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Biblical Covenant Theology


Covent. A powerful concept that has become the leading principle of the scriptures as we know it. Covenant is the primary ideology which drives our understanding of relationships between God and Humanity and is also the platform used by those who are believers in Christ to exercise their divine rights. Without understanding these covenants, it becomes difficult for believers to access, invoke, and obtain their full right as joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.

There are several biblical covenants which frame the basic concepts of the Christian theological world. Those covenants include the Edenic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and finally the New Covenant.

These chief covenants are the building blocks in which God established his relationship with humanity as well as the avenue which precedes acts of his display of his communion with those that love him.

Covenant Defined

The Hebrew word for Covenant is “berith” which means “a cutting”[1]; the terminology specifically was to “cut a covenant”[2]. The Greek equivalent word of it is “diathece”[3]. This word primarily references instances such as the one found in Genesis where Abraham takes a ram, turtle dove, got, and young pigeon and divided all of the animals in half except the pigeons[4]. As will be discussed in the next section of this paper, this was God making a covenant with Abraham.

A covenant is a “solemn compact agreement” which can be made to tribes or nations or between specific persons. Specifically, as it relates to a deity, that deity will either make a commitment or covenant with a person or with a select group of people, as we see with the Nation of Israel[5]. The term derives from the Latin covenire, meaning “to convene, meet together, to assemble for a common purpose”[6].

For the ancient middle eastern world, the idea of covenant was synonymous for what we in the 21stcentury a contract[7]. In the ancient world it was all too common for kings and powerful figures in other nations to make covenants between one another. Those covenants would steward their relationship toward one another. There were two types of covenants that were often known in the ancient world to include “those between two equals, and those between a superior (more powerful king) and an inferior (vassal king)”[8]. These types of covenants are also referred to as “the party covenant” and “the suzerainty covenant”[9]. While there are some that argue that the type of Covenant that God makes between God and man is unique in its nature and should form a completely separate type of covenant, there are those who also believe that the unique relationship between God and man should fall under the superior/inferior type of covenant.

There are several aspects of thought that makes the presentation of the superior/inferior type of covenant relevant including the fact that it’s God who sets the term for the covenant while the responsibility of humanity is to simply “trust and obey”[10], which seems to be the reoccurring theme in every single covenant identified in the sacred texts. The aspect which makes the superior/inferior reference to this relationship almost debatable is because in the entire history of the ancient world it was “novel”[11]. Never before in the history of mankind had a nation claimed that they had come into an agreement, covenant, or contract with a deity.

Biblical Covenants are unique in more elements than just this. Another aspect that makes Biblical covenants unique is the level of involvement that it takes in order to fulfill the covenant. In most contracts or agreements, they are considered to have ending dates and often concern a certain area of focus. Covenants on the other hand, specifically biblical covenants, have a more permanent nature, until that covenant gives way to a new covenant, and are considered to involve the whole person and every aspect of the essence of the involved parties[12].

Covenants posed a significant standpoint in scripture and are associated with both positive and negative consequences. Despite whatever the origin of the covenant was, it was highly encouraged that it be followed, and remembered, and even memorialized[13]. The covenants of God always promised and do promise blessings both in the beginning and to come for those who keep the covenant.

However, just as the covenant could be honored and the recipients would be blessed, the covenant could also be dishonored, and the subjects of the covenant would then be cursed or received the “curses of the covenant”[14].

As it pertains to covenant, although it may have possessed a corporate tone there was still personal responsibility insured and entrusted to every receiver of the covenant.

The Edenic Covenant

The first covenant that I want to draw attention to is the Edenic Covenant. In many theological circles there is controversy between whether this covenant or the Noahic Covenant. The Edenic Covenant is named after the creation of mankind. The creation story is found in the book of Genesis in the beginning chapters of the Pentateuch[15]. It is believed that when God created humanity that he made a covenant during that creation. Elements of that covenant include the creation of mankind in the likeness and image of God, that man would have dominion over all of creation, and that men would enjoy the world[16].

