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The Abrahamic Covenant

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The Abrahamic covenant is unquestionably unconditional in nature in view of the circumstances when the event took place. It should not be overlooked that ‘a deep sleep fell upon Abram’ (Gen. 15:12) when the covenant ritual took place, so Abram was not an active participant in the following stage. ‘By killing and dividing the animals the parties to the treaty made it clear that the penalty for breaking the agreement was death. Here, significantly it is only God who puts himself on oath by passing through the pieces.’ (Lion p138)At no stage when the covenant was cut did God impose conditions allowing any possibility that the covenant could be revoked.

Even prior to this covenant God made unconditional promises to Abram. ‘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; And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee all families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen. 12:3)

These promises were fulfilled literally. Israel became a great nation and when Solomon prayed for wisdom he remarked ‘ thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered for multitude.’(1 kings 3:8) Incidentally confirming the above, God also promised Abram to make your seed as the dust of the earth and his descendants innumerable like the stars (Gen. 13:16; 15:5). Abraham was blessed and his name made great and this was acknowledged by his servant too. ‘And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great;’ (Gen. 24:40). Also (Gal. 3:8) explains succinctly how all nations are blessed ‘ And the scripture, forseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.’ All these promises and others were again confirmed in their literal rendering and it makes send to interpret the other ones in the same manner.

The promise of the seed by which all nations of the earth are blessed is a consistent theme that runs through scripture. The first mention of that seed is (Gen. 3:15) ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. It is evident from that stage that the Messiah would crush Satan. This is the protoevangelium or the first promise of a Redeemer.

Matthew 1:1 commences with ‘Jesus (Messiah), the son of David, the son of Abraham.’ Jesus will be fulfilling both the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Concerning the seed of Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant A. W. Pink writes ‘ This clearly implied that seed must possess far higher qualities to be found than in Abraham himself, since blessing from it would flow out widely, yea, it only thinly veiled the truth that there should be a wondrous comingly of the divine with the human.’ It is clear that Yeshua (Jesus) is the seed of Abraham that is a blessing to all the nations.

Further evidence to support the notion that God’s promises to Abraham relate to his physical descendants is that when Moses encountered the Lord at the burning bush, He revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moreover God said to Moses, ”Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.” ‘ (Exod. 3:15) Again the everlasting nature of the Abrahamic covenant is reiterated. Additionally God promised to establish His covenant with Isaac ‘And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.’(Gen. 17:20)

Abram was instructed to leave the country he resided in to one that would be provided.’ Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee. (Gen. 12:1) This is further proof that the covenants relate to the physical Israelites as Darby writes ‘from Chapter 12 then there is developed altogether a new order of events, which refer to the call of God, to His covenants, to His promises, to the manifestation of His people as a distinct people on the earth to the counsels of God.’

Abraham was promised land with specific boundaries. ‘Unto thy seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river Euphrates;’(Gen. 15:18) and confirmed it with His covenant ‘And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. ‘ It is evident that this is an unconditional covenant as well as an everlasting one.

John Gill likens the land aspect of the Abrahamic covenant to how a legal document is ratified. ‘here he renews the grant, and ratifies and confirms it, even the land of Canaan, where Abram now was, though only a sojourner in it: and which is described by its boundaries and present occupants, in this and the following verses, and is usually done in grants of land of conveyance. ‘

Finally the unconditional Abrahamic covenant does have conditional blessings dependent on obedience. It is not being suggested that disobedience can nullify an unconditional covenant. Rather Dwight Pentecost observes ‘In Leviticus 26 God outlined chastisement that would come upon a disobedient people. The final discipline would be dispersion from land that God had given them through the Abrahamic covenant(vv32-39). But God also promised that the covenant people would be restored to blessing after their confessed sin and returned to a life of obedience, based again on his covenant with Abraham;’ (p73)