A photograph capturing a pair of hands, one gently holding an open Bible, while the other hand reaches out to touch a stone tablet engraved with the Ten Commandments.

What Was The First Covenant In The Bible?

Covenants play a central role throughout the Bible. They represent solemn pacts and commitments made between God and humans. If you’re looking for a quick answer, the first covenant in the Bible is between God and Noah in Genesis 9 after the great flood.

God promises to never again destroy the earth with a flood and establishes the rainbow as a sign of this everlasting covenant.

In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the context, significance, terms, and implications of this inaugural covenant. We will also analyze the distinctive nature of the Noahic covenant compared to later covenants in Scripture.

By the end, you will have a thorough understanding of this foundational event in biblical history.

The Setting of the First Covenant

The Wickedness of Mankind Before the Flood

According to the Book of Genesis, prior to the Great Flood, the world had become extremely corrupt and filled with violence. Humans were sinful, wicked and evil in their ways. They had turned away from God and His righteous laws.

Genesis 6:5 describes the state of humankind during this period: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” This morally bankrupt situation grieved God deeply.

Some key reasons highlighted for the wickedness were:

  • Rampant idolatry and false god worshipping
  • Sexual immorality, corruption and perversion
  • Injustice, violence, thievery and murder
  • Rejection of God’s ways and commands

This was a gloomy period marked by high levels of depravity among humans. According to scripture experts, this moral degradation was the primary reason God sent the catastrophic Flood.

God’s Judgment Through the Flood

As per Genesis 6:7, God expressed regret at creating such wicked humans and declared: “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

Consequently, God instructed Noah, the only righteous person left, to build a giant Ark to save his family and pair of every animal species (Genesis 6:14-22). When the Ark was completed, God sent rain lasting 40 days and 40 nights resulting in a cataclysmic, devastating worldwide Flood covering even the tallest mountains.

Metric Impact Estimate
Height of floodwaters At least 7 meters above the highest mountain
Duration 40 days of torrential downpour + 110 days for water recession
Loss of life Every air-breathing, land-based creature outside the Ark perished

This served as divine punishment to wipe out wicked humankind. It also cleansed and reset the world to undo the rampant corruption prevailing.

Noah’s Righteousness and Deliverance

In the midst of widespread evil before the Flood, Genesis 6:9 introduces Noah: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” More details are at Noah’s Story

When God shared His plan to destroy the world with the Flood because of its wickedness, He showed grace to Noah by revealing the Ark construction plan and instructing Noah to save his family and animal species.

For over a century, while building the massive Ark, Noah repeatedly warned people to turn from their evil ways but sadly no one except his family heeded the warning and sought deliverance through the Ark.

Finally, the Flood wiped out all air-breathing creatures outside the Ark. Inside the Ark, for about a year, 8 human souls along with animals were safe before emerging to a cleansed new world after the Flood.

Truly, Noah stands out as a lone beacon of righteousness and walking with God amidst widespread wickedness.

The Terms and Significance of the Covenant

God’s Promise to Never Destroy the Earth Again

After the devastating Flood, God made a covenant with Noah and his sons, promising to never again destroy all life on Earth with a flood (Genesis 9:8-17). This was a solemn, binding agreement that established God’s mercy and care for his creation.

God set the rainbow as a sign of this “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature” (Genesis 9:16).

The Sign of the Rainbow as a Reminder

The rainbow serves as a beautiful reminder in the sky of God’s faithfulness and grace. Whenever we see a rainbow, we can remember God’s promise to sustain the Earth. The rainbow reflects divine mercy amidst the storms of life.

Just as the rainbow appears when sunlight refracts through raindrops, God causes goodness to shine through even in difficult times.

The Covenant’s Establishment of Human Governance

This covenant also established basic human governance, with Noah functioning as a mediator between God and people. God gave the “Noahide” laws in Genesis 9:1-7, commanding people to “be fruitful and increase, fill the earth,” while prohibiting murder and requiring justice.

So this covenant laid ethical foundations for civilization, calling us to preserve and cultivate life while upholding human dignity through justice.

The Distinctive Nature of the Noahic Covenant

An Unconditional Covenant of Grace

The Noahic covenant, made between God and Noah after the Flood, had unique qualities setting it apart from other biblical covenants. First, it was an unconditional covenant not requiring anything on Noah’s part to receive God’s promises.

This contrasts with later covenants mandating certain laws or rituals. God freely chose to make this covenant out of grace and love for humanity (GotQuestions.org).

