Israel and the Nature of Covenant in the Near East

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Israel and the Nature of Covenant in the ancient Near East

A Paper

Submitted to Dr. Percy D. Johnson, Jr.


Beulah Heights University

In Partial Fulfillment

Of the Research Paper for the Course

Interpretation of the Old Testament

Damon Richardson
April 29, 2012

Introduction Exodus chapter 20 is foundational for the proper understanding of the basis of ancient Israel’s relationship with YHWH and the significance of the covenant that YHWH made with them. Therefore the focus of this paper will be to provide the basic framework for viewing this important chapter not only from an exegetical standpoint but more contextually from its ancient Near Eastern cultural matrix in order to gain some perspective and understanding as to the meaning of this familiar text.

Genre of Exodus 20ff Over 50 years ago, George Mendenhall, wrote a series of articles centered on newly discovered documents from ancient Mesopotamia upon which he developed a six point formula from the examination of these fourteenth and thirteenth century Hittite treaties that shaped the way many later scholars came to understand the Biblical text in light of these ancient Hittite suzerainty-vassal covenants. Irvin A. Busenitz in his article Introduction to the Biblical Covenants wrote: The rise of the Documentary Hypothesis, fueled by the concept that religion in Israel developed along evolutionary lines, has in recent centuries suggested that the whole idea of covenants in Israel was a very late development. Following Julius Wellhausen’s anti-supernatural system, many modern scholars postulate that the covenant concept was foreign to Israelite society and religion until the late seventh century B.C. More recent contributions to covenant discussions, however, indicate an early origin of the covenant idea in Israel. In…...

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