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Convenant At Sinai. (Examines The Similarities That Exist Between The Convenant And Historical Treaties Of Biblical Times, Specifically The Hittite Treaties.)

1612 words - 6 pages

The term "covenant" which originally meant "shackle" or "chain" derived from the Hebrew word, berit. It later came to be known as any form of binding agreement. There are a number of examples of covenants in the Bible (1). Abraham had made a covenant alliance with the Canaanites (Gn 14:13). Isaac made a covenant with Abimelech concerning water rights (Gn 26:26ff), and Jacob had once made a covenant with Laban (Gn 31:44ff), to mention just a few (2). The agreement I will discuss is the covenant of Sinai. I will refer to it as this; although the exact geographical location is uncertain. There are two strong traditions, which place the site of the covenant at Sinai, or at Horeb (3). Furthermore, there are other scholars who would argue the location was in neither of these areas. For the sake of my discussion throughout this essay, I will refer to the agreement as the "covenant of Sinai," or quite simply the "covenant."The covenant agreed between God and the Israelites at Sinai was the cardinal dogma of the Old Testament religion (4). This covenant is more than just a contract, as it actually establishes an artificial kinship between God and Israel. The Hebrew word hesed in referring to the covenant refers to the affection and loyalty of kin (5). The covenant at Sinai is hugely significant to the Israelite people as it demonstrates God's commitment to them. It is the culmination of events that led them to this juncture in their history. God had sought out Moses in Egypt. He then proceeded to lead him and his people out of slavery (6). God in return seeks foremost from his followers, loyalty to him. He is the one, and only true God. Therefore, he must be treated as so by his disciples.The covenant is similar in content and style to many treaties between ancient nations around this time in history. There are two significant state alliances of this period that demonstrate this pattern. The Hittite treaties which were compiled around 1300 B.C., and the Assyrian treaties from around the seventh or eight century B.C. These written agreements can generally be classified in one of two pacts. The first is a deal between two equal parties, or groups of similar standing. This bargain is known as a parity treaty. An example of such an agreement can be seen in the treaty between King Ramesses II of Egypt, and the Hittite King Hattusilis of the region we would call Turkey today (7).The second major sort of treaty was between nations of different capabilities. Such a contract would be agreed by the overlord of a major nation and the leader of a weaker state. The demands of such a treaty on the weaker party would be quite considerable. Whereas the overlord or dominant individual would have less responsibility. This type of treaty, known as a vassal treaty, imposed little accountability on the stronger party. However, it is the more powerful nation's duty to provide adequate support for the less powerful state in time of need. Vassal treaties are similar in content...

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