Introduction To The Biblical Covenants: The Noahic Covenant And The Priestly Covenant -- By: Irvin A. Busenitz

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 10:2 (Fall 1999)
Article: Introduction To The Biblical Covenants: The Noahic Covenant And The Priestly Covenant
Author: Irvin A. Busenitz

Introduction To The Biblical Covenants: The Noahic Covenant And The Priestly Covenant

Irvin A. Busenitz

Vice President for Academic Administration
Professor of Bible and Old Testament

The prominence of the OT covenants throughout the Bible makes various facets of information about them—the etymology of the OT term, the OT and NT usages of relevant terms, covenant phraseologies, pledges, signs, witnesses, consequences, conditionality, and the number of covenants—matters of deepest interest to students of the Bible. The six covenants that provide a foundation for understanding God’s working in human history are the Noahic, the Abrahamic, the Priestly, the Mosaic, the Davidic, and the New covenants. The Noahic Covenant came at the time of the great flood when God promised Noah, his family, and all mankind subsequent to them that He would never destroy the world with a flood again and gave a sign of the rainbow to remind Himself of His promise. God made the Priestly Covenant with Phinehas when Phinehas executed an Israelite man and a Moabite woman who were in process of consummating marriage with one another. He made it clear that this covenant like the other unconditional covenants was to be perpetual too.

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Covenants play a prominent role in OT life—socially, politically, and religiously. The covenant idea itself, first mentioned in Genesis 6 during the days of Noah, is intricately woven into the fabric of the biblical account all the way through to Revelation 11 where the “ark of His covenant” reappears in the temple. The word itself occurs in 27 of 39 OT books and in 11 of 27 NT books.

The rise of the Documentary Hypothesis, fueled by the concept that religion in Israel developed along evolutionary lines, has in recent centuries suggested that the whole idea of covenants in Israel was a very late development. Following Julius Wellhausen’s anti-supernatural system, many modern scholars postulate that the covenant concept was foreign to Israelite society and religion

until the late seventh century B.C.1

More recent contributions to covenant discussions, however, indicate an early origin of the covenant idea in Israel. In 1954, George Mendenhall became the first to note the parallels between some biblical covenants and the ancient Near-Eastern treaties, especially the Hittite treaties between overlords and vassals dating from the second millennium B.C.2 The parallels, espe...

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