The If-Condition

in the

Sinaitic Covenant


THE SINAI COVENANT was based on the Abrahamic Covenant. It is a further development of the Abrahamic; and like the Abrahamic, it is a conditional covenant.

There are many “ifs” in this covenant that God made with Israel at Sinai. The if-condition appears frequently from Exodus to Deuteronomy Israelites were called “Sons of the Covenant,” but the covenant provided them with security only while they remained in the covenant and obeyed covenant laws.

The Jews always boasted of their natural covenant birthright, but Moses, the prophets, John Baptist, Jesus, and the Apostles repeatedly warned them about the false security of this deceptive assurance.

When Moses offered Israel God’s covenant proposal, they were given time to ponder its terms. The covenant was read to them again the second day. They could accept or reject it. With their own free will they could say yes or no.

 Here’s the covenant God offered them:

In the third month…came they into the wilderness of Sinai….And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words. (Ex. 19:1-6; 24:6-8)


When Moses read to them the second time the “book of the covenant.., concerning all these words,” the people said, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient.” They made no excuses about inability to obey it. They did not object that it was too strict. They said nothing about it as being unreasonable. When they freely accepted it, Moses performed the ceremony of ratification and the covenant blood was sprinkled upon them–which would not have been done without their acceptance of the covenant. The covenant bond was then “established” between God, the Covenantor, and Israel, the covenantees.


God then became to them Jehovah Who Binds Himself. God guaranteed all promises and provisions of the covenant subject to the if-condition. If the covenant was not realized to them, they had only themselves to blame. Only on condition of their full compliance to the “if” would Jehovah be their covenant God. If they obeyed the requirements, they had their “part and lot” in the covenant.


God said the covenant was “My covenant.” Everything originates with God. All flows from His free grace and love. No praise to man for anything. He cannot earn or merit anything from God, not with all his obedience and faith. But the Covenantor required that, to enter into the blessings of His covenant, we must also enter into its conditions.


Various punishments were imposed upon covenant breakers. They were “cut off” from the covenant, and often the death penalty was inflicted upon the Sons of the Covenant. They were banished from the covenant and put to death. The covenant violator not only forfeited his covenant rights, but also forfeited his life. It was “a sin unto death” (I John 5:16).


There was no atonement for willful violations of Mosaic Covenant law. The violator had to “bear his iniquity” (Lev. 17: 16); it would not be borne by the covenant sacrifices. God said, “I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people” (Lev. 20:2, 3). See Leviticus 20: 17, 19, 27, for other sins that the covenant sacrifices could not atone for. The blood of the transgressors was upon their own heads.

The willful covenant violator could not say he was sorry and ask Moses for mercy. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses” (Heb. 10:28). There was no pity from God, Moses, or Israel.


There were frequent threats of excommunication and death in Moses’ law. Here are a few of many:

Leviticus 7:20, 21, 25, 27; 17:4, 9,  10, 14; 18:29; 19: 8; 20:6, 10, 11, 13, 18; 23:29.


God said, “Whosoever hath sinned against me him will I blot out of my book” (Ex. 32:33). And Jesus said, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5).


And Paul, in the New Covenant, speaking about the world’s sin against God’s laws, said:

They which commit such things are worthy of death” (Rom. 1:32).


And Hebrews 10: 26, 27 says:

For if we sin wilfulIy after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.


The Covenantor often referred to His covenant, and often held that all-important “if” before His covenantees:


If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them…. I will have respect unto you…and establish my covenant with you…. But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments;…and if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments…. And if ye walk contrary unto me…and if ye will not be reformed by me by these things,…then will I also walk contrary unto you…and I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies. (Lev. 26: 3-28)


If they shall confess their iniquity…if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. (Lev. 26:40-42)


God always had a faithful remnant through whom He fulfilled His obligations to Abraham. They were covenant-keepers. God never ceased to warn Israel of the dangers of breaking His covenant. See Numbers 9: 13; 15:30; 19:13.


Moses, in his farewell messages to Israel, warned them of the covenant commandments, and told them that everything depended upon their obedience. Perhaps they wearied of the repetition.


