exodus 23:25-30;  Leviticus 26:1-46;  Deuteronomy 27:11-26;  Deuteronomy 28:1-68 ). A major element of blessing is that God will make His covenant stand for His people ( Leviticus 26:9 ). Curses come when God's people break the covenant ( Leviticus 26:15;  Deuteronomy 29:25;  Deuteronomy 31:16;  Joshua 7:11 ,Joshua 7:11, 7:15 ,Joshua 7:15, 23:16;  Judges 2:20 ). Curse is not the final word for covenant breaking, however. After covenant curse or punishment takes effect, God expects the people to confess sin and return to Him ( Leviticus 26:40;  Deuteronomy 4:30-31;  Deuteronomy 30:1-3 ). God, on the other side, does not “break my covenant with them: for I am the Lord their God” ( Leviticus 26:44; compare  Deuteronomy 7:9 ,  Deuteronomy 7:12 :  Judges 2:1;  Zechariah 11:10 ). For the sake of His promises to the ancestors and because of His nature as Yahweh, the God of Israel, God “will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors” ( Leviticus 26:45 ). God's eternal devotion to His covenant does not nullify the effect of the curses. They are real and enforced, for “the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God” ( Deuteronomy 4:24 ).

God's covenant is not simply the selfish demands of a victorious, powerful overlord placing unreasonable demands on His subjects. God works for His covenant people. He protected them in the wilderness, gave them the land, and gave “power to get wealth” ( Deuteronomy 8:18;  Deuteronomy 29:9 ). The blessings of the covenant are more than part of a ceremony. They become reality in the life of His people. Why? Not so the people can become conceited and self-confident ( Deuteronomy 8:17 ) but that God can have a powerful people with whom to establish His covenant and thus to accomplish His purposes for His creation ( Deuteronomy 8:18 ). This did not mean that all God's people would be rich or that only the rich could enter the covenant. God invited persons from every economic level of Israelite society to join His covenant ( Deuteronomy 29:10-12 ). Even those not physically present at the covenant ceremony were covenant members ( Deuteronomy 29:15 ).

God's covenant with Abraham and with Israel found its special climax in God's covenant with David ( 2 Samuel 23:5; compare  2 Samuel 7:12-16;  2 Chronicles 13:5;  Psalm 89:3-34;  Psalm 132:12 ). God would establish the house of David to rule His people forever. Perennial disobedience led to Judah's exile and complaint, “thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant” ( Psalm 89:39 ).

Making covenants with His people characterized God and distinguished Him from the other gods of the nations. Israel's God was the one “who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart” ( 1 Kings 8:23;  2 Chronicles 6:14;  Nehemiah 1:5;  Nehemiah 9:32;  Psalm 105:8 ,  Psalm 105:10; compare  Isaiah 54:10 ).

Sadly, God's people did not mirror Him in faithfulness to covenant. David's son King Solomon blazed the trail of covenant-breaking, worshiping other gods and setting a model Israel consistently followed through their history ( 1 Kings 11:11 ). Israel chose to listen to Dame Folly's strange wooings and forget the covenant with God ( Proverbs 2:17 ). God had to punish. Even in punishment, He remained faithful, preserving two tribes for the family of David ( 1 Kings 11:12-13 ) and protecting the people from enemies ( 2 Kings 13:23;  2 Chronicles 21:7 ). Israel's covenant breaking, on the other hand, became so extreme that a lonely, persecuted prophet could claim, “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life” ( 1 Kings 19:10 ). Occasionally, faithful people gained control and led the people to renew the covenant with God ( 2 Kings 17:35;  2 Kings 23:3;  2 Chronicles 15:12;  2 Chronicles 29:10;  2 Chronicles 34:31-32 ). Eventually, covenant-breaking led God to send the northern kingdom into eternal exile ( 2 Kings 17:15-18;  2 Kings 18:11-12 ). Punishment was not God's final word. He heard His people's cry and “remembered for them his covenant” ( Psalm 106:45 ).

The covenant relationship became so characteristic for Israel and their God that the Psalmists in worship and in wisdom teaching called Israel to remember God and His covenants. Covenant keeping led to mercy and truth ( Psalm 25:10;  Psalm 103:18 ) and to participation in the intimate covenant relationship ( Psalm 25:14 ). In times of trouble the worshiper could call on God, claiming “neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant” ( Psalm 44:17 ). In worship the covenant people gathered to hear God's judgment ( Psalm 50:5; compare  Psalm 78:10 ,  Psalm 78:37 :  Jeremiah 11:2-3 ). A strong word of judgment rebuked those who entered God's covenant with false intentions and results ( Psalm 50:16 ). In worship they also claimed God's covenant promises, asking deliverance from trouble by calling on God to “have respect unto the covenant” ( Psalm 74:20 ). They praised God for covenant faithfulness ( Psalm 111:5 ,Psalms 111:5, 111:9 ). God also made a covenant with the priests, acknowledging their obedient and even heroic acts by promising them the office of the priest forever ( Numbers 25:12-13;  Exodus 40:15; compare  Deuteronomy 33:8-11 ). Even the priests proved unfaithful and drew God's anger ( Nehemiah 13:29;  Malachi 2:1-9 ).

Covenant theology did not concentrate solely on Israel. Just as the covenant with Noah reached to all people, so God had an “everlasting covenant” with the earth ( Isaiah 24:5 ). This covenant included obligations on both parties. The inhabitants of the earth knew basic moral laws. These self-evident moral rules of the universe formed God's expectations for all people, but the people of the earth disobeyed these basic rules and thus brought on God's covenant curses (compare  Amos 1:1-2:8 ).

God's covenant has a future. It was not limited to a brief period of human history. God's covenant with Israel was a covenant pointed to all the earth, to the Gentiles ( Isaiah 42:6; compare  Isaiah 49:8 ). If Israel would not be God's servant to fulfill the Gentile mission, God would raise up a servant who would be a “light to the Gentiles.” This passage has led to several interpretations, making Cyrus of Persia the servant and seeing the command to impose God's obligations on the nations rather than to bring salvation to people. Such interpretations appear to miss the larger biblical context and message as well as imposing an unnecessary limitation on Israel's theological horizons.

God extended His covenant with David for the sake of the nations. The entire nation of Israel would fulfill David's role and would bring the nations streaming to Jerusalem to find God's glory ( Isaiah 55:1-5 ). God extended His covenant to the outsiders among His own people—eunuchs otherwise forbidden to worship ( Isaiah 56:3-5; compare  Deuteronomy 23:1 ) and foreigners ( Isaiah 56:6; compare  Deuteronomy 23:2-9 ).

The emphasis on a covenant with the nations did not diminish God's covenant care for His people. He continued His promise to come and redeem them from the power of the capturing nations ( Isaiah 59:21;  Isaiah 61:8 ).

The prophets seldom mention the covenant with Israel explicitly. Bible students have sought many explanations for this. The most popular among critical scholars is that covenant theology was a late development in Israel's history, appearing only in the eighth century under Hezekiah. Some scholars would place the concept as late as the Exile. Such scholarship approaches the texts with reverence and respect yet with an inclination to find a long history of editorial work and to deny major theological categories to Israel's founding fathers. Israel's understanding of covenant and the vocabulary used to describe covenant theology may well have developed through the years, but the foundation of such theology forms the basic roots of Israel's history with God and self identity as a people. It may be that covenant theology found greater emphasis in Northern Israel than it did in Southern Judah.

Hosea condemned Israel for transgressing the covenant ( Hosea 6:7;  Hosea 8:1 ). This involved making an international alliance or covenant with Assyria, seeking protection from enemies and freedom from Assyrian attack ( Hosea 12:1 ). Egypt was also involved in such international treaty making with Israel. Still, Hosea pointed forward to a day of hope when God would renew the covenant with Israel ( Hosea 2:18 ).

Jeremiah based his preaching on the covenant ( Jeremiah 11:6 ,Jeremiah 11:6, 11:8 ), claiming Israel of his day had broken the covenant just like those in Moses' day ( Jeremiah 11:10 ). He could also use God's covenant faithfulness as the theological basis of his prayer for deliverance and restoration ( Jeremiah 14:21 ). He could explain Israel's disaster as resulting from breaking the covenant ( Jeremiah 22:9 ). Jeremiah's strongest contribution to covenant theology was his portrait of God's promise of a new covenant, a covenant whose stipulations would not stand on tables of stone as did the old one but whose obligations would be deeply nested in the hearts of the people so they would have will and power to obey ( Jeremiah 33:31-34; compare  Jeremiah 32:40-44;  Jeremiah 50:5 ). Forgiveness would characterize God's relationship to the new covenant people. Jeremiah's new covenant preaching extended to the covenant with David ( Jeremiah 33:19-26 ).

Ezekiel related the history of Israel as God's covenant of mercy, broken by a people who despised it but renewed in an eternal covenant ( Ezekiel 16:8 ,Ezekiel 16:8, 16:59-63; compare  Ezekiel 20:37 ). The new covenant would bring a new David and a new era of peace not only with human enemies but with the beasts of the natural world ( Ezekiel 34:22-31; compare  Ezekiel 37:24-28 ). Ezekiel judged Israel for having broken the law of  Numbers 18:4 by bringing “unclean” foreigners into the Temple (  Ezekiel 44:7 ). He also interpreted King Zedekiah's breaking of his vassal covenant with Babylon as a breaking of Israel's covenant with God ( Ezekiel 17:19 ).

Zechariah promised that exiles would return to Jerusalem because God would be true to the covenant of blood He made with Moses ( Zechariah 9:11; compare  Exodus 24:1 ). The prophetic vision of  Zechariah 11:1 has produced many interpretations: “And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.” The prophet denounced the wicked leaders of God's people and claimed the leadership role for himself in the vision. He could not get cooperation and turned against the people, breaking his covenant and breaking the union of Israel and Judah (  Zechariah 11:14 ). The broken covenant could be between king and people, between king and allied nations, between God and His people, or between God and the nations. Whichever interpretation is correct, it shows that a covenant agreement could be brought to an end.

Malachi joined the chorus condemning Israel for ignoring God's covenant expectations by treating each other “treacherously” ( Malachi 2:10 ).

Old Testament covenant language ends in  Malachi 3:1 with God's announcement that the “messenger of the covenant” will come representing God, proving the covenant relationship is not a thing of the past. He will show God continues to punish those who ignore or reject His covenant.

