The Evangelical Universalist Forum

"If I do not keep My covenant..." (help finding verse!)


I feel sure I read this somewhere once (because an opponent actually quoted it to me once, thinking he was making a point that was helpful to him :wink: ), but I cannot for the life of me find it again.

God is speaking somewhere in the OT, promising someone that if He should fail to keep a promise or a covenant or an oath or something like that, He Himself would cease to exist.

(This has only a tangential relationship to Evangelical Universalism, but I do want to find it again; I remember looking it up when my opponent quoted it and being highly amused that the context supported rather than refuted UR!–if I’m recalling correctly. I have other reasons for wanting to find the verse again, though…)


Hi Jason

This has really intrigued me. I cannot bring to my mind any direct quote such as you suggest. But have you considered that you might have been thinking of Genesis 22:16? Here it is in context - after God has just tested Abraham over the sacrifice of Isaac:

Genesis 22:15-18: “The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’”

Now as is elucidated in Hebrews 6, God has in effect here sworn on His own life that He will fulfil His promise to Abraham.

Might this be what you were thinking of?

All the best



Do you remember any of the context? I mean, was it between God and Abraham? Do you think it was one of the major or minor prophets? I don’t remember reading anything like this, but maybe it was more implied than actually said – I could have missed that. What else can you tell us about it?


I’m sure it was one of the prophets, although I don’t recall major or minor. That doesn’t narrow it down a lot, unfortunately. (I don’t think it was one of the Psalms; God doesn’t usually speak directly in the Psalms anyway, so only a few of those might even possibly count.)

Yes, there are several other times that God swears by Himself because He has no other higher to swear by (as Paul and/or the Hebraist put it). I don’t exactly recall that the place I’m thinking of has God swearing upon Himself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. You’re right about Him in effect pledging His own life to fulfilling what He promises, Johnny, at the Akedah and elsewhere, but I’m sure it was more explicit: I was very surprised to read it because I wasn’t actually ever expecting to see that part of my theology just stated outright in the scriptures like that. :slight_smile:

(In the specific version of trinitarian theism metaphysics I advocate, the eternal ongoing self-existence of God depends on the faithfulness of the Persons to fulfill fair-togetherness toward and with one another. If they ever acted toward fulfilling non-fair-togetherness between persons, God and all the rest of reality would cease to exist. I’m not sure that the English translation “righteousness” was used in the verses I’m thinking of, but it might have been…)

God was speaking to Israel, I think, but I’m not entirely sure about that; might have been to someone more specifically. :confused:

Thanks for both of your helps, so far, btw. :slight_smile:


I’m determined to nail this Jason :smiley: .

So how about these two passages where God pretty much does swear by His own life:

Numbers 14:26-31: “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: ‘How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Israelites. So tell them, “As surely as I live, declares the Lord, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: in this wilderness your bodies will fall – every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.”

Deuteronomy 32:40-41: “I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: ** as surely as I live for ever**, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.”

Really enjoying your commentary on this fascinating aspect of trinitarianism.




I hope you WILL find it, Johnny. I’m not having much luck. I searched every instance of “covenant” in the major and minor prophets and came up empty. Jason, do you think the word “covenant” was part of the verse? And if so, would you know or be able to guess what translation(s) you might have been using?


Heh, I’ve done something similar Cindy :slight_smile: . I’ve got a couple of fantastic concordance apps on my iPhone. Using them I’ve discovered there are quite a few instances of the construction God saying “as surely as I live” - apart from the two I quoted earlier there are a whole load in Ezekiel, eg 14:16, 18 & 20; 33:11, 27.

But that’s about as explicit an expession of God’s continued existence being contingent on his faithfulness I can find. Over to you Jason!



Argh, spent about an hour working my way through one of my disputes with the opponent I recall quoting that verse to me (thinking he was quoting it against me, ironically), couldn’t find it there.

That isn’t the only place I’ve disputed him on the topic, but the other places are more difficult to search. :frowning: :angry:

Oh well, until when-if-ever God wills that I find it again someday, I’ll just have to make do without it.


The only thing I can find on this is here…


Thanks Jeff; still not specifically what I recall, but I agree every promise involves an obligation by God, in virtue of Himself (since there is no one higher to promise by for holding Him to account), toward those He makes the promises.

(This topic came up recently on another board, where a non-universalist rather viciously denigrates me as pagan or something while claiming classical theism for himself, on the ground that he doesn’t think God could even possibly have obligations toward creatures. Which of course the “purely classical” theism he’s referring to would regard as completely ridiculous – along with the idea that God would ever work miracles, or really act at all in any way, not even in manifestation in Nature, much less in an Incarnation, much much less in voluntarily suffering torturous execution–much much less again for the sake of His own enemies. :wink: )


It was these 2 lines about half way down that matched the search I did.

