What are the covenants in the Bible?
Question: "What are the covenants in the Bible?"
Answer: The Bible speaks of six different covenants, five of which God made with the nation of Israel. Four of the covenants are unconditional in nature. That is, regardless of Israel's obedience or disobedience God still will fulfill these covenants with the nation of Israel. One of the covenants is conditional in nature. That is, this covenant will bring either blessing or cursing depending on the Israel's obedience or disobedience.
The Adamic covenant can be thought of in two parts: the Edenic Covenant (innocence) and the Adamic Covenant (grace) (Genesis 3:16-19). The Edenic Covenant is found in Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17. The Edenic Covenant outlined manís responsibility toward creation and Godís directive regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Adamic Covenant included the curses pronounced against
mankind for the sin of Adam and Eve, as well as Godís provision for that sin (Genesis 3:15).
Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3, 6-7; 13:14-17; 15; 17:1-14; 22:15-18). In this covenant, God promised many things to Abraham. He personally promised that he would make Abrahamís name great (Genesis 12:2), that he would have numerous physical descendents (Genesis 13:16), and that he would be the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis 17:4-5). God also made promises regarding
a nation called Israel. In fact, the geographical boundaries of the Abrahamic covenant are laid out on more than one occasion in the book of Genesis (12:7; 13:14-15; 15:18-21). Another provision in the Abrahamic covenant is that the families of the world will be blessed through the physical line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). This is a reference to the Messiah, who would come from the line of Abraham.
Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 30:1-10). The Palestinian covenant amplifies the land aspect which was detailed in the Abrahamic covenant. In this covenant, God, because of their disobedience, would cause the people of the nation to be scattered around the world (Deuteronomy 30:3-4), and that God would eventually restore the nation together (verse 5). When the nation is restored,
then the nation will obey him perfectly (verse 8), and God will cause them to prosper (verse 9).
Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 11; et al). The Mosaic covenant was a conditional covenant that either brought God's direct blessing for obedience or God's direct cursing for disobedience upon the nation of Israel. Part of the Mosaic covenant was the ten commandments found in Exodus 20, but also the rest of the law which contained over 600 commandsóroughly 300 positive and 300 negative.
The history books of the Old Testament (Joshua-Esther) detail how Israel succeeded at obeying the law or how Israel failed miserably at obeying the law. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 details specifically the blessing/cursing motif.
Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:8-16). The Davidic covenant amplifies the seed aspect which was detailed in the Abrahamic covenant. The promises to David in this passage are very significant. God promised that David's physical line of descent would last forever and that his kingdom would never pass away permanently (verse 16). This kingdom, furthermore, would have a ruling individual exercising
authority over it (verse 16). Obviously, the Davidic throne has not been in place at all times. There will be a time, however, when someone from the line of David will again sit on the throne and rule as king. This future king is Jesus (Luke 1:32-33).
New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34). The New covenant is a covenant made with the nation of Israel which speaks about the blessings which are detailed in the Abrahamic covenant. In the new covenant, God promises to forgive sin and there will be a universal knowledge of the Lord (verse 34). It even appears that the nation of Israel will have a special relationship with their God (verse
Within the discussion of the biblical covenants, there are a few issues that Christians are not agreed upon. First, some Christians think that all of the covenants are conditional in nature. If the covenants are conditional, then Israel failed miserably at fulfilling them. Others believe that the unconditional covenants have yet to be totally fulfilled and regardless of Israel's disobedience will come to fruition sometime in the future. Second,
how does the church of Jesus Christ relate to the covenants? Some believe that the church fulfills the covenants and God will never deal with Israel again. This is called replacement theology and has little scriptural prove. Others believe that the church initially or partially will fulfill these covenants. While many of the promises towards Israel are still in the future, many believe that the church shares in the covenants in some way.
Others believe that the covenants are for Israel and for Israel alone, and that the church is absent from these covenants.
Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.
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Questions about Theology
What are the covenants in the Bible?