Most Christians today believe that there have only been two covenants established by God in salvation history. Actually, there were seven. But in this article, we are going to discuss five of them.
The Seven Covenants Of The Bible:
1.) Adamic Covenant
2.) Noahic Covenant
3.) Abrahamic Covenant
4.) Mosaic Covenant
5.) Davidic Covenant
6.) Prophetic Covenant
7.) Eucharistic Covenant
What is a covenant?
Most people think it is merely a promise or pact made between God and his people. While this is certainly one aspect of a covenant, there is actually much more to be considered here. According to Bergsma, the way that ancient middle-eastern societies understood the concept of a covenant was in terms of an extended family. In his words, a covenant may be described as “a legal way to make someone part of your family.” Thus, it can be said that the Bible is essentially the story of God trying to establish an extended family for himself by reaching out to humanity time and again. One other, very relevant aspect of a covenantal relationship is that there are implications that will be incurred if either party should violate the terms upon which the covenant was established. We will see these implications realized as we examine the Prophetic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant, among others.
1.) Adamic Covenant
Everyone is familiar with the story of the first covenant between God and man in the person of Adam. Found in the book of Genesis 2:1-24, Bergsma describes the creation account in terms of temple imagery. With each successive day of creation, God adds another “brick” to the temple which He is building for Himself and His creatures. The seventh day, which is the day of rest, sits atop the structure of creation as the cap-stone which ties the whole of creation together. Within this temple of creation, there also sits the Garden of Eden, which is like the Holy of Holies in the Davidic Covenant and which also foreshadows the Heavenly Jerusalem to come. This concept of the universe is like one enormous temple in which God’s presence dwells is one which will reappear in the layout of the temple of the Davidic Covenant.
No sooner is Adam created than he is assigned a position of authority in the temple of creation and given certain duties to perform. He is made in God’s image and likeness, he is to “till the ground and keep it,” he is to name all of the animals, and he is to become the father of the human race. While the naming of animals may seem like a trivial job, it actually represents something far greater. Adam is here given a certain authority over God’s creation, thus confirming him in his kingly role. The tilling and keeping of God’s temple shows that Adam possesses a priestly role as well. He even bears some elements of a prophet since a prophet is essentially a person who speaks for God. In biblical language, therefore, Adam is appointed as “firstborn son, king, priest, prophet, and bridegroom.” Remind you of anyone? Genesis describes Adam as a type of Jesus Christ, Who, as we know, is the true Firstborn Son of God, the true King of Creation, and so on.
Adam, of course, does not reign alone in God’s temple. God has given him Eve to be the queen of creation and who is to become the “mother of all the living.” In the New, Eucharistic Covenant, we see that Eve was a type of the Virgin Mary, who is the true Queen of Creation and who is spiritually “the mother of all the living,” in terms of those who have received purifying grace.
Primarily, what leads Adam to break this first covenant is what theologians have long termed the threefold lust. Seeing that the “fruit” of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was “good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise,” Adam and Eve succumbed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It is important to understand that the “knowledge” of good and evil is not so much what is implied here, but rather the definition of good and evil. In its account of the Fall of Man, Genesis is using symbolic language to tell us that Adam and Eve wanted to define good and evil for themselves, apart from God. If that sounds familiar, it is probably because humanity still suffers from this temptation today. As we move forward in salvation history we will see that time and again, each covenant is broken by yet another manifestation of the threefold lust combined with a desire to “be like God” in defining good and evil.
2.) Abrahamic Covenant
Following the incident of Babel when God confused the languages in order to humble the human race, God then chose a man named Abram to be the father of a new and great nation. God does this in order to bless all the nations by means of Abram and his descendants. The promises that God makes to Abram are threefold: “a great nation, a great name, and a blessing to everyone.”Abram doubts whether God will accomplish these promises, and thus, as recorded in Genesis 15, God tells Abram to take several kinds of animals and cut them in half. Once Abram has done this, God’s presence, in the form of a “smoking fire pot and a flaming torch,” passes through the carcasses. Abram understood that this was God’s way of establishing a covenant with him. The significance of cutting the animals in half lay in what it symbolizes. By passing through these animal parts, God is basically telling Abram, “If I don’t keep my promises to you, then may I too be cut in half.”
In spite of this stark imagery, however, Abram experiences severe doubts that God will ever give him an heir since both he and his wife Sarah are advanced in age. This leads to the fall of Abram when he chooses to take Hagar as his second wife and has a son with her. Disappointed with Abram’s lack of faith, God reminds Abram that his heir is supposed to come from Sarah and orders him to send Hagar away. God then reestablishes His covenant with Abram, whom He renames Abraham, but under a painful condition. Because Abram broke the initial covenant agreement, which was made over the cutting of animals, Abram will now have to cut himself in order to be brought back into that covenantal relationship with God. Hence, the rite of circumcision. That’s why every generation of Abraham up to the time of Jesus had to undergo this painful procedure. It was a sign of the once broken but now restored covenant.
