A covenant is an agreement between two parties who agree to walk and live in certain ways. Several signs and some witnesses who testify usually accompany it to its happening. In the bible, covenants have always been part of God’s plan and purpose for His people. It was one of the ways through which showed his faithfulness by fulfilling what he had promised. We are told in many instances in the bible where God would be angry with the people and cause his wrath to burn against them. Amidst all this, he had specific people whom he had entrusted with the responsibility of leading and guiding his people. It is the actions and faithfulness that such people showed towards God that compelled him to spare them. As a sign that he appreciated their efforts, he made covenants with them that were not only applicable to them but also their descendants. In this paper, we shall be focusing on the covenants that God made with Moses and Abraham and their significance.
Abraham has been considered in the Hebrew bible as the father of faith. This is because of his walk with God that proved his absolute trust in God despite the various challenges he was encountered with. Abraham had a need, which was impossible in the sight of man to accomplish. However, his trust in God made him to seal a covenant that was to be fulfilled many years even after he was dead. God used his greatest need, which was a son to assure him that he will not only give him a son, but that through such a son, all the generations will be blessed (Byker & Wilson, 2003). God was so detailed and specific in his covenant and even gave him the time limits in which such promises shall be accomplished.
Moses on the other hand, was a leader that was trusted by God due to his diligence in leading a people that were considered stubborn. The diligence that Moses had especially in pleading to God on behalf of the people also compelled him to establish a covenant with him. This was not just a person covenant but also one, which touched the entire generation of the Israelites. He gave them commandments that were to guide them in their daily walk. The fact that the Israelites had proved their stubbornness, God saw it fit to give them specific rules to follow, failure to which they will face the wrath. This was God’s strategy to assure them that despite their rebellion, he still loved them. However, he will not hesitate to punish them if they rebelled from the commandments.
Comparing the two covenants, we can notice some similarities as well as the differences. Starting with the differences, we first realise that the covenant made between Abraham and God was personal and based on his family. This was prompted by a personal need which was a son. It is from this that God decided to bless Abraham with a son and bless his generation. Reading through the verses and scriptures of genesis 15 and 17, God was mainly addressing Abraham. On the other hand, the covenant between Moses and God was not just for Moses but for the entire generation and the Israelites. Even though he was using Moses as a point of contact, he specifically wanted the message to reach to the Israelites. The Abrahamic Covenant was birthed by the faithfulness that Abraham had showed towards God and a form of appreciating his diligence. This is contrary to the Mosaic Covenant, which was birthed through the anger that God had towards the Israelites. They had been obedient and since he was loving enough, he made a covenant with them and accompanied it with measures that they had to observe to cement the strained relationship he had with them.
Looking at the similarities, we observe that the Abrahamic Covenant involved sacrifice, which Abraham had to make; this was followed by many other signs, which was a proof that God will fulfil all that he had promised. This was also observed in the Mosaic Covenant where after God had stipulated the rules and conditions of the covenant, Moses had to make an altar and sacrifice some animals. Both covenants were made to strengthen the already existing relationships between his servants and him. It was a sure proof that God cared so much about their worship and showed his commitment to the relationship. Witness accompanied both covenants, which was an important feature of biblical covenants. In Abrahamic Covenant, God brought his angels who witnessed to what was happening while in the Mosaic Covenant, the whole families of the Israelites were present to witness. Both covenants were accompanied by great signs and wonders, in the case of Abraham, he fell into a deep sleep and saw visions. In Moses’ case, there was thunder and lightning, both signifying the presence of God.
In sealing the covenant, there was to be a change in the way the people lived there after. It was a physical sign that revealed they had clearly understood the terms and were in agreement with them. In the case of Abraham, he was required to be circumcised as well as ensure that any other person associated with him underwent the cut. The Israelites were also supposed to show total sanctification and purification by a physical sign of washing their feet. The two covenants were not just for the present parties but were also a reflection of the future generation. In revealing to them the terms of the covenant, God assured them that he will observe His word to ensure that the generations that come after them will also be part of the covenant made. Shedding of blood was also an important characteristic of Hebrew covenants, which was displayed in the mosaic and Abrahamic Covenants (Cory & Hollerich, 2008). Apart from the animal sacrifices that were made, every male descendant of Abraham had to shade blood through circumcision.
Covenants were significant in sealing relationships as well as binding people. These were exercises that were never taken for granted as they implied a lifetime commitment to an agreement. Every sign and change that accompanied the covenant had specific meaning and importance which the parties would always remember especially when they felt the temptation of disconnecting from it. Since most of the signs that were involved, like circumcision and following the commandments were binding for all generations, it would always remind those who are born after the ritual that their forefathers had made some commitments. This signs would be a confirmation that even though such generations were not a live to witness it, they are committed to it. The covenant was binding to them as long as they observed all the terms and the conditions that were set during its inception.
Byker C. and Wilson, M. (2003). Kingdom of David: The Saga of the Israelites.
Cory, C. And Hollerich, M. (2008). The Christian Theological Tradition. London: Prentice Hall Higher Education.