by Mark Robinson
The student of Scripture is confronted with a maze of ideas when trying to understand the Bible. It can be a daunting task to decipher which religious understanding is the correct understanding of Scripture. Fortunately, God has given to the student of Scripture a framework for interpreting the Word of God. This framework is the Abrahamic Covenant.
A proper understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant will establish the seeker of biblical understanding on solid biblical ground as they study the Bible. It will also yield answers to some basic questions: questions that must be addressed in light of God’s choosing of the Jewish people. Will Israel exist permanently as a nation? Does the land of Israel belong permanently to her? Is the Abrahamic Covenant conditional or unconditional in nature? These and other issues are answered in properly understanding the Abrahamic Covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants, Israel.
God’s adversary, Satan, has actively worked against God in trying to subvert the three basic promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. These promises concern the land of Israel, the Jewish people and Messiah, and God’s plan of salvation for the world. Throughout history these areas have been the focus of satanic attack through both the secular world and the religious world.
One should not diminish the importance of the Abrahamic covenant. It is foundational in building a correct understanding of God’s word. Dr. John Walvoord astutely commented,
“It is recognized by all serious students of the Bible that the covenant of God with Abraham is one of the important and determinitive revelations of Scripture. It furnishes the key to the entire Old Testament and reaches for its fulfillment into the New.
The issue, in a word, is the question of whether Israel as a nation and as a race has a prophesied future. A literal interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant involves the permanent existence of Israel as a nation and the fulfillment of the promise that the land should be their everlasting possession.”
I go one step further in my understanding of the importance of the Abrahamic Covenant. It is the most important and determinitive revelation of Scripture, and furnishes the key to the entire Old Testament and New Testament. In fact, the proper interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant is imperative for a correct understanding of the word of God.
When God told Abraham (Abram at this time as his name wasn’t changed until Genesis 17:5) to leave Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq – Genesis 11:31; 12:1) to go to the land we now know as Israel, He would make some promises to Abraham which would be passed down to his descendants Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Jacob (Genesis 28:13-14). Jacob had twelve sons who became the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel (Genesis 49). It is to the descendants of the twelve tribes, the Jewish people, or Israel, that the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant reside.
The Abrahamic Covenant and its promises are in Genesis 12:1-3.
1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
It is important that we understand the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. The “I wills” of these verses establish God as the guarantor of these promises. The fulfillment of these promises are as certain and solid as His character.
When God ratified this covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 we have an interesting unfolding of events. It was common at this time, in this part of the world, that an agreement was entered into between two parties through the “cutting of a covenant.” Generally, what took place is animals were cut in half and laid in a row and the two parties of the covenant passed between the parts signifying the agreement is binding on both parties. In the process of establishing the covenant with Abraham, God had Abraham take animals and divide them (Genesis 15:9-10) in half and lay them out. When the time came for the covenant to be ratified, we are told “…a deep sleep fell upon Abram…and it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In that same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…” (Genesis 15:12; 17-18). The smoking furnace and burning lamp are symbolic of God going through the divided animals alone, without Abraham. When we are told that “the Lord made a covenant with Abraham,” it is signifying that the covenant is exclusively based on God’s promise and not at all on Abraham. The unfolding of these events underscores the unconditional nature of the covenant. It is based on God’s promise and not on Abraham, or his descendants, meeting any conditions for these promises to be fulfilled.
The Land Promise
When God told Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees, He had a specific location in mind. Abraham was to go to a “land that I will show thee.” The land Abraham went to is the land of Israel. This land is spoken of as the “holy land,” Zechariah 2:12. Holy is something that is intrinsically spiritual, or religious, and means to be set apart or different. The only land called holy is the land of Israel. It has been set apart by God for a distinctly spiritual purpose.
The promise of the land for the Jewish people is repeated over and over in the Word of God. One writer says, “Scripture has at least 170 references to the land that God gave to the offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God promised the land of Canaan to the Jews as an unconditional covenant – 55 times the Bible records that God confirmed the gift with an oath. Twelve of those times He stated that the covenant was everlasting.”1 It is abundantly clear from the Bible that the Jewish people have been given the land of Israel from God and are the rightful owners.
The present day claim by the Palestinians that they have rights to land in Israel is a fabrication whose source is satanic. Historically, there has never been a Palestinian nation or a Palestinian people. In 1946, a leading Arab historian, Princeton University history professor Philip Hitti, stated the pan-Arab view at the time when he decried the term “Palestinian” because it referred to Jews. “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not,” he asserted.
