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Biblical Archaeology Review 49:1, Spring 2023

Epistles: Covenants in Context

By Jean-Georges Heintz

Biblical Archaeology Review

The theme of covenant is central to the Hebrew Bible. It provides the background to many of its most memorable stories where Yahweh establishes alliances with figures such as Noah (Genesis 9), Abraham (Genesis 12; Genesis 15; Genesis 17), Moses (Exodus 19; Exodus 24), Aaron (Exodus 29; Numbers 18:19), and David (2 Samuel 7).

Yet modern biblical scholarship has marginalized the covenantal aspects of the Hebrew Bible in favor of the many individuals and events associated with such arrangements, which are generally reduced to their legal aspects and interpreted as obligations subsumed under the law (Hebrew: torah). The word torah even serves to designate the first major division of the Hebrew Bible. Reading the Bible in its wider Near Eastern context, however, rehabilitates the covenant as a crucial factor in diplomacy as well as political and private alliances.1

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