Mosaic Covenant - An Introduction

What is Mosaic Covenant?

Covenants are a means that God graciously chose to relate Himself with man.

God could execute His plan at proper times in the history of man without any covenant.
He is powerful to manage all events in this world from genesis to the eschatological era according to His will and pleasure.
Still God decided to enter into a covenant with His elected people, Abraham and his descendents.
Thus Yahweh stands alone, different from other gentile gods.
Yahweh is the only God who has entered into a covenant with man.
Only the descendents of Abraham enjoy a covenantal relationship with God.
And He is faithful and powerful to fulfill the covenant.
It is a challenge to all false gods of this world.

There are 6 major covenants in the Bible between God and man.
They are:

1.      Adamic covenant
2.      Noahaic Covenant
3.      Abrahamic Covenant
4.      Mosaic Covenant
5.      Davidic Covenant
6.      New Covenant or the Covenant of Jesus Christ.

The Mosaic Covenant was the fourth covenant of Yahweh.

The Mosaic Covenant is a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai as described in the book of Exodus chapter 19 to 24.
It is also called the Sinai Covenant after the place where the covenant was made.
It is called Mosaic Covenant since Moses was God’s chosen leader of Israel at that time.

The pattern of the covenant is very similar to other ancient covenants of that time.
The covenant was made between a sovereign King, Yahweh the Lord and his people or subjects, Israel.
This is a blood covenant.

On the other hand the Mosaic Covenant is a bilateral agreement, which specifies the obligations of both parties to the covenant.
At the time of the covenant, God reminded the people of their obligation to be obedient to His law.
And the people agreed to the covenant.

Exodus 19 : 6 - 8
6    'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
 7   So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him.
 8   Then all the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do." So Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD.   (NKJV)

By this covenant God announced the creation of Israel, the nation.
The nation Israel came into being according to this covenant.
Israel is the only nation that is formed by a covenant between God and His people.

Primarily, it is a special covenant between God and Israel as a nation.
The intention of God by entering into a covenant with Israel as a nation is to set the nation apart from all other nations as God’s chosen people.
In Mosaic Covenant God promised to make Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.
Israel was to be God’s light to the dark world around them.
They were to be a separate and called-out nation so that everyone around them would know that they worshiped Yahweh, the covenant-keeping God.

The Mosaic Covenant was centered around God's giving His divine law to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Mosaic Covenant differs significantly from the Abrahamic Covenant and later Biblical covenants.

The Mosaic Covenant is a significant covenant in both God’s redemptive history of man and in the history of the nation of Israel.
Israel is the chosen servant nation through whom God would bless the world with His written Word and the Living Word, Jesus Christ.
Three classes of the Law

The Mosaic Law is divided into three classes.

1.      The first were those governing the moral life, which would be the Ten Commandments.
This instructed one on how to live righteously in relation to Yahweh and their neighbor.

2.      The second were those governing the religious life.
It was the Tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the priesthood.
This instructed one on how to enter the presence of a righteous and holy God.
It also showed what was necessary to atone sin, having broken the moral code.

3.      The third class of laws included those governing the civil life.
They are also known as Judicial Law.
They were the laws that dealt with civil law and the punishments given when one violated these laws.


Remember, Mosaic covenant is the most complex covenant found in Scripture.
It is surely a part of the redemptive plan of God.
All revelations of redemption of mankind are progressively unfurled in the Bible.
Covenants always are progressive revelations.
Later covenants do not supersede previous revelation; rather, they help to reveal and expand the earlier covenants more fully.

The Mosaic covenant comes under the broader covenant of grace.
The broader covenant is the Abrahamic Covenant.
The Mosaic covenant further unfolds the Abrahamic covenant and both of these are unfolded by the Davidic covenant.
The new covenant displays the intent and purpose of these pacts most clearly of all.

The Purpose of the Covenant

 The purpose of the Mosaic Law was not salvation.

In particular, the exodus proves that the Mosaic covenant is rooted in the covenant of grace.
God is clear that nothing in the Israelites themselves moved Him to choose the nation and deliver it from Egypt.
It was a divine election out of His good pleasure and love.
The same divine election is the only explanation for choosing Abraham as the Patriarch and God signing a covenant with him.
We see here the electing grace of God at work.
Deuteronomy 7 : 7, 8
7    "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
 8   "but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  (NKJV)

And also, the Israelites were not required to obey the Law for the Lord to save them.
As the story goes, God rescued His people from slavery before revealing the Law.
Even under the old covenant, salvation was wholly of the Lord and by His Grace.

Abrahamic Covenant and Mosaic Covenant
Abrahamic Covenant is an eternal covenant that extends from the patriarch to the eschatological era.
Abrahamic Covenant is a covenant of Grace.
Mosaic Covenant comes within the larger umbrella of Abrahamic Covenant.

The Abrahamic covenant was characterized by promises.
It did not stress, however, human sin and inability, and it did not instruct in grace.
Nowhere is there any great stress upon the fact that man is a sinner and need divine justification.

Israel at Sinai had been redeemed out of Egypt.
They were already saved from the slavery of their enemy.
They have become a nation under the leadership of Moses.

And it is evident from the story of the nation that God thinks that they need a tutor to instruct them in divine truth and in divine grace.
So, they have come to Mount Horeb or Sinai, in order to receive a tutor.
The law was a schoolmaster in order that they might admit the need of justification by faith.

That means, Mosaic covenant was added to Abrahamic Covenant later at Mt. Sinai by God.
Galatians 3 : 19  What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.   (NKJV)

Here St. Paul is arguing that the Law was given so that we might know our sinfulness, and the need of the mercy of God. 

