Professor Alexander Hwang
22 March 2013
Covenant in the Old Testament Sense
A covenant in its simplest form is a promise. The Bible refers to covenants many times throughout, most often in the Old Testament. Different stories contain different covenants that God has made with various people in the Bible; each of these stories has an underlying theme that is consistent. The theme is simple; a covenant with God is a promise between God and the people of God that can never be broken. Three main covenants in the Old Testament are those between God and Noah, God and Abraham, and God and Moses. In each of these covenants, God is making a promise to a single ...view middle of the document...
Ancient Israel had two defining marks when it came to determining covenants. These two marks in the Israeli concept of a covenant are its theocentric origin and its corporate inclusiveness. “More often than not, “covenant” in biblical literature is regarded as divinely initiated on behalf of either certain individuals or, more prominently, corporate Israel” (Brown). Each of the three main covenants in the Old Testament upholds these defining marks in their respective covenants. A covenant can also be explained in other ways, all circling back to the same concept, which is a relationship with God and His people. While most often in the Bible a covenant is brokered between God and one person, it takes into account all people who follow him. With the initiation of a covenant, the people are promising to uphold whatever it is God asks of them, and in turn, He too will uphold his end. It is clearly shown in the Old Testament that when God’s people follow his commands, He rains blessings down and keeps His promises. However, if an error is made on part of the people, God is just.
The use of covenant concepts can also be applied in order to help get a sense of what a covenant was. These four concepts, as explained by Stuart J. Foster communicated that this relationship was to be exclusive, secure, accountable, and purposeful. Exclusivity of this relationship comes first in the concepts because it is what has shaped monotheism. A covenant forms a personal relationship with a deity and one person, unlike the old pagan concepts of many deities for each area of life. “This accounts theologically for the prominence of treaty form of covenant in the Old Testament” (Foster). The next covenant concept is a secure relationship. Security and accountability go hand in hand in this concept. In order to have security in the covenant relationship, one has to be held accountable for their actions. “Yahweh’s covenant obligations were expressed as promises, backed up by oath commitments” (Foster). Due to this, the people were always secure in their covenant relationship, as long as they were able to hold themselves and others accountable for their actions; following the fact that their actions needed to be determined appropriate by the covenant’s guidelines. Accountability follows along the same guidelines as security. Built into the covenant structure were oaths with curses and blessings attached. It is shown in the Bible that unfaithfulness would result in the most severe of consequences. “He would not abandon the relationship; neither would he let his people abandon the relationship” (Foster). The purpose of a covenant is not just for that time period, but for many years to come. A covenant gives not just a way to follow God for that moment, but sets up framework for all to follow God in the coming generations. The covenant is constantly renewed across generations, and blessings as well as curses will come respectively dependent on the behavior of the people....