In the course of time, God fulfilled Abraham’s desire for an heir, whom he named Isaac. Isaac is an immensely important figure in salvation history because he represents Christ on Calvary. As a test of Abraham’s hitherto weak faith, God orders him to sacrifice the very heir for which he had longed so much. Having learned from his previous mistakes, Abraham obeys this command until God sends an angel to stop him at the last possible moment. Genesis records that this sacrifice was to take place on Mount Moriah.
What is crucial to understand here is not only that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, but also that Isaac himself appears to have willingly consented to this sacrifice. This is because Abraham was an old, feeble man at this time while Isaac is clearly strong enough to carry the wood for the sacrifice for many miles up a mountain. If Isaac had wanted to escape from his father, he could surely have done so. It seems rather that Isaac truly is a type of Christ in his willingness to die for the love of God, while Abraham is a type of Christ in the same three roles as Adam and Noah: priest, prophet, and king.
3.) Davidic Covenant
For several hundred years, the Israelites lived in a perpetual “cycle of sin against God, suffering under their enemies, sorrow for their sin, salvation under a God-sent leader, and then the cycle of sin-suffering-sorrow-salvation” all over again. It was during this time that God sent “judges” to the people of Israel, who acted as guides or leaders to point them back to the will of God. Once the judge died, however, the people would lapse into their old, sinful habits once more until another judge appeared to take his place. Finally, at the time of 1 Samuel 8, we find that the Israelites are sick of judges and persuade the prophet Samuel to appoint a king for them. Ultimately, they do not want a king so that they may thereby live more righteous lives, but only to be like all the other nations.
Conceding to their demands, Samuel anoints Saul as the first literal king of Israel. The act of anointing points us forward to the “the Christ,” which means “anointed one.” Essentially, anointing someone was a symbol of authority and of God’s power being with you. Unfortunately, Saul would become prideful and selfish, thereby forfeiting the right of kingship in God’s eyes. God therefore chooses a humble shepherd boy named David to become the next king of Israel. With God’s favor upon him, David quickly conquers much of the surrounding region and takes Jerusalem as his capital. It is here that the Davidic Covenant is established when God promises to David a son who will “build God’s temple, be the Son of God, and rule over Israel forever.”Notice that Jerusalem also sits on a mountain, just like Eden, Moriah, and Sinai. Here, God is promising a son to David in two senses. Literally, David’s son, Solomon, will possess these three characteristics, but prophetically, the Messiah, Who is to come from David’s line, will possess them in a much fuller and truer sense.
Ironically, Solomon is the product of David’s fall into adultery and murder, recorded in 2 Samuel 11. Because David broke the covenant God had made with him, his reign is subject to weakness and turmoil for the remainder of his life, even to the point of being betrayed by Absalom, whom David trusted implicitly. This betrayal, of course, points us forward to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.
The strength of David’s kingdom would be restored under the reign of his son, Solomon, who was regarded by even the pagan nations as the wisest man on earth, due to his relationship with God. Both David and Solomon fulfill the roles of priest, prophet, and king and are perhaps the starkest prefigurements of Christ in all of the Old Testament.
It is worth mentioning that Solomon, as a type of Christ, reserved the role of queen for his mother, Bathsheba, who, in this respect, is a type of Queen Mother Mary.
Solomon would himself succumb to the threefold lust that has plagued mankind throughout the millennia as it is recorded that he amassed great wealth for himself, possessed a great number of horses (military might), and took over seven hundred wives, against the admonition of God through his prophets.
Thus, even Solomon’s kingdom began to decline after his death, with weak, ineffective leaders taking his place and with the eventual break away of ten Israelite tribes, which then migrated North and intermingled with the pagan cultures. These became known at the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. What is significant to remember here is that God promises to restore the kingdom of Israel when the Messiah comes. Hence, St. Paul and the Apostles preaching to the Gentiles in the north. Since the northern tribes of Israel have intermarried and have been dispersed, the only way to get them back is to evangelize all of the Gentiles. The remaining two tribes of Israel were eventually conquered and enslaved by the Assyrians and Babylonians.
4) Eucharistic Covenant
With the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Calvary, God has at last ushered in the New Covenant which He promised to Israel through Ezekiel so long ago. Each and every covenant that was made up to this point has been merely a foreshadowing of this New, Eternal Covenant, whereby mankind is restored in his relationship to God and is, by means of divine grace, taken into God’s family and endowed with the blessings and privileges of His kingdom. The Church in Heaven is the true promised land, the heavenly Jerusalem of which Eden, the ark, and David’s kingdom were merely types. The new, true temple in which God restores his people to Himself is the Body of Christ. Thus, we see that the temple of Eden, Noah’s ark, and even Solomon’s temple were prefigurements of the true temple of Christ’s Mystical Body. It is thanks to the infinitely meritorious sacrifice of Christ Whose Body is at once a temple and a sacrifice, we are now given a covenant that cannot be broken. This sacrifice, which extends forward for all time by means of the Mass, ensures that no sin, however great, will ever undermine the Covenant which God has established with His own Blood. If as individuals, we experience the misfortune of breaking our own relationship with God, we may simply repent by confessing our sins to a new covenant priest, through whom God manifests His presence in the world, so that, by means of Christ’s most precious Blood, we may be washed of our sins and brought back into that covenantal relationship with God.