The teaching of 'The Covenants' is important because it is an integral part of Salvation. There are frequent references to it in the Hebrew-Christian Scriptures. Covenants are about relationships and the most important covenants in the Bible are about the relationship between God and His people. They are a key to understanding the Bible and God's purpose for mankind. Covenants are the vehicles of God's grace. The covenant that God made with Israel through Moses at Sinai was one of the most important. In a sense it was a revival of the relationship God had with His. friends the Patriarchs of Israel but we have much more detail about it.
At sometime during the centuries after the Patriarchs fell asleep in Egypt their children multiplied extraordinarily. The host country became very apprehensive of Jacob's descendants because in war they might be disloyal to Egypt. So they made them slaves and Israel became subservient to Egyptian culture. The publication of laws was vital to restore the Patriarchal faith and were inevitable in view of Israel's numerical growth. Laws are needed for safety and security. They provide predictability between individuals and encourage the development of a national conscience. Laws taught Israel to do God's will and this pointed them in the direction of learning to express God's love. The Ten Commandments are, as Daniel Seagren wrote, 'Love Carved in Stone'. As the people of God, Israel's worship and service for Him would necessarily dominate their culture. But their God also demanded a right relationship between individuals. In this respect their laws were much in advance of anything known in human society before this. The Law Covenant made at the holy mount was a logical step in their flight to freedom. Paul simply says, "the ~aw was added because of transgression till the proI?tised offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was ordained through angels by a mediator" (Gal. 3.19 RSV). That offspring, our Lord Jesus Christ, was to demonstrate and teach that the underlying principle of any law must be love. Moses was the mediator of the covenant at Sinai, the 'go-between' betwixt God and Israel. He was one of the greatest men that has ever lived. He took the Law from God to Israel and taught them how to obey it. He led the nation from Goshen in Egypt to the borders of the Land of the Promise. But more than anything else, he met with God on the Holy Mountain, spoke with God 'face to face,' and knew more of the. Divine character than anyone else till Jesus arrived. This great man interceded before God on behalf of two million people and on behalf of a lonely, sick sister.
The essence of the covenant that was to come was enshrined in God's words to Moses in Egypt before the Passover escape. "1 am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians and I will deliver you from their bondage and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgments. I will take you as my people and I will be your God" (Exodus 6.6-7 RSV). This was Israel's salvation and the covenant language is incorporated into it. All through the ages basic Bible teaching has been Yahweh (Father to Jesus and His ~followers) teaching His redeemed people what it meant to have Him as their God and His people receiving that salvation through repentance from sin and their pursuit of holiness. Any kind of idolatry and schism is rebellion against God and is breaking the covenant. The consequences of idolatry have been seen in every century among all groups of God's people. To the extent that we turn our back on God's people we turn our back upon God.
The covenant was made at Sinai, wherever that was. Modern research tends to place it in Arabia south east of what is now called the Sinai Peninsula. Its location makes little difference to believers now. Whether it will ever become a rallying point for the Israel of the future is another matter. What happened there is the important issue. The great act of worship in the making of the covenant begins in Exodus 19.5, 6 "Now therefore if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all the peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." These words were to be echoed by Peter in his first letter (1 Peter 2.9). Israel as a nation were to be the kings in God's kingdom and the priests interceding on behalf of all mankind.
the land in which he will be born. He will go out in faith to a land that God will show him, that through his seed all nations of the earth may be blessed. I know not what the future holds of good or of evil", and again his eyes grew sombre, "but this I know, that it shall be well with them that fear God".
There was a long silence. At last the old man turned his back upon the plain below and faced the dark gorge leading up into the mountains. Up there, in the distance, lay a long, black shape, the great-enclosed vessel in which the eight had taken refuge to escape the flood-waters. It lay now, deserted, where the mountains had trapped it when the waters began to recede, mute witness to the faith of those who alone of all the world had heeded the signs of the times. They obeyed their Lord's injunction to flee the judgment that had to come upon the corrupt and fast dying race. He took a step towards it. "Come with me; we must renew our promise, of loyalty to the Most High, with offerings for His acceptance, that this day of deliverance be a day to remember as long as we shall live." Silently, they followed, picking their way among the rugged rocks, climbing steadily upward until they reached the place where they would meet with God.
