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COVENANT

A covenant consists of an agreement between two parties to abide by its terms. In the ancient Near East, it represents a treaty between a dominant nation and a subservient one. The ancient Hebrews extend the concept beyond its political context. There are basically two types of covenants: parity and suzerainty. The parity covenant is a reciprocal agreement in which both parties bind themselves to each other by bilateral obligation. A suzerainty covenant is unilateral and made between, for instance, a king – its author – and his vassals, which is a pact between unequal parties. Within the covenant, the vassal finds protection and security, but, as the inferior party, the vassal is obligated to obey the commands issued by the king, although great attention is given to the king’s deeds of generosity. In the context of ancient Israelite religion, Yahweh freely initiates the covenant and is free to terminate it at His discretion.