The Adamic covenant refers to God’s covenant with Adam, the first man, after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden. This covenant is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, but is inferred from passages in Genesis that describe God’s interaction with Adam after the Fall. Here is an overview of the key points of the Adamic covenant:
After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God pronounced curses on each of them as consequences for their sin (Genesis 3:14-19). He cursed the serpent who tempted them, the woman with pain in childbearing, and the man with toil and hardship in work. This represented a fundamental shift from the perfect existence Adam and Eve had enjoyed in the Garden of Eden prior to sinning. Through their disobedience, sin entered the world and the harmonious relationship between God and humanity was broken.
Whereas Adam and Eve had access to the tree of life which enabled them to live forever in the Garden of Eden, their banishment from the Garden also banned them from the tree of life. God said, “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever”, so he placed cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24). This represented the introduction of death and mortality into human existence, as Adam and Eve could no longer eat from the tree of life.
In pronouncing the curse on the serpent, God also declared, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This has been called the “Protoevangelium”, meaning the “first gospel”, as it is understood to be the firstmessianic prophecy in Scripture. It implies that the woman’s future offspring would crush the head of the serpent, symbolically defeating evil and sin accomplished through Jesus Christ. So even in the midst of the curses for Adam and Eve’s sin, there was a glimpse of the hope and salvation to come through a promised Redeemer.
Continued Human Dominion
Previously, God had commanded Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). After the Fall, God reaffirmed aspects of this cultural mandate even as He was banishing Adam and Eve from Eden. For example, He affirmed they would still have children and populate the earth (Genesis 3:16). He also created garments of skins for them, implying animal death and human use of animals was now part of the order (Genesis 3:21). So although the created world was now corrupted by sin, humans were still expected to multiply, subdue the earth, and have dominion – now under much more difficult conditions outside of Eden.
Continued Moral Responsibility
When God confronted Adam and Eve over their sin, He expected them to take moral responsibility – which implies they still had a functioning moral compass even after the Fall. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent – and God held each one accountable (Genesis 3:11-13). Then, before sending them out of the Garden, “the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:22). So humans were still morally responsible beings who could discern good and evil, even if their nature was now corrupted towards sin and evil tendencies.
Ongoing Relationship with God
Rather than destroying Adam and Eve outright, God continued to relate to them and provide for them despite their sin. As mentioned, He covered their nakedness with garments and even protected them in a sense by preventing access back to the tree of life in their fallen state (Genesis 3:21, 24). When Cain sinned later in Genesis 4 by murdering his brother, God directly confronted him as one would address a moral agent capable of repentance (Genesis 4:6-16). God also appointed Seth in place of righteous Abel, implying the continuation of God’s people even under the Adamic covenant (Genesis 4:25). So there was an ongoing, if damaged, relationship between God and humanity under this covenant.
In summary, the inferences about the Adamic covenant from Genesis 3-4 include curses on creation, human mortality, an offspring who would crush the serpent, ongoing mandates to humanity, human moral responsibility, and a continued interaction between God and humanity. God’s mercy was displayed even though humanity broke their perfect fellowship through rebellion and sin. This covenant sets up the history of God’s redemptive plan as unfolds through the Old Testament, culminating in the life and work of Jesus Christ, the ultimate offspring who decisively triumphed over sin.
Attributes of the Adamic Covenant
Beyond the key points overview above, theologians have identified some key attributes of the Adamic covenant that derive from God’s interaction with Adam and Eve after their fall into sin:
1. It was a covenant of grant
This means God sovereignly instituted the covenant unilaterally and unconditionally. There was nothing Adam and Eve did to earn or deserve this arrangement – God simply granted it as He confronted them in their fallen state. The curses, prophecies, mandates, and other elements were instituted by God’s authority alone.
2. It was made with all humanity
Unlike later covenants which God made with specific individuals such as Abraham or David, the Adamic covenant applied universally to the entire human race originating from Adam and Eve. We all live under the consequences of this foundational covenant after the Fall.
3. It was predominantly negative
Many of the elements instituted were adverse circumstances for humanity – curse, toil, mortality, pain in childbearing, hardship in relationships between husband and wife, etc. This contrasts with the largely positive nature of the original creation covenant with blessings, abundance, and comfort for Adam and Eve in Eden.
4. It cannot be broken
As part of God’s sovereign decree, the Adamic covenant remains binding over all humanity. There is no way for humans to revise this covenant or escape its effects. No amount of technological advancement or enlightenment ideals can overturn the fundamental realities of pain, laborious work, sin tendencies, mortality, and other adverse conditions resulting from the Fall.
