Bible Question:

In the study on Hebrews 8, you say the old covenant was conditional and that God never promised to be their God in the covenant. But what about Gen. 17:7-8, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you . . . I will be their God.” Could you please clear this up for me?

Bible Answer:

Yes, Genesis 17:7 is an unconditional covenant, but it was not made to Moses. It was made to Abraham. The promise to Abraham did not depend upon anything that Abraham did, but only on God. When the Holy Spirit refers to “the first covenant” in Hebrews 8:7, He refers to the Mosaic covenant – a different covenant. Here is Hebrews 8:7,

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. (NASB) Heb. 8:7

Then at the end of Hebrews 8, the Holy Spirit writes this,

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (NASB) Heb. 8:13

The Holy Spirit says that since the first covenant (the Mosaic covenant) was obsolete and was growing old, it was destined to disappear. Then in the very next verse, Hebrews 9:1, the Spirit refers again to the “first covenant,”

Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies . . . (NASB) Heb. 9:1-3

Notice that the first covenant was about the tabernacle. The verses that follow are also about the sacrifices. This means that the “first covenant” the Holy Spirit refers to was given to Moses. It was not given to Abraham.

The covenant that was given to Abraham was unconditional, but the covenant given to Moses was conditional. If the covenant was unconditional, why did the Holy Spirit say in Hebrews 8:13 that it was becoming obsolete and ready to disappear?

Conclusion:

The Mosaic covenant or the Mosaic Law did disappear. It was conditional and consequently imperfect. That is the message of Hebrews 8 and 9.

Reference Links:

The Shadow Is Replaced
Peace With God