Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


Additional Links

Hebrew berit , Greek diatheekee . From baarah "to divide" or" cut in two" a victim (Gesenius), between the parts of which the covenanting parties passed (Genesis 15:9, etc.; Jeremiah 34:18-19). Probably the covenanting parties eating together (which barah sometimes means) of the feast after the sacrifice entered into the idea; compare Genesis 31:46-47, Jacob and Laban.

"A COVENANT OF SALT," taken in connection with the eastern phrase for friendship, "to eat salt together," confirms this view. Salt, the antidote to corruption, was used in every sacrifice, to denote purity and perpetuity (Leviticus 2:13; Mark 9:49). So a perpetual covenant or appointment (Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles 13:5). The covenant alluded to in Hosea 6:7 margin is not with Adam (KJV "men" is better, compare Psalms 82:7), for nowhere else is the expression "covenant" applied to Adam's relation to God, though the thing is implied in Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:22; but the Sinaitic covenant which Israel transgressed as lightly as "men" break their every day covenants with their fellow men, or else they have transgressed like other "men," though distinguished above all men by extraordinary spiritual privileges.

"Covenant" in the strict sense, as requiring two independent contracting parties, cannot apply to a covenant between God and man. His covenant must be essentially one of gratuitous promise, an act of pure grace on His part (Galatians 3:15, etc.). So in Psalms 89:28 "covenant" is explained by the parallel word "mercy." So God's covenant not to destroy the earth again by water (Genesis 9; Jeremiah 33:20). But the covenant, on God's part gratuitous, requires man's acceptance of and obedience to it, as the consequence of His grace experienced, and the end which He designs to His glory, not that it is the meritorious condition of it. The Septuagint renders berit by diatheekee (not suntheekee , "a mutual compact"), i.e. a gracious disposal by His own sovereign will. So Luke 22:29, "I appoint (diatithemai , cognate to diatheekee , by testamentary or gratuitous disposition) unto you a kingdom."

The legal covenant of Sinai came in as a parenthesis (pareiselthee; Romans 5:20) between the promise to Abraham and its fulfillment in his promised seed, Christ. "It was added because of the (so Greek) transgressions" (Galatians 3:19), i.e. to bring them, and so man's great need, into clearer view (Romans 3:20; Romans 4:15; Romans 5:13; Romans 7:7-9). For this end its language was that, of a more stipulating kind as between two parties mutually covenanting, "the man that doeth these things shall live by them" (Romans 10:5). But the promise to David (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89; 2; 72; Isaiah 11) took up again that to Abraham, defining the line, the Davidic, as that in which the promised seed should come.

As the promise found its fulfillment in Christ, so also the law, for He fulfilled it for us that He might be "the Lord our righteousness," "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth" (Jeremiah 23:6; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Romans 10:4; Matthew 3:15; Matthew 5:17; Isaiah 42:21; Isaiah 45:24-25). In Hebrews 9:15-18 the gospel covenant is distinguished from the legal, as the New Testament contrasted with the Old Testament "Testament" is the better translation here, as bringing out the idea of diatheekee , God's gracious disposal or appointment of His blessings to His people, rather than suntheekee , mutual engagement between Him and them as though equals.

A human "testament" in this one respect illustrates the nature of the covenant; by death Christ chose to lose all the glory and blessings which are His, that we, who were under death's bondage, might inherit all. Thus the ideas of "mediator of the covenant," and "testator," meet in Him, who at once fulfills God's "covenant of promise," and graciously disposes to us all that is His. In most other passages "covenant" would on the whole be the better rendering. "Testament" for each of the two divisions of the Bible comes from the Latin Vulgate version. In Matthew 26:28, "this is My blood of the new testament" would perhaps better be translated "covenant," for a testament does not require blood shedding. Still, here and in the original (Exodus 24:8) quoted by Christ the idea of testamentary disposition enters.

For his blood was the seal of the testament. See below. Moses by "covenant" means one giving the heavenly inheritance (typified by Canaan) after the testator's death, which was represented by the sacrificial blood he sprinkled. Paul by testament means one with conditions, and so far a covenant, the conditions being fulfilled by Christ, not by us. We must indeed believe, but even this God works in His people (Ephesians 2:8). Hebrews 9:17, "a testament is in force after men are dead," just as the Old Testament covenant was in force only in connection with slain sacrificial victims which represent the death of Christ. The fact of the death must be "brought forward" (Hebrews 9:16) to give effect to the will. The word" death," not sacrifice or slaying, shows that "testament" is meant in Hebrews 9:15-20. These requisites of a "testament" here concur:

1. The Testator.

2. The heirs.

3. Goods.

4. The Testator's death.

5. The fact of His death brought forward. In Matthew 26:28 two additional requisites appear.

6. Witnesses, His disciples.

7. The seal, the sacrament of the Lord's supper, the sign of His blood, wherewith the testament is sealed. The heir is ordinarily the successor of him who dies, and who so ceases to have possession. But Christ comes to life again, and is Himself (including all that He had), in the power of tits now endless life, His people's inheritance; in His being heir (Hebrews 1:2; Psalms 2:8) they are heirs.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Covenant'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry