What exactly is the Sinai Covenant ? – Covenants – Part 4

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Introduction

We started our study with an introduction to covenants, and thenSinai Covenant represeneted by the ten commandments we proved the point that YHVH does not break a covenant.  Once we had established the basic facts, we looked at the Abrahamic covenant in a bit more detail.  In this article, we will do an investigation into the covenant that YHVH made with the people He led out of Egypt. The Sinai covenant is a lot more complex and controversial than the Abrahamic covenant.

What is the Sinai Covenant?

The Sinai covenant was conceived to be a type of “suzerain treaty” establishing YHVH as king and Israel as the vassal. This form is different to the one used in the Abrahamic covenant. In the Abrahamic covenant, there was no obligation for the descendants of Abraham to perform. All they had to do was stay loyal to the King, YHVH. In the Suzerain form of covenants there exists a list of rules that need to be kept by the vassal to continue receiving blessings from the Suzerain. If the vassal does not obey these rules, the covenant normally stipulates a list of curses that would fall upon the vassal. As described in the introduction to covenants, these forms were used by many nations in the time of the Tanakh.

Why was it necessary for YHVH to create another covenant with Israel? He already had a covenant with their forefathers. He could simply lead them from Egypt to the land that He had promised their forefathers. Drive the nations out before them and let them live happily ever after. However, He knew that there was one complication. While Israel was in Egypt, they were slaves. They were being oppressed by the Egyptians. The people that He had freed only knew one system: The system of master and slave. Suddenly, they are a free nation that will be taken into a new land to rule the land. It is so easy for these people to now simply turn the tables of the paradigm that is known to them. They could now become the oppressors and simply make slaves of the nations that, at that moment occupied the promised land and treat them like they were dealt with in Egypt. It was necessary for YHVH to teach them how to act as a free nation. From the rules of the covenant, YHVH would make a society that acted fairly to all and who live in peace with one another according to high moral standards. They were to be different (set apart) from the nations around them. After giving the 10 commandments, YHVH explains first how He should be worshiped and then the next point is how to deal with slaves. These two elements already made Israel into a set apart nation.

Details of the covenant

The covenant that was made at Sinai is described for us both in Exodus and Deuteronomy. The same covenant was renewed by Joshua once the people had entered the land. This is detailed in Joshua 24. Thus, we need to look at all three these accounts to get a good overview of what the covenant is all about. Only if we study all three accounts do we get a comprehensive view on the content of the covenant.

The most complete depiction of the event of making the covenant is described throughout the book of Exodus. In order to get a good reference, I have created a summary of the events and sequenced then in the table below. The table also provides a reference to the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers where these events are described.

No.

