Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 42
Foundational themes in Genesis – Study 42 (Key verses: Gen 8:20-22; Gen 9:1-17; Gen 15:9-17)
[Study Aired April 17, 2014]
The theme of God making a covenant with humanity is central to all that God is doing in and through the generation of the first man Adam. Covenants appear throughout the Scriptures which all combine to give us very important aspects involved in this foundational theme. All physical covenants which we find in the Old Testament help us to understand God’s one spiritual and “everlasting covenant” to make all in Adam spiritually perfect in Christ (Rom 1:20; Eph 2:11-12). The new covenant is the one true covenant, and it is more excellent and much more glorious because God has promised that He will indeed make all things, all in the generation of the first Adam, new in spirit through Christ Jesus (Jer 31:31-33; Deu 4:13; Deu 9:9-11; Heb 8:6; Heb 9:4; Php 1:10; 2Co 5:17) The old (in all its various details, including the ten commandments) is indeed just a shadow and the exact opposite of the new and is used by God as a “schoolmaster” to bring us to the “the good things to come” (Joh 1:17; Heb 10:1; Gal 3:23-25; Gal 5:17).
Heb 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting [Greek: “aiōnios” = age binding] covenant,
Heb 13:21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
This “everlasting covenant” is the better covenant with better promises that replaces all previous covenants, including the old covenant for the physical nation of Israel (Jer 31:31-33; 2Co 3:6; Heb 10:9). This is also relating to how all in the first Adam, the man from the earth, will be reborn when they are resurrected from the death of carnality to receive the spirit life of the last Adam, the Lord from heaven, Jesus Christ (Joh 3:3; 1Co 15:22-28; 1Co 15:44-49):
Heb 8:6 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Heb 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
Covenants appear in many instances in the Scriptures and various people or groups are involved, but they all contribute to our increasing understanding of this important aspect of God’s one plan. Covenants were used in the Scriptures to solidify friendships, in the marriage union, to get assistance in war, to institute agreements of mutual protection, in establishing peace accords, for setting up commercial deals, and even in the selling of land, and possibly other instances as well (Gen 26:28-29; Gen 31.50-52; Exo 23:32; 1Sa 11:1-2; 1Sa 18:3; 1Ki 15:18,19; 1Ki 20:34; Pro 2:17; Mal 2:14). The word “covenant” derives from the Latin “covenire”, meaning to convene or meeting together for a common purpose. This following verse also helps to bring out this significance of a strong bond and the idea of sacrifice that is part of a covenant relationship:
Eze 20:37 And I [God] will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:
The first time this word “covenant” appeared in the English versions of the Scripture is in relation to Noah (and consequently with those in his household with him in the ark) during the time of the global flood:
Gen 6:18 But with thee will I establish my covenant [Hebrew: berı̂yth]; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.
The Hebrew word “berı̂yth” was used here for the first time in Scripture, and it is very insightful as it gives us one of the foundational aspects relating to covenants. This first aspect, which also appears in the meaning of the word “berı̂yth”, is that of the concept of something being cut. This is Dr Strong’s dictionary explanation:
From H1262 in the sense of cutting (like H1254)); a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh): – confederacy, [con-]feder[-ate], covenant, league.
This idea of cutting points to sacrificing, and this sacrifice was symbolized by the death of an animal. The following verses bring it out beautifully when God for the third time repeated this covenant with Noah as this provides more detail of this particular covenant (Gen 6:17-22; Gen 8:20-22):
Gen 9:9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant [Hebrew: berı̂yth] with you, and with your seed after you;
Gen 9:10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
Gen 9:11 And I will establish my covenant [Hebrew: berı̂yth] with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off [Hebrew: “kârath” = cutting] any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
In this verse, the Hebrew noun “berı̂yth” joins with the Hebrew verb “kârath” – the combination between these two words appear in 79 verses in the KJV (eg. Gen 15:18; Gen 17:14; Jos 4:7; Exo 23:32; Job 31:1; Psa 50:5). Here is Dr Strong’s Dictionary explanation of this word “kârath”:
A primitive root; to cut (off, down or asunder); by implication to destroy or consume; specifically to covenant (that is, make an alliance or bargain, originally by cutting flesh and passing between the pieces): – be chewed, be con- [feder-] ate, covenant, cut (down, off), destroy, fail, feller, be freed, hew (down), make a league ([covenant]), X lose, perish, X utterly, X want.
