God’s Covenant With Abraham

The covenant God made with Abraham involves God:


         promising to make him into a great nation (see Genesis 12:2) and the father of other nations (see Genesis 17:5)

         promising to bless him, make his name great, make him a blessing to others, bless those who bless him, curse those who curse him and bless all families on earth through him (see Genesis 12:2-3)

         promising to give the land of Canaan to him and his descendants (see Genesis 12:7, 13:14-17 and 17:8)

         promising to be Abraham’s shield and his very great reward (see Genesis 15:1), and to give him a son (see Genesis 15:4-5)

         having him circumcise all males in his house as a sign of their covenant relationship to God (see Genesis 17:1-14)

         commanding him to walk before God and to be blameless in lifestyle (see Genesis 17:1). The word “blameless” here does not mean a permanent state of sinless perfection but living in commitment to God and His requirements and being free from blame through confessing and turning continually from all known sin. In Hebrew, the word “blameless” here is “tamim” which means in this context “sound, wholesome…innocent, having integrity” [1] or “complete…,wholehearted in his commitment to the person and requirements of God”. [2]

         commanding Abraham to keep the way of the Lord and to practice righteousness and justice. In Genesis 18:19, God states: “For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

The Bible does not record comprehensive details of all the specific practical applications of God’s righteousness and justice which He commanded Abraham and his descendants to obey. But note He did emphasise to Abraham that obedience to practical aspects of God’s righteousness and justice was one key to him and his descendants receiving the fullness of God’s gracious wonderful blessings promised in the Abrahamic Covenant.

         promising to bless all nations and families on Earth through Abraham’s seed – Christ (see Genesis 12:3, 18:18 and 22:18).

         later confirming it to Isaac, Abraham’s son and to Jacob, Abraham’s grandson (see Genesis 28:13-15 and 35:11-12). This is why Exodus 2:24 and 6:2-5 calls the Abraham Covenant “God’s Covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.




Based on God’s awesome mercy and grace


Luke 1:72-73 reveals God’s covenant with Abraham was based on God’s mercy: “To perform the mercy promised to our father and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham.” Romans 4:16 reveals the Abrahamic Covenant is based totally on God’s grace when it uses the expression “according to grace”.


A royal grant


Wayne Strickland suggests that the Abrahamic Covenant has more features in common with an unconditional royal grant of ancient great rulers to their subjects than with the conditional sovereign-vassal treaties made by the same rulers with those they had conquered. [3] Royal grants contained a list of free privileges given without any condition. But while the Abrahamic Covenant contains many unconditional promises, there are some conditional aspects also (see Genesis 17:1 and 9-14). Therefore, the Abrahamic Covenant is like a mixture of an unconditional royal grant and a conditional sovereign-vassal treaty.


Abraham’s faith response and accompanying turning from evil


Genesis 31:53 shows that Abraham’s father Terah and Abraham’s brother Nahor worshipped God, when this verse refers to: “The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor and the God of their father…” But note Joshua 24:2 and 14-15 records Joshua revealed Abraham’s father Terah and relatives also worshipped pagan gods. Joshua 24:2 states: “Then Joshua said to all the people, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods.”’”

Despite being brought up in such a pagan compromising family, Abraham turned from all sinful pagan religion and worshipped God alone. This was part of Abraham’s faith response to God’s revelation of Himself through the Abrahamic Covenant. Genesis 12:1-4, 15:1-6, 22:1-18, Romans 4:1-22, Hebrews 11:8-12 and 11:17-19 record various aspects of Abraham’s faith response to God.


Saving faith and obedience under the Abrahamic Covenant


Do not believe the strange idea that because the Abrahamic Covenant was based on God’s promises and faith, He did not emphasise to Abraham the great importance of Abraham obeying Him. In Genesis 18:19, God said He wanted Abraham and his descendants to do righteousness and God’s just judgements.

The Mosaic Law had not been given then, but God expected His people living under the Abrahamic Covenant to live righteous obedient lives. Such obedience to God did not earn eternal salvation for Abraham or any of his descendants under the Abrahamic Covenant (see Romans 4:1-22). Instead this obedience was an expression of their living saving faith.

Genesis 26:5 says Abraham obeyed God’s commands, laws and statutes: “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” This verse shows Abraham obeyed whatever laws or commands God gave him, whether it had to do with moral matters, ceremonial sacrifices or other things.

In the original Hebrew, the word “statutes” in Genesis 26:5 is “huggah”. “Huqqah” is used sometimes in the Old Testament to refer to God’s ceremonial laws in relation to blood sacrifices (see Leviticus 16:34). Remember in Genesis 15:9, God had commanded Abraham to bring him a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove and a pigeon for sacrificial purposes.

Leviticus 17:17, 19:19, Numbers 27:11, 31:21 and 35:29 show “huggah” can relate to other types of commands of God. The Hebrew words for “laws” and “commands” in Genesis 26:5 can refer to any type of direction or instruction from God.


God was going to punish Moses under the Abrahamic Covenant


Exodus 4:24-26 reveals that God desired to punish Moses with death for not circumcising his son. Moses was under the Abrahamic and not the Mosaic Covenant at the time of this incident. This shows God took seriously any disobediences to His known will even under the gracious Abrahamic Covenant.

This does not mean God wanted to punish with immediate death every person who committed the slightest sin under the Abrahamic Covenant. But it shows that even though Moses had been raised as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s court, God regarded it as very important that physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob circumcise their sons as signs of their submission to the Abrahamic Covenant.


Bible Study Question


1.              What were the main promises and commands of the Abraham Covenant?

2.              What do Luke 1:72-73 and Romans 4:16 reveal about the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s mercy and grace?

3.              What was a royal grant in ancient times?

4.              Explain what part obedience to God played in the Abrahamic Covenant.

5.              What does Exodus 4:24-26 reveal to us about being under the Abrahamic Covenant?


[1] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 1071.

[2] Harris, Archer and Waltke, Vol 2, pages 973-974.

[3] Greg Bahnsen et al, “Five Views on Law and Gospel”, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1996, page 79.



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