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Some such scene as that must certainly have been enacted in the day that Noah and his family emerged from the Ark to face a world devastated. It must have been a harrowing experience. Everything they knew in life had been swept away; even the landscape had changed. They could not have known whether they were near their former haunts or in a different part of the world altogether. 1f the deductions to be outlined hereafter are anywhere near the truth they were probably not too far away from their former home; perhaps within five hundred miles or so. Even so the aftermath of the Flood would have presented so different a scene that they might as well have been on another planet. It is usually assumed that the antediluvian world was more or less in the vicinity of present-day Iraq simply because that is the scene of the earliest recognisable peoples, those of Abraham's day, in the Book of Genesis. There is however a logical basis for the conclusion. The early chapters of Genesis bear internal evidence of having been committed to writing in Sumer not later than the Early Dynastic period, about six centuries before Abraham. The geographical indications appertaining to the Garden of Eden story are those appropriate to that period. The historian of those days visualised the site of Eden as an extension of their own plain of Shinar (Sumerian "Edinu") but lower down the river, halfway along what later became the Persian Gulf. On this basis the antediluvian world could be conceived as extending over all the low-lying eastern half of Arabia as well as into the later plain of Shinar (Iraq) all of which could have been overrun by the Flood. But the whole of this one-time fertile parkland was now covered with thirty to sixty feet of sand, clay and gravel, and all the works of man were buried beneath forever. Of all the theories which have been advanced to explain the cause of the Flood, the one which best fits the Bible account, the Sumerian legends which come from the same sources as the Bible, and the geological evidences on site which still remain, is that the whole area of the Persian Gulf, from southern Arabia to northern Iraq, was swept by a tsunami, (more commonly called a tidal wave), of colossal proportions, coming in from the Indian Ocean, its originating force continuing so long that the water banked up in Iraq for five months before it began to recede. The immediate cause of such a tidal wave could have been, and probably was, the sudden descent upon earth at the poles of stupendous masses of water vapour and minute ice crystals. This according to many geologists from Liebnitz (1690) until the present day, had been thrown up in prehistoric igneous ages, circulated at high altitudes with gradually decreasing momentum, until gravity at length overcame that centrifugal force and they crashed on to the earth. Modern orbiting satellites do so today when they have run their course. The result would be a massive tidal wave originating at the poles and travelling across the ocean in every, direction. The magnitude of a wave generated by such a happening cannot be estimated, but in the past two centuries waves started by submarine earthquakes or volcanic eruptions have travelled thousands of miles and flooded the land to depths of a hundred feet. The known record is one that devastated a section of north-eastern Siberia in the 18th century; the water was 210 feet high when it crashed over the coast. It can be calculated that waves of this nature, starting in the Antarctic regions and reinforced for the Biblical forty days by the continuing descent of the "waters above the firmament" to which the Bible itself refers, could have sent a 100 foot wave up the
Persian Gulf at 60 miles an hour, devastating the entire area over a terrain 600 miles wide, and bank up steadily in Iraq until the water was some 1000 to 1500 feet deep before it began to subside. Something like this might well have been the situation that faced Noah and his family in those stressful days. Just as there have been theories as to the cause of the Flood, so through the ages there have been many claims made as to the identity of the mountain at which the Ark came to rest. The most familiar one to western peoples is Ararat in north-eastern Turkey; this, legend had its rise about the 13th century AD and was originated by the Armenian church in that area, but it rests upon no other basis and Ararat is certainly no't the mountain. From the First Advent until then, and to the present as far as the Eastern churches and the Moslem faith are concerned, the claim is for Mount Judi, in southern Turkey. This was almost certainly a legend started by the captive Israelites of the Ten Tribes settled there by the Assyrians in the eighth century BC. But both the Bible and Sumerian legend, which are both much nearer to the event, place it in or near the Sumerian plain in which the sons of Noah afterwards settled - a much more likely and logical location. Reasons have been given previously in the BSM for identifying the mountain of the Ark with Mount Anaran (Lat. 33N. Long. 47E), east of Babylon, on the edge of the Zagros mountains bordering the plain. This was the "Mount of the East," sacred mountain of Sumerians and Babylonians, described in their ceremonial hymns of praise. Its position indicated by the orientation of the temple-towers in their two sacred cities of Babylon and Nippur, both of which point directly to Anaran, and physically so situated as to be suited in every respect to be the place where the Ark was stranded by the subsiding waters. There is every probability, that this is the mountain described by Sumerian legend; it is within the ancient land of Urartu (Biblical Ararat) as demanded by Genesis. Now at this end of the 20th century comes another line of testimony which may well assist in confirming that it was indeed in this area that Noah and his family first set foot on their new domain. There was a flurry of archeological research commencing in 1978, connected with the Iraq Government's River Diyala irrigation project, which created a great lake where early remains are known to lie. This as revealed in the vicinity of Mount Anaran, hitherto unexplored village sites so early that they could well be the first to be instituted after the Flood. Before this the earliest evidences of human habitation in the world have been conceded by the best authorities to be at Qalal Jarmo and Karim Shahir in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, discovered and excavated by Braidwood and Howe in 1948-5 1. Now here on the mountain slopes betweer~ Anaran and the River Diyala there similar villages, some of which are asold or older than Jarmo. When all that can be ascertained about these ancient sites have been published it may well be a reasonable conclusion that this is where life started again after the Flood.
