Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The 7 Covenants: 2 Types of Covenants

Two Types of Covenants

In order to better understand the seven Biblical Covenants, one must understand that there are two types: Conditional Covenants and Unconditional Covenants.


Conditional Covenants are marked by, “If you do this, then I will do that.” God doing “that” depends upon the person or party doing, “this.” The “this” is usually in the form of a reward and or blessing. At times the conditions of the Covenant are negative; “If you do thus, then I will do such.” The “thus” is a violation or breaking of the Covenant resulting in “such,” which would be a negative consequence, as in a curse or punishment.

“A conditional covenant is a bilateral covenant… God promises to grant special blessings to man providing man fulfills certain conditions contained in the covenant. Man’s failure to do so often results in punishment. Thus one’s response to the covenant agreement brings either blessing or cursings. The blessings are secured by obedience and man must meet his conditions before God will meet His.” – “The Eight Covenants of the Bible” Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, pg.5

The blessings of the Covenant are conditional upon the persons and or parties obedience to the Covenant and the curses are conditional upon the persons and or parties disobedience to the terms of the Covenant.

The Edenic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant and both Conditional Covenants.


Unconditional covenants on the other hand are not dependent upon the persons or parties compliance to the Covenant, they are unilateral in nature. In this type of Covenant, God is solely responsible for bringing to pass the things outlined in the Covenant.

Such Covenants are declarative statements by God, promising, “I will do thus and such,” and the person and or party has no obligations to uphold in order to have “thus and such” come to pass.

Five of the seven Biblical Covenants are unconditional; The Adamic, Noatic, Abrahamic, Davidic and the Renewed Covenant.

The Edenic, Adamic, Noatic, Mosaic and Renewed Covenant were made to all mankind, all peoples of the world. The Abrahamic and the Davidic were made with the Children of Israel. This means the ones made to both are Eternal Covenants and the ones to the Children of Israel cannot be nullified and the recipient replaced with another. For example, there are some Christian camps that believe God was finished with Israel due to their disobedience and their rejection of the Messiah and so the Covenants given to the Children of Israel were transferred to the Christian Church. This is a form of anti-Semitism and such a belief has been labeled as “Replacement Theology.” To believe in Replacement Theology is to make God an Indian giver, break a covenant; meaning He changes, and is a liar, which He is clearly not.

 For I am the Lord, I change not…” - Malachi 3:6a
“God is not a man, that he should lie…” - Num. 23:19a

Comparisons Between the Mosaic Covenant to the Suzerian Style Treaty

When a king conquered a nation, or the nation surrendered to the king, he made the people his vassal. Such a treaty was well known in the ancient near east and seeing as it was common knowledge to the peoples of that land and time, God used this very format to make a Covenant with Israel. Any near east person could see that the Torah followed and was indeed legitimate contract known in that day.

It began with the king introducing himself, giving his brief history and accomplishments, then he goes on to detail his expectations from the people and what would happen if they do not comply to what he has outlines. Witnesses are then called to witness the treaty between the two parties and then the covenant is ratified.

“In the Ancient Near East, treaties between kings was common. These were treaties drawn up among equals and mostly outlined agreements to honor each other's boundaries, to maintain trade relations, and return run-away slaves. These treaties are preserved in the Mari Tablets and in the Amarna texts. Also preserved in these collections are treaties drafted between a superior and his inferior. If the relationship was familial or friendly, the parties are referred to as "father" and "son." If the relationship is bereft of kindness and intimacy, the parties are referred to as "lord" and "servant," or "king" and "vassal," or "greater king" and "lesser king." The greater king is the suzerain and the lesser king is a prince, or a lesser lord in the service of the greater king. The lesser lord is a representative of all the common people who are under the protection of the greater king. He enforces the treaty among the masses.
These Suzerain/Vassal treaties open with two sections: 1) The identification of the Suzerain by his name and titles; 2) The historical survey of the Suzerain's dealings with the vassal. The purpose is to illustrate to the vassal how much the Suzerain has done to protect and establish the vassal who therefore owes submission and allegiance to the Suzerain. These two sections are referred to as the "Preamble."

The next section of these treaties list the "stipulations." What the vassal is required to do is spelled out in principal and detail. This section is often concluded with the requirement that the vassal deposit his copy of the treaty in his temple, where he is to occasionally read and study it to refresh his memory concerning his duties.

The last section of these treaties contains the blessings and curses of the Suzerain. If the stipulations are met by the vassal, he will receive the Suzerain's blessings, which are listed. If the vassal fails to meet the stipulations, he will receive the Suzerain's curses, which are also listed.
The Suzerain would keep one copy of the treaty and the vassal would keep one copy of the treaty. A number of ratifying ceremonies were used depending upon the era and culture. But the most widely used rite was that of cutting the bodies of animals in halves and placing them in two rows with enough space between for the two parties of the treaty to walk side by side. As they walked between the pieces, they were vowing to each other, "May what has happened to these animals, happen to me if I break this covenant with you."” - http://www.fivesolas.com/suzerain.htm

Below are charts to illustrate this:

Suzerian Treaty

·       The Character of the King
·       Accomplishments of the King
·       Expectations of the Vassal
·       Consequences for Breaking Treaty
·       Witnesses
·       Constitution of the Treaty
·       Ratification
Mosaic Covenant

·       Preface (Deut. 1:1-5)
·       Prologue (Deut. 1:6-4:49)
·       Obligations (Deut. 5:1-26:19)
·       Blessings and Curses (Deut. 27-30)
·       Witnesses (Deut. 30:19)
·       Consecution (Deut. 31:1-8)
·       Ratification (Deut. 31:9-13)

Ancient Treaty Format

·       Preface
·       Prologue
·       Expectations
·       Consequences
·       Witnesses
·       Sanctions
·       Ratification
Exd. Lev.

·       Exd. 20:1-2a
·       Exd. 20:2b
·       Exd. 20-23, 25-31, Lev. 1-25
·       Ex. 25:16; 40:20 Deut. 10:1-5
·       Ex. 24:4
·       Lev. 26
·       Ex. 24

·       1:1-5
·       Ch. 1-3
·       Ch. 4-26
·       31:9-13, 24-26
·       30:19, 31:19-22, 31:24ff
·       27:11-28:68
·       29:1, 10-15, Josh. 8:30-35
Joshua 24

·       2a
·       2b-13, 17-18
·       14-16, 23
·       26
·       22, 27
·       19-20
·       21-25

Interestingly enough we find such a format in the book of Hosea:

1. Preamble:
Hosea chapter 1
2. Historical prologue:
Hosea chapters 2-3
3. Ethical Stipulations:
Hosea chapters 2-7
4. Sanctions:
Hosea chapters 8-9
5. Succession Arrangements:
Hosea chapters 10-14

Hittites, contemporaries of the Children of Israel when the Torah was given, also had very similar treaties and were as follows:

·       Historical prologue
·       Presentation of the parties to the treaty
·       Conditions of the treaty
·       Witnesses (list of various gods)
·       Blessings and curses