After God established Adam and Eve in the Garden, he then gives them instructions to further establish that covenant. Those instructions were to replenish the earth, subdue the earth, have dominion, till the ground[17]. With following these simple elements of the covenant, they were allowed to experience all of the joys of Eden. The only instruction that they could not eat of tree of the knowledge of good and evil or else they would experience death[18].

The ultimate result of this covenant was the eventual disobedience which then led to them being case out of the garden of God.

The Noahic Covenant

The second covenant, which in many theological circles is actually categorized as the first Biblical Covenant, is the Noahic Covenant. The Noahic Covenant is primarily named after Noah, the son of Methuselah. This covenant is also referred to as the Rainbow Covenant in many theological circles. The scripture is not clear on the location that Noah is from or much about Noah’s past other than his parents, but it is clear that during a time where “God repented for making man”[19], there was a man that found “grace with God” and that man was Noah[20].

God then tells Noah that he is going to destroy the earth, but also tells Noah to build an ark because he is going to spare Noah, his family, two kinds of every clean animal because he is going to save them[21].

This particular passage of scripture is the first time the word covenant is referenced in the bible[22]. The covenant in this passage of scripture is normally referred to in two folds. The first is that God would spare Noah and his family. The second part of the Covenant is found in Genesis 9. After the flood is completed and the waters of that covered the earth began to recede God then places the ark on the Mountain of Ararat[23]and makes a new covenant with Noah, which is said by many to be the second part of the first covenant.

This new covenant with Noah has several components: God will never again destroy the world by water, mankind was ordered to replenish the earth again, dominion of the earth was given again to mankind, and that animals could be eaten for food[24]. This covenant was sealed by the rainbow. This rainbow then “is God’s promise made visible”[25].

The Abrahamic Covenant

The second half of Genesis is dedicated to the narrative of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Abraham known as “the Father of faith”[26] was born in Ur of the Chaldeans and was selected by God to be the father of the Nation of Israel, and the keeper of the most prized promise of God.

[6] And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. [7] And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. [8] And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”[27]

The elements of the Abrahamic Covenant are summed up into the following primary categories: 1) that God would make Abraham a great nation, 2) that God would bless him, 3) Abraham’s name would be great, 4) Abraham would be a blessing, 5) God would bless those who blessed him, 6) God would curse those who cursed him, and 7) all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham[28].

This blessing or covenant that God made Abraham would also become the primary building block for the promise of the redemption plan. This created a unique opportunity for man to become intimate with a Holy God, and also created a platform for God to designate a people group in the earth to be stewards of his will and power in the earth[29].

The Abrahamic Covenant required that the heirs of the promise uphold their end of the bargain, as mentioned earlier in this text every covenant had blessings that were associated with obedience and remembrance of said covenant.

This covenant is said to be the most central covenant in the entire Bible and provides key ideologies which guided the development of the early Israelites into a people who would be deemed “chosen”[30] by God.

This covenant also offers the first precursor to prophecies which Jesus will ultimately fulfill in the New Covenant. The element of the Abrahamic Covenant which promises that through Abraham all the Nations of the earth will be blessed deals always specifically with the coming of the Lord Jesus and the work which he will accomplish through his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

The Mosaic Covenant

The next covenant discussed in the Bible is the Mosaic Covenant. This is the Covenant named after Moses, the deliverer. Born in Egypt after the Israelites had become slaves, raised in the house of Pharaoh, and then mentored by Jethro, and then finally called by God to go and deliver Israel from Egypt’s captivity and bring them into oneness with their destiny, Moses serves as a type of Christ[31]. While Israel was already God’s covenant people based on God’s covenant with Abraham, but now God is making a covenant with Israel as a people and a nation[32].

While wondering in the wilderness God called Moses to Mount Sani where he would give him the Law[33]. While on the mountain God gives Moses the 10 Commandments, which are the foundation of the Mosaic Covenant, but not its entirety[34]. The rest of the Law was given after the Lord visited the people, and Moses then returned to the presence of the Lord.

There were several promises that were given to the Israelites if they were to keep the commandments of the Lord. Of those promises was the promise to inherit the land that was promised to their forefathers. There is also the promise to “set thee above all the nations of the world”[35], and that the blessings of the Lord would come on them and overtake them[36]. The scriptures continue on with more blessings of obedience to the covenant[37], but also add curses to the people of Israel who failed to observe the covenant of the Lord[38].

