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It is clear that blessings and curses were part of the Old Covenant Deu30:19. But do blessings and curses transcend covenants? Are they universal regardless of the covenant, new or old?

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:14‬ ‭

Jesus did not come to abolish the law and the prophets

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭

Why then would the blessings and curses be abolished if the law stands even in the new covenant, in fact it’s more stringent, one ought not commit adultery even in his own heart, never mind physically engaging in adultery.

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭

We are redeemed from the ‘curse of the Law’ but it speak nothing of abolishing curses altogether, and in v14 it speaks of the blessings standing in contradistinction of curses. Thus emphasizing their perpetuation even in the New Covenant?

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  • Being circumcised does not automatically render someone immune to sexual compulsion. The religious symbol does not suddenly become the spiritual or metaphysical reality it signifies (the cutting away of physical desire). Nor does the keeping of the Sabbath engender within the human soul the unspeakable spiritual rest or peace of mind, felt by those freed from all manner of guilt and compulsion. The letter of the (ritual) law, in and of itself, is ultimately pointless, and devoid of any substance. Which is why Christ came to fulfill the spirit of the Law, not its letter, though He kept both.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 22:09

2 Answers 2

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In order to proceed, we need to define which covenant(s) we are discussing. In the OT, there are at least five covenants:

  1. Noahide covenant stated in Gen 8:20 – 9:17
  2. Abrahamic covenant stated in Gen 15, 17, 18:9-15, 22:15-18
  3. Israelite covenant stated in Ex 19-24 and then expanded in PARTS of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
  4. Levitical covenant stated in Lev 1-9, 16, 21-27 , Num 3, 4, 8, 18, 25:10-13, Deut 33:8-11. This is an eternal covenant (Num 25:12, 13, Ps 106:30) of salt, Num 18:19. See also Neh 13:29 – “the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites”; Jer 33:18, 21 – “covenant with the Levitical priests”; Mal 2:4-8 – “the covenant with Levi”; Num 25:10-13 – the eternal covenant of priesthood was also a covenant of peace and a covenant of “salt” (Num 18:19), ie, very solemn and eternal; Isa 54:10 & Eze 34:25 also describes the covenant of peace with the Levites.
  5. Davidic (or Regal) Covenant stated in 2 Sam 7, 23:5, 1 Kings 6:11, 12, 8:25, 1 Chron 17:11-14, 2 Chron 6:14-16, 7:17, 18, 13:5, Ps 132:11, 12, Eze 37:15-28.

Without going into too much detail, each covenant had an identical structure, namely:

  • It was initiated by God
  • It contained a series of blessings
  • It contained a series of requirements (or a "law") for the the receiving (human) party to observe that governed and regulated the relationship defined by the covenant
  • It contained some curses if the covenant was not obeyed
  • It contained some sign or token to seal the covenant
  • It was eternal and irrevocable

Old Covenant or Israelite Covenant

In the case of the Israelite covenant we have the following structure:

