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Archive for August 31st, 2013

a-covenant-with-god

I. Definition

a. A Near Eastern form of literature that offers “a binding agreement between two parties…”[1]

b. “Covenant in the OT essentially incorporates a legally binding obligation.”[2]

II. Two forms of Covenants

a. Note: Covenants appear throughout the Ancient Near East during the era of the Old Testament.  It seems that the Old Testament intentionally structure the format that appear around them.[3]

b. Voluntary partnership

i.      Both parties enter into the covenant voluntarily.

ii.      The terms of the covenant is agreed upon bilaterally.

iii.      Examples include Jacob and Laban (Genesis 31:54) and David with Jonathan (1st Samuel 18:3-4).

c. Imposed by a superior on a subordinate

i.      “It usually designates an agreement made to or for, not with, the subordinate, depicting a legally binding promise which one party makes toward another.”[4]

ii.      The terms of the covenant is agreed upon unilaterally.

iii.      Examples include Noahic, Abrahamic and Davidic Covenant.

III. Elements of a Covenant

a. Pledges or gifts

b. Signs

i.      “Though similar to a pledge or gift, which was given when enacting a human covenant, the sign of a divine covenant was generally a repeatable memorial.”[5]

ii.      Examples include: Circumcision and the Rainbow.

c. Witnesses

Can be others or God

d. Consequences

i.      Blessings

1. Obedience to the covenant bring forth good fruits.

2. Positive consequences.

ii.      Curses

1. Disobedience to the covenant bring forth severe punishments.

2. Negative consequences.

e. Promises

i.      Covenants are forms of promises.

ii.      Covenants with God depends on God to fulfill it.

f. Conditionality

i.      This is only for covenants that are of voluntary partnership.

ii.      Not the case for covenants that are unilateral.

IV. Identifying Biblical Covenants in the Bible

a. By Biblical covenants, this syllabus is referring to covenants that include God as a party.

b. We can only know the covenants that God made from what He has revealed to us in His Word.

c. Given the above, there is no room for any man-made ideas of covenants that are the result of speculations.

d. Therefore, Biblical covenants are identified by what the Scripture explicitly identify as covenants.

i.      While covenants are promises, not every promise is a covenant.

ii.      As a result, covenant can only be identified when it is called a covenant.

V. Importance of Covenants in Hermeneutics

a. It is a frequent theme found in the Scriptures

i.      “The covenant idea itself, first mentioned in Genesis 6 during the days of Noah, is intricately woven into the fabric of the biblical account all the way through to Revelation 11 where the “ark of His covenant” reappears in the temple. The word itself occurs in 27 of 39 OT books and in 11 of 27 NT books.”[6]

ii.      Given how frequently it is mentioned, it is important to understand the Covenants that appear in the Bible.

b.      It is God’s promise found in the Scriptures

i.      Covenants are the thread that goes through the entire Bible.

ii.      The Bible is about God as the Hero: He is the one who will keep His promises.

iii.      “For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute.  In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold ofthe hope set before us.”  (Hebrews 6:16-18)

 


[1] Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer, Readings From the Ancient Near East, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 96.

[2] Irvin Busenitz, “Introduction to the Biblical Covenants: The Noahic Covenant and the Priestly Covenant”, The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 10 Number 2 (Fall 1999), 173.

[3] Bill T. Arnold and Bryan E. Beyer, Readings From the Ancient Near East, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 96.

[4] Irvin Busenitz, “Introduction to the Biblical Covenants: The Noahic Covenant and the Priestly Covenant”, The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 10 Number 2 (Fall 1999), 176.

[5] Ibid, 178.

[6] Irvin Busenitz, “Introduction to the Biblical Covenants: The Noahic Covenant and the Priestly Covenant”, The Master’s Seminary Journal, Volume 10 Number 2 (Fall 1999), 173.

 

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