A STUDY OF GOD’S COVENANTS
The following subjects will be presented in this study:
I) THE MEANING OF THE HEBREW AND GREEK WORDS TRANSLATED “COVENANT”
II) WHAT IS A COVENANT?
III) THE COVENANT WITH NOAH:
IV) THE THREE COVENANTS GOD MADE WITH ABRAHAM
A) God’s Covenant To Be A “God Unto Thee”
B) The Covenant of Land
C) A Consideration Of Other Views
D) The Promised Seed
V) THE THREE COVENANTS WITH ISRAEL
A) The Law
B) The New Covenant
C) The Marvels
VI) COVENANTS WITH INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR SEED
A) The Covenant Of Peace With Phinehas
B) The Covenant With David
VII) OTHER COVENANTS FOR THE MILLENNIUM
A) The Covenant Of Peace
B) A Covenant With The Beasts
VIII) THE COVENANTS OF THE DAY AND OF THE NIGHT
I. THE MEANING OF THE HEBREW AND GREEK WORDS TRANSLATED “COVENANT”
The Hebrew word translated “covenant” is “berith”. According to Strong’s Dictionary the Hebrew word “berith” is taken from “barah” which is used “in the sense of cutting”. Strong’s Dictionary goes on to explain that “berith” also means “a compact (because made by passing between two pieces of flesh)”. Let us consider this definition.
To begin, of the twelve covenants that will be discussed in this paper, there were only two of the covenants with Abraham plus the old and the new covenants made with Israel, that required a blood sacrifice. My point is that because only four of God’s twelve covenants were made involving a blood sacrifice that cannot be part of the definition of the Hebrew word translated “covenant”. A definition must fit more than just one third of the occurrences in which the word is used. This definition does not meet that requirement, and therefore, in my opinion, cannot be used as a definition.
But I believe that we can learn from the fact that “berith” is used “in the sense of cutting”. In fact, to put it more accurately, because it is a noun, it is “a cut”. That is to say, the word translated “covenant” means “a cut” but not because of a passing between two pieces of flesh. I believe the definition of “a cut” is best seen as we consider just two of the passages in which “berith” is translated “league”, rather than it’s usual translation of “covenant”.
II Sam. chapter 3 tells of Abner’s betrayal of Saul, whom he had served. We read in verse 12, “And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, ‘Whose is the land’?; saying also, ‘Make thy league with me, and behold my hand shall be with thee to bring about all Israel unto thee”. The Hebrew word translated “league” in this verse is “berith”, i.e. the word usually translated “covenant”. How does the usage in this verse help us to understand the meaning of the Hebrew word as “a cut”? In making this league with David, Abner cut himself off from Saul. So in this context, it is, I believe, easier to see how “berith” is used in the sense of “a cut”. But let us consider another passage where “berith” is translated “league”.
When Saul died “all the tribes of Israel” came to David to crown him king. We read in II Sam. 5:3, “So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel”. How are we to understand “league” (Heb. “berith”) in the sense of “a cut” in this context? When the elders of Israel crowned David king and made a league with him, they separated themselves from all others to serve David as their king. In other words, they cut themselves off from others in order to serve their king, David.
Now let us briefly consider God’s covenants to see if the sense of cutting is implied.
In making a covenant with Noah to never destroy the earth, God assured him that any possibility of destroying the earth by flood had been cut off. God made a covenant with Abram and his seed that they would inherit the land for a thousand generations (see I Chron. 16:15-18). This covenant cut off all other nations from inheriting the land for a thousand generations. God’s covenant with Abraham that He would be a God unto him and unto his seed will be fulfilled in the millennium. When it is fulfilled the possibility of His not being a God unto them will be cut off, it can never happen. God’s covenant with Abraham that his Seed, Christ, would come from him guaranteed that all others are cut off from bearing the promised Seed. God’s covenant with Israel concerning the law cut off all other nations (*as such) from the promises of that covenant because it was made with Israel. The new covenant was made with Israel, thus cutting off all other nations (*as such) from being part of that covenant. The covenant of marvels was God’s covenant with Israel to cut off all the nations that occupied the promised land from that land. The covenant God made with David is that anyone who is not of the seed of David will be cut off from sitting on the throne of Israel. The covenants of peace cut off anything that was not peaceful from Israel in the millennium. The covenant with the beasts cut the beasts off from causing harm in Israel in the millennium.
