The Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament by Christianity, tells the story of the God of Israel and the Israel of God. This story is the foundation and basis for all that is claimed in the Gospels and Epistles held sacred by Christianity. Within the Hebrew Bible are the covenants made by God with Israel. There are five primary covenants that must be understood to place the New Testament writings into proper perspective. These covenants have been named differently by commentators but regardless of the name used, the covenants are easy to explain.

The first is the covenant with Noah (Gen. 9:1-17). The Noahic covenant is made with Noah and his offspring as well as all living creatures including birds, animals and beasts of the land. It also includes the earth itself and therefore the nations that came from the offspring of the three sons of Noah.

The Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 17:1-22) was made with Abraham and was then confirmed to his sons Isaac (Gen. 26:2-6) and Jacob, also called Israel (Gen. 28:10-22). This covenant created a chosen people, a specific lineage and a testimony of God (light) among the nations.

The third covenant is the one made with the Children of Israel at Sinai (Ex. 19:1-17). Often called the Mosaic covenant, this covenant established the relationship between God and Israel at Sinai and was confirmed by the next generation (Deut. 29:1-15) as they were about to enter the Land promised to Abraham 400 years earlier.
The fourth covenant (II Samuel 7:8-16) was made with David, the son of Jesse who became king of Israel after Saul. God’s covenant with David included the establishment of a throne that would be established forever. This would be confirmed and given to the son of David.

The fifth covenant is called the New Covenant and is found in the writings of Jeremiah (31:27-37). This covenant would accomplish what had failed in the former one at Sinai. This covenant was confirmed by Jesus at the Last Supper (Luke 22:14-20).

Replacement theology views the New Covenant as a replacement of the Mosaic Covenant and a removal and negation of the Law or Torah. That is an error. In fact, such a claim is a direct contradiction of Jesus’ own statement (Matt. 5:17) that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (bring them to full operation). To fully understand how he will do this requires that we look at the details of each of the five covenants. We will start with the covenant made with Noah which shall be the topic of the next post.

H Bruce Stokes, PhD