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NAVE: Covenant
EBD: Covenant
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NET Glossary: a solemn, formal and binding agreement between two or more parties

Covenant [EBD]

a contract or agreement between two parties. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word berith is always thus translated. Berith is derived from a root which means "to cut," and hence a covenant is a "cutting," with reference to the cutting or dividing of animals into two parts, and the contracting parties passing between them, in making a covenant (Gen. 15; Jer. 34:18, 19).

The corresponding word in the New Testament Greek is diatheke, which is, however, rendered "testament" generally in the Authorized Version. It ought to be rendered, just as the word berith of the Old Testament, "covenant."

This word is used (1) of a covenant or compact between man and man (Gen. 21:32), or between tribes or nations (1 Sam. 11:1; Josh. 9:6, 15). In entering into a convenant, Jehovah was solemnly called on to witness the transaction (Gen. 31:50), and hence it was called a "covenant of the Lord" (1 Sam. 20:8). The marriage compact is called "the covenant of God" (Prov. 2:17), because the marriage was made in God's name. Wicked men are spoken of as acting as if they had made a "covenant with death" not to destroy them, or with hell not to devour them (Isa. 28:15, 18).

(2.) The word is used with reference to God's revelation of himself in the way of promise or of favour to men. Thus God's promise to Noah after the Flood is called a covenant (Gen. 9; Jer. 33:20, "my covenant"). We have an account of God's covernant with Abraham (Gen. 17, comp. Lev. 26:42), of the covenant of the priesthood (Num. 25:12, 13; Deut. 33:9; Neh. 13:29), and of the covenant of Sinai (Ex. 34:27, 28; Lev. 26:15), which was afterwards renewed at different times in the history of Israel (Deut. 29; Josh. 1:24; 2 Chr. 15; 23; 29; 34; Ezra 10; Neh. 9). In conformity with human custom, God's covenant is said to be confirmed with an oath (Deut. 4:31; Ps. 89:3), and to be accompanied by a sign (Gen. 9; 17). Hence the covenant is called God's "counsel," "oath," "promise" (Ps. 89:3, 4; 105:8-11; Heb. 6:13-20; Luke 1:68-75). God's covenant consists wholly in the bestowal of blessing (Isa. 59:21; Jer. 31:33, 34).

The term covenant is also used to designate the regular succession of day and night (Jer. 33:20), the Sabbath (Ex. 31:16), circumcision (Gen. 17:9, 10), and in general any ordinance of God (Jer. 34:13, 14).

A "covenant of salt" signifies an everlasting covenant, in the sealing or ratifying of which salt, as an emblem of perpetuity, is used (Num. 18:19; Lev. 2:13; 2 Chr. 13:5).

COVENANT OF WORKS, the constitution under which Adam was placed at his creation. In this covenant, (1.) The contracting parties were (a) God the moral Governor, and (b) Adam, a free moral agent, and representative of all his natural posterity (Rom. 5:12-19). (2.) The promise was "life" (Matt. 19:16, 17; Gal. 3:12). (3.) The condition was perfect obedience to the law, the test in this case being abstaining from eating the fruit of the "tree of knowledge," etc. (4.) The penalty was death (Gen. 2:16, 17).

This covenant is also called a covenant of nature, as made with man in his natural or unfallen state; a covenant of life, because "life" was the promise attached to obedience; and a legal covenant, because it demanded perfect obedience to the law.

The "tree of life" was the outward sign and seal of that life which was promised in the covenant, and hence it is usually called the seal of that covenant.

This covenant is abrogated under the gospel, inasmuch as Christ has fulfilled all its conditions in behalf of his people, and now offers salvation on the condition of faith. It is still in force, however, as it rests on the immutable justice of God, and is binding on all who have not fled to Christ and accepted his righteousness.

CONVENANT OF GRACE, the eternal plan of redemption entered into by the three persons of the Godhead, and carried out by them in its several parts. In it the Father represented the Godhead in its indivisible sovereignty, and the Son his people as their surety (John 17:4, 6, 9; Isa. 42:6; Ps. 89:3).

The conditions of this covenant were, (1.) On the part of the Father (a) all needful preparation to the Son for the accomplishment of his work (Heb. 10:5; Isa. 42:1-7); (b) support in the work (Luke 22:43); and (c) a glorious reward in the exaltation of Christ when his work was done (Phil. 2:6-11), his investiture with universal dominion (John 5:22; Ps. 110:1), his having the administration of the covenant committed into his hands (Matt. 28:18; John 1:12; 17:2; Acts 2:33), and in the final salvation of all his people (Isa. 35:10; 53:10, 11; Jer. 31:33; Titus 1:2). (2.) On the part of the Son the conditions were (a) his becoming incarnate (Gal. 4:4, 5); and (b) as the second Adam his representing all his people, assuming their place and undertaking all their obligations under the violated covenant of works; (c) obeying the law (Ps. 40:8; Isa. 42:21; John 9:4, 5), and (d) suffering its penalty (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13), in their stead.

Christ, the mediator of, fulfils all its conditions in behalf of his people, and dispenses to them all its blessings. In Heb. 8:6; 9:15; 12:24, this title is given to Christ. (See DISPENSATION.)

