How many covenants did Hashem make with Abraham?

When reading Bereshit/Genesis, on the Chabad website, one comes across various passages of Hashem's conversation with Abram/Abraham (chapters 15, 17 and 22) and in each passages/chapters, it appears a covenant is being implemented.

What do the rabbis say in regards to the number of Covenants that Hashem made with Abraham?

  • A related answer for context: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/85439/7303 Commented May 6, 2020 at 17:10
  • Simple reading of the text is however many times the word "covenant" is mentioned in those passages. What exactly are you asking for?
    – DonielF
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 13:53
  • @DonielF I read certain names ברית בין הבתרים and ברית מילה and I was wondering if each of these are indeed a different covenant or the same covenant with Abraham and if there are others that the rabbis have named, and not simply how many times the word brit is mentioned.
    – ninamag
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


See "The Rav Thinking Aloud" pg. 233 where it quotes a transcript of a dialogue with Rav J.B. Soloveitchik:

"...if you study the parshios of Avraham properly, you'll find out there are two brisos. One Bris is a combination of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Avraham, and the aretz; and then a second bris for Eretz Yisrael…"

in the footnote 59* (by r' David Holzer, the rav's shamash who contributed the notes and recordings for this work) he explains:

"The two brisos of Avraham would seem to refer, respectively, to the bris bein ha'besarim (Bereishis 15:18), and the bris at which his name changes from Avrum to Avraham (Bereishis 17:2) which is explicitly called a "bris olam" (17:2)."

(See the continuation of both the dialogue, and the footnote, for an explanation of the difference between the brisos, and what Rav JBS was explaining using this concept.)

  • This is a good modern-day source. Did the rabbis (sloveitchik, holzer, etc.) sourced their opinions to any sages?
    – ninamag
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 21:25
  • They don't specifically do so there. However, Rav JBS's thesis which he is explaining is that the second bris, which makes the kiyum hamitzvos (bris milah) dependent on Eretz Yisrael, was later replaced at har sinai with the pasuk כי לי כל הארץ which makes the mitzvos binding in all locations, not just eretz yisrael. (see pgs. 219-221 for this discussion.) in footnotes 41-42 r' holzer discusses different approaches to this pasuk in the rishonim, and says the rav's pshat fits with the seforno and targum yerushalmi. Meanwhile, the first bris- Eretz Yisrael belongs to klal yisrael still remains.
    – Binyomin
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 22:01
  • "which makes the mitzvos binding in all locations" (for all the 613 mitzvos?)
    – ninamag
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 5:36
  • @ninamag yes. RJBS was explaining the transition in the chiyuv of mitzvos. Avraham received a bris which connected the mitzvos and Eretz Yisrael. That's why the avos famously could not keep the mitzvos in chul (Yaakov marrying 2 sisters et al.) But at Har Sinai Hashem made a new bris with klal yisrael; from now on kiyum hamitzvos is not dependent on EY. All 613 are binding everywhere on earth "for the whole earth is Mine." And- says RJBS- we fulfill all mitzvos (even milah) because of the Har Sinai Bris, not Avraham's. The other bris- that EY will belong to Avraham- still remains post-sinai.
    – Binyomin
    Commented May 11, 2020 at 19:22
  • A quick search shows that there are at least two books, The Rav Thinking Aloud on Parsha Sefer Bamidbar (270 pages) and The Rav Thinking Aloud (375 pages). Which one did you quote from?
    – ninamag
    Commented May 12, 2020 at 5:14

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