February 15, 2009
C. The Hebrew people understood themselves to be in a covenantal relationship with God. What do the Abrahamic Call/Covenant and the Mosaic/Sinai Covenant suggest about the Hebrew understanding of the divine-human dialectic? How does the Hebrew covenantal interrelationship with God compare to other ancient near eastern peoples?
What is Covenant? In all the definitions it shows as a formal agreement between two parties. It can be oral or written. In Religion we see that covenants appear not just between two individuals but between deities and man. In the archeological discoveries and research of the last two hundred years there is, 1) a public reading of a covenant ...view middle of the document...
Traditional sources view the covenant between the pieces as a legally binding commitment by God to grant perpetual ownership of the Land of Canaan, subsequently Israel, to Abraham's progeny.â€ The New Encyclopedia of Judaism,
edited by Geoffrey Wigoder, G.G.
The Jerusalem PublishingHouse, Ltd.
In the Abrahamic story we see this as Abraham splitting animals and then the ball of fire (God) passing through split animals. Conversely in sealing a covenant in the ancient Near East people walked between the â€œcutâ€ animals with the caveat â€œIf I am not faithful to this covenant, may what is done to these animals be done unto me.â€
We find three kinds of Ancient Near East Covenants. First, we consider Suzerainty (or vassal) treaties. These are agreements between two unequal parties, one of a higher status and one of a lower status. Second is a Parity Treaty which is an agreement between two parties of equal status. Third is a Land Grant which is an agreement between two unequal parties of one with higher status with one of lower status.
We see that suzerainty treaties are alliances between a great monarch and a subject king. The overlord is lauded for past favors, but has no explicit duties under the covenant. The vassal pledges allegiance to the overlord (pay taxes, keep borders secure, provide military support, not to make alliances with other lords). Marriage was the most common â€œsuzerainty treatyâ€ in the Ancient Near East, with the husband having higher status than the wife.
Parity treaties were between two parties of equal social status. For example two monarchs form an alliance for mutual aid, two merchants forming a trade agreement, marriage contract between the father of the bride and the prospective groom.
Last a land grant which is the free gift of land to faithful subjects of a great monarch or servant of a wealthy land owner. The greater party in a land grant binds himself to the treaty. The lesser party benefits from th gift but may not be bound to and specific stipulations, either before or after the land grant.
We find that there was a basic pattern of Ancient Near East treaties. The covenants we find in scriptures mirror or parallel the formula in ancient Hittite and Assyrian documents for contracts and treaties. First, there is a preamble or introduction of the speaker. Second, a historical prologue describing what and how causes the agreement to be documented. Third, the stipulations of the agreement are enumerated. Fourth, the gods as witness, and lastly the curses and blessings associated with the treaty/contract.
The ancient Hebrews have a very personal relationship with their God. In Genesis God speaks directly to Abraham (as he did to Adam and Cain and Noah). God makes a specific covenant with Abraham. In Genesis verse 7. â€œI will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants...