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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament

Covenant

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The Hebrew word for covenant is always Berith (ברית ). this word is rendered διαθήκη in the LXX in every passage where it occurs, except Deuteronomy 9:15, where it is rendered μαρτύριονtestimony, and 1 Kings 11:11, where it is rendered ἐντολή, commandment.

The word διαθήκη is confined to this one use in the LXX, with the exception of four passages, namely, Exodus 31:7 and Leviticus 26:11, where it may represent a different Hebrew reading from that which we now possess; also Deuteronomy 9:5, where it stands for a 'word;' and Zechariah 11:14, where it is used of the 'brotherhood' (אחוה , Ass. akhutu) between Judah and Israel.

Translators have found much difficulty in giving a uniform rendering to the word beritheven in the O.T. Expressions answering to the words alliance, bond, compact, covenant, disposition, treaty, have been resorted to, but none of them are perfectly satisfactory, and for this reason, that while they represent the nature of a covenant between man and man, none of them are adequate for the purpose of setting forth the nature of God's gracious dealings with man. The translators of the LXX evidently felt the difficulty, and instead of using συνθήκη, which would be the natural word for a covenant, used διαθήκη, which means a legal Disposition, and hence a Testament. [Testamentum, literally something attested or borne witness to, but always used of a will whereby we dispose of our goods.] The Syriac version transliterates the Greek word. The Arabic substitutes ahad, a compact. The Spanish translator De Reyna, after discussing in the Preface to his Bible the words Concierto, Pacto, and Alliança, comes to the conclusion that none of them are good, because what is needed is a word which signifies an agreement 'made in conjunction with the ceremonial death [The idea of bloodshedding in connection with the Abrahamic covenant was sustained in the memory of Israel by the rite of circumcision. See Acts 7:8.] of an animal' (hecho c on solemne rito de muerte de algun animal). on the whole, however, he thought it better to use a word which was an imperfect representation of beriththan to reproduce the word and thus convey no sense at all.

The Lord Jesus is called the mediat or of the new Covenant, because He is the medium where in the Disposition of God is carried into effect, whether as regards the individual or the race as a whole (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24). The inheritance which was given by promise to Christ (Galatians 3:16) was conveyed by covenant (through his blood-shedding) to all believers (Galatians 3:17; Galatians 3:29), who are made one with Him by faith; and it is this union of God with man, and of man with God, in Christ, which is summed up in the N.T. sense of the word berith.

The crucial passage in the N.T. is Hebrews 9:17, which the R. V. renders, 'A testament is of force where there has been death: for doth it ever avail while he that made it liveth?' this rendering does not go far to reduce the difficulty. The real point which the passage brings out is that the victim represents the makers of the covenant, i.e. the contracting parties, and they could only be united representatively in the victim by means of its death. So in the death of Christ man and God are made one. It is a covenant, not a last will and testament, which is in the writer's mind.

Public Domain
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Covenant'. Synonyms of the Old Testament. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/eng/girdlestone/covenant.html.
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