The Mosaic Covenant

19: 3-25

    Thanks to the discoveries of ancient Near Eastern texts we now know quite a bit about the literary composition of covenants and treaties. Near Eastern treaties generally fall into two broad classes: The parity treaty and the suzerainty treaty. Parity treaties were, in effect, two treaties in opposite directions in which two kings of more or less equal importance bound each other to identical obligations. The suzerainty treaties, on the other hand, were imposed by strong kings on weaker rulers. Such suzerainty treaties usually had nine elements including a preamble, historical introduction, general conditions, specific conditions, a deposit of some sort of recording, divine witness, curses and blessings, the subject’s oath of allegiance and a formal ceremony as seen in this chart.343

The Mosaic Covenant Compared with Suzerainty Treaties 344

Nine Elements

Given at Mt Sinai

Given in Transjordan

Given in Canaan



Exodus 20:2a

Deuteronomy 1:1-4

Joshua 24:1-2a


Historical Introduction

Exodus 20:2b

Deut. 1:5 to 4:43

Joshua 24:2b-13


General Conditions

Exodus 20:3-17

Deut. 4:44 to 11:32

Joshua 24:14-15, 23


Specific Conditions

Exodus 21:1 to 23:19

Deuteronomy 12:1 to 26:15



Deposit and Recording

Exodus 25:16,21

Deut. 31:9-13

Joshua 24:25-26a


Divine Witness

Deuteronomy 30:19 and 31:28


Joshua 24:22 and 26b-27


Curses and Blessings

Leviticus 26

Deuteronomy 27-28

Joshua 24:19-20


Oath of Allegiance

Exodus 24:3


Joshua 24:16-18, 21, 24


Formal Ceremony

Exodus 24:4-11


    Our Bible is divided into two Covenants, the TaNaKh and the B'rit Chadashah. The word covenant implies a significant and intimate relationship between two parties (whether collective or individual). Many Scriptural passages compare and contrast the TaNaKh with the New Covenant (see for example Jeremiah 31:31-34). Although the Bible, the particularly the TaNaKh, describes many covenants in detail, the one we are about to study is referred to as the Mosaic Covenant (especially see 2 Cor 3:14-15 and Hebrews 9:15-20). The TaKaNh is basically the story of redemption ratified by the Mosaic Covenant. The B'rit Chadashah was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper in Luke 22:20. Both covenants became effective only through the shedding of blood (Exodus 24:8 and Matthew 26:28).345


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