Covenant in the New Testament The New Testament by use of the Greek diatheke transformed covenant into testament, diatheke referring to a binding will a person made to ensure proper disposal of goods upon the death of the person making the will (see   Galatians 3:15;  Hebrews 9:17 ). Still, the New Testament followed the Septaugint, the earliest Greek translation, in using diatheke to translate the Hebrew berith or covenant. New Testament language is thus Greek with a strong Hebrew flavoring.

The Qumran community which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls gave new significance to covenant theology. They saw themselves as the people of the new covenant. They had strict regulations for applicants for membership, and they expected members to obey the Old Testament law as they interpreted it.

Jesus used the last supper as opportunity to interpret His ministry, and particularly His death, as fulfillment of Jeremiah's new covenant prophecy. His death represented the shedding of the blood of the new covenant. People who repeated the rites of the last supper drank the blood of the new covenant, remembering His death as the sacrifice for sins ( Matthew 26:28;  Mark 14:24;  Luke 22:20;  1 Corinthians 11:25 ).

Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, interpreted the announcement of John's birth as evidence that God had remembered His holy covenant ( Luke 1:72 ). Peter told skeptical Jews that they were children of the covenant with Abraham and that Christ had come first to them to fulfill the promise of blessing to Abraham by turning them away from their sinful ways ( Acts 3:25 ). Stephen reminded those who would murder him that the covenant of circumcision with Abraham continued as part of God's history of salvation leading to Jesus ( Acts 7:8 ). Paul confirmed that just as a human last will and testament could not be changed by another person, so God's covenant with Abraham could not be changed or annulled ( Galatians 3:15-17 ). Paul asserted that with the coming of Christ and Israel's rejection of Him, God still had a covenant to save Israel ( Romans 11:27 ). Paul interpreted Christ as the one who had made the meaning of the Old Testament plain, removing the veil that caused the Jews to continue looking only to Moses rather than to look to Christ as God's final revelation ( 2 Corinthians 3:14 ). Paul was a minister of the new covenant, not of the old ( 2 Corinthians 3:6 ), a ministry of the Spirit and of life, not of dead literalism.

In the New Testament only Hebrews makes covenant a central theological theme. The emphasis is on Jesus, the perfect High Priest, providing a new, better, superior covenant ( Hebrews 7:22;  Hebrews 8:6 ). Jesus represented the fulfillment of Jeremiah's new covenant promise ( Hebrews 8:8 ,Hebrews 8:8, 8:10;  Hebrews 10:16 ). Jesus was the perfect covenant Mediator ( Hebrews 9:15 ), providing an eternal inheritance in a way the old covenant could not (compare  Hebrews 12:24 ). Jesus' death on the cross satisfied the requirement that all covenants be established by blood ( Hebrews 9:18 ,Hebrews 9:18, 9:20 ) just as was the first covenant ( Exodus 24:8 ). Christ's blood established an everlasting covenant ( Hebrews 13:20 ). If Israel suffered for breaking the Sinai covenant ( Hebrews 8:9-10 ), how much more should people expect to suffer if they have “counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing” ( Hebrews 10:29 ).

The Greek word testament eventually gave its name to the two parts of our Bible—the Old and the New Testaments. In many ways the name is appropriate to show that the two parts of Scripture rest on God's gracious action in redeeming His people and making a covenant with them, showing them the living conditions in the kingdom of God, conditions which also reflect His grace because they are best for the citizens of the kingdom.

Trent C. Butler

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

COVENANT . The term is of frequent occurrence in the Bible, and is used in the general sense of a compact or agreement between parties, and also in the more technical and legal sense of an arrangement entered into by God, and confirmed or sealed with the due formalities. The Hebrew word ( berîth ) has a similarly wide signification; whilst the Greek ( diathçkç ) is used alike in the classics and on the papyri in the further sense of ‘testament’ or ‘will,’ though Aristophanes ( Av . 439) is a good witness for the meaning of mutual agreement. The rendering ‘testament’ is retained by the RV [Note: Revised Version.] in two places only (  Hebrews 9:16-17; cf. margin of   Galatians 3:15 ), and is perpetuated in the titles given to the two main parts of the Bible (see Testament).

As for the formalities in concluding a covenant, the primitive way seems to have been for the two parties to swallow each a drop of the other’s blood, thus becoming covenant-brothers. This actual mingling of blood soon became distasteful, and substitutes were found, such as the cutting of sacrificial animals into two parts, between which the contracting parties passed ( Genesis 15:10;   Genesis 15:17 ,   Jeremiah 34:18 f.), the meat probably being eaten afterwards in a joint meal. This ritual appears to have been inherited from the nomadic period, and it afterwards generally gave way to a solemn oath or invocation of God, combining a pledge to observe the covenant (  Genesis 26:31 ,   Hebrews 6:17 ) and the imprecation of a curse on non-observance (  Deuteronomy 27:15 ff.). Sometimes a handshake took the place of the oath (  Ezra 10:19 ,   Proverbs 6:1;   Proverbs 17:18;   Proverbs 22:26 ,   1 Chronicles 29:24 marg., 1Ma 6:58 ), or was added to it (  Ezekiel 17:18 ). In very early times an agreement between two men was sometimes confirmed by setting up a pillar or a heap of stones (  Genesis 31:44-48 ), the religious sanction being added (  Genesis 31:49 f.,   Genesis 31:53 ). When God was Himself directly one of the parties, and an obligation was thought to be assumed by Him rather than by both, a token was substituted (  Genesis 9:12 ); but in these cases the transaction takes the form chiefly of a pledge or assurance, though the idea of some obligation upon the other party is often implicit. Compacts would often be made or confirmed at a shrine; and the god was invoked as a witness (  Genesis 31:49 ff.,   Joshua 24:27 ,   2 Kings 11:4;   2 Kings 23:3 ), or a sacrificial meal accompanied the act (  Genesis 26:30;   Genesis 31:54 ,   2 Samuel 3:20 ). Sprinkling of sacrificial blood (  Exodus 24:8 ,   Zechariah 9:11 ,   Hebrews 9:20 ) was a specially solemn indication of God’s approving presence and of the obligations undertaken; and its significance survives and is deepened in the death of Christ (  Hebrews 10:29;   Hebrews 13:20 ) and in the Eucharist (  Matthew 26:28 ,   Mark 14:24 ,   Luke 22:20 ,   1 Corinthians 11:25 ).

Of the covenants referred to in Scripture, there are two classes.

1. Covenants between men . These, again, are of several kinds, the most frequent being international alliances ( e.g.   Genesis 21:27 ,   Joshua 9:6 ,   Psalms 83:5 ,   Amos 1:9 ), judicial decisions and codes ( Sir 38:33 , possibly   Exodus 24:7 ), agreements between a ruler and the people (  2 Samuel 5:3 ,   Daniel 9:27 ), and civil and domestic compacts of every variety. The word was used for alliances of friendship (  1 Samuel 18:3 ,   Psalms 55:20 ), and of marriage (  Proverbs 2:17 ,   Malachi 2:14 ). By an easy metaphor, a covenant in the sense of an imposed will may be made with the eyes (  Job 31:1 ); or, in the other sense of agreement, with the stones (  Job 5:23 ), but not with Leviathan (  Job 41:4 ), because of his greatness and intractability, nor wisely with death either in scorn of God (  Isaiah 28:15;   Isaiah 28:18 ) or in yearning ( Wis 1:16 ). In   Daniel 11:22 ‘the prince of the covenant’ is sometimes rendered ‘a prince in league with him’; but if the other translation stands, ‘covenant’ will represent the nation as a religious community (cf.   Daniel 11:28;   Daniel 11:30 ,   Psalms 74:20 ), and the prince will be the high priest, Onias III., who was deposed by Antiochus about b.c. 174. Similarly in   Malachi 3:1 ‘the messenger of the covenant’ may be the attendant of God, His instrument in dealing with the nation (cf. RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ).

2. Covenants between God and men . The idea of a covenant with Adam, beyond the simple injunction of   Genesis 2:16-17 , has been found by some writers in Sir 17:12 , which is more easily interpreted of the transactions on Horeb (  Deuteronomy 5:3 ). In   Psalms 25:14 , as in   Psalms 55:20 , the word has its fundamental meaning of an alliance of friendship, with a specific allusion in the former case to the Deuteronomic covenant of the tenth verse. In other cases the technical meaning of an agreement with signs and pledges is more conspicuous. The Noachian covenant (  Genesis 6:18;   Genesis 9:8-17 ,   Isaiah 54:9 f.,   Jeremiah 33:20;   Jeremiah 33:25 ) guarantees the stability of natural law. The covenant with Abraham (  Genesis 15:18;   Genesis 17:2-21 ) was confirmed in its promise to Isaac and Jacob (  Exodus 2:24 ,   Leviticus 26:42 ,   Psalms 105:9 f.), and ensured a blessing through their seed to all nations, circumcision being adopted as the token (cf.   Acts 7:8 , 1Ma 1:15 ). Of still greater significance was the covenant at Horeb or Sinai (  Exodus 19:5;   Exodus 34:10;   Exodus 34:27 f. et al. ), which was renewed in the plains of Moab (  Deuteronomy 29:1 ), and is frequently referred to in the OT. It was really a constitution given to Israel by God, with appointed promise and penalty, duly inscribed on the tables of the covenant (  Deuteronomy 9:9;   Deuteronomy 9:11;   Deuteronomy 9:15 ), which were deposited in the ark (  Deuteronomy 10:2; Deu 10:5 ,   1 Kings 8:9; 1Ki 8:21 ,   2 Chronicles 5:10 ,   Hebrews 9:4 ). Elsewhere the covenant is described as set forth in words (  Exodus 34:28 ,   Deuteronomy 29:9 ) and written in a book (  Exodus 24:7 ,   2 Kings 23:2 ). Amongst other covenants of minor importance are that with Phinehas establishing an everlasting priesthood in his line (  Numbers 25:12 f.), and that with David establishing an everlasting kingdom (  Psalms 89:3 f.,   Jeremiah 33:21; cf.   2 Samuel 7:1-29 ). Joshua and the people covenant to serve Jehovah only (  Joshua 24:25 ); so Jehoiada and the people (  2 Kings 11:17 ). Hezekiah and the people solemnly agree to reform the worship (  2 Chronicles 29:10 ); Josiah (  2 Kings 23:3 ) and Ezra (  Ezra 10:3 ) lead the people into a covenant to observe the Law.