(* Nations as such are cut off from the old and new covenants, but individual Gentiles were always given the opportunity to participate in those covenants. In Old Testament times individual Gentiles became proselytes through circumcision, and in New Testament times (up until Israel was set aside at Acts 28) individual Gentile believers were grafted into the olive tree which represented Israel’s covenant blessings (see Romans 11). In both cases individual Gentile believers became equal participants in those covenants.)
The New Testament Greek word translated “covenant” and “testament” is “diatheekee”. We read in Heb. 10:16, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days……”. This is a reference to the new covenant of which we read in Jer. 31:31-34. My point is that the Greek word used in Heb. 10 must mean the same as the Hebrew word in Jer. 31. If the Hebrew word translated “covenant” is used in the sense of “a cut” surely, so too must the Greek word translated “covenant”.
II. WHAT IS A COVENANT?
Having determined the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “covenant” we are ready to address the question: what is a covenant? As stated above, Strong’s Dictionary defines the Hebrew word “berith” translated “covenant” in part as, “a compact (because made by passing between two pieces of flesh)”. As we have seen in the section above however, the Hebrew word cannot be defined as having to do with “passing between two pieces of flesh” because only four of the twelve covenants of God involved a blood sacrifice. Now let us consider the definition of a covenant as “a compact”.
As the reader will see as we continue in this study, some covenants have conditions attached to them, and some do not. The unconditional covenants are promises, and the conditional covenants are compacts or agreements. But because there is some inconsistency in how the word is used (sometimes as a promise and sometimes as an agreement) in my opinion, the word “covenant” cannot be defined as “a promise” or as “an agreement” or “a compact”. All we can say is that sometimes a covenant is a promise, and sometimes it is an agreement. Let us consider an example of each.
Jer. 33:20 is an example of a covenant which is a promise and reads, “Thus saith the Lord; ‘If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne…..”. Obviously, the day and the night did not enter into an agreement or a “compact” with God. So it is an unconditional covenant, i.e. a promise that God will give a day and a night.
On the other hand, we read in Gen. 17 of God’s covenants with Abraham and his seed concerning the promised land and that God will be a God unto them. There are conditions attached, one of which is described in verse 10, which reads, “This is My covenant, which ye shall keep, between Me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised”. There is a condition that must be met. That is to say, God will give Abraham’s seed the promised land and He will be a God unto them if they keep the condition, i.e. circumcision being among those conditions. Because there are conditions which must be met we may conclude that the conditional covenants are agreements.
Again, my point is that we cannot define the word “covenant” as “an agreement”, or “compact” and neither can we define it as “a promise”. The reason we may not define “covenant” as such is because there is not the degree of consistency in the way the word is used that one would expect in the Word of God to warrant those definitions. What is required then is that we consider each covenant and determine if it is a promise or if it is an agreement.
III. THE COVENANT WITH NOAH
Gen. 6 records the flood of Noah’s day, and we read in Gen. 9:8-17 of the covenant that God made with Noah. That passage reads, “And God spake unto Noah and to his sons with him saying, ‘And behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. and I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said, ‘This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations. I do set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. and the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said into Noah, ‘This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth'”.
There are four point of interest to note about this covenant.
1) The first point to note is that this is an unconditional covenant. That is to say there are no conditions attached to it. Therefore, it is not an agreement, it is a promise.
2) Note that this covenant is made with Noah and his sons and their seed and also with “fowl”, “cattle” and “beasts” as well as with the earth. Obviously, the beasts and the earth do not accept or reject the covenant. We must conclude therefore, that this covenant, even though it is made with or between God and others, does not have to be agreed upon in order to go into effect. In other words, this is further proof that this covenant is not a “compact” or an agreement, it is a promise.
3) Note how many times the covenant is said to be “with” or “between” God and others. As mentioned above, this covenant is not an agreement, but it is a promise. But a promise is given to another, while a covenant is made with or between God and others. In the most practical sense there is really no difference between God’s promise and His covenant because in both cases, God, Who cannot lie, will keep His word to the uttermost. But a promise, in a very literal sense, because it is given to another does not establish a relationship. On the other hand, a covenant in its literal sense is made with or between God and others, and establishes a relationship, i.e. a covenant relationship, between God and those with whom the covenant is made.
