All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Covenant at Sinai
Based on Exodus 19

In the third month after leaving Egypt, the Israelites come to Mount Sinai, where God renews His covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Centuries before, God establishes His covenant by promising Abraham three things: seed (Genesis 12:2), land (Genesis 12:1), and that he and his descendants will be a blessing to all the earth (Genesis 12:2–3). This is essentially His communication to Adam and Eve in Eden: seed (Genesis 1:28), land (Genesis 2:8), and that they will be a blessing to the earth (Genesis 2:15).

A Kingdom of Priests

God calls Moses up Mount Sinai and instructs him to tell the Israelites that if they keep His covenant they will be to Him a “kingdom of priests.” Again, this is what God always promises, because a kingdom is composed of land and people (or seed), and, as God’s priests, they will be a blessing to the earth.

To be sure the Israelites understand His message, He communicates in a manner that they comprehend. He renews His covenant from the mountaintop because the pagans believe the gods dwell on the mountains, and He gives them a suzerainty-type covenant that is commonly used by the Hittites living in Canaan.

Two Choices

A suzerainty-type covenant is very different from what we are familiar with when we enter into a covenant today. Instead of an agreement between two equals, it is an agreement between a superior (a suzerain, or Hittite king) and an inferior (a vassal, or conquered king). In like manner, God is the Divine King, and his people are vassal kings sharing in His rulership under Him. The suzerain dictates the terms of the covenant and the vassals have only the choice of accepting or rejecting the terms—the same two choices we have.

Important Elements

A suzerainty-type covenant normally has six elements, not all of which are always listed, or given in the same order:

The Preamble, identifying who is making the covenant; the Historical Prologue or history of relationship between the covenant giver and its recipients; the Stipulations, indicating what is expected of those receiving the covenant; the Legal Witnesses that legalize the covenant; the Blessing and Curse Formula that lists the blessings one will receive by following the covenant and the curses one will suffer otherwise; and the p Provision for Public Reading, a periodic reading to ensure the details of the covenant are not forgotten.

Notice how the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19:3–6) lists four of the elements. The Preamble (verse 3b) identifies the Lord as the covenant giver. The Historical Prologue (verse 4) gives the history of what the Lord did for the Israelites. The Stipulations (verse 5a) indicate that the Israelites are to obey the Lord and keep His covenant. The Blessings (verses 5b–6a) promise that the Israelites will be a special people, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. To this, the people respond, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Amazing Grace

Normally the suzerains would kill a vassal king that rebelled and replace him. But in a suzerainty-type covenant, if the rebellious king repented and remained loyal, he could, by grace, continue in his position.

In the same way when man rebelled, God provided the Plan of Salvation, restoring the rebellious ones. God’s covenant is a Covenant of Grace!

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