|THE MOSAIC COVENANT
Kevin J. Conner and Ken Malmin
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Apr 11 2008
The Mosaic Covenant is the most complicated and the most difficult of all covenants to interpret. The elaborate wording of
the covenant, the prolific and intricate details of the sacrifices, priesthood and sanctuary and the complete governing of the
national life of Israel by the sabbaths and religious festivals make it the fullest expression of a covenant in Scripture. Its
explicit external forms, when rightly interpreted, illustrate the more implicit elements of other covenants. However, both in
the early Church and today, much confusion has arisen concerning the purpose of this covenant and its relationship to the
other covenants. This is illustrated in Acts 15 and in the Epistles to the Galatians and Hebrew believers.
Why was this covenant given? Did it annul the Abrahamic Covenant? How does the New Covenant affect it? Is it in effect
today? How these questions are answered has great theological and eschatological implications.
1. With whom was the Covenant made?
The Mosaic Covenant was made strictly and only with the chosen nation of Israel (Exodus 24:7,8; Deuteronomy 5:1-5; I
Kings 8:9,21; Jeremiah 31:31-32; Romans 5:12-14 with John 1:17; Romans 9:4,5).
2. When was the Covenant given?
The Mosaic Covenant was made 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant (Galatians 3:14-18). It was given to Israel in the
wilderness after their deliverance from Egypt. Before this time it was not in effect but was preceded by other covenants of
grace and faith.
3. Why was the Covenant made?
There are two parts to the reason why God gave the Mosaic Covenant; that which pertains to Israel's probation and that
which pertains to the purpose of God.
and worshipped the idols of Egypt. They failed to maintain their covenantal relationship with the Lord and thus found
themselves in bondage (Exodus 1:7-12; Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:5-9).
bondage. This deliverance was based on the covenant of grace and faith made with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob. In remembering the covenant, God showed Himself to be a covenant-keeping God by revealing His
covenant name to Moses and promising to bring Israel into the covenant land (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:6,13-17; 6:1-8).
God even gave Moses signs to perform so that Israel would believe in the covenant promises (Exodus 4:1,5,8,9,27-
31). However, God sought to kill Moses for failing to maintain the Abrahamic Covenant seal of circumcision in his
own family. He could not deliver Israel on the basis of the covenant his own family was not keeping (Genesis 17:9-
14; Exodus 4:24-26; Acts 7:8).
deliverance of Israel in connection with the Passover Feast. This was all in fulfillment of the promise God made with
Abraham in Genesis 15. On the basis of grace and through their faith and obedience, Israel experienced the
benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant in their deliverance from Egypt.
Wilderness to prove them and to know what was in their heart (Deuteronomy 8:2,3,15,16). Between Egypt and Sinai
God gave them four tests of faith and obedience. In each case they failed. They failed at the test of the Red Sea
(Exodus 14:10-12,31). They failed at the test of the waters of Marah (Exodus 15:23-26). They failed at the
Wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1-12), and they also failed at the test of Rephidim (Exodus 17:1-7).
their evil hearts of unbelief (Psalms 78:1-54; 106;1-15). This generation that came out of Egypt proved themselves
to be a perverse, crooked, and froward generation, "children in whom there is no faith" (Deuteronomy 32:5,20,28,29).
obey all His commandments (Exodus 19:8; 24:3,7), the Lord lamented the fact that there was no such heart in them
to obey (Deuteronomy 5:28,29). Even after receiving the Mosaic Covenant this generation rejected the covenant
land and wandered in the Wilderness for 40 years until they all had died (Numbers 13-14 with Hebrews 3-4 and Jude
5). All of this is evidence of the failure of the nation on probation.
works. Thus God gave them a covenant of law and works to expose their helplessness and inability to keep
covenant apart from the grace of God.
reveal His redemptive purposes, His character, and His way of life to other nations (Deuteronomy 5:6-8, 31-40).
Jew and Gentile, before God (Romans 3:19).
Divine attributes of righteousness, truth, mercy, and peace were to be revealed. This judgment was actually to
prepare the way for the New Covenant. Following are twelve aspects to the Divine purpose for the giving of the
Mosaic or the Law Covenant.
(Galatians 3:22-25; 4:1-3).
being; Law and Grace (John 1:17).
person and the work of Christ (Romans 2:20; Hebrews 10:1; Colossians 2:17).
God in worship and upon the basis of which He could dwell in their midst (Hebrews 9-10).
revelation (Romans 2:20).
faith (Romans 3:19-22; 9:30-32; 10:1-6; Galatians 3:10-16).
(Galatians 3:12 with Leviticus 18:5).