Whilst the Sinaitic covenant is rightly regarded as the charter of the Jewish dispensation, the establishment by God of a new constitution was contemplated by a series of prophets ( Jeremiah 31:31;   Jeremiah 31:33;   Jeremiah 32:40;   Jeremiah 50:5 ,   Isaiah 55:3;   Isaiah 59:21;   Isaiah 61:8 ,   Ezekiel 16:60;   Ezekiel 16:62;   Ezekiel 20:37;   Ezekiel 34:25 ). Some of the pledges were new, and not confined in their range to Israel, whilst the Messianic Servant becomes ‘for a covenant of the people’ (  Isaiah 42:6 f.,   Isaiah 49:8; cf. ‘messenger of the covenant,’   Malachi 3:1 ). The Sinaitic covenant is thus transformed, and, whilst continuing as a note of racial separation until the period for the Incarnation was come, gave way then to a new dispensation with increased emphasis on personal religion and the provision of means adequate to ensure it (  Hebrews 8:6-13 ). Yet the ancient covenant, even that with Abraham, was everlasting (  Genesis 17:7 ), and still stands in its supreme purpose (  Leviticus 26:44 f.,   Acts 3:25 ,   Romans 11:26 f.) of making men the people of God, the new elements consisting mainly in the adoption of more effective influences and inspiration. The Exile is sometimes thought of as marking the dissolution of the Old Covenant (  Jeremiah 31:31 ff.), though the new one was not fully introduced until some centuries later. The act of making the New Covenant is compared with the transactions in the wilderness (  Ezekiel 20:36 ff.). On God’s part there is forgiveness with the quickening of the inner life of man (  Ezekiel 36:24 ff.). And both the activity and the blessedness are associated with the Messianic expectations (  Jeremiah 33:15 f.,   Ezekiel 37:21-28 ,   Luke 1:20 ).

In the later OT writings the word ‘covenant,’ as appears from the previous citations, has lost much of its technical signification, and does not always denote even a formal act of agreement, but becomes almost a synonym, and that without much precision, for the conditions of religion ( Psalms 103:18 ). St. Paul recognizes a series of covenants (  Romans 9:4 ,   Ephesians 2:12 ) on an ascending scale of adequacy (  2 Corinthians 3:6 ,   Galatians 4:24 ff.; cf.   Hebrews 7:22;   Hebrews 8:6 ff.); and Sinai is but a stage (  Galatians 3:15 ff.) in the course from Abraham to Christ.

Of special phrases, two or three may present some difficulty. ‘A covenant of salt’ ( Numbers 18:19 ,   2 Chronicles 13:5 ) is a perpetual covenant, the eating of salt together being a token of friendship as sealed by sacred hospitality. ‘The salt of the covenant’ (  Leviticus 2:13 ) has probably the same primary suggestion, as at natural accompaniment of the sacrificial meal, and with it constituting an inviolable bond. Sometimes the two great divisions of Scripture are called the books of the Old and of the New Covenant respectively. The name ‘Book of the Covenant’ (see next article) is given to   Exodus 20:22-23; that of ‘Little Book of the Covenant’ to   Exodus 34:11-26 . A distinction is often drawn between the Covenant of Works, assumed to have been made by God with Adam (  Genesis 2:17 ), and that of Grace or Redemption (  2 Timothy 1:9 ), whereby Christ becomes to man the medium of all spiritual blessings.

R. W. Moss.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [5]

A contract, or agreement between two or more parties on certain terms. The terms are made use of in the Scriptures for covenant in Hebrew and Greek. The former signifies choosing, or friendly parting; as in covenants each party, in a friendly manner, consented, and so bound himself to the chosen terms; the latter signifies testament, as all the blessings of the covenant are freely disposed to us. The word covenant is also used for an immutable ordinance,  Jeremiah 33:20 . a promise,  Exodus 34:10 . Is. 59: 21. and also for a precept,  Jeremiah 34:13-14 . In Scripture we read of various convenants; such as those made with Noah, Abraham, and the Hebrews at large. Anciently covenants were made and ratified with great solemnity. The Scriptures allude to the cutting of animals asunder; denoting that, in the same manner, the perjured and covenant-breaker should be cut asunder by the vengeance of God,  Jeremiah 34:18 . The covenants which more especially relate to the human race, are generally called the covenant of works and the covenant of grace.

The covenant of works is that whereby God requires perfect obedience from his creatures, in such a manner as to make no express provision for the pardon of offences, committed against the precepts of it on the repentance of such offenders, but pronounces a sentence of death upon them,  Genesis 2:1-25 :   Galatians 4:24 .  Psalms 89:3-4 . The covenant of grace is generally defined to be that which was made with Christ, as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed,  Isaiah 42:1-6 .  1 Peter 1:20 . Is. 52: 13.

I. the covenant of works was made with Adam; the condition of which was, his perseverance during the whole time of his probation; the reward annexed to this obedience was the continuance of him and his posterity in such perfect holiness and felicity he then had while upon earth, and everlasting life with God hereafter. The penalty threatened for the breach of the command was condemnation; terminating in death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. The seals of this covenant were, the tree of knowledge and the tree of life; and, perhaps, the Sabbath and Paradise,  Genesis 2:3 : Gal 6: 24;   Romans 5:12;  Romans 5:19 . This covenant was broken by Adam's eating of the forbidden fruit, whereby he and his posterity were all subject to ruin,  Genesis 3:1-24 :   Romans 5:12;  Romans 5:19; and without the intervention of the divine grace and mercy, would have been lost for ever,  Romans 3:23 .

The Divine Being, foreseeing this, in infinite wisdom and unspeakable compassion planned the covenant of grace; by virtue of which his people are reinstated in the blessings of purity, knowledge, and felicity, and that without a possibility of any farther defalcation.

II. The covenant of grace. Some divines make a distinction between the covenant of redemption and that of grace; the former, they say, was made with Christ in eternity; the latter with believers in time. Others object to this, and suppose it a needless distinction; for there is but one covenant of grace, and not two, in which the head and members are concerned; and, besides, the covenant of grace, properly speaking, could not be made between God and man; for what can man restipulate with God, which is in his power to do or give him, and which God has not a prior right unto? Fallen man has neither inclination to yield obedience, nor power to perform it. The parties, therefore, in this covenant, are generally said to be the Father and the Son; but Dr. Gill supposes that the Holy Ghost should not be excluded, since he is promised in it, and in consequence of it, is sent down into the hearts of believers; and which must be by agreement, and with his consent.

If we believe, therefore, in a Trinity, it is more proper to suppose that they were all engaged in this plan of the covenant, than to suppose that the Father and Son were engaged exclusive of the Holy Spirit,  1 John 5:6-7 . As to the work of the Son, it was the will and appointment of the Father that he should take the charge and care of his people,  John 6:39 .  Hebrews 2:13 , redeem them by his blood,  John 17:1-26 :   Hebrews 10:1-39 : obey the law in their room,   Romans 10:4 . justify them by his righteousness,  Daniel 9:24 , &c., and finally, preserve them to glory, Is. 40: 11. Jesus Christ, according to the divine purpose, became the representative and covenant head of his people,  Ephesians 1:1-23;  Colossians 1:18 . They were all considered in him, and represented by him,  Ephesians 1:4 . promises of grace and glory made to them in him,  Titus 1:2 .  1 Corinthians 1:20 . he suffered in their stead.  2 Corinthians 5:21 . He is also to be considered as the mediator of the covenant by whom justice is satisfied, and man reconciled to God.

See art. MEDIATOR.

He is also the surety of this covenant,  Hebrews 7:22 . as he took the whole debt upon him, freed his people from the charge, obeyed the law, and engaged to bring his people to glory,  Hebrews 2:1-18 . Is. 49: 5, 6. He is called the testator of the covenant, which is denominated a Testament,  Hebrews 7:1-28 .  Hebrews 9:15 . He disposes of his blessings according to his will or testament, which is unalterable, signed by his hand, and sealed by his blood. In this covenant, as we before observed, the Holy Spirit also is engaged. His assent is given to every part thereof; he brings his people into the enjoyment of its blessings,  1 Peter 1:2 .  2 Thessalonians 2:13 . He was concerned in the incarnation of Christ,  Matthew 1:18 . and assisted his human nature,  Hebrews 9:14 . He takes of the things of Christ, and shows them unto us; cleanses, enlightens, sanctifies, establishes, and comforts his people, according to the plan of the covenant,  Romans 8:15-16 .

See Holy Ghost

III. The properties of this covenant are such as these:

1. It is eternal, being made before time,  Ephesians 1:1-23;  2 Timothy 1:9 .

2. Divine as to its origin, springing entirely from free grace,  Romans 11:5-6 .  Psalms 89:1-52

3. It is absolute and unconditional,  Ephesians 2:8-9 .

4. It is perfect and complete, wanting nothing, 2 Sam. xxiii 5.

5. It is sure and immoveable,  Isaiah 54:10 .  Isaiah 55:3 .

6. Called new in opposition to the old, and as its blessings will be always new,  Hebrews 8:6;  Hebrews 8:8 .

IV. These two covenants above-mentioned agree in some things, in others they differ.

1. "In both, " says Witsius, "the parties concerned are God, and  Prayer of Manasseh 1:1 :

2. In both, the same promise of eternal life.

3. The condition of both is the same, perfect obedience to the law prescribed; for it is not worthy of God to admit man to a blessed communion with him but in the way of holiness.

4. In Both is the same end, the glory of God.

But they differ in the following respects:

1. In the covenant of works, the character or relation of God is that of a supreme lawgiver, and the chief good rejoicing to communicate happiness to his creatures. In the covenant of grace he appears as infinitely merciful, adjudging life to the elect sinner, agreeably to his wisdom and justice.

2. In the covenant of works there was no mediator: the covenant of grace has a mediator, Christ.

3. In the covenant of works, the condition of perfect obedience was required to be performed by man himself in covenant. In the covenant of grace the same condition is proposed, but to be performed by a mediator.

4. In the covenant of works man is considered as working, and the reward as to be given of debt. In the covenant of grace the man in covenant is considered as believing; eternal life being given as the merit of the mediator, out of free grace, which excludes all boasting.

5. In the covenant of works something is required as a condition, which being performed entitles to reward. The covenant of grace consists not of conditions, but of promises: the life to be obtained; faith, by which we are made partakers of Christ; perseverance, and, in a word, the whole of salvation, are absolutely promised.

6. The special end of the covenant of works was the manifestation of the holiness, goodness, and justice of God; but the special end of the covenant of grace, is the praise of the glory of his grace, and the revelation of his unsearchable and manifold wisdom."

