Jeremiah 31:31 (CJB) 31 “Here, the days are coming,” says Adonai,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah.
Does this say, “a new covenant with Christians” or “a new covenant with Gentiles?” It would not make sense even if it did unless there had already been an older covenant with Christians or Gentiles. In case you are wondering, there wasn’t.
Christians didn’t even exist yet when this was written.
The covenant Adonai says He will make is also not with the nations (Gentiles). This may cause you a little discomfort right about now, but bear with me because it is important. In fact, it is important enough that one has to wonder if the implications of this verse are carefully enough considered at times by those that are reading it. I am going to let it soak in for a minute because it is crucial to understanding what the “new covenant” is.
Let’s start with what a covenant is. Here are some excerpts from The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew English Dictionary:
1311. בְּרִית berîth
Phonetic Pronunciation: ber-eeth’
A foundational concept of covenant is the notion of legal contract…
The idiom for establishing a covenant is “to cut a covenant.” The likely origin of this phrase resides within the ceremonial act of slaughtering and dismembering animals in the process of ratifying covenants. The implication of this act is a warning to the one who might break the covenant. He may receive a similar fate as the animal…
Kings established a covenant with those ruled…
The most significant covenant in the Hebrew Bible is the one which Yahweh made with the Israelites at Sinai (Exo. 20:1ff). It is from this event that the Israelites are established as the people who were uniquely tied to Yahweh. Israel is born, loses her identity, and then is resurrected according to the covenant made with Yahweh at Sinai…
There are a number of other significant covenants throughout the Bible. The two prime ones antedating the Sinai covenant are the Noahic and the Abrahamic…
With the immanent collapse of the society, Jeremiah announces that a new covenant is coming, which will consist of the law being written on the hearts of the members of the community (31:31ff). Indeed, it was this internalization of the Law which was the prerequisite for entering the new covenant, expressed in the NT.
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “1311,” in The Complete Biblical Library Hebrew-English Dictionary – Aleph-Beth, (Springfield, IL: World Library Press, Inc., 1998), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1311”.
Jeremiah 31:32 (CJB)
32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers
on the day I took them by their hand
and brought them out of the land of Egypt;
because they, for their part,
violated my covenant,
even though I, for my part,
was a husband to them,” says Adonai.
The covenants made with their fathers were the following – each with a main point – (there are points other than the main point as well but to keep this shorter, I have not included them):
- The covenant in Eden: God’s covenant with His creation
- Noahic covenant: God promises Noah to never again destroy the earth
- Abrahamic covenant: Avraham would be the father of many nations
- Covenant with Yitz’chak: Issac’s seed would be blessed because of Avraham
- Covenant with Ya’akov: Jacob’s descendents would be numerous (Avraham)
- Mosaic covenant: The children of Ya’akov (Israel) would be His chosen people
- Davidic covenant: Messiah will come though his bloodline
God has been faithful to all of his covenants regardless of whether or not his children broke them. We are told in the text that a new covenant is coming. That it will NOT be like the older covenants made with the fathers. Isn’t this an odd statement to make? Not like the others? I will let you think about that as we continue:
- Jeremiahic Covenant: Put Torah within them – write it on their hearts – I will be their God and they will be my people
Jeremiah 31:33 (CJB)
33 “For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra’el
after those days,” says Adonai:
“I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts;
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Who is this covenant made with? Gentiles? Christians? Nations? No, it says the “house of Israel.” this will be very important to understand a few paragraphs from now. Let’s continue:
Jeremiah 31:34 (CJB)
34 No longer will any of them teach
his fellow community member or his brother,
‘Know Adonai’; for all will know me,
from the least of them to the greatest;
because I will forgive their wickednesses
and remember their sins no more.”
So how do followers of Yeshua as the prophesied Messiah fit into this covenant? We have to go back to a command that in and of itself seems to be largely ignored (As of this writing, I don’t know anyone that knows this song by heart):
Deuteronomy 31:19 (CJB)
19 “Therefore, write this song for yourselves,
and teach it to the people of Isra’el.
Have them learn it by heart,
so that this song can be a witness
for me against the people of Isra’el.
“The Song of Moshe” that this command refers to is in Deuteronomy 32 known as Ha’azinu. Within this song, the גּוֹיgôy are found (Gentile/Nation).
