A covenant is an agreement or a contract. It often occurs in a religious context, where the covenants referred to a solemn, sacred agreement between God and a man.
In Mormonism, the Abrahamic covenant is a covenant (agreement) of elevation made between God and Abraham at the time when Abraham entered into a celestial marriage. Previously, Abraham received a gospel and was ordained as a priest. In connection with entering into this covenant, Abraham received these promises from God about his family: his posterity will be numerous, and his seed or descendants will receive the gospel and become priests.
Owing to the service of his seed (descendants), various families around the world will be blessed by God, “the blessings of the Gospel, which has the blessings of salvation, yes, eternal life.” This is one of the eternal covenants, which applies to all the seed of Abraham. In order to join the seed of Abraham, a man must obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Then he/she can get all the blessings of Abraham’s covenant, even if he/she is not a direct descendant of Abraham. All members of The Church of Jesus Christ are considered to be the children of the covenant who inherited all the promises given by God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Thus, this paper introduces one of the Old Testament covenants (the Abrahamic Covenant). It presents a discussion of the nature of the covenant, and a description how that covenant contributes to the progressive unfolding of Israel’s history.
The nature of the Abrahamic Covenant
This is a well-known fact that the Abrahamic Covenant is an agreement which God made with Abraham, a great patriarch of the Old Testament. When Abraham was ninety nine years old, God appeared to him and said that his descendants will have all the blessings of the gospel all over the world, including priesthood and eternal life, if they are faithful to God. The Abrahamic Covenant includes a celestial marriage, which gives people the ability to create eternal families. Another part of that covenant includes a perpetual right of Abraham and his righteous posterity to the land of Canaan. This covenant also consists of God’s prediction that the seed of Abraham gradually spread throughout the land, and will have a spiritual inclination to adopt the completeness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and spread it among mankind.
Murray states that the importance of the Abrahamic covenant is the following one “It is this Abrahamic covenant, so explicitly set forth in Gn. xv and xvii, that underlies the whole subsequent development of God’s redemptive promise, word, and action. . . . The redemptive grace of God in the highest and furthest reaches of its realization is the unfolding of the promise given to Abraham and therefore the unfolding of the Abrahamic covenant” (4).
In addition to the above-mentioned information, it is possible to add that this is a solemn ritual when God has confirmed the reliability of the promise to Abraham that he will inherit the land of Canaan. Perhaps, this is the most striking confirmation of the covenant in all the Scriptures, especially if it is interpreted as an oath, when God, resorting to an anthropomorphic image, calls upon the curse, if he does not make the promise of land ownership to Abraham. The second distinguishing feature concerns the observance and violation of the covenant.
This is a widespread fact that there are the main blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant.
The first ones are the earthly blessings: the Promised Land to live in it (Abraham 2:6, 19; Genesis 12:7, 17:8); the great and numerous seed (Abraham 2:9-10, Genesis 12:2-3, 17:2, 4-6), and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and priesthood to Abraham and his descendants (Abraham 2:9-11, Genesis 17:7).
The eternal blessings consist of the following ones: Celestial Kingdom, which is the highest and most beautiful of all degrees of glory, and symbolically represented in the form of the sun. It is that kingdom where God rules directly. Celestial Kingdom itself is composed of many degrees of glory. Anyone, who inherits a degree of glory in the celestial kingdom, will be in the presence of God. According to a revelation from God, only those who were married and sealed it in the church (regardless of whether it was in our life or during the Millennium) may be awarded to the highest kingdom – celestial; eternal marriage and eternal posterity, and the last one is the Rise and eternal life.
Furthermore, male circumcision is a sign of the Abrahamic covenant. A ceremony, which was intended by God, has to be a sign of the covenant (agreement), made Him with Abraham (the Israelites descended from Abraham, as his name means a “father of many”) and his seed, as well as the seal of his faith. Circumcision identified people who were suitable for the blessing. The lack of circumcision precisely excludes a person from the covenant community. Circumcision of Ishmael was necessary because he was a cherished member of society. Circumcision is also required for the strange slaves. However, circumcision does not guarantee long Ishmael rights covenant.
In addition to above listed, Abraham had to leave:
- His land;
- His father’s house.
Then he should go to the land that Hashem promised to provide him. Moreover, God had a promise to Abraham:
- Bless him;
- Glorify his name;
- He will be a blessing (to others) ;
- Bless whose people who bless him.
The Abrahamic Covenant was created by God coupled with Abraham and his seeds (descendants): Isaac, Jacob, and other different people of Israel. According to Showers Genesis 15:18 runs the following, “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” In Genesis 17:4, 6-7 God said to Abraham, “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee… and I will make thee exceedingly fruitful,… And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (par. 4).