4. What is the Relationship of the Mosaic Covenant to the Abrahamic Covenant?
In the early Church there was much confusion concerning the relationship of three great covenants; the Abrahamic, the
Mosaic, and the New Covenants. Paul gave the solution by pinpointing the relationship of the Mosaic Covenant to the
Abrahamic covenant. The five parts to this answer that are given in the Epistles are listed below:
Covenant had been made irrevocable by its promises being confirmed with an oath (Galatians 3:8,9,14-18;
transgressions (Galatians 3:19).
reason the prophets spoke of the covenants co-existing in their day (Galatians 3:15-19; Ezekiel 16:59-63).
The Mosaic Covenant and the Abrahamic Covenant both flow into the cross; their ceremonial elements being
fulfilled and abolished and their spiritual and eternal elements being fulfilled in the New Covenant.
of reformation which would be brought about by the New Covenant (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 9:10).
The Abrahamic Covenant, which was everlasting and irrevocable, was not annulled by the Mosaic Covenant which was
temporarily imposed upon Israel until the time when the New Covenant would fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant and abolish the
Mosaic Covenant. Thus the Abrahamic Covenant was the transcending eternal covenant while the Mosaic Covenant was
the temporary additional covenant.
I. The WORDS of the Covenant
The Mosaic Covenant contains more words than any other covenant given in Old Testament times. Numerous chapters
are given to record the words of this covenant (Exodus 20-40; Leviticus 1-27; Numbers 1-10,15,18,19,28,29,30-36),
Deuteronomy 1-34). All these words could be classified under the three major divisions of the Law; Moral, Civil and
Covenant" and "The Ten Words" (Deuteronomy 4:13,23; 10:1-5). The Ten Commandments set forth the Divine
righteous standard of morality for human conduct in relation to both God and man (Exodus 20; 34:27,28).
(Exodus 21-23 being sample chapters). These applications of law governed every area of Israel's life; civilly,
socially, economically, personally, and legally.
provided atonement for the sins and uncleanness of Israel, individually and nationally. It foreshadowed the person
and work of Christ in grace.
1. Promises of Blessing
primarily an addition of conditions to the receiving of those blessings. While the Abrahamic Covenant was
primarily a covenant of promise the Mosaic Covenant was primarily one of conditions. Thus the statements of
promise found in the words of the Mosaic Covenant are actually affirmations of the promises God made in the
Abrahamic Covenant. These promises involve personal, national, geographical, and spiritual blessings
(Exodus 23:25-33; Leviticus 25,26).
2. Promises of Cursing
disobedience were clearly spelled out to the first generation out of Egypt (Exodus 22:22-24; Leviticus 26:14-
16). Though the prophet Balaam could not curse Israel, whom God had blessed, they could bring the curse of
punishment upon themselves by breaking the conditions of the covenant (Numbers 22,23,24; Galatians 3:10).
The curses of the broken covenant were fully spelled out in the curses of the Palestinian Covenant which was
given to the second generation as an extension of the Mosaic Covenant.
it is filled with numerous "ifs" which become the terms of the covenant. Though under previous covenants the terms
involved an obedience that arose out of faith, under this covenant the term was an obedience that arose out of the
works of self-effort. Thus faith obedience was replaced with legal obedience (Leviticus 18:5; Galatians 3:10-12).
Under this covenant Israel could obtain the promise of life only by fulfilling the works of the law to obtain
righteousness (Deuteronomy 6:25; Leviticus 18:5; Romans 10:1-5; Galatians 3:21). However, under other
covenants they could receive righteousness by faith in God's promises and therefore be able to do His will (Galatians
3:11; Romans 4:1-5). The Mosaic Covenant said "Do and therefore live" while the New Covenant says "Receive life
and therefore do". The Mosaic Covenant promoted righteousness by works rather than righteousness by faith.
relationship to God and the other concerning man's relationship to man. They are called "The Ten Words".
obedience which demanded strict adherence to the commandments. If they obeyed the commandments there
was blessing but if they disobeyed there was a curse (Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 13:4; Jeremiah 11:1-10).
6; 10:12,13,16; 30:6-8). It was only as they loved, feared, and served the Lord that they would be able to
perfectly obey His commandments.
