In the last few months I have been knee deep in a Biblical study of the coming millennial kingdom (yes, I am pre-millennial). We have affirmed that the millennium has an important purpose. I have pointed out five purposes. The third purpose we said is to fulfill God’s eternal covenants with Israel. We pointed out that the Abrahamic covenant has only been partially fulfilled, but will be completely fulfilled in the coming millennial kingdom. In the last post of this study I gave a brief introduction to the covenants. In this post I will present the passages of the Abrahamic covenant and a few brief comments.
The Abrahamic Covenant: in Six Genesis Passages
The contents of the Abrahamic covenant was first given to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, and then was confirmed and expanded in five other Genesis passages. We will begin this study by looking at each of these passages with a few brief comments.
Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
In this first record, though there is a vagueness with the terms “bless” and “great,” there is also a sense of mystery—that a great secret has been partially revealed, that great blessing will come to the world through Abraham; also, that the way the world treats Abraham and his descendants is the way God will in turn treat them: if blessed, then He will bless them, if cursed, then He will curse them.
And Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. 7 And the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the Lord who had appeared to him.
Here, a small but important part of the covenant is given. To Abraham’s descendants God will give the land of Cannon—and they will not be required to give anything in return. Thus we see already the unconditional nature of this covenant.
And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 16 And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.”
In this passage, though the land description is still vague, God adds more detail. God told Abraham to look around at the land in all directions. All the land that he was able to see was a gift to him and to his descendants. And a very important aspect of this gift was that it was “forever.” He would never take it back; it was theirs for all time. Thus, though we have seen time and time again in history the land taken away from them, it is nevertheless rightfully theirs, and eventually, they will possess it and hold on to it forever—all of it.
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”
2 And Abram said, “O Lord God, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since Thou hast given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.” 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 And He said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” 8 And he said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I shall possess it?” 9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 11 And the birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 And God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” 17 And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying,
“To your descendants I have given this land,
From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:
19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”
In this passage God takes the time with Abraham to explain some of the details of the covenant associated with problems that would arise. First God addressed the problem of Abraham’s childlessness. He told him that he would have to wait a while, but eventually a son would come to him; and his descendants, who would be as many as the stars, would inherit the blessings.
When Abraham expressed some doubt about the covenant, saying to God, “How may I know that I shall possess it [the land],” God performed a ceremony that demonstrated the absolute unconditional nature of the covenant. Thus, as we read in the text, certain animals were brought and cut apart and were laid opposite each other. Then (according to the local customs of confirming oaths made for covenants) the parties of the covenant were to walk between the animal pieces, binding themselves by blood to fulfill the covenant. Accordingly, what this meant was that if one of the parties broke the covenant he would be required to give up his life just as the animals did.
Well, as it happened, God caused Abraham to fall asleep and He alone was left to pass between the animal parts. This event was of course God’s plan and demonstrated that Abraham and his descendants have no part in the covenant and that it is up to God alone to fulfill it.
The last four verses of the chapter are the actual words of the covenant—the part that had to do with the giving of the land. It is the most detailed description so far. It gives the north and south boarders (but no east and west boarders), and it gives the names of the people groups that then possessed the land. (We don’t know exactly where the boarders of these ten groups were, however, we do have a very detailed description of the land in Numbers 34:1-12. And we know it is correct, for it is the same land description given for Israel for the millennial kingdom, according to Ezekiel 47:13-20.)
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2 “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
And I will multiply you exceedingly.”
3 And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
And you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
5 “No longer shall your name be called Abram,
But your name shall be Abraham;
For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
6 “And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
In this passage God explains the broadness of the covenant—that it will affect the entire world; that Abraham’s descendants will multiply into all nations, and many will become kings.
Also in this passage (vv. 9-14), God commanded all male Jews to be circumcised as a sign of His covenant with them. This observance did not constitute the keeping of His covenant, as some suggest; rather, it was given to them as an outward and visible sign that He had a loving relationship with them. Indeed, to every male Jew their circumcised flesh was a constant reminder to them that God was with them and that He would fulfill His promises to them—unconditionally.
Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Though the nature of this covenant is unconditional, we see in this passage that the covenant depended on Abraham’s obedience. As Dwight Pentecost states in his book Things to Come,
It is important to observe the relation of obedience to this covenant program. Whether God would institute a covenant program with Abraham or not depended upon Abraham’s act of obedience in leaving the land. When once this act was accomplished, and Abraham did obey God, God instituted an irrevocable, unconditional program. This obedience, which became the basis of the institution of the program, is referred to in Genesis 22:18, where the offering of Isaac is just one more evidence of Abraham’s attitude toward God.
This passage also explains the blessing promised through Abraham to others, first stated in Genesis 12:2, “…and you shall be a blessing.” Here, it is clear that the blessing goes out to all people, to all nations, to Gentiles as well as Jews.