Event

Reference

1. YHVH calls Moses to the mountain and announces His intention to make a covenant with the people Exo 19:3-6
2. The people agree to the covenant proposed by YHVH Exo 19:7-8
3. YHVH instructs Moses to gather the people at Mt. Sinai Exo 19:9–13
4. People prepare themselves and appear before YHVH at the foot of the mountain Exo 19:14–17
5. YHVH comes down to the mountain  and Moses goes up Exo 19:18–21
6. Instructions for the priests to sanctify themselves Exo 19:22
7. Instruction for Moses and Aaron to come up the mountain.  The people and priests may not. Exo 19:24
8. YHVH announces the 10 Commandments to the people Exo 20:1-17
9. People speak to Moses and request that YHVH do not speak to them directly Exo 20:19
10. Moses goes into the thick cloud Exo 20:21
11. YHVH gives additional instructions
– False gods and altars
– Hebrew slaves
– Restitution
– Property
– Moral laws (sexual)
– Providing for foreigners, orphans, widows
– Lending
– No cursing of YHVH or the ruler
– Redemption of the firstborn
– No eating of torn flesh
– No false reports
– Fair justice
– Sabbatical year and the sabbath
– Three feasts (Unleavened Bread, Harvest of the First Fruits, Ingathering)
– Conquest of the land
– No making of covenants with their gods
Exo 20:23–23:33
12. Instruction for Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 elders to come and worship Exo 24:1
13. Moses returns and explains all these instructions to the people.  The people agree to do what YHVH requires Exo 24:3
14. Moses writes down all the words of YHVH Exo 24:4
15. Moses builds an altar and 12 pillars at the foot of the mountain. Exo 24:4
16. Young men of the sons of Israel make burnt and peace offerings Exo 24:5
17. Moses sprinkles half the blood on the altar Exo 24:6
18. Moses reads the book of the covenant and the people agree to keep it Exo 24:7
19. The other half of the blood of the sacrifices is sprinkled on the people Exo 24:8
20. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 elders go up and they see YHVH, eat and drink. Exo 24:9–11
21. Moses is called by YHVH to come up to receive the stone tablets with the law and the commandments that YHVH had written Exo 24:12
22. Moses instructs the elders to stay and puts Aaron and Hur in charge Exo 24:14
23. Moses goes up and the cloud(the glory of YHVH) covers the mountain.  On the seventh day YHVH called to Moses Exo 24:16
24. During the 40 days Moses receives additional instructions including:
–  the ark
– the tabernacle
– offerings
– garments for Aaron and his sons
– the food for the priests
– the consecration of Aaron and his sons
Exo 25:1 – 31:8
25. The Sabbath is marked as the sign of the covenant Exo 31:13
26. YHVH gives Moses the two tablets of the testimony written by the finger of YHVH Exo 31:18
While the events 20 – 26 happened, the people decide to make and worship the golden calf Exo 32:1–6
27. YHVH instructs Moses to go down to the people Exo 32:7
28. YHVH indicates that He wants to destroy the nation and make a new nation of Moses Exo 32:10
29. Moses entreats YHVH not to destroy them and reminds YHVH of His covenant with Abraham Exo 32:11–13
30. YHVH changes His mind about the harm He wanted to He said He would do to the people Exo 32:14
31. Moses returns to the camp with the two tablets Exo 32:15
32. Moses sees the golden calf and breaks the two stone tablets Exo 32:19
33. Moses destroys the calf Exo 32:20
34. Explanation by Aaron of the incident Exo 32:21–25
35. Moses calls out the people who are for YHVH.  All the sons of Levi join him. Exo 32:26
36. Sons of Levi kill around 3,000 men Exo 32:28
37. Moses instructs the people to dedicate themselves to YHVH so that He may bestow His blessings on them Exo 32:29
38. Next day Moses returns to YHVH to make atonement for their sins Exo 32:30
39. Moses ask YHVH to forgive the sins of the people Exo 32:32
40. YHVH informs Moses that He will blot out the names of the sinners from His book Exo 32:33
41. YHVH says that His messenger will go before the people, but in the day when He punishes, He will punish them for their sins. Exo 32:34
42. YHVH smites the people for what they have done with the calf Exo 32:35
43. YHVH tells Moses to depart to the land that was promised to Abraham.  They are told that YHVH will not go in their midst and He will destroy them on the way Exo 33:3
44. The people mourn and are told by YHVH to remove their ornaments Exo 33:4–6
45. Moses intercedes for the people and asks YHVH to go with him and the people. YHVH agrees to this. Exo 33:15–17
46. Moses requests to see the glory of YHVH.  He may see the glory of YHVH but not YHVH’s face Exo 33:18–23
47. YHVH instructs Moses to cut two new stones so that He may write the words of the former ones on them. Exo 34:1
48. Moses goes up to mount Sinai and YHVH passes in front of him. Exo 34:4–8
49. Moses requests YHVH to go with them and pardon their iniquity and sin and to take Israel as His own possession Exo 34:9
50. YHVH agrees to cut covenant, perform miracles before the people and if they observe what He commands them, He will drive out the nations before them. Exo 34:10–11
51. YHVH repeats some of the instructions he had given the people, including:
– How to deal with the inhabitants of the land
– Do not have molten gods
– Celebrate Feast of Unleavened Bread in the month of Abib
– First of the offspring and the redemption of the first born
– Keeping the Sabbath
– Celebrate the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)
– Men to appear before YHVH three times a year – no man shall covet their land
– YHVH will drive out the nations before them and enlarge their land
– No leavened bread on the altar
– The first of their fruits must come to the house of YHVH
– Meat of the Pesach lamb may not be left over to the next day
– Feast of Ingathering (Sukkot)
– Cooking a young goat in his mother’s milk
Exo 34:12–26
52. Moses told to write down the words. In accordance with these words YHVH had made a covenant with Moses and with Israel. Exo 34:27
53. Moses writes the  words of the covenant on the two tablets – the Ten Commandments Exo 34:28
54. Moses goes down from Sinai. He was on the mount for 40 days and nights without food or drink. Exo 34:29
55. Moses instructs the people to do all that YHVH had commanded. Exo 34:31–32
56. Moses assembles the people again and instructs them about keeping the Sabbath.  He also states that they may not kindle a fire on Sabbath in their dwellings. Exo 35:1–3
57. Moses conveys YHVH’s request for the people to bring a voluntary offer and help with the making of the tabernacle and the clothes for Aaron and his sons. Exo 35:4–9
58. The tabernacle is built Exo 35:10–39:24
59. Tabernacle is erected on the first of Abib Exo 40:1–33
60. The glory of YHVH fills the tabernacle Exo 40:34–35
61. YHVH speaks to Moses at the tent of meeting and provides him with the commandments for the offers. Levi 1:1 – 7:38
62. Aaron and his sons are consecrated Lev 8
63. Aaron offers sacrifices and then Moses and Aaron bless the people.  The glory of YHVH appeared to all the people. Lev 9
64. Laws of animals that may be eaten is given Lev 11
65. Details of all the feasts of YHVH are explained Lev 23
65. Blessings and curses of the covenant Lev 26
66. Levites are appointed over the tabernacle of the testimony Num 1:50–54
67. Levites given to Aaron and his sons to serve them, to do the duties of the service of the tabernacle. They are to replace the first born sons. Num 3:5–13
68. The duties of the families of the Levites are detailed Num 3:25–39
69. The firsts born are redeemed Num 3:40–51

