Last week we unpacked the Abrahamic Covenant (Promise), which we said consists of three major elements: Land, Descendents, and Blessing.
We concluded in our previous blog that within the Abrahamic Covenant (click link to view previous blog) God deeded the Land to Abraham and his descendants through an ancient ritual, in which parties walk through bisected animals to make a binding covenant or contract (Gen 15:9-21).
This week we want to analyze the second portion of the Abrahamic Covenant: the Seed or Descendants. When God called Abraham to leave his homeland of Ur by faith, trusting only in the Lord’s voice, Abraham left on the premise of God’s promises. One of those promises was, “And a will make you a great nation” (Gen 12:2). God already promised Abraham a special plot of land in Genesis 12:1, now He’s assuring Abraham He will provide the people to fill the land because you simply can’t have “nation” without people, right? Something to remember, God made this promise to Abraham when he had no children.
Abraham walked by faith to the land of Canaan with the assumption God would provide a son. When Abraham arrived in the land a doubt set in that God would fulfill His promises since he and Sarah were still childless. In a very honest conversation between Abraham and God, Abraham says, “O Lord God What will you give me since I am childless, and the heir to my house is Eliezer of Damascus” (Gen. 15:2). Abraham explained to God in a simple way that he followed Lord to the land He promised yet Abraham’s closest heir to inherit the divine promise is Eliezer of Damascus. Side note: Damascus should probably not be used to refer to the place of Eliezer’s origins, like the city of Damascus. There is a play on words occurring in the Hebrew language in Gen. 15:2 between “heir” and “Damascus”. The end of Genesis 15:2 should probably be translated “Eliezer will possess it.”
God reassured Abraham of His intentions to provide a son as his heir, “This man [Eliezer] will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Gen. 15:4). The Lord not only provided Abraham a direct descendent in the person of Isaac, but God also promised to Abraham, “’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.‘” (Gen. 15:5). A “nation” just as God swore in Genesis 12:2.
Descendants to Descendant
Really God’s promise to Abraham, that he would be the father to innumerable descendants, is the launching pad for the Lord’s ultimate plan of redemption for all mankind. The term “descendants” in Genesis 15:5 is the Hebrew word “seed”. In the context of Gen 15:5 the term “descendent” or “seed” is used in the plural refering the countless descendants that will originate from Abraham. In fact, you see this promise unfold throughout the book of Genesis when Abraham fathers Isaac, and Isaac fathers Jacob, and Jacob fathers his twelves son, and the twelves sons father the Sons of Israel!
However, in the epistle to the Galatians Paul borrowed the term “seed” from the Abrahamic Covenant and inserted a divine twist by reading it in the singular form to speak of the one “seed” that originated from Abraham, Jesus the Messiah, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say,‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Johnston in the book Jesus the Messiah rightly says, “God’s promise of seed to Abraham would find its ultimate culmination in the Messiah as his descendant par excellence.”2
The Abrahamic Covenant did not remain confined to the book of Genesis. It’s purpose to build a “nation” that would come from Abraham is found all throughout the scriptures. For instance, even when Israel was disobeying God and the covenant seemed strained, the Lord remained faithful to the disobedient nation because of the covenant he swore to Abraham (Deut. 9:5; 2 Kings 13:23). The Lord remained faithful to Abraham because it would be through this promised “nation” that one would come to bring redemption to all people. This divine and eternal covenant launched out of Genesis and set course to see an aspect of its fulfillment in one particular descendant of Abraham, Jesus the Messiah!