What is the Adamic Covenant?

by Matt Slick

The Adamic covenant is the covenant between God and Adam (and Eve) where Adam was to tend the garden (Gen. 1:27-28) and refrain from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17). As long as he obeyed the covenant requirements, he would live. But if he were to disobey the covenant requirements, he would die.

  • Genesis 1:27–28, "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”"
  • Genesis 2:16–17, "The LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.'"

The word "covenant" is not used until Genesis 6:18 when God establishes a covenant with Noah and the word first occurs. Nevertheless, a covenant is a pact or an agreement between two or more parties.  Covenants have conditions and stipulations with consequences for breaking the stipulations.  In the case of the Adamic covenant, eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the condition and breaking it would bring death.  Keeping the covenant would mean living forever. Therefore, we can establish the Adamic covenant.  Furthermore, covenants have signs in biblical theology. The covenant sign between God and Adam was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Adamic covenant is sometimes called the covenant of nature, the covenant of creation, and the covenant of works because the blessings of the covenant depended, in part, upon the works of Adam and Eve in the Garden.

In the Adamic covenant, Adam represented all people. The phrase "in Adam" is a term of federal headship which designates that he was our representative. This is why the Bible says that sin entered the world through one man (Romans 5:12). Furthermore, the Bible tells us that "in Adam all die..." (1 Cor. 15:22). Therefore, the Adamic covenant was not just with Adam, but is also representative of those who were in him, his descendants.

  • "Adamic Covenant: A covenant established between God and Adam that required obedience to the commandment of God, to result in eternal life (Gen. 2:16–17; Lev. 18:5; Rom. 5:12–20). The covenant signs were the trees of life and of knowledge."1
  • Another evidence that the covenant relationship with God in the garden included a promise of eternal life if Adam and Eve had perfectly obeyed is the fact that even in the New Testament Paul speaks as though perfect obedience, if it were possible, would actually lead to life. He speaks of a “commandment which promised life” (Rom. 7: 10; lit., “the commandment unto life”) and, in order to demonstrate that the law does not rest on faith, he quotes Leviticus 18: 5 to say, about the provisions of the law, “He who does them shall live by them” (Gal. 3: 12; cf. Rom. 10: 5)."2

After Adam failed to keep the covenant, God instituted the covenant of grace which was the covenant of redemption found in Christ Jesus.




  • 1. McKim, Donald K.. The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded (Kindle Locations 350-351). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
  • 2. Grudem, Wayne A.; Grudem, Wayne A.. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 517). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.