Please take note of a couple of interesting things in this sequence of events:

  • The conditions of the covenant is not provided at once.  It is summarized in the ten commandments, but expanded upon throughout the process. The ten commandments were written twice as a summary of the covenant being made.
  • The priests are required to sanctify themselves before the tribe Levi is chosen as YHVH’s priests.  Who were the priests before the covenant was made?  This is a separate study that we will not get into here.
  • Aaron and his sons are chosen before the incident of the golden calf.
  • Certain commandments like the Sabbath, is given repeatedly.
  • The prayer and intercession of Moses convince YHVH not to destroy the people because of the golden calf. However, they were later punished by YHVH (Exodus 32:35).
  • Not all the feasts of YHVH are mentioned initially. Appointments like Rosh Chodesh,  Pesach, First Fruits, Yom T’Ruah, Yom Kippurim and the Jubilee year are not mentioned at first.  They are detailed later in Leviticus 23. In the account described in Deuteronomy, we have mention of First Fruits offerings in Deuteronomy 26:1–15.

Suzerain Covenant

From our introductory study, we have learned that a Suzerain covenant normally follows a predefined format. For your benefit, I have repeated the basic outline again below.

  • Preamble: Identifies the parties involved in the treaty
  • Prologue: Lists the deeds already performed by the Suzerain on behalf of the vassal
  • Stipulations: Terms to be upheld by the vassal for the life of the treaty
  • Provision for annual public reading: A copy of the treaty was to be read aloud annually in the vassal state for the purpose of renewal. This implied that a copy of the treaty had to be stored somewhere to allow it to be protected for the time between the readings.
  • Divine witness to the treaty: These usually include the deities of both the Suzerain and the vassal
  • Blessings if the stipulations of the treaty are upheld and curses if the stipulations are not upheld
  • Sacrificial Meal / Ceremony: Both parties would share a meal to show their participation in the treaty

Now let us do an analysis to see how the two instances of the covenant, Moses at Sinai and Joshua in Israel, compare to this outline:

