The most insightful and genuinely inspired notion of the Hebrew world view is the concept of the berit involving God and His chosen people. Interpreted into English as “covenant,” the term denotes a little closer to “promise,” or “pledge. ” In the “promise” to Abraham, God picks Abraham and his offspring as a particular people, in fact, as the only people of God. He assures Abraham that his progeny will inhabit and possess the lands of Palestine, that they will be immeasurable, and that they will benefit from the security and attention of God over all their enemies.
It is this promise and the relationship it entails concerning Yahweh, the one and only God, and His people that characterize the Hebrew cultural and historical distinctiveness. The bond implied by the word “berit” is the relationship involving a lord and his servants, for in Hebrew, a “berit” is a pledge that is made unilaterally by a lord to his servants that he will defend and provide for those servants. The promise is not compelled by law nor affected on the lord by his servants—it is utterly voluntary.
The term “covenant” stands for “business deal,” or “contract,” and suggests a promise to provide one end of the contract if the other end is met. But a covenant is a two-sided arrangement; it obtains the participation of both parties and they are obligated only by the stipulations of the covenant or agreement. God’s berit, on the other hand, is carried out unilaterally exclusive of the involvement of Abraham or his people in the agreement. Abraham is merely chosen.
As implied in the word, the relationship of God to his chosen people is a connection of a lord to his servants; the chosen people, as servants, owe to God first and foremost obedience. In this sense, the Abrahamic berit is open-ended; by picking Abraham’s offspring, God is requiring of that offspring absolute submission and deference for all the rules to come in the future. For God has not bared His regulations to His chosen people in the time of Abraham; that will appear centuries later when the Hebrews are set free from Egypt. Reference: 1. Hooker, Richard, World Civilizations, 1996.
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