Abrahamic Covenant

Abrahamic Covenant is paramount to a proper understanding of the kingdom concept and is foundational to Old Testament theology.
It is the turning point of the redemption history of man.

Abrahamic covenant governs not only God's unique relationship with Israel but also His relationship with the nations of the world.
A proper understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant is the key to understand God's purpose for Israel and the Nations.
The covenant contains His way of dealing with humankind in general.

Abrahamic Covenant has multi dimensional facets.
It is the inaugural covenant of the Kingdom of God that extends to the eschatological era.
Abrahamic covenant is the basis for the development of other covenants. 

Here in this short study of the covenant, we plan to focus on the:

·        Announcement of the covenant
·        Affirmation and reaffirmation of the covenant.
·        The sign or witness to the covenant.
What is a Covenant?

Before we proceed let us understand what a covenant is?

I have spoken about covenants in some other videos also.
In those videos I have given an introduction to covenants that existed in the ancient Middle East.
At the same time I am aware that some of you may not have seen any one of them.
So let me introduce the system of the ancient covenant once again.

A covenant is an agreement between two parties based on faith.
The difference between a covenant and a contract is that a covenant is based on faith.

In many ways, God's covenants can be seen as legal agreements between the Creator and humanity.

There are two basic types of covenants: conditional and unconditional.

1.   A conditional or bilateral covenant is an agreement that is binding on both parties for its fulfillment.
Both parties agree to fulfill certain conditions.
If either party fails to meet their responsibilities, the covenant is broken and neither party has to fulfill the expectations of the covenant.

2.   An unconditional or unilateral covenant is an agreement between two parties, but only one of the two parties has to do something.
Nothing is required of the other party.

Covenants often included the slaughter of animals as a symbol of their significance.
A covenant meal is arranged with the flesh of the animal killed and all members present of both parties participate in the covenant meal.
The meal is the ratification ceremony of the covenant.

Unlike present-day contracts, covenants often carried no expiration date.
Thus the parties were understood to be bound by the covenant until death.

All covenants between God and Man after the fall of Adam are covenants of grace.
By the sin of Adam as the representative head, all humanity was cast away from the gracious presence of God.
But God was not content to leave us in such a state.
Instead, He enacted a covenant of grace that would rectify Adam’s transgression.
This covenant of grace is unfolded through a series of successive, smaller covenants.

The first of these is the Noahic covenant where God pledged to preserve the stability of nature so that He can work out His redemptive plan.
The Noahic covenant shows that even before the Abrahamic covenant God’s grace has been at work to redeem a people He has chosen.

Not one Old Testament figure is more associated with the covenant of grace than Abraham.
It is to this man that God first makes it clear that He will bring a great number of people unto Himself.
In this encounter with Abraham we see that God, and God alone, ensures the covenant’s success.

Announcement of the Covenant

The covenant between God and Abraham is first announced in Genesis 12 : 1 - 3

Genesis 12:1-3
1     Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.
 2    I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.
 3    I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."    (NKJV)

God’s intention by the covenant is to enter into a covenantal relationship with a chosen community of people.
For this purpose God determined to call out a special people for Him.
His intention is to bless the whole humankind through that chosen people.

Thus God reaches down into a pagan land and, in all likelihood, a pagan family, and calls out Abraham for Himself.

Abraham is promised:

1.       A good land (v. 1)
2.      A great nation, a great name, and great blessing that will extend first to him (v. 2)
3.      Divine protection (v.3)
4.      Great blessings to all the families on the earth (v. 3).

Since then God has been in work to fulfill these promises.
The promise of a son or rather descendents like stars is the first step from God towards the covenant fulfilling.

Three Key features of the covenant

Now let us learn three key features of the covenant:

1.   Unconditional covenant.

The Abrahamic Covenant is an unconditional covenant.
God made promises to Abraham that required nothing of Abraham.
There are no conditions attached to it - no “if” clauses suggesting its fulfillment is dependent on man.