This series is intended to bring together - in proper relation all that the Scriptures have to say -admittedly very little - about that obscure period between Noah and Abraham. Such historical records of the period the sands of Iraq have yielded up during the last century, so these present findings are of more than casual interest. Here, perhaps, are the remains of those first villages in which the sons of Noah and their children lived after the Rood. The subsidence ,of the waters must have seemed a slow process. If Chap. 8.14 is to be taken literally it means that the occupants of the Ark remained inside for seven months watching the waters subside to the level of the plain. From their position, say a thousand feet up on the mountainside, the water's edge in the vicinity of Mount Anaran would then be at least thirty miles away, almost out of sight. Perhaps, that is the meaning of the rather cryptic statement that on the first day of the first month the "face of the ground was dry" but that not until fifty-seven days later, on the twenty-seventh day of the second month, was the "earth dried" (Chap. 8.13-14). At a constant rate of fall the water's edge on the first day of the first month would have been about ten or eleven miles from the stranded Ark, only halfway to the visible horizon. "The face of the ground was dry" in v.13 is "panim adamuh charab" meaning that the surface of the fields was dried, which in such case could mean the immediate vicinity of the Ark. "The earth was dried" in v.14 is "erets yabesh", meaning that the earth or the land was destitute of water. Only when there was no visible sign of water over the land would Noah be sure that the Flood was gone; only then in obedience to the Lord's command did he come out. There remained the mud. The water had gone, back to the ocean, but it had left behind a blanket of clay, sand and gravel had left behind a blanket of clay, sand and gravel much of which had been scooped up from the sea-bed - and salt! Not infrequently an extra high tide floods low lying farmland bordering the seas of this country; the water drains away in a week or so but the salt it leaves behind renders the land unusable sometimes for a year or more. This Flood lasted over twelve months and must have rendered the land completely sterile for decades or even centuries before rain and the annual river floods leached out the salt and agriculture became again possible. Some of the salt has not gone even yet. When the Iraq Government restored some of the ruined buildings of ancient Babylon to create a tourist attraction, one of the greatest handicaps that was encountered was the saline condition of the soil on which the city was built. This caused disintegration of the remaining ruins as soon as they were uncovered and exposed to the air. It was to be very many years before the children of Noah could descend into the plain and create their farms and pasture lands. In the meantime they must perforce remain in the mountains. Reading Genesis 8 to 11 consecutively it is easy to assume that events followed each other in quick succession, that almost immediately after leaving the Ark the people came "from the east" (Gen. 11.1) into the Plain of Shinar and commenced their building operations. This could not possibly have been. Several centuries must have elapsed before the story of the Tower of Babel was enacted. Even after the Flood was ended and everything had returned to normal the head of the Persian Gulf was some three hundred miles north of its present position and formed an impassable barrier to Noah and his family up there in the mountains. Only in the course of time as the four great rivers, the Euphrates, Tigris. Kherkhah, and Batin (the Euphrates, Hiddekel, Pison and Gihon of the Eden story) brought down masses of silt to deposit every year over the plain did the land build up and drive the waters back to where they are now. By Abraham's, day, a thousand years after the Flood, the head of the Gulf had receded a hundred and fifty miles and Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham's home town, was a seaport. Today the sea has receded another hundred and fifty miles from Ur. In all this waste of water and marshland there could be no home for nian. Noah had perforce to look elsewhere.
The signs are that he went north-westward along the fringe of the mountains. To this day their lower slopes are thickly forested, harbouring wide terraces rich in pasture, and in ancient times wild grain. Here are the remains of these ancient settlements which subsisted as centres of human life for at least four or five centuries and were only deserted when the plain was at last free of water and the cities known to us in the Bible story - Ur, Erech, Babylon, Nippur, Nineveh, Larsa, Sippar - began to be built. The story of those early years is not recorded in the Bible, but nowadays it is beginning to be possible to trace its outlines in what those early settlers left behind them, to be brought to light in this our day.
(To be continued)