This witness to us that the act of cutting is connected to both these Hebrew words and their frequent combination tells us that this aspect is very important in the way God wants us to see how His spiritual covenant is to be understood. The cutting off [Hebrew: “kârath”] or destruction of all flesh through the global flood was indeed an important part of this covenant with Noah. Noah experienced, in type, a new earth and also a new heaven with rain coming down from heaven. The cutting or destruction of flesh is foundational in Scripture as the entirety of God’s Word also testifies to this truth (Psa 119:160; Joh 3:6; Gal 5:17-21; 1Pe 1:24):
1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
1Co 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
In the Greek New Testament the word “diathēkē” is translated as “covenant” which means the last arrangement which one makes for earthly possessions after his death (a will of testament in our language). This meaning may come from a different angle, but also has the meaning of something that is only legal or operative through (“dia”) death. Although this meaning is applicable only in the New Testament understanding of covenants, it still links to what the death of animals in the Old Testament foreshadowed (Heb 9:16). This all points to the destruction of flesh before the spirit-life can come forth (Heb 2:14):
Col 1:20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
Col 1:21 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
Col 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.
God’s promise to Noah to never again curse the ground for man’s sake through destructive waters of the flood is just emphasizing the truth that God will indeed save all mankind through the destruction of all flesh by His consuming fire (2Pe 3:10-13; 1Pe 4:12; Heb 12:29; 1Co 3:13-15; Rev 20:11-15; Jer 5:14). Here is the second time that God mentions His covenant with Noah adding more detail as Noah shows in this obedient act how God’s promise of the new spiritual covenant is to be fulfilled:
Gen 8:20 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
Gen 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
After we can understand the application of the non-sweet offerings of sin and trespass in our own lives, by dying daily with Christ outside the camp, only then are we enabled by God to understand and to apply the three sweet savour offerings as typified under the Old Testament law of the offerings. Through the process and exercise of “seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night” will all be matured to rightly divide the good and the evil in their own lives (Heb 5:14). This maturity will be witnesses in our own lives as we bring sacrifices to the Lord in obedience to all His commandments:
2Co 2:14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
2Co 2:15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.
Instituting a covenant implies the cutting and the ordering of different pieces which also refer to different parties and their involved in that covenant. Under the covenant God made with Moses five different offerings were required under the law of offerings (Exo 20:24; Exo 32:6; Lev 2-7). Within those offerings, different pieces of an animal were reserved for God, the priests and the offerer. This is another important aspect of covenants as a covenant is an agreement between parties of equal standing or between parties of widely different standings (Gen 21:31). But all of that should also be seen as God’s ways to eventually bring everyone into His spiritual temple even as He works all things after the counsel of His will (1Co 3:13-15; Rev 20:10-15; Php 2:9-13). In the final analysis, God’s age-binding spiritual covenant is with Christ which the Father made with Him as an equal in spirit before the foundation of the world (Joh 5:18; Php 2:6):
Joh 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
Jesus obeys His Father in every aspect, and this is also typified in Noah’s obedience to do everything God commanded him concerning the ark, his family and the animals. Although everything around Noah on the earth had changed, God’s commandments kept him focused on what was important. God’s Word is, was and will always be the same as it is the only rock upon which all can trust to keep us safe when we will “not to think above” it (Psa 18:2; Mat 16:18; 1Co 4:6):
Mat 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Heb 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
Even Noah’s “part” in that covenant is a work of God because man’s steps, faith and obedience is from the Lord (Jer 10:23; Pro 16:1; Pro 20:24; Eph 2:8; Jas 4:13-15). God’s part is actually on both sides of the covenant:
Psa 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.
