Who is Abraham’s Seed

INTRODUCTION: Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is, is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all nations of the earth’ since the book of Genesis! This article follows the previous 3 which covered the promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant, the promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant, as well as Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in Romans.

As mentioned in an earlier article, the term “seed” in Hebrew (זֶרַע ) is a collective singular noun and can be used to refer to an individual person or to a group of related individuals. Collectively, Scripture uses the term “seed” to apply to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and singularly to Jesus, the Messiah, but does Scripture use this term to refer to the Church?

God’s Promises in the Abrahamic Covenant

As covered in the last two articles, God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12 and gave promises to two groups of people;

I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

The “great nation” (singular) that are the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and Abraham’s “seed” (plural)

“All the nations (literally families) of the earth” (plural— are the Gentile nations of the earth that will be blessed through a specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — a Jew, the Messiah, who is the “seed” of Abraham (singular).

God refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Exodus 19:5 as “My own possession out of all the peoples” or “a particular people”, so there are “all the nations of the earth” and the “great nation“. But as we’ve said in earlier posts and repeat here, the redemption of those from the Gentiles nations was by no means an afterthought to God!

The Jews as Abraham’s Seed

God specified who this “great nation” He would make of Abraham would be — and who they would NOT be.  He left no room for doubt that He was speaking of the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and not Ishmael, and through Jacob, and not Esau.

[see God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-jews-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/]

God repeated the same promises that He made with Abraham concerning the “great nation” that He would make of them and the land that He was giving to them  — to Isaac (Abraham’s son through Sarah) and to Jacob, Isaac’s son (whose name God changed to “Israel” — and from whom the 12 tribes of Israel, the Jews, come).

God made an “everlasting covenant” with this people and in it gave this people a specific land as an “eternal possession“;

“I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:7-8

God also promised through the prophet Jeremiah that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that this “great nation”, Israel will be a nation before Him.  Only if the heavens above and the foundations of the earth below can be measured, will He reject Israel’s descendants because of all they have done;

This is what the Lord says:

The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the Lord says:

If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done
this is the Lord’s declaration.”

Jeremiah 31:35-37

Finally, God swore by Himself to uphold this covenant He made with the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He alone walked through the cut animal parts – He alone ratified the Covenant.

The only reason the Jewish people still exist is because of God’s faithfulness to His word — to keep the covenant that He made with Abraham, and restated to Isaac and to Jacob, and that He swore by Himself to uphold, even if the Jews broke it, which they did.

[Note: The penalty for the Jew’s disobedience was exile from the land (Leviticus 26: 30-33), see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/]

The Jewish people (physical Israel) remains the nation before Him and will ever remain a nation before Him.  They are the people with whom God has an eternal covenant and to whom the land belongs as an eternal possession.

He has a plan of redemption for this people that He will fulfill — “when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled“.

[see “A Partial Hardening has Come to Israel Until the Full Number of the Gentiles has Come in” http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/a-partial-hardening-has-come-to-israel-until-the-full-number-of-the-gentiles-has-come-in/]

Jesus as “Abraham’s Seed”

Most occurrences of the term “seed” in Genesis ( זֶרַע ) is the collective use of the term and refer to Abraham’s physical descendants through Isaac and Jacob.  There are a few instances where the use is singular.

To understand whether the term “seed” is referring to a collective group of related people or to an individual requires looking at the context of its use. For example, in Genesis 17:9 (” God also said to Abraham, “As for you, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations are to keep My covenant.”), the third person masculine plural personal pronoun in Hebrew (the equivalent of the word “their”) makes “seed” (or “offspring”) explicitly collective. However, in Genesis 3:14-15, where God speaks of the remedy He will someday bring after the fall of man, it is clear by the use of pronouns in the Hebrew (and reflected in the English translation, by the pronoun “He”) that God is referring to a single individual;

“I will put hostility (enmity) between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

The “seed of the woman” is the One that will crush Satan’s head and He is also the “seed” that all nations of the world are blessed though;

“…and all the peoples (nations) on earth
will be blessed through you.”

