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What Is the Mosaic Covenant? Bible Meaning Explained

The Mosaic Covenant was a covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai seen in the chapters of Exodus 19-24.

What Is the Mosaic Covenant? Bible Meaning Explained

What is the Mosaic Covenant?

In fulfilling the promise to Abraham, that fulfillment comes as it turns out in stages. We didn't know when the promise is first given to Abraham that this is the way it's going to work out, that in fact, God reveals his salvation progressively through history over time. And the first major stage of the fulfillment of that is the calling of Abraham's descendants, now the nation of Israel, out of Egypt, out of slavery, and bringing them into the promised land. The beginnings of the fulfillment of those promises to Abraham, that he would be the father of a great nation of many nations, and that there would be a place of rest for them. On the way from Egypt to the promised land, God takes them to Mount Sinai and there God enters into a covenant, now not with an individual, but with an entire nation. Basically says to Israel, "You will be my people and I will be your God. I have saved you, not because of anything you did, but sheerly out of my grace and love and my promise to Abraham."

In establishing the covenant now with Israel, what we call the Mosaic covenant, once again, the terms of the relationship are set. This time the terms are different, with Abraham the terms were quite gracious and unilateral, Abraham simply had to believe. Now God says having saved you, I want you to live like my people. I want you to live in such a way that people can tell that you are my people and that you will bring glory to my name. And so in a summary fashion, he lays out the 10 commandments. Those are the terms of the covenant. And then as the rest of the book of Exodus goes on, those 10 summary terms are expanded actually in a lot of detail. And at the end of the book of Exodus, and we see it happen then in the book of Deuteronomy when they finally are on the edge of going into the promised land, it said that the people will need to declare the promises and the curses of the covenant.

If they obey, if they keep their side of this relationship, they will be able to remain in the land. If they disobey, God will cause the land to spew them out, just like it did the inhabitants that they were going to drive out. This means that while the Mosaic covenant is clearly part of God's administration of grace, it's the first step in the fulfillment of Abraham's covenant, it does work somewhat differently. This is a law covenant. Israel must do certain things, not to be saved, but to stay in the land. If they keep the covenant, they receive the blessings. If they break the covenant, they will experience the curses of the covenant. Later on in the Old Testament, that's exactly what we'll see happen, sadly Israel will have broken the covenant and will experience God's judgment in the form of exile. And part of what happens in the Mosaic covenant is we are taught then that we cannot obey God on our own. We cannot keep our side of the bargain. We are going to need someone to obey for us, and that someone is going to be Jesus Christ.

The Mosaic Covenant in the Bible

The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant made between God and the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai seen in the chapters of Exodus 19-24. It is also called the Sinai Covenant but is more often referenced as the Mosaic Covenant because Moses was God’s chosen leader of Israel at that time.

"On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, "Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel." ~ Exodus 19:1-6

The Mosaic Covenant is also known as the Old Covenant in scripture (2 Corinthians 3:14, Hebrews 8:6) and was replaced by the New Covenant in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:8).

"But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord." ~ Hebrews 8:6-9

The Ten Commandments - Exodus 20

And God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

"You shall have no other gods before me. 

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. 

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 

"You shall not murder. 

"You shall not commit adultery. 

"You shall not steal. 

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 

"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." 

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/JerryGrugin

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These verses serve as a source of renewal for the mind and restoration for the heart by reinforcing the notion that, while human weakness is inevitable, God's strength is always available to uplift, guide, and empower us.

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