How Do You Understand the Covenants of the Bible? (Part 2)

In much of the Scriptures, there is mention of covenants.

For a start, what is the meaning of the Hebrew word for covenant? Every instance in the Old testament is translated from the Hebrew word בְּרִית bĕriyth. A few times the Hebrew word is translated as confederate or league, but in most of those places, covenant could have been used instead. The word bĕriyth is from a root with the sense of “cutting”, because pacts or covenants were made by passing between cut pieces of flesh of an animal sacrifice. So actually, the expression “make a covenant” literally means “cut a covenant.” This becomes very obvious in the covenant of circumcision. Genesis 15:9-11, 17-18 shows the passing between cut pieces of flesh. Genesis 15:9-11 reads: “So He said to him, ‘Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.’ Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.”  Genesis 15:17-18 continues: “And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between the pieces. On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates…’”

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How do you understand the covenants of the Bible?

Much confusion exists about the biblical covenants. In fact, there are many covenants mentioned in God’s Word. We discuss those in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound.”  

In there, we state, first of all, what a covenant is:

“The word ‘covenant,’ as used in the Old Testament, is a translation from the Hebrew word ‘berith.’ The meaning of this term is ‘covenant, agreement or contract.’… Webster defines a ‘covenant’ as a ‘usually formal, binding agreement between two or more persons, to do or not to do something; a document containing the terms of the agreement.’” The word “berith” is also defined, by Strong’s, as a “compact.”

When the New Testament speaks of covenants, it uses the Greek word “diatheke,” which conveys the same meaning as the Hebrew word “berith.” Strong’s defines it as a contract or as a devisory will or testament. The dual meaning of the word for both a covenant and a testament is important, as explained below. We also show in our above-mentioned booklet that the new covenant is a marriage agreement between Christ and His Church. Christ will marry His Church at His return—the marriage will be consummated between Spirit beings. But it is not only a marriage agreement. We added this:

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Is the Act of Littering Addressed in the Bible? If not, does it make any difference whether or not we engage in littering?

The literal act of littering is not directly and expressly addressed in the Bible, but neither are such areas as smoking, vaccinations and other matters. But there are many principles that show that we can learn from God’s Word even if a specific area cannot be found in Scripture.

 We will find out in this Q&A that littering is something that we must take seriously. There may be those who see this question and think that it is so obvious that it need not be addressed in the Church of God. But it does because we can all fall short in this area even though it may be considered a little thing.  After all, Christ said: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10).  As a spin-off to littering, we will also address neatness and tidiness.

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How Do We Keep the Sabbath in Far Northern and Southern Regions Where the Sun Doesn’t Set Certain Times of the Year?

Since the beginning of the Bible, God has made it clear that we are to observe the Sabbath, for He re-created the surface of the earth in 6 days, after a catastrophe caused the earth to become void and empty, and He then rested on the seventh day – the Sabbath, which He created for mankind (Genesis 1:2-2:3; Mark 2:27-28).  The Bible reveals in Genesis 1:5 that the days start and end at sunset, in the evening: “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening (sunset) and the morning were the first day.”

Many Scriptures associate the meaning of the word “evening” with “sunset” as for example in Leviticus 22:6-7: “The person who has touched any such thing shall be unclean until evening… And when the sun goes down he shall be clean.” We are also told in Leviticus 23:32 to keep God’s Sabbath “from evening to evening.”

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Was Mary a Virgin Until After the Birth of Jesus?

Following our two-part series, entitled: “Was Jesus Really Born in Jerusalem?”, we will in this Q&A answer the question as to whether Mary was a virgin.   We had touched upon this question in our last Q&A, under “(1) Mary was a virgin,’ but we will address this issue here in more detail.

For example, one writer penned the following:

“The virginity of Mary, as Matthew claims, depends on an incorrect reading of a prophetic text (Isaiah 7:14). The original Hebrew reads ‘a young woman shall conceive’, but Matthew has chosen an inexact Greek translation which renders it ‘a virgin shall conceive’. At this point, Matthew agrees with Luke; yet he is the only one amongst all the other biblical writers who knows anything of Mary’s alleged virginity.”

