What is the Palestinian Covenant?
Question: "What is the Palestinian Covenant?"
Answer: The so-called Palestinian Covenant is recorded in Deuteronomy 29:1–29 and Deuteronomy 30:1–10 and was made between God and Israel right before Moses died and Israel entered the Promised Land. The Bible never uses the term “Palestinian Covenant,” and Moses certainly never would have called the land “Palestine,” but the term has become common usage. This covenant is also called the Land Covenant because many of the promises relate to Israel’s possession of the land. God made this covenant with Israel after the Mosaic Covenant and after Israel had wandered in the wilderness for forty years. God made this covenant with Israel while they were in Moab waiting to go into the Promised Land, and the covenant would serve this new generation of Israelites as a reminder of their special covenant relationship with God.
The Palestinian Covenant has many similarities to the Mosaic Covenant made at Mount Sinai but is a separate and distinct covenant as clearly seen in Deuteronomy 29:1. “These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb.” Before making this covenant with Israel, God reminded them that if they obeyed the Mosaic Law, He would bless the nation abundantly and warned them that disobedience to the Law would result in His cursing the nation (Deuteronomy 28:1-68).
Besides the promises that God would bless them if they obeyed His commandments and curse them if they disobeyed, the Palestinian Covenant also contains some special promises to Israel that many believe will not be completely fulfilled until the millennial reign of Christ. First, God promised to gather the scattered Israelites from all over the world and to bring them back into the land He had promised to their ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:3-5). Second, God promised to regenerate the Israelites of that time and their descendants by circumcising their hearts so that they would love Him totally (Deuteronomy 30:6). Third, God promised to judge Israel’s enemies (Deuteronomy 30:7), and, fourth, He promised that the Israelites would obey God and that God would prosper them in their obedience (Deuteronomy 30:8-9). While some might see these promises being fulfilled when Israel was returned from captivity in Babylon at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, there seem to be some aspects of this that have not been fully realized yet.
For example, the promised restoration of Israel to the land would not happen until all the blessings and curses promised them were fulfilled (Deuteronomy 30:1), and we know that Israel as a nation rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah and was once again cursed and cut off from the land when the Romans conquered Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Second, we see that one of the promises in this covenant was that God would circumcise their hearts (Deuteronomy 30:6) so that they and their descendants would obey Him (Deuteronomy 30:8). These same promises are repeated in Jeremiah 32:36-44 and Ezekiel 36:22-38 and are part of the blessings and promises of the New Covenant. Also, it seems that the final or ultimate restoration of Israel to the land and to an everlasting relationship with God is what Paul is looking forward to in Romans 11:25-26 when he says that “a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and thus all Israel will be saved.”
The Palestinian Covenant also serves to reinforce the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that God would establish Israel as His chosen people (Deuteronomy 29:13). Even though God set before Israel the promise of His blessings for obedience and His curses for disobedience, He knew full well they would turn from Him and His covenant and turn to idols. This is why He also promised to one day restore them to the land and have compassion on them (Deuteronomy 30:1-3). Therefore, the ultimate outcome of this covenant does not depend on Israel and its obedience, but instead it depends on God and His faithfulness. The Palestinian Covenant focuses on what God is going to do more than what Israel is supposed to do. While Israel’s prosperity is closely tied to her obedience to God’s commands, and they will still be punished for their disobedience to God, there is coming a day when God will return them to the land (the full extent of the land as outlined in Genesis 15:18-21), and they will possess it, and God will bless them forever.
At that time God will circumcise their hearts so they will obey Him (Deuteronomy 30:6). This covenant is again reaffirming the Abrahamic Covenant in that someday the seed of Abraham will possess the Promised Land forever. Unlike the Mosaic Covenant whose promises are conditional upon Israel’s obedience to the Law, ultimate fulfillment of the promises of the Palestinian Covenant are not dependent upon Israel’s obedience. Instead, the Palestinian Covenant is an unconditional, eternal covenant (Ezekiel 16:60) because it is a part of the Abrahamic Covenant and an amplification of it.
Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns
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What is the Palestinian Covenant?