The Palestinian or Deuteronomic Covenant
Earlier it was noted that a number of the biblical covenants determine the final outcome of several important issues related to Israel and the future Kingdom of God. One of those covenants, the Abrahamic, has been examined already. Now the Palestinian or Deuteronomic Covenant will be investigated.
The Background Of The Covenant
Two significant things should be observed concerning the Palestinian Covenant. The first of these is the background of the covenant. The Palestinian Covenant was established by God with Israel after the establishment of the Mosaic Covenant, and it was separate from the Mosaic Covenant. Deuteronomy 29:1 states the following:
These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He had made with them at Horeb.
(A comparison of Exodus 19 and 20 with Deuteronomy 5 indicates that Horeb and Sinai are two different names for the same mountain, the mountain where God established the Mosaic Covenant with Israel.)
In preparation for the establishment of the Palestinian Covenant, God made promises of blessing and cursing to the nation of Israel. In Deuteronomy 28:1-14 God promised that, if Israel would obey the Mosaic Law, then He would bless the nation abundantly and would make it the head nation of the world. But then God warned that, if Israel would disobey the Mosaic Law, then He would curse the nation abundantly with such things as drought, famine, pestilence, foreign oppression, captivity and worldwide dispersion (Dt. 28:15-68).
Having given these preparatory promises, God entered into the Palestinian Covenant relationship with Israel. In Deuteronomy 29:10-13 Moses said the following to Israel:
You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you, and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
God established the Palestinian Covenant at the end of Israel’s forty years of wilderness wandering, just a short time before the nation was to invade Canaan (Dt. 29:5-8). The place of establishment was the land of Moab (Dt. 29:1), east of the Dead Sea across from the land of Canaan. The parties of the covenant were God, the new generation of Israelites which was to invade Canaan and succeeding generations of the nation. In Deuteronomy 29:14-15 Moses said this to Israel:
Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, but both with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.
As a new generation was about to begin a new chapter in Israel’s history, it needed to be reminded in a solemn way of lsrael’s special covenant relationship with Jehovah. This reminder appears to have been the purpose of the Palestinian Covenant.
The Promises Of The Covenant
The second major thing to be observed concerning the Palestinian Covenant is this: in conjunction with the establishment of the covenant God made very significant promises to Israel (Dt. 30:1-10). Moses indicated that these promises will be fulfilled when all the blessings and curses promised in Deuteronomy 28 have been fulfilled and when Israel will genuinely return to God and obey Him:
So it shall become when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons (Dt. 30:1-2).
First, God promised to gather the scattered Israelites from all over the world:
Then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back (vv. 3-4).
Second, God promised to restore the Israelites to the land of their ancestors:
And the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers (v. 5).
Third, God promised to regenerate the Israelites of that time and their descendants thereby causing them to love Him totally:
Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live (v. 6).
Circumcision of the heart is the Old Testament designation for regeneration (cf. Rom. 2:29). Fourth, God promised to judge Israel’s enemies: “And the Lord your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you” (v. 7).
Fifth, God promised that the Israelites of that time will obey Him: “And you shall again obey the Lord, and observe all His commandments which I command you today” (v. 8).
Sixth, God promised to prosper those Israelites greatly:
Then the Lord your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers (v. 9).
Centuries after God made these promises of the Palestinian Covenant to Israel He repeated a number of them again to later generations of Israelites through the prophets Jeremiah (32:36-44) and Ezekiel (36:22-38) (see the earlier study concerning the effects of the Abrahamic Covenant upon Israel).
The Significance Of The Promises
Several significant things should be noted concerning the promises of the Palestinian Covenant. First, God made these promises to the same national group which He later banished with dispersion to other nations because of disobedience to Him (Dt. 28:15-68; 29:24-29; 30:1, 3). In other words, God made these promises specifically to the literal nation of Israel, including all twelve tribes (Dt. 29:10). Thus, these promises are to be fulfilled with literal Israel.
Second, these promises indicate that God always leaves the way open for unfaithful Israel to be reconciled to Him (cf. Ezek. 16). God never has and never will permanently terminate His special relationship with literal Israel.
Third, the ultimate fulfillment of these promises with Israel is still future. Moses indicated that fulfillment will not take place until all the curse of Deuteronomy 28 has been completed and until Israel will genuinely return to God and obey Him (Dt. 30:1-3). It is a fact that literal Israel has not yet returned to God as a nation and is not now obeying Him. In addition, in light of such things as the Holocaust of World War II and the present persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union, it is evident that all the curse of Deuteronomy 28 has not yet been completed for Israel even in this present century.
Fourth, the fact that God intends to fulfill these promises with Israel when all the curse of Deuteronomy 28 has been completed with that nation indicates that literal Israel will survive all of its God-ordained curse. This, therefore, is another guarantee of Israel’s permanent existence as a nation. God does chasten Israel severely for centuries because of its unfaithfulness to Him, but He will never destroy its existence as a nation.
Fifth, the fact that God promised to restore literal Israel to the land (which He gave to their ancestors) when all the curse of Deuteronomy 28 has been fulfilled is another guarantee of Israel’s permanent ownership of that land. Even though Israel has been dispersed outside Canaan for much of its history because of its disobedience to God, it never loses its God-given ownership of that land.
Sixth, the promises of the Palestinian Covenant guarantee that literal Israel will repent and become saved in the future. God indicated that, when all the curse of Deuteronomy 28 has been fulfilled (when He has completed His program of chastening Israel), the Israelites will return to Him and obey Him (Dt. 30:1-2), and He will regenerate them (Dt. 30:6). Centuries after Moses spoke these promises of Israel’s future repentance and salvation other great spokesmen of God repeated them.
The prophet Hosea declared that the sons of Israel would remain without king or prince and sacrifice for many days. However, they “win return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days” (Hos. 3:4-5).
The prophet Zechariah indicated that that same national group which would have Messiah crucified would later repent and become saved: “they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born” (Zech. 12:10). Zechariah taught that God will cleanse Israel from its sin in response to this repentance: “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity” (Zech. 13:1).
Years after Messiah’s death, resurrection and ascension the apostle Paul taught that Israel’s repentance and salvation will take place at Messiah’s second coming:
. . . a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins (Rom. 11:25-27).
Paul continued by indicating that, even though the people of Israel are enemies of the gospel during this present dispensation, on the basis of God’s sovereign choice He continues to love them for the sake of their fathers to whom He made covenant commitments. God’s past calling of Israel to be a special people to Him is irrevocable. As a result, He will be merciful to them in the future (Rom. 11:28-32).
Thus, the promises of the Palestinian Covenant will be fulfilled in conjunction with Messiah’s glorious second coming to earth at the end of the future Tribulation Period. The Tribulation Period will be the last and most terrible segment of the curse of Deuteronomy 28 upon Israel. It will be God’s instrument to break Israel’s rebellion and to bring that nation back to Him.