Foundations of Biblical Theology

James Strauss, Professor


Promise and Covenant:  Abraham, Moses and David


Resume of the Old Testament: God’s Relationship to Israel based on Promise and Covenant (Kline, 1972)


A.   Promise to Adam and Eve - Gen 3.15

B.    Promise to Cain - 4.15

C.    Covenant with Noah - 6.18; 9.1-17 (Promise is universal in scope)

D.   Promise and Covenant with Abraham - Gen 15.17

E.   Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 21-23 - Book of The Covenant) Fundamental basis of the nation of Israel (God stands in the place of the king as their ruler, their suzerain, thus antipathy to kingship - Judges 8.23.


1.     Exodus/Election - Ex. 2.24; 3.12; 6.6-8; 19.4-6; Dt. 7.6-8; Ps. 105.8-15

2.    People adopted into a filial relationship with God - Ex 4.22; Dt. 8.5. He was not only their suzerain; He was their Father.


F.    Keeping the Covenant is enlarged to mean Israel’s obedient response to God’s initiative - Ex. 19.4-5; Dt. 26.16-19; Lev. 19.2 - Covenant challenge to Israel is a recurrent theme through the books of Kings, sometimes called the Deuteronomic history (I Kgs. 13.33-34).


G.   Promise and Covenant with David - II Sam. 7.12-17.  “In David, the promise to the patriarchs is fulfilled and renewed” (Mendenhall, 1962, p. 718).  In Psalms 89.3-4, 27,28, God’s covenant with David is described in much the same terms as His covenant with Abraham.  The promise element is fundamental - Ps. 89.3-4; II Sam. 7.13. This includes a new element - kingdom or empire. This includes both ‘realm’, the land that God promised to the fathers, and the notion of God’s ruling over the realm (Ps. 132.12; II Sam. 7.14; Dt. 8.5; The importance of the Chronicler features the promise and covenant of David - I Chron. 22.9-10; Ps. 2.7; Acts 13.33. Note that where the son is promised the nations as His inheritance.


H. Idea of Child of God as mediator of an eternal covenant - Isa. 42.1,6; Isa. 55.3-4; 2.2-4, 9-12.

I.      Jeremiah calls this kingdom a New Covenant - Jer. 31.31-34.


1.     Realized “after those days” - vs. 33.

2.     Place law in heart - vss. 34; 4.22; 8.7; 24.7.

3.     New standing before the Lord would be for everyone - vs. 34.

4.     Include the forgiveness of sins - vs. 34.

5.     Hope in the midst of tragedies - Lk. 22.20; I Cor. 11.25.


J. Post-Exilic Syncretism and Paganism - Neh. 9.32-33,38.


K.   Covenant in Intertestamental Judaism (of. de Vaux; Pedersen; of. Paul corrected a misconception, not about the requirements of the covenant, but about the way that it is established. New Covenant is established, not by the keeping of law, but through Christ’s redeeming death, resurrection, and man’s faithful response.


L. Covenant - conditional/unconditional (Promise is unconditional; Covenant is conditional):


1.     Sovereignty of creator God - Lev. 26.12.

2.   Man can trust Yahweh. Israel lived in the Near East where trust was impossible because of the paralyzing capriciousness of Near East gods.

3.     Trust is fundamental for a well-defined moral and social order.

4.     Knowing God in a personal way (Hos. 6.6; Micah 6.8).

5.     No sacred vs. secular realm.

6.     Ultimately, this great momentum toward the crucial events in the life of God.


Sinaitic Covenant/Mosaic Covenant and Biblical Theology

(Mendenhall, 1954, pp. 58-60 (Dt. 28; Ex. 19.8; 20-23; Joshua 24.2-13)


A.   Eichrodt, W., Theology of The Old Testament. He defines covenant in terms of its theological meaning and sees it as the central theme of the O.T. as a theological book. He maintains that the covenant concept implies that God’s relation with Israel and consequently the religion of Israel must be historical. He notes that the covenant contains an expression of the will and desires of Yahweh and that this provides Israel with a knowledge of the divine will (Torah), a law which guided its action and gave it confidence in a milieu in which the divine was usually felt to be arbitrary and terrifying.


B.   He recognizes that covenant is a gift of God and can be withdrawn if Israel failed in its responsibilities of the covenant.


C.    Nature of O.T. and Eichrodt’s hermeneutical inferences.


D.   Deuteronomistic historical work (Joshua - II Kings) with which it deals and interpretation which it places upon this history.


E.   Eichrodt’s theology is fundamentally an attempt to reconstruct the basic ideas current in ancient Israelite religion, rather than an assessment of the theological meaning of the O.T. in the literary form in which we now possess it.


F.    Eichrodt accepts that there is basically one essential covenant doctrine in the O.T., pointing to Moses and Mt. Sinai, and he makes little or no attempt to assess the very different covenant theologies that the O.T. does in fact contain. The historical relationships and differences of the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants are glossed over in the necessity to subordinate the entire O.T. material to the one covenant of Mt. Sinai.


G.   Covenant and Law in cult memory, i.e., liturgical manifestation (Dt. 31.9ff) at feast of Tabernacles every seven years.


H.   Theories of Israelite origins (of M. Noth, History of Israel, e.t. 1960, pp. 53-109; A. Alt, “The Origins of Israelite Law” in Essays on O.T. (Oxford, 1966), pp. 103-71; S. Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel’s Worship, E.T., 1962, 2 vols; cf. Cult Centers Shechem, Gilgal, Shiloh and Jerusalem.