In point of fact, some believe that the word “berith” is derived from the Assyrian word “beritu”, meaning “to bind.” I do not know if this belief is correct, but given that a covenant does establish a binding relationship between the parties that are involved in the covenant, the definition of “to bind” does fit the Scriptural use of the word,
4) The fourth thing to note is that no sacrifices were required to establish this covenant, so there was no “flesh” through which to pass” as Strong suggests.
IV. THE THREE COVENANTS GOD MADE WITH ABRAHAM
A) God’s Covenant To Be “A God Unto Thee”
Gen. 17:7 reads, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee”.
There are two passages that imply that there are conditions attached to this covenant. 1) Note verses 1-2, “and when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, ‘I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect, and I will make My covenant between Me and thee….”. To walk before God implies a certain standard of moral conduct. It is the keeping of that standard that is the condition attached to the covenant. 2) And we read in verse 9, “Thou shalt keep My covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations”. To “keep” the covenant implies certain actions. The sign of the acceptance to the covenant that Abraham and his seed must “keep” is explained in verses 10-14, i.e. that every man child must be circumcised.
There is a very important parallel between the covenant of Gen. 17 and the old covenant which centers on the Law of Moses. Lev. 26 describes the blessings that Israel will enjoy if She obeys the law, and the punishments if She disobeys. We read in Lev. 26:9-17, “for I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish My covenant with you. ….And I will set My tabernacle among you…..and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people”. Note that Gen. 17:7 speaks of a covenant that God will “be a God unto thee”, and Lev. 26:17 records God’s promise that He will be their God if they obey His laws. My point is that Lev. 26 records the standard God sets for those who will “walk before” Him. That is to say, Lev. 26 records the details of the covenant God made with Abraham in Gen. 17.
So in Gen. 17 God told Abraham that He would be a God unto him and unto his seed as they walk before Him. Then in Lev. 26 we see that this conditional covenant was made more specific. That is to say, the law told Israel exactly what constituted walking before God. If Israel obeyed the law, God would be their God and if they disobeyed the law, the results were also made quite specific in Lev. 26.
Two of the covenants God made with Abraham (the covenant to be a God unto Abraham and unto his seed, and the covenant concerning the land, discussed below) were established with a sacrifice. Abraham asked God in Gen. 15:8, “Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?”. God’s answer is recorded in Gen. 15:9-10, “And He said unto him, ‘Take Me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another; but the birds divided he not”.
B) The Covenant of Land
As mentioned above, Gen. 17:7 is a conditional covenant. That is to say, God told Abraham that He would be a God unto him and unto his seed, but there were conditions attached. Gen. 17:8 comes in the context of these same conditions and reads, “And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession……..”.
It should be noted that the covenant concerning the land that God made with Abraham and his seed in this passage is not the same as the land promised in Ezek. 48. How do we know that? To begin,the boundaries were entirely different. Secondly, the covenant concerning the land described in Gen. 17 was fulfilled in the days of Joshua. We read in Josh. 21:43, “and the Lord gave unto Israel all the Land which He sware to give unto their fathers: and they possessed it, and dwelt therein”. The land described in Ezekiel will be distributed in the millennial reign. We know that from the fact that the boundaries described in Ezek. 48 have never been fully occupied by Israel and because God cannot lie, will be occupied in the future, i.e. the millennium.
As we consider Heb. 3:17-19 we will see that the covenant concerning the land as recorded in Gen. 17 was conditional, the condition being faithfulness to God. Let us consider that passage, “For with whom was He grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? and to whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief”. In other words, God’s covenant with Abraham and his seed concerning the land as recorded in Gen. 17 was conditional, the condition being belief. We know that the promise was conditional because the generation that came out of Egypt was not allowed entrance into the land. (It should also be noted that, as the paper on the kingdom of Heaven will show, only believers will live in the land described in Ezek. 48).
That Gen. 17:7 is in reference to a covenant is proved in Gen. 15:18 where we read, “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates'”. And in Ex. 6:4 we learn that the promise of the land was given as a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Ex. 6:3-4 reads, “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac and unto Jacob…….and I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers”. (See also Lev. 26:43 and I Chron. 16:16-18 which also refers to the promise of the land as a covenant.)
Gen. 26:3-4 records God’s statement to Isaac and reads, “sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father”. In this passage we see that God had sworn an oath, i.e a promise, to give Isaac’s seed the land, but in Gen. 17 we saw that this covenant of land was a conditional covenant. That is to say, in one passage of Scripture we are told that this covenant had conditions attached to it, but in another we learn that this covenant was an “oath”, i.e. a promise. How should we understand this seeming contradiction?