The religion of Abraham took the form of the covenant with God. According to the Bible, God promised that there will be the time when the descendants of Abraham will no longer exiles in the foreign lands; they turn into people and get the land of Canaan to possess it. But this promise did not have a narrow and tribal character like many other pagan divinations. Greatness and glory of people chosen by God were contacted with a blessing of all nations and peoples in the promise. Here is the second great commandment of faith of Abraham after the first one – the requirements to leave the idolaters. “The integrity before God” – this is not some kind of ritual purity, but this means a moral dimension of Abraham’s religion. The Bible, clearly states that God chose him for the fact that he will command his children to walk through the Lord by doing righteousness and justice. And although the moral positions of the patriarchs are still far from a high ethics of the prophets, and especially from the Gospels, but they are well aware that God wants people who are fair, honest, true to their word, hospitable, loving, hands are not stained with the blood of innocents. His faith did not require any images or temples. Wherever Abraham was: in the bleak deserts of the Negev or among the rocky hills of the Betel, God was with him, twisted over the smoke of his altar, gazing at him from the height of the night sky, guarding him in his wanderings. The disputes about Abraham’s faith (whatever it is monotheism or not) does not have any sense. It was too simple, impulsive, and spontaneous in order to fit under some kind of “ism” or under some sort of a scheme.
The importance and role of the Abrahamic Covenant in the unfolding story of Israel
One of the most important stories of the covenant of God is a biblical story of God’s covenant with Abraham. In the Bible, a historical period, which has its own name “patriarchal”, begins from Abraham. It embraces the history of three patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – to the resettlement of Jews in Egypt. The evaluation of this period in terms of understanding the “Testament Old” is very important. The Abrahamic covenant is the first union of a man with God, received the name of the Old or Ancient covenant. God promises numerous prosperity to Abraham (at that time Abraham had no children), and in response the Lord demands faith and obedience from Abraham.
Writing about the importance of the Abrahamic covenant, dispensationalist John Walvoord states that “It is recognized by all serious students of the Bible that the covenant with Abraham is one of the important and determinative revelations of Scripture. It furnishes the key to the entire Old Testament and reaches for its fulfillment into the New. In the controversy between premillenarians and amillenarians, the interpretation of this covenant more or less settles the entire argument. The analysis of its provisions and the character of their fulfillment set the mold for the entire body of Scriptural truth” (139).
The writers of the New Testament recognize the importance of Abraham in the history of Israel’s salvation. The story of Abraham leads the readers of the Bible to the range of issues associated with a very important religious issue – the problem of faith. Faith is an indispensable condition of human habitation in the covenant-union with God. A person can be in communion with God, may hope for God’s help, if he/she has faith and obedience to Him. Jewish people have called upon the Lord out of the midst of other people as their representative. The Jewish nation was called upon for the special purposes to listen to the voice of God, that is, to walk in all His ways, to take direct revelations from God, and to keep all His commandments, which He will open to all people around the world. It should be noted that God did not abandon his common rights and sovereignty over all other nations.
Taking the above-stated information into consideration, it is possible to draw a conclusion that it was the Abrahamic faith that had a key and decisive meaning for solving an issue about the observance of the Old Testament. In addition, it should be noted that Abraham was a prototype of the believer, the proof that not only Jews, but also the pagans could achieve salvation by believing in Christ. The covenant with Abraham did not rule out the former testaments to human race, and the pagans had not been denied by any participation in the covenant of God. The promise about numerous prosperity and various blessings of all the tribes of the earth belongs to all mankind. The essence of God’s covenant with Abraham is made up of three main aspects: land, seed, and blessing. Thus, the Abrahamic covenant is the main source from which other ones are flowed out. Then the Abrahamic covenant is an important and decisive factor for the execution of God’s program for Israel and for other people, and is the key to biblical eschatology and theology. In fact, the Abrahamic covenant is a cornerstone of the second coming of Christ before the millennium. God’s covenant with Abraham is another reminder that God has not left the world, but that He always takes care of His creation.
Cooper, David L. What Men Must Believe? Los Angeles, CA: Biblical Research Society, 1943.
Murray, John. The Covenant of Grace. London: The Tyndale Press, 1954.
Walvoord, John F. The Millennial Kingdom. Grand Rapids, MI: Dunham, 1959.
Showers, Renald. “The Abrahamic Covenant.” Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, n.d. 26 April 2011 <http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/biblical-prophecy/BP1101W1.htm>.