The heart condition required to be able to perfectly fulfill these terms of keeping God's commandments out of loving
obedience was not within Israel's reach because of the law of sin that was at work in their hearts (Deuteronomy 5:28,29;
Romans 7:7-22). Israel's history under the Mosaic Covenant proved that unless God changed man's heart he would never
be able by self-effort to develop a perfect heart of loving obedience toward the Lord. Their failure to keep the law was
intended to prepare them for the New Covenant which would bring them "a new heart and a new spirit" and would enable
them to obey God (Ezekiel 36:24-27). While the Mosaic Covenant commandments were written externally on tables of
stone by the finger God, the New Covenant commandments were written internally on the tables of our heart and mind by
the spirit of God (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8; II Corinthians 3). The Mosaic Covenant gave commandments to keep,
but no power to keep them, while the New Covenant not only gives the standards of God's righteousness but also the
changing and enabling power of God to fulfill them (Romans 8:1-6). Human effort alone could never accomplish what could
only be done by the grace and Spirit of God.
Covenant which was made everlasting and irrevocable by the giving of an oath (Galatians 3:15-17; Hebrews 6:13-
sprinkled with blood, and was to be read in the audience of the people. It was later placed in the side of the Ark of
the Covenant (Exodus 24:7,8; Hebrews 9:19,20; Deuteronomy 31:24-26).
II. The BLOOD of the Covenant
significance of the sacrifice of a covenant and typifies the importance of the atoning work of Christ.
sacrifice. At times the body was to be burnt upon the altar. At other times, it was to be burnt outside the
camp. On other occasions God, the priest and the offerer shared portions of the body of the sacrificial victim.
These complex requirements find their fulfillment in the sacrifice of the body of Jesus (Matthews 26:26-28;
Hebrews 10:1-10; 13:11-14).
upon the furnishings of the Tabernacle, though most often it was upon the brazen altar. On the Day of
Atonement the blood was brought within the veil and sprinkled upon the Mercy seat. These rituals find their
fulfillment in the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:26-28; Hebrews 9; 13:11-14).
was to illustrate that no amount of continued animal sacrifices could effectively take away man's sinfulness.
Second, it was to point to Christ's perfect, sinless, and once-for-all sacrifice that could take away man's
sinfulness (Hebrews 9,10). It was the multiplicity of sacrifices that caused the Mosaic Covenant to become
known as "the blood covenant" (Zechariah 9:11; Exodus 24:6-8; Hebrews 9:19,20).
Covenant gives the fullest demonstration of priestly service. The mediating priesthood involved two particular
persons and then the entire tribe to which they belonged.
words of the covenant (Deuteronomy 33:15). He was the law-giving mediator between God and Israel (Acts 7:
31,38,53; Galatians 3:19,20; Deuteronomy 5:22-27).
blood of the covenant (Hebrews 5:1-5). He was the atoning mediator between God and Israel (Exodus 28,29;
Leviticus 8,9). It was from Aaron's household that the succession of High Priests ministered for Israel.
of Levi to minister before Him (Exodus 19:1-6; Genesis 49:5-7; Deuteronomy 33:8-11; Numbers 3). It was to
this tribe that God gave "the covenant of priesthood" (Malachi 2:4-10; Nehemiah 13:29; Numbers 25:10-13).
The Book of Leviticus was given primarily to describe their priestly duties and ministrations in relation to the
people, the sacrifices and the sanctuary of the Lord.
Melchisedek (Hebrews 3:1; 5:1-5; Psalms 110; Hebrews 7). The Levitical Priesthood prefigured the priesthood
of all believers in Christ (I Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 5:5-9; 1:6).
entered into the Melchisedek Priesthood of Christ (Acts 6:7).
Moses. All that was illustrated in the Tabernacle of Eden, and the Patriarchal Altars was embodied in the Tabernacle
of Moses. The primary purpose for this Tabernacle is expressed in Exodus 25:8, "And let them make Me a
sanctuary, that I may dwell among them." The details concerning the building of the Tabernacle are recorded in
1. The Most Holy Place
of the Covenant. Upon its blood-stained Mercy seat, the very presence and Shekinah glory of God dwelt.
God's redemptive covenant name was invoked upon the Ark (Exodus 25:10-22; Numbers 7:89; II Samuel 6:2).
1-4; Exodus 34:27,28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 9:9-15). In the side of the Ark was the Book of the Covenant
(Exodus 24:7,8; Deuteronomy 31:24-26).
2. The Outer Court
contained the brazen altar and the brazen laver, the places of ceremonial cleansing by blood and water
(Exodus 27:1-19; 30:17-21). Here the Levitical priesthood performed its daily sacrifices and ceremonial
cleansings for themselves and the people (Hebrews 10:1-11).
spoken of as the ceremonial law was actually an illustration of the grace of God and a fore-shadowing of the
person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ under the New Covenant. The mediatorial work of the High Priest
and the blood-stained Mercy seat in the sanctuary covering the moral law were both illustrations of grace
under law. It was only on that basis that God could dwell with Israel even under this Mosaic Covenant. At the
establishing of the New Covenant by the cross of Christ, all that which pertained to the shadow of the
ceremonial law was fulfilled and abolished. The spiritual reality in Christ remains (Colossians 2:14-17;
III. The SEAL of the Covenant
The sign or seal of the Mosaic Covenant was the weekly Sabbath day. It is distinctly spoken of as a sign between God and
the nation of Israel (Exodus 31:12-17; Ezekiel 20:10-26; Leviticus 19:30; Nehemiah 9:14; Leviticus 23:3).