Let us first establish what an oath implies. We read in Heb. 6:17, “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath“. The oath spoken of in this passage is not God’s promise to Israel of land, but it does show that God’s oath is immutable. Therefore, it can not be altered by anything man does or does not do. That is to say, God’s oath to give Isaac’s seed the promised land cannot be thwarted by man’s inability to meet the conditions of the covenant to give that land, namely, to walk before Him (see Gen 17:1-2). But the covenant, i.e. the agreement, as given to Abraham did indeed have conditions. This seems like a contradiction, so we must search the Scriptures further in order to answer this seeming contradiction.
I believe I Chron. 16:15-18 will be helpful. That passage reads, “Be ye mindful always of His covenant; the word which He commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which He made with Abraham, and of His oath unto Isaac; and hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant. Saying, ‘Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, The land of your inheritance'”. Note that a covenant was made with Abraham, but an oath was made unto Isaac.
Let us consider what Paul wrote in Romans 9 about Abraham and Isaac. Rom. 9:7-8, “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, ‘In Isaac shall thy seed be called’. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted for the seed”. Note the word “but” in the phrase, “but the children of the promise”. That tells us that there is a contrast between those of Israel who are not the children of God (i.e. the natural seed of Abraham) and those who are children of God (i.e. the spiritual seed of Isaac as the promised seed). In other words, the seed of Abraham are spoken of in this context as the “children of the flesh” and it is said of them that they “are not the children of God”. In contrast, in this context the spiritual seed of Isaac (i.e. believers) are the children of God.
What has this to do with the fact that the giving of the land is both a conditional covenant and an oath? I suggest that God’s covenant with Abraham concerning the promised land was made with the natural seed, i.e. “the children of the flesh”, but the oath God made with Isaac concerning that same land, was given unto the “children of the promise”. Let me try to clarify that statement.
The covenant God made with Abraham and his seed was a conditional covenant. If Israel met those conditions set out by the Mosaic Law and proved that they would “walk with God” they would inherit the land. But the oath God made unto Isaac was with believers of Israel, i.e. the children of God. Believers are the “seed of promise” and will be put in the land when they are resurrected. There are no further conditions to be met, it is God’s oath that believing Israel will be in the Land of promise when they are resurrected.
C) A Consideration Of Other Views
Both Charles Welch and E. W. Bullinger wrote in regard to Gen. 15 that the covenant that God made with Abraham concerning the land that would be given his seed, was an unconditional covenant. I believe that a careful consideration of the teachings of these two great Bible teachers, is called for.
Let us briefly review Gen. 17:7-8 which reads, “I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed…..and I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee …..the land wherein thou art a stranger……“. As discussed in this study, Gen. 17:1-2 tells us that this was a conditional covenant, the condition being that Abraham and his seed “walk before Me“. Further, as quoted in the section above, Heb. 3:17-19 also tells us that the covenant concerning the land as recorded in Gen. 17 was conditional, the condition being faithfulness to God. There are, of course, no contradictions in the Word of God, i.e. either the covenant of the land with Abraham’s natural seed was conditional or it was unconditional.
Let us begin with a consideration of Gen. 15:12 which reads, “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him”. I believe that Dr. Bullinger’s note on verse 12 describes his reason for believing that this covenant made with Abram was unconditional. That note reads, “Put to sleep so that he should have no part in it, and that the Covenant should be unconditional, in which God was the one ‘and only contracting party’…..”.
This Scriptural passage does not tell us explicitly why Abram was put to sleep, but I believe the note on verse 17 in the Companion Bible is very helpful. That note reads, “furnace, Symbolic of the affliction of Israel…… lamp. Symbolic of Israel’s deliverance…….”. The phrase, “an horror of great darkness fell upon him” is helpful. What was this “horror”? I do not believe that the horror was the literal darkness because darkness is what one naturally expects when one falls asleep and therefore, it would not be described as “horror”. I believe the darkness is a figure of speech for the horror of those things that Abram was about to receive from God in his sleep. That horror is explained in verses 13-16, “And He said unto Abram, ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs (and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them) four hundred years; and also that nation whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. and thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorities is not yet full”.
