Even before Abraham's time, GOD also made a covenant with Noah, assuring Noah that He would not again destroy the world by flood (Genesis 9). Another famous covenant was between GOD and David, in which David and his descendants were established as the royal heirs to the throne of the nation of Israel (II Sam. 7:12; 22:51). This covenant agreement reached its highest fulfillment when Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of the line of David, was born in Bethlehem about a thousand years after GOD made this promise to David the king.
A covenant, in the biblical sense, implies much more than a contract or simple agreement. A contract always has an end date, while a covenant is a permanent arrangement. Another difference is that a contract generally involves only one part of a person, such as a skill, while a covenant covers a person's total being.
The word for covenant in the Old Testament also provides additional insight into the meaning of this important idea. It comes from a Hebrew root word which means "to cut". This explains the strange custom of two people passing through the cut bodies of slain animals after making an agreement with each oher (Jer. 34:18). A ritual or ceremony such as this always accompanied the making of a covenant in the Old Testament. Sometimes those entering into a covenant shared a holy meal (Gen. 31:54). Abraham and his children were commanded to be circumcised as a sign of their covenant with GOD (Gen. 17:10-11). Moses sprinkled the blood of animals on the altar and upon the people who entered into covenant with GOD at Mount Sinai (Exod 24:3-8).
The Old Testament contains many examples of covenants between people who related to each other as equals. For example, David and Jonathan entered into a covenant because of their love for each other. This agreement bound each of them to certain responsibilities (I Sam. 18:3). By contrast, GOD does not break promises. His oath to raise up believing children to Abraham (Gen. 22:16-17) is an "everlasting" covenant (Gen. 17:7).
The New Testament makes a clear disinction between covenants of Law and covenants of Promise. The apostle Paul spoke of these "two covenants", one originating "from Mount Sinai", the other from "the Jerusalem above" (Gal. 4:24-26). Paul also argued that the covenant established at Mount Sinai, the Law, is a "ministry of death" and "condemnation" (II Cor. 3:7,9) - a covenant that cannot be obeyed because of man's weakness and sin (Rom. 8:3).
But the "covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12) are GOD's guarantees that He will provide salvation in spite of man's inability to keep his side of the agreement because of his sin. The provision of a Chosen People through whom the Messiah would be born is the promise of the covenants with Adam and David (Gen. 3:15; II Sam. 7:14-15). The covenant with Noah is GOD's promise to withhold judgment on nature while salvation is occurring (Gen. 8:21-22; II Pet. 3:7,15). In the covenant with Abraham, GOD promised to bless Abraham's descendants because of his faith.
These many covenants of promise may be considered one covenant of grace, which was fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus. His death ushered in the new covenant under which we are justified by GOD's grace and mercy rather than our human attempts to keep the law. And Jesus Himself is the Mediator of this better covenant between GOD and man (Heb. 9:15).
Jesus' sacrificial death served as the oath, or pledge, which GOD made to us to seal this new covenant. He is determined to give us eternal life and fellowship with Him, in spite of our unworthiness. As the Book of Hebrews declares, "The word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever" (Heb. 7:28). This is still GOD's promise to any person who turns to Him in repentance and faith.
The New Covenant is the new agreement GOD has made with mankind, based on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The concept of a new covenant originated with the promise of the prophet Jeremiah that GOD would accomplish for His people what the old covenant had failed to do (Jer. 31:31). Under this new covenant, GOD would write His Law on human hearts. This promised action suggested a new level of obedience, a new knowledge of the LORD, and a new forgiveness of sin.
The New Testament, which itself means "new covenant", interprets the work of Jesus Christ as bringing this promised new Covenant into being. In Luke 22:20, when Jesus ate the Passover meal at the Last Supper with His disciples, He spoke of the cup as "the new covenant in My blood". When the apostle Paul recited the tradition he had received concerning the Last Supper, he quoted these words of Jesus about the cup as "the new covenant in My blood" (I Cor. 11:25).
But the Epistle to the Hebrews gives the new covenant more attention than any other book in the New Testament. It includes a quotation of the entire passage from Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Heb. 8:8-12; also 10:16-17). Jesus is also referred to by the writer of hebrews as "the Mediator of the new covenant" (Heb. 9:15; 12:24). The new covenant, a "beter covenant...established on better promises" (Heb. 8:6), rests directly on the sacrificial work of Christ, according to Hebrews. The new covenant accomplished what the old could not: removal of sin and cleansing of the conscience (Heb. 10:2, 22). The work of Jesus Christ on the cross thus makes the old covenant "obsolete" (Heb. 8:13) and fulfills the promise of the prophet Jeremiah.
THE USE OF "BLOOD" IN THE BIBLE
The word blood is often used literally in Scripture. Sometimes the word refers to the blood of animals (Gen. 37:31); at other times it refers to human blood (I Kings 22:35). The word is also used figuratively in the Bible. It may mean "blood red" (Joel 2:31) or "murder" (Matt. 27:24). The phrase "flesh and blood " means humanity (Heb. 2:14).
But the most important biblical concept in regard to blood is the spiritual significance of the blood of sacrificial animals. Although some scholars believe the blood primarily means the animal's life, most agree that blood refers to the animal's death. Most of the Old Testament passages that discuss sacrifices mention the death of the animal, not its life (Lev. 4:4-5). The Bible makes it clear that the satisfaction or payment for human sins was made by the death of a specified animal subsitute: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11).
In the New Testament, this Old Testament idea of sacrifice is applied to Christ's blood. References to the "blood of Christ" always mean the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. References to the blood of Christ were made by Paul (Rom. 3:25); Peter (I Pet. 1:19); John (Rev. 1:5) and the author of Hebrews (Heb. 9:14). Although all have sinned, "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Eph 1:7).
For more information on "the Blood", see the article "The Blood of the Covenant".
Salt held a place of great importance in the primitive and simple society of the ancient Israelites. Job tells us that salt was used from the oldest times to flavor food (Job 6:6). Ancient man sacrificed to GOD food he found pleasant, so salt was included among these offerings (Ezek. 43:24). By biblical times, salt had become linked with health, hospitality, purity, and durability. Ezekiel tells us that in ancient times the Israelites rubbed newborn children with salt (Ezek. 16:4).
Later religious rites emphasized the cleansing property of salt. Salt came to stand for the most sacred and binding of obligations. GOD said of His covenant with the Israelites, "It is a covenant of salt for ever" (Num. 18:19). Second Chronicles relates that "the LORD GOD of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant salt" (II Chron. 13:5). Jesus told His disciples they were "the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:13). Paul linked salt with wisdom: "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt" (Col. 4:6).
Plants and crops cannot grow in land that has too much salt. The Bible also deals with this aspect of the mineral. When Abimilech took the city of Shechem, we are told he sowed the land with salt, so that it would always remain barren and unfruitful (Judges 9:45).
Salt was plentiful in Palestine. The famous Jebel Usdum is actually a mountain of rock salt, about 11 km. (7 miles) long. This ridge extends along the south and southwest corners of the Dead Sea. Jews used rock salt from this ridge. They also got salt by evaporating the waters of the Mediterranean and Dead seas.
Bible critic Edward A. Robinson believes the large plain east of Jebel Usdum is the "valley of salt" where David's army defeated the Edomites (II Sam. 8:13; I Chron. 18:12; II Chron. 25:11).
Most of this was taken from the articles, "Covenant" in the Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible and "Minerals of the Bible" in Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers.
|Home||Site Index||Bible Index|
|Kingdom Dynamics||Truth in Action||Links|