  • God promises to “save” Israel from Egyptian slavery and deliver them to the Promised Land as stated in the preamble to the 10 commandments, Ex 20:1, 2, 23:23, Deut 5:6. This was to fulfil God’s earlier promise to Abraham and others to give the Promised Land to Abraham’s descendants, Ex 2:24, 6:4, 5, forever, 1 Chron 16:15, Ps 105:8, 111:9.
  • God promises to protect His people by sending a protecting angel, Ex 23:19, 20, and establish their borders, Ex 23:31.
  • The purpose the Covenant (Ex 20:1-17) is stated clearly in Ex 19:5, 6 – to make the Israelites God’s peculiar treasure, his special people, distinguished by the way they conducted themselves. Ps 50:16-18, 74:20, 78:36, 37.
  • The requirements of the Israelite covenant are the 10 Commandments as recorded on the tablets of stone and amplified in Ex 20:22-23:33, the book of Deuteronomy and elsewhere such as Lev 17-19, 26. This is shown by the following facts:
  • Ex 24:7 introduces the “Book of the Covenant” (which see) as already existing, ie, Ex 20:22 – 23:33. It served as an expansion and legal context in which to place the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments.
  • These tablets of stone with the 10 Commandments are called “the covenant” (Ex 34:27, 28, Deut 9:9, 11, 15) and placed inside the ark (Ex 25:16, 21, 40:20, Heb 9:4). [The tables of stone were also called “the tables of Testimony” (Ex 31:18, 32:15, 34:29), or just, “The Testimony” (Ex 25:16, 21).]
  • The “Ark of the Covenant” (Num 10:33, 14:44, Deut 10:8, 31:9, 25, 26, Josh 3:3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 4:7, 9, 18, 6:6, 8:33, etc) or, “Ark of the Testimony” (Ex 25:22, 26:33, 34, 30:6, 26, 31:7, 39:35, 40:3, 5, 21, Lev 16:13, Num 4:5, 7:89, Josh 4:16, etc) is described thus precisely because it contained the stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God (Ex 31:18, Deut 9:10) with the Israelite Covenant of the 10 Commandments. 1 Kings 8:9, 2 Chron 5:10.
  • The re-statement and expansion of the 10 Commandments as the covenant in Deut 4:13, 23, 31, 5:2, 3 includes a reference back to the Covenant at Horeb, ie, Mt Sinai (See Ex 3:1, 17:6, 33:6, etc, and the statement of the covenant in Ex 19, 20, and restated in Ex 24).
  • The 10 Commandments Covenant is distinct from the Levitical law and Davidic Covenant.
  • The benefits of the covenant are clearly set out in Lev 26:1-13, Deut 28:1-14 (blessings for obedience), and, Lev 26:14-39, Deut 28:15-68 (curses for disobedience).
  • The visible symbols of the Israelite Covenant solemnity and importance included: an altar of 12 stones (Ex 24:4), a sacrifice (Ex 24:5), sprinkled blood of the covenant (Ex 24:8). The blood of the covenant was used dramatically when painted on the door posts in Egypt at the first Passover (Ex 12).
  • The tokens/signs of the covenant (Heb: “oth”) appear to have been the law of the 10 Commandments themselves (Deut 6:8, 11:18), and especially the Sabbath (Ex 31:13, 16, 17, Isa 56:4, 6, Exe 20:12, 20, see “Sabbath”); the blood of the covenant from the Passover Lamb is also used as a sign in Ex 12:13; the famous “Ark of the Covenant” containing the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone (Ex 16:34, 24:12, 25:16, 21, 31:18, 32:15, 19, 34:1, 4, 28, 40:20, Deut 4:13, 9-11, etc).
  • Lev 26:44, 45, Jer 31:35-37, 32, 40, 33:25 declare the Israelite covenant immutable and irrevocable. See also Heb 13:20, 1 Chron 16:17, Jer 50:5, Ps 105:8, Eze 37:26.

Thus, the curses and blessings do not supersede the covenant any more than (say) the law or sign/token supersedes the covenant. They are all an integral part of the covenant.

New Testament

In the NT the Christian Covenant, or new covenant is introduced in Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, 2 Cor 3:6, Heb 8:6-13, 9:15, 10:16, 29, 12:24, (Jer 31:31, 33), an eternal covenant (Heb 13:20). The Christian Communion service celebrates the New Covenant.

According to Heb 8:7, 8, the New Covenant was created, not because the Old was defective but because the people (literal Israelites) did not understand, rejected the old covenant and a New Covenant was made with new people, Christians, who accept the promises by faith. Jesus made the same point in Matt 21:43, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” See also Gal 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise”. Paul makes the same point in Rom 9:6-9, 11:11-22 where the old covenant was not revoked (it was immutable, Jer 31:35-37) but Christians, people of faith, were grafted into the original “olive tree”. This is also confirmed by Eph 2:12 where Paul discusses Gentiles being absorbed into spiritual Israel becoming part of the ancient covenant promises, all by faith.

As usual, the key to understanding this is the centrality of Jesus. See Heb 8:6-13, and Heb 9:15.