In summary, I believe that Abram was put into a deep sleep so that he might receive the “horror” described in verses 13-16. Bearing in mind that, according to Dr. Bullinger’s notes, the furnace symbolized affliction and the lamp symbolized deliverance, we must ask ourselves what the connection is between those symbols and the covenant concerning the land. That is to say, what do the symbols of Israel’s affliction and deliverance have to with the covenant of the land? And what does Abram’s death have to do with the covenant of land? In point of fact, these things have nothing to do with the covenant. Let us therefore, consider this chapter with fresh eyes.
Gen. 15:9-11 describes the Lord telling Abram to divide each of certain animals into two pieces. These verses obviously have to do with the covenant.
In verse 12 we are told that Abram fell into a deep sleep. Then in verses 13-17 Abram learned what was about to come upon him and his seed, including the affliction and deliverance of his seed, and we read as well of the furnace and lamp passing between the divided animals. My point is that verses 13-17 do not describe a covenant, they are prophecy.
A consideration of three verses will show that verses 12-17 which record the prophecy concerning Israel and Abraham’s death, as well as the passing of the furnace and lamp between the divided animals, are parenthetical, and therefore have nothing to do with the covenant. Those three verses are verses 12, 17 and 18. We read in verse 12, “And when the sun was going down a deep sleep fell upon Abram……”. Verse 17 reads, “And when it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark….” Verse 18 reads, “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram…..”.
What do we learn as we consider these three verses? We know that the Hebrew day ends at sundown. That tells us that Abram fell into a deep sleep as the day was ending. In verse 17 we are told that the furnace and lamp passed between the animals when it was dark. Because the Hebrew day began at sundown this verse tells us that it was the next day, i.e, after the sun went down. Then in verse 18 we read of “the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram “. So we have two days to be carefully considered in this passage, i.e. the day the animals were divided, and the day that the furnace and lamp passed between the divided animals. To which day does the phrase “the same day” of verse 18 refer? That is to say, on which day was the covenant made, was it made the day the animals were divided, or was the covenant made the day the furnace and lamp passed between the animals?
There is, in my opinion one clue, if we pay careful attention to what is written, that will tell us to which day the phrase “the same day” refers. Note that in verse 11 we are told that Abram drove away the fowls that came to feast on the divided animals. If the day the covenant was made is the day that Abram was in a deep sleep, i.e. the day that the furnace and lamp passed between the animals, the fowls that Abram had driven away would have made their feast of those animals, something that Abram did not want to happen. Let me state this again for clarity.
The question is: was the covenant made on the same day the animals were divided, or was it made the day after, when the furnace and lamp passed between the divided animals? I believe that because the Word of God tells us that Abram drove the fowls away from the divided animals, that tells us that the covenant was made before Abram fell asleep and before the furnace and lamp passed between the animals.
In other words, Abram fell asleep at the end of one day, but the covenant was made before he had fallen asleep. That means that verses 12-17 are parenthetical and therefore have nothing to do with the covenant. So leaving out the parenthetical statement we read from verses 10 to18, “And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. …….In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying……”.
Now let us put all this together. Gen. 15:8 reads, “And he said, ‘Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it'”? (the land, vs. 7). As discussed above, verses 9-11 describe the dividing of the animals which is part of the making of the covenant. Verses 12-17 which are parenthetical, describe Abram’s deep sleep, the prophecy of affliction and deliverance as well as Abram’s death and the symbolic furnace and lamp passing between the pieces of the animals. Then in verse 18 we read, “In the same day”. The same day refers to the day before Abram fell asleep. That means the furnace and lamp passing between the animals were not about the covenant, they were part of the prophecy.
In short, Abram’s falling asleep and the passing of the furnace and the lamp had nothing to do with the covenant. Because they had nothing to do with the covenant, the fact that Abram was asleep during the passing between of the furnace and lamp also has nothing to do with the covenant. And because Gen. 17 and Heb. 3:17-19 make it very clear that the covenant of land is conditional, the condition being that Abraham and his seed walk before God, and because there are no contradictions in the Word of God, I believe we must conclude that the covenant of land was a conditional covenant made with the natural seed of Abraham.
Because Dr. Bullinger offers no Scriptural evidence for his suggestion that Abram was put to sleep so that he would “have no part in the covenant” and because that seems to be his reason for suggesting that this covenant was an unconditional one, I must with all due respect disagree with his conclusions in this matter.
