It must first be noted that the Bible does not give a direct statement from God saying He is making a covenant with Adam. The only connotation the Bible makes using the word covenant in what could be understood as relation to Adam is found in Hosea 6:7, “But they like men have transgressed the covenant: There have they dealt treacherously against me.” This verse is speaking directly of Israel’s disobedience to God and their transgression of the covenant God has made with the nation. It is believed that the reference to “like men” in this verse equates to Adam as being one of the men who also disobeyed God. While this theory in no way confirms or nullifies our view on the covenant God made with Adam it is worth noting. Just because the Bible does not use the specific word covenant in Genesis 1-3 does not mean God did not make a covenant with Adam. We understand that a covenant is a bonding agreement between two individuals (spiritual or physical). By exploring Genesis we will quickly see that God indeed made a covenant with Adam.
The Covenant Broken Down
The covenant God makes is broken into two parts: Genesis 1:27-30 and Genesis 2:16-17. First we will look at Genesis 1:27-30 which gives the first part of this covenant God made with Adam and Eve, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”
Here, we see God essentially giving earth to Adam and Eve. Man is to be fruitful, multiply, replenish the earth, subdue it, and to have dominion over everything in it. The Teacher’s Commentary references the connection of man’s dominion given to Adam and Hebrews 2:8-9 further speaking of the power given to man. Jesus had to come as a man, to save man, because man was given dominion over earth (Richards, L., & Richards, L. O., 1987). This is God’s blessing and benediction for Adam and Eve. Everything they could see was theirs to nurture in a way that would ultimately give glory back to God. In this aspect of the covenant God was showing them what was theirs and the blessings they would have under obedience. There are always blessings from obedience to God and His covenant, Adam and Eve were seeing them first hand. Also God was commanding them but saying this is all yours, it’s your domain, but handle it appropriately.
Genesis 2:16-17 gives us the second and more universally understand aspect of the covenant, it says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This is an atypical covenant between God and man; God clearly outlines the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the covenant.
Terms and Blessings of the Covenant
God is very clear with Adam the blessings and consequences that will come about with obedience or disobedience. Bill Diehl says about the Adamic covenant, “The Adamic covenant may be likened to a suzerainty treaty. God was the great Suzerain, and the terms of the covenant were unilaterally arranged by Him. Adam was but a creature of the dust, but the covenant partnership conferred upon him the dignity and authority of a king.” God gave Adam tremendous authority over earth, but there was also obedience and adherence that was required within that role. It is also implied that Adam was created to live in an eternal relationship with God if he obeys the guidelines of the covenant. Genesis 2:16-17 tells us of the commandment God gives to Adam requiring him to not eat of one specific tree, with the consequence of disobedience being death. God shows Adam all the blessings he will have under obedience, but still places the tree of the knowledge of good and evil within the garden for the purpose of giving man free choice.
Through New Testament Eyes
The New Testament Christian must look at this covenant between God and Adam through the lens of Jesus Christ. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Paul and numerous other writers such as Matthew Henry all see the parallel between Adam and Jesus (Henry, 1994). We must look at how sin separated Adam from God, likewise the same is revenant in our lives today. Jesus came to restore the relationship that Adam had with God to man today, but we must still obey God’s laws and commandments in-order to enjoy blessings.