covenant

covenant

A formal agreement or treaty between two parties in which each assumes some obligation. In the Hebrew Bible, a covenant might be a pact of mutuality between individuals, such as Laban and Jacob (Gen 31:44-54) or David and Jonathan (1Sam 18:3; 1Sam 23:18); states or other political units, such as Abraham and the Amorites (Gen 14:13), Abraham and Abimelech, king of Gerar (Gen 21:22-32), Abner and David (2Sam 3:12-13; 2Sam 3:21), David and the people (2Sam 5:3), Solomon and Hiram (1Kgs 5:2-6), and Asa and Ben-hadad (1Kgs 15:18-19); or husband and wife (Mal 2:14; Ezek 16:8). A covenant also might be imposed by a greater power upon a lesser one. The greater power demands loyalty and obligates itself to the protection of the lesser one, such as Israel and the Gibeonites (Josh 9) and the request by Jabesh-gilead of the king of Ammon (1Sam 11:1-2). The vast majority of the references to covenant in the Bible are to such a treaty—the covenant that God makes with Israel at Sinai (Exod 19-24). The Sinai Covenant is de-picted as conditional; Israel must keep the stipulations (familial, societal, dietary, ritual, agricultural, etc.) or suffer severe punishment. The two other primary divine covenants, those with Abraham (Gen 15) and David (2Sam 7; Ps 89:1-38), were originally perceived as unconditional. (Gen 17:1-14) does demand circumcision of Abraham and his descendants, but this is only a sign of the covenant, and therefore of a loyalty that is to be expected. The Davidic covenant assures David of a permanent dynasty in which the Davidic king is depicted metaphorically as the son of God (2Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7-8; Ps 89:27-28). There is, however, a tendency in the Bible to view the Davidic covenant as dependent upon obedience to the Sinai Covenant (1Kgs 2:4; 1Kgs 8:25; 1Kgs 9:4-9; Ps 132:12). The prophets generally viewed the Sinai Covenant as dominant, and yet they tried to maintain the ultimate validity of the Davidic covenant by recasting its promises in terms of messianic expectation. NT authors saw the beginning of a “new covenant” mentioned in (Jer 31:27-37) as being instituted through the death of Jesus (Mark 14:24; 1Cor 11:25; 2Cor 3:6). The Letter to the Hebrews makes the greatest use of covenant language in the NT (Heb 7:22; Heb 8:8-13; Heb 9:15; Heb 12:24).

Gen 31:44-54

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1Sam 18:3

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1Sam 23:18

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Gen 14:13

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Gen 21:22-32

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2Sam 3:12-13

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2Sam 3:21

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2Sam 5:3

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1Kgs 5:2-6

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1Kgs 15:18-19

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Mal 2:14

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Ezek 16:8

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Josh 9

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1Sam 11:1-2

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Exod 19-24

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Gen 15

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2Sam 7

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Ps 89:1-38

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Gen 17:1-14

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2Sam 7:14

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Ps 2:7-8

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Ps 89:27-28

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1Kgs 2:4

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1Kgs 8:25

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1Kgs 9:4-9

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Ps 132:12

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Jer 31:27-37

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Mark 14:24

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1Cor 11:25

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2Cor 3:6

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Heb 7:22

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Heb 8:8-13

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Heb 9:15

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Heb 12:24

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