Covenant at dictionary.com is defined as ‘an agreement, usually formal between two or more persons to do or not to do something specified.’
In ancient times, these words meant more than they have come to mean today. Perhaps this is one of many reasons we do not understand the significance of some of the stories in the Bible.
What is it? Well, there is more than one ‘old covenant’ in the Bible. Examples are…
- Noahide Covenant,
- Abrahamic Covenant,
- Mosaic Covenant,
- Davidic Covenant
Some sources cite eight covenants (HERE)
However, the one most usually seen as the Old Covenant is the Mosaic Covenant. In this covenant God promises to make the Israelites his treasured possession among all people and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” if they follow God’s commandments. As part of the terms of this covenant, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments.
The Mosaic Covenant
After bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai where they camped before the mountain. Moses went up the mountain where God spoke to him.
(Scriptures in this section are from Exodus 19, NKJV)
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Note: There was a condition (if) and a promise (then).
Moses took the proposal to the people.
“So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the Lord commanded him.”
The Israelites accepted the proposal.
“Then all the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
Moses took the answer back to God who gave instructions to prepare for the giving of the commandments three days later.
The Ten Commandments
Surrounded by the Egyptian culture, the Israelites had been slaves for many generations, so had lost much of the knowledge of their heritage.
The first commandments tell them that God is the One Who brought them out of Egypt, just as he was the One Who created them. They were to put aside foreign gods and to worship Him alone and treat His Name with reverence.
The fourth commandment reminded them of the day of rest, instituted during creation week. As slaves they would have had to work when they were told and may have lost track of time.
These first four are usually counted as ‘obligation to God,’
The next six are ‘obligation to fellow man.’
Since God says in Leviticus 20 verse 9…
“For every one that curses his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be on him.”
… it is clear that God’s instruction in the 5th commandment to honor parents was not a mere suggestion for children.
Like the five commands that follow this one, they set the basis of society.
As any student of the Bible will know, Israel did not follow God’s commands. Time after time the people went after ‘foreign gods’ – even sacrificing their infants to Molech.
God sent prophets to correct them and to call the people back to Him and the covenant they had made with Him.
At this time of year, Christians consider the cost of the new covenant. For Jesus, it was not a time of bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs, but the fulfillment of a costly plan prophesied at the time of the sin of Adam. (Eve was deceived; Adam sinned. See International Women’s Day post)