Now let us consider Mr. Welch’s view of Gen. 15. Mr. Welch wrote in his Alphabetical Analysis Part 1, page 196, “….when the Lord made the covenant with Abraham that is detailed in Gen. 15, Abraham, instead of walking between two pieces, and so becoming one of two contracting parties, was put into a ‘deep sleep’. Consequently, the covenant with Abraham is called a covenant of promise, which the covenant and obligation given 430 years after could not disanul”.
Let us consider Mr. Welch’s assertion that the reason Abram was put in a deep sleep and therefore did not walk between the divided animals was to indicate that Abram was not one of “two contracting parties”, i.e. there was but one party, the covenant was unconditional. But assuming that God is the “contracting party”, there is no evidence to conclude that God walked between the divided animals. We are specifically told that the furnace and the lamp passed between the divided animals. I believe that Dr. Bullinger’s explanation that the furnace and the lamp symbolized Israel’s affliction and deliverance is a much more plausible explanation than that it was God who walked between.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, Abram fell into a deep sleep not so that he wouldn’t be a party to a covenant, but so that he would receive the prophecy of horror concerning his seed.
So here too, I must most respectfully disagree with Mr. Welch’s view that because there was only one party in this covenant, i.e. it was an unconditional one.
D) The Promised Seed
Gen. 21 tells of Abraham and Sarah casting out Hagar and her son by Abram, i.e. Ishmael. Then in verse 12b we read, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”. This is not specifically called a covenant in Genesis 21, but it is in Gal. 3:16-17, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made, he saith not, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many; but as of one, ‘And to thy seed,’ Which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disanul, that it should make the promise of none effect”.
Unlike the other two covenants made with Abraham the Seed, That had been promised through Isaac, i.e. Christ, was an unconditional covenant.
V. THE THREE COVENANTS WITH ISRAEL
A) The Law
We read in Ex. 34:27-28, “And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.’ And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And He wrote upon the tables, the words of the covenant, the ten commandments”.
Obviously the covenant spoken of in this passage is the ten commandments. But let us consider the very interesting phrase, “after the tenor of these words”. What does that mean? The Hebrew word translated “tenor” in this verse is “peh” and is used of the literal mouth of a man. But as is true of so many words, while it does have a basic meaning (in this case “mouth”), it is also used in other ways. For example, in Gen. 43:12 and 21 it is used of the “mouth” of a sack. The mouth of a sack is, of course, the opening of the sack. We might say it is the beginning of the sack. The word is also used Gen. 34:26 of the “edge” of the sword. The edge of the sword is the beginning of a sword.
With this in mind, how can we say that the ten commandments are the “tenor” of the covenant? I believe that the ten commandments are, so to speak, the opening of the covenant. That is to say, the covenant that God made with Israel is the entire Law of Moses, and the ten commandments are the opening of it.
What was the promise associated with the ten commandments? As mentioned above, the ten commandments were the opening, so to speak, of the entire Mosaic Law. We read in Lev. 26 God’s promise to Israel that if they obey that law He will bless them and if they disobey, He will punish them. It is important to note however, that this promise of blessings has to do with earthly, temporal blessings and likewise, the punishments were earthly. In other words the obedience to, or the disobedience of, the Mosaic Law had nothing to do with being saved unto eternal life. Let us consider a few particulars from Lev. 26.
We read in Lev. 26:3-4, “If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit“. And in verse 12 we read, “and I will be your God and you shall be My people”. But verses 15-39 list the punishments for disobedience of the law and includes being slain by their enemy (vs.17), and plagues and wild beasts that will be sent against them (vs. 21-22).
As stated in the section above on God’s covenant with Abraham that He would be “a God unto” him and unto his seed, the Mosaic Law showed Israel what constituted walking before Him. In other words, the law was a further explanation to Israel of what they must do in order to fulfill their part of the covenant in which God agreed to be their God.
The covenant given to Moses and to Israel was one of the few covenants that were confirmed by blood. We read in Ex. 24:7-8, “And he (Moses) took the book of the covenant, and read it in the audience of the People: and they said, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the People, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words'”.
This covenant is referred to in Hebrews as “the old covenant”. As we read in Ex. 24:8 blood was required to ratify this covenant. The new covenant will be discussed below. The only thing that I will call the reader’s attention to at this point is that the new covenant also required ratification by blood, but the new covenant was ratified by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Covenants Within A Covenant
There are two covenants that are specifically mentioned as being a perpetual or everlasting covenant which are actually part of the Mosaic Law. They could be considered covenants within the covenant of the Law. I believe they may have been for the purpose of reminding Israel every sabbath of the covenant of the law. Those two covenants are: 1) The sabbath and 2) the “shewbread”.