Genesis 12:3

Paul refers to Jesus as “the seed” (singular)

From the beginning of Chapter 3 of Galatians, Paul is speaking of the inclusion of the Gentiles;

“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

Galatians 3:6-9

…and Paul continues with the theme of the inclusion of the Gentiles in Galatians 3:14-16, when he refers to the “seed” singular, meaning the Messiah — in contrast to “the seeds” (plural) which are the Jews;

The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.  Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ.

Galatians 3:16

Since “seed” can be used to refer to a single person or a group of related people, Paul in this passage is specific that he is suing the singular of “seed”, because he is referring back to the promise given to Abraham regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles — the “all nations clause” in Genesis 12:2-3 ( “…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”) which points to the original promise of the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15 (“I will put hostility between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel”).

Paul uses the singular form of the term “seed” because he is referring to the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15)  — which is One person, the Messiah.

In Galatians 3:16, Paul is saying “this is that“!

He is saying that Jesus is that “seed” — He is the descendant of Abraham, through which all the nations of the world are blessed!

Peter refers to Jesus as “the seed” (singular)

Peter, in speaking to the Jews at the Temple, also identifies Jesus as this “seed” or “offspring”;

“…all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Acts 3:24-25

The Church as “Abraham’s Seed”

God made a promise in Genesis 3:15 to “all the nations (or families) of the earth” that they would be blessed through a very specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and that He would put an end to the hatred and hostility that Satan (the serpent) has for man by sending “the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:16) who will strike the serpent’s head. The One being spoken of is the Messiah, the “seed of the woman”.

As mentioned above, from the beginning of Chapter 3 of Galatians Paul is speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles:

“Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

Galatians 3:8-9

Paul is still taking about salvation to the Gentiles in verse 14, when he says that the purpose of Messiah being hung on the tree and taking the curse for us was that the “blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles“;

“The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus…”

Galatians 3:14

Paul is still speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles in Galatians 3:16, when he speaks of “the seed“, the Messiah, in the singular;

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”

Galatians 3: 16

As mentioned previously, Paul is relating this “seed” of Abraham back to this .promise of “the seed of the woman” and saying that this “seed” is Messiah.

In verse 19 of Galatians 3, Paul is still speaking of this “seed” in the singular;

“Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. The law was put into effect through angels by means of a mediator.”

Galatians 3:19

 

Paul is saying that the coming of the Messiah — Abraham’s “seed” (Galatians 3:16) was to enable Gentiles to be granted the same title  – Abraham’s seed!

“There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:28-29

Messiah is the descendant of Abraham in whom all the nations (or ‘families’) of the earth are blessed.

Reading backwards

Those that view that the “seed” in Galatians 3:16 as referring to the “singular family” of those that believe in Messiah (i.e. the “Church“) and not to the Messiah Himself, base it on it ‘being good exegetical practice to understand more obscure texts in light of clearer ones” (N.T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology).

They maintain that since verse 29 refers to those who belong to Messiah (whether Jew or Gentile) as “Abraham’s seed“, and it is [allegedly] not clear what verse 16 is referring to, we necessarily need to understand verse 16 in light of verse 29.  In other words, we understand verse 16 by reading backwards, beginning at verse 29.

Reading backwards to understand a text is not only incredibly poor exegesis but it is abundantly clear from the beginning of Galatians 3 what Paul is speaking about.  He says so! Paul says in verse 8 and 9 of Galatians 3 that he is speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles:

“Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and told the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you.So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith.”

Galatians 3:8-9

…so Paul is still speaking about how salvation came to the Gentiles in Galatians 3:16, when he speaks of “the seed” in the singular;

“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ”

Galatians 3: 16

Furthermore, in verse 16, Paul says that the “seed” is Messiah!  How much clearer could it get?

As God had promised in the “all-nations clause” of the Abrahamic Covenant, salvation came to the Gentiles though the “seed” (singular),  who is the Messiah — the “seed of the woman“, who strikes the serpent’s head. It is through the Messiah, a physical descendant of Abraham, through Isaac and through Jacob – a Jew, that “all the nations of the earth are blessed” (Genesis 3:15).

