The New Covenant

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)

 


In this study I would like to understand the covenant that HaShem has made with man.

 

Shavuot (Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks) is the festival of the giving of the Torah. The Torah, which is commonly known as the Pentateuch, consists of the first five books of the Bible: Bereshit (Genesis), Shemot (Exodus), Vayikra (Leviticus), Bamidbar (Numbers), and Devarim (Deuteronomy). The Torah is an integral part of the new covenant. The new covenant will become effective on Shavuot some time in the future.

 

Many Christians talk about the new covenant, or testament. It is often used to refer to a collection of books written by the Apostles. It is also used when some Christians participate in a ceremony known as communion. While we all talk ‘about’ this new covenant, most folks do not know the terms that make up this new covenant. Since most folks consider the new covenant as an important part of their religion, it becomes clear that we “ought” to know the terms of this new covenant. Since this is a legal document and has an impact on our lives, we certainly should be intimately familiar what the terms of this covenant.

 

First let me tell you what the new (renewed) covenant is not. It is not the collection of books commonly known as the New Testament. How do we know this? We know this because a covenant, or testament, is a contract between two parties. Webster’s unabridged dictionary puts it this way:

 

“In law, a writing, under seal, containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties...”

 

Since this collection of books merely quotes the terms, and since most of the writings do not contain the terms of this covenant, it would be poor scholarship to refer to this collection of books as the “New Testament”.

 

The ceremony commonly known as “communion” is not the new covenant because this ceremony does not mention the words that make up this agreement. While this ceremony mentions the seal of the new covenant (the cup of wine which represents Messiah’s blood), it is does not mention the actual words that make up this agreement.

 

So, what exactly are the words, or terms, of this new (renewed) covenant? The words, curiously, are found in the collection of books sometimes referred to as the old covenant (Messiah called it the Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim which we translate in English as: The Law, The Prophets, and The Writinngs. These Hebrew words are referred to, by Jews, as an acronym: Tanach). The prophet Yiremiyahu (Jeremiah) wrote down the words of this agreement in:

 

Yirimiyahu (Jeremiah) 31:31-34 “The time is coming,” declares HaShem, “when I will make a new (renewed) covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares HaShem. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares HaShem. “I will put my law (Torah) in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know HaShem,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares HaShem. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

 

I have added, in parenthesis, Strong’s definition of some of the words. I would also like to call your attention to the names of the parties that made this covenant. The first party is called “the house of Israel”. The second party is HaShem. HaShem is referring to Himself as YHVH (the yod-hay-vav-hay name). So, if you are not of the house of Israel or HaShem, then this new (renewed) covenant has no effect on you! On the other hand, if you are convinced that the new (renewed) covenant applies to you, then somehow you must be a part of the house of Israel because you are obviously not HaShem.

 

This covenant, between the house of Israel and HaShem, is quoted, verbatim, in Bereans (Hebrews) 8:8-12. This is the only other place where the words, or terms, of the new (renewed) covenant are spelled out.

 

If you carefully read this contract, or if you were to take this contract to your lawyer, you will learn that this contract has not yet taken effect. This contract becomes effective when everyone knows HaShem. Until everyone knows HaShem, we will have to be content with looking forward to the time when this contract is put into effect.

 

The actual terms of this new (renewed) covenant appear to be the same terms of the covenant that HaShem made with the house of Israel at Sinai. We can deduce this by noticing that the Torah (instruction or law) will be written on our hearts instead of stone. This refers to HaShem’s command when He gave the Torah:

 

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 32:46 He said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law.

 

We should also notice what is being written on the hearts. It is Torah. It is HaShem’s instructions or laws. The implications of this are staggering! This means, that when this is done, we will no longer disobey HaShem. We will no longer sin! There is one further implication that can not be ignored. Since HaShem’s people were obedient in the Garden of Eden, and we will be obedient in the kingdom of Heaven. This begs the question: What ought we to be doing now? Obviously, we ought to be obeying HaShem by writing His Torah on our hearts and thereby obey it. HaShem’s obvious desire is for us to be obedient to His instructions now!

 

We can understand this “new” in a few different ways.

 

  1. Linguistically, The Hebrew root word:  Chet dalet shin – chadash, translated as new, is also the Hebrew root for new moon rosh chodesh. It is well known that the moon is quite old and that it is not brand new every month, but rather it is renewed every month.

 

  1. The same Hebrew root: chet dalet shin is also used in Job 29:20 where the KJV and the JPS translates it as fresh.

 

  1. Theologically, our Sages have taught that all of the covenants are but one covenent. Therefore we understand that the new covenant is a refresh of the Sinai covenant, which was a refresh of the Abrahamic covenant, etc. This can be most clearly seen by looking at the terms of the Abrahamic covenant where we see circumcision and a command to walk in the commandments – and again in the Sinai covenant we have circumcision and a command to walk in the commandments – and again in the new covenant where we see circumcision and a command to walk in the commandments.