1) We read in Ex. 31:16-17, “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever…..”
2) Lev. 24 describes the items Aaron (and his seed after him) were to set in the tabernacle on the sabbath. Verses 5-9 speak of the twelve cakes to be placed in the tabernacle. And in verse 8 we read, “every sabbath he (Aaron) shall set it (the bread) in order before the Lord continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant“.
B) The New Covenant
The most complete explanation of the new covenant and the character of the times of the new covenant is given in Jeremiah 31:31-37. “The time is coming’, declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was an husband to them’, declares the Lord. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time’, declares the Lord. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”.
In my opinion, most studies of the new covenant do not recognize the importance of the fact that the new covenant is very closely connected to the old covenant. As we consider Hebrews we will see that connection. We learn in Heb. 8:6 that Christ is the Mediator of a better covenant“. A “better covenant” than what? The previous verses speak of the old covenant. See for example verse 3, “For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices…..”. My point is that because the new covenant is “better than” the old covenant, the two are connected.
The fundamental connection between the old and new covenants is that both are centered on the Mosaic Law. The old covenant is God’s agreement with Israel that if His law is obeyed Israel will be blessed, and if it is not obeyed, Israel will be punished. The new covenant, as we have seen from Jer. 31 quoted above, is that God will put the law into the hearts and minds of Israel. To which law does this refer, i.e which law will God put in their minds and write on their hearts? The only law mentioned in the Word of God to which this could possibly refer is the Mosaic Law.
But some might object that a good part of the old covenant was the sacrificial laws and surely there are no sacrificial laws connected to the new covenant.
Let us look at Is. 56:6-8, “Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people”. It will be in the millennium that God’s house will be a house of prayer for “all people”. So this passage tells us unequivocally that there will be sacrifices during the millennium.
Let us consider also Ezekiel’s description of the law of the millennial temple (see Ezek. 43:12) We read in Ezek. 43:18, “And he said unto me, ‘Son of man, thus saith the Lord God; ‘These are the ordinances of the altar in the day when they shall make it to offer the burnt offerings thereon, and to sprinkle blood thereon'”. And verse 25 of this same chapter reads, “Seven days shalt thou prepare every day a goat for a sin offering”.
My point is that it is the Mosaic law (sacrifices included) that will be put into the hearts and minds of Israel. (For a more complete study of millennial animal sacrifices please see the paper on that subject).
It is important to understand that the new covenant is indeed God’s covenant with Israel. There are several statements in Jer. 31 quoted above that tells us that it was made with Israel. Note for example, the very clear statement, ” I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”. If words mean anything at all I believe we must conclude that the new covenant is made with Israel. Let us also consider the statement that the new covenant “will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt”. The phrase “their forefathers” refers, of course, to Israel because it was Israel that God led out of Egypt. Note also the phrase “will not be like the covenant”. Here again the old and new covenants are connected. Just as the old covenant was made with Israel, so too is the new covenant made with Israel.
Let us now establish when the new covenant will go into effect. Note the phrase quoted above from Jer. 31 which reads, “they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord”. The new covenant is made with Israel. When will it take effect? Let us consider Ezek. 11:12-21, “Therefore say: ‘this is what the Sovereign Lord says; I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again. They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols, I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God”. Note the key phrases, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them”. Also, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”. It is clear that this passage refers to the new covenant, even though it is not mentioned as such. Also note when this will go into effect, “I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again”.
So the new covenant will go into effect when Israel is gathered from the nations. When will that happen? That will happen at the second coming of Jesus Christ when He establishes His millennial reign on earth. Many believe that the new covenant was in effect, or in partial effect during the Acts period. The paper on that question discusses that view.
The new covenant, unlike the old covenant, is an unconditional promise. What is the promise connected to the new covenant? It is, as stated in Jer. 31, that God will put His law in their minds and write it on their hearts and that He will be their God..
We have learned that the new covenant is: 1) made with Israel; 2) that it will be put into effect in the millennial reign of Christ; 3) that it centers around the law of Moses and 4) it is God’s unconditional promise to put His law in the hearts and minds of Israel and He will be their God
Let us now consider what the new covenant is not. Unfortunately, many believe that the new covenant will save Israel. I believe that notion comes from the phrase in Jer. 31, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”. Does this say that all Israel will be saved because God will forgive their wickedness and sins? I believe that as we consider Ezek. 20:37-38 and compare that with Ezek. 36:24-25 we shall see that only believers of Israel will participate in the new covenant.
