Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose by Paul Williamson

Sealed with an Oath

The latest volume in the outstanding New Studies in Biblical Theology series is entitled Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God's Unfolding Purpose by Paul Wiliamson. My review of this book for Review of Biblical Literature has just been published and can be found here.

I will not repeat the review here, but I will make a few comments. Overall the book is a very interesting read and does an excellent job of showing the relationship of the various biblical covenants to each other. The most distinctive part of the book is Williamson's argument that Gen 15 and Gen 17 present two distinct but related covenants; the first is national and the second is international. The two are related in that the international cannot take place without the national first coming to pass.

Also worth noting is that Williamson rejects the idea of a covenant in Eden. This conclusion rests not only on the absence of covenantal language in Gen 1-2 but also the very nature of covenants themselves. He argues that they exist only in contexts where there is potential mistrust; in such cases a covenant is entered into as a guarantee that the parties will fulfill their obligations.

As I note in the review, the biggest weakness of the book is the fact that he spends only three pages discussing the consummation of the covenants in Revelation 21-22. Given the amount of covenantal references in these two chapters, it was a disappointment to see such a short treatment.

That notwithstanding, I warmly recommend this book as a thought-provoking and helpful guide to understanding the biblical covenants.