Webster's says that the word covenant means a usually formal, solemn and binding agreement between 2 or more parties to perform some action.
The first mention of the word covenant in the OT is Gen 6:17-19. It's not really the first covenant as we'll see later, but it is the first use of the word covenant.
17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.
The Hebrew word translated as covenant is...
Berith: (284)a legal pledge, a promise, a grant which may or may or may not have conditions. Refers more to something like a treaty than an agreement.
Berith is an interesting word. Every place that I searched for roots and deeper meaning, the text says that the word is from uncertain origins. That really helps me.
Berith is a very, very old word. It is a legal term denoting a formal or legally binding declaration of benefits given by one party to another, with or without conditions attached. These agreements don't necessarily constitute an agreement as we would think of it. More often it is a one sided promise or grant or a treaty and we'll see more about that later.
Most explanations of the word berith come back to 2 possibilities as to origin.
The Hebrew verb barah which means to cut. We see some good evidence for that in Gen 15
Gen 15:7-19 (NLT)
7 Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.”8 But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”9 The Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”10 So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half.11 Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.12 As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him.13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth.15 (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.)16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”17 After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses.18 So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River—19 the land now occupied by the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites,20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites,21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
Some others however think that berith came from an Assyrian word beritu meaning to bind which also makes good sense.
Berith is synonymous with the word choq which is an appointed ordinance or statute a totally one sided agreement. WE see that word used in verses such as.....
Mal 3:7 (NIV)
Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
Berith is almost always used with the word karath right before it. The term karath means to cut. So karath berith is to cut a covenant.
Isa 55:3 (NIV)
1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
Almost never is there a length of time associated with these words in any verse when there is it's the word...
Olam: forever, for eternity.
This is very important and something that we plain don't get in the world we live in. We've been told that nothing is forever but death and taxes. That is a lie. What we covenant with God or man is forever in God's eyes.
The first mention of the word covenant in the NT is in Matthew 26 during the Last Supper.
Matt 26:27-29 (NLT)
27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it,28 for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many.29 Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.”
The Greek word translated as covenant is ..
Diatheke (33) d-ath-a-kay a contract, a testament, a will
Diatithemi d-ah-tith-ah-my to put apart, to dispose
Dispose is a word that I really didn't know or ever use. Webster says to dispose is to set in place, to set in readiness or to settle a matter.
Covenant and Testament
by Wayne Blank
The Greek word (pronounced) dee-ath-ay-kay means a disposition, the act or means of disposing of something, as in a will. It is variously translated as either "covenant" or "testament," which is interesting because they differ in meaning in English usage i.e. covenant means "a written agreement between two or more parties to perform some action" while testament means "a legal document declaring a person's wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die." While the Greek word is closer in meaning to the English word "testament," the Biblical usage of it blends "covenant" and "testament" in a way that the full Scriptural meaning is only made clear by the use of both.
Covenant and Testament
The original Greek word is variously rendered according to a translator's preference, whether within a single version of the Bible, or in comparing versions such as the example below where the original Greek word in Mark 14:24 is translated as "covenant" in the Revised Standard Version (which was based upon the American Standard Version, which was based upon the King James Version) and "new testament" in the King James:
"And He said to them, "This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (RSV)
"And He said unto them, This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many." (KJV)
Examples of the original Greek word dee-ath-ay-kay translated as "covenant" in the King James Version:
"But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people" (Hebrews 8:6-10 KJV)
Examples of the same original Greek word dee-ath-ay-kay translated as "testament" or "new testament" in the King James Version:
"And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28 KJV)
"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." (2 Corinthians 3:6 KJV)
While the New Testament is about a New Covenant, the word testament is appropriate because, according to the literal meaning of testament, a death, not of calves and goats, but of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is a key event of the new covenant. Again, the very same original Greek word variously translated as either covenant or testament, is here very appropriately translated as testament:
(Hebrews 9:15-20 KJV)
"And for this cause He is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you."
Heb 9:13-22 (NLT)
13 Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity.14 Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.15 That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant.16 Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead. 17 The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.18 That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal.19 For after Moses had read each of God’s commandments to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God’s law and all the people, using hyssop branches and scarlet wool.20 Then he said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you.” 21 And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the Tabernacle and on everything used for worship.22 In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.
There are obviously many, many covenants in the bible. Some between God and man and some just between men.
Jer 31:32-34 (NIV)
32 It will not be like the covenant
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
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