Covenants in Genesis

Genesis 17:1-2 – When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

The theme of covenant is central to Genesis. Covenant is the word God uses to explain His relationship and promises to such men as Adam (Hosea 6:7; Romans 5:12-21; I Corinthians 15:21-22), Noah (Genesis 6:18, 9:9-17), Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3, 17:2-21, Exodus 2:24), Moses (Exodus 34:10, 34:27-28; Leviticus 24:45), and David (2 Chronicles 7:18, 21:7).

The Bible also speaks of covenant relationships not just between people and God, but also people and people (e.g. I Samuel 18:3; II Kings 11:4; II Chronicles 23:1-3; Nehemiah 1:5; Psalm 55:20; Jeremiah 34:8-15). Perhaps the most sacred human covenant is the covenant of marriage (e.g. Proverbs 2:16, Malachi 2:14b).

The Hebrew word for covenant is berit. A covenant is a particular relationship that binds people together as one (God and people, or people and people) by promised terms. Biblical covenants are often sealed with ceremonies that include the shedding of blood to show the solemnity of the covenant and to foreshadow Jesus shedding His blood to secure our New Covenant salvation. Throughout the covenants between God and the elect, the recurring theme is that He will be their God and they will be His people, because He will send Jesus to forgive their sins, which is the essence of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; Romans 11:27; I Corinthians 11:25; II Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 7:22; 8:8-13; 9:15; 12:24).

In each covenant, there is a “head”, who is responsible for the oversight and execution of that covenant. In the New Covenant, this head is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18, Colossians 2:10, Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 4:15, 5:23). In each covenant, there are also terms that include consequences for sin, which is the violation of the covenant (e.g. Deut. 29:1-29; Joshua 7:11-26, 23:16; I Kings 8:23; I Kings 11:11; II Kings 17:35-38, 6:14; Ps. 25:10; Jer. 11:2-10; Heb. 10:29).

The Bible teaches the leadership principle of singular headship and plural leadership. God the Father is the singular Head of the Trinity and serves in plural leadership with the Son and Spirit. Similarly, in the family, the husband is the head, and the husband and wife are together the plural leadership working together to lead the family. The man and woman are equal in every way as image bearers of God. They are both responsible before God, just as God held Adam and Eve responsible for their sin in the Garden. However, the man is held firstly responsible, which occurred when God confronted Adam first, even though Eve was the first to sin.

In Genesis, man was made first as head and given dominion over all Creation and woman was made to help him as co-leader (Genesis 2:15-18; cf. I Corinthians 11:8-9; I Timothy 2:13). God also calls humanity “man” because it began with the creation of a man as the head of the human race (Genesis 5:1-2). Additionally, the numerous genealogies throughout Genesis are traced through the male line in recognition of the headship of men over their families, generally through the firstborn son, though sometimes another son is chosen either because the oldest son sinned grievously (e.g. Cain killed Abel and so Seth passed him over in Genesis 4:1-25), or because of God’s sovereign choice (e.g. though Esau was born first, God chose Jacob in Genesis 25:23).

Therefore, God’s covenant with His people is one of the dominant themes that emerges in Genesis and continues throughout the rest of Scripture. And, while modern Christianity speaks of a personal relationship with Jesus, which is necessary, Genesis also highlights the covenant relationship we have with God as part of His redeemed people and not merely an individual who lives and worships in isolation from the rest of God’s people. To become a Christian is not only to enter into a covenant with God but also to be adopted into a covenant family with brothers and sisters in Christ.

What are some of the covenant relationships you have entered into, whether it be with God or other people?

To help you study the book of Genesis with us, check out the second of three free e-book study guides here.

To get daily devos sent texted to you Monday-Friday, text DEVOTIONS to 99383. Click here to find the sermon series that accompanies this devotional series.

Leave a Comment