Difference Between the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants

In the first two books of sacred scripture we find two promises given by God.  One was to Abraham which promised that a nation will rise from him, and his descendants will be as numerous as the stars.  The other is the covenant given to Moses on Mount Sinai.  In these two stories we have two things at work.  In the Abraham promise we have a story of faith, and in the covenant we have something that is conditional.  As Collins puts it “The blessings of the covenant are contingent on the observance of the law (Collins, page 121 ).”

In Exodus 12:2 we read “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make you name great, so that you will be a blessing.”  Abraham had two choices at this point.  He could tell God that He was crazy and move on with his life,  or He could accept this promise by faith.  The book of Hebrews tells us that he accepted by faith and it was credited to him as righteousness (Hebrews 11:8-16).  This was a promise that was never to be lost.

In contrast to that we have the covenant.  The lord told the Moses that He heard the cries of the people.  He would be their God, and they will be his people.  It was a mutual relationship of sorts.  The Lord would do what He said and the Israelites must do the same.  We see in the story of the Golden calf that this was not the case.  The people rebelled and created a Golden calf and worshipped it as there  god.  This was in direct violation of the first and second commandments.  And according to the book of the covenant the penalty was death and many were slaughtered by the Levites (Exodus 2:28).   Though they broke the covenant Moses sought to reconcile on behalf of the people.  The Lord forgave the Israelites and reinstated the covenant showing how merciful and just He truly is.

Both stories are about God and show that He is true to His promises.  However one was to a holy man that sought to do the will of god in everything he did.  The other was a young nation who was trying to figure out exactly who they were.



Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

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Abraham: A Model for Faith

The account of the promise of God to Abraham is an extremely important part of the Pentateuch.  It is this promise that sees a nation come from him.  Abraham, formerly Abram, was told to move from his home and he obeyed without question.  It is this faith that causes God to show favor on Abraham.  God tells him to look at the stars and his descendants will outnumber them.  It is here we find Abraham questioning because his wife, Sarah, is barren.

Sarah hands over her servant, Hagar, and Abraham has a son with her.  Sarah becomes Jealous and Hagar and Ishmael leave.  A bereaved Abraham is comforted by God who tells Abraham that they will be taken care of.  Ishmael will then “become the ancestor of a desert tribe (Collins, page 94).”  Thus one part of the promise is now complete.  God then works a miracle and tells Abraham that Sarah will bear a son.  Isaac is born and Abraham loved him dearly.

God then tested Abraham and told him to sacrifice Isaac.  Collins states “To appreciate the force of the story, the awfulness of the command must be taken fully seriously (Collins, page 95).  Isaac is spared and God’s providence is manifested.  Abraham would name the place where Isaac was supposed to be sacrificed “the Lord will provide.”  Abraham passed the test that God laid before him, and God told him that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand in the sea.  This would be manifested in Isaac whose son was Jacob.  Jacob had twelve sons whose families would become the twelve tribes of Israel, and Jacob himself would be renamed Israel.

The promise of God to Abraham results as a reward of faith and trust.  The things that Abraham went through were not easy, but through it all he knew that God would provide for him and lead the way.  As a result he was blessed with many descendants and many nations came from him.  Abraham’s story of faith and trust is also a model for us today.


Brown, Raymond E., Fitzmyer, Joseph A., and Murphy, Roland E. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990.

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

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