Covenant is a crucial theme in Scripture. Covenants provide the key framework to understanding God and how we relate to him and to one another.

Broadly speaking, a covenant is a formal declaration of the terms of a relationship between two or more parties.[1] When a husband marries his wife, not only is the nature of that relationship described, they formalize it. Both say their vows and seal it with an oath of commitment to one another. Sometimes the Bible even uses marriage to illustrate God’s covenant resolve to love and cherish his people.

Certainly, there is more involved in a covenant when it comes to God relating to man. Consider the major covenants God makes with man accross Scripture—with Adam, with Noah, with Abraham and his seed, with Moses and Israel, with David, and then finally with new covenant in Christ. What stands out in all these covenants is that God initiates them. He is the superior. He draws near to man and he sets the terms for how the people must relate to him, and how he will relate to the people.

Below is a link to a table that outlines the major covenants mentioned throughout Scripture's storyline. Besides the covenant of redemption, all the other covenants occur throughout history. The table only summarizes some of the main features of each covenant, while also attempting to describe ways that various Scriptures relate one covenant to one another.[2]

Biblical Covenants Table

Some will note that I have avoided the traditional Reformed categories of "the covenant of works" versus "the covenant of grace." I avoid it not because I disagree with the aim to describe the Christ-centered unity between God's covenants after the Fall, but because the categories make it harder to explain some things, such as how the Sinai covenant, much like the covenant with Adam, is a covenant of works. Anyway, the table does not explain everything, but I hope it serves as a tool to equip others.


[1] The wording here comes from a personal conversation about the nature of covenants with a brother named Wes Duggins.

[2] Resources that have influenced my thinking on the nature of the covenants and that have also influenced the wording in some of the columns are Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012); John Wind, Do Good to All People as You Have the Opportunity (Philipsburg: P&R, 2019), 79-138; Scott Hafemann, "The Covenant Relationship," in Central Themes in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 20-65; Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (Eugene: Paternoster, 2000), 1-148.