I.     Covenant, Law and History:  Exodus and Sinai decalogue in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) Mendenhall’s study has enabled us to construct an interpretation of the history of Israel in terms of an original covenant mediated by Moses, then a falling away from this early, pure Mosaic covenant under and because of the monarchy. This entire development depends on the dating the Decalogue to the tune of Moses (comparison of Decalogue and Hittite Treaty).


J. Broken Covenant, Restoration and Promissory Covenant:


1.     Historical and Prophetical data: Fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

2.     Source of continuity of Yahweh’s people? Central problem in O.T. Theology.

3.   Relationship of promise to Patriarchs (Dt. 4.31) and David’s lineage (Chronicles) and Davidic covenant, the covenant is connected with his beloved Temple and its worship. Exodus and Sinai covenants as steps toward the full covenant which is that of David (R. North, “The Theology of The Chronicler” JBL 82 (1962): 376-80; A-M. Brunet, La theologie du Chroniste: Sacra Pagina I, 1959.

4.   Compare with Post-Exilic (Ezra and Nehemiah) sense of people’s obligation towards God and the possibility of sin (cf. D.J. McCarthy, “II Samuel 7 and The Structure of the Deuteronomic History”, JBL 84 (1965): esp. 132; P.M. Cross “Yahweh and The God of The Patriarchs” Harvard Theological Review 55 (1962):225-59.


K.   Covenant with David and The Sinai Covenant:


1.    Integration of Mosaic and Davidic covenants (A.H.J. Gunneweg, “Sinaibund und Davidsbund” VT 10 (1960): 338-40; S. Mowinckel, ‘He That Cometh, 1954, pp. 99, 165-6 bases integration on concept of King as center of cult in Israel; esp. R. de Vaux, “Le roi d’Israel, vassal de Yahve”1, Tisserant Festschrift 1964, pp. 119-33; G. von Rad. OT Theology, et 1965, pp. 155-175 studies the Davidic (Messianic) and Jerusalemite Zion data and their linking in Isaiah.


L.   Classical problem of Covenant of las as opposed to the Gospel of Grace: The discovery that the law was not an antecedent means of meriting a special relationship to God but rather the very definition and essence of that relationship already constituted by the grace of election and covenant, has changed the entire theology development.

M. Promise to Abraham: Relationship to God and possession of Canaan: Three Essentials

1.     Fulfilled in Exodus

2.     Sinai covenant

3.     Conquest of Canaan - thus law and felicity are the fulfillment of grace, not vice versa.


N. Sinaitic Covenant - Ex. 19-21; 34.


0.     Rib pattern - covenant law-suit in the prophets (see section. Covenant in The Prophets).

P.    Clements’ case for real connection between form of the covenant with Abraham and that with David (R.E. Clements, Abraham and David, 1967.


1.       Yahweh’s choice of Zion (Fretheim, “The Ark in Deuteronomy” CBQ 30 (1968):1-11; R.E. Clements, God and Temple, Oxford, 1965.

2.     Jerusalem, Temple and Kingship.

3.    Killers sees a tension between the Sinaitic and Davidic Covenants - Covenant, The History of a Biblical Idea (Baltimore, 1969).

Q.   Historic Transition to Davidic House and ‘Covenant1 in Amos as Test Case (Election/Law/ Eschatology - Amos 1.1-13).


J.A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire, Biblical ejb prientalia 19,Rome, 1967.

Erica Reiner, “The Earliest Elamite Inscription?” JHES 21 (19&5), 337-10.

K.R. Veenhof, “An Aramaic Curse with a Sumero-Akkadian Prototype”, Bibliotheca Orientalis

20 (1963), 112-1.

Gelb, review of D.J. Wiseman, The Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon in Bibliotheca Orientalis 29

(1962), 159-62.

W.L. Moran, “A Note on the Treaty Terminology of the Sefire Stelas”, JHES 22 (1963), 173-6.

E.A. Speiser, “Cuneiform Law and the History of Civilization”, Proceedings of  the American

Philosophical Society 107/6 (1963), 536-11.

W.F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra, NY, 1963-

A. Alt, “The God of the Fathers”, Essays, 1-100.

F.C. Fensham, “Maledictions and Benedictions in Ancient Near-Eastern Vassal-Treaties and

                   the Old Testament”, ZAW 71 (1962), 1-19.

H.B. Huffmon, “The Covenant Lawsuit and the Prophets”, JBL 78 (1959), 286-95.

M.L. Newman, The People of the Covenant: A Study of Israel from Moses to the Monarchy,

                   London, 1965.

H.H. Rowley, Men of God, Studies in OT History and Prophecy, London, 1963.

R.H. Smith, “Abram and Melchizedek”, AZW 77 (1965), 129-53.

J.J. Stamm and M.E. Andrew, The Ten Commandments in Recent Research, Studies in Biblical

                   Theology 2/2, London, 1967.

J. Swetnam, S.J., ‘Diatheke in the Septuagint Account of Sinai: A Suggestion’, Biblica 17

(1966), 138-11.

J.A. Thompson, “The Significance of the Ancient Near Eastern Treaty Pattern”, The Tyndale

House Bulletin (Cambridge, Eng.) 13 (1963, 1-6.

J.A. Thompson, The Ancient Near Eastern Treaties and the Old Testament, London, 1961.

J.A. Thompson, “The Near Eastern Suzerain-Vassal Concept in the Religion of Israel”, The

                   Journal of Religious History 3 (1961), 1-19.

L.E. Toombs, “Love and Justice in Deuteronomy”, Interpretation 19 (1965), 389-111.

M. Weinfeld, “Traces of Assyrian Formulae in Deuteronomy”, Biblica 16 (1965), 117-27.