This is what Paul is saying throughout Galatians 3 — and a straight-forward reading of the text clearly shows this.

In addition, this is also what Peter was saying in Acts 3:24-25 when he identifies Jesus as this “seed” or “offspring” of Abraham;

“…all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”

Acts 3:24-25

Israel, the Gentiles and the Church

Paul says in Galatians 3 that even when people make covenants with each other, they don’t set aside or makes addition to it after it has been ratified;

“Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside or makes additions to even a human covenant that has been ratified.”

Galatians 3:15

The implication here is ‘how much more will God not set aside or make addition to a covenant He makes, after it had been ratified’?

God ratified the Abrahamic Covenant when He alone walked through the cut animal parts. It is an eternal covenant; with the “all-nations clausestill in effect to the Gentiles and the promises of a “land” and a “people” to the “great nation” (the Jews) still in effect.

Inclusion of the Gentiles in no way alters God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and God’s promise to the Gentiles, in no way supersedes God’s promises to the Jews.

God made promises to both the Jews and the Gentiles and He will keep His promises to both.

In fact, Paul warns the Gentile believers in Romans 11:14-25 not to think that God has rejected the Jews and in speaking about the unbelief of much of physical Israel exhorts the Gentile Christians “not to brag (:18), not to be arrogant (:20), not to be conceited (:25) and not to be unaware (:25) of the mystery of God’s plans of redemption — that a partial hardening has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.”

Why did God allow this partial hardening to happen to the Jews? Romans 9:23 says specifically that it was to allow the Gentiles to come to faith (i.e. “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”).

God has done as He said He would;

“to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles.

~Romans 9:23

Choosing the Gentiles

God said to Moses (Deuteronomy 32:16-21) that because the Jews made Him jealous and angered Him by serving worthless idols, that He would make them envious and angry by choosing the Gentiles. (Deuteronomy 32:16-21, esp. verse 21);

“They made Me jealous by what is no god

and angered Me with their worthless idols.

I will make them envious by those who are not a people;

I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.”

Deuteronomy 32:21

…and God did exactly as He said He would by calling those from the Gentiles;

And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory—on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?  As He also says in Hosea:

I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.
And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not My people,
there they will be called sons of the living God.

Romans 9:23-25

One New Man

Those who have faith in the Messiah – both Jew and Gentile according to the promise are “the Church” (Galatians 3:28-29) – the “one new man” of Ephesians 2:11-15;

“So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands.  At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.  For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.  He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household,  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”

Final thoughts…

Understanding who “Abraham’s seed” is — is to understand God’s plan of redemption to ‘all the nations of the earth’ and ‘the great nation’ since the book of Genesis!

 

Inclusion of the Gentiles as “Abraham’s seed” in no way alters God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Abraham (the Jews) and God’s promise to the Gentiles in the “all nations clause” in no way supersedes God’s promises to the Jews.

It is “both” / “and”.

The “Church” are those, whether Jews or Gentiles, who belong to Messiah, the “one new man” of Ephesian 2: 11-15.

“And if you belong to Messiah,

then you are Abraham’s seed

—heirs according to the promise.”

Galatians 3:28-29

Israel the Church the Nations


 

God’s Promises to the Jews in the Abrahamic Covenant

This article is Part 3 of 3 where we look at what God promised the physical descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) in the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Calling of Abraham

The first mention of Abraham is in Genesis Chapter 11 where we learn that Abram (his name at first) is from Ur of the Chaldees, and is the son of Terah, has two brothers named Nahor and Haran and that Haran’s son (Abram’s nephew) is Lot and that Abram’s wife is Sarai (later changed to “Sarah“). It seems apparent that Abram knew God’s voice because when He spoke to him at the beginning of Chapter 12, Abram knew it was God. In verse 1 of Chapter 12 of Genesis, God speaks to Abram for the first time recorded in Scripture of two specific promises;

(1) that He will make him and his descendants into “a great nation” — a people

(2) that he will give this people a very specific land. 

