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The Topic of Covenant in The Old Testament

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Discussion
  3. Bibliography


For my research I chose to focus on the covenant which is an important topic seen throughout the Old Testament. The covenant is discussed in the Old Testament specifically in Exodus 34:1-28, Jeremiah 31:31-40, and the covenant also is brought up in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.


In Exodus 34:1-28 God states to Moses, “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. Obey what I command you today. Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex 34:10-14 NIV). This passage to me is showing that the covenant is very important and must be taken seriously because God is willing to do anything for his people, but if they do not obey him they have gone against the covenant he has made with them and the trust between them becomes broken.

In Jeremiah 31:31-40 God states, “When I make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them. This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer 31:31-33 NIV). This passage to me is showing that God does not punish his people for what their ancestors have done to him. Even though their ancestors broke the covenant, God does not pass judgement and is giving his people of Israel a chance to form a new covenant and restore the relationship.

Lastly, in 1 Corinthians 2:17-34, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:25-27 NIV). This passage to me is showing that he gave his body and blood to his people for them to remember him by and because of this sacrifice his people should be worthy and respect his offering. It emphasizes that if people do not receive his body and blood in a worthy manner that they will be guilty of sin. This shows how important the body and blood are because he is giving his people an offering of himself and for him to do that and his people eat this offering in an unworthy manner is seen as going against him when he has looked out for them.

My initial thoughts of the text were that I knew the covenant was a very important theme in the bible because this was the main component for uniting God and his people together. Without the covenants there would not be a relationship that is so strong between God and his people. I first understood the passages to mean that if God’s people put faith in him he will help them along the way, but if his people chose to stray away from him then there will be punishments for going against the covenant.

The Caravalho text is a great resource to use because this textbook breaks down certain parts of passages from the Old Testament. Involving Jeremiah 31, Caravalho discusses the restoration between God and his people. Caravalho explains that the book of Jeremiah is solely focused on destruction, but specifically in later passages Jeremiah focuses on restoring the destruction that has been made between God and his people (Caravalho, 2010, p. 314).

She also focuses on a specific verse from Jeremiah 31 stating, “the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jer 31:29 NIV). Caravalho explains that this verse provides evidence that God could punish people for the sins that were committed by their ancestors (Caravalho, 2010, p. 314).

Two biblical commentaries I used to focus on my passages was the Oxford Bible Commentary and the Harpercollins Bible Commentary. Exodus 34:1-28 in Harpercollins Bible Commentary discusses how the renewal of relationships is not linked to the past issues involving Egypt, but yet the future conquest of Canaan (Harpercollins, 2000, p. 143).

Harpercollins and Oxford both agree that there is controversy on whether Moses actually wrote on the tablets. However, Harpercollins suggests that the tablets are identical to the broken ones and Oxford suggests that Yahweh had said he would be the one to write on the tablets. Exodus 34:1-28 in the Oxford Bible Commentary explains that even though the relationship is restored, this does not mean that there will not be punishments due to the possibility of Israel’s sinfulness testing the restored relationship (Oxford, 2014, p. 89-90).

Jeremiah 31:31-40 in Harpercollins Bible Commentary discusses how their forgiveness brought a new covenant between Yahweh and the people of Israel and will continue as long as they obey him (Harpercollins, 2000, p. 567-568). Jeremiah 31:31-40 in the Oxford Bible Commentary discusses how this new covenant will not diminish the covenant with Judaism in favor of Christianity (Oxford, 2014, p. 514-515).

The new covenant will restore broken marriages, heal families, and start a new narrative with Israel (Oxford, 2014, p. 514-515). Both commentaries agree that Yahweh promises a new covenant with Israel and that what happened with Judah will not be taken out on Israel. However, the Oxford Bible Commentary goes into more detail about what exactly is being restored between Yahweh and his people.

1 Corinthians 11:17-34 gives a different outlook on the covenant because it is in the New Testament of the bible. Harpercollins brings up a specific verse, “do you not have houses?”, which Harpercollins refers to the eating and drinking during this time is supposed to be done within the privacy of their homes, not as a ritual meal setting with many other individuals (Harpercollins, 2000, p. 1087-1088).

Corinthians 11:17-34 in the Oxford Bible Commentary focuses this issue on the wealthier individuals because they would bring their own items to make this meal and would even start the meal and keep most to themselves before others had come (Oxford, 2014, p. 1126-1127). The Oxford Bible Commentary points out that when discussing the covenant in this chapter the term remembrance was emphasizing more on the relationship between God and his people rather than the body and blood itself (Oxford, 2014, p. 1126-1127). Both commentaries overall have the same concept relating back to the last supper.

The commentaries definitely had an effect on my thoughts about each passage that I read. Both brought up great points, some that were similar to my thoughts and some that brought new ideas that I did not think about when reading the passages. The Oxford commentary brought up a new thought involving 1 Corinthians 11 that I did not previously think about. It suggested that this was mainly focused on the wealthier individuals during this time because they had more items to make a meal and would be greedy and keep most to themselves (Oxford, 2014, 1126-1127).

When reading this I did not put that thought into perspective, but yet thought it was discussing everyone not just the wealthy individuals. Both commentaries interpret these passages using contextual criticism which focuses on the importance of the cultural context in those passages (Caravalho, 2010, 23). The Bible is based on the relationship between God and his people, therefore, without the covenant many of the events in the Bible would not have occurred and the connection with God would’ve been strained.


  1. Catholic Book Publishing Corporation. (2011). The New American Bible Revised Edition. The New American Bible Revised Edition.
  2. Carvalho, C. L. (2010). Encountering ancient voices: a guide to reading the Old Testament. Winona, MN: Anselm Academic.
  3. Mays, J. L., & Blenkinsopp, J. (2000). The HarperCollins Bible commentary. HarperCollins
  4. Barton, J., Muddiman, J., Barton, J. S., & Muddiman, J. (2014). The Oxford Bible commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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