On Sunday, I mentioned that God’s covenant with Noah (Gen. 8:20-9:17) is the first covenant explicitly described as a covenant in Scripture, but that this does not necessarily mean it’s the first covenant that ever took place. In fact, there’s some good evidence of a covenant between God and Adam.
What is that evidence? It starts with the language of Adam and Eve being made in God’s image, after His likeness (Gen. 1:26). As we explored in the message on Creation, this language carries the idea of Adam and Eve being God’s representative here on earth. Combined with God’s commands to Adam, this assumes some sort of formal relationship.
And in fact, Hosea 6:7 points to this when it says, “But like Adam they [the people of Israel] transgressed the covenant.” This verse strongly suggests that Adam was in a formal covenant relationship with God.
Probably the biggest evidence for a covenant with Adam is the very language used by God in relation to Noah, when He says, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you” (Gen. 9:9). Every single time that this Hebrew phrase for “establish a covenant” is used in the Old Testament, it speaks of making good on, or upholding, a previously existing covenant, as opposed to making a brand-new covenant.1
All of this points to the fact that God had a made a covenant with Adam, and through him, the creation over which Adam was to rule as God’s representative. Adam broke that covenant, and so, with Noah, God comes to (re)establish that covenant: to make good on His pre-existing covenant promises.
Even the covenant with Adam, however, may not be the first covenant in the history of redemption. In the second week of this series, when we talked about everything God was doing before the beginning, we saw evidence of a covenant between the Father and the Son. It’s there in those words from Titus 1:2, which speak of God promising eternal life “before the ages began.” It’s on this basis that some theologians speak of the “covenant of redemption” made between the members of the Trinity before the world was made. (See, for example, https://www.ligonier.org/blog/what-covenant-redemption/).
What an incredible realization—that God has been building the story of redemption on the framework of His covenants from before the beginning of time itself! And as we’re going to keep learning in this series, these covenants will play an increasingly key role as the storyline progresses.
1See Peter J. Gentry & Stephen J. Wellum, “Kingdom through Covenant.” p. 155.