Covenant [NAVE]

Sacred, Josh. 9:18-21; Gal. 3:15.
Binding, Josh. 9:18-20; Jer. 34:8-21; Ezek. 17:14-18; Gal. 3:15.
Binding, not only on those who make them, but on those who are represented, Deut. 29:14, 15.
Blood of, Ex. 24:8.
Book of, Ex. 24:7.
The Mosaic law called a covenant, Ex. 34:28.
See: Contracts; Vows.
Of Men with Men
Breach of, punished, 2 Sam. 21:1-6; Jer. 34:8-22; Ezek. 17:13-19.
National, See: Alliances; Constitution.
Ratified: By giving the hand, Ezra 10:19; Lam. 5:6; Ezek. 17:18; loosing the sandal, Ruth 4:7-11; written and sealed, Neh. 9:38; Jer. 32:10-12; by giving presents, Gen. 21:27-30; 1 Sam. 18:3, 4; by making a feast, Gen. 26:30; by a monument, Gen. 31:45, 46, 49-53; by salting, Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5; by offering a sacrifice, Gen. 15:9-17; Jer. 34:18, 19; by oath, See: Oath.
See: Contracts.
Instances of:
Abraham and Abimelech, Gen. 21:22-32.
Abimelech and Isaac, Gen. 26:26-31.
Jacob and Laban, Gen. 31:44-54.
Jonathan and David, 1 Sam. 18:3, 4; 20:16, 42; 2 Sam. 21:7.
Jews with each other, to serve God, 2 Chr. 15:12-15; Neh. 10:28-32.
King Zedekiah and his subjects, Jer. 34:8.
Ahab with Ben Hadad, 1 Kin. 20:34.
Subjects with sovereign, 2 Chr. 23:1-3, 16.
Of God with Men
Confirmed with an oath, Gen. 22:16; 26:3; 50:24; Psa. 89:35; 105:9; Luke 1:73; Heb. 6:13, 17, 18.
Binding, Lev. 26; Jer. 11:2, 3; Gal. 3:15.
Everlasting, Gen. 8:20-22; 9:1-17; Psa. 105:8, 10; Isa. 54:10; 61:8.
God faithful to, Lev. 26:44, 45; Deut. 4:31; 7:8, 9; Judg. 2:1; 1 Kin. 8:23; Psa. 105:8-11; 106:45; 111:5; Mic. 7:20.
Repudiated by God on account of Jews' idolatry, Jer. 44:26, 27; Heb. 8:9.
Broken by the Jews, Jer. 22:9; Ezek. 16:59; Heb. 8:9.
Punishments for breaking of, Lev. 26:25-46.
Instances of
Of the sabbath, Ex. 31:16.
Of the Ten Commandments, Ex. 34:28; Deut. 5:2, 3; 9:9.
With Adam, Gen. 2:16, 17; Noah, Gen. 8:16; 9:8-17; Abraham, Gen. 12:1-3; 15; 17:1-22; Ex. 6:4-8; Psa. 105:8-11; Rom. 9:7-13; Gal. 3.
See: Circumcision.
With Isaac, Gen. 17:19; Jacob, Gen. 28:13-15.
With the Israelites to deliver them from Egypt, Ex. 6:4-8.
With Phinehas, Num. 25:12, 13.
With Israel, at Horeb, Deut. 5:2, 3; in Moab, Deut. 29:1-15.
Of the Levites, Neh. 13:29; Mal. 2:4, 5.
With David, 2 Sam. 7:12-16; 1 Chr. 17:11-14; 2 Chr. 6:16.
With David and his house, 2 Sam. 23:5; Psa. 89:20-37; Jer. 33:21.
With his people, Isa. 55:3; 59:21.
To be confirmed, Dan. 9:27.
The Second Covenant
Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:4-13; Heb. 12:18-24; Heb. 13:20
Of Mankind with God
Jacob, Gen. 28:20-22.
Joshua, Josh. 24:25, with vs. 19-28. Absalom, 2 Sam. 15:7, 8.
Jehoiada and Joash, 2 Kin. 11:17.
Josiah, 2 Kin. 23:3.
Asa, 2 Chr. 15:12-15.
Nehemiah, Neh. 9:38; 10.
Israelites, Jer. 50:5.
See: Vows.


The Heb. berith means primarily "a cutting," with reference to the custom of cutting or dividing animals in two and passing between the parts in ratifying a covenant. (Genesis 15; Jeremiah 34:18,19) In the New Testament the corresponding word is diathece (diatheke), which is frequently translated testament in the Authorized Version. In its biblical meaning two parties the word is used--
  1. Of a covenant between God and man; e.g. God covenanted with Noah, after the flood, that a like judgment should not be repeated. It is not precisely like a covenant between men, but was a promise or agreement by God. The principal covenants are the covenant of works --God promising to save and bless men on condition of perfect obedience --and the covenant of grace , or God?s promise to save men on condition of their believing in Christ and receiving him as their Master and Saviour. The first is called the Old Covenant, from which we name the first part of the bible the Old Testament, the Latin rendering of the word covenant. The second is called the New Covenant, or New Testament.
  2. Covenant between man and man, i.e. a solemn compact or agreement, either between tribes or nations, (Joshua 9:6,15; 1 Samuel 11:1) or between individuals, (Genesis 31:44) by which each party bound himself to fulfill certain conditions and was assured of receiving certain advantages. In making such a covenant God was solemnly invoked as witness, (Genesis 31:50) and an oath was sworn. (Genesis 21:31) A sign or witness of the covenant was sometimes framed, such a gift, (Genesis 21:30) or a pillar or heap of stones erected. (Genesis 31:52)

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