Many of us have been taught that HaShem made a series of covenants with His am segulah (treasured people), generally listed as the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Sinaitic (sometimes called Mosaic), Davidic, Priestly (sometimes omitted), and the New. Where in that list (or any list) is the “בְּרִית עוֹלָם” (Everlasting Covenant) referenced in Genesis 17:7? The present author submits that this is the only Scripturally-supportable title for one covenant between HaShem and his am segulah — progressively unfolded as the metanarrative of Scripture progresses. The traditional names, which serve to dismantle the Covenant into “menu items” to be continued or discontinued as one’s own theology might find convenient, are artificially contrived, never actually used by the Author and authors of Scripture.
Some key but often overlooked elements of this one Everlasting Covenant are as follows:
- The covenant is an everlasting one — without end (Gen. 17:7).
- HaShem is faithful to keep His Covenant (Ex. 19:4-6; Deut. 7:9; Ps. 89).
- HaShem is the husband of Israel, His am segulah (Isa. 54:5; 61:10; 62:5; Hos. 2:19-20; Rom. 7:4; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:23; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2-4, 9).
- HaShem is their G-d and they are His people (Exod. 3:7, 10 & often).
- HaShem forgives the sins and offenses of His faithful (Exod. 34:6-7).
- HaShem’s Torah is to be “on the hearts” of His am segulah (Deut. 6:6; Isa. 51:7; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 10:16), i.e. “circumcision of the heart” (Deut. 30:6; Rom. 2:29).
The “Chadash” (New/Renewed) Covenant has all the same elements, so how can it be a replacement for the Everlasting Covenant? The Everlasting Covenant is… well… everlasting (meaning “without end”). Some try to argue that עוֹלָם means only “to the end of the person’s lifetime,” but that cannot be the case here. The Covenant does not end with Avraham’s death; it is for him and his progeny after him (Gen. 17:7-10). Avraham still has covenant progeny today; am Yisrael chai (the people of Israel lives)!
Nothing in Jeremiah suggests that HaShem has violated His Everlasting Covenant in order to transfer its promises to some other people, as the doctrine of supersessionism conveys, nor that He erred in the design of the Everlasting Covenant and that it was salvageable, needing a replacement. See the definition of chadash (חָדַשׁ) from the standard lexicons, quoted below:
“חָדַשׁ: vb. only Pi. (and Hithp.) renew, repair (poet. and late)” (BDB p. 295)
“חָדַשׁ: make new, restore: altar 1 S 11:14, surface of the ground Ps 104:30;… renew oneself (youth) Ps 103:5.” (CHALOT p. 96)
“חָדַשׁ: neu machen, erneurn” (Köhler-Baumgartner)
“חָדַשׁ (hadash): renew, repair. (ASV & RSV also restore.)” (TWOT vol. I, pp. 265-266)
All of these lexicon definitions suggest action performed on an already-existing thing. None would disagree that the derived form חֹ֫דֶשׁ (renewal of the moon) cannot indicate that there is a brand new moon of a new and completely different substance every month. It is the same moon as before, but our view of it is renewed. That is what the semantic domain of the shoresh (root) dictates.
In 1 Samuel 11:14; 2 Chronicles 15:8; 24:4, 12; Job 10:7; Psalm 103:5; 104:30; Isaiah 61:4; and Lamentations 5:21, it can clearly be seen that חָדָשׁ means new in quality, but not new in time. Psalm 51:9 Heb/10 Eng has חָדָשׁ where English translations have David saying “renew” a right spirit within me; and in 2 Chronicles 24:4,12 the same Hebrew word is used in speaking of the repair and restoration of the already-existing House of HaShem.
Even the Greek (which often confuses matters) gets this right, translating the Hebrew word by the term καινός (renewed) seven times in reference to this Covenant (Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:13; 9:15) as opposed to νέος (brand new).
The parties of the Chadash Covenant are the same as they have always been: Israel and Judah on one side and HaShem on the other (Jeremiah 31:31): “‘Right here, the days are coming,’ says YHWH, ‘when I will cut with the house of Yisrael and with the house of Yehudah a Covenant renewal.'” As was always the case, Gentiles (e.g. “the sojourner among you” and Ruth, et al.) can join themselves to the Covenant as engrafted branches of the Olive Tree.
The Everlasting Covenant’s stipulations (i.e. Torah) being “written on our hearts” (v. 33) uses the ancient idiom of “heart” being the seat of rational thought and understanding rather than emotion (which in antiquity emanated from the “inmost parts” or bowels). Compare “written on our seat of rational thought and understanding” to Joshua 1:8 — “meditating on Torah day and night.” This is where Torah was always intended to be.
For further reading: Daniel Gregg provides an apt retranslation of the full Jeremiah passage. See also http://www.therefinersfire.org/renewed_covenant.htm.