The Edenic Covenant is the covenant that God made with Adam in the Garden of Eden. This covenant is also sometimes called the “Covenant of Works” and is the first covenant that God made directly with man.
In Scripture we see two different types of covenants that God makes with men. Some are unconditional covenants, which God will keep regardless of man’s actions. Others are conditional in that man must obey the terms of the covenant in order to receive the promises related to it. The Edenic Covenant is an example of a conditional covenant because Adam was required to obey the terms of the covenant in order to not suffer the consequences of breaking it.
The Edenic Covenant or Covenant of Works can be found in the opening chapters of Genesis where God makes some conditional promises to Adam. The Edenic Covenant is not explicitly called a covenant in Genesis; however, it is later referred to as a covenant in Hosea 6:7, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with Me” (ESV).
While some theologians will list as many as six different obligations that Adam was to keep, the heart of Edenic Covenant is really God’s command to Adam to not eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:16–17). That command sets forth God’s promise as well as the penalty if Adam disobeys.
In the Edenic Covenant, God promises Adam life and blessing, but that promise is conditional upon Adam’s obedience to God’s command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16–17) Adam’s penalty for disobedience would be physical and spiritual death as well as a curse on the ground so that Adam would have to work harder to grow crops. One of the results of Adam’s sin was that he would have to toil all of his days until his death (Genesis 4:17–19).
This covenant plays an important part in the unfolding of God’s plan of redemption, as it shows man’s inability to maintain a right relationship with God even when he is in the earthly paradise that God created for him.
Adam’s sin broke this conditional covenant with God and left man in a fallen state, but God would soon make a second, unconditional covenant of redemption with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14–24). Like the Edenic Covenant, this one is not explicitly referred to as a covenant in Genesis, but it is a significant promise that God makes to mankind. It is the first promise of redemption and the first promise of Christ’s coming (Genesis 3:15). Here, only three chapters into this remarkable book, God is already giving us hope of a Redeemer. Genesis 3:15 is sometimes referred to as the protevangelium, the first announcement of the gospel in Scripture. God’s promise to Eve that the seed of the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of Eve and the seed of Eve would bruise the head of the seed of the serpent, is the foretelling that Satan would wound Christ on the cross, but that Christ would triumph over Satan on that same cross.
Both the Edenic Covenant and the Covenant of Redemption that follows are significant for several reasons. First of all, they establish a pattern to be repeated throughout the Scriptures: 1) man sins, 2) God judges the sin, and 3) God bestows grace and mercy by providing a way to redeem man and restore man’s relationship with God. Second, the covenants show us that sin always has consequences. Understanding the different covenants in the Old Testament and their relation to each other is important in understanding God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people as well as His plan of redemption as revealed in Scripture.