Exodus account

Deuteronomy

Joshua in Israel

Preamble Exo 20:2 “I am YHVH your Elohim” Deut 5:6 “I am YHVH your Elohim” Jos 24:2 “Thus says YHVH, the Elohim of Israel”
Prologue Exo 20:2 “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” Deut 5:6 “who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” Joshua 24:2–13 – A short description of all that YHVH had done for Israel
Stipulations Exo 20:3 – 17  as the summary. More details provided later Deut 5:7–21 as the summary.  More details in Deut 6:1–7:26 and eventually the details in Deut 12:1 – 26:15. Joshua 24:14–21
Provision for annual public reading Deut 31:10 –13 “when all Israel comes to appear before YHVH your Elohim at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing.“
Witness to the treaty Nothing specific is mentioned as a witness but the 12 stones mentioned in Exo 24:4 could potentially have served this purpose. Josh 24:22 “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves YHVH, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”Josh 24:27 “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of YHVH which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your Elohim.”
Blessings & Curses Leviticus 26 Deut 8:1-20 and repeated in Deut 11:8–17 and Deut 11:26–29 Josh 24:20 –  “if you forsake YHVH and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.”
Sacrificial Meal & Ceremony Exo 24:9–11 “and they saw YHVH, and they ate and drank.”

Some notes on this comparison:

  • These elements of the covenant are not described in sequence.  We see the blessings and curses described after the sacrificial meal and ceremony in the case of Sinai.
  • There is no stipulation that the covenant should be read annually in the Exodus account. The provision is made in Deuteronomy for it to be read as a nation every seven years. In the Deuteronomy account special, instruction is given to place these words on your forehead, hand and doorposts. We are also told to teach this to our children every day. Thus, it is not an annual event but a daily event to the individual and the family.
  • In the case of Joshua, the blessings are not specifically mentioned.

Renewal of the covenant

Once Joshua had led the nation into the promised land, he did what Moses had commanded him to do in Deut 27:1-8.  Joshua built an altar on Mount Ebal and read the law of Moses to the people, including the blessings and the curses. This ceremony included all the people of Israel, the stranger and the native.

Joshua 8:30–35
30 Then Joshua built an altar to YHVH, the Elohim of Israel, in Mount Ebal, 31 just as Moses the servant of YHVH had commanded the sons of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of uncut stones on which no man had wielded an iron tool; and they offered burnt offerings on it to YHVH, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 He wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written, in the presence of the sons of Israel. 33 All Israel with their elders and officers and their judges were standing on both sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of YHVH, the stranger as well as the native. Half of them stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of YHVH had given command at first to bless the people of Israel. 34 Then afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded which Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel with the women and the little ones and the strangers who were living among them.

Thus, the new generation of people was once more reminded of how they should behave as free people. The laws that YHVH had wanted them to follow now that they were going to possess their own land is again read as a reminder. Not only are they reminded of the law, but also of the blessings and curses that could be a result from their choice to obey these instructions.

After the nation had settled into the land and had several years of peace, Joshua called the nation together and reminded them again to do all that has been commanded in the law. He calls all the tribes to Shechem, where the Tabernacle stood, and renewed the covenant that YHVH had made with them at Sinai. What is unique about this is the strong emphases on the witnesses to the covenant.

Joshua 24:22–27
22 Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves YHVH, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 “Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to YHVH, the Elohim of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve YHVH our Elohim and we will obey His voice.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of YHVH; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of YHVH. 27 Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of YHVH which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your Elohim.”

As detailed in the table above, witnesses can be assumed in the account of Sinai according to the book of Exodus. With the renewal of the covenant, Joshua warns the people that they are witnesses against themselves, and he goes further and sets up a rock near the Tabernacle as another witness of what happened here. What is also interesting is to note that he writes up these words that were spoken.

The sign of the Sinai Covenant

In the book of Exodus, we read that the Sabbath is the sign between YHVH and the sons of Israel.  We also see again that emphasize is placed on exactly how long this agreement will last – forever. It is a perpetual covenant and is made with the sons of Israel, in other words, all the generations that were to follow.

Exodus 31:16–17
16 ‘So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ 17It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days YHVH made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”

The Sabbath is to serve as the reminder of this covenant. Every week at the start of the seventh day, we should remember again the covenant that YHVH made with the people. According to the scripture in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, it is also for Israel to know that YHVH is the Elohim which sanctifies them.

Ezekiel 20:10–12
10 “So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. 11 “I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. 12 “Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am YHVH who sanctifies them.

Why would YHVH specifically choose the Sabbath as the sign?  YHVH gave the commandments to the people that they may become a set apart nation.  We see that YHVH wants His people to be like Him.

Leviticus 11:45
45 ‘For I am YHVH who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your Elohim; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ”

If we are to be like YHVH, we have to do what He does.  In the creation narrative we see what YHVH did on the seventh day.

