Summary: Since the notion of covenants is unfamiliar to us, today we must take a moment to focus on the Bible’s portrayal of covenants. There are relationships that many people consider covenants, such as marriage and various pacts between friends and enemies and
Comparison of the Old & New Covenant
The Hebrew word that is translated into our word for covenant is berith. The root of the word it comes from means Ato fetter@ or Ato eat with,@ this would show a mutual obligation that is given to show grace to someone (Douglas 237). We compare this to other covenants such as the Hittite Asuzerainty covenant.@ The person swore allegiance to his king because the king was favorable to him.
It has been alluded to by the commentators that in the Old Testament there are three different types of legal relationships. First there is the two-sided covenant, in which both parties voluntarily accept the terms of an agreement, for friendship, political alliance, and marriage. God never enters into such a covenant of equality. The closest he has come to this the covenant of redemption. Here Jesus is undertaking man=s salvation. However, the term berith is not used in this instance. Secondly is a one-sided covenant imposed by a superior on an inferior. We are commanded to obey God, this is a berith, that men are to serve and obey God. In the original covenant between Adam and God, Adam was promised eternal life should he prove faithful (Gen. 2:17). Humanity failed, but through Christ we were restored to fulfill righteousness for those who believe. The third type of legal relationship is God=s self imposed obligation for the reconciliation of mankind to himself.
The word used for covenants in the Greek Septuagint is not the commonly used word for covenant. The word commonly used was syntheke, it means to be put together (Douglas 238). The word used is diatheke, and this word is used in the aspect of a will. Syntheke, in its renderings speaks more of a partnership. Diatheke allowed for the disposal of possessions as the individual desired. Once the person has made, known his wishes in a will it could not be changed. However, the will was only effective after the death of the person. The writer of Hebrews built on the Old Testament covenants.
Since the notion of covenants is unfamiliar to us, today we must take a moment to focus on the Bible=s portrayal of covenants. There are relationships that many people consider covenants, such as marriage and various pacts between friends and enemies and family members. However, the Bible=s portrayal of a covenant is between God and man.
We catch the first glimpse of this in Genesis 2, this is commonly regarded as a Acovenant of works,@ between Adam and Eve. It is a covenant that makes obligations for the creature to God. It also points out the consequences for disobedience. God will supply all of the needs of Adam and Eve. The debt of gratitude that is to be paid by Adam and Eve is obedience to not eat from the tree of knowledge. The penalty for eating from the tree would be death (Genesis 2:16-17). The commands that God gave to Adam and Eve are important to remember, and this is one of the threads throughout the Bible.
The second covenant we read about in Genesis is the one God made with Noah after the flood. God tells Noah that he will establish a covenant between himself and Noah=s descendants as well as with every living creature. There would never be a flood that would destroy the earth again. The covenant is made with God and the whole of creation, people and nature. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow, and it is a sign between God and the earth (Genesis 9:8-11, 13).
While these covenants are real, the covenant of redemption and grace that are the pinnacles of the Bible begins with Abraham. Abraham was most likely a pagan, a worshiper of Nannar, the moon god of the city of Ur. God told Abraham to, Aleave your country, your people and your father=s household and go to the land I will show you@ (Genesis 12:1). God went on to make promises to Abraham that would be fulfilled later.
Abraham=s call is one of the turning points of Scripture. Up to this point God had dealt with humanity on a whole. Now he would deal with an individual family. God would carry out his plan through the family of Abraham. It was through this one family that God gave his biblical revelation of the Savior to come.
Now that we have a basis of covenant understanding, we will now contrast the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. When God entered into the Mosaic Covenant with the nation of Israel at Sinai this was not the first covenant God made with mankind. However, it was the first with Israel as a nation.
The Mosaic Covenant in no way altered, annulled, or abolish what had been set down in the Abrahamic Covenant. Moses was very careful that the distinctions between these covenants were understood. The Mosaic Covenant covered three aspects of Israel=s life, moral laws, religious laws, and social laws. These covered the Ten Commandments, relationships within the nation, and how they were to worship God.