Of the Mosaic Covenant, many discussions revolve about its purpose and contrasts with the Abrahamic Covenant
as though they are two independent covenants. Are they independent of each other? If not, how are they related?
Just before He ratifies His covenant with Abraham (Gen 15:17-18),
God tells Abraham that his descendants will be enslaved for 400 years before they return to the Land.
Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and
great darkness fell upon him. God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a
land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the
nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. As for you, you shall go to
your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here,
for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." (Gen 15:12-16)
The enormous scale of God's plan becomes palpable. World events were being arranged to set up
the Exodus, which would demonstrate the reality of God's living presence on earth.
When the Exodus occurs, it becomes one of mankind's defining moments in history.
When God met Moses on Mount Sinai, He called attention to the Exodus and defined the meaning of
faith (Ex 19:3-60).
Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, "Thus you
shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians,
and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep
My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall
be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
Faith is the belief in the reality of God ("you yourselves have seen what I did to the
Egyptians") and the placement of trust in Him ("obey My voice and keep My covenant"), which results in becoming
God's "own possession among all the peoples."
God defines who He considers His "elect," His choice people.
Affirming this understanding, Moses provides instruction on how to explain obedience to the Law
to future generations who did not have first-hand experience of the reality of God. The emphasis is placed on the
fact that God exists as demonstrated through actual historical events
"When your son asks you in time to come, saying, 'What do the testimonies and the statutes
and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, 'We were slaves to
Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand. Moreover, the Lord showed great and
distressing signs and wonders before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household; He brought us out from
there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.' So the Lord commanded us to
observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. It
will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God, just as He
commanded us. (Deut 6:20-25)
The event becomes the historical prologue (Deut 5:6)
that is repeated with the recitation of the Ten Commandments (Deut 5:7-21).
Then Moses summoned all Israel and said to them: "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the
ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully. The Lord
our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with
all those of us alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire,
while I was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord; for you were
afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. He said, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of
the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deut 5:1-6)
Moses reminded the nation of Israel that, though they saw no form that established the real
existence of God, they heard the voice of God as they made the covenant with Him
Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me,
'Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live
on the earth, and that they may teach their children.' You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, and
the mountain burned with fire to the very heart of the heavens: darkness, cloud and thick gloom. Then the Lord
spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice. So He
declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them
on two tablets of stone. (Deut 4:10-13)
In lieu of His voice, the divine act of the Exodus represents the reality of God, and it serves
as the basis of faith throughout the Old Testament (Jud 2:1;
1 Sam 2:27; Jer 2:6;
The Mosaic Covenant was essential to fulfilling God's promise of land to Abraham
The Mosaic Covenant was made with none other than Abraham's descendants.
"You stand today, all of you, before the Lord your God: your chiefs, your tribes, your
elders and your officers, even all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and the alien who is within
your camps, from the one who chops your wood to the one who draws your water, that you may enter into the
covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, in order
that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He
swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deut 29:10-13)
As a conditional covenant, the Mosaic Covenant taught the nation of Israel what sin was; it
was instruction on how to live holy and worship God.
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not
have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said,
"You shall not covet." (Rom 7:7)
The Mosaic Covenant taught Abraham's descendants how they could atone for their sins and
reconcile their souls with God.
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to
make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.'
The Mosaic Covenant was how the "Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He
swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways"
(Deut 28:9). Obedience to the Mosaic Covenant brought blessings
which required land and the military success to keep and defend it
Moses reminded the nation of Israel that the Conquest was God's judgment of the wicked
nations of Canaan, and that their possession was because of His promise to Abraham.
Do not say in your heart when the Lord your God has driven them out before you,
"Because of my righteousness the Lord has brought me in to possess this land," but it is because of the
wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness
or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the
wickedness of these nations that the Lord your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath
which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
To keep the land, the nation of Israel had to remain loyal to the Mosaic Covenant; God's
promise of land was intended for those who strove to be holy before Him.
All the nations will say, 'Why has the Lord done thus to this land? Why this great
outburst of anger?' Then men will say, 'Because they forsook the covenant of the Lord, the God of their fathers,
which He made with them when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went and served other gods and
worshiped them, gods whom they have not known and whom He had not allotted to them. Therefore, the anger of
the Lord burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book; and the Lord
uprooted them from their land in anger and in fury and in great wrath, and cast them into another land, as it
is this day.' (Deut 29:24-28)
Despite receiving their inheritance of land and affirming their promise to "serve the Lord our God and obey
His voice," the nation of Israel continued to have a problem with apostasy
(Josh 24:14-23). In a short time, despite God's lovingkindness,
the nation of Israel would be consistently unfaithful to the Mosaic Covenant. By 600 B.C., the prophet Jeremiah
prophesizes of a New Covenant, because the Jews broke the Mosaic Covenant:
"Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with
the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the
day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I
was a husband to them," declares the Lord. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel
after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I
will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man
his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of
them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."
