The Book of the Covenant

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Try it free for 30 days. Dictionary of Bible Themes — Book of the Covenant. Moses reads the Book of the Covenant to the Israelites Ex See also Ex The Book of the Covenant is the oldest, extant codification of Israelite law, where human values are constantly elevated over material ones. If the patriarchs followed their God at all, if they believed. Nor is the picture of covenant i.

It is hardly a retrojection of the Sinaitic covenant, as so often thought, since there are important differences between the two. God was about to fulfill his promise by delivering his people from Egypt and giving them the land of Canaan. Nothing is said in the books of Genesis or Exodus about any law being attached to the covenant with the Fathers. The theme of this section is supremely significant, playing a role of decisive importance in the history of Israel and of humanity as a whole. Cassuto, A Commentaru 0n the Book of Exodus, trans. The theme of these chapters is the covenant and law.

All before Sinai is prelude; all that follows is postlude. Nashville: Broadman Press, , A brief outline may be useful in showing the relationship of the covenant and law in this passage. Scholars are divided about the literary source of these chapters. The classical literary critics assigned these chapters to the J, E, and P documents.

Nicholson says,. No one today seriously questions that there was a bondage and Exodus.

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On the third new moon after leaving Egypt the children of Israel came into the wilderness of Sinai and camped before the mountain Ex. God proposed to Moses that a covenant be made between himself Yahweh and Israel. Or, would she give her allegiance to Yahweh, the God who had saved her? It was one thing to be freed from bondage. It was another to remain free.


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But to remain freedmen not subject to selfishness, greed, and passion demanded a covenant with the God of their salvation. George A. Knight explained the word segullah in the following manner:. In olden days a king was the ultimate owner of everything in the land he ruled. He owned every building, every farm, every coin. This treasure-box was his segullah.

In the same way, God, who had made the whole earth, and to whom all nations belonged, looked now upon Israel as his own peculiar treasure. But Israel was not chosen just to bask in the love of her God. Just as God himself is holy, so Israel was to be holy, that is, different from other peoples. This special relationship between God and Israel was not to be simply a mutual arrangement. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests. A priest was ordained to serve others, not himself. Israel was chosen to be a servant God could use to bring the nations to him.

It marks the beginning of the conditional covenant at least in its expressed form. Is this the beginning of the law? Is the law synonymous with the conditions of the covenant? What is the relation of the covenant and law? There is a serious question whether this is the beginning of conditions to the covenant. Many scholars believe that even though no conditions were expressed in the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants there certainly were conditions understood.

Can we really believe that the covenant between God and Abraham involved no obligations on the latter? There would surely have been the obligation that Abraham and his descendants were to continue to worship the God in question and, since the main feature of the covenant was the promise of land, it is possible that the tithes of the produce of the land and the firstborn of the flocks and herds would have been required by this God as offerings.

See also R. Walther Eichrodt believes that an obligation must be assumed by the human party of a covenant with God even when it is not expressed. Eichrodt says,. The religious underpinning of this law reflects the unique characteristic of biblical law. Whereas in Mesopotamian legal corpora the gods may be credited with calling the king to establish justice and equity, it is the king who is the sole legislator.

In the Bible, the law claims divine authorship. Indeed, from the Book of the Covenant one would never know that the states of ancient Israel were monarchies. Law is depicted as the expression of the will of a single God, who is the sole source and sanction of law, and all of life is ultimately bound up with this will.

This explains why in the Book of the Covenant and in other biblical corpora, but not in cuneiform corpora, there is a blending of strictly legal with moral, ethical, and cultic ordinances Ex.

Book of the Covenant - Dictionary of Bible Themes - Bible Gateway

The next section, Exodus —, may be subdivided as follows: —19, laws against sorcery and bestiality; —26, love and fellowship toward the poor and needy; , reverence toward God and the leader of the community; —30, ritual prescriptions; —9, justice toward all; —19, cultic calendar.

This complex is distinguished by the use of the apodictic legal formulation. This formulation is stated as a direct address consisting of a command, whose validity is unlimited, and which obliges one to do, or refrain from doing, a certain action. The Bible uses the apodictic style to a much greater extent than do extra-biblical law corpora. This feature is due to the regular biblical setting of the laws as oral addesses to the people see Greengus in Bibliography. Another feature of this section is the presence of motive clauses of an explanatory, ethical, religious, or historical nature.

For law in Israel also constitutes a body of teaching torah , which is set forth publicly and prospectively to the entire community Ex. The final section, the epilogue, Exodus —33, consists of two different paragraphs, verses 20—25 and verses 26— It contains the promise of God's presence and protection of Israel in the forthcoming conquest of Canaan as long as they remain faithful to His laws.


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  8. Since several extra-biblical legal corpora LU, LI, LH that conclude with epilogues also commence with prologues, the question has been raised whether a prologue can be found in the Book of the Covenant. It has been suggested that in light of the final redaction of the Book of Exodus, chapter —6 actually serves the function of a prologue by setting forth the prime purpose of biblical legislation, that of sanctification. Thus, Exodus —6 and Exodus —33 would form a literary frame that encases the new constitution of Israel and binds the history and destiny of Israel to the discipline of law.

    Various dates have been suggested for the compilation of the Book of the Covenant, ranging from the period of Moses to post-exilic times. The resort to parallels has often been determined by a scholar's presuppositions. Thus, the slave law in Exodus —6 has been explained as meeting the needs of defaulting debtors in early Israelite society, and alternatively, as reflective of the redemption of Jewish slaves from gentiles in the Persian period described in the Book of Nehemiah Similarly, the absence of references to the monarchy has been used to support either a pre-monarchic date or a post-monarchic date.

    As a final complication, one must deal with the "boomerang phenomenon" Zakovitch in which a law in an early collection was reinterpreted in a later one, the interpretation subsequently finding its way into the earlier collection once both collections found their way into the Torah. Some scholars would separate the question of the original date of compilation of the laws in the Book of the Covenant from that of its incorporation within the Torah. The monarchic period suggests itself for the original date because of the close resemblance of its laws to the ancient Near Eastern laws, which were royal in origin.

    The absence of references to the monarchy would then be explained as the result of deletions from the Book of the Covenant when it was incorporated in the final redaction of the Pentateuch in post-exilic times. Plausible as this hypothesis is, it remains unproved. Greenberg, in: Sefer Yovel Y. Kaufmann , 5—28; H. Cazelles, Etudes sur le Code de l'Alliance ; U. Haran, in: EM , 5 , —91 incl. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament, an Introduction , —9 incl. Zakovitch, "Book of the Covenant," in: M.

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    Fox et al. Haran, , 59—64; M. Koeckert, in: C. Bultmann et al. Smend, , 13—27; J. Schmidt, in: ZAW , , —85; D. Knight, in: S. Olyan ed. Long, , 13— Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. All Rights Reserved. Download our mobile app for on-the-go access to the Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Links to the Holy Land.

    Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Academies in Babylonia and Erez Israel. Jews of the Middle East. The Administration of Judaea. After the Exile. Judges of Israel.

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