The Lord reminded Israel of the fact that He made the heaven and the earth in six days work, and then sanctified the
seventh day as a day of rest. This seventh day of rest in creation became the pattern for God requiring the Israelites to
work six days and then rest on the seventh day, the holy Sabbath. The Sabbath was to be observed perpetually
throughout their generations. Any one who violated the Sabbath would surely be put to death (Exodus 31:16).
A. The Sabbath in the Old Testament
how it finds its fulfillment in the New Covenant.
Abrahamic Covenants we have no mention of the Sabbath for about 2500 years.
manna and this was spoken to the nation of Israel.
(Exodus 31:12-17; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Each of the covenants had their own sign and seal and God did not take
the sign or seal of other covenants and make such the seal of the Mosaic Covenant.
Sabbath was actually a ceremonial law. It was this "ceremony" that was attached to the Mosaic Covenant as its seal.
days of the Festivals of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, and these Sabbaths fell in their appointed weeks as
well as the weekly seventh day Sabbath (Leviticus 23:7,8,21,24,27-39).
Sabbath years of rest for the land. These Sabbaths of rest for the land pertained to the conditions of the Palestinian
Covenant (Leviticus 25:1-22).
land, thus breaking the sign and seal of the Mosaic and Palestinian Covenants.
Sabbaths of the Lord. The Sabbath days and years became burdensome to them and they despised them and thus
brought Divine judgment upon themselves (II Chronicles 36:21; Ezekiel 20:1-26; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Ezekiel 22:
8,26; Isaiah 56:2,6,133; Jeremiah 17:21-27).
Messiah, the very one who came to bring to them by the New Covenant, the reality of the Sabbath of the Mosaic
Covenant (Matthew 12:1-9, 10-14; John 5:1-18; 9:1-14).
New Covenant is no longer obligated to keep the Mosaic Covenant Sabbaths.
relationship to the New Covenant seal.
man's benefit, and man was not given for the benefit of the day. Man needs physical rest and recuperation, as well
as time for spiritual refreshment (Mark 2:27,28).
letter of the Sabbath, with numerous additions, and missed the spirit of the Sabbath, even crucifying the Lord of the
Sabbath. They exalted a day of rest above the only person that could give them true rest (Mark 2:27,28).
observances (Isaiah 1:10-17; Lamentations 2:6), and predicted the cessation of their feast days and Sabbaths
(Hosea 2:11). Paul taught that the holy days, new moons and Sabbath days were merely a shadow of things to
come and had been abolished at the Cross (Colossians 2:11,16,17).
only one exception, the ceremonial fourth commandment concerning the Sabbath. This "ceremony" was never
stated as a requirement for New Testament believers.
death and was to be done away with (II Corinthians 3:1-18; Hebrews 8:6-13). The New Covenant has its own
sign and seal, even the true and spiritual rest, which is the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 28:9-11; Acts
2:1-4). To take the Sabbath day and impose its keeping upon Christians today, Jew or Gentile, is to take the sign
and seal of the Old Covenant and add it to the sign and seal of the New Covenant. It then becomes a confusion of
rest is fulfilled in the New Covenant rest. The New Testament clearly shows that the seal of the New Covenant is the
receiving of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13,14; 4:30). This is true spiritual rest (Isaiah 28:11,12).
Christ. It is "in Christ" that there is everlasting rest. This fulfills "the perpetual covenant" of Sabbath rest. It is not in
keeping of a day but in the receiving of a person - Christ Jesus our Lord - that one finds the rest of God (Matthew 11:
The Mosaic Covenant finds its perfect fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the only Man who ever perfectly kept the
law in all its requirements. He fulfilled and abolished in His cross all that which pertained to the ceremonials and the
externals of the law. That righteousness which is in the law, which is holy, just, good, spiritual, and perfect finds its
fulfillment in Christ Himself reliving His sinless life in the believer "who walks not after the flesh but after the Spirit" (Romans
8:1-4). Christ's new law of love to God and man, written on the tables of the heart, by the Spirit, enable the believer to live
that life that is pleasing to God.
The Covenants, by Kevin J. Conner and Ken Malmin, Copyright 1983, Bible Temple Publishing.
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