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Abram was told by God to leave his family and homeland and go to a place God would show him. God promised to make him a great nation and a source of blessing for all the families of the earth (the descendants of Noah) (Gen. 12:1-3). After many years, when Abram was 99 years old, God changed his name to Abraham and made a covenant with him (Gen. 17:1-21). The covenant was specific.


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God’s part of the covenant was to make Abraham fruitful. He would be a father of nations. This covenant would be continued through Abraham’s descendants after him. God also said He would give the Land of Abraham’s wanderings to his descendants as an everlasting possession. The Holy Land specifically included the land of Canaan. In essence, the Abrahamic covenant obligated God to be God to the descendants of Abraham and they would inherit the Land of Promise. This establish the link between the Holy God, the Holy People and the Holy Land.

Abraham’s part of the covenant was to undergo circumcision along with all of his household (born or bought) and this was to continue to be practiced in all their generations. Males were to be circumcised on the 8th day of life and if that was not observed, that person would be cut off from the people and the promises of the covenant.

God also changed the name of Abraham’s wife from Sarai to Sarah and establis hed that the descendants of the Abrahamic covenant would be through Abraham and Sarah (not Abraham and Hagar). Abraham asked God to use Ishmael, his son through Hagar, because of his and Sarah’s age. He and Sarah laughed at the idea that they would become parents. God affirmed His promise and told them to call the child “Laughter” (Isaac: Yitzhak).
God confirmed the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac (Gen. 26:2-6) and with Jacob Gen. 28:10-22). In each case the covenant continues the promise of peoplehood and possession of the Land. The sign of this covenant continues to be circumcision.

The Abrahamic covenant is not replaced by the covenant of Moses (Gal. 3:17-18). The Abrahamic covenant and promises are as valid now as when the covenant was made. In fact the Abrahamic covenant was enforced by God with regard to Moses who failed to circumcise his own son (Ex. 4:24-26). This is also, in part, why Paul tells Gentiles not to undergo Abrahamic circumcision as part of their calling to Messiah. (I Cor. 7:17-20). Jewish and Gentile identity is not to be confused or annulled, even in the New Covenant. The Blessings promised to Abraham on behalf of the Gentiles (nations) are directed to those nations, not to Israel, though they will come through Israel. The descendants of Abraham will be blessed by God directly and are found in the Mosaic Covenant which we will discuss in the next post.

H Bruce Stokes, PhD