Biblical Theology

Review – The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology (Volume I – Old Testament Expectation)

Review: The Words of the Covenant: A Biblical Theology (Volume I – Old Testament Expectation) by Paul Martin Henebury, Maitland, Florida: Xulon Press Elite, 467 pages; reviewed by Ed Vasicek

This is a brilliant, straightforward analysis of the nature of the Old Testament Covenants and their continuity throughout the Old Testament, including its latter portions. The author offers compelling evidence that the purpose of the covenants was clarity, not obscurity. He argues that the covenants should be interpreted in straightforward ways and understood as originally presented, with no future changes-of-definition allowed. When it comes to the covenants, God’s very faithfulness is on the line.

Henebury argues convincingly that the covenants are foundational to our interpretation of the rest of Scripture, and are the subject of constant appeal and rehearsal throughout the Bible (but in this volume, the author focus more so upon the Old Testament with only occasional treks to the New).

The author sees six covenants, covenants which are not assumed or interpolated, but stated in Scripture. They include the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Priestly Covenant (with Phineas), the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 5)

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What Yahweh Thinks of Covenant-Breakers

Having just uttered what is undoubtedly one of the most unambiguous promises in literature, and coming on the back of an entire extended portion on the subject of Israel’s eschatological hope (Jer. 30 – 33), Jeremiah switches gear to relate an incident under the quickly ebbing reign of king Zedekiah.

The background to the story is the desperation of the king and his nobles over the engagement with the overwhelming forces of Nebuchadnezzar, and what was sure to follow (Jer. 34:1f.). In a last ditch effort to stave off the inevitable, the king and his courtiers turn to Yahweh and, in a fit of religious zeal, they make a covenant before Him in the temple to implement the command contained within the Mosaic covenant (Jer. 34:13-14) to release Hebrew slaves (see Exod. 21:1-11; Deut. 15:12-18). Dishonorably they went back on their oath and took the slaves back (Jer. 34:8-11); an action that provoked the following response:

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 4)

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The Abundance of Peace and Truth

Jeremiah 33 opens by referencing the destruction that has been made upon Jerusalem (“this city” in v.4), where the inhabitants had to demolish houses to build fortifications (Jer. 33:1-4). Yahweh declares that, although He will not save them from the Babylonians, He does intend to heal the city and bring to it “an abundance of peace and truth” (33:6). This will involve a return from captivity (33:7), which to the prophet’s hearers would put them in mind of their eventual return from Chaldea. But again, just as with 32:28-41, we should hesitate to reach that conclusion because God also promises redemption and national preeminence for Israel among the nations of the world (33:8-9).1

There is a return to the theme of rejoicing (Isa. 35:1-2; 61:10; 65:18; Jer. 31:13; Zeph. 3:14), but it incorporates cultic elements; the “house of the Lord” being prominent (Jer. 33:11). These features of salvation, national ascendancy, and celebration push the prophecy into the time of covenant consummation. What one chooses to do with the temple in verse 11 will depend on the level of sufferance one has for a temple and priesthood in the post-advent kingdom era.

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 3)

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The Guarantee of the Lord of Creation and Providence

Returning to where we left off in Jeremiah 31, after Jeremiah has revealed a New covenant to replace the Mosaic covenant, he is given revelation which underlines its validity.

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name):

If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.”

Thus says the LORD: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD. (NKJV, Jeremiah 31:35-37)

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Jeremiah’s Great Eschatological Vision (Part 2)

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The Locus Classicus of the New Covenant

Then we arrive at the prophecy about the New covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). The verses are immediately followed by a Divine guarantee of future fulfillment (Jer. 31:35-37). So it behooves us to look at it carefully:

Behold, the days are coming, says 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 that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

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