Start point: Biblical Covenants week (click here for PDF version)
1. Edenic Covenant, in the garden and before the fall.
Genesis 1:26-31 (NRSV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Genesis 2:16-17 (NRSV)
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
Guess what? Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Even though God had provided all that was needed and gave authority to Adam, temptation to not trust the words and actions of God caused a change in the agreement. Basically, Adam and Eve broke the covenant by not following the commands of God. As a result, God spoke a new covenant that incorporates the hazards of life outside the “good” garden. This new covenant is the Adamic Covenant.
2. The Covenant with Adam, after the fall and banishment from the garden.
Genesis 3:14-19 (NRSV)
14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in child bearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to the man he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Summary of the two covenants: Notice how God spoke the covenants into being to inform what the boundaries or hazards would be. In the garden everything was given to Adam and Eve, plus they were given dominion, or rule, over the living things on earth. They were given the plants to eat. All was “Good” in the garden. God created all this to have fellowship, or a relationship, with what was created. God loved what was done in the days of creation. The one thing that Adam and Eve were told not to do, they did. They eat and hide themselves from God. God told them that they would surely die if they ate the fruit from that one particular tree. In their inability to follow the loving instruction of God, which is sin, they were banished from the garden and all its goodness. Outside the garden is a world that can be harsh and difficult, leading to death. Adam and Eve transgressed the covenant made with them by God.
What stands out to you the most about these two covenants?
What are the commands of the covenants and how are they to be upheld?
How were the covenants broken?
What is the result of breaking covenant with God? And in relationships in general?
3. The Covenant with Noah
Genesis 9:1-17 (NRSV)
9 God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 Only, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 For your own lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning: from every animal I will require it and from human beings, each one for the blood of another, I will require a reckoning for human life. 6 Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind. 7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, abound on the earth and multiply in it.” 8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Summary of the covenant: In this covenant, God speaks the blessing on to Noah and his family. This covenant is made with Noah after the great flood that destroyed every living being on earth. Why did God send a flood, because the world became very corrupt and evil, Genesis 6:5-8. Interestingly, scripture says that God was heartbroken over the state of the world. God approved of Noah and entrusted him and his family to carry on humankind. God provided a way through the devastation. It is the corruption, sin, and evil that causes a separation between God and Mankind. It is interesting how God establishes a sign of the covenant, as a reminder, in the rainbow.
4. The Covenant with Abram/Abraham
Genesis 12:1-3 (NRSV)
12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Summary of the covenant: In this covenant, God places a great blessing on Abram who eventually is called Abraham. God will be establishing a nation through Abram, will settle Abram in another land, and Abram will be blessed by God. Amazingly, the activity of God in Abram’s life does not stop with just these items. In Genesis 15:1-5, Abram lets God know that he has no heirs, so God promises him children, and many of them. Scripture remarks on Abram’s high moral character. Even though Abram laughed at God promising to giving Sarah a child when she was 90 years old (Genesis 17:15-19), Isaac was born, Genesis 21:1-7. At this point a great nation is building. So Abram (Noble Father) becomes Abraham (Father of many) and Sarai, (Princess) becomes Sarah(Mother of Nations). God’s blessings will be given through this family line.
What stands out to you the most about these four covenants? How are they similar, and how are they different?
What do you think helped create the favor and blessing of God?
What do think caused the demise of the covenant?
How do you think God shows love through these covenants?
How does this demise of the covenant lead to the creation of a New Covenant Community where “all the earth” (including an Ethiopian eunuch – Acts 8:26ff) can be blessed?