In this post we are going to discuss the key features of the first covenant God made, which He did with the nation of Israel. It is key to understand the features of the covenant in order for us to understand God’s Covenant with the World which will come through Jesus.
We can read in Genesis 12 the story of God calling Abram, whose family had already moved from from Ur in modern day Iraq, Haran in modern day Syria. God tells Abram to leave his house, his home, his extended family there and go to Canaan in modern day Israel.
As we keep reading on in Genesis 15-17 we can see that God promises to make him a father of many people, who will number like the stars in the sky. But he also tells Abram, right then and there, that they will be foreigners in another land as slaves for 400 years before they inherit the land of Canaan, or modern day Israel. Here God also changes his name from Abram to Abraham. Abram roughly translates as Ab (think Abba, father) and rum (high or head). Abram meant big daddy. Thing was he didn’t have any children at the time. Then God changes his name to Abraham, such a subtle difference but with clear indications. He retained the Ab part of his name but the last part became ruham. This actually translates as multitude. This is the key shift in Abraham’s life where he is being given the promise of the future covenant between God and his multitude of offspring. You can go on to read how Sarai, his wife, and he blundered about trying to conceive the multitude themselves and the collateral damage that ensues.
Be that as it may, the story continues on for about another 400 years. The offspring of Abraham rapidly multiplies and they find themselves in the very prophecy God had told Abraham about back in Genesis 15. They are enslaved, in Egypt, not their promised land.
Fast forward about 80 years and we see Moses, leading the nation of Israel, which were called the Hebrews at the time, out of their enslavement. Noah had his wife and his 3 sons and their wived on the Ark with him during the flood. His sons were Ham, Shem and Japheth. More to come on these characters later. One of the large historical descendants of Shem (where we ultimately get the work Semmite) was Eber. And so being related to Eber, you were a Hebrew. The day before the Hebrews high-tailed it out of Egypt, they had a very busy day. They sacrificed a ram. The ram was a symbol of power and protection to the Egyptians, so needless to say this was an affront to the establishment. The Hebrews were to take the blood from this yearling ram, and paint it on the cross piece and side posts of the door. More on the practice can be found here. . In any case, the angel of death was going to come and harvest or kill the firstborn son of each household, regardless of Egyptian or Hebrew. Only the blood of the ram, and later lamb, would be sufficient for the angel of death to passover the house and in turn give life to the firstborn of the household. Then the Hebrews marched towards the Sinai peninsula, to the East/Southeast of modern day Cairo. They were headed that direction becuase God commanded Moses to bring the Hebrew nation back to the holy mountain (Mt. Sinai) after they left Egypt. They could have walked straight to the land of Canaan in less than 2 weeks, but instead they headed towards Sinai. When they encountered their first problem, it was that they were backed up against the Red Sea while a ticked off Pharoah and his army charged towards them in retribution of God’s mighty acts. Assumably if they couldn’t get away or a miracle performed, they would all be as good as dead. But God opened up the waters, the wind blowing from the East dried up the floor of the Red Sea and they walked across on dry land. When they emerged on the other side, they were saved. From there, they marched south to Mt. Sinai to have an encounter with God. When they arrived at the holy mountain, it was covered with fire and smoke and thunder and lightning and there were sounds like trumpets being blown. And from this scene God gives the covenant between Himself and the Hebrews, the nation of Israel. This is the 10 commandments and the entirety of the mosiac (Moses) law.