Going through the Old Testament, something that has always stood out has been the covenants God made with his people. God made several covenants with his people starting in the Garden of Eden saying that he would bless them and that he wanted them to multiply and be fruitful, and then with Noah that he would never destroy the Earth again by flood, to Abraham and blessing him and making a great nation come from him, to Moses and the Laws. Each covenant is unique and definitely interesting in its own right.
Starting in the beginning, the very first covenant made was in the Garden of Eden. He told man that he was to “multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food” (Gen. 1: 28-30). “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die’” (Gen 2: 16-17). The covenant in the Garden of Eden was the first of its kind and unique in that God stepped down and walked and talked and communed with his people, and all he asked was that they allow God to stay in control, i.e. not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The next covenant God made was with Adam. After the fall things were just a little bit different. Many things changed and had to change when the fall happened, including: 1) a curse on the serpent, 2) the first promise of a redeemer coming through the line of Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David, 3) a change in the women’s role and relationship to man including their bondage and subservience to his headship, and pain in childbirth 4) the loss of the Garden of Eden as a dwelling place and light work becoming a heavy and toilsome burden because of a cursed earth, 5) inevitable sorrow and pain in life, and finally 6) a shortened life span and eventual death. This covenant is one built on sadness at the loss of what could have been a loss of a personal relationship with God in which you truly walked with him and did life with him. However, it showed God’s ultimate plan; the plan of redemption was always there from the very beginning. The Messiah was not an afterthought or even plan B, it was plan A, and how God saw his people being able to come into his presence again.
The next covenant God made was with Noah. God could not find anyone besides Noah and his family that were righteous and living for him in the entire earth. God was disappointed in his creation and wanted to wipe them out completely and start over with a remnant. This covenant established the sanctity of human life and that man was responsible to protect this life even to the point of death, because man was made in the image of God. The covenant also established that the earth would never be destroyed by flood again and that even the earth would not be cursed beyond what it already was. Also, man’s relationship and dominion over the animals of the earth was confirmed again, though it was not to be a harmonious relationship as in the Garden of Eden by any means. Finally, the rainbow is placed in the sky as a reminder to God of this covenant that he made “with all the flesh of the earth” (Gen 9:17).
Then God made a covenant with Abraham, that was then restated and confirmed both to his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. This covenant included a great nation coming from Abraham that would outnumber the stars in the heavens, that his name would be great and the he would be a blessing, that God would bless those who bless him and curse those who cursed him, and that all the people on earth will be blessed through him. God also said that he was the one that brought Abraham out of the land of Ur of the Chaldeans to give him this land to take possession of it. Interestingly enough this same covenant, with no real change whatsoever is again stated to both Isaac in Genesis 26: 1-5, and again to Jacob in Genesis 28:10-15. God had not forgotten this covenant and was seeing to it that the descendents of Abraham continued in bringing the promises of the covenant to fruition.
The next defining covenant given in the Old Testament is with Moses, and unlike the other covenants this one is clearly conditional. This covenant is connected with the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and the Levitical priesthood. “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19: 5-6a). If the nation of Israel obeyed God’s commands and kept his covenant with them then they would be a treasured possession to him. However, if they did not keep his covenant then God would curse them and remove his blessing from them, in an attempt to bring them back to him—hence the deliverance into the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
The final covenant in the Old Testament was with David, a man after God’s own heart. This covenant establishes that a temple will be built in Israel, that the kingdom would be perpetual, a throne—i.e. royal authority in the line of David, chastisement on sons for their disobedience, and finally the promise of the Messiah coming from the line of David is confirmed. Interestingly enough though, even though David did not always follow God perfectly this covenant remained intact, for example David had too much blood on his hands to build the temple, but God promised that David’s son Solomon would build it.
These covenants are interesting, not only in who God made them with but also that God kept making covenants with his people. Personally, after so many times of the nation and the people messing up and breaking the covenant, I would have given up on them. However, thankfully I am not God and he has a lot more patience with us when it comes to bringing his plans to fruition.