2.   Literal Covenant

Abrahamic covenant is a literal covenant in which the promises should be understood literally.
The land that is promised should be understood in a normal definition of the word - it is not a figure of heaven.

God’s method of fulfilling the Abrahamic Covenant is literal, inasmuch as God partially fulfilled the covenant in history.
God blessed Abraham promising the land, and, centuries later, the sons of Abraham took control of the land:

Joshua 21 : 43  So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.   (NKJV)

3.   Everlasting covenant.

The promises that God made to Israel are eternal.
The Abrahamic Covenant is a God given promise that has influenced the very course of human history.
The Abrahamic Covenant is also everywhere affirmed as an everlasting Covenant.

Genesis 17 : 7, 8
7     "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
 8    "Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."     (NKJV)

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Galatians, was clear that it could never be annulled.

Galatians 3 : 17   And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.    (NKJV)

Galatians  3 : 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."     (NKJV)

Different aspects or facets of the Covenant

Abrahamic covenant has many aspects or facets, like a diamond.

1.  A promise of custodianship

The covenant is made between God and Abraham.
It is also between God and the descendants of Abraham.
It is clear in the covenant that God will bless the world through an ethnic group called Israel.
And Israel as a nation will exist as long as the stars are in the sky above us!

Romans 9 : 4,5
4     who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;
 5    of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.     (NKJV)

2. A promise of land

God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would give him.
This promise is reiterated in Genesis 13: 14-18.
The dimensions of the land are given in Genesis 15:18–21.

Genesis 15 : 18  On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates-   (NKJV)

This promise, in spite of Israel’s disobedience, has been fulfilled time and time again through the course of history.

This Covenant has been uniquely validated by the return of the Jews to Canaan in our day and by a living Church that is found in almost every tribe and nation.
This return of the Jews is no coincidence and is quite remarkable.
 As in the past, it has aroused the anger of the surrounding peoples.

Israel will not be uprooted ever again (Amos 9: 13-15).
All of this will happen because of a promise that God made with the man Abraham 4000 years ago.

3. The promise of descendants

God promised Abraham that He would make a great nation out of him.
Abraham, who was 75 years old and childless, was promised many descendants.
This promise is amplified in Genesis 17: 6 where God promised that nations and kings would descend from the aged patriarch.
This promise would eventuate in the Davidic throne with Messiah’s kingdom rule over the world.

2 Samuel 7 : 16  "And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever."    (NKJV)

4.  A promise of blessing and cursing

That is, God has promised to bless those who defend Israel’s existence, recognizing the unique role she is playing out for the sake of the world.
This does not mean “blind support of Israel,” but it does mean standing against those who seek her liquidation and deny her claim to the Promised Land.
Israel’s servant purpose on behalf of the world was not finished with the coming of Jesus in the first century.
She will yet mediate, in its fullness, the final great covenant of redemption history to the world – That is the Davidic Covenant.

All the nations who resisted the plan of God for world redemption through the Jews have become the wreckage of history.
Because the descendants of Abraham is protected with a promise of curse on their enemies.
Those who seek to disinvest the Jewish people of their land and purpose are seeking divine judgment.

5.  A promise of salvation   (Galatians 3:8)

In Genesis 22 we have the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, which Christians view as a foreshadowing of the death of Jesus (Hebrews 11:17-19).

Israel’s ultimate and great purpose given to her in the Abrahamic Covenant was to mediate eternal life to the world through her great son, Jesus Christ.
God loves all people the same but He did make Israel His servant to the nations; a role that she has ultimately and uniquely carried out.

Surely salvation comes from Israel to the whole world for which purpose God has chosen them.
Affirmation of the covenant

The actual Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 12:1–3.
The covenant is later affirmed by God in Genesis 15: 18 – 21

In other words, in Genesis 12, the covenant is announced by God and in Genesis 15 ratification ceremony is conducted.