As we will demonstrate below, God specifies throughout the book of Genesis that the “great nation” is a people of physical descendants of Abraham  — and not just any physical descendants of Abraham! God is very specific who can and cannot be Abraham’s “heir” and thus, who Abraham’s descendants will be.  For example, as we outline below, God specifies that Abraham’s heir cannot be through his servant Eliezer and cannot be through Hagar’s son Ishmael, even though Abraham is his father. Furthermore, God foretells in advance that Isaac’s heir will be though Jacob, and not Esau (Isaac’s firstborn son).

God is very particular that Abraham’s descendants i.e. “seed” (plural) are a very specific nation who are descended from very particular Patriarchs.

A Land and a People

The very first time God speaks to Abraham as recorded in Scripture, it is of of the two promises concerning a people and a land, in Genesis 12;

“The Lord said to Abram:

Go out from your land,
your relatives,
and your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.

Genesis 12:1

Then God spoke to Abraham of His promises, God says;

I will make you into a great nation,
I will bless you,
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
I will curse those who curse you,
and all the peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.

Genesis 12:2-3

In Genesis 12: 1-3, God is contrasting the promises made to Abraham pertaining to two groups of people 

(1) to the “great nation” (singular) — a specific physical people, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the “great nation” (singular) with whom He makes an “everlasting covenant”. This group is a physical nation, the people  of Israelthat is derived from Abraham’s “seed” (plural).

and 

(2) “all the nations (literally families) of the earth” (plural— The word for “nations” is the word in Hebrew מִשְׁפְּחֹת meaning “families” refers to the Gentiles that will be blessed through a specific physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — a Jew, the Messiah.

 

God leaves no room for doubt that the “great nation” He will make of Abraham is a physical nation that would come through very specific physical offspring or “seed” (plural) of Abraham (i.e. through Issac and Jacob and in Genesis 22:15-18, He repeats the exact SAME promises  to the exact  SAME two groups of people as in Genesis 12:1-3! After Isaac was born and after Jacob became Isaac’s heir, God reaffirmed His covenant with  BOTH the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the ‘great nation’) as well as His covenant with “all the families / nations of the earth”;

Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By Myself I have sworn,” this is the Lord’s declaration: “Because you have done this thing and have not withheld your only son, I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the gates of their enemies.

And all the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring because you have obeyed My command.”

Genesis 22:15-18

Furthermore, God also reaffirmed the covenant He made with Abraham concerning his physical descendants to Isaac in Genesis 26:1-5 and to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15 and in Genesis 35:9-12.


God’s Promises to Abraham were “a people” and “a land”

God made two specific promises to the physical descendants of Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12:1-3; that He will make of Abraham’s descendants into a great nation and that He will give this great nation a specific the land (verses 5-7) ;

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated, and the people he had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the site of Shechem, at the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, I will give this land to your offspring.”

Genesis 12:5-7

The term “offspring” is also translated “seed” (Hebrew זֶרַע), and is used here in its plural form and as we will demonstrate, refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacobthe Jews. In this verse, God is speaking of a specific land (the land of Israel) that He will give to the Jewish people.

When Abram leaves Ur of the Chaldees, he takes Lot, his brother’s son, with him.  Things get tense between Lot’s herdsmen and Abram’s herdsmen, so Abram gives Lot his choice to go one way and he goes the other.

After Lot  separated from Abram, God said to Abram to look as far as he could see, looking north, south, east and west for He was going to give Abram and his offspring (“seed”, Hebrew זֶרַע)  all the land that he sees, forever. In this case too, the word “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob;

“After Lot had separated from him, the Lord said to Abram, “Look from the place where you are. Look north and south, east and west, for I will give you and your offspring forever all the land that you see. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust of the earth, then your offspring could be counted. Get up and walk around the land, through its length and width, for I will give it to you.”

Genesis 13: 14-17

The beginning of Chapter 15 of Genesis reads

After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision“.

God says to Abram;

Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield;
your reward will be very great.”

