Old Covenant Part 1

By Jerry Wierwille

This session will cover the deliverance and rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt and God's covenant with them at Mount Sinai. We will look at the purpose for which the Old Covenant was made, the ceremony of the covenant, and how it functions in God's redemptive plan as the next big step in the grand narrative of Scripture.

The Story So Far…

The Patriarchs (“Fathers”)

Abraham → Isaac → Jacob

God renewed/confirmed his covenant to Abraham’s children Isaac and Jacob. They are referred to as the covenant with Isaac and the covenant with Jacob (Lev 26:42). It is also called the “covenant with the fathers” (Deut 4:31).

The Next Step in the Narrative—The Children of Israel

  1. The children of Jacob/Israel
  2. Life in Egypt
  3. Slavery in Egypt
  4. Ten Plagues
  5. Exodus from Egypt
  6. Crossing the Red Sea
  7. In the wilderness
  8. Sinai

The Covenant at Mount Sinai

God’s purpose for the covenant with Israel is so that he can bless the descendants of Abraham as he promised, and thereby, they can be a blessing to other nations and the whole world.

  • Setting and purpose (Exod 19)
  • The Decalogue (Exod 20)
  • The terms of the covenant (Exod 21-23)
  • The covenant ceremony (Exod 24)
  • Preparations for worship (Exod 25-30)
  • Sabbath reiterated and God gives Moses stone tablets (Exod 31)
  • The golden calf (Exod 32)
  • The tabernacle is removed from the camp (Exod 33)
  • The covenant is renewed (Exod 34)
  • Additional covenant regulations and instructions (Exod 35-40)

Exodus 19— The Divine Purpose in the Covenant

A. The setting in time and space (vv. 1-2)
B. The divine purpose in the covenant (vv. 3-8)
C. The human preparation for the covenant (vv. 9-15)
D. The revelation of Yahweh at Sinai (vv. 16-25)

God’s covenant was aimed at achieving three things.

  1. Israel would be God’s own possession
  2. Israel would be a kingdom of priests
  3. Israel would be a holy nation

“As a kingdom of priests, they [Israel] will function to make the ways of God known to the nations and also to bring the nations into a right relationship to God. Israel will display to the rest of the world within its covenantal community the kind of relationships, first to God and then to one another and to the physical world, that God intended originally for all of humanity.”[1]

Exodus 20—The Decalogue (Ten Commandments)

  1. No other gods/images (vv. 3-6)
  2. No bearing the name of God deceitfully (v. 7)
  3. Keep the Sabbath (vv. 8-11)
  4. Honor your parents (vv. 12)
  5. No murder (v. 13)
  6. No adultery (v. 14)
  7. No theft (v. 15)
  8. No false witness (v. 16)
  9. No coveting neighbor’s house (v. 17)
  10. No coveting neighbor’s wife, household members, animals, or objects (v. 18)

Exodus 24—The Covenant Ceremony

  • Moses and Israelite elders worship Yahweh (vv. 1-2)
  • Moses tells the people the commands of Yahweh (v. 3)
  • Moses recorded the words of Yahweh (v. 4)
  • Moses erects an altar (v. 4)
  • Sacrifices are made (vv. 5-6)
  • Moses reads the terms of the covenant to the people (v. 7)
  • Blood was used to ratify the covenant (v. 8)
  • Moses met with God and received the stone tablets (vv. 9-12)

The Old Covenant—Labeling the Covenant with Israel

In the New Testament, the apostles looked back at the covenant that God made with Israel at Mt. Sinai and referred to it as the “Old Covenant” (2 Cor. 3:14) and also the “First” Covenant (Heb 8-9).

We have chosen to use the label “Old Covenant” as we think it is preferred given its relation to the “New Covenant” in Christ that rendered it obsolete (Heb 8:13). But many scholars have referred to it as the Mosaic Covenant, the Israelite Covenant, the Sinai Covenant, and the Covenant with Israel.

[1] Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (2nd ed; Crossway: 2018).

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