Biblical Covenants - The Edenic Covenant
In this week's blog we will be continuing to explore the different biblical covenants in chronological order. We will be starting in Genesis 1 with the Edenic Covenant. The first covenant that we see made between God and man in the Bible.
Genesis 1:28 (NIV) 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
The first part of this scripture says that 'God blessed them'. From the beginning, God decided to give His blessing, it wasn't earned, bought or deserved, but He gave it freely. This highlights the character of God right from the origins of creation, He gives freely and without any regard for his own gain. God then goes on to build a covenant with mankind after placing His blessing upon them.
The Edenic covenant then starts with 'Be fruitful', it's not a coincidence that the covenant starts with an instruction to 'Be fruitful' before mankind start to move into the next steps. God is very specific and makes no mistakes and often before we are in a position to be used to fulfil his plans, we need to be in a place of obedience. Now, this doesn't mean that we need to be perfect to be used by God, because to be honest, that would disqualify all of us. However, it does mean that we need to be ready and willing to be obedient and follow his instructions.
God goes on to tell man to 'increase in number' and 'fill the earth'. The underpinning of this part of the covenant is based in the design of mankind. We are not designed to be alone; we are designed to be social beings. God knows that we can't survive, thrive or function as we were designed to if we are on our own. So, he makes it clear to us that we should 'increase in number' and 'fill the earth'. This is an interesting part to make note of as the way in which this will come to fruition is explored more in the latter chapters of Genesis. We see this idea expounded on throughout the rest of the Bible and put simply and right back to the beginning, Adam was given a partner, so that he may not be alone. This translates all the way to the New Testament where we see teachings around fellowship, friendship and relationships unpacked through the teachings to the Church.
The final sentence of this verse goes on to say; 'Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.' The idea of ruling over something brings up ideas of power and control for me, and I think that in modern society that it's the accepted norm that a 'ruler' has power and status. However, the kind of ruling that we find here is a different kind to the ruling that man has displayed throughout history. Infact, the ruling that is declared by God in this section of scripture is actually encapsulated in God's own character and ruling himself.
So, here we see the first part of the Edenic Covenant formed between God and man, where God bestows the authority of rulership over the earth and its creatures upon mankind.
This is further unpacked in Genesis 2:
Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV)
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
We see here that God has taken mankind and put Adam into the 'Garden of Eden', not just to sit in it and enjoy it whilst others tend to it, but instead for him to 'work it and take care of it'. When I think of a ruler, I often think of kings and queens, they don't appear to have to do the day-to-day things, they often have people to do these things for them. However, God is placing man into the garden to do these things. So, there is a task that needs to be completed in order for mankind to live in the covenant that is made in Genesis 1 and here as we see above.
The scripture then goes on to say that God gives man a command, where Adam is told that they can eat from any tree that they choose, apart from one. For if they eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they will die. This is the condition of the covenant; God places an offer at the feet of mankind that they can rule over the earth and have dominion of all of its plants and animals and all they have to do is choose not to eat from that tree.
Some covenants in the Bible are conditional and this is one of them. We believe that God is good, loving and kind. So why does he impose this restriction upon mankind? For those very reasons. He knows that with the knowledge of good and evil, mankind will become tainted and descend into murder, deceit and suffering. So, God places this condition upon the covenant that He has made with them.
As we know, this covenant is broken by Adam and Eve when they take and eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And therefore, the Edenic covenant comes to an end. But God is not finished with them there and creates a new covenant with them.
Next week we will be looking into the Adamic covenant and what the new bind between God and man will look like.
God, help me to learn from the disobedience of the Garden of Eden, but instead help me to obey your commandments. To live in the rulership that you created for mankind, to tend to the needs of those around me, to take care of my own 'garden' and to steward with wisdom and righteousness.