Genesis 15:

Abram was frustrated because anything that God would give him would only be for his lifetime, because Abram didn’t have an heir and everything he had at that point, or would receive from God in the future, would become the property of his head servant, Eliezer.

Abram complains to God (:3);

“But Abram said, “Lord God, what can You give me, since I am childless and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continued, “Look, You have given me no offspring, so a slave born in my house will be my heir.”

Genesis 15: 2-3

The Lord answered Abram clearly and said that Eliezer will not be his heir but one who comes from his own body will be his heir.

God knew that He was going to bring Abram’s heir through his wife Sarai and that He would make His covenant with his physical descendants:

“This one will not be your heir; instead, one who comes from your own body will be your heir.

Genesis 15:4

Then God took Abram outside and said to him (:5);

“Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.”

Genesis 15:5

In this case, the Hebrew word for “offspring” or “seed” is in its plural form and refers to the physical descendants of Abraham — and as we shall see, specifically through Isaac and Jacob.

In Genesis 15:6-8, when it came to having physical descendants, Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (:6) but when God spoke to him about the physical land they would inherit, Abraham wanted proof (:7)!

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

He also said to him, “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.

”But he said, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?

Genesis 15:6-8

God’s asks Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This act is how covenants were made.


God’s Covenant with Abraham

God’s responds to Abram’s request for proof that his physical descendants would inherit the land by asking Abram to bring Him specific animals, split them down the middle and lay them opposite one another. This is how covenants were made, and the term in Hebrew for making a covenant is literally “to cut a covenant” (וַיִּכְרְתוּ בְרִית).

A covenant is an agreement between at least two parties where the terms of the agreement are set out and both parties accept them. In this case the covenant is made between YHVH and Abram but looking at another example of the covenant cut between Zedekiah and the people of Judah (Jeremiah 34:8–22) — in both cases at least one animal was killed, cut into two pieces and someone passed between the divided pieces.

The killing of an animal in making a covenant signified that those that entered into the covenant could expect the same fate as the animals if he violated his oath. The slaughtered animal(s) was both a ratifying sacrifice and symbolic of the curse for violating the covenant.

It is important to note that God alone ratified the covenant with Abram – and Hebrews 6:13 refers to this saying, He swore by Himself and furthermore, says why God swore by Himself;

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since He had no one greater to swear by, He swore by Himself:

I will indeed bless you,
and I will greatly multiply you.

And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.”

Hebrews 6:13-15

God swore by Himself to demonstrate that His promises were unchangeable, and these are His promises were to both the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the Jews) and to the “nations”, the Gentiles;

(a) to the Gentiles that the “seed of the woman” and the “seed” (singular) of Abraham (Jesus) would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth”

and

(b) to the Jews that He would have an “everlasting covenant” with them and that the land was their “eternal possession”.

God alone ratifying the covenant (i.e. Abram did not have to walk through the cut pieces of animals as is normally the case) signified that if either side broke the covenant, God Himself would die! 

We all know the story of what happened next…

Abraham was getting old and his wife Sarai was resolved she was not going to conceive, so she tells Abram to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar so that he would have an heir to the promise of ‘the land’ and to bring forth ‘a great nation’. Abram obliges and Hagar conceives Ishmael.  After Ishmael’s birth, at the very beginning of Genesis 17, God appears to Abram and reiterates the covenant he made with him when He passed through the animal part— including the certainly of the Land as an eternal possession that He was giving to Abram’s descendants through a son that Sarai, Abram’s wife will bear;

“I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.”

Then Abram fell face-down and God spoke with him: “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”

Genesis 17:1-8


Abraham Through Isaac – not Ishmael

Abraham was hoping God would simply recognize Ishmael as the heir to the covenant and the son of promise, saying to God “If only Ishmael were acceptable to you”(Genesis 17:18) but after Ishmael’s birth (Genesis 17:1-8), God appears to Abram and reiterates the promises He made with him when He passed through the animal parts — including the promise of the Land and in verse 15, God tells Abraham that his wife Sarai, whose name He will change to Sarah, will bear a son and that nations will come through her.

 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah[e] will be her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.