  • All the promises God made under the Old Covenant to Israelites find their fulfilment in Jesus as mediator of the New Covenant to Christians, Matt 5:17, Gal 3:14, 16, 22, 29, Eph 1:18, Col 3:23, 24, 2 Cor 1:20, Rom 9:8, Heb 9:15, 11:18, 1 Peter 1:4. Thus, the New Covenant promises to save all people. Specifically, God said of the Christian community, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, to proclaim the virtues of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9, 10 (Compare Ex 19:5, 6, Hos 1:9, 4:6). The Jerusalem council resolution in Acts 15:28, 29 is a specific set of requirements that were repeated from the Old Covenant for the New Covenant.
  • Hebrews discusses the same idea that the Moral Law of God is to be written on our hearts, Heb 8:7-13, 10:16, 17, exactly as it should have been under the Old Covenant (compare Deut 6:5, Jer 24:7, 31:1, 33, 34, 32:38-40, 36, 26-28).
  • Christians were to be “called by my Name” as confirmed in Acts 11:26, just as under the Old Covenant (2 Chron 7:14, Isa 43:7, 65:1). Matt 10:22, 24:9, Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17, Acts 15:17.
  • Jesus is the promised King of the new Christian Community, ie, the Kingdom of Heaven, or, Kingdom of God, Luke 1:33, John 1:49, Acts 13:23, Rev 11:15. Compare Jer 33:14-17, Eze 37:22. Thus, Jesus inherits the Davidic Covenant. He is also the “Son of David” (Matt 1:1-16) and “Son of God” as predicted in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7); and His kingdom will never be defeated and is eternal, Luke 1:33, Heb 1:8, Rev 11:15, compare Ps 61:7, Isa 9:7, Psa 146:10.
  • Jesus is now seated on the eternal throne in heaven at the right hand of the Father, Mark 14:62, 16:19, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb 1;13, 10:12, 1 Peter 3:22, Rev 5:1.
  • Jesus is the high priest of the New Covenant Heb 4:14-16, 7:23-28, 8:1, 2, 9:1-28, 10:1-18. Thus, Jesus inherits and was the fulfilment of the Levitical Covenant (See Mal 3:1). Jesus did this in several ways as well such as:
  • Jesus was the fulfilment of what the sanctuary/temple typified, John 2:19-21, Heb 9:1-28, 10:1-18
  • Jesus represented the foundation of the temple as well, 1 Peter 2:4-8 (Compare Isa 28:16, Ps 118:22)
  • Jesus was the bread of life, John 6:35, 41, 48 (compare Ex 25:23-30, Lev 24:8).
  • Jesus was the light of life, John 8:12, 9:5 (compare the lampstand Ex 25:31-39, Lev 24:3, 4, Isa 53:11, Ps 56:13, etc)
  • Jesus provides the water of life, John 4:13, 14 (Compare the laver Ex 30:17-21. See also 1 Cor 6:11)
  • Jesus is the promised seed of the woman Gal 3:16 (compare Gen 3:15, and the Abrahamic Covenant)
  • Jesus was the Passover Lamb and thus the promised Messiah, John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19 (compare Ex 12:1-14).
  • Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant in fulfilment of the Levitical covenant, Heb 4:14-16, 7:23-28, because He was “pure, blameless, set apart” exactly as the Levites were. See also Heb 9:15, 12:24.
  • Jesus provided the blood of the new covenant of which the communion ceremony was to be a memorial, Matt 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1 Cor 11:25, Heb 13:20, 1 Peter 1:19 (compare Ex 24:5, 8).
  • Jesus did not abolish the Israelite Covenant and Moral Law but came to fulfil them, Matt 5:17-20, Gal 3:21. The moral law still applies to Christians BUT Jesus fulfils the Levitical and Davidic covenants by being the eternal High Priest and the eternal king of the kingdom of heaven.
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  • Excellent, thorough and well documented @Dottard, could you please speak to curses specifically, say for instance Deu5:7-10. Curses onto future generations under the new covenant. Just to be a little more explicit. Thank you. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 3:32
  • Deut 5:7-10 is part of the second commandment. The situation here is the same as Lev 26:1-13, Deut 28:1-14 (blessings for obedience), and, Lev 26:14-39, Deut 28:15-68 (curses for disobedience). When the people obeyed the covenant they prospered and vis-versa. This is also true in the second commandment - most of these are in reality a statement of society fact. The rule of law and honesty are prerequisites for prosperity.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 5:27
  • @NihilSineDeo - The problem here is what is not said. When people turned to idolatry they invariably turned to sex worship and child abuse. As we are now aware, child abuse creates enormous and very expensive societal and financial cost in health, mental health and loss of productivity.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 5:29
  • I don’t think it’s necessary to take it to that extreme. I believe curses can come from God especially because someone rejects God or accepts another god. Ex20:5,6 is applicable even today in the new covenant, meaning curses need to be broken in the new covenant just as old covenants. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 14:11
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    @NihilSineDeo - I fully agree.
    – Dottard
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 20:37
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A covenant that does not supersede an older covenant is not an entirely new covenant. Rather, it is merely an Amendment. Shall we then say that the Israelite Covenant still stands and what Jesus brought was an Amendment?

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  • This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. To get notified when this question gets new answers, you can follow this question. Once you have enough reputation, you can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question. - From Review
    – agarza
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 15:40
  • @ Ruel G-Your statement is interesting and worthy of some thought! But I fear that it fails to answer the posted question. The Blessings and Curses of Deuteronomy were quite vivid, and were addressed to the Israelites. But could they apply to people universally? People who are not under the Mosaic covenant? This is the gist of the question, so try answering it, but make sure you give scriptural references in your answer. Keep studying the Bible, it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 23:46

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