7. The covenant of works was only for a time, but the covenant of grace stands sure for ever.

V. The administration of the covenant of grace.

The covenant of grace, under the Old Testament, was exhibited by promises, sacrifices, types, ordinances, and prophecies. Under the New it is administered in the preaching of the Gospel, baptism, and the Lord's supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fulness, evidence, and efficacy to all nations,  2 Corinthians 3:6-18 .  Hebrews 8:1-13 :   Matthew 28:19-20 . But in both periods, the mediator, the whole substance, blessings, and manner of obtaining an interest therein by faith, are the very same, without any difference,  Hebrews 11:6 .  Galatians 3:7;  Galatians 3:14 . The reader, who may wish to have a more enlarged view of this subject, may peruse Witsius, Strong, or Boston on the Covenants, in the former of which especially he will find the subject masterly handled. CONVENANT, in ecclesiastical history, denotes a contract or convention agreed to by the Scotch, in the year 1638, for maintaining their religion free from innovation. In 1581, the general assembly of Scotland drew up a confession of faith, or national covenant, condemning episcopal government, under the name of hierarchy, which was signed by James I. and which he enjoined on all his subjects. It was again subscribed in 1590 and 1596. The subscription was renewed in 1638, and the subscribers engaged by oath to maintain religion in the same state as it was in 1580, and to reject all innovations introduced since that time.

This oath, annexed to the confession of faith, received the name of Covenant, as those who subscribed it were called Covenanters. Solemn league and covenant, was established in the year 1643, and formed a bond of union between Scotland and England. It was sworn to and subscribed by many in both nations; who hereby solemnly abjured popery and prelacy, and combined together for their mutual defence. It was approved by the parliament and assembly at Westminister, and ratified by the general assembly of Scotland in 1645. King Charles I. disapproved of it when he surrendered himself to the Scots army in 1646; but, in 1650, Charles Ii. declared his approbation both of this and the national covenant by a solemn oath; and, in August of the same year, made a farther declaration at Dunfermline to the same purpose, which was also renewed on occasion of his coronation at Scone, in 1651. The covenant was ratified by parliament in this year; and the subscription of it was required by every member, without which, the constitution of the parliament was declared null and void. It produced a series of distractions in the subsequent history of that country, and was voted illegal by parliament, and provision made against it. Stat. 14. Car. 2, 100:4.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

A covenant was an agreement between two parties that laid down conditions and guaranteed benefits, depending upon a person’s keeping or breaking the covenant. It was sealed by some form of witness ( Genesis 21:22-32;  Genesis 31:44-54;  1 Samuel 18:3-4;  Malachi 2:14).

Covenants between God and the people he created, however, differed from purely human covenants. They were not agreements between equals, because God was always the one who gave, and people were always the ones who received. No human being could negotiate an agreement with God or make demands upon him. God’s promises originated in his sovereign grace alone, and those who received those promises could do nothing but accept his directions.

Through one man to the world

From the time of the earliest recorded covenant (God’s covenant with Noah, and with the human race through him), features of grace are prominent. The covenant originated in God’s grace and depended upon God’s grace for its fulfilment. The rainbow was the sign, or witness, that sealed the covenant ( Genesis 6:18;  Genesis 9:8-17; see Grace ).

Having promised to preserve the human race ( Genesis 9:15-16), God then revealed that he had a plan of salvation for it. This plan again was based on a covenant that originated in God’s grace. In his sovereign will God chose one man, Abraham, promising him a multitude of descendants who would become a nation, receive Canaan as their homeland, and be God’s channel of blessing to the world ( Genesis 12:1-3;  Genesis 15:18-21;  Genesis 17:2-8;  Acts 3:25).

God confirmed his promise to Abraham by a covenant ceremony. The ancient custom was for the two parties to kill an animal, cut it in halves, then pass between the two halves, calling down the fate of the slaughtered animals upon themselves should they break the covenant ( Genesis 15:9-11;  Jeremiah 34:18). But in Abraham’s case, only God (symbolized by a smoking fire-pot and a flaming torch) passed between the halves of the animal. He alone made the covenant and guaranteed its fulfilment ( Genesis 15:17).

Abraham, however, had a responsibility to respond to God’s grace, and his response would determine whether he would enjoy the covenant benefits. A truly spiritual relationship could exist only where people responded to God in faith and obedience. The rite of circumcision, which God gave as the sign and seal of the covenant, gave Abraham and his descendants the opportunity to demonstrate such faith and obedience. Those who responded to God’s grace by being circumcised kept the covenant; those who did not were cut off from it. The covenant depended upon God, but only those who were obedient to God experienced the communion with God that was the covenant’s central blessing ( Genesis 17:9-14; see Circumcision ; Obedience .)

Developed through Israel

Once the promised nation existed and was on the way to its promised homeland, God renewed the covenant made earlier with Abraham, this time applying it to the whole nation. Since Moses was the mediator through whom God worked in dealing with the people, the covenant is sometimes called the Mosaic covenant. It is also called the Sinaitic covenant, after Mt Sinai, where the ceremony took place.

God, in his sovereign grace, had saved the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt and taken them into a close relationship with himself. Grace was again the basis of God’s covenant dealings ( Exodus 2:24;  Exodus 3:16;  Exodus 4:22;  Exodus 6:6-8;  Exodus 15:13;  Exodus 19:4-6;  Exodus 20:2). As in the covenant with Abraham, so in the covenant with his descendants, the central blessing was communion with God; for he was their God and they were his people ( Genesis 17:7;  Exodus 6:7;  Leviticus 26:12). Again, the people would enjoy this blessing only as they were holy in life and obedient to God ( Exodus 19:5-6). The people understood this and agreed to be obedient to all God’s commands. They were in no position to argue with God; they could do nothing but surrender completely to his will ( Exodus 24:7-8; see also Law ).

The two parties to the covenant were then bound together in a blood ritual. Half the blood was thrown against the altar (representing God) and half sprinkled on the people ( Exodus 24:3-8).

But this blood ritual was more than just a dramatic way of swearing loyalty to the covenant. The Passover had shown the people of Israel that blood symbolized life laid down to release those under condemnation of death ( Exodus 12:13). Blood was linked with release from the penalty of sin; therefore, the blood ritual at Sinai was an indication to Israel that it began its formal existence as God’s covenant people in a condition of ceremonial purity ( Hebrews 9:19-22; see Blood ).

All this ceremonial procedure emphasized once more that the covenant with Israel, following the covenant with Abraham, was based on divine grace, not human effort ( Galatians 3:17-18). Nevertheless, the people had to keep their part of the covenant if they were to enjoy its benefits ( Exodus 19:5; cf.  Genesis 17:9). God had no obligation to bless his people when they disobeyed his covenant commands, though in his mercy he was patient with them ( Leviticus 26:27-33;  Deuteronomy 4:25-31;  Deuteronomy 7:9-10;  Nehemiah 9:33;  Hebrews 3:16-19).

Note on the form of the covenant

The covenant between God and Israel was of a kind that people of the time understood. It was similar in form to the common Near Eastern treaty by which a sovereign overlord made a covenant with his subject peoples.

Such a treaty was not a negotiated agreement. It was an authoritative document prepared by the overlord, declaring his sovereignty over his people and laying down the order of life he required of them. The features of these ancient documents are well illustrated in the book of Deuteronomy, which was written in the form of a covenant document. (For details see Deuteronomy . Concerning the illustration that likens the covenant between God and Israel to the marriage covenant see LOVE, sub-heading ‘Steadfast love’.)

Towards a specific goal through David

After the promised nation had become established in the promised land, God revealed the next stage in directing his covenant purposes towards their ultimate goal. The promised offspring of Abraham through whom God would send his salvation to the world was Jesus the Messiah ( Genesis 12:3;  Genesis 12:7;  Galatians 3:16;  Galatians 3:29).

God prepared Israel to produce the Messiah by choosing from the nation one person, King David, and promising that his dynasty would be the channel through which the Messiah would come. God gave David this promise by means of a covenant that followed on from his earlier covenants, namely, those with Abraham and with the nation Israel ( 2 Samuel 7:12-17;  2 Samuel 23:5;  Psalms 89:3-4;  Psalms 89:28-37).

Jesus therefore was the true fulfilment of all God’s covenant purposes. The Abrahamic covenant led to the Sinaitic covenant, which in turn led to the Davidic covenant, which led finally to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world ( Luke 1:32-33;  Luke 1:72-73;  Acts 13:17-23).

The new covenant

Former covenants, then, were but a preparation for that saving work of God through Christ which the Bible calls the new covenant. Or, to put it another way, the new covenant fully develops the features consistently displayed in the former covenants.

Like the former covenants, the new covenant originates in the sovereign grace of God ( Romans 3:24;  Romans 5:15-21;  Ephesians 2:8-9;  Titus 3:5). Through it God makes unworthy sinners his people and promises to be their God ( Hebrews 8:8;  Hebrews 8:10;  1 Peter 2:9-10). But if people are to enjoy that life-giving relationship with God which is the covenant’s central blessing, they must respond to God’s grace in faith and obedience ( Galatians 3:14;  Hebrews 5:9;  1 Peter 1:2). Also, since faith involves perseverance, they must continue in the covenant ( Colossians 1:23; cf.  Hebrews 8:9; see Perseverance ).

Yet there are great differences between the old and new covenants. All former covenants were imperfect – not in the sense of being wrong, but in the sense of being incomplete. They belonged to the era before Christ and therefore could not in themselves bring salvation. Only the atoning death of Christ can do that (see Atonement ). Therefore, until Christ came, there was always the need for a new covenant, one that carried with it better promises ( Hebrews 8:6-9;  Hebrews 8:13;  Hebrews 10:9-10).

The new covenant, in contrast to the old, is not concerned with a particular nation, nor is it concerned with any nation as a whole. Rather it is concerned with individuals, regardless of their nation. It does not demand obedience to a set of laws, but puts God’s laws in people’s hearts. It does not need priests to mediate between God and individuals, for all believers know God personally and have direct fellowship with him. There is no remembrance of sins through repetitive sacrifices, for all sins are at once removed and are gone for ever ( Hebrews 8:10-12). (For further details of the contrast between the old and new covenants see Hebrews, Letter To The )

Jesus Christ’s atoning death is the basis of the new covenant. He is the mediator through whom God makes the covenant, and he is the sacrifice whose blood seals the covenant ( 1 Corinthians 11:25;  Hebrews 9:15;  Hebrews 12:24). Through that same blood, sin is forgiven completely, so that God’s people enter the covenant not with mere ceremonial cleansing, but with actual cleansing ( Matthew 26:28; cf.  Hebrews 9:19-22). This is an eternal covenant, for there will never be another to follow it. Covenant grace is fully revealed, and the blessings that flow from it are eternal ( Hebrews 10:16-18;  Hebrews 13:20).