Second, this marked God’s commitment to preserve the human race and the Earth despite people’s sin. The covenant symbolized God’s forgiveness and “not destroying the Earth by flood again” (Genesis 9:11). It required no prerequisites for God to fulfill His pledge.

Truly, the Noahic covenant revealed God’s unconditional grace and care for His creation.

A Covenant With All Living Creatures

Another distinctive feature of this covenant involved its scope encompassing all living creatures. God stated, “I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood” (Genesis 9:11).

This promise applied not merely to humans but included “every living creature of all flesh” (v. 16). What an amazing demonstration of God’s majestic sovereignty and love for all He made!

Thisuniversal covenant showed God’s lordship over everything and intent to uphold order in the natural world. It gave Noah, his descendants, and all creatures a sense of certainty amidst life’s storms – quite literally!

We continue benefiting from the Noahic covenant’s ecological stability and sustenance.

A Covenant Without Mandated Laws

Finally, unlike the Mosaic, Abrahamic, and other biblical covenants, the Noahic covenant came without mandated religious laws, rituals, or rites. For example, it did not require circumcision as did God’s covenant with Abraham.

Nor did it order numerous ceremonial regulations like those later given to Moses. This covenant simply entailed God unilaterally binding Himself to preserve humanity and nature while asking nothing in return.

Truly, the Noahic covenant revealed God’s grace in providing unconditional promises to sustain the Earth and its creatures. This foundational covenant continues benefitting all living beings to this day.

Later Biblical Covenants

The Abrahamic Covenant

The Abrahamic Covenant is one of the most significant covenants in the Bible. As recorded in Genesis 12 and 15, God made a covenant with Abraham promising to bless him with land and descendants. This covenant established Israel as God’s chosen people and contains the foundations of God’s redemptive plan for humanity.

Key aspects include:

  • God promising Abraham great nationhood and many descendants
  • God promising Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan
  • Circumcision as the physical sign of God’s covenant with Abraham and his male descendants
  • God promising that through Abraham all families on earth would be blessed

The Abrahamic covenant sets up the framework for God’s future covenants and interactions with Israel. It establishes God’s commitment to redeem humanity through a chosen people.

The Mosaic Covenant

The Mosaic Covenant refers to the laws and commandments God gave to the Israelites through Moses on Mount Sinai. After rescuing the Israelites from Egypt in the Exodus, God established the Mosaic Covenant in Exodus 19-24 to make Israel his treasured possession, priestly kingdom, and holy nation.

Key aspects include:

  • The Ten Commandments as the foundation of the covenant
  • Laws regarding worship practices, social justice, purity, priestly duties, etc.
  • Blessings for obeying the laws and curses for disobeying them
  • Ratification of the covenant through blood sacrifice

The Mosaic Covenant built on the Abrahamic Covenant by providing detailed guidelines for Israel to live as God’s set-apart people. It shaped Israel’s life, society, and worship.

The Davidic Covenant

The Davidic Covenant refers to God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7 to establish the house, throne, and kingdom of David forever. David wished to build a permanent temple for God, but God promised to build a permanent dynasty and kingdom through David’s descendants instead. Key aspects include:

  • The promise of eternal dynasty – “your throne shall be established forever”
  • The son of David’s lineage will rule justly and righteously forever
  • An eternal kingdom under the rule of David’s descendants
  • Intimate father-son relationship between God and the kings from David’s line

This covenant points to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, from David’s royal line. Christ established God’s eternal kingdom through his sinless life, sacrificial death on the cross, and everlasting reign over God’s people.

The New Covenant in Christ

The New Covenant refers to God’s promise in Jeremiah 31:31-34 to make a new covenant with the people of Israel, written on their hearts rather than tablets of stone. This New Covenant was instituted through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and made access to God available to all people through Christ.

Key aspects include:

  • Internalization of God’s law by the Holy Spirit to motivate obedience from the heart
  • Complete forgiveness of sins
  • Universal knowledge of God for all his people
  • The indwelling Holy Spirit for all believers

Jesus, by taking the penalty for sin upon himself, established this ultimate covenant between God and his people. All who put faith in Christ receive forgiveness, new spiritual life, and direct relationship with God.


In conclusion, the Noahic covenant represents a pivotal moment early in Scripture. While later covenants narrow in scope and place requirements on one group, this initial covenant extends graciously to all living creatures.

As the first of many covenants, it establishes God’s enduring care for creation and sets the stage for His unfolding plan of redemption.

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