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Other Traditional Misunderstanding

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We should look at a few technical points. These might come quickly to mind, and can be easily addressed.

First covenant

Hebrews 9:18 calls the Old covenant the 'first' covenant. How can it be the 'first' if the Sinai covenant predated it? The answer is simple. The Greek word translated 'first' is 'prote'. It actually indicates 'first of a series'.  In this case we have a series of two, so 'first could be translated 'former'. Hebrews is only comparing the Old Covenant with the New Covenant. It only deals with two covenants.  In this comparison, of course the Old Covenant is the first. We have to include other historical evidence to connect the Old Covenant with events recorded in the Law.

Malachi 4:4 indicates that the law was given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Wouldn't that mean it was the Sinai covenant?  Israel departed Egypt on the 15th day of the first month (Num 33:3). They arrived at Mount Sinai on the first day of the third month (Ex. 19:1). Exodus 19 and the book of Jubilees (Ch 1:1-4, 9:11-22), which was regarded as highly as some Hebrew scripture by many in the early church and by many Jews, both indicate God spoke to the nation from Sinai within just a few days of their arrival. The confirmation of the Sinai covenant would have been immediately after that. However, they did not depart the area of Sinai until almost a year later. (Num 10:11-13)

Once a covenant is confirmed, it cannot be changed. Any later additions could not be considered part of the Sinai covenant. The great bulk of the Law was given to Moses in the area around Sinai, but it was after the Sinai covenant was confirmed (Ex 34:32, Ex 33:7, Lev 1:1, Num 1:1, Lev 25:1, 27:34, Lev 7:37-38). Also it should be noted that Israel knew at least the basics, if not the detailed judgments of the Sinai covenant, before they arrived at Sinai. "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?" (Exodus 16:28). Of course God spoke to all Israel from Mount Sinai. The covenant of the Lord did not come through Moses.

So the great bulk of the Law of Moses was given while Israel was camped around Sinai. However, it was given after the Sinai covenant was confirmed and not fully explained to the people until Deuteronomy, "Moses began to explain this law" (Deu 1:5b).

Jeremiah 31:32

Another scripture that might be quoted to seriously link the Sinai covenant with the Old Covenant is Jeremiah 31:32. This verse is also quoted in Hebrews 8:9.

"Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord."

Like the dedication of the Old Covenant as recorded in chapter 9 this must be read very carefully. In fact, this verse reinforces that the covenant made in Moab is the Old Covenant.

If you think about this carefully, the covenant that failed and none will be made like it again was made in Egypt according to this verse, not in the Sinai. When you take someone by the hand to lead them out of a room, they are obviously in the room. Even so, when God takes Israel by the hand to lead them out of Egypt they must be in Egypt.

The Sinai was not in Egypt (Ex 12:40-42, 13:3-4, 16:1). They left Egypt on the first day of Unleavened Bread. After leaving Egypt, they arrived at Mt. Sinai a month and a half later (Ex 16:1, 19:1).

So, to what covenant is Hebrews 8:9 and Jeremiah 31:32 referring? There is no record of any covenant being made in Egypt. But ask yourself this. Is God more interested in geographical location or state of mind?

The obvious answer is state of mind. Certainly many of the people still had their hearts in Egypt long after their physical crossing of the Red Sea and long after the Sinai covenant was confirmed (Num 11:18, 14:1-4, Acts 7:39). It wasn't until after Israel crossed over the Jordan into the Promised Land that God considered they were separated from Egypt. "...This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." (Josh 5:9) That was when God made the final separation between Israel and Egypt.  This was immediately after they crossed the Jordan, entering the Promised Land.

The covenant made in Moab was made just before Israel was led out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, just before they left Egypt mentally. God separated them from their shameful inclination to return to Egypt at that time.

The law and the Moab covenant was to keep Israel in line with the covenant of the Lord (Gal 3:23), which they had proven incapable of obeying as agreed. Note the rest of this Hebrews/Jeremiah quote, "because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord." (Heb 8:9bc). God's desire was that they obey HIS covenant, the Ten Commandments and the statutes and judgments that expounded on them (Deu 4:13, 5:31).

This verse is actually contrasting the Old Covenant of Moab with His covenant, the covenant of the Lord, as recorded in Exodus 20 and written with the finger of God (Ex 31:17-18).

The Law of Moses, the Old Covenant, was the covenant made in Moab, just before Israel went into the Promised Land. That is when they were separated from Egypt. It is the only covenant to which Hebrews could be referring. The Ten Commandments, His Covenant, was the "Words" or official terms of the covenant of the Lord (Ex. 34:28, Deut 4:13). Actually His covenant was just confirming at Sinai the covenant originally made with Abraham.

There are other scriptures that often are misunderstood and therefore can be confusing.  A number of scriptures from the New Testament are covered in the New Testament teaching page.  Jeremiah 11 can also be confusing if one approaches it with old assumptions.