While the law was needed in the Israelite culture in order to establish a system of justice and provide Israel with a legal code, the Apostle Paul says that it was ultimately initiated by God in order to “reveal human inadequacy, sin, and thus instruct mankind in the need of the Savior”[39].

The Davidic Covenant

The Davidic Covenant is another extremely important Biblical Covenant which provides a paramount substance for the other biblical theologies which makeup the Christian belief system. The Davidic covenant was given to King David, the second King of Israel, and the first to actually perform in the office of Kingship while also being a type of prophet and priest. David was known for his ability to slay the giant with a smooth stone and a sling shot, but also for his ability to redeem the lost Ark of the Covenant from enemy possession.

David was the first true King of Israel although Saul was the first king naturally.

God’s Covenant to David was that 1) David’s seed would be great upon the earth, 2) it would happen after David transitioned, 3) God would establish the throne of David forever, 4) David’s decedents would God’s house[40].

The covenantal promises made to David were not merely referring to the natural lineage of David alone, instead they were speaking of the spiritual lineage of David, and the privilege that David would have to have the son of God enter the earth through his blood line.

The covenant that God made with David did not do away with the Mosaic Covenant or the Covenant of Abraham, but instead “augmented and fulfilled them both, especially in three matters, the final conquest of the land, the establishment of a hereditary kingship, and the provision for a new place of worship”[41].

This covenant was the perfect precursor to the New Covenant due to its primary focus being on the “son of God” also known as the “son of David” or the “son of Man” who would come and establish the throne of David and the House of God forever. Jesus came to be the fulfilment of all of the covenants, and the fulfillment of the Law.

The New Covenant

The final and most important of all the Covenants is the one which is the peak of the Christian experience and the foundation of what we know and hope for as children of God, and that is the New Covenant. The New Covenant, also known as the New Testament, is the moment all of creation has been waiting for where the law is finally fulfilled, and blood is shed by the second Adam in order to redeem all of humanity.

The power and identity of God has been revealed in all of the covenants in all of the scriptures. However, it is only in the New Covenant where the Glory of God is bare in such a unadulterated manner. The most edifying element of the New Covenant is that through the power of Christ and the finished work every single prophecy of the Old Testament about the coming, life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah was fulfilled in one hundred percent accuracy[42].

The “more excellent way” had always been foretold by scripture, “this is not to suggest that the Old Covenant was faulty, but instead that the law itself was faulty”[43]. The Old Covenant was unable in its very nature to bring complete redemption to humanity, and while many of the old covenants components of promise were forever, the Old Covenants themselves did not have the ability to bring salvation to humanity alone. “The Old Covenant could reveal sin, but it was unable to renew it”[44].

The shed blood of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s Mountain “ushered in a new covenant under which we are justified by God’s grace and mercy by which it is now possible to have the true forgiveness of sins”[45]. While previous covenants were faulty in that they were inclusive, which also meant that they were mostly relegated to the Israelites, the New Covenant is available to all of humanity. Anyone can accept the finished work of Jesus Christ, and anyone can be adopted into the family of God[46].


The covenants of scripture will always be relevant to humanity and will always be relevant to all of those who are adopted into the family of God. The biblical covenants are building blocks for understanding the rights of inheritance that we possess as being joint heirs with Christ Jesus[47]. This knowledge dispenses a measure of confidence which can only be revealed through certainty of the promises which have been revealed through relationship between a Sovereign God toward a people who often fall short of faith in him. Yet his covenants remain the same.



Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. THE EIGHT COVENANTS OF THE BIBLE. 2017. (accessed November 20, 2019).

Holman, Charles L. . UNITY OF THE BIBLE. Virginia Beach: Regent University School of Divinity, 1995.

Jang, Daegyu J. "God's Kingdom Through God's Covenant: A Concise Biblical Theology." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 59, 2016: 813-815.

McGrath, Alister E. Christian Theology: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishers, 2017.