Albert Barns New Testament Commentary
To further explain the above passage, let me quote the essence of the commentary on this passage from Albert Barns New Testament Commentary.

The Law was appended to all the previous institutions and promises.
It was an additional arrangement, on the part of God, for great and important purposes.
It was an arrangement subsequent to the giving of the promise.

The law was given to show the true nature of transgressions, or to show what was sin.
It was not in itself a way to justification.

The true purpose of the law was:

1.      to disclose the true nature of sin
2.      to discourage men from committing it
3.      to declare its penalty
4.      to convince men of it
5.      to be preparatory to the work of redemption through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

The interesting truth is that this use of the law still exists.

The law was given in order to keep men from transgression.
It was designed to restrain and control man by the fear of its threatened penalties.
But we are not to suppose that this was the sole use of the law; but that this was a main purpose.
And this purpose it still accomplishes.
It shows men their duty.
It reminds them of their guilt.
It teaches them how far they have wandered from God.
It reveals to them the penalty of disobedience.
It shows them that justification by the law is impossible, and that there must be some other way by which man must be saved.

Covenants have no expiry date
Covenants have no expiry date unless it is mentioned in it.
No expiry date is mentioned in the Mosaic Covenant.
That means the Mosaic Covenant is not yet expired.
Our Lord also vindicated the eternal existence of the Law.
Matthew 5 : 17,18
17   "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
 18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.  (NKJV)

Then, what is the last day when everything is fulfilled?

Let us read what Paul says about the last day.

1 Corinthians 15 : 22 - 26
22   For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.
23   But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.
24   Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
25   For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
26   The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.   (NKJV)

Paul simply states that the day in which everything is fulfilled is the day the last enemy is destroyed.
Till then the Mosaic covenant will stand valid.

Mosaic Covenant was a part of a great and glorious whole.
It was not an independent thing.
It did not stand by itself.
It was incomplete, and in many respects unintelligible, until Jesus came.

In itself it did not justify or save men.
But it introduced a system by which man could be saved.
It contained no provisions for justifying men.
It was not a whole in itself, but it was a part of a glorious whole.
But it was in the design of God an essential part of a system by which man could be saved.
It led to the completion and fulfillment of the entire scheme by which the race could be justified.

Let us go back to the three classes of Law, as we mentioned somewhere else above in this study.

The moral laws are such as the duty of loving God and his creatures cannot be changed.
These cannot be abolished.
It can never be made right to hate God, or to hate our fellow-men.
Of this kind are the Ten Commandments, and these our Saviour has neither abolished nor superseded.

The ceremonial laws were appointed to regulate the religious rites and ceremonies of a people.
These can be changed when circumstances are changed.
Those designed to regulate mere matters of ceremony and rites of worship might be changed.
That means, the procedure may undergo changes, but the aim, to worship Yahweh the Lord will not change.
A third species of law was the civil or judicial Laws
These were of the nature of the ceremonial law, and might also be changed at pleasure.
The judicial law of the Hebrews was adapted to their own civil society.
When the form of their polity was changed this was of course no longer binding.

The ceremonial law was fulfilled by the coming of Christ.
The shadow was lost in the substance, and ceased to be binding.

The moral law was confirmed and unchanged.

A successful plan of God

The old covenant law testified to the perfect holiness God demands, and it also trained Israel to look for a Savior.
It was not through keeping the Law that the ancient Israelites were commanded to seek salvation.
As with us, their doing of good works as outlined in Scripture was to be the way in which they thanked God for saving them.
We are also commanded to do good works, and the old covenant law can guide us in the kinds of works that please our Lord.

The Law revealed the righteousness and holiness of Yahweh and His standard of righteousness for His people.
As they looked at and studied the Law, they would see the righteousness of Yahweh.
They would also learn what it meant for themselves to be righteous as well.

The righteous standard of Yahweh would reveal the sinfulness of man.
As one tried to meet the requirements of the Law, they would find time after time that they could not meet the expectations of the Law.
This failure would reveal the need for a savior.

Jesus Himself was hidden within the Law, the sacrificial system, and the tabernacle, ready to be revealed in His coming.
Thus God prepared the people for the great atonement for sin, the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus was born historically and politically at the right time.
Jesus was born only after the people got enough time and experience to realize the need for a savior to atone their sins.

Mosaic Covenant was not a failed plan of God.
Because God concealed Jesus in it and everything worked out as God planned to the sacrifice of Jesus.


Let me conclude this brief study with few more sentences.

The relevance of the Mosaic Covenant in the life of a New Testament believer is a topic of discussion among great theologians.
Those who believe in the replacement theology that the New Testament Church replaced the Old Testament Israel argue that everything connected with the Mosaic Covenant is abolished.

But certain passages in the New Testament speak a different story.
It seems, as we read them that Mosaic Covenant still continues into the New Testament Church.

None can explain effectively how the crucifixion of Jesus becomes the atonement for human sin, without referring to the sacrificial system described in the book of Leviticus.

Let us read two passages from the New Testament:

1 Peter 1 : 16  because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."   (NKJV)

1 Peter 2 : 9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;   (NKJV)

Both these verses are repetitions not just from the Old Testament, but precisely from the Mosaic Covenant.
One is the instruction to live a holy life.
The second is the promise of the covenant, of what we are and will be in the Kingdom of God.

Many more verses connected with the Mosaic Covenant are repeated in the New Testament, either as instruction or as promise.
This shows, the Mosaic Covenant is relevant even today.
But we are not under the ceremonial and judicial or civic laws because in Jesus all ceremonial laws are fulfilled and the judicial or civic laws were for the immediate society.

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