5. It was succeeded by later redemptive covenants
The later Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants each build on the Adamic foundation and represent God’s progressive revelation and unfold His redemptive plan to recover what was lost at the Fall. Through Christ, many of the negative effects are decisively reversed for those in Him.
So in summary, the Adamic covenant was a unilateral, universal, predominantly negative yet irreversible covenant that introduced mortality, pain, difficulty in relationships, and other adverse conditions due to human sin. But even amidst the curses, glimmers of gospel hope shone in the promise of offspring who would crush the tempter one day. The covenant therefore sets the stage for God’s redemptive drama that continues unfolding throughout the rest of Scripture.
Contrast with the Covenant of Works
Theologians sometimes distinguish between the “covenant of works” made with Adam in the Garden of Eden before sin, and the Adamic covenant after the Fall. Here are the key differences:
Covenant of Works:
– Made with unfallen Adam before Genesis 3
– Offered eternal confirmed life for perfect and perpetual obedience
– Adam was representative head of humanity capable of fulfilling covenant
– No mediator needed
– Made with fallen Adam after Genesis 3
– Established curse, pain, toil, and death due to disobedience
– Adam’s sinful humanity unable to fulfill righteous requirements
– Allowed hope of mediator and redemption
So in summary, the covenant of works represented the arrangement before the Fall based on Adam’s obedience, while the Adamic covenant represents the new arrangement after the Fall when humanity was in a broken sinful condition requiring redemption.
The Adamic Covenant and Covenant Theology
The Adamic covenant plays a key role in the theological system known as Covenant Theology. This approach views Scripture in terms of the overarching covenants, with the Adamic covenant providing critical foundation as the first.
Here’s a brief overview of how the Adamic covenant fits in the covenant theology system:
– It was the first covenant after creation
– It was made with Adam as covenant head of all humanity
– It transitioned humanity from innocence to a fallen state
– It subjected humanity to the penalties of sin (curse, pain, death)
– It displayed the need for redemption
– It established the basis for human depravity and sin nature
– It implies the need for a new covenant representative (Jesus)
So in Covenant Theology, the Adamic covenant establishes important theological bedrock relating to humanity’s fallen condition, sin nature, God’s righteous requirements, and the remedy ultimately achieved through Christ. For those who subscribe to this framework, the Adamic covenant forms a foundation upon which the biblical story of redemption rests.
Adamic Covenant vs. New Covenant
By comparing and contrasting the Adamic covenant and New Covenant, we can see the glorious redemption accomplished through Jesus Christ:
– Made with Adam after the Fall when sin entered the world
– Resulted in curse, pain, toil, sorrow
– All humanity represented by Adam inherits sinful nature
– No internal power to obey God from the heart
– Mandate to multiply and subdue earth remains in effect
– Made possible through Christ’s atoning work (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25)
– Forgiveness of sins accomplished once for all (Heb 10:1-18)
– Indwells believers with Holy Spirit to obey God (Ezek 36:27)
– Restores people to relationship with God (Heb 8:10-12)
– Great Commission renews cultural mandate (Matt 28:19-20)
So in summary, whereas the Adamic covenant resulted in fallen humanity inheriting sin’s curse, the New Covenant redeems and restores people through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Believers can now have intimacy with God, the Holy Spirit’s power to obey, and the hope of eternity with Christ.
Adamic Covenant Summary
To recap, here are some key points about the Adamic Covenant:
– It refers to God’s arrangement with Adam after the Fall into sin, though the term itself is never mentioned explicitly.
– It is inferred from Genesis 3-4 based on God’s interaction with Adam, Eve, and their offspring after they sinned.
– It included curses, pain, toil, and mortality because of sin.
– It included the Protoevangelium promise of an offspring who would defeat sin.
– It established principles of ongoing human dominion and moral responsibility.
– It was universal, unilaterally instituted by God, and irreversible.
– It helped set the stage for redemptive covenants that would reverse the effects of the Fall.
– Contrasted with the covenant of works before the Fall.
– Plays a foundational role in the theological framework of Covenant Theology.
– Displayed humanity’s need for redemption ultimately accomplished through Jesus Christ.
So in summary, the Adamic Covenant depicts humanity’s condition of sin, curse, pain, and mortality after the Fall, yet retaining human dignity as morally responsible beings. This covenant establishes the backdrop revealing the great mercy and glory of God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ.