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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.


The Hebrew word, “בְּרִית”, means “covenant”. No one is certain about the origins of this word. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament suggests a variety of original meanings including, “to eat”, “to dine”, “between”, “among”, “clasp”, “to look for”, “to choose”, “fetter” [1]. Also according to the TDOT, in the Old Testament, it bears the connotation of “obligation” and goes together with law and commandment [2]. Mary Donovan Turner defines it as “a formal agreement or treaty between two parties, with each party assuming some kind of commitment or obligation toward the other” [3]. A search in the Calvin Seminary Study App reveals 264 occurrences of the word throughout the entirety of the Old Testament.

An essential theme of the covenant throughout Scripture which I would like to dwell on is that of covenant faithfulness. Mary Donovan Turner says, “The prophets in the Old Testament…saw the relationship between God and Israel as permanent, their covenant binding and everlasting. Even when the Israelites failed to live up to their God’s expectations, God called them back” [4].

Psalm 89 is a beautiful hymn to God’s faithfulness and contains 4 of the Psalms’ 21 occurrences of בְּרִית. The Psalm specifically focuses on God’s covenant with David, delivered in 2 Samuel 7:16, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” Instead of reading the whole Psalm, let’s focus on the four uses of בְּרִית.

v. 28 “I will always extend my loyal love to him, and my covenant with him is secure.” vv. 30-34 “If his sons reject my law and disobey my regulations, if they break my rules and do not keep my commandments, I will punish their rebellion by beating them with a club, their sin by inflicting them with bruises. But I will not remove my loyal love from him, nor be unfaithful to my promise. I will not break my covenant or go back on what I promised.” v. 39 “You have repudiated your covenant with your servant; you have thrown his crown to the ground.”

God affirms that he will not go back on his promise. He will remain faithful even when his people are unfaithful. However, his faithfulness does not mean that unfaithfulness will not bear consequences. What it means is that his faithfulness will ultimately triumph over the unfaithfulness of his people. They will be called back to the covenant, a task the prophets of the Old Testament are often called to fulfill.

The final use of בְּרִית in this Psalm bears a different tone from those which have gone before. The Psalmist fears God has turned from the covenant. As God’s people bear the consequences of their unfaithfulness, the Psalmist asks, in v. 46, “How long, O Lord, will this last? Will you remain hidden forever? Will your anger continue to burn like fire?” God’s final answer to this question is seen in Jesus. He is the promised king who will sit on the throne forever. And in Him, the faithfulness of God deals with the unfaithfulness of His people once and for all. On the night He was betrayed, he took the cup, and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). Jesus went to the cross to uphold the covenant, to confirm it, to fulfill it, and to be faithful to it. On the cross, he bore our unfaithfulness once and for all. Three days later, he rose again as the final victor over sin, death, and unfaithfulness. In his resurrection and ascension, he affirmed the truth of the words he spoke during his trial and showed Himself the promised everlasting king of God’s covenant with David: “‘You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’” (Mark 14:62).

[1] Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament Volume 2, pp. 253-255.

[2] Ibid. p. 255

[3] Mary Donavan Turner, Old Testament Words, p. 33

[4] Ibid.

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