Declaration and Covenant is a fascinating examination of covenant formulae from the Old Testament and the Ancient Near East. This study shows how covenant partners sometimes created their connection by an oral declaration like the formula: “I am yours, you are mine.” This oral declaration could affect the original covenantal union, or it could reaffirm the existing bond or reestablish a broken pact.
The author develops the argument through an introductory discussion which establishes the specific Old Testament concept of covenant and shows that berît is not the only way to designate biblical covenants. Then he analyzes in detail the nature and function of oral declaration formulae in Joshua 9:8; 1 Samuel 27:12; 2 Kings 10:5-6; and 2 Kings 16:7 in the light of the fullest possible range of ancient Near Eastern examples, including the “Royal Formula” (PN is king) and legal formulae, e.g., of adoption, enslavement, service and marriage. These non-biblical materials establish five types of formulae found in general use: a generic formula, “We are all one,” and four specific formulae which define the nature of the bond: “vassal-lord,” “father-son,” “brother,” and “friend/ally.”
An important conclusion in the light of current discussion is the affirmation that covenant does convey a primary idea of relationship. Further, the survey of ancient Near Eastern materials is as complete a catalogue of examples as could be gathered. The intrinsic value of such a catalogue is self-evident, and it further serves to confirm that covenant was a relationship.
“Here we deal only with one aspect of covenant-making, i.e., declaration of relationship, and only two types of the biblical DF are studied in detail.” (Page 2)
“‘before berît was used in the religious sphere, i.e., to refer to the relationship between God and man, it was rooted in the soil of secular life and was limited to the relationships between ordinary men’.10 Indeed, it is logical to suppose that fellowship with Yahweh was conceived on the analogy of day-to-day human relationships in Hebrew society.” (Page 2)
“Covenant generally implies oath. The OT has different forms for enacting and expressing secular covenant. Although the most frequent term for covenant is berît it is not the exclusive word for covenant, other words are used to express the same reality. And berît itself is not a univocal concept, it could comprise relationships of different kinds.” (Page 5)
“Whatever the name, this formula with its underlying concept of covenant, defines the God-people relationship. And though it may not form the ‘center’ (German ‘Mitte’) of the OT,6 nevertheless it stands out as one of the basic themes of the Bible.” (Page 1)
“berît enacting episodes we can see that the OT had no single necessary covenant-making form.” (Page 7)