In the last post, the biblical theme of covenant was continued, and we considered the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. It was discussed that after God created the nations, He chose one of those nations to continue the mission of spreading His glory to world. In particular, the Jews were chosen to show God’s glory to all the other nations as they were spreading across the globe.
First, God made a covenant with Abraham and promised personal and national blessings for Abraham and his descendants and worldwide blessings through Abraham and his descendants. This was an unconditional and everlasting covenant, and God’s provisions would come to pass regardless of whether Abraham or the nation Israel kept the covenant. In contrast, God later made a conditional covenant with Israel through Moses. The Mosaic Covenant was meant to help the nation Israel be a nation that would bring God’s glory to all nations through holy living. If the Jews obeyed God’s commands, He would bless them; if they disobeyed His commands, He would punish them.
While the Jews do obey God’s commands intermittently, and Israel flourishes under King David and King Solomon, the Jews eventually end up in exile. This exile seems to leave the biblical narrative at an impasse. Yet the exile does not seem as dire for those who pay attention to the covenants throughout the narrative.
God makes three additional covenants that give readers more details as to how the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant will come to fruition. Namely, these covenants are the Land, Davidic, and New Covenants. All three covenants are extensions of the Abrahamic Covenant, and as such, each covenant is between God and Abraham’s descendants, and each covenant is unconditional.
In this post, I am going to discuss these three covenants. Similar to the last post, for each covenant, I am going to explain its stipulations, whether it is conditional or unconditional, and whether or not it has been completed. The Land, Davidic, and New Covenants are the last three covenants needing to be covered under the theme of biblical covenants.
The Land Covenant
The Land, Davidic, and New Covenants are a little different from the previous covenants in that they are not initiated because of major changes in the condition of humanity. As mentioned, they give more details into how the Abrahamic Covenant will be fulfilled. Basically, these three covenants serve to amplify the Abrahamic Covenant.
The Land Covenant is found in Deut. 30:1-10. Although it is in the book of Deuteronomy, it is important to realize that this covenant is not part of the Mosaic Covenant. Deuteronomy 29:1 includes: “These are the words of the covenant the LORD commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in the land of Moab, in addition to the covenant he had made with them at Horeb.”1 So, the Land Covenant is a different covenant from the Mosaic Covenant that was made with the Israelites at Horeb.
The Land Covenant has several provisions. In Deut. 28-30, Moses prophecies that Israel will experience the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant for their obedience, but they will eventually experience the curses of the Mosaic Covenant after they disobey and abandon it. Moses tells Israel that after they are punished and scattered:
- God will gather them from exile (Deut. 29:4);
- They will be gathered to the land God gave their fathers (Deut. 29:5a);
- They will prosper and multiply in the land (Deut. 29:5b);
- God will “circumcise” their hearts, making it so they will love Him (Deut. 29:6);
- God will place the curses of the Mosaic Covenant on their enemies (Deut. 29:7); and
- The Israelites will be able to obey God’s commands (Deut. 29:8).
God promised that Abraham’s descendants would possess the land forever (Gen. 13:15), so it seems strange that God would exile the Israelites from the land. However, the Land Covenant confirms the land promise of the Abrahamic Covenant and shows that while the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant are conditional on obedience, the land promise is not. The Land Covenant also confirms God’s promises to make the Israelites into a great nation and to curse those who curse them.
As an amplification of the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant is also an unconditional covenant. God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess the land forever, and the Land Covenant includes the promise that God will enable the Israelites to obey Him so they will be able to possess the land and enjoy the blessings. While obedience is still required, even the obedience will be supplied by God. Most of the Land Covenant has not been fulfilled to this day. While the Jews are in the land once again today, they have not all been gathered, and they do not all love God as the covenant stipulates.
The Davidic Covenant
The next supplement to the Abrahamic Covenant is the Davidic Covenant found in 2 Sam. 7:8-17 and 1 Chron. 17:7-15. God promised Abraham that nations and kings would descend from him (Gen. 17:6). Eventually, God confirmed His promises to Isaac (Gen. 26:3) and Jacob (Gen. 28:13-14). These confirmations made it clear that the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled specifically through the descendants of Jacob. Later in the narrative, Jacob prophesies that the king of Israel would always be a member of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). The Davidic Covenant further clarifies the promises made to Abraham by revealing that the king of Israel will always be of the line of David.
The Davidic Covenant has at least five provisions:
- David’s name will be made great (2 Sam. 7:9b, 1 Chron. 17:8b);
- David will be given rest from all his enemies (2 Sam. 7:11b, 1 Chron. 17:10b);
- David’s royal lineage (i.e., “house”) will be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16);
- The throne of David’s line will be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16, 1 Chron. 17:14); and
- David’s kingdom will endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16, 1 Chron. 17:14).
As is clear, the Davidic Covenant establishes that the promised kings of the Abrahamic Covenant eventually are exclusively from the line of David.
There are several interesting aspects of this covenant. One is that God is promising David that David’s kingdom and lineage will last forever. This promise seems to indicate that there should always be an earthly kingdom similar to that of David’s. Also, this promise entails that either David will have a line of descendants who will never fail to survive or that one of David’s royal descendants will never die.
While the Davidic Covenant as explained at 2 Sam. 7:10-16 says that God will establish the lineage and throne of Solomon after David, it is possible that the parallel passage in 1 Chron. 17 is not referring to Solomon but to the promised Messiah.2 Second Samuel 7:12 says, “When your time comes and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom,” but 1 Chron. 17:11 says, “When your time comes to be with your fathers, I will raise up after you your descendant, who is one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom.” Notably, in the New King James Version, 1 Chron. 17:11 is translated to, “And it shall be, when your days are fulfilled, when you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up your seed after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom” (emphasis is mine). It is not definitive, but it is possible that this passage in 1 Chron. 17 is referring to the Messiah because the descendant will be of the sons of David, and David’s line will last forever.