Genesis 2:2
2 By the seventh day YHVH completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

This builds a very clear picture for me – YHVH gave us His commandments so that we can be a set apart nation, just as He is set apart. In order to do that we must try to do exactly what He does. If we look at the beginning of His word, the first of His actions that we can imitate is to rest, as we are not able to create like He did on the initial six days. This will serve us a frequent reminder as to why we have the commandments of this covenant.

Who are the members of this covenant?

Covenants have to have at least two parties. The covenant that was made at Sinai was made between YHVH and the people of Israel. It was not only made with the people that were physically present on that day, but also with all their sons and grandsons. As discussed earlier in the series, these covenants are eternal covenants that cannot be annulled. This covenant is, more than once, in the Scriptures referred to as an everlasting covenant; as is the sign of the covenant.

Deuteronomy 4:9
9 “Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.

In both the original covenantal process, as well as the renewal of the covenant by Joshua, the people are always given the choice.  They first need to decide if they wish to partake in this covenant. In both cases, the people that were present made the choice to do what YHVH had asked of them.

Exodus 19:8
8 All the people answered together and said, “All that YHVH has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to YHVH.

Joshua 24:16–18
16 The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake YHVH to serve other gods; 17 for YHVH our Elohim is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. 18 “YHVH drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve YHVH, for He is our Elohim.”

We also find scriptural proof of individual people choosing to add themselves to the covenant by becoming part of those that obey YHVH. The best-known example of this is the choice that Ruth made when she decided to leave with Naomi. We have recorded in the book of Ruth the clear choice by Ruth recorded. Ruth then becomes the great-grandmother of kind David.

Ruth 1:16–17
16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your Elohim, my Elohim. 17 “Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may YHVH do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

We do not find any reference in this description of any need for Ruth to undergo any ceremony or training before she could become a member of Israel. I am sure that if this was an important part of the process, like the personal choice, we would have had a reference in the Scriptures to it. What is very clear from this description we find in Ruth is that it was a personal choice that she had to make to give up what she had and chose to be part of the people of YHVH? I believe that exactly the same still applies today.

What is the opinion among the authors of the Apostolic Scriptures on this point? We find a number of times that Paul is clear on the conditions for inclusion in the covenants. He makes it very evident that it is not exclusively being born a Jew (circumcision) that includes you, but faith. (In the verses below Paul uses the term “circumcision” to refer to people of the Jewish nation and “uncircumcision” to refer to non-Jewish people that are faithful to YHVH.) Faith in the Elohim of Abraham is what is required to be included. He takes it even further and clearly states that it is the keeping of the commandments.

Galatians 3:7–9
7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that YHVH would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

1 Corinthians 7:19
19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of YHVH.

Romans 10:12
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Elohim is Elohim of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

Ephesians 2:11–13
11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without YHVH in the world. 13 But now in Y’Shua the Messiah you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.

Did it replace the Abrahamic covenant

In the prior article in the series, we have described the Abrahamic covenant. The covenant at Sinai was made many years later with the descendants of Abraham. The descendants of Abraham were included among the people of Israel that stood near the foot of Mount Sinai. Does this now mean that the covenant made with Abraham had been replaced by this “new” covenant? This is one of the topics that Paul addressed in his letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 3:16–21
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Messiah. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but YHVH has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas YHVH is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of YHVH? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

From this description by Paul, we learn that the Sinai covenant does not contradict the Abrahamic covenant in any way.  The basics of the Abrahamic covenant were:

  1. Abraham will have a multitude of descendants
  2. They will be given a land to live in
  3. YHVH will will protect them and be their Elohim

If we look at the Sinai covenant, we do not see anything that would invalidate any of these promises made to Abraham. We see in the description of the Sinai covenant all these elements repeated again.

Deuteronomy 8:1
1 “All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which YHVH swore to give to your forefathers.

Exodus 20:2
2 “I am the YHVH your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Exodus 23:27–31
27I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. 29 “I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. 31I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.

We also see later that when the covenant is renewed by Joshua, that these topics are addressed again. In this case, it is used to proof that YHVH kept His promises by protecting the nation and providing them with the land that He had promised.

