The Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants Are Subsections of the Torah Covenant (or the Old Covenant)
The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, is the chronicle of YHVH giving man instructions to follow, and of his entering into covenantal relationships with men and men either keeping those agreements or breaking them.
The word Torah means “instructions, teaching or precepts; specifically in biblical context: the teachings or instructions of YHVH to lead men into a righteous relationship with him through covenantal agreement.” The Torah is a giant b’rit or covenant. The Torah in a number of places even refers to itself by the Hebrew word b’rit or covenant. We see this in the following passages:
Exodus 34:27, And YHVH said unto Moses, Write you these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
Deuteronomy 29:1, These are the words of the covenant, which YHVH commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb.
The Torah is not unlike an instruction manual that one might receive from the manufacturer of an automobile, computer or some such device to help the buyer to operate his new purchase in a manner that allows him to receive years of trouble-free service. The Torah is YHVH’s instruction manual to help man to live in a way that brings life and blessing; it helps man to enter into a loving relationship with his Creator and to have a trouble-free relationship with his fellow man.
Within the first five books of the Torah-covenant are several smaller covenantal subdivisions such as the Abrahamic and the Sinaitic or Mosaic Covenants. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) describes this as follows, “Deuteronomy 29:13–14 shows the Sinaitic Covenant was an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant…. The Sinai renewal merely stressed man’s responsibility where the Abrahamic Covenant emphasized Elohim’s promise… The Priestly Covenant of Num 25:12–13, the Davidic Covenant of 2 Sam 7 and the New Covenant of Jer 31:31 are all administrative aspects of the same covenant, Elohim’s Covenant of grace. This covenant reaches its climax at the Incarnation where [Messiah] representing his people fulfilled all the stipulations of the covenant and bore the curse they deserved for breaking it” (p. 129).
The Torah is a covenant with various “administrative aspects” or subdivisions. Each succeeding covenant builds upon the previous covenant without cancelling out the requirements or provisions of the previous covenant. Such is consistent with the character and nature of YHVH Elohim. He is not a man that he should lie (Num 23:19). When he gives his word he keeps it, even up to 1000 generations (that is 40-50,000 years!) (Ps 105:6–11). He declares that he does not change (Mal 3:6), and that he is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He is not a respecter of persons who makes a covenant with one people-group (e.g. the Jews) and another covenant with another people-group (e.g. the Gentiles) each with its own contradictory set of requirements and standards of righteousness (Acts 10:34). In YHVH’s spiritual economy, there is one law, one set of standards, one covenant for both the Israelite and the Gentile (Exod 12:49; Num 15:16; Eph. 2:11–16). Again, his laws and covenants are a reflection of his divine nature and character. He cannot oppose himself. He is not double-minded, like man. He is not the sort of (spiritual) well that spouts forth both salty and fresh water to which the Apostle James makes reference in his epistle. YHVH is perfect, righteous and immutable.
YHVH Relates to Humans Through Covenantal Agreements
YHVH Elohim, the Creator of the universe, is a Being of law and order. He runs his entire universe through laws. There are laws of chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics, to name a few, that govern his physical creation. Scientists recognize this.
Likewise there are cause-and effect-laws that govern all areas of human relationships. If you treat others a certain way they will treat you in a similar manner. One reaps what one sows.
Similarly YHVH has put into motion spiritual laws that govern his spiritual creation even as the laws of science govern his physical creation. These spiritual laws are a reflection of his very nature and character. For example, YHVH is righteous, so he expects men to be righteous. He has given men laws (instructions or teachings) to help show men how to be righteous as he is righteous. He keeps his word and never lies. He expects the same of men. That is why there is a commandment that says, “You shall not lie.” There are nine more such basic commandments, which the Torah then expands into 613 commandments. The Testimony of Yeshua lists 1050 such commandments (Dake’s Annotated Study Bible) that define for the saints the walk of righteousness.
