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COVENANT AND CREATION

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  Leave a comment

We must even understand the world’s creation in terms of covenant. The creation account portrays a covenantal transaction, even though it does not employ the word “covenant” (berith). I argue this on three important bases.

First, the “basic elements of a covenant are imbedded in the Genesis account,” even though the word is lacking. When God creates Adam he enters into a blessed relationship with him (Ge 1:26–27) that establishes a legal bond on the basis of specified terms (Ge 2:15–17). In that bond God promises life for obedience and death for disobedience (Ge 2:16–17; cf. 3:15–21). This forms the essence of a covenantal relation. Even Re-formed premillennialist Sung Wook Chung agrees: “I believe that Genesis 1 and 2 should be read from a covenantal perspective.”

Second, later references speak of the creation as a covenantal action. In Jeremiah we read: “Thus saith the LORD: If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season” (Jer 33:20). “Thus saith the LORD: If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jer 33:25).

As Robertson carefully points out, in Jeremiah 33:25 the Hebrew structure of the verse parallels “ordinances (huqot) of heaven and earth” with the “covenant (berith) with day and night,” pointing back to the orderly creation ordained of God. This evidently harkens back to Genesis 1:14a: “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night.”

Some might see this as referring to the Noahic Covenant mentioned in Genesis 8:22: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” But in a passage pressing the same point elsewhere, Jeremiah employs the term “ordinance” (huqoth) to speak of the sun, moon, and stars as bearers of light (Jer 31:35), as does Genesis 1, but not Genesis 8. Even the reference to “stars” is lacking in Genesis 8, though appearing in Jeremiah 31:35.

Third, Hosea 6:7a employs “covenant” when referring to Adam’s creation. Speaking of Israel God declares: “they like Adam have transgressed the covenant.” Although the Hebrew term  dam may be translated either “Adam” (in particular) or “man” (in general), either would point back to the original covenant with Adam in Eden. Yet the particular man “Adam” seems to be in view here for several reasons. (1) The significance of Adam’s sin more forcefully exposes Israel’s rebellion. Adam’s role as the great sinner is certainly familiar to the Jews (Ge 3), for “Adam and Eve receive extensive treatment in extrabiblical Jewish . . . sources.” Job 31:33 serves as a parallel: “If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom.” (2) If we adopt “man” as the proper translation in Hosea 6:7, the verse would be “altogether expressionless.” How else could they have sinned than like men? (3) The reference (“they have transgressed”) is directed to Ephraim and Judah (Hos 6:4), not to the priests. Thus, the contrast is not one between priests and ordinary men, but between “Ephraim and Judah” — and the historical Adam.

Certainly the Scriptures are pre-eminently a covenant document. God even employs covenant in creating the world. And this powerful covenant concept will frame-in a postmillennial eschatology as we will see.

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

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