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [7]

The Greek word διαθηκη occurs often in the Septuagint, as the translation of a Hebrew word, which signifies covenant: it occurs also in the Gospels and the Epistles; and it is rendered in our English Bibles sometimes covenant, sometimes testament. The Greek word, according to its etymology, and according to classical use, may denote a testament, a disposition, as well as a covenant; and the Gospel may be called a testament, because it is a signification of the will of our Saviour ratified by his death, and because it conveys blessings to be enjoyed after his death. These reasons for giving the dispensation of the Gospel the name of a testament appeared to our translators so striking, that they have rendered διαθηκη more frequently by the word testament, than by the word covenant. Yet the train of argument, where διαθηκη occurs, generally appears to proceed upon its meaning a covenant; and therefore, although, when we delineate the nature of the Gospel, the beautiful idea of its being a testament, is not to be lost sight of, yet we are to remember that the word testament, which we read in the Gospels and Epistles, is the translation of a word which the sense requires to be rendered covenant. A covenant implies two parties, and mutual stipulations. The new covenant must derive its name from something in the nature of the stipulations between the parties different from that which existed before; so that we cannot understand the propriety of the name,

new, without looking back to what is called the old, or first. On examining the passages in Galatians 3, in 2 Corinthians 3, and in Hebrews 8-10, where the old and the new covenant are contrasted, it will be found that the old covenant means the dispensation given by Moses to the children of Israel; and the new covenant the dispensation of the Gospel published by Jesus Christ; and that the object of the Apostle is to illustrate the superior excellence of the latter dispensation. But, in order to preserve the consistency of the Apostle's writings, it is necessary to remember that there are two different lights in which the former dispensation may be viewed. Christians appear to draw the line between the old and the new covenant, according to the light in which they view that dispensation. It may be considered merely as a method of publishing the moral law to a particular nation; and then with whatever solemnity it was delivered, and with whatever cordiality it was accepted, it is not a covenant that could give life. For, being nothing more than what divines call a covenant of works, a directory of conduct requiring by its nature entire personal obedience, promising life to those who yielded that obedience, but making no provision for transgressors, it left under a curse "every one that continued not in all things that were written in the book of the law to do them." This is the essential imperfection of what is called the covenant of works, the name given in theology to that transaction, in which it is conceived that the supreme Lord of the universe promised to his creature, man, that he would reward that obedience to his law, which, without any such promise, was due to him as the Creator.

No sooner had Adam broken the covenant of works, than a promise of a final deliverance from the evils incurred by the breach of it was given. This promise was the foundation of that transaction which Almighty God, in treating with Abraham, condescends to call "my covenant with thee," and which, upon this authority, has received in theology the name of the Abrahamic covenant. Upon the one part, Abraham, whose faith was counted to him for righteousness, received this charge from God, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect;" upon the other part, the God whom he believed, and whose voice he obeyed, beside promising other blessings to him and his seed, uttered these significant words, "In thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." In this transaction, then, there was the essence of a covenant; for there were mutual stipulations between two parties; and there was superadded, as a seal of the covenant, the rite of circumcision, which, being prescribed by God, was a confirmation of his promise to all who complied with it, and being submitted to by Abraham, was, on his part, an acceptance of the covenant.

The Abrahamic covenant appears, from the nature of the stipulations, to be more than a covenant of works; and, as it was not confined to Abraham, but extended to his seed, it could not be disannulled by any subsequent transactions, which fell short of a fulfilment of the blessing promised. The law of Moses, which was given to the seed of Abraham four hundred and thirty years after, did not come up to the terms of that covenant even with regard to them, for, in its form it was a covenant of works, and to other nations it did not directly convey any blessing. But although the Mosaic dispensation did not fulfil the Abrahamic covenant, it was so far from setting that covenant aside, that it cherished the expectation of its being fulfilled: for it continued the rite of circumcision, which was the seal of the covenant; and in those ceremonies which it enjoined, there was a shadow, a type, an obscure representation, of the promised blessing,  Luke 1:72-73 .

Here, then, is another view of the Mosaic dispensation. "It was added, because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made,"  Galatians 3:19 . By delivering a moral law, which men felt themselves unable to obey; by denouncing judgments which it did not of itself provide any effectual method of escaping; and by holding forth, in various oblations, the promised and expected Saviour; "it was a schoolmaster to bring men unto Christ." The covenant made with Abraham retained its force during the dispensation of the law, and was the end of that dispensation.

The views which have been given furnish the ground upon which we defend that established language which is familiar to our ears, that there are only two covenants essentially different, and opposite to one another, the covenant of works, made with the first man, intimated by the constitution of human nature to every one of his posterity, and having for its terms, "Do this and live;" —and the covenant of grace, which was the substance of the Abrahamic covenant, and which entered into the constitution of the Sinaitic covenant, but which is more clearly revealed, and more extensively published in the Gospel. This last covenant, which the Scriptures call new in respect to the mode of its dispensation under the Gospel, although it is not new in respect of its essence, has received, in the language of theology, the name of the covenant of grace, for the two following obvious reasons: because, after man had broken the covenant of works, it was pure grace or favour in the Almighty to enter into a new covenant with him; and, because by the covenant there is conveyed that grace which enables man to comply with the terms of it. It could not be a covenant unless there were terms,— something required, as well as something promised or given,—duties to be performed, as well as blessings to be received. Accordingly, the tenor of the new covenant, founded upon the promise originally made to Abraham, is expressed by Jeremiah in words which the Apostle to the Hebrews has quoted as a description of it: "I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people,"   Hebrews 8:10 :—words which intimate on one part not only entire reconciliation with God, but the continued exercise of all the perfections of the Godhead in promoting the happiness of his people, and the full communication of all the blessings which flow from his unchangeable love; on the other part, the surrender of the heart and affections of his people, the dedication of all the powers of their nature to his service, and the willing uniform obedience of their lives. But, although there are mutual stipulations, the covenant retains its character of a covenant of grace, and must be regarded as having its source purely in the grace of God. For the very circumstances which rendered the new covenant necessary, take away the possibility of there being any merit upon our part: the faith by which the covenant is accepted is the gift of God; and all the good works by which Christians continue to keep the covenant, originate in that change of character which is the fruit of the operation of his Spirit.

Covenants were anciently confirmed by eating and drinking together; and chiefly by feasting on a sacrifice. In this manner, Abimelech, the Philistine, confirmed the covenant with Isaac, and Jacob with his father Laban,  Genesis 26:26-31;  Genesis 31:44-46;  Genesis 31:54 . Sometimes they divided the parts of the victim, and passed between them, by which act the parties signified their resolution of fulfilling all the terms of the engagement, on pain of being divided or cut asunder as the sacrifice had been, if they should violate the covenant,  Genesis 15:9-10;  Genesis 15:17-18;  Jeremiah 34:18 . Hence the Hebrew word charat, which properly signifies to divide, is applied allusively in Scripture to the making of a covenant. When the law of Moses was established, the people feasted in their peace-offerings on a part of the sacrifice, in token of their reconciliation with God,   Deuteronomy 12:6-7 . See Circumcision .

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [8]

Hebrew Berit , Greek Diatheekee . From Baarah "to divide" or" cut in two" a victim (Gesenius), between the parts of which the covenanting parties passed ( Genesis 15:9, etc.;  Jeremiah 34:18-19). Probably the covenanting parties eating together (which barah sometimes means) of the feast after the sacrifice entered into the idea; compare  Genesis 31:46-47, Jacob and Laban.

"A Covenant Of Salt" taken in connection with the eastern phrase for friendship, "to eat salt together," confirms this view. Salt, the antidote to corruption, was used in every sacrifice, to denote purity and perpetuity ( Leviticus 2:13;  Mark 9:49). So a perpetual covenant or appointment ( Numbers 18:19;  2 Chronicles 13:5). The covenant alluded to in  Hosea 6:7 margin is not with Adam (KJV "men" is better, compare  Psalms 82:7), for nowhere else is the expression "covenant" applied to Adam's relation to God, though the thing is implied in  Romans 5:12-19;  1 Corinthians 15:22; but the Sinaitic covenant which Israel transgressed as lightly as "men" break their every day covenants with their fellow men, or else they have transgressed like other "men," though distinguished above all men by extraordinary spiritual privileges.

"Covenant" in the strict sense, as requiring two independent contracting parties, cannot apply to a covenant between God and man. His covenant must be essentially one of gratuitous promise, an act of pure grace on His part ( Galatians 3:15, etc.). So in  Psalms 89:28 "covenant" is explained by the parallel word "mercy." So God's covenant not to destroy the earth again by water (Genesis 9;  Jeremiah 33:20). But the covenant, on God's part gratuitous, requires man's acceptance of and obedience to it, as the consequence of His grace experienced, and the end which He designs to His glory, not that it is the meritorious condition of it. The Septuagint renders Berit by Diatheekee (not Suntheekee , "a mutual compact"), i.e. a gracious disposal by His own sovereign will. So  Luke 22:29, "I appoint ( Diatithemai , cognate to Diatheekee , by testamentary or gratuitous disposition) unto you a kingdom."

The legal covenant of Sinai came in as a parenthesis ( Pareiselthee ;  Romans 5:20) between the promise to Abraham and its fulfillment in his promised seed, Christ. "It was added because of the (so Greek) transgressions" ( Galatians 3:19), i.e. to bring them, and so man's great need, into clearer view ( Romans 3:20;  Romans 4:15;  Romans 5:13;  Romans 7:7-9). For this end its language was that, of a more stipulating kind as between two parties mutually covenanting, "the man that doeth these things shall live by them" ( Romans 10:5). But the promise to David (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89; 2; 72; Isaiah 11) took up again that to Abraham, defining the line, the Davidic, as that in which the promised seed should come.

As the promise found its fulfillment in Christ, so also the law, for He fulfilled it for us that He might be "the Lord our righteousness," "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" ( Jeremiah 23:6;  1 Corinthians 1:30;  Romans 10:4;  Matthew 3:15;  Matthew 5:17;  Isaiah 42:21;  Isaiah 45:24-25). In  Hebrews 9:15-18 the gospel covenant is distinguished from the legal, as the New Testament contrasted with the Old Testament "Testament" is the better translation here, as bringing out the idea of Diatheekee , God's gracious disposal or appointment of His blessings to His people, rather than Suntheekee , mutual engagement between Him and them as though equals.