Finally, another interesting aspect of the Davidic Covenant is that it is possibly giving details into how the world will be blessed through the Jews.3 If blessings come to the Jews when they obey God’s commands, it is easy to conclude that non-Jews can be blessed through obeying God’s commands as well. It was shown that God wanted Adam to guide humanity in subduing the earth and spreading His glory across it. Accordingly, Ps. 72 includes a prayer that the king of Israel will “rule from sea to sea and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth…. Let all kings bow in homage to him, all nations serve him. For he will rescue the poor who cry out and the afflicted who have no helper…. May his name endure forever; as long as the sun shines, may his fame increase. May all nations be blessed by him and call him blessed” (Ps. 72:8, 11-12, 17). If the Messiah will forever sit on the throne of David, then His worldwide reign would easily lead to blessings on all nations.
The Davidic Covenant is unconditional as it is an amplification of the Abrahamic Covenant. Currently, the Davidic Covenant is largely unfulfilled as no king is presently sitting on the throne of David in Israel. Some theologians believe that Jesus is fulfilling this covenant presently in that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God in heaven (see Acts 7:55-56, Rom. 8:34, Eph. 1:20), but it is highly unlikely that this fulfills the Davidic Covenant.4 God’s throne (i.e., God’s authority) is eternal, and David’s everlasting throne was established for King Solomon with the Davidic Covenant.
The New Covenant
The New Covenant is the last amplifying covenant to be covered. While it is found in several passages (Jer. 32:40; Is. 55:3, 59:21, 61:8-9; Ezek. 16:60-62, 34:25-31, 37:26-28; Rom. 11:26-27; Heb. 8:6-13), it is mainly based on Jer. 31:31-34. This covenant gives more insight into the blessings aspect of the promises God made to Abraham. Namely, the New Covenant mainly describes the spiritual blessings that God will give to the Israelites after they are regathered and turn back to God.
Similar to the Land Covenant it is easy to see that the New Covenant is not the same as the Mosaic Covenant. At Jer. 31:31-32, God says, “Look, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt…” The New Covenant includes at least four provisions for Israel:
- Israel will be regenerated as a nation and will be able to obey God’s commands (Jer. 31:33b);
- Israel’s sins will be forgiven (Jer. 31:34);
- The Holy Spirit will indwell all Jewish people (Is. 59:21); and
- Israel will receive material blessings as a result of the covenant (Ezek. 34:25-29).
As these provisions make clear, the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant include significant spiritual blessings. The Israelites will be forgiven their sins, and they will be able to follow God’s commands because of their regeneration and reception of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual blessings will enable them to receive the physical blessings mentioned in the previous covenants.
Like the Land and Davidic Covenants, the New Covenant is unconditional and everlasting as it is an amplification of the Abrahamic Covenant. The trickiest part of studying the New Covenant is considering whether it is being fulfilled currently. Some theologians think that the New Covenant is being fulfilled through the Church, which consists of regenerated people who the Holy Spirit indwells.5 However, this cannot be the fulfillment of the New Covenant as it was made between God and Abraham’s descendants. In Rom. 11:11-12, Paul explains that regenerated Gentiles are meant to make Israel jealous and make Israel turn back to God and His Messiah. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross made the benefits of the New Covenant possible, and the Church is the means to spread God’s glory to the world in the Church Age, but the provisions of the New Covenant will not see fulfilling until the nation Israel is gathered and regenerated as a whole.
As shown, the biblical theme of covenant is seen throughout Scripture from the beginning to the end. God created the world so humanity would know and love Him, and so God enters into covenant relationships with humans. He does this to make His justice and goodness known and so humans may know how best to live in order to fulfill their purpose.
After God promised Abraham that his descendants would receive the promised land, flourish as a nation, and ultimately bless all nations, in the fullness of time, God continually unveiled His intentions regarding these promises to Israel. The land aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant was clarified through he Land Covenant in which God reconfirmed the ownership of the land by the Jews, even after their exile. The seed aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant was clarified through the Davidic Covenant in which God singles out the house of David as the royal heirs to the throne of God’s chosen people. The blessings aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant was clarified through the New Covenant in which God reveals the means He will use to enable the Israelites and the world to receive their promised spiritual and physical blessings.
From the beginning, God has wanted His people to spread His glory across the globe. Understanding the covenants helps readers to realize this is God’s mission for humanity and to realize how God intends to accomplish this mission. Knowing the provisions and stipulations helps to make a lot of sense out of God’s interactions with humanity throughout the Bible.
This post completes the overview of the biblical covenants. In my first post, I promised to cover the biblical themes of creation, covenants, God’s presence, and the seed conflict. So, in my next post, I will continue with this study of major biblical themes and cover the biblical theme of God’s presence.
For visual learners, here is another great video regarding the biblical theme of covenants created by Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins of The Bible Project:
Christian Standard Bible.
For example, see J. A. Thompson, 1, 2 Chronicles, vol. 9 of The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994), III.3.
Thomas R. Schreiner, Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 75.
For a discussion of the distinction between God’s throne and David’s throne, see Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach, rev. and exp. ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006), 63-71.
For a discussion of the fulfillment of the New Covenant, see Paul N. Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach, rev. and exp. ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006), 75.
*The featured image of Nathan conveying the covenant to David is from The Kingstone Bible, vol. 5, p. 128. Image used with permission: © 2015 Kingstone Comics.