The Covenants

A Covenant is a contractual agreement between two or more parties. Lord established several covenants with his people, and they are described in the Bible, both in the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) and the New Testament. In this case, God himself established contracts with humanity, but only with those who strongly believed and trusted in him. The essay studies the covenants, established by God and His people in the two Testaments, and looks for any similarities between the covenants of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

In the Hebrew Bible, God established His first covenant with the Jewish people through his faithful servant Abram. It was not until when Abram was 99 years of age when God appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (Genesis: 17). This marked the first covenant between God and mankind. It was also during this time when God changed his name from Abram to Abraham. His wife’s name was also to be changed from Sarai to Sarah. God promised to bless and make her the mother of nations. In order to affirm His promises, He assured Abraham that Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son to be a sign of that God is faithful and meets his promises. This is described in the Book of Genesis: 17 (19); God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” God promised to establish an everlasting covenant not only with Abraham but also with all his descendants. He also promised to give his descendants an everlasting possession of the land, and an honor to call Him their God forever. On the other hand, God required Abraham and all his descendants to be circumcised. The bloodshed during circumcision was to seal the covenant between God and his people. The circumcision was also meant to be a distinction between the Jews and the non-Jews (Horton, 2006). 

God went ahead and made another promise to Moses; the covenant, however, aimed at moving the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, their promised land. There is an interconnection between the Abraham’s covenant and the Moses covenant, since the land that God promised to Abraham’s descendants was affirmed through Moses. God also promised Abraham’s descendants that He will be their God, and they will be his people. That is why he heard the cry of the Israelites, who used to serve as slaves in the Egyptian land, and promised to stand by them and rescue them from their miseries. This is well indicated in Exodus. 2:24 where it is written that, "So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob". The covenant that God established with Moses was a foundation, but not entirety of the new covenant. Through the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were drawn closer to God. Similar to Abraham’s covenant, blood was used to seal the covenant between God and Moses (Exodus 24:8). It was later affirmed by prophet Jeremiah, still in the Hebrew Bible, that God will establish an everlasting covenant with Israelites and the house of Judah, a covenant which will confirm what the Israelites had broken earlier, but which will bring them closer to Him. “…I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah. 31:31-34).

The two covenants made between God and His people through Abraham and later Moses, were explicitly meant for the Jews, and not for any other person. The birth of Jesus Christ in the Second Testament established a universal covenant between God and humanity. Jesus, however, claimed that He came not to replace the existing covenants between God and His people, but He came to strengthen them, and establish a firmer foundation for the Christian faith. As God had promised Abraham, He established His kingdom through the Abraham’s lineage, a kingdom, which lived until now. Jesus was crucified on the cross, and his blood sealed the new covenant between God and his people, and replaced the burnt sacrifices and offerings, which were earlier practiced in the Old Testament. His death and resurrection also opened up God’s relation with people (Horton, 2006). Through him, people got a possibility to reach their God, and name Him their father. Jesus has been, and still remains the sole mediator between people and God. Jesus also generalized the Ten Commandments into the two: the first, love your God with all your heart and mind, and the second, love your neighbor as you love yourself. The two commandments emphasized on love as the most important aspect of Christianity.

Some theologians, however, argue that the coming of Christ in the Second Testament was meant to overlook and entirely replace the Old Testament. Unlike in the Old Testament, where sacrifices were used to appease God, the individual faith and salvation is the only way to draw people closer to God in the New Testament. Likewise, unlike in the Old Testament, where covenants were written down, in the New Testament the covenant was to be internalized in the people’s minds, and was written in their hearts. By summing up the Ten Commandments into the two, it was more of a replacement rather than a move to strengthen them (Robertson, 1981).

In conclusion, each time establishing the covenants, God promised salvation to His people. This is the main common feature of all covenants both in the Hebrew Bible, and the New Testament; God promised to multiply the Jews population, to rescue them from the Egyptian slavery, and save humanity from the eternal suffering through the Jesus sacrifice.

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