Deuteronomy 32:21 (CJB)
21 They aroused my jealousy with a non-god
and provoked me with their vanities;
I will arouse their jealousy with a non-people
and provoke them with a vile nation.
You may find this following verse hard to stomach. The implications are readily evident. Sha’ul (Paul) quotes the above verse and shows why and how salvation has come to the Gentiles:
Romans 11:11 (CJB)
11 “In that case,
I say, isn’t it that they have stumbled with the result
that they have permanently fallen away?”
Quite the contrary, it is by means of their stumbling
that the deliverance has come to the Gentiles,
in order to provoke them to jealousy.
Some of you may be sitting there in stunned silence right now. You may also be wondering how God has rejected the Jews as some replacement theologians insist, and why would He even care about provoking them to jealousy if He had? I doubt I need to remind you again that the “newer covenant” is “with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah?” I doubt I need to point out that “Heaven forbid” is Sha’ul’s way of saying “not on your life?”
I hope all of this is registering because now you are going to see how the “newer covenant” applies to Christians:
Romans 11:17 (CJB)
17 But if some of the branches were broken off,
and you — a wild olive —
were grafted in among them and have become equal sharers
in the rich root of the olive tree,
Christians are grafted in – they do NOT replace! They are
grafted into the new covenant that God made
“with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah!”
God didn’t make the covenant with the Christians, he grafted them into the covenant as “equal sharers,” not replacers, of the covenant He made with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah!
I want to bullet point some things directly from and in the Romans 11 verses to remember and consider carefully in light of this:
- don’t boast as if you were better than the branches!
- remember that you are not supporting the root, the root is supporting you.
- you keep your place only because of your trust.
- don’t be arrogant; on the contrary, be terrified!
- he certainly won’t spare you!
- provided you maintain yourself in that kindness!
- Otherwise, you too will be cut off!
- It is that stoniness, to a degree, has come upon Isra’el, until the Gentile world enters in its fullness;
- it is in this way that all Isra’el will be saved.
- “Out of Tziyon will come the Redeemer; he will turn away ungodliness from Ya‘akov
- they are loved for the Patriarchs’(Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) sake,
- God’s free gifts and his calling are irrevocable.
- by your showing them the same mercy that God has shown you,
- God has shut up all mankind together in disobedience, in order that he might show mercy to all.
Quite a few warnings in the above, wouldn’t you agree. Quite a few emphatic statements above as well. Grafted into the New Covenant . . . well, you get the idea.
As we continue, there is something else to consider about covenants is that prior to, and outside of, the Greek, we don’t see the word Testament for Covenant. In fact, in the 256 times in the Hebrew Bible that we see בְּרִית berîth (covenant), we only see covenant. Think about it. God didn’t cut a “testament” with Abraham, did He? The rainbow wasn’t a sign of a “testament,” was it? In the Greek, covenant is
1236. διαθήκη diathēkē noun
Last will and testament, covenant, will, contract, dispostion.
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “1236. διαθήκη,” in The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon, (Springfield, MO: Complete Biblical Library, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “1236. Î´Î¹Î±Î¸á½µÎºÎ·”.
The Greek word διαθήκη diathēkē used to translate the Hebrew word בְּרִית berîth for covenant can be translated as either of the following:
However, the opposite is not the case. The Hebrew word for covenant known as בְּרִית berîth is not translated as both covenant and testament. In fact, there are only a few translations of the text that do translate covenant as testament such as: The King James Version, Wycliffe, Webster, Luther, Douay-Rheims, and BBE.
Now here is the real eye opener . . .
All of those versions above that translate covenant as testament in the Newer Covenant (New Testament) do NOT translate covenant as testament in the Older Covenants (Old Testament). I do NOT want you to take my word for it. Go to some site such as BibleStudyTools and do a translation comparison of a verse like Genesis 6:18.
You see, we HAVE to understand something here. The Hebrew informs the Greek, not the other way around. Why is this so important?!? I want you to do an honest self-evaluation here based on the following question:
“Do you think of the New Testament as a Jewish thing
or a Christian thing?”
That was a tough question, wasn’t it? Let me ask an equally tough question with similar ramifications:
Would you think the same thing
if it had been called the New Covenant all along?
If you can understand the implications of these two questions, you will understand what is being conveyed in Hebrews 8. For some of you, this may be for the first time you ever have.