The world’s focus on Israel, the Palestinians, and the land today is another attempt by Satan to destroy God’s covenantal promise to the Jewish people. The misrepresentation of history, the fabrication of “facts” by the Palestinians that are swallowed whole by many politicians and many in the media, and the insistence of the world that the Jewish people have to give up parts (at this time) of the Holy Land is rooted in Satan’s war against God, the Messiah, and the Jewish people.
God’s promise of the land to the Jewish people will be fulfilled one day. This fulfillment awaits the coming of Messiah Jesus at the end of the Tribulation period when He destroys the enemies of God and Israel and sets up His kingdom in the land of Israel.
The Seed Promise
God’s promise to Abraham was that He would make him “a great nation.” When Abraham doubted God’s promise, and Ishmael was born through Hagar, Genesis 16, God rejected Ishmael as the son of promise. It would be through Sarah that the promised covenantal son of Abraham, Isaac, would be born, Genesis 17:9.
Likewise, when twins were in the womb of Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, God would reject Esau as the child of covenantal promise. He would establish Jacob as the child through whom the promise would come to pass, Genesis 28:13-14.
Jacob would have twelve sons and from them would come the tribes of Israel and the Jewish people. The “unique” seed of Israel, the promised Messiah and Savior, would come through the tribe of Judah, Genesis 49:10. Of all the families of Judah, the privilege of Messianic lineage, would reside with the family of David, Psalm 89.
The unrelenting anti-Semitism of the world is proof of a satanic desire to destroy God and His promises. When such a small group of people (today less than 1/5 of one percent of the world’s population) is unrelentingly persecuted, there can be no logical explanation other than a satanic attempt to destroy God’s plan. The same can be said for all the attempts to destroy the Jewish people before Messiah’s birth, death, and resurrection. Satan wanted to prevent Jesus from coming into the world to pay the penalty for mankind’s sins. Through Haman, Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod, and others, Satan attempted to annihilate the Jewish people in order to prevent Jesus from coming into the world. Although he failed, he continues his attempt to defeat God by destroying the Jewish people around whom the plan of God is built.
God’s promises will stand though. One day, Jesus, the “unique” seed of Abraham, will rule and reign over the re-gathered children of Israel.
The Blessing Promise
The extent of the promise of Genesis 12:3 will reach to the ends of the earth. The promise is to Jew and Gentile – “all families of the earth will be blessed.” The overriding intent of this blessing is salvation will come to the entire world.
During the time of Abraham, and the age of the Mosaic Law, there were few Gentiles recorded in Scripture who came to a saving knowledge of Israel’s God and Redeemer. Some of the most well known ones are the Gentile women found in the Messianic line – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Undoubtedly there were other Gentiles who became believers in the God of Israel who are not recorded in Scripture.
With the birth of the Church at Pentecost after the ascension of Jesus, many more Gentiles would come into the family of God. Today, Gentile believers far outnumber Jewish believers in Jesus.
The future Tribulation period promises an ingathering of Jew and Gentile into the family of God, perhaps in numbers that have never been realized in the history of the world, Revelation 7:9-10, 14. In the Millennium kingdom, when Jesus reigns on earth, it seems that the vast majority of both Jew and Gentile born during those 1,000 years will accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The salvation of God, through the work of Messiah Jesus, touches the entire human race. Both Jewish and Gentile peoples, “all families,” will know the blessing of forgiveness of sin and a relationship with God through their acceptance of God’s salvation in the finished work of Jesus in dying for the sins of the world and rising from the grave.
The Abrahamic Covenant is the most important of the Covenants for understanding the Bible. The rest of the Bible, from Genesis 12:4 through Revelation 22:21, is, in essence, commentary on how God brings to pass the three basic promises of the Abrahamic Covenant.
The promises of the Abrahamic Covenant – the land, the seed, the blessing – are unfolded throughout the rest of the Word of God and history. To err in your understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant is to make shipwreck of the rest of the Bible. Properly understanding the Abrahamic Covenant will give you a framework from which you can start to build a good, solid, understanding of Scripture.
The Abrahamic Covenant is foundational! The rest is “commentary.” Now, go study and show yourself as one who rightly divides the word of truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.