Q: What is God’s Covenant Relationship with Israel?
God made eight binding covenants that are recorded in the Bible. Five of them He made with Israel. Four are unconditional: the Abrahamic (Gen. 12:1–7), Land (13:14–17; Dt. 29:1—30:20), Davidic (2 Sam. 7:1–17), and New Covenants (Jer. 31:31–34). The fifth, commonly called the Mosaic or Old Covenant (Ex. 19:5ff), was conditional.
In the four unconditional covenants, Israel was not obligated to do anything. God did everything. For example, when God made the Abrahamic Covenant, Abraham was an inactive party. God said, “I will show you . . . I will make you . . . I will bless you . . . I will bless those who bless you . . . I will curse him who curses you” (Gen. 12:1–3, emphasis added).
God told Abraham how to prepare for confirming the covenant in a formal ritual, but Abraham did not participate in the ritual. In fact, God put Abraham into a deep sleep and did not involve him at all (15:12).
Thus, God bound Himself to the covenant without Abraham’s participation. Therefore, God and God alone—not Abraham or any of his future descendants—can be held responsible for breaking the covenant.
What is said about the Abrahamic Covenant also can be said about the other three unconditional covenants. All depend exclusively on God’s integrity for their fulfillment. They were not dependent on Abraham, David, or any ancient Israelites; and they are not dependent on the Jewish people today.
The Bible teaches five facts about the unconditional covenants:
1. They depend on God’s faithfulness, not Israel’s.
2. They are to be interpreted literally.
3. They were made with Israel, not the church (Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:8).
4. They were never repealed or replaced because of Israel’s sinfulness.
5. They will be Israel’s possession for eternity (Rom. 9:4).
However, the Mosaic Covenant that God made at Mount Sinai is different. It is the only conditional covenant God made with the Jewish nation (Ex. 19—24). God said, “if,” stating a condition Israel had to meet in order to receive blessing (19:5). That is, Israel had to keep the Law. We know from history Israel broke the Law and did not uphold its end of the covenant.
Notice, the apostle Paul called Gentiles “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12). Israel is the only nation in history with which God has a covenant relationship.