 

  1. The Talmud teaches us that ‘covenant’ always refers to Torah:  Shabbath 33a As a punishment for delay of judgment,[1] perversion of judgment,[2] spoiling of judgment,[3] and neglect of Torah, sword and spoil increase, pestilence and famine come, people eat and are not satisfied, and eat their bread by weight, for it is written, and I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute the vengeance of the covenant:[4] now ‘covenant’ means nothing else but Torah, as it is written, But for my covenant of day and night [I had not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth];[5] and it is written, When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver your bread again by weight;[6] and it is written, because, even because they rejected my judgments.[7]

 

  1. If at Sinai they received the Nefesh Yehudi[8] after circumcision and immersion, how much more did the Gentiles require circumcision and immersion before they received the nefesh Yehudi in Acts 11:1-18.

 

  1. The problem with the old covenant was with the people not the law! So the new covenant is the law of Moses written or refreshed in our hearts and not on stone. Note that Jeremiah 31:31ff and Hebrews 8:8ff have the same covenant making 1) God, "My covenant"; 2) the same law, My Torah (note, not a different one from Sinai).

 

  1. Ezekiel 16:60 in the Young’s Literal Translation reads: “And I--I have remembered My covenant with you, In the days of your youth, And I have established for you a covenant age-during (i.e. everlasting).” According to this translation, God’s covenant (i.e. “My Covenant”) = “a covenant age-enduring.” That is, the Prophet is speaking of the same covenant throughout all this verse. If God has only one covenant what are the implications of this for Jews and for Gentiles who turn away from serving idols?  And is the “New Covenant” any different from this  “My covenant with you, In the days of your youth”?

 

  1. Why is it that HaShem always states. “My covenant” irrespective of what covenant it is? (c.f. Gen. 6:18, Gen. 9:9, Gen. 17:2, Ex. 6:4, Ex. 19:5, Lev. 26:9, Deu. 31:16, Jos. 7:11, Jud. 2:1, 1 Ki 11:11, Ps 50:16, Ps. 89:28, Ps. 132:12, Isa 56:4, Isa. 59:21, Jer. 11:10, Jer. 31:32, Jer. 33:20, Jer. 34:18, Eze. 16:60, Eze. 17:19, Eze. 44:7, Hos. 8:1, Zec. 11:10, Mal. 2:4, Rom. 11:27, Heb. 8:9)

 

  1. The covenant is called an everlasting covenant in: Gen. 9:16, Gen. 17:7, Lev. 24:8, 2 Sa. 23:5, 1Ch 16:17, Ps. 105:10, Isa. 24:5, Isa. 55:3, Isa. 61:8, Jer. 32:40, Eze. 16:60, Eze. 37:27, Heb. 13:20.

 

Many folks believe that HaShem’s Torah was abolished. They believe that it was replaced with something better. The writer to the Bereans (Hebrews) anticipated this when he commented on this new covenant. If we look carefully, we will find out that the problem with the old covenant was with the people, not with HaShem’s law:

 

Bereans (Hebrews) 8:1-13 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, And who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But the ministry Yeshua has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: “The time is coming, declares HaShem, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares HaShem. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares HaShem. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know HaShem,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.

 

So, if there is nothing wrong with HaShem’s Torah, or law, then there is nothing to fix in His Torah. Therefore, HaShem will fix that which is broken: the people. After He fixes His people, He will again give us His Torah on a new heart.

 

Shavuot, therefore, is the festival of the giving of the Torah. Thirty-three hundred years ago, HaShem gave us His Torah written on stone, on Shavuot. Two thousand years ago, HaShem gave us the Living Torah, Yeshua HaMashiach (Yeshua the Messiah), who taught us great insights into the written Torah. On a future Shavuot, HaShem will renew His covenant when He write His Torah on our hearts. When He does this, we will spend eternity walking with HaShem. We have the down payment of the Holy Spirit that guarantees it. Lets celebrate this Shavuot by renewing our commitment to obey HaShem and His Torah.

 

* * *

 

This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:

 

Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501

 

Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/

 

(360) 918-2905

 

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[1] Lit., ‘affliction of judgment’-through unnecessary delay in executing judgment.

[2] Intentionally, through bias or partiality.

[3] Giving erroneous verdicts through carelessness and insufficient deliberation; cf. Aboth, I, 2.

[4] Lev. XXVI, 25.

[5] Jer. XXXIII, 25. ‘The covenant of day and night’ is understood to refer to the Torah, which should be studied day and night; v. Ned. 32.

[6] Ibid. XXVI, 26

[7]  Ibid. 43.

[8] Jewish soul