It is significant that Jeremiah is prophesying during the time of Nebuchadnezzar who
destroyed the Temple in 586 B.C. With the Temple's destruction, the Jews could not atone for their sins even
if they wanted to; God made His promise of the unconditional New Covenant fully aware that the Jews were utterly
unable to comply with the Law. It was as though God's view of the Jews' compliance to the Mosaic Covenant was
akin to not having a Temple at all!!
When the New Covenant was inaugurated, the Mosaic Covenant was essential to understanding the fulfillment of
God's plan of salvation. Without the Mosaic Covenant, no one would understand the significance of Jesus'
crucifixion: the purpose of Levitical sacrificial laws, the Day of Atonement, the nature of the sacrifice, the
role of the high priest, and Passover.
When the high priest enters the Holy of Holies, once a year on the Day of Atonement, to make
atonement for the sins of the nation of Israel, he sacrifices a young bull to atone for himself and his family
and one unblemished male goat for the nation of Israel (Lev 16-1-34).
The prophet Isaiah portrays the Messiah's sacrifice within the context of Levitical sacrificial
laws (Isa 53:1-12). The Suffering Servant died for iniquity,
transgression and sin (Isa 53:5-12). He was a guilt offering and
in substitute for human beings (Isa 53:5-12).
The apostles Paul and Peter understood the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as a fulfillment of
Isaiah's prophecy. Jesus was unblemished and sinless and took the place of the sinner to make atonement for sin
(2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:22-24;
Jesus provided the blood at the place of propitiation
(Rom 3:25; Heb 9:12-14)
and was Himself the place of propitiation (1 John 2:2;
Jesus was the High Priest, who was Himself the supreme once and for all sacrifice
(Heb 9:24-26) that accomplished complete atonement for sin and
appeased God's wrath towards human beings; Jesus became the mediator of the New Covenant.
The Mosaic Covenant included laws on religious festivals such as Passover
(Lev 23:5-8; Ex 12:1-13, 42-51).
Jesus was the Passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7;
1 Pet 1:19; Rev 5:6).
John the Baptist prophetically sees Jesus as the link between Passover and the Day of Atonement,
the "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29),
and by divine appointment (Acts 2:23), Jesus' crucifixion takes
place during the Passover celebration (Mark 14:12).
Perhaps the most essential feature of the Mosaic Covenant for the Abrahamic Covenant is that it teaches one
about the holy character of God. To be holy places an emphasis on God; something must be set apart or separated
from the profane or unclean before it can come into the presence of His glory. It applies to time
(Ex 20:8-12), space (Ex 19:23),
objects (Ex 28:4-43) and people
Holiness cannot be understood apart from the Mosaic Covenant.
It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord,
so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, so
that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of
Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.'"
The Mosaic Covenant's instruction on atonement revealed that sin had to be expiated and
God's wrath propitiated; sin could not come into God's presence. God makes clear that the privilege of serving
God was not exclusive to the Levitical Priesthood.
"Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be
My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests
and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
Of the nation of Israel, only the priests were set apart and made holy, so that they
could minister to God and the Tabernacle (Ex 28:1-43;
29:1-46; Lev 21:1-24).
To the nation of Israel, they served by conducting sacrifices, worship, and teaching the Law.
Holiness is distinct from faith. Understood properly, one can be holy without faith, which
explains how a non-Believer may be considered holy by complying with the Law. While Paul is speaking of the New
Covenant, he illustrates this concept when speaking of a marriage, where the two become one
(Gen 2:23-24), between a Believer and non-Believer.
But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever,
and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he
consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through
his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are
unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is
not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will
save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
(1 Cor 7:12-16)
In failing their covenant responsibilities, the nation of Israel could not be holy. Recognizing
that the Mosaic Covenant is about holiness and the nation of Israel's failure elevates the beauty of the New
Covenant and emphasizes the magnitude of God's promise of blessing through Abraham.
In contrast to the Mosaic Covenant, the New Covenant unifies faith with holiness so that one
is holy without any human effort. Just by faith alone one becomes holy and enables the indwelling of the Holy
With this understanding, the apostle Peter indicates that all Believers are God’s own royal
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own
possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His
marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy. (1 Pet 2:9-10)
And after Judgment, the dimensions of New Jerusalem, with the proportions of the Holy of Holies
(Rev 21:15-16), encompass the land that God promised to Abraham
from the Nile river to the Euphrates (Gen 15:18) within which
God's royal priesthood will live in the presence of God and His Son (Rev 20:6).