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Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

The Hebraic Covenant


Jae McGee
Spring Arbor University

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

The Hebraic Covenant


In biblical times, God created covenants with his people to signify a commitment
between one another. Many of the covenants created between God and his people were lasting
covenants, but were not created to manipulate or control the people. The way in which those
individuals kept (or failed to keep) their half of the covenant was significant as well, because
their decisions affected their ancestors, and, in essence, affect individuals today.
This paper will explain the nature of the covenants and the application of each, and will
illustrate their significance and importance in the lives of the Hebrew nation.

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

The Nature of Covenants


The definition of a covenant is a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement; a
written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the
performance of some action(Merriam-Websters online dictionary [Covenant], 2015). In the
Biblical sense, a covenant was made between God and his people, to signify the importance of
something: a time, law, day, statement, and so on. Many times, the people failed and neglected to
uphold the covenant between themselves and God. To fully uphold a covenant, members
involved must have mutual respect and trust for one another, otherwise, it becomes easy to lose
confidence in one another and break the ties of the covenant. Rights and Christian Ethics, written
by Kieran Cronin, defined a covenant relationship as being almost precarious: entering into a
covenant is not usually done on the condition that others are actually trustworthy. One hopes that
they will be, but there is no guarantee that they will (Cronin 1992). However, this is not
necessarily the case for all individuals. There are those who choose to remain faithful to their
covenant, even if it was difficult.
One of the first covenants made was between God and Abraham/Abram. God promised
Abraham that he would have a multitude of generations, an abundance of land, and would be a
blessing to those around him. Abraham was thoroughly tested and tried, and did at times hesitate
and doubt Gods will for his life. However, Abraham consistently remained faithful to Gods
covenant, and was blessed because of it. Abraham had a son, Isaac, and became very wealthy in
land and profit.
When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering, Abraham probably
did not realize the significance behind this action. In the book of Genesis, it makes a connection
between Abrahams call (Gen.12) and his subsequent obedience (Gen. 22). The firmness of faith

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

of Abraham, the father of Israel, was being tested, and this moment would shape the thinking and
identity of subsequent generations of Israelites (Copan 2011). Abrahams choice impacted his
generations for the better.
This decision not only benefitted Abrahams family, but also symbolized the sacrifice of
Jesus on the cross. Copan said that this action foreshadow[ed] God the Fathers offering the
redemptive sacrifice of the second Isaac - his one and only Son (Copan 2011). It helped
Abraham understand Gods immense self-giving love in the gift of his Son (Copan 2011), even
though Jesus would not come to earth until many years later.
Another covenant God made was with his people, the Israelites, who were descendants of
Abraham. The Israelites were more stubborn than their forefather Abraham, and took longer to
trust the covenant between themselves and their Maker. However, this stubbornness was not
necessary, because God was not a God about whom Israel needed to guess. What Israel knew of
God, it knew through his own self-disclosure (Niehaus 1995).
Moses, an Israelite, was instructed by God to lead the people out of Egypt. God wrote a
covenant to them, and Moses rehearsed to the people all the words and the ordinances the
wordswere then reduced to writing (Dumbrell 1984). This covenant is now called the
Mosaic Covenant, or the Law of Moses. God created this covenant to protect, help, and instruct
the Israelites. This covenant consisted not only of the Ten Commandments, but also a series of
specific instructions to follow. Following their acceptance of the covenant, God made himself
present with Israel not only to give them laws. He came and dwelt among them (Niehaus 1995).
The covenant God had created for them was, in essence, a series of rules and ordinances, but the
covenant went two ways: God loved his people, and promised to protect them as long as they
were willing to stay within the boundaries he had set for them. This concept is explained

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

thoroughly in the following quote: To love God is to keep his commandments, not only from
the sense of duty which the inferior owes to the superior, but also in order that there might be
personal participation in the whole political constitution which God has established for Israel as
Sinai (Dumbrell 1984).
The Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant were not the only covenants God
made between himself and those on earth. One famous covenant was made between God and
Noah, when God promised that he would never destroy the world with a flood again. The
Noahic covenant, like the covenant made with Adam, is a covenant made with all of humanity; it
is made at the re-creation of the earth, at the new beginning for the earth after the flood. This
covenant is ratified by sacrifice (8:2021), and God promises never again to destroy the earth by
means of a flood. (Noahic Covenant 2015). Noah trusted this covenant, and God signified this
with a beautiful arch-rainbow in the sky. This covenant was symbolic of and foretold the coming
of the Messiah, the savior of the world. God knew exactly what he was doing, and
.demonstrated [His] love for all of His creatures and gives a hint that one day all things will
be renewed. (Noahic Covenant 2015).
God created a covenant between himself and David, who was, initially, a shepherd boy.
God told David that he would become king of Israel, and this covenant took quite some time to
be fulfilled. David became a great king. He took hold of beaten Israel and in a few short years
transformed it into the dominant power in all of Palestine and Syria (Bright 1976). Even though
King David made mistakes, he and kingdom were still yearning for God to come again to the
aid of his people with irresistible might, win them victory, and put things right again (Bright
1976).

