Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Romans 9:4

The Covenants and The Patriarchs

The Ark of the Covenant (replica) at the Wilderness Tabernacle, Israel

The Ark of the Covenant (replica) at the Wilderness Tabernacle, Israel

Romans 9:1-5 says,

"I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit-- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

Why does it say of the Jews, theirs are the covenants (plural)?

What covenants?

Are there more than just Old and New Covenants, and isn’t the Old Covenant for the Jews’ and the New Covenant for the Christians’? (two covenants)

Well no, actually there are four covenants.

The Covenant with Abraham

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son." (Genesis 22v6)
Note Avraham laying the wood on Isaac. Notice the parallel with God’s son having the wood for his death placed on him, before he was placed on it. John 8 v28-30 says, "So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.   See also Jesus' words in John 8 v56,  ". Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."

This was a covenant of decision – God’s decision to save mankind.

The Moses Covenant

This covenant is about instruction and shows God has the power to execute.

Galatians 3 v19 says,

"What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

And v 24 says, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith."

The Torah was there to convict us of our need to be saved.

Romans 3:20

"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."

Exodus 20:20 says of the Torah, ". . . . . so that you won’t commit sins."

Exodus 24:8 says, when the blood from the sacrifice was splashed around.

"This is the blood of the covenant."

The curse of the law comes on us for breaking it but Jesus took on himself the curse for us, on the cross.

This is a covenant of Instruction. Teaching mankind about righteousness

The New Covenant

In this covenant God fulfilled the first two covenants.

Luke 1:68-72 says,

""Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us-- to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: "

Luke 22:20 says,

"In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you."

This is the covenant of Ability. God proved he could do what he promised.

But if we refer back to Romans 9, we hear Paul says that the covenants are with the Jews – Israel is God’s chosen vehicle of world redemption. This causes a big problem if Abraham’s covenant has been annulled according to Replacement Theology. This would mean that God had withdrawn his decision to save the world. This would be bad news for all of us.

Hebrews 6 v13-15 says,

"When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, "I will surely bless you and give you many descendants." And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised."

The Covenant with David – the return of the Messiah

Numbers 24 v17 gives us Balam’s prophecy,

""I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth."  
This introduces us to his star – the Morning Star.

2 Peter 1 v19 says,

"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

And in Revelation 2 v28 the Messiah says,

"I will also give him the morning star" and in Revelation 22 v16 says, "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

This covenant is a covenant of Triumph, and it requires Israel to be home to mediate it. This is accomplished in two stages, Physical and Spiritual.

Israel exists to bring back the King.

The return of the King is prefigured by David in his return to Jerusalem, when he said he would not return to Jerusalem until the people asked him to. (2 Samuel 19 v11-12)

"King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: "Ask the elders of Judah, `Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? You are my brothers, my own flesh and blood.   So why should you be the last to bring back the king?'

Remember Jesus said to Jerusalem, "You will not see me again until you say, ‘Baruch haba bashem Adonai’ (Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD)" (Psalm 118)

Hosea 6 v1,

""Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds."   And 3 v5, "Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They will come trembling to the LORD and to his blessings in the last days. "
The return is through affliction, but it is tied up with Israel being in the land – establishing a foothold. The return of the Messiah is not dependant on recovering all the territory since the territory comes with the king.


Why Three Patriarchs?

God set things up progressively.

The God of Abraham God of Promise God made eternal covenant promises to Abraham
The God of Isaac God of Atonement The ram was slain in place of Isaac
The God of Jacob God of Transformation Yaacov (the deceitful - akov/crooked ) was transformed into Israel (made yashar-straight by El)

With thanks to Malcolm Hedding - Director of ICEJ

Article constructed from notes of his addresses in Hereford in March 2004

Fuller version in a booklet available from resources at


What many think is the best teaching on the Covenants is an interview with Malcolm Hedding that is available in the trailer DVD for "Blessing, Curse, Coincidence" by the Hatikvah Trust.


Just a last thought about the covenants. David Silver tackles a religious objection to Israel's ownership of the land, in his book, "A Slow Train Coming".

Yes, some may say, "But Israel broke the covenant." No she didn't. If we look at the story as it unfolds in Genesis 15 v12, the LORD put Abraham to sleep. The procedure in cutting a covanant was that the two parties would walk backwards and forwards in the body parts and the blood, speaking out their covenant promises. When God made the Abrahamic covenant Abraham was asleep. God promised Abraham the land, but Abraham promised nothing. The Jews have no covenant promise to break!


Updated 22/12/07

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