Genesis 15:18–21 describes a part of the Abrahamic Covenant - the dimensions of the land God promised to Abraham and his descendants.

Genesis 15 : 17, 18
17   And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
 18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates-   (NKJV)

In Hebrew, the verb meaning to seal a covenant translates literally as "to cut".
Covenants in biblical times were often sealed by severing/killing an animal.
The implication is that the party who breaks the covenant will suffer a similar fate.

History tells us that in the days of Abraham and before, animals would be used as a witness to the parties and their adherence to the covenant.
Both the parties would gather a number of specific animals and sacrifice them.
They would arrange their carcasses on the ground, in some fashion, creating a path between the pieces.
They would pass together through the path as they swore to uphold their end of the contract.
They would receive the fate of these animals for any breech of that covenant for which they would be responsible.

The ceremony recorded in Genesis 15 indicates the unconditional nature of the covenant.
Abraham killed the animals and made a path between the pieces of the flesh of the animals.
But when the moment came to walk between the pieces, God put Abraham into a deep sleep so that he could not walk through the path.
Only God’s glory went through the pieces of animals.

The only time that both parties of a covenant would pass between the pieces of animals was when the fulfillment of the covenant was dependent upon both parties keeping commitments.
The significance of God alone moving between the halves of the animals explains the fact that it is an unconditional covenant.
He binds Himself to the covenant.
Fulfillment of the covenant fell to God alone.


The covenant was once again reaffirmed with another facet of it in Genesis 22: 15 - 18.

Genesis 22 : 17, 18
17   "blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
 18 "In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."    (NKJV)

Sign or Witness to the covenant

The circumcision stands as a sign or witness to the covenant between God and Abraham.

God gave Abraham the rite of circumcision as the specific sign of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 17 : 9 -14.
All males in Abraham’s line were to be circumcised and thus carry with them a lifelong mark in their flesh that they were part of God’s physical blessing in the world.
Any descendant of Abraham who refused circumcision was declaring himself to be outside of God’s covenant.

Circumcision was practiced broadly in the ancient Middle East, like Egypt and Mesopotamia as a puberty or prenuptial rite.
It exists as early as 3,000 B.C. possibly originating in Mesopotamia, the region from which Abraham came.
In Egypt, it was possibly reserved only for high caste individuals.
In any event, there are significant differences between the circumcision practices of these cultures and the practice prescribed by God.
Later the practice was regulated through the Mosaic Law.

Every covenant contained a clause concerning the witness or sign to the covenant.
A witness was a perpetual reminder that the covenant existed.
For example, God's covenant with Noah and the world was witnessed by the rainbow.
The covenant between Jacob and Laban was witnessed by a stone marker or a heap of stones.
In Abram's case, God asked that he and all his male descendants who entered into the covenant carry the reminder of the covenant in their own flesh.

Thus circumcision served as a permanent reminder to Israel that they needed to obey God's laws.
But the fact that a man is circumcised does not mean that he actually kept the law.

Circumcision itself is not a major feature in the Old Testament.
It is assumed as an obligation for Abraham’s descendants and those in their household

Messianic Kingdom

Finally, let us look at the Abrahamic Covenant and its fulfillment.
Some of its clauses went into effect immediately, some a bit later, and others are yet to be fulfilled.

The main item that has yet to be fulfilled is the Land aspect of the Covenant.
To this day, Israel has not lived in the Land according to God's expanded boundaries as described in Genesis 15:18-21.
The boundaries described here are to be fulfilled during the Messianic Kingdom.
The Messianic Kingdom is the Kingdom of Jesus Christ as the King.
It is rule by Christ alone establishing the Kingdom of God on this earth.
It is the fulfillment of the covenant with King David.

Regardless of God's timetable for the fulfillment of the entire Abrahamic Covenant, it remains foundational to God's dealing with Israel and all other nations.

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