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Was Jesus Really Born in Bethlehem? (Part 2)

In the first part of this series, we looked at the proposition that some theologians believe that the four accounts about Christ’s birth contradict each other. We showed that the Bible does not contain errors, and that the gospel accounts complement, rather than contradict each other.

While different scholars may have their own, and varied views, on the matter about Jesus’ birth, the Church of God, historically, has explained that the Bible interprets the Bible in all matters!

And so, let us look at the two different writings in Matthew and Luke and see where they have the same information and are in complete agreement.

  1. Mary was a virgin

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin, as we read in Matthew 1:18, 23 and 25:

 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit… Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name “Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”’… [Joseph] did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.”

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Was Jesus Really Born in Bethlehem? (Part 1)

It was brought to our attention by a reader in Africa that there had been a paper produced entitled, “Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem?  Why the Gospels disagree over the circumstances of Christ’s birth.” The paper was published in December of 2021 by Rodolfo Galvan Estrada III, Assistant Professor of the New Testament, Vanguard University.

He states that “Every Christmas, a relatively small town in the Palestinian West Bank comes center stage: Bethlehem. Jesus, according to some biblical sources, was born in this town some two millennia ago. Yet the New Testament Gospels do not agree about the details of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Some do not mention Bethlehem or Jesus’ birth at all.

“The Gospels’ different views might be hard to reconcile. But as a scholar of the New Testament, what I argue is that the Gospels offer an important insight into the Greco-Roman views of ethnic identity, including genealogies. Today, genealogies may bring more awareness of one’s family medical history or help uncover lost family members. In the Greco-Roman era, birth stories and genealogical claims were used to establish rights to rule and link individuals with purported ancestral grandeur.”

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Who are the “gods” mentioned in Psalm 82?

In Psalm 82 we read about God standing among other gods. This raises questions about who the “gods” are that are in the presence of “God” performing the judgment.

Psalm 82:1-2 reads, “God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods. How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked? Selah”.

To understand this passage to its fullest, we need to look into and investigate several questions. First, what are the Hebrew words used to translate into “God” and “gods”? Second, what does this passage reveal about the nature of God? Also, how can we understand the judgment of the many gods by the one God?  Finally, what is the relevance to true Christians? After addressing these questions, we will find out much more about the nature of God and see how elegantly this event fits into His plan.

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How important are relationships with God and with each other? – Part 7

In the previous Q&A in this series, we began to look at some great relationships in the pages of the Bible.

Relationships – Great Relationships in the Bible (continued).

In this final instalment, we will continue to review some more interesting relationships.

Job and His Friends

Job is described in Job 1:1-3 as the greatest of all the people in the East, and he had seven sons, three daughters and many possessions. However, Satan was allowed to tempt him, but not to take his life (Job 2:6).  In his hour of need, he was visited by his three friends:

“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place—Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him.  And when they raised their eyes from afar, and did not recognize him, they lifted their voices and wept; and each one tore his robe and sprinkled dust on his head toward heaven.  So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:11-13).

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How important are relationships with God and with each other? – Part 6

We have reviewed so far relationships between the Father and Jesus Christ; man with fellow man; those within the family unit; and our own personal relationship with God.

In any great relationship, friendship is a fundamental and essential part along with other requirements such as honesty, trust, loyalty and a proper lifestyle.

Great Relationships in the Bible

In this Q&A, we are beginning to review examples of some of the great relationships in the pages of the Bible.

Abraham and Lot

When God told Abram (later Abraham) to “get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house To a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1), Lot went with him (verse 4). In the following chapter, we read that “Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents.  Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.  And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock” (Genesis 13:5-7). The result was that Abraham gave Lot a choice of whether to go to the right or to the left (verse 9), even though it would have been Abraham’s prerogative to choose. As it turns out, Lot chose poorly, and it was even more troublesome that he moved into the wicked city of Sodom to dwell and live with the evil Sodomites.

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