The Covenant at Sinai -- By: Peter J. Gentry

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 12:3 (Fall 2008)
Article: The Covenant at Sinai
Author: Peter J. Gentry

The Covenant at Sinai1

Peter J. Gentry*

*Peter J. Gentry is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation and Director of the Hexapla Institute at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served on the faculty of Toronto Baptist Seminary and Bible College and also taught at the University of Toronto, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Tyndale Seminary. Dr. Gentry is the author of many articles and book reviews and is currently preparing a critical text of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes for the Göttingen Septuagint.


Central to the Book of Exodus—and indeed to the entire Pentateuch—is the covenant made between Yahweh and Israel at Sinai comprised in chapters 19-24. The eighteen chapters preceding describe the release of Israel from bondage and slavery in Egypt and the journey through the wilderness to Sinai. Chapters 25-40 are devoted to the construction of a place of worship as the appropriate recognition of the divine kingship established through the covenant.

A much bigger claim, however, can be made for Exodus 19-24. The “Book of the Covenant,” as Moses himself entitles this unit (Exod 24:7), along with the Book of Deuteronomy as an addition or supplement (28:69 MT, 29:01 EVV), forms the heart of the old covenant. And it is in the interpretation of the content and relation of this covenant to the new covenant that is the basis of all the major divisions among Christians—i.e., all denominational differences derive ultimately from different understandings of the relation of the covenant at Sinai to ourselves today.

This brief exposition of Exodus 19-24 bases accurate exposition of this text on (1) closer attention to the larger literary structure, (2) exegesis based on the cultural, historical, and linguistic setting of the text, and (3) consideration of the larger story of scripture (metanarrative) and explicit indications of how this text fits within this larger story. Where and how Exodus 19-24 fits into the larger story of Scripture will be briefly detailed at both beginning and end of the present study—framing all analysis of the covenant at Sinai as bookends.2 In between, attention will be given to the literary structure of Exodus 19-24, and afterwards exegesis will be focused on the divine purpose of the covena...

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