Unit 3: Covenant
The Patriarchs and Moses
The Patriarchs
 The
rest of Genesis belongs to history.
As far as we can tell, these people were
real people. The stories contain many
literary styles, including some historical
narrative, but primarily we are dealing
here with legend.
Context for the Patriarchs
 Because
we are now in an historical
period, we need to have some cultural
and historical context in order to
understand what we read. All of the
following give us insight into what life was
like for the Hebrew people at the time
these stories were being told and written
A solemn obligation in Hebrew culture
Necessary as a means of survival among nomadic people
A very different mindset than the “don’t talk to strangers”
concept in our society.
Marriage Customs
A man could have as many wives as he could afford.
More wives = more social status.
A woman was veiled on her wedding day until after
she entered the marriage tent with her new husband
Wedding celebrations often lasted for a week
When a woman got married, she became her
husband’s property.
If her husband died, she could marry his brother.
An unmarried woman with no man to care for her
was often reduced to poverty.
Servant who has a child with the husband of a wife who
can’t have her own children or who wants more children
The wife gets “credit” for the concubine’s children
Considered a secondary wife
Servant who has a child with the husband of a wife who
can’t have her own children or who wants more children
The wife gets “credit” for the concubine’s children
Considered a secondary wife
Patriarchal Blessing
Spoken when the father or head of household was near
Made known how the father wished his property to be
distributed and who would take over as the head of the
Thought to be more effective than your average, everyday blessing
Inheritance Order
Guidelines for how family wealth was passed on when the
head of the family died.
Priority went to
oldest living son of a wife, then
oldest living son of a concubine, then
oldest living male relative (could be husband of a married
daughter), then
a trusted/faithful servant.
The first in line (see inheritance order) received
double share of the inheritance
special blessing (see patriarchal blessing)
A covenant is an agreement which unites two or
more people in a loving relationship
Everyone involved agrees freely to it (no one is
forced into a covenant)
Was often sealed with a ritual where
animals were split in 2
 those making the covenant walked
between the pieces
 this symbolized that “I’d rather be
split in 2 like these animals than break
this agreement.”
Read Genesis 12, 15-17, 25
Covenant with Abraham
Relied solely on God’s fidelity
This covenant was tested when God asked Abraham to
sacrifice his son, Isaac, but the Lord’s messenger stopped
the sacrifice.
Abraham is a model of faith.
Religious truths so far . . .
God doesn’t need perfect people to accomplish
God’s will. (Remember Abraham’s doubt and Sarah’s
jealousy and abusive treatment)
God wants faithfulness and rewards it. (Remember
land, many descendants for Hagar and Abraham.)
Read Genesis 18:1-19:29 (optional)
Read Genesis 22:1-19, and Genesis 24.
Let’s talk about Isaac here.
The Patriarch
Jacob secured his father’s
inheritance over his twin
brother Esau.
God repeated the
covenant to Jacob in a
dream on the road at
Bethel; years later, Jacob
wrestled a stranger who
gave Jacob a new name,
Israel— “one who
contends with God.”
Included in Jacob’s family
were his twelve sons
from whom came the
Twelve Tribes of Israel.
A whopper of a religious truth …
Jacob was a self-centered, deceitful, conniving,
thoughtless man who promised faithfulness only if
God would give him food, clothes, and protection.
So if God’s will could be accomplished through him,
who CAN’T it be accomplished through?!
(God’s will can be done even by imperfect people!)
Joseph, the Favored Son
Beloved son who had jealous
Ended up in Egypt because
of his brothers’ treachery
Judah convinced the others
to sell Joseph for twenty
pieces of silver
Faithful to his master, falsely
accused, and imprisoned
Forgave his brothers and
saved them from famine
Beloved Son of God of whom
Herod was jealous
Holy Family ended up in Egypt
to flee King Herod
Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty
pieces of silver
Faithful to his Father, falsely
accused, and underwent his
Passion, Death, and
Forgave his executioners and
saved all humanity
The Exodus and the
Giving of the Law
Foundational event in the history of the Chosen People
Central figure in
the Old
God appeared to
Moses in a
burning bush
that was not
consumed by the
God instructed
Moses to lead
the Chosen
People to
At the beginning of the book of Exodus:
People have been in Egypt since time of Joseph
People are now slaves to Pharaoh (= title of the King
of Egypt)
Pharaoh orders Hebrew males to be killed to control
Remember, in “real life” Israel did not exist as a
nation yet, so some of the unity of the tribes is being
projected backwards from the time when the story
was written down.
Exodus is both the name of an EVENT (the Israelites
leaving Egypt) and the BOOK of the Bible which
contains the story of that event.