Joshua 24:11–13
11 ‘You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand. 12 ‘Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, but not by your sword or your bow. 13 ‘I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’

Thus, we can clearly see from this that the original covenant made with Abraham is not impacted by the covenant that was made with Israel at Sinai. Thus, the two covenants could co-exist without any part of the original being impacted.

Is the Sinai Covenant still valid today?

We read a lot of material that tries to convince us that we no longer need to keep the commandments of this covenant. Some claim that the covenant is not valid anymore as Israel did not keep their part of the covenant while other claims that the resurrection of Y’Shua caused this covenant to come to an end

We have seen in the previous article that breaking a covenant does not nullify that covenant. The fact that Israel did not keep the commandments of YHVH does not mean YHVH is no longer their Elohim or that we are now allowed to steal and murder.  The transgression of YHVH’s commandments simply means that the nation stopped receiving the blessing of the covenant.  Now they (we) are subject to the curses of the covenant due to disobedience.

In the book of Acts, we cannot find proof that any of the disciples of Y’Shua believed that they could now suddenly stop following the commandments. We still find these same people keeping the Sabbath, going to the temple for prayers, going to Jerusalem for the feasts and eating according to the laws provided by Moses. Nowhere in the Apostolic Scriptures do we find any reference to the Sunday as a set apart day. We still find the apostles instructing all converts to go and learn the law of Moses.

Acts 15:21
21 “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Even in the last book of the Apostolic Scriptures we still find several positive references to those that keep the commandments of YHVH.

Revelation 12:17
17 So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of YHVH and hold to the testimony of Y’Shua.

Revelation 14:12
12 Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of YHVH and their faith in Y’Shua.

Thus, we see that the ones who are called saints at the end will be required to keep the commandments of YHVH.  These commandments are the cornerstone of the covenant that was made at Sinai implying that this is really an everlasting covenant.

Conclusion

Let us summarize all the things we have discussed above:

  • This is a covenant that YHVH created for a slave nation when He made them free. This showed the people of YHVH how to be set apart from all the other nations.
  • Unlike the first covenant with Abraham, the covenant at Sinai does have specific requirements that the people of YHVH have to obey.  If they do this, they will be blessed, if they do not they will be subject to the curses.
  • YHVH gave a sign, the Sabbath, to remind us every week that we need these commandments if we want to be like Him.
  • We should be reminded daily of these commandments and it is our duty to teach them to our children.
  • This covenant was still seen as valid up to, and including, the last book of the Apostolic Scriptures (Revelation). Nobody suddenly stopped doing the commandments.  The notion of not needing to follow the commandments is something that the “church” invented later as a way to protect themselves from the prosecution against the Jewish people.
  • We have seen that covenants can co-exist. The second covenant (Sinai) did not invalidate the initial covenant (Abrahamic). In some cases, it did expand upon what was promised in the first covenant.
  • This covenant is an everlasting covenant and all people that choose to follow the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are included in the covenant.  If they follow the commandments, they will receive the blessing, if they do not, they are subject to the curses.

This study has made it clear for me that we cannot argue the commandments away.  We must be obedient to our Heavenly Father if we want to receive His blessings. He never made the keeping of the commandments a pre-requisite for our salvation, just as a father’s love for his child is not subject to the child’s obedience. The sequence is actually quite the opposite – if we choose YHVH as our Elohim (salvation), then we would want to keep His commandments because of our love for Him.

Matthew 11:27–30
27 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In the following article we will investigate the Renewed covenant.

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Comments (3)

  • Joseph F Dumond

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    I find it amazing how the Holy Spirit inspired you to write this article and post it at the exact same time I had posted my article for this week about the Covenant that we renew when we keep the Feast of Oaths and or “Confess the name of Yehshua”
    Awesome job- Keep up the great work.

    Reply

  • barb hemphill

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    Shalom Elsa,

    When I print off your articles, there is about an inch on the right hand side that does not come within the page and so so much is missed. Can you look into it, anything I print off from other people comes out all there, so I am thinking it is perhaps something you can change. Always enjoy and appreciate your work so much. Thanks, Barb

    Reply

    • Schalk & Elsa

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      Shalom Barb,

      Have you tried printing via the “Print / PDF” button on the top right of the articles? This will allow you to control what is printed and how it should look (font, margins, etc..).

      Regards,
      Schalk

      Reply

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