What are the Covenants in the Bible?

In this post, learn how the covenants in the Bible can teach us vital lessons about how we can better do the will of God in our lives.

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A lot of people have missed the true meaning of the New Covenant because they don’t know or fully understand what a covenant is. For most of us, the word “covenant” seems to be a highfalutin word used in the courtroom. As a result, so many Christians ignore the magnitude and massive implication of a covenant when created between God and His people.

What are the covenants in the Bible?

Here’s how the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines covenant:

  • a formal agreement between two or more nations or peoples
  • a formal agreement to fulfill an obligation
  • an arrangement about action to be taken

In short, a covenant, according to the secular definition, is a formal agreement of responsibilities and obligations.

In the Bible, the word covenant is mentioned 292 times in the King James Version. Now, that’s a lot. This gives us an indication that a covenant is truly an important matter to God.

The Hebrew word for covenant is  בְּרִית bĕriyth. It came from the root word that basically means “cutting.” 

To our modern ear, it may sound strange. Why would a covenant be about “cutting?”

That’s a good question.

In ancient times, pacts and covenants are done by cutting pieces of flesh, and then participants would pass between them.

Notice how Yahweh made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two… 

And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces. On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram (Genesis 15:9-10, 17-18).

In Greek, covenant came from the word διαθήκη diathēkē, which means a disposition, contract, will, covenant, and testament.

The English word covenant came from the Latin word “con venire,” which means coming together.

With these things in mind, you should now get a better understanding of what a covenant is. It involves two or more entities coming together to create an agreement.

What are the covenants in the Bible?
What are the covenants in the Bible?

Covenants in the Bible are more than just a contract

Because of the modern-day usage of the word covenant, we might have a mistaken understanding of what a covenant is in biblical usage.

Here’s something you need to remember:

Covenant in the Bible is NOT simply an agreement between involved parties. Covenant in the Bible is all about a relationship.

The covenant defines what that relationship would be. It does not only formalize the binding relationship, but it stipulates the commitments, responsibilities, and obligations of the parties involved.

In ancient times, there are rituals added to the covenant to remind the involved parties of the commitment they have made. That’s why, in the Old Testament, we see, over and over again, people of God performing rituals through burnt sacrifices.

However, please note:

The rituals are simply a symbolic reminder of better things to come.

What matters most in a covenant is the substance of the commitment made. In this case, God, the Supreme Ruler of the entire universe, binds Himself to perform all the promises and commitments made in the covenant He is involved with. 

In the same manner, the people whom He made a covenant with also bind themselves to the commitment they have made according to the covenant.

So, it’s a two-way process. 

All the parties involved are expected to perform their part in the covenant.

A divine and biblical covenant made by God to His chosen people is like a sacred constitution that regulates how humans should interact with God and how to establish a relationship with Him. 

A covenant made by God is a formal declaration of what His will and purpose are for His people. It also shows God’s willingness to reach out to humanity and reveal His plan of salvation.

The Uniqueness of God’s covenants

Humans are able to create covenants, agreements, and contracts. Almost in all cases, the people involved in the covenant would determine the terms and conditions.

However, with God’s covenant, this is NEVER the case.

It is only God who determines the terms and conditions of the covenant. The only thing that we, humans, have to do is to accept the covenant or not.

This is what happened with every single covenant God made with His chosen people. God doesn’t consult humans on what the covenant should be like. It is always God who decides.

How many covenants are in the Bible?

Most scholars and Bible students vary in their belief in the exact number of covenants in the Bible. Some estimate as many as 12 covenants. As this might be the case, there are a few covenants that are too significant to ignore. 

We already know that there are at least two covenants mentioned in the Bible. When we say Old Covenant, it is primarily referring to the covenant made in Mount Sinai. Thus, it is often called the Sinaitic Covenant. It is the covenant God made with the nation of Israel.

The other most popular covenant is the New Covenant, which is the covenant mediated by Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).

However, did you know that there are a series of covenants found in the Bible? These covenants show the longing of God to start a relationship with His chosen people.

Here’s a quick overview of the covenants in the Bible made by God throughout the Bible:

Covenant with Noah

We read in Genesis 9:8-11:

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

The covenant God made with Noah applies not just to Noah but to His descendants as well and those living creatures that came from the Ark.

Covenant with Abraham

We read about the covenant Yahweh made with Abraham in Genesis 17:2-4, 7-11:

And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations… 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. 8 Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

The Christian world is blind to the real significance of this Abrahamic covenant. In fact, because of this covenant, we see how God fulfilled His promise to Abraham in our modern age. If you study this covenant further, you will eventually find out how the United States, Great Britain, and other English-speaking nations came about because of the fulfillment of God’s promise.

If you want to learn more, please read, “Where is the United States in the Bible?

Covenant with David

Psalm 89:3-4 describes the covenant God made to David:

3I have made a covenant with My chosen,
I have sworn to My servant David:
4 ‘Your seed I will establish forever,
And build up your throne to all generations.’ ”

In this covenant, God promised that David’s kingly lineage would last forever. Not only that, but the promised Messiah would directly come out from His descendants. 

⚡⚡⚡ Send me a message to Joshuainfantado@gmail.com to request your free copy of “The Shocking Biblical Truth About the New Covenant.”

Who does God make a covenant with?

God does not simply choose anyone to make a covenant with. In fact, He is so careful to the point that in the Old Testament, we only see a handful of people God has covenanted with until we come to the nation of Israel.

God chooses special individuals who have a humble attitude and those who have lived a righteous life. Thus, it is not difficult to see why God chose Noah, Abraham, and David. These men of God had a special relationship with their Creator.

Noah was considered to be “a just man, perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9). Abraham is a man of faith and obedience (Genesis 15:6). David is called a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22-23).

As you can see, there are certain conditions involved in establishing a covenant with God. There are expectations to be met. 

Understanding the Covenants in the Bible

Biblical covenants are important agreements made between God and men. The creation of covenants shows how God wants to reach out and establish a close relationship with His people.

Covenants are serious matters. Once we have entered a covenant with God, we must see to it that we do our best in keeping the terms and conditions of the covenant. Of course, this is not always easy and we can be thankful for the sacrifice of our Savior, Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ).

For Christians today, we are now under the New Covenant where we don’t have to sacrifice animals anymore. Yahshua has become the ultimate sacrifice made for all of us.

May we not waste the special calling God has given to the people whom He is working with right now. 

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