A human "testament" in this one respect illustrates the nature of the covenant; by death Christ chose to lose all the glory and blessings which are His, that we, who were under death's bondage, might inherit all. Thus the ideas of "mediator of the covenant," and "testator," meet in Him, who at once fulfills God's "covenant of promise," and graciously disposes to us all that is His. In most other passages "covenant" would on the whole be the better rendering. "Testament" for each of the two divisions of the Bible comes from the Latin Vulgate version. In  Matthew 26:28, "this is My blood of the new testament" would perhaps better be translated "covenant," for a testament does not require blood shedding. Still, here and in the original ( Exodus 24:8) quoted by Christ the idea of testamentary disposition enters.

For his blood was the seal of the testament. See below. Moses by "covenant" means one giving the heavenly inheritance (typified by Canaan) after the testator's death, which was represented by the sacrificial blood he sprinkled. Paul by testament means one with conditions, and so far a covenant, the conditions being fulfilled by Christ, not by us. We must indeed believe, but even this God works in His people ( Ephesians 2:8).  Hebrews 9:17, "a testament is in force after men are dead," just as the Old Testament covenant was in force only in connection with slain sacrificial victims which represent the death of Christ. The fact of the death must be "brought forward" ( Hebrews 9:16) to give effect to the will. The word" death," not sacrifice or slaying, shows that "testament" is meant in  Hebrews 9:15-20. These requisites of a "testament" here concur:

1. The Testator.

2. The heirs.

3. Goods.

4. The Testator's death.

5. The fact of His death brought forward. In  Matthew 26:28 two additional requisites appear.

6. Witnesses, His disciples.

7. The seal, the sacrament of the Lord's supper, the sign of His blood, wherewith the testament is sealed. The heir is ordinarily the successor of him who dies, and who so ceases to have possession. But Christ comes to life again, and is Himself (including all that He had), in the power of tits now endless life, His people's inheritance; in His being heir ( Hebrews 1:2;  Psalms 2:8) they are heirs.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words [9]

Berı̂yth ( בְּרִית , Strong'S #1285), “covenant; league; confederacy.” This word is most probably derived from an Akkadian root meaning “to fetter”; it has parallels in Hittite, Egyptian, Assyrian, and Aramaic. Berı̂yth is used over 280 times and in all parts of the Old Testament. The first occurrence of the word is in Gen. 6:18: “But with thee [Noah] will I establish my covenant.”

The KJV translates berı̂yth fifteen times as “league”: “… Now therefore make ye a league with us” (Josh. 9:6). These are all cases of political agreement within Israel (2 Sam. 3:12- 13, 21; 5:3) or between nations (1 Kings 15:19). Later versions may use “covenant,” “treaty,” or “compact,” but not consistently. In Judg. 2:2, the KJV has: “And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land.…” The command had been also given in Exod. 23:32; 34:12-16; and Deut. 7:2-6, where the KJV has “covenant.” The KJV translates berı̂yth as “covenant” 260 times. The word is used of “agreements between men,” as Abraham and Abimelech (Gen. 21:32): “Thus they made a covenant at Beer-sheba.…” David and Jonathan made a “covenant” of mutual protection that would be binding on David’s descendants forever (1 Sam. 18:3; 20:8, 16-18, 42). In these cases, there was “mutual agreement confirmed by oath in the name of the Lord.” Sometimes there were also material pledges (Gen. 21:28-31).

Ahab defeated the Syrians: “So he made a covenant with [Ben-hadad], and sent him away” (1 Kings 20:34). The king of Babylon “took of the king’s seed [Zedekiah], and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him …” (Ezek. 17:13, NIV, “treaty”). In such “covenants,” the terms were imposed by the superior military power; they were not mutual agreements.

In Israel, the kingship was based on “covenant”: “… David made a covenant [KJV, “league”] with them [the elders of Israel] in Hebron before the Lord …” (2 Sam. 5:3). The “covenant” was based on their knowledge that God had appointed him (2 Sam. 5:2); thus they became David’s subjects (cf. 2 Kings 11:4, 17).

The great majority of occurrences of berı̂yth are of God’s “covenants” with men, as in Gen. 6:18 above. The verbs used are important: “I will establish my covenant” (Gen. 6:18)—literally, “cause to stand” or “confirm.” “I will make my covenant” (Gen. 17:2, RSV). “He declared to you his covenant” (Deut. 4:13). “My covenant which I commanded —them …” (Josh. 7:11). “I have remembered —my covenant. Wherefore … I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exod. 6:5-6). God will not reject Israel for their disobedience so as “to destroy them utterly, and to break —my covenant with them …” (Lev. 26:44). “He will not … forget the covenant … which he sware unto them” (Deut. 4:31). The most common verb is “to cut [ karat ] a covenant,” which is always translated as in Gen. 15:18: “The Lord made a covenant with Abram.” This use apparently comes from the ceremony described in Gen. 15:9-17 (cf. Jer. 34:18), in which God appeared as “a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp [flaming torch] that passed between those pieces” (Gen. 15:17). These verbs make it plain that God takes the sole initiative in covenant making and fulfillment.

“Covenant” is parallel or equivalent to the Hebrew words dabar (“word”), hoq (“statute”), piqqud —(“precepts”—Ps. 103:18, NASB), ‘edah (“testimony”—Ps. 25:10), torah —(“law”—Ps. 78:10), and checed —(“lovingkindness”—Deut. 7:9, NASB). These words emphasize the authority and grace of God in making and keeping the “covenant,” and the specific responsibility of man under the covenant. The words of the “covenant” were written in a book (Exod. 24:4, 7; Deut. 31:24-26) and on stone tablets (Exod. 34:28).

Men “enter into” (Deut. 29:12) or “join” (Jer. 50:5) God’s “covenant.” They are to obey (Gen. 12:4) and “observe carefully” all the commandments of the “covenant” (Deut. 4:6). But above all, the “covenant” calls Israel to “love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5). God’s “covenant” is a relationship of love and loyalty between the Lord and His chosen people.

“… If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people … and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation” (Exod. 19:5-6). “All the commandments … shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers” (Deut. 8:1). In the “covenant,” man’s response contributes to covenant fulfillment; yet man’s action is not causative. God’s grace always goes before and produces man’s response.

Occasionally, Israel “made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments … , to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book” (2 Kings 23:3). This is like their original promise: “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (Exod. 19:8; 24:7). Israel did not propose terms or a basis of union with God. They responded to God’s “covenant.”

The wholly gracious and effective character of God’s “covenant” is confirmed in the Septuagint by the choice of diatheke —to translate berı̂yth. A diatheke— is a will that distributes one’s property after death according to the owner’s wishes. It is completely unilateral. In the New Testament, diatheke —occurs 33 times and is translated in the KJV 20 times as “covenant” and 13 times as “testament.” In the RSV and the NASB, only “covenant” is used.

The use of “Old Testament” and “New Testament” as the names for the two sections of the Bible indicates that God’s “covenant” is central to the entire book. The Bible relates God’s “covenant” purpose, that man be joined to Him in loving service and know eternal fellowship with Him through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [10]

A — 1: Διαθήκη (Strong'S #1242 — Noun Feminine — diatheke — dee-ath-ay'-kay )

primarily signifies "a disposition of property by will or otherwise." In its use in the Sept., it is the rendering of a Hebrew word meaning a "covenant" or agreement (from a verb signifying "to cut or divide," in allusion to a sacrificial custom in connection with "covenant-making," e.g.,  Genesis 15:10 , "divided"  Jeremiah 34:18,19 ). In contradistinction to the English word "covenant" (lit., "a coming together"), which signifies a mutual undertaking between two parties or more, each binding himself to fulfill obligations, it does not in itself contain the idea of joint obligation, it mostly signifies an obligation undertaken by a single person. For instance, in  Galatians 3:17 it is used as an alternative to a "promise" (vv. 16-18). God enjoined upon Abraham the rite of circumcision, but His promise to Abraham, here called a "covenant," was not conditional upon the observance of circumcision, though a penalty attached to its nonobservance.

 Galatians 3:15 Luke 1:72 Acts 3:25 Romans 9:4 11:27 Galatians 3:17 Ephesians 2:12 Hebrews 7:22 8:6,8,10 10:16 Deuteronomy 29 30  Hebrews 7:18 Hebrews 7:22 Hebrews 8:9 9:20 Acts 7:8 2—Corinthians 3:14 Hebrews 9:4 Revelation 11:19 Matthew 26:28 Mark 14:24 Luke 22:20 1—Corinthians 11:25 2—Corinthians 3:6 Hebrews 10:29 12:24 13:20 Hebrews 9:15 Hebrews 8:7 Hebrews 7:22 Hebrews 9:16,17Testament.

B — 1: Συντίθημι (Strong'S #4934 — Verb — suntithemi — soon-tith'-em-ahee )

lit., "to put together," is used only in the Middle Voice in the NT, and, means "to determine, agree,"  John 9:22;  Acts 23:20; "to assent,"  Acts 24:9; "to covenant,"  Luke 22:5 . See Agree , Assent.

 Matthew 26:15

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [11]

The Scripture sense of this word is the same as in the circumstances of common life; namely, an agreement between parties. Thus Abraham and Abimelech entered into covenant at Beersheba. ( Genesis 21:32) And in like manner, David and Jonathan. ( 1 Samuel 20:42) To the same amount, in point of explanation, must we accept what is related in Scripture of God's covenant concerning redemption, made between the sacred persons of the GODHEAD, when the holy undivided Three in One engaged to, and with, each other, for the salvation of the church of God in Christ. This is that everlasting covenant which was entered into, and formed in the council of peace before the word began. For so the apostle was commissioned by the Holy Ghost, to inform the church concerning that eternal life which was given us, he saith, in Christ Jesus, "before the world began?" ( Titus 1:2;  2 Timothy 1:9) So that this everlasting covenant becomes the bottom and foundation in JEHOVAH'S appointment, and security of all grace and mercy for the church here, and of all glory and happiness hereafter, through the alone person, work, blood-shedding, and obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is on this account that his church is chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. ( Ephesians 1:4) And from this appointment, before all worlds, result all the after mercies in time, by which the happy partakers of such unspeakable grace and mercy are regenerated, called, adopted, made willing in the day of God's power, and are justified, sanctified, and, at length, fully glorified, to the praise of JEHOVAH'S grace, who hath made them accepted in the Beloved.

