What Scripture Says About...

GOLDEN BOOK © Andrei Contiu | Dreamstime.comIn our popular "What Scripture Says About" series, we perform comprehensive word studies of Scripture to uncover the Biblically-accurate meanings of various concepts and align our understanding of the Word with the One Who wrote it.

What will you do with the answers once you have them?

 

WEDDING RINGS AND FLOWERS- © Sodimages | Dreamstime.comCovenants are frequently mischaracterized as "contracts" between two individuals. While there are some similaries, there are vast differences as well. From all appearances in our modern culture, there is a deep lack of understanding of what a covenant is and is not. It is this lack of understanding that has left many believers stranded in a limbo of inaction and confusion in their walk of faith or even in their own marriage.

When we are asked by leaders in our congregations to do something or to believe something in regards to Scripture, we should always be like the Bereans and test everything against Scripture itself (Acts 17:11)... the whole of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If a person feels "led by the spirit" to speak, behave, or believe a certain way, they should test that spirit (1 John 4:1) and see whether what that spirit is telling them to do is in agreement or disagreement with Scripture.

Let us take a journey together through Scripture and see what it says about the matter of covenants... a "walk in the Word" so to speak. As we take this walk, may we say, believe, and do what is right, be merciful in our speech and actions, and walk humbly with the Lord (Micah 6:8).

The First Mention of Covenant

The very first mention of brit [covenant] found in Scripture is in the story of Noach in Genesis 6:18.

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Genesis 6:18-22

But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark-- you and your sons and your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. As for you, take for yourself some of all food which is edible, and gather it to yourself; and it shall be for food for you and for them. Thus Noah did; according to all that G-d had commanded him, so he did.

 

Genesis 6:18 occurs before the Flood (which is described in chapter 7-8). In the verses leading up to this point G-d informs Noach that He is going to bring "the flood water upon the earth" and that "everything that is on the earth shall perish". G-d then tells Noach that He will establish His covenant with him.

MILKY WAY PHOTO © Asterixvs | Dreamstime.comIt is not G-d's covenant with Avram that we find first in Scripture. Instead we first are told that Avram covenanted with others.

Avram Covenants with Others

The very first mention of brit [covenant] in relation to Avram is found in the story of Lot's abduction during the sacking of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 14.

Genesis 14:13

Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram.

 

The Hebrew phrase translated as "allies" [ba'ali brit] literally means "possessors of covenant" with Avram. We do not know the details of Avram's covenant with these men other than it allowed him to live in peace with them near the oaks of Mamre. This evidence of existing covenant relationship will play an interesting role as we read further about G-d's covenant with Avram.

Like his father Avram before him, Scripture does not record G-d's covenant with Yitzchak first. Instead we are first told about another covenant:

Yitzchak's Covenant with Avimelech

Genesis chapter 26 gives us the next covenant described in Scripture. The chapter relates the following story:

Avraham has died and Yitzchak is living in the Land. There was a famine in the land and Yitzchak goes down to the city of Gerar to Avimelech, king of the Philistines. G-d tells Yitzchak not to go down to the land of Egypt. Yitzchak stays in Gerar and becomes rich and establishes a "great household" (verse 14). Avimelech sends Yitzchak away because he has become "too powerful" for the Philistines and so Yitzchak moves into the valley outside the city. There Yitzchak's servants dig wells and quarrels with the herdsmen of Gerar over who owns the water. Afterwards Avimelech comes with his advisor and his military commander and makes a covenant with Yitzchak. They state "we see plainly that the LORD has been with you" (verse 28) and pursue a covenant with him. It is this covenant with Avimelech that is found next after G-d's covenant with Avram.


G-d's Covenant with Yitzchak

In Genesis 17 G-d tells Avraham that He will establish His covenant with Yitzchak as "an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him" (Genesis 17:21). The details of G-d's covenant with Yitzchak are the same as those of G-d's covenant with Avraham.

In a pattern consistent with his forebears, Scripture does not record G-d's covenant with Yaakov first. Instead we are first told about another covenant:

Yaakov's Covenant with Lavan

Genesis 31 relates the story of the next covenant described in Scripture:

At Rivka's prompting, Yitzchak has sent his son Yaakov away to her brother, Lavan [Laben], to get a wife for himself. Yaakov has traveled to Lavan and served him for 20 years and gained his treasured wife, Rachel after being tricked into marrying Leah. After Yaakov flees from Lavan with his family, servants, and animals, Lavan overtakes Yaakov's group and confronts them.

Yaakov defends his actions to Lavan and Lavan then proposes a covenant between them:

Genesis 31:44

So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me."

 

Yaakov sets up a pillar and has his kinsmen gather stones into a heap as a witness of the covenant between them. Lavan and Yaakov then part ways. The details of the covenant are not given in Scripture but the general gist of what is revealed is that the covenant is one of peace between Yaakov and his family and Lavan and his family.

Torah Portion

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Today is

Yom Chamishi, 18 Shevat, 5783

Thursday, February 09, 2023

 

Learn more about this date in history.