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

The Application of the Covenant


God promised that Abraham and his wife, Sarah, would have a son. This was a part of the
covenant between Abraham and God. However, after years of waiting and wondering, Abraham
took matters into his own hands and married Hagar, Sarahs maid. This marriage was wrong in
Gods eyes and had lasting consequences, consequences that are still affecting humans today.
Abraham and Hagars marriage produced Ishmael, who was characterized as a wild ass
(Jackson). Ishmaels descendants ended up becoming the Arabian nation, who grew to be
exceedingly powerful. No one was ever able to completely destroy them. Some of these very
descendants would grow to ally with Mohammad, who, as Wayne Jackson of the Christian
Courier said, claim[ed] to be an Apostle and Prophet from God, [and] was gradually able to
take these semi-barbarous sons of the desert, whose lawlessness was exceeded only by their
daring, and whip them into a fighting force fueled by religious zealotry (Jackson). This brought
forth the group of radical Islamic terrorists, who terrorized other nations around them, and
senselessly murdered thousands of individuals in the United States of America on September 11,
2001 (Jackson). Abraham never would have guessed that his one decision to distrust Gods
covenant and do things his way would have such drastic consequences.
The Israelites, who were descendants of Abraham, had difficulty trusting in the covenant
that was made between their nation and God. It seemed as though they wanted to be like the
nations around them, instead of being separate and distinct like God wanted them to be. Eric C.
Rust states that .Israels part in the covenant relationship [was] to accept and to obey. [They
could not] bargain with God for the covenant is the result of his gracious initiative and choice
(Rust 1972). At times, the Israelites would deliberately rebel against God, which always lead to
poor consequences and destruction. For example, at one point in time, the Israelites decided to

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

worship idols and false gods, instead of trusting in God and Moses, their God-given leader,
whom God was speaking through. Israel had rebelled against the living God because its heart
was wrong. It had gone awhoring after strange gods. The fertility deities of Canaan, the baalim,
had awakened wrong desires, and the spirit of whoredom had entered into the heart of Israel
(Rust 1972). This was one of the major downfalls of the Israelites.
The Israelites refusal to listen to the Spirit-led prophets (Joshua, Moses warnings in the
book of Deuteronomy, etc), was another way of breaking the covenant between God and
themselves. They ran away in terror from Canaan, even though God would have allowed them to
win the fight against the Canaanites. God did not create the covenant between them to demand
their undivided attention or lord it over them. The covenant was initially understood as an
instruction and loving guidance, something which other nations, not so blessed by God, lack
(Cronin 1992). Their lack of faith and trust and betrayal of their God led to their forty-year desert
wanderings.
Many years after Israel settled into the promised land, they once again broke their
covenant with God. Instead of abiding in the covenant relationship with God, they chose to
follow the habits and lifestyles of the surrounding nations, and disregarded the warnings of the
prophets. The Israelites were supposed to be a light to those around them, and set an example of
Gods love to the surrounding idolatrous nations. Instead of being faithful, they became like
those around them, and fell into heathenism. Their decision to follow the ways of those around
them ended poorly. God left them to themselves, and as a consequence, they were invaded and
captured by the Assyrians, and later, the Babylonians.

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

Conclusion
The Biblical covenants were made between God and his people, so that they would have
a deeper connection with him and understand his lasting faithfulness. The covenants were not
made to control or keep people in bondage, but were made to protect them and show Gods love
and care. When the people were accepting of Gods covenant, their lives were happy, healthy,
and prosperous. However, when the people strayed and rebelled against the covenant they had
made, God did not force his covenant on them, but, like a parent who puts the best interest of
their children before their own desires, simply allowed them to face the consequences of their
own actions. However, he was always willing to bring them back into the fold when they desired
to regain and stay true to the covenant with their Maker.

Running head: THE HEBRAIC COVENANT

Resources
Bright, J. (1976). Covenant and promise: The prophetic understanding of the future in pre-exilic
Israel. Philadelphia: Westminster Press
https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/963-ishmael-his-hand-against-every-man
Jackson, W. (n.d.). Ishmael: His Hand Against Every Man. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
Copan, P. (2011). Is God a moral monster?: Making sense of the Old Testament God. Grand
Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Covenant. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2015, from http://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/
covenant
Cronin, K. (1992). Rights and Christian ethics. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University
Press.
Dumbrell, W. (1984). Covenant and creation: A theology of Old Testament covenants. Nashville:
T. Nelson.
Ligonier Ministries. (n.d.). Retrieved November 5, 2015.
Niehaus, J. (n.d.). God at Sinai: Covenant and theophany in the Bible and ancient Near East.
Rust, E. (1972). Covenant and hope; a study in the theology of the prophets. Waco, Tex.: Word
Books.