Such are the outlines of this blessed covenant. And which hath all properties contained in it to make it blessed. It is, therefore, very properly called in Scripture everlasting; for it is sure, unchangeable, and liable to no possibility of error or misapplication. Hence, the patriarch David, with his dying breath, amidst all the untoward circumstances which took place in himself and his family, took refuge and consolation in this: "Although (said he,) my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure; for this is all my salvation and all my desire, although he make it not to grow." ( 2 Samuel 23:5)

In the gospel, it is called the New Testament, or covenant, not in respect to any thing new in it or from any change or alteration in its substance or design, but from the promises of the great things engaged for in the Old Testament dispensation being now newly confirmed and finished. And as the glorious person by whom the whole conditions of the covenant on the part of man was to be performed, had now, according to the original settlements made in eternity, been manifested, and agreeably to the very period proposed, "in [what is called] the fulness of time, appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," it was, therefore, called Covenant, in his blood. But the whole purport, plan, design and grace, originating as it did in the purposes of JEHOVAH from all eternity, had all the properties in it of an everlasting covenant; and Christ always, and from all eternity, "was considered the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." ( Revelation 13:8)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [12]

The word testamentum is often used in Latin to express the Hebrew word which signifies covenant; whence the titles, Old and New Testaments, are used to denote the old and new covenants. See Testament .

A covenant is properly an agreement between two parties. Where one of the parties is infinitely superior to the other, as in a covenant between God and man, there God's covenant assumes the nature of a promise,  Isaiah 59:21   Jeremiah 31:33,34   Galatians 3:15-18 . The first covenant with the Hebrews was made when the Lord chose Abraham and his posterity for his people; a second covenant, or a solemn renewal of the former, was made at Sinai, comprehending all who observe the law of Moses. The "new covenant" of which Christ is the Mediator and Author, and which was confirmed by his blood, comprehends all who believe in him and are born again,  Galatians 4:24   Hebrews 7:22   8:6-13   9:15-23   12:24 . The divine covenants were ratified by the sacrifice of a victim, to show that without an atonement there could be no communication of blessing and salvation form God to man,  Genesis 15:1-8   Exodus 24:6-8   Hebrews 9:6 . Eminent believers among the covenant people of God were favored by the establishment of particular covenants, in which he promised them certain temporal favors; but these were only renewals to individuals of the "everlasting covenant," with temporal types and pledges of its fulfilment. Thus God covenanted with Noah, Abraham, and David,  Genesis 9:8,9   17:4,5   Psalm 89:3,4 , and gave them faith in the Savior afterwards to be revealed,  Romans 3:25   Hebrews 9:15 .

In common discourse, we usually say the old and new testaments, or covenants-the covenant between God and the posterity of Abraham, and that which he has made with believers by Jesus Christ; because these two covenants contain eminently all the rest, which are consequences, branches, or explanations of them. The most solemn and perfect of the covenants of God with men is that made through the mediation of our Redeemer, which must subsist to the end of time. The Son of God is the guarantee of it; it is confirmed with his blood; the end and object of it is eternal life, and its constitution and laws are more exalted than those of the former covenant.

Theologians use the phrase "covenant of works" to denote the constitution established by God with man before the fall, the promise of which was eternal life on condition of obedience,  Hosea 6:7   Romans 3:27   Galatians 2:19 . They also use the phrase, "covenant of grace or redemption," to denote the arrangement made in the counsels of eternity, in virtue of which the Father forgives and saves sinful men redeemed by the death of the Son.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [13]

To this subject as spoken of in scripture there are two branches:

1. man's covenant with his fellow, or nation with nation, in which the terms are mutually considered and agreed to: it is then ratified by an oath, or by some token, before witnesses. Such a covenant is alluded to in  Galatians 3:15; if a man's covenant be confirmed it cannot be disannulled or added to. When Abraham bought the field of Ephron in Machpelah, he paid the money "in the audience of the sons of Heth" as witnesses, and it was thus made sure unto him.  Genesis 23:16 . In the covenant Jacob made with Laban, they gathered a heap of stones to be witness between them, and "they did eat there upon the heap."  Genesis 31:46 . When the Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the heads of Israel, "the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord, and . . . sware unto them."  Joshua 9:14,15 . So to this day, if a stranger in the East can get the head of a tribe to eat with him, he knows he is safe, the eating is regarded as a covenant. In  2 Chronicles 13:5 we read of 'a covenant of salt;' and to eat salt together is also now regarded as a bond in the East.

2. The covenants made by God are of a different order. He makes His covenants from Himself, without consulting man. With Noah God made a covenant that he would not again destroy the world by a flood, and as a token of that covenant, He set the rainbow in the cloud.  Genesis 9:8-17 . This kind of covenant takes the form of an unconditional promise. Such was God's covenant with Abraham, first as to his natural posterity,  Genesis 15:4-6; and secondly, as to his seed, Christ.  Genesis 22:15-18 . He gave him also the covenant of circumcision,  Genesis 17:10-14;  Acts 7:8 , — a seal of the righteousness of faith.  Romans 4:11 .

The covenant with the children of Israel at Sinai, on the other hand, was conditional: if they were obedient and kept the law they would be blessed; but if disobedient they would be cursed.  Deuteronomy 27,28 .

In the Epistle to the Galatians the apostle argues that the ' promise ' made by God — "the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ" — could not be affected by the law which was given 430 years later.  Galatians 3:16,17 . The promise being through Christ, the apostle could add respecting Gentile believers, "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to promise."  Galatians 3:29 .

People's Dictionary of the Bible [14]

Covenant. An agreement or mutual contract made with great solemnity. The Hebrew word Bireth, for covenant, means "a cutting," having reference to the custom of cutting or dividing animals in two and passing between the parts in ratifying a covenant.  Genesis 15:1-21;  Jeremiah 34:18-19. In the New Testament the corresponding word is Diathékç, which is frequently translated testament in the Authorized version. In the Bible the word is used: 1. Of a covenant between God and man; as God's covenant with Noah, after the flood. The Old Covenant, from which we name the first part of the Bible the Old Testament, is the covenant of works; the New Covenant, or New Testament, is that of grace. 2. Covenant between tribes,  Joshua 9:6;  Joshua 9:15;  1 Samuel 11:1, or between individuals,  Genesis 31:44. In making such a covenant God was solemnly invoked as witness,  Genesis 31:50, and an oath was taken.  Genesis 21:31. A sign or witness of the covenant was sometimes framed, such as a gift,  Genesis 21:30, or a pillar or heap of stones erected.  Genesis 31:52. God's covenants, from the beginning, have been with his people and their seed—with Adam,  Genesis 2:17;  Romans 5:12;  1 Corinthians 15:22; with Noah,  Genesis 9:9.; with Abraham,  Genesis 17:7;  Genesis 22:18; with the Jews,  Exodus 6:4;  Exodus 19:5;  Exodus 20:6;  Exodus 34:27;  Leviticus 26:9;  Leviticus 26:42;  Leviticus 26:45;  Deuteronomy 4:9;  Deuteronomy 4:37; with Christians,  Acts 2:39;  Ephesians 6:2. A covenant of salt,  Numbers 18:1-32;  Numbers 19:1-22;  2 Chronicles 13:5, was a compact in which salt was used in its ratification.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [15]

Covenant. The Hebrew berith means primarily "A Cutting", with reference to the custom of cutting or dividing animals in two and passing between the parts in ratifying a covenant. (Genesis 15;  Jeremiah 34:18-19. In the New Testament, the corresponding Greek word is diatheke , which is frequently translated Testament, in the Authorized Version. In its biblical meaning two parties, the word is used -

1. Of a covenant between God and man; for example, God covenanted with Noah, after the flood, that a like judgment should not be repeated. It is not precisely like a covenant between men, but was a promise or agreement by God.

The principal covenants are The Covenant Of Works - God promising to save and bless men on condition of perfect obedience - and The Covenant Of Grace , or God's promise to save men on condition of their believing in Christ and receiving him as their Master and Saviour.

The first is called the Old Covenant, from which we name the first part of the bible the Old Testament , the Latin rendering of the word covenant. The second is called the New Covenant, or New Testament .

2. Covenant between man and man, that is, a solemn compact or agreement, either between tribes or nations,  Joshua 9:6;  Joshua 9:15;  1 Samuel 11:1, or between individuals,  Genesis 31:44. By which each party bound himself to fulfill certain conditions and was assured of receiving certain advantages.

In making such a covenant, God was solemnly invoked as witness,  Genesis 31:50, and an oath was sworn.  Genesis 21:31. A sign or witness of the covenant was sometimes framed, such a gift,  Genesis 21:30, or a pillar or heap of stones erected.  Genesis 31:52.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [16]

  • On the part of the Son the conditions were (a) his becoming incarnate ( Galatians 4:4,5 ); and (b) as the second Adam his representing all his people, assuming their place and undertaking all their obligations under the violated covenant of works; (c) obeying the law ( Psalm 40:8;  Isaiah 42:21;  John 9:4,5 ), and (d) suffering its penalty ( Isaiah 53;  2 co.  5:21;  Galatians 3:13 ), in their stead.

    Christ, the mediator of, fulfils all its conditions in behalf of his people, and dispenses to them all its blessings. In  Hebrews 8:6;  9:15;  12:24 , this title is given to Christ. (See Dispensation .)

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Covenant'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • King James Dictionary [17]

    COVENANT, n. L, to come a coming together a meeting or agreement of minds.

    1. A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing a contract stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed or it may be implied in the contract. 2. A writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties or the clause of agreement in a deed containing the covenant. 3. In theology, the covenant of works, is that implied in the commands, prohibitions, and promises of God the promise of God to man, that mans perfect obedience should entitle him to happiness. This do, and live that do, and die.

    The covenant of redemption, is the mutual agreement between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of sinners by Christ.

    The covenant of grace, is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel.

    4. In church affairs, a solemn agreement between the members of a church, that they will walk together according to the precepts of the gospel, in brotherly affection.

    COVENANT, To enter into a formal agreement to stipulate to bind ones self by contract. A covenants with B to convey to him a certain estate. When the terms are expressed ti has for before the thing or price.

    They covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.  Matthew 26 .

    COVENANT, To grant or promise by covenant.

    Webster's Dictionary [18]

    (1): (v. i.) To agree (with); to enter into a formal agreement; to bind one's self by contract; to make a stipulation.

    (2): (v. t.) To grant or promise by covenant.

    (3): (n.) A mutual agreement of two or more persons or parties, or one of the stipulations in such an agreement.

    (4): (n.) A form of action for the violation of a promise or contract under seal.

    (5): (n.) An undertaking, on sufficient consideration, in writing and under seal, to do or to refrain from some act or thing; a contract; a stipulation; also, the document or writing containing the terms of agreement.