Moses and His Call
Historical and cultural notes on the
Birth of Moses
Wet nurse = a woman hired to breast feed a baby
because the baby’s mother has died or is ill.
An ancient literary symbol that a person was chosen for
something special: a miraculous escape from death at the
time of birth.
Moses was born Hebrew, raised Egyptian
Moses and His Call
Historical and cultural notes on the
Flight to Midian and Call of Moses
YHWH = “I am who am” = God’s name as given to
Moses. Our Bible writes this as LORD, because
“Adonai” was later substituted out of reverence for
God’s sacred name. How is it that this name has
been used for God in the stories before the burning
bush if this is the first time that God tells someone
God’s name?
Ancients believed that to see the face of God meant
certain death.
Read Exodus 2:11 – 3:22
Moses and His Call
Moses’ Excuses
 I’m not worthy . . .
 I don’t know Your
name . . .
 They won’t believe
me . . .
 I don’t speak so
good . . .
(I = Moses)
Moses and His Call
God’s Responses
will be with you . . .
give you my name . . .
give you my power . . .
give you my voice . . .
(I = God)
In other words, “Hey Moses, it’s not about
what you can do alone, but what I can do
through you if you let me!”
Moses and His Call
Religious truths of Exodus 1-4
 Moses
was a whining fugitive murderer
with a speech impediment who tried to
weasel out of doing what God asked of
him. He became the most honored
person in all of Jewish history.
SO . . .
God can achieve God’s will
through ANYONE!
(even me . . .)
Moses and His Call
God calls us from birth to do great things.
SO . . .
I shouldn’t wait until tomorrow or next year or
when I “grow up” (or whenever) to allow God
to work through me!
God is enough to make up for any
shortcomings I have!
SO . . .
No more excuses!
Moses and His Call
YHWH instructed
the Chosen People to
celebrate a sacred
meal to remind of
God’s deliverance.
Each Mass
Jesus’ sacrifice and
saving actions on the
cross and makes it
Wandering in the Desert
Whiny Israelites
The people constantly complain to Moses (Compare to Moses’
complaints at the burning bush . . .)
Moses always turns to God for help (Is he still complaining? Reflect
on how his faith is maturing . . .)
Help always comes
Ex: Quail, Manna, Water from the
rock, battle with Amalek, advice
from Jethro
Mt. Sinai & the Covenant
Mount Sinai
Arrival at Mt. Sinai
Mountain of God and site of the covenant with Israel
Israel will become God’s chosen people if they agree to follow God
and obey God’s laws
The Great Theophany (theophany = appearance by a god to (a)
human(s)) takes place, but the people are afraid and ask Moses to
speak for them
The Sinai Covenant
Bound God and the Chosen
People in a personal loving
Revealed God’s special love
and mercy for them
Stipulated how God’s People
were to respond to his love
“You shall be
my people,
and I will be
your God”
What is the purpose of the Law?
People today often view law as restrictive (takes away
Keeps me from doing something I want to do
Focus on consequences of breaking it often results in law
being followed only to avoid punishment
The ancient Israelites viewed the law as a loving
response to God that freed them to live unafraid.
Allows me to live as best I can
Focus on benefits of following law often resulted in people
willingly followed the law.
The spirit of Jewish law is recorded in Jesus’ Beatitudes in
Mt 5.
Mt. Sinai & the Covenant
The Ten Commandments
In the oldest manuscripts, the commandments are
not numbered. Different groups divide the
commandments differently:
I am the Lord your God. You shall not have other gods
beside me. (Catholics interpret “do not carve idols” as a
specific way to not have other gods and do not count it as a
separate commandment.)
 You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
 Keep holy the Sabbath.
These 3 (4 if you count “no idols” as separate) are about our
relationship with God.
Mt. Siani & the Covenant
Honor your father and mother
 You shall not kill
 You shall not commit adultery
 You shall not steal
 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
 You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife
 You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. (Catholics
separate “wife” and “goods” into 2 commandments. Those
who separate “idols” from the first commandment put
“wife” and “goods” together in one commandment, as in Dt
These last 7 (or 6) commandments are about our relationships
with each other.
Mt..Sinai & the Covenant
The Exodus and the
Giving of the Law
Challenges in the Desert
The people grew frustrated with Moses and made a golden calf to
Numbers records the “murmuring” of the People against Moses.
It took forty years before the Chosen People could enter the
Promised Land.
Other Themes from Leviticus and
Leviticus stresses the theme of God’s holiness and our need
to worship him with love.
Deuteronomy centers on God’s love of Israel and exhorts
the nation to choose between obedience to God and the

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