Hebrews 8:1 (CJB)
1 Here is the whole point of what we have been saying:
we do have just such a cohen gadol (high priest)
as has been described.
And he does sit at the right hand of HaG’dulah (Majesty) in heaven.
Psalm 110:1 (CJB) 1 Adonai says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
The whole point or main point of the new covenant? Yeshua – who’s very name is and means salvation! But now we find out something we would all be wise to meditate on and understand:
Hebrews 8:6 (CJB)
6 … For this covenant has been given as Torah on the basis of better promises.
The NASB says enacted. The KJV says established. The NIV says founded. You are going to see something in the Greek word that is being translated that will show you one of the reasons I use the CJB (look at the underlined words):
3412. νομοθετέω nomotheteō verb
Phonetic Pronunciation: nom-oth-et-eh’-o
To legislate, to enact law; to establish or settle by law.
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “3412. νομοθετέω,” in The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Lambda-Omicron, (Springfield, MO: Complete Biblical Library, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “3412. Î½Î¿Î¼Î¿Î¸ÎµÏ„á½³Ï‰”.
Law → God’s instruction → Torah
You know why it was given as Torah (law)?
Hebrews 8:7 (CJB)
7 Indeed, if the first covenant had not given ground for faultfinding,
there would have been no need for a second one.
This is why the newer covenant is based on better promises – superior promises – more advantageous promises in Hebrews 8:6:
2882. κρείττων kreittōn adj
Superior, better, more advantageous.
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “2882. κρείττων,” in The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Zeta-Kappa, (Springfield, MO: Complete Biblical Library, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “2882. ÎºÏÎµá½·Ï„Ï„Ï‰Î½”.
Combine that understanding with the juxtaposition here in this verse where the newer covenant is against the backdrop of the Mosaic covenant:
Hebrews 9:18-22 (CJB)
18 This is why the first covenant too was inaugurated with blood.
19 After Moshe had proclaimed every command of the Torah to all the people,
he took the blood of the calves
with some water and used scarlet wool and hyssop
to sprinkle both the scroll itself and all the people;
20 and he said,
“This is the blood of the covenant which God has ordained for you.”
21 Likewise, he sprinkled with the blood
both the Tent and all the things used in its ceremonies.
22 In fact, according to the Torah,
almost everything is purified with blood;
without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The writer in Hebrews then quotes extensively from Jeremiah 31. Here is a small part (the bold parts are quoting Jeremiah 31):
Hebrews 8:10 (CJB)
10“‘For this is the covenant which I will make
with the house of Isra’el after those days,’
‘I will put my Torah in their minds
and write it on their hearts;
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
David Stern points out in his Jewish New Testament Commentary something that may actually be jarring to more than a few people reading this. He backs it up quite nicely:
But Christians and Messianic Jews should understand that everyone under the New Covenant has the Torah to observe. That is the plain sense of the phrase, “I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts.” It is not some new Torah, different from Old Testament Torah. It is the one and only Torah, understood in the spirit of the Messiah, “as upheld by the Messiah” (Ga 6:2&N; 1C 9:21&N).
Christian theology all too often tries to escape or water down the plain sense of what is said here, so that what is required is very little, usually a vague “sensitivity to God’s will” that becomes impossible to pin down. Not infrequently the motivation for devising such theology has been to portray or create separation, spiritual distance and invidious comparison between the Church and the Jews. But other Christians have had a correct understanding, for example, A. Lukyn Williams:
“God’s words through Jeremiah do not announce the coming of a new Law, but of a new principle of keeping the Law, according to which God forgives the sinner, writes the Law on his heart, brings him into a new relation to Himself, and makes Himself known to him.” (Manual of Christian Evidences for Jews, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1919, 1:184.)
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, (Clarksville, Maryland: Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 684.
Yeshua is the “newer covenant” that is made“with the house of Isra’el and with the house of Y’hudah.” Yeshua sheds his blood because there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. Gentiles have been grafted into the house of Israel and therefore into this newer covenant as equal sharers and members of the household of God. They are given 4 “beginner (not laying a heavy burden on)” things to stay away from:
- abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols
- from blood
- from things strangled
- from fornication
These things are detestable in Adonai’s site.
Kids, this is Torah. This is Torah afterYeshua’s death.
Blessings to you all!