    (6): (n.) A solemn compact between members of a church to maintain its faith, discipline, etc.

    (7): (n.) The promises of God as revealed in the Scriptures, conditioned on certain terms on the part of man, as obedience, repentance, faith, etc.

    (8): (n.) An agreement made by the Scottish Parliament in 1638, and by the English Parliament in 1643, to preserve the reformed religion in Scotland, and to extirpate popery and prelacy; - usually called the "Solemn League and Covenant."

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [19]

    a mutual contract or agreement between two parties, each of which is bound to fulfill certain engagements to the other. In Scripture it is used mostly in an analogical sense, to denote certain relations between God and man. (See Danville Review, March, 1862.)

    I.' Terms . In the Old Test. בְּרַית , Berith (rendered "league,"  Joshua 9:6-7;  Joshua 9:11;  Joshua 9:15-16;  Judges 2:2;  2 Samuel 3:12-13;  2 Samuel 3:21;  2 Samuel 5:3;  1 Kings 5:12;  1 Kings 15:19, twice;  2 Chronicles 16:3, twice;  Job 5:23;  Ezekiel 30:5; "confederacy,"  Obadiah 1:7; "confederate,"  Genesis 14:13;  Psalms 83:5), is the word invariably thus translated (Sept. Διαθήκη ; once, Wisdom of Solomon 1:16, Συνθήκη ; Vulg. Faedus, Pactum , often interchangeably, Genesis 9, 17; Numbers 25; in the Apocrypha Testamentum , but Sacramentum ,  2 Esdras 2:7; Sponsiones , Wisdom of Solomon 1:16; in N.T. Testamentum [ Absque Foedere ,  Romans 1:31; Gr. Ἀσυνθέτους ]). The Hebrew word is derived by Gesenius (Thes. Heb. p. 237, 238; so First, Hebr. Handzw. p. 217) from the root בָּרָה , i. q. בָּרָא , "he cut," and taken to mean primarily "a cutting," with reference to the custom of cutting or dividing animals in two, and passing between the parts in ratifying a covenant (Genesis 15;  Jeremiah 34:18-19). Hence the expression "to cut a covenant" ( כָּרִת בְּרַית ,  Genesis 15:18, or simply כָּרִת , with בְּרַית understood,  1 Samuel 11:2) is of frequent occurrence. (Comp. Ὅρκια Τέμνειν , Τέμνειν Σπονδάς , Icere, Ferire, Percuterefoedus. See Sicvogt, De More Ebraeor. Dissectione Animalium Foedera Ineundi , Jen. 1759.) Professor Lee suggests ( Heb. Lex . s.v. בְּרַית ) that the proper signification of the word is an eating together, or banquet, from the meaning "to eat," which the root בָּרָה sometimes bears; because among the Orientals to eat together amounts almost to a covenant of friendship. This view is supported by  Genesis 31:46, where Jacob and Laban eat together on the heap of stones which they have set up in ratifying the covenant between them. It affords also a satisfactory explanation of the expression "a covenant of salt" ( בְּרַית מֶלִח , Διαθήκη Ἁλός ,,  Numbers 18:19;  2 Chronicles 13:5), when the Eastern idea of eating salt together is remembered. If, however, the other derivation of בְּרַית . be adopted, this expression may be explained by supposing salt to have been eaten or offered with accompanying sacrifices on occasion of very solemn covenants, or it may be regarded as figurative, denoting, either, from the use of salt in sacrifice ( Leviticus 2:13;  Mark 9:49), the sacredness, or, from the preserving qualities of salt, the perpetuity of the covenant. (See below.)

    In the New Test. the word Διαθήκη is frequently, though by no means uniformly, translated Testament in the English Auth. Vers., whence the two divisions of the Bible have received their common English names. This translation is perhaps due to the Vulgate, which, having adopted Testamentum as the equivalent for Διαθήκη in the Apocrypha, uses it always as such in the N.T. (see above). There seems however, to be no necessity for the introduction of a new word conveying a new idea. The Sept. having rendered בְּרַית (which never means will or testament, but always covenant or agreement) by Διαθήκη consistently throughout the O.T., the N.T. writers, in adopting that word, may naturally be supposed to intend to convey to their readers, most of them familiar with the Greek O.T., the same idea. Moreover, in the majority of cases, the same thing which has been called a "covenant" ( בְּרַית ) in the O.T. is referred to in the N.T. (e.g.  2 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 7, 9;  Revelation 11:19); while in the same context the same word and thing in the Greek are in the English sometimes represented by "covenant," and sometimes by "testament" ( Hebrews 7:22;  Hebrews 8:8-13;  Hebrews 9:15). In the confessedly difficult passage,  Hebrews 9:16-17, the word Διαθήκη has been thought by many commentators absolutely to require the meaning of will or testament. On the other side, however, it may be alleged that, in addition to what has just been said as to the usual meaning of the word in the N.T., the word occurs twice in the context, where its meaning must necessarily be the same as the translation of בְּרַית , and in the unquestionable sense of covenant (comp. Διαθήκη Καινή ,  Hebrews 9:15, with the same expression in 8:8; and Διαθήκη , 9:16, 17, with  Hebrews 9:20, and  Exodus 24:8). If this sense of Διαθήκη be retained, we may either render Ἐπὶ Νεκροῖς , "over, or in the case of, dead sacrifices," and Διαθέμενος , "the mediating sacrifice" (Scholefield's Hintsfor an improved Translat:on of the N.T.), or (with Ebrard and others) restrict the statement of  Exodus 24:16 to the O.T. idea of a covenant between man and God, in which man, as guilty, must always be represented by a sacrifice with which he was so completely identified that in its person he ( Διαθἐμενος , the human covenanter) actually died (comp.  Matthew 26:28). (See Testament).

    II. Their Application. In its Biblical meaning of a compact or agreement between two parties, the word "covenant" is used

    1. Properly, Of A Covenant Between Man And Man ; i.e. a solemn compact or agreement, either between tribes or nations ( 1 Samuel 11:1;  Joshua 9:6;  Joshua 9:15), or between individuals ( Genesis 31:44), by which each party bound himself to fulfill certain conditions, and was assured of receiving certain advantages. In making such a covenant God was solemnly invoked as witness ( Genesis 31:50), whence the expression "a covenant of Jehovah" בְּרַית יְהוָֹה ,  1 Samuel 20:8; comp.  Jeremiah 34:18-19;  Ezekiel 17:19), and an oath was sworn ( Genesis 21:31); and accordingly a breach of covenant was regarded as a very heinous sin ( Ezekiel 17:12-20). A sign ( אוֹת ) or witness ( עֵד ) of the covenant was sometimes framed, such as a gift ( Genesis 21:30), or a pillar, or heap of stones erected ( Genesis 31:52). The marriage compact is called "the covenant of God,"  Proverbs 2:17 (see  Malachi 2:14). The word covenant came to be applied to a sure ordinance, such as that of the shew- bread ( Leviticus 24:8); and is used figuratively in such expressions as a covenant with death ( Isaiah 28:18), or with the wild beasts ( Hosea 2:18). The phrases בִּעֲלֵי בְרַית , בְרַית אִנְשֵׁי , "lords or men of one's covenant,' are employed to denote confederacy ( Genesis 14:13,  Obadiah 1:7). (See Contract).

    2. Improperly, Of A Covenant Between God And Man . Man not being in any way in the position of an independent covenanting party, the phrase is evidently used by way of accommodation. (See Anthropomorphism). Strictly speaking, such a covenant is quite unconditional, and amounts to a promise ( Galatians 3:15 sq., where Ἐπαγγελία and Διαθήκη are used almost as synonyms) or act of mere favor ( Psalms 89:28, where חֶסֶד stands in parallelism with בְּרַית ) on God's part. Thus the assurance given by God after the Flood that a like judgment should not be repeated, and that the recurrence of the seasons, and of day and night, should not cease, is called a covenant (Genesis 9;  Jeremiah 33:20). Generally, however, the form: of a covenant is maintained, by the benefits which God engages to bestow being made by him dependent upon the fulfillment of certain conditions which he imposes on man. Thus the covenant with Abraham was conditioned by circumcision ( Acts 7:8), the omission of which was declared tantamount to a breach of the covenant (Genesis 17); the covenant of the priesthood by zeal for God, his honor and service ( Numbers 25:12-13;  Deuteronomy 33:9;  Nehemiah 13:29  Malachi 2:4-5); the covenant of Sinai by the observance of the ten commandments ( Exodus 34:27-28;  Leviticus 26:15), which are therefore called "Jehovah's covenant" ( Deuteronomy 4:13), a name which was extended to all the books of Moses, if not to the whole body of Jewish canonical Scriptures ( 2 Corinthians 3:13-14). This last- mentioned covenant, which was renewed at different periods of Jewish history (Deuteronomy 29; Joshua 24; 2 Chronicles 15, 23, 29, 34; Ezra 10; Nehemiah 9, 10), is one of the two principal covenants between God and man. They are distinguished as old and new ( Jeremiah 31:31-34;  Hebrews 8:8-13;  Hebrews 10:16), with reference to the order, not of their institution, but of their actual development ( Galatians 3:17); and also as being the instruments respectively of bondage and freedom ( Galatians 4:24). Consistently with this representation of God's dealings with man under the form of a covenant, such covenant is said to be confirmed in conformity with human custom by an oath ( Deuteronomy 4:31;  Psalms 89:3), to be sanctioned by curses to fall upon the unfaithful ( Deuteronomy 29:21), and to be accompanied by a sign ( אוֹת ), such as the rainbow (Genesis 9), circumcision (Genesis 8), or the Sabbath ( Exodus 31:16-17). Hence, in Scripture, the covenant of God is called his "counsel," his "oath," his "promise" ( Psalms 89:3-4;  Psalms 105:8-11;  Hebrews 6:13-20;  Luke 1:68-75;  Galatians 3:15-18, etc.); and it is described as consisting wholly in the gracious bestowal of blessing on men ( Isaiah 59:21;  Jeremiah 31:33-34). Hence also the application of the term covenant to designate such fixed arrangements or laws of nature as the regular succession of day and night ( Jeremiah 33:20), and such religious institutions as the Sabbath ( Exodus 31:16); circumcision ( Genesis 17:9-10); the Levitical institute ( Leviticus 26:15); and, in general, any precept or ordinance of God ( Jeremiah 34:13-14), all such appointments forming part of that system or arrangement in connection with which the blessings of God's grace were to be enjoyed.