As we turn to consider Adam, it is important to begin thinking about the concept of “covenant” in the Bible. The word covenant is used over 300 times in the Bible, so it is rather important. Most of all, it represents the way in which God interacts with man.
A covenant is a relationship built on promises, where blessings result for obedience and curses result from disobedience. (for instance, a marriage covenant). The word covenant comes from the Hebrew word berith, which means “to cut.” The idea in ancient times was that people “cut a covenant.” Animals would be cut in two and their body parts laid opposite each other so that the blood would flow together. Then the two parties would walk through the blood and meet each other in the middle and make their covenant. In the act the parties covenanting were saying, “If I break my end of the covenant, let me become like these animals.”
Usually a king or superior establishes a covenant with a vassal (or lesser) person. We see God establishing these covenants throughout the Bible [Noah (Gen 9), Abraham (Gen 15), David (1 Sam. 7), new covenant (Jer. 31)]. Though it is not mentioned directly in Genesis 1-2, the idea is certainly present (cf Hosea 6:7).
When God created Adam, He entered into a covenant with him. This is sometimes called “The covenant of works” or “the covenant of life.” Essentially, God promised to give Adam life so long as he obeyed (works). Note how this corresponds to the idea of the kingdom of God. The King covenants with his subject, Adam, thus promising him life and happiness in His kingdom.
But, when Adam ate the fruit of the tree, Adam broke his covenant. As a result, God cursed him with the penalty of death.
We'll return later to discuss the whole notion of the covenant of grace.
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