Who are these “nations” (plural) that will come through Sarah?

Sarah bore only one son, Isaac and the “nations” that God foretold come through him.

God specified that Abraham’s physical offspring or “seed” (plural) would be through Isaac and NOT Ishmael (Genesis 17:19) and that it was through Isaac that God would confirm His covenant with Abraham;

“But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring. As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation.  But I will confirm My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.”

Genesis 17:19-21


Abraham through Isaac and Jacob – not Esau

God was very specific that Abraham’s physical offspring / “seed” (plural) would be through Jacob and not Esau (Genesis 25:23) and foretold this;

“These are the family records of Isaac son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac. 20 Isaac was 40 years old when he took as his wife Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.  Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord heard his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?”So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her:

Two nations are in your womb;
two people will come from you and be separated.
One people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.

Genesis 25: 19-23

Isaac’s wife Rebekah had twin sons; Esau and Jacob and God said (Genesis 25:23) that “two nations” were in her womb and that the “older shall serve the younger“. The first born son was Esau, who under ordinary circumstances would have been the heir to Isaac, but God foretold that he would serve his second born twin brother, Jacob. As God said would happen, Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, effectively making Jacob as if he were the “first born son” — fulfilling the promise that the “older would serve the younger.

The “two nations” that Isaac’s wife Rebekah bore were:

(1) Jacob’s descendants, the 12 Tribes of Israel. This is the nation of “Israel”. 

and

(2) the descendants of Esau. The descendants of Esau are listed in Genesis 36 and verse 6 says that Esau moved some distance away from his brother Jacob to another land called Se’ir, also known as Edom (or Idumea). The nation which came from Esau are the Edomites.

The Physical Descendants of Abraham – a “people” forever

 

God promised through the prophet Jeremiah that Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would always exist before Him.  In Jeremiah Chapter 31, immediately after promising to give the Jews the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33) because they broke the Mosaic Covenant (the Law) that He gave them at Sinai, God promised in Jeremiah 31:35-37 that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him.  He promised that only if the heavens above and the foundations of the earth below can be measured, will He reject Israel’s descendants because of all they have done;

This is what the Lord says:

The One who gives the sun for light by day,
the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar—
Yahweh of Hosts is His name:
If this fixed order departs from My presence—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
then also Israel’s descendants will cease
to be a nation before Me forever.
This is what the Lord says:

If the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below explored,
I will reject all of Israel’s descendants
because of all they have done
this is the Lord’s declaration.”

Jeremiah 31:35-37

We know that both of these promises still exist because “it is impossible for God to lie”;  

“Is God a man who lies, or a son of man who changes His mind? Does He speak and not act, or promise and not fulfill?”

Numbers 23:19


Final thoughts…

It is our belief that only reason that the Jews still exist and that they are back in the land is because of His faithfulness to His word — to keep the covenant that He made and swore by Himself to uphold, even if the Jews broke it, which they did.

God was clear in Scripture, that the penalty for the Jew’s disobedience (even the rejection of His Messiah) was exile from the land (Leviticus 26: 30-33).

[see http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/fullfullment-of-the-second-gathering-of-the-jews-to-the-land-of-israel/]

The Jews were exiled in 70 CE after the death of Jesus and for more than 2000 years were in exile from the land He gave them as an “eternal possession”, but as He promised, the Jews would never cease to be a people before Him.  Even though in WWII 2/3 of the Jewish people were wiped out), God promised (Jeremiah 31:35-37) that as long as the sun shines in the day and the moon and the stars shine at night, that Israel will be a nation before Him and He has been faithful to His word. He returned the Jews to the land He gave them because He is faithful to His word and said that it was their “everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:7-8).

Israel is still Israel.  

God's eternal promises to Israel


Part 2 on God’s Promises to the Gentiles in the Abrahamic Covenant can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/gods-promises-to-the-gentiles-in-the-abrahamic-covenant/

Part 1 on Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in the book of Romans can be found here: http://www.jewishrootsofchristianity.ca/pauls-use-of-the-term-israel-in-the-book-of-romans/