Covenant. The Heb. berı̂th means primarily “a cutting,” with reference to the custom of cutting or dividing animals in two and passing between the parts in ratifying a covenant. Gen. 15; Jer. 34:18, 19. In the New Testament the corresponding word is diathıce (διαθ́ηκη), which is frequently translated testament in the Authorized Version. In its biblical meaning of a compact or agreement between two parties the word is used—
1. Of a covenant between God and man; e.g., God covenanted with Noah, after the flood, that a like judgment should not be repeated. It is not precisely like a covenant between men, but was a promise or agreement by God. The principal covenants are the covenant of works—God promising to save and bless men on condition of perfect obedience—and the covenant of grace, or God’s promise to save men on condition of their believing in Christ and receiving him as their Master and Saviour. The first is called the Old Covenant, from which we name the first part of the Bible the Old Testament, the Latin rendering of the word covenant. The second is called the New Covenant, or New Testament. 2. Covenant between man and man, i.e., a solemn compact or agreement, either between tribes or nations, Josh. 9:6, 15; 1 Sam. 11:1, or between individuals, Gen. 31:44, by which each party bound himself to fulfill certain conditions and was assured of receiving certain advantages. In making such a covenant God was solemnly invoked as witness, Gen. 31:50, and an oath was sworn. Gen. 21:31. A sign or witness of the covenant was sometimes framed, such as a gift, Gen. 21:30, or a pillar or heap of stones erected. Gen. 31:52.