Throughout all of the Scriptures YHVH has chosen to relate to humans through a structure of law and order, since he is not an Elohim of disorder or confusion. His kingdom is just and orderly at all levels. This structural framework is known as covenantal agreement. Likewise, on the human plain all transactions people make between each other are based on contractual agreements, verbal or written: marriage vows, land and house purchase agreements, warranties, guaranties, sales agreements, service contracts, union contracts, employee and employer contracts, rental and lease agreements, etc.
It is no different with YHVH. In the Scriptures, we see him making covenantal agreements with humans. There is the Noatic Covenant, Abrahamic Covenant, Mosaic or Sinaitic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant to name a few of the main agreements YHVH has formulated with humans over the millennia.
What is behind YHVH’s covenant-making method of operation?
It Is All About Reconciliation
Let us answer this question by asking another question. If you had to sum up the entire message of the Bible in one word what would it be? Probably words such as love, hope, salvation, eternal life or heaven are coming to your mind. But I challenge you to find a better word than the following: r-e-c-o-n-c-i-l-i-a-t-i-o-n —the reconciliation of YHVH’s people back into a covenantal love (marital) relational agreement (Hebrew: ketubah) with him.
The dictionary defines reconciliation as “to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle or resolve a quarrel, to make consistent or congruous.” When man chose to rebel against YHVH and to give in to sin at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, he chose the path of separation from his Heavenly Father. Sin causes man to be separated from a totally set-apart (holy/kadosh), righteous and sinless Creator. Since that time YHVH has been endeavoring to reconcile man to himself. He has laid out criteria for man to follow for this to occur—for man to once again have a friendly, loving and intimate relationship with his Heavenly Father as did Adam before he sinned.
Let’s further define the word reconciliation in biblical terms. The following is paraphrased from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (p. 903): Biblically, it is the process by which Elohim and man are brought together again. Elohim and man were alienated from one another because of YHVH’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. Though YHVH loves the sinner (John 3:16; Rom 5:8), it is impossible for him not to judge sin (Heb 10:27). Therefore in biblical reconciliation, both parties are affected. Through the sacrifice of Messiah, man’s sin is atoned and YHVH’s wrath is appeased. Thus a relationship of hostility and alienation is changed into one of peace and fellowship. Man is reconciled to YHVH through the person and work of Yeshua the Messiah (2 Cor 5:18). Paul regarded the gospel as the “word of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:19). And knowing the terror of YHVH’s judgment Paul pleaded, implored, and persuaded men: “Be reconciled to YHVH” (2 Cor 5:20).
The Term Covenant Defined
What do we mean by the term covenant in a biblical sense of the word? The Hebrew word for covenant is the word b’rit (Strong’s H1285) meaning an agreement (which binds two parties together), league, alliance, pledge, constitution. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says of the word b’rit: “between nations: a treaty, alliance of friendship; between individuals: a pledge or agreement; with obligation between a monarch and subjects: a constitution; between Elohim and man: a covenant accompanied by signs, sacrifices, and a solemn oath that sealed the relationship with promises of blessing for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it” (vol. 1, p. 128). “Apart from blood ties the covenant was the way people of the ancient world formed wider relationships with each other” (Ibid. p. 129).
YHVH is not a dictator. He has never tried to cram his laws and covenants down man’s throat. He allows man the freedom to choose to enter into covenantal relationship with him or not; for man to be reconciled to him into a loving relationship or not. He asks men to choose whom they will follow:
Deuteronomy 30:19, I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
Joshua 24:15, And if it seem evil unto you to serve YHVH, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve YHVH.
It is up to man to choose whom he will serve, whose laws he will follow. And man will live with the consequences of his choice: life or death.
Margaret Barker describes the biblical concept of covenant in this manner:
They imagined the everlasting covenant as a system of bonds to keep the whole creation together in one system, and bind it to the Creator, the source of its life. Sin, by definition, was anything that broke a covenant bond, and the word translated ‘iniquity’ means, literally, distortion. If too many bonds were broken or distorted, the whole system would collapse. This is the origin of those terrifying pictures in the Apocalypse: stars falling, mountains moving, the sky rolled up like a scroll (Rev 6:12–4). Human sin could destroy the creation.
(“Can Religion Help Save the Planet”; 2009; http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/CanReligionHelpSavethePlanet.)