The covenant God made with Abraham also involved the cutting of three clean animals (from the herd and the flock) in two halves – all three animals were three years old which is witnessing to the process involved in the fulfilment of a covenant. The two clean birds, however, were not cut in two:
Gen 15:9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
Gen 15:10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
Only animals “of the herd” and “of the flock” were cut in all the sacrifices made to the Lord, but the sacrifices of the fowls were not cut in any covenant throughout the Scriptures (Lev 1:14-17; Lev 5:7-9). Only the fowls head was to be wrung off from its neck – the birds were not to be “divide asunder”:
Lev 5:8 And he shall bring them unto the priest, who shall offer that which is for the sin offering first, and wring off his head from his neck, but shall not divide it asunder.
As the three categories of sacrifices (that is the herd, the flock and the fowls) demonstrate the level of spiritual maturity, the “not divid[ing] asunder” of the fowls shows immaturity of those who unskilled in the word of righteousness as they cannot “rightly divid[e] the word of truth”:
Heb 5:13 For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
We know that God is working all things, and this is also demonstrated in the covenant God made with Abraham when he fell asleep during the process of making the covenant:
Gen 15:12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram [called Abraham after this covenant was cut]; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.
Gen 15:17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
A “smoking furnace and a burning lamp” passed between the pieces which laid on the ground in the very place where Abraham had to fulfil his part in this covenant cutting process by passing through them. Abraham’s place was taken by the moving (spiritual) furnace and (spiritual) lamp as Abraham in flesh was an Old Testament type of Christ. It was indeed Christ with whom God the Father made that covenant as in Christ alone will “all the kindreds of the earth be blessed”. Only Christ is the Saviour of all in heaven, in earth (the dry land), and those under or lower than the earth – the sea of humanity (Joh 8:56; Gal 3:29; 1Ti 2:3-6; 1Jn 2:1-2).
Act 3:25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
Act 3:26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
Php 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.
This is witnessed to by the furnace and lamp of God whom we see in the wilderness and when the sun is turned into darkness on the day of the Lord in our lives:
Exo 19:18 And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
Joe 2:30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
Joe 2:31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
This is written to show us that we are not saved by the works of flesh but by the works of God through Jesus Christ in us (Col 1:27):
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
The commitment by both parties in a covenant is also seen in the covenant which God made with the physical nation of Israel. Moses divided the blood of the animals that were slaughtered in the setting up of this covenant in two parts, and he took half of the blood, and he sprinkled it on the altar, and the other half he sprinkled on the people after they confessed their agreement with the covenant:
Exo 24:6 And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.
Exo 24:7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.
Exo 24:8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.
If one party in this covenant breaks that agreement, a curse follows which is also demonstrated in the days of the prophet Jeremiah in the southern kingdom of Judah under the reign of Judah’s last king, Zedekiah:
Jer 34:18 And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof,
Jer 34:19 The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf;
Jer 34:20 I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.
If those were the conditions under physical covenants, how much more shall we respect the blood and spirit of the new spiritual covenant? (Heb 12:22-29). Our respect and obedience to the new covenant is shown in how we utterly destroy and cut off our old enemy – our own flesh with its selfish carnal thinking as God delivered it to us to be crucified daily (Gal 2:20):
Deu 7:2 And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.
Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?
In our next study on the foundational theme of covenants we will be discussing more interesting aspects which will also help us to appreciate the spiritual covenant of Jesus Christ, God willing.
Detailed studies and emails written by Mike Vinson relating to these foundational themes in Scripture are available on the www.iswasandwillbe.com website, including these topics and links:
Other related posts
- Zipporah Circumcising Her Sons (July 15, 2008)
- Why Slay the Son of Moses? (May 13, 2011)
- Why Must Children and the Innocent Suffer? (October 25, 2011)
- Who Is Under the Law? (July 22, 2014)
- What Is The World? (October 20, 2008)
- Was Adam Made Mortal? (September 19, 2012)
- The Law Of Moses Leading Us To Christ (October 8, 2010)
- The Law (July 6, 2006)
- Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 45 (May 8, 2014)
- Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 44 (May 1, 2014)
- Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 43 (April 24, 2014)
- Foundational Themes in Genesis – Study 42 (April 17, 2014)
- Children's Study - Abraham, Part 8 (February 1, 2016)
- Awesome Hands - part 05: "So that you will be a blessing" (May 19, 2012)