“When God wanted to show Abraham the truthfulness of His promise, He went beyond the truthfulness of His character. He bound Himself with an oath. He said, “I swear to God.” And in doing so, He was saying that if His word does not come to pass, then may He cease to exist.” (emphasis mine).


True, but the verse I recall actually says that explicitly. (I certainly agree it’s implied in the whole point to God making covenants and oaths, but you know how people are, they want to see it spelled out explicitly somewhere. :unamused: )


:slight_smile: Happy hunting.


This is interesting Jason; I was sure such a text existed too, but I can’t seem to find it either!!!

In a recent bible study class at church, it was noted that often we speak of covenant as a kind of “God will do His part IF we do ours” sort of contingent action. Almost as if we cause God’s covenant to become valid or effective. But that doesn’t really make sense because the over riding theme of scripture seems to be that God is always faithful to His covenant. And further, the record seems pretty clear that human failure to “keep” the covenant is rampant, if not “universal”. (Which kinda fits with our notions of God’s faithfulness in Christ’s mission on the cross being the cause of the salvation of all…)

My initial thoughts then ran very much along the lines of the link JeffA shared. God walking between the split carcasses of the sacrifice as if to say “If I’m unfaithful to the covenant, let this be my fate” – sort of a dramatic way of underlining His intent.

But that’s not quite what you were thinking…

Next I recalled the stark language of Lev 26 where God is just brutal in His treatment of those who break the covenant. Very harsh language. And even going so far as to liken His response to a breaking, or withholding of His own covenant in response!! ie v.16 almost comes close to saying this…

Then there is this:

Which really does appear to contradict the “God is always faithful to His covenant” idea…

Not exactly what you want I know, but interesting nonetheless.

Make sure you share with us if you find it Jason!



Maybe I’m missing something, but I think maybe this refers to two different covenants. My impression of the covenant God made with Abraham, where He put Abraham to sleep and walked through the pieces of the sacrificed animals all by Himself, was entirely contingent on God. I’ve been told that this was a covenant practice of the time and that a powerful chieftain would require this of those under his power – this oath of loyalty; “So will it be done to me and all my kin if I do not abide by this covenant . . .” and the one pledging loyalty to the chieftain would walk between the halves. But God doesn’t even give Abraham a chance to walk through. He does it Himself, saying basically, “So let it be done to Me if either you or I do not keep this covenant” and then on Calvary pays the price for “Adam’s” unfaithfulness.

The talk in Leviticus 26 happens after the children of Israel have turned down Yahweh’s offer to make them a nation of priests and asked for a law given through Moses instead. “You talk to God and tell us what He wants and we’ll do it, but don’t let God talk to US again, lest we die.” So God says, “Okay that’s good. You want to live by a law; we’ll give it a try. If you keep the law all this good stuff is going to happen to you and if you break it, all this horrendous stuff will happen. That’s the deal.” and they all said, “Yeah, okay. We’re good with that.” That is the covenant that goes both ways – the one that’s all about keeping the law. I think that’s the difference.

I’m not sure where circumcision fits in there. God doesn’t give Abraham a law except for that seal of the covenant – the removal of the flesh – but for the children of Israel, circumcision remains the seal of the covenant and I’m not sure why they have that in common except that in both cases the flesh is a problem. Maybe someone can explain that.

BUT I think you have hit on something, Bob. In pledging Himself to the covenant with Abraham, walking through the halves of the animals, God IS saying He will cease to exist if He breaks that covenant. I hadn’t seen that until you brought it up.


I’ve written extensively in the past few months about how the Hebraist (and/or Paul) treats the point of God alone making the covenant with Abraham, although I don’t recall specifically where I’ve posted it. Several threads. Yes, it’s practically the whole basis of Paul’s comparison between the covenant of law and the covenant of promise: God can negate the covenant of Torah when people break Torah, and give them a new covenant instead, but because He put Abraham to sleep only God can break the covenant He made with Abraham (which the Hebraist says was actually a covenant made between the Father and the Son–the idea being that two persons still had to actively vouch the covenant and/or that the Son was present in the seed of Abraham despite Isaac not having been born yet).

Still not the place I recall and am looking for, but yes the point to walking between the divided sacrifices was that if one promise (the covenant) wouldn’t be kept the other promise (to die) would be.

This has great relevance to universal salvation, in those wonderful analyses I wrote up and posted somewhere. :wink: (I shall just have to collate them at some time… :laughing: )


It wasn’t in Psalm 89 was it?

if they violate my decrees
and fail to keep my commands,
I will punish their sin with the rod,
their iniquity with flogging;
but I will not take my love from him,
nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant
or alter what my lips have uttered.
Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
and I will not lie to David—