Covenant Conditionality And A Future For Israel -- By: Ronald W. Pierce

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:1 (Mar 1994)
Article: Covenant Conditionality And A Future For Israel
Author: Ronald W. Pierce

Covenant Conditionality And A Future For Israel

Ronald W. Pierce*

*Ronald Pierce is associate professor of Biblical studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, 18300 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, California 90639.

Dispensationalists have argued consistently for an ethnic, national future for Israel based on the premise that the covenants established with Abraham and David, in contrast to that made with Israel as a nation through Moses,1 were unconditional.2 They reason (1) that God has promised Israel a land and kingdom without conditions, (2) that his promise has not yet been fully realized in Israel’s history, and therefore (3) that one should expect to see such an event yet in the future.3 Sometimes this

approach even translates into political support for the modern state of Israel based on religious grounds.4

The present study finds such a premise unsupportable exegetically from the texts relating to the covenants5 and therefore concludes that any hope for a national future for Israel must be supported otherwise. Further, the four major covenants (Abrahamic, Israelite, Davidic, New)6 have at their core the same twofold character: (1) a sovereign choice by God of an individual or people followed by (2) a responsible covenant relationship.7 The element of human responsibility, however, is expressed differently in each case.

With regard to the Abrahamic covenant the imperative-imperfect grammatical form is utilized (“You do this and I will do that”), then confirmed and clarified in retrospect: “Because you have done this, I will do that.” In the Israelite covenant the traditional: “If … then … “ covenantal formula is common and is generally understood as expressing conditionality. In the Davidic covenant the latter also occurs, but with an important variation between the Samuel and Chronicles accounts. The study concludes with an examination of the New-covenant model presented by Jeremiah at the time of the exilic crisis, which serves as a point of reference for understanding Paul’s hope in Romans 9–11 for a national future for Israel.

I. The Abrahamic Covenant

No precursor in the text presents a rationale for the choice of Abraham. Instead God simply appears to the patriarch while he is in Haran already on his way ...

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