Covenant of Works

adamThis post is to serve as a short summary to present a case for the Covenant of Works between God and Adam.

There are two common objections used by those who deny a covenant of works between God and Adam.

The first objection is that the word “covenant” (Hebrew “berit”) does not appear in the creation account of Genesis 2-3. The absence of a term does not mean that the concept isn’t there. It is commonly understood that 2 Samuel 7 pertains to the Davidic covenant, yet it does not use the term “covenant” either. The word “covenant” is not used to refer to this relationship until the Psalms.

Isaiah speaks of “the everlasting covenant” which was broken by the earth’s inhabitants. I must ask, which covenant was established that affects both the earth and it’s inhabitants?

Similarly, Jeremiah refers to a “covenant with the day and a covenant with the night” in Chapter 33. Again, I ask where was this covenant spoken of prior to this? The prophet clearly says that God has a covenant with the day and the night, yet nowhere in Scripture is the word “covenant” used to speak of such a covenant prior to this passage.

Another common objection involves having the wrong idea of what constitutes as a covenant. The explicit mention of oaths and ratification ceremonies are sometimes included in the making of covenants such as the Abrahamic and Mosaic. However, in other instances there is no mention of oaths and ceremonies. The covenant between David and Jonathan has no explicit mention of oaths or ceremonies, yet it is regarded as a covenant. The same goes with God’s promise of a lasting priesthood to Phineas and his descendants mentioned in Numbers 25:12-13.

So what is a covenant. I would say it is best defined by Ligon Duncan as a binding relationship between two parties that involves both blessings and obligations.

The elements for a covenant of works are present in the opening chapters of Genesis:

The Covenant of Works:

a.       Name of the Great King – “In the beginning God” Gen. 1:1

b.      Historical Prologue – “created the heavens and the earth. . .” Gen. 1:1

c.       Stipulations (Laws) – 

i.      Exclusive loyalty (=love) – implied in Gen. 2:17

ii.      Specific requirements – “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Gen. 1:28 ; “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil . . .” Gen. 2:17

d.      Sanctions (Blessings and Curses) – “ . . . for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  Gen. 2:17

e.       Administration – The covenant was administered via the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Covenant keeping was via NOT eating of the tree’s fruit.  Covenant breaking was via eating the fruit.

Adam and Christ are to be seen in a parallel relationship. Adam was a type of Christ. This can be seen in the usage of Christ being referred to as the second Adam.

There are now presently on earth, two humanities or orders of beings. The contrast is not between the sinful and the righteous but rather the old creation and the new creation.

Adam, in his original state was in a state that was designed to be temporary. It was a probationary time. He would enter into the state of life or death depending on his obedience of the command regarding the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Although Adam was sinless and morally righteous, it was not the eternal state God designed for man. It was a state of contingencies and subject to change.

The eating of the tree of life served as a sacramental sign to having entered into a state of eternal life. Eating of the tree of knowledge served as a sacramental sign of having advanced from a state of ethical immaturity to a state of ethical maturity.

Adam failed his probation and plunged his race into into death because of his disobedience while Jesus passed his probation in perfect obedience and delivered his people from death and has attained for them eternal life which Adam failed to do.

There is much more that can be addressed pertaining to this matter, but hopefully this at least provides a basic understanding of the Covenant of Works.


The Image of God

There are many fascinating ideas surrounding the creation account in Genesis 1-3. One of which is the relationship between God and man and their roles.

In ancient Near Eastern cultures such as Egypt and Mesopotamia, the ruling monarch was attributed to being the image or the likeness of a god. Notably, this can be seen with the Egyptian pharaoh, King Tutankhamen. Even the name, Tutankhamen, means “the living image of the god Amun”.

One thing these monarchs would do in the lands over which they ruled was set up an image of themselves as a representation of their sovereign presence over that land. There are many examples of this throughout history.

Thutmose IV of Egypt, “son of Atum, living image of the all-lord, sovereign, begotten of Re” inscribed on a stele “that in a dream at the foot of the great Sphinx of Giza he had the experience of being elected king by the sun god Re”—the god of whom he is the living image. The kings of Babylon and Assyria—referred to as the image or likeness of particular gods—are similarly spoken of as being called or chosen by these gods to occupy the office of king. Examples of the divine election of such kings include Nebuchadnezzar I, the image of Marduk, who speaks of himself as “the prince beloved of Marduk—the king of the gods,” and explains that “Marduk commissioned him”; Nabupaliddin, king of Babylon, who similarly calls himself “the chosen of Marduk”; and Tiglath-pileser I who speaks of the gods who called him, crowned him, and solemnly appointed him as king. Another Babylonian text describes the king as “the very image of the Sun god” and continues, “the king, my lord, is the chosen of the great gods…The king, my lord, is the perfect likeness of the god.”

In the same manner, man was created by God in his image. He created man, male and female, in his image and they were to rule over the creation as God’s vicegerent. Man was created as the image of the great God, Yahweh, in his likeness, to be a representation to all the earth that Yahweh sovereignly rules over all creation.