The Covenant with All the Peoples

“I took my staff, Kindness/Grace, and cut it in two, that I might break the Covenant which I had made with all the peoples.  So it was broken on that day…” [Zechariah 11:10-11].

The scene is dramatic.  The prophet Zechariah is in the role of a shepherd, and, representing Jehovah, he takes his staff, Grace or Kindness, and breaks it to prophesy “the breaking of the Covenant which I had made with all the peoples.”  It is hard to describe, but even though I knew it was coming, when I got to this passage in my study I was still shocked.  Jehovah has been so faithful to Covenant despite all the rebellions of Israel, it just seemed so impossible, so out of character.

However, reading further, as Zechariah turns to the people he says to them, “pay me my wages” (since he is in the role of a shepherd), and they “weighed for my wages thirty pieces of silver.  Jehovah said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’ – that splendid price at which they appraised me.  So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of Jehovah for the potter” [verses 12-13].  So the context of this prophecy is the betrayal of Jesus: Judas throwing down the thirty pieces of silver (the price of a slave [Exodus 21:32]) in the temple, and the priests, not willing to put the Blood money back into the treasury, instead buying a potter’s field with it.

So, in other words, when Jehovah finally does break Covenant, the judgment is immediate and complete, and Jesus dies.  And it makes sense, since, at the same moment a New Covenant is initiated in the Blood and Water that pours from Jesus’ side, there is no need for an Old Covenant that really could not deliver even on its theoretical promises.  After all, up until Jesus, even though Covenant’s concept is one Blood (Soul/Life) flowing through both participants, in actuality, that really doesn’t happen.  If one of the partners gives Blood at a Blood bank, his partner  experiences no loss of Blood or Soul or Life.  The greatest problem with the Old Covenant is not that man is unfaithful, but rather that it has an important flaw.  Yet God operates with full accountability to Covenant throughout the Old Testament, and never leaves humanity uncovered by its umbrella.  Then in the instant that the Old is broken and paid for, the New and better Covenant is initiated.

Jehovah breaks Covenant “with all the peoples” – why is a comprehensive plural used here?  What Covenant is being referred to that would encompass more than just Israel?  Is all mankind surrounding the earth included?  But when did God cut Covenant “with all the peoples”?  True, one might think of the creation of man as the First Covenant, and possibly this could be referred to.  However, if God is restoring His original relationship with mankind, then the drive in this direction would be broken.  Although that can be worked with, it seems a bit awkward.
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I believe that the Covenant with Abraham is the one in question.  But where does the plural, “all the peoples” fit in here?  One thing that seems to be forgotten by a large majority of commentators who equate the Old Covenant (and Circumcision) with the Law, is that it is not just Israel under its umbrella.  The first son of Abraham to be circumcised is not Isaac but Ishmael.  And then there are the six sons of Abraham’s second wife, Keturah.  Esau, too, would be circumcised.

Also the slaves are explicitly identified as to be circumcised [Genesis 17:11-14], the same passage where Jehovah specifically states, “so shall My Covenant be in your flesh an everlasting Covenant.”  That means that even if the slave is sold to a non-Israelite, he will still for the rest of his life carry the mark of this everlasting Covenant “in your flesh.”  In Egypt when the Israelites themselves become slaves, then not only are they Covenant-brothers to their slaves, now they are co-slaves with their Covenant-brothers.

The fact that there are others under this Circumcision umbrella creates a problem: there is quite a large group of people who never “receive the Law.” One might like to exclude them or ignore them as we concentrate on the specially privileged Israel, but the Bible never gives us the option.  Although Abraham sent the other children away (Ishmael – Genesis 21:12-21; and the other sons – Genesis 25:6), he did not and could not negate “in your flesh an everlasting Covenant.”  Therefore the Circumcision Covenant has got to be thought of in a scope much greater and different than “the Law.”

So, once again, that critical event in which Jehovah and Abraham entered into Covenant is a profound statement of grace.  And yes, for the wording used in Zechariah, where it speaks of “the Covenant with all the peoples,” the plural is surprisingly accurate in regard to the Circumcision, or the “Old,” Covenant, and it is that personal relationship that now must be broken in favor of a new and far better one.

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