We read in Ezek. 20:37-38, “And I will cause you (the gathered of Israel from out of the countries in which they had lived prior to the second coming of Christ -see vs. 34) to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against Me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel.….”. And in Ezek. 36:24-25 we read, “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. ……..A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stoney heart of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them, and ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and ye shall be My People and I will be your God.
What we learn from comparing these two passage from Ezekiel is that God will purge Israel so that only believers will enter the land of Israel for the millennial reign of Christ and that only those in the land (i.e. only believers) will have a new heart and a new spirit so that they may keep the commandments. In short, God has made the new covenant with believers, and only believers.
But how are we to understand the statement in Jer. 31 which reads, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”? Let us consider the word “for” in this phrase. The same Hebrew word is used in the previous phrase and is translated “because”. That passage reads, “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord’ because they will all know me”. So let us reconsider this passage translating the Hebrew word with a greater consistency. “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying ‘Know the Lord’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord. ‘Because I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more”. In other words, the Lord will forgive their sins because they will know Him, i.e. because they are all believers.
There is, in my opinion, no Scriptural or logical reason to disregard the consistent message all throughout the Word of God that one must be a believer in order to inherit resurrection life. There is, therefore, no reason to assume that the new covenant will save unbelievers. Again the new covenant is God’s promise to put the law into the hearts and minds of believing Israel, those in the land for the millennial reign. .
C) The Marvels
We read in Ex. 34:10, “And He said, ‘Behold, I make a covenant; before all thy People I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation; and all the People among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord; for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee'”. The following verses tell us how the Lord will drive out the people who were then occupying the promised land so that Israel will obtain the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their seed.
VI. COVENANTS WITH INDIVIDUALS AND THEIR SEED
A) The Covenant Of Peace With Phinehas
Numbers 25 describes the Lord’s anger against Israel for their immorality with the Moabite women and their consequent worship of the idols of the Moabites. Even while Moses was telling Israel about their offence to the Lord an Israelite brought a Moabite woman into the congregation. At this point we read in verse 7 that Phinehas took a spear and killed both the man and the Moabite woman. Then “the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, ‘Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned My wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for My sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in My jealousy. Wherefore say, ‘Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace; and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel'”.
Mal. 2:4-5 speaks of a covenant of life and peace with Levi. Whether that refers to Phinehas, who was a Levite, is uncertain. But in my opinion, because we are specifically told that God had made a covenant of peace with Phinehas, Malachai in all probability does refer to that covenant. Verses 4-5 read, “and ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that My covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared Me, and was afraid before My name”.
This covenant is an unconditional covenant and did not require a sacrifice.
B) The Covenant With David
II Sam. 7:12 and 16 record the covenant God made with David. “And when thy days (David’s) be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels and I will establish his kingdom” (II Sam. 7:12). “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever”. It is not, however until II Chron. 21:7 that this promise is called a “covenant”. That verse reads, “Howbeit the Lord would not destroy the house of David because of the covenant that He had made with David, and as He promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever”.
This is also an unconditional covenant and did not require a sacrifice.
VII. OTHER COVENANTS FOR THE MILLENNIUM
A) The Covenant Of Peace
We read three times of “a covenant of peace” all of which come in the context of a millennial passage.
We read in Ezek. 37:25-26, “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and My servant David shall be their prince for ever. Moreover I will will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them”.
We read in Is. 54:10, “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the Lord That hath mercy on thee”. Because it is only after the second coming of Christ to set up His millennial reign that God’s peace will not be removed from Israel that I believe we may conclude that this “covenant of My peace” will be put into effect in the millennium.
And Ezek. 34:25 also speaks of a “covenant of peace”. That verse reads, “And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods”.
B) A Covenant With The Beasts
Hosea 2:18 is in reference to the millennium (see verses 14-23) and reads, “And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven…….”. The “them” of this verse refers to Israel. This covenant is much like the covenant of peace of Ezek. 34:25.
VIII) THE COVENANTS OF THE DAY AND OF THE NIGHT
Jer. 33:20 is a very interesting verse in that it proves again that a covenant is not always an agreement or a contract. That verse reads, “Thus saith the Lord; ‘If ye can break My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also My covenant be broken with David My servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne…..”.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org