I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it; but shall utterly be destroyed…. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. (Deut. 4:26-29)

Moses, before going to his death, continued the repetition:

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing if ye obey the       commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God. (Deut. 11:2628)


Scattered frequently throughout Moses’ final appeal to Israel, the great law-giver warned them again and again with that “if.” Check the following references and see how this was pressing on the mind of Moses who, after these warnings, left them to go to his death: Deuteronomy 8:19, 20; 11:22; 19:9.


And in chapter 15:5, he said God would honor His covenant with them “only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God … to do all these commandments.”


In Deuteronomy 27: 15-26, Moses listed 12 curses that would come upon them for breach of covenant. There were covenant blessings and covenant curses. And when the curses came upon them, Moses said other nations would say:

Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land’ what meaneth the heat of this great anger?…. Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers. (Deut. 29: 24, 25)


When Moses drew near the end of his mighty appeal to the covenant people, still warning and threatening, he said, But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them: I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land. (Deut. 30: 17, 18)


Then Moses, with prophetic discernment, told them:

For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death? For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord. (Deut. 31:27, 29)


The Pulpit Commentary in its exposition of Exodus 19: 1-15 comments on this Sinai Covenant:

The condition of the fulfillment of promise is that the people obey God’s covenant voice, and keep his covenant. On no other terms could God consent to be their God, and on no other terms would he consent to have them for his people.

In all God’s dealing with us he has respect to our liberty. The condition here is a believing obedience. The Hebrew word for “obey” seems to carry pregnantly within all its meanings–hearing, listening, heeding, trusting, acting according to what we hear and believe. (their emphasis)


I have not quoted all the if-references in the Pentateuch because it would have been needless repetition, but we may note in passing that the if-emphasis was continued by Joshua:

If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. (Josh. 24:20)


Suppose we had not another Scripture to prove our case for conditional salvation, would not those we have seen thus far be sufficient to prove our case? Is not Israel’s horrible 3000-year history of persecution and slaughter abundant evidence to any fair-minded interpreter that the Jewish covenants were conditional?

There has been a question among interpreters whether this “if” has the same conditional meaning in the Hebrew text as in the English Bible. So, I quote Hebrew scholars who hold high positions of authority.


On the if-condition in the Sinaitic Covenant, Keil and Delitzsch wrote in their Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament:

The theocracy [was] established by the conclusion of the covenant…the maintenance of this covenant was the indispensable subjective condition.

This promise of Jehovah expressed the design of the call of Israel, to which it was to be fully conducted by the covenant institution of the theocracy, Jehovah. if it maintained the   covenant with [The “if” of Deut. 30:10 was] A renewed enforcement of the indispensable condition of salvation.


  1. B. Girdlestone, another top Hebrew authority, wrote concerning the conditions of the Old Testament covenants:


If Israel followed the course of obedience, certain happy consequences would ensue. If they disobeyed, various specified evil would follow. So it was in the case of individuals. Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If thou wilt go forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, then thy soul shall live… but if thou wilt not go…thou shalt not escape out of their hand.” (Jer. 38: 17, 18)

Violators of Mosaic covenant law were excluded from the covenant-camp until they were declared clean and the required sacrifice was offered for them.

God’s covenant sanctuary was not allowed to be defiled even by unintentional sins (Lev. 5:15-19). No Israelite could continue in sin and continue in God’s covenant of salvation for Israel. God set His face against the transgressor and excluded him from the covenant (Lev. 20: 3). There was salvation under the canopy of Jehovah’s covenant protection, but the Israelites had to remain where this salvation was.

They had to move with it and live with it. Their lives were sustained and saved only as they continued in the covenant life.

One act of faith could not save the Jews under Moses. After their deliverance from Egypt, their continued covenant obedience was demanded. Covenant protection was withdrawn from those who did not obey and they died unsaved.

All redemption is placed on a covenant basis. This basis is the Jewish covenants. But there was no such security in these covenants as “once in the covenant, always in the covenant.”

Salvation is of the Jews. The Sinaitic Covenant was of the Jews, and the evidence gives strong support to our conclusion that this covenant was conditional.










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