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Abrahamic Covenant

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The Abrahamic Covenant, found in Genesis 15, granted the Israelites a promised land in the Land of Israel. In this covenant, God promises (see Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; 17:1-22):

  • To make from Abraham a great nation and to multiply his seed exceedingly and to make him a father of great many nations.
  • To bless Abraham and make him great.
  • To make Abraham a blessing to all the families of the earth.
  • To bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.
  • To give Abraham and his seed forever all the land which he could see.
  • To give him a sign of the covenant (circumcision).

See alsoEdit

The Abrahamic CovenantEdit

INTRODUCTIONEdit

Around 2000 B.C., the Almighty Creator, Yahweh [God], made a sacred promise to Abraham of Ur, that He would bless him and make him great. He also promised to make him a blessing to all the families of the earth and to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. God promised to give Abraham and his seed all the land that he could see forever, and to give him a sign of the covenant which was circumcision. This sworn oath of God [Covenant] was predicated on Abraham's faith in Him as the one and only true God. Because of his faith, Abraham's left his homeland and journeyed to an unknown land.

To make the Covenant binding, however, a stipulation was made. God ordered Abraham to circumcise himself and all male members of his household - those who were related or unrelated to him. As mentioned earlier, circumcision would be a sign of the Covenant, a reminder to all that it was in effect. As time went on and Abraham was becoming more and more knowledgeable of the land that his offspring would inherit Canaan, God made repeated reassurances of His initial promise of blessings. Abraham continued to walk before God all his life, demonstrating, in many ways, his faith in God and in what he had promised to do. On one particular occasion, Abraham's act of faith was followed by God's reassuring words, "through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me" [Genesis 22:18].

Although there exists varying views about which group or groups are included in the blessings of the Covenant, all can agree on the fact that the promises inherent in it were unconditional. The circumcision of the flesh, though commanded by God, was not the motivating factor in His making the promises, Abraham's faith was. Achieving the blessings, however, would depend upon those who have been included in the Covenant.

Finally, the Abrahamic Covenant is seen by Christians as a forerunner to the New Covenant under the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The blood of Christ, taken during the Eucharist [Holy Communion, The Lord's Last Supper, etc.]ceremony, brought about a remission of sins so that all men could partake of the blessings of Abraham, for through Christ, the faithful are also heirs of Abraham. The Apostle Paul says, "If you be Christ's, then you are the seed of Abraham" (Galatians 3:39). Also see Romans 1:5, 4:11 and 16:26. [1] [2] [3].

PARTIES INVOLVEDEdit

Yahweh, the Eternal God of heaven and earth, and the creator of all things seen and unseen, is the originator of the covenant with Abraham. Abraham, the primary party to this covenant, is known as the founding father of the Israelites as well as the father of the faithful. He was born in Ur of the Chaldees around the year 2000 B.C. and later moved, with his family, to Haran [Northern Mesopotamia]. It was while Abraham was living in Haran that God made the Covenant promises to him [See the "Abraham and Archaeology" section below.].

The other present and future parties to the Covenant were members of Abraham's household and those bought with money from foreigners, Abraham's natural heirs, the Israelites through Jacob, and much later, the "many nations" of the world.

Jdgray 16:09, 17 September 2008 (UTC)

TRANSPIRING EVENTSEdit

God Reaffirms His OathEdit

Several important events transpired after God first called Abraham from Haran. After heeding this call, and journeying with his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot and his servants, to the land of Canaan [4], God appeared to him a second time in Shechem [a city of Canaan] and promised the land of Canaan to him and his descendants [See Genesis 12:6 and Numbers 34:1-29]. [5]. At Shechem, Abraham built the first altar. The altar was a place of worship, and it was on the altar that a fellowship offering was undoubtedly made. The act itself was indicative of Abraham's total submission to God, and marked the start of a faithful and loving relationship.

At Bethel, following Lot's departure, God shows Abraham Canaan's furthermost boundaries. Here, God is providing Abraham with physical evidence and reassurance. Note what it says at Genesis 13:14-16, "After Lot departs from Abraham, God repeats His promise'…Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.'" [6] Jdgray 13:24, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

Abraham's Blessing by God's High Priest/Altar RitualEdit

A very significant act takes place on Abraham's behalf after he returns to Hebron following the defeat of Kedorlaomer and the kings. Here, Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of the Most High God, comes out to bless Abraham, bringing him "bread and wine". This is viewed as a foreshadowing of [and tie-in to] the New Covenant instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by means of these very same sacraments [bread and wine] that Christians receive sanctification. Melchizedek says, "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth." (See Genesis 14:16-20) [7]. (See also Matthew 26:17-30) [8]In addition to the literal blessings in the covenant, is the all-important spiritual blessing of God.

This act of blessing is soon followed by a ritual that appears to validate the Covenant. The Biblical text reads, "9 So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon." 10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. We then read at verse 17, "When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."

It does now say why this event had to occur, but one can reason from other covenants in the Bible that this act had to occur before the Covenant could be validated. For nowhere in the Bible is it shown where God has instituted a covenant without a ritual sacrifice. This Covenant, though based on faith, also falls under God's Law that says, "without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness" [Hebrews 9:22].

Biblical evidence shows that Moses first had to perform a purification ritual [sprinkle the Israelites with the sacrificial blood of an undefiled animal] before the Mosaic Law Covenant could be enacted [Exodus 24:3-8 says, "…He [Moses] got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. 6 Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. 7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey." 8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."]
Jesus Christ, the pure and undefiled "Lamb of God," had to give up Himself [and shed His blood] before the New Covenant could come into existence [Matthew 26:27 reads, "Then he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the [b] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."] So the altar, in this instance, appears to have validated the Covenant when considering the fact that Abraham and his descendants' had "inherited sin." And this sin would have most likely had to first be atoned for before the Covenant could be validated. [9] [10]. [(For Noah's covenant, see Genesis 9:1-17.) [11]]

Circumcision - A Sign of the CovenantEdit

The next event involved a stipulation. After God changed Abraham's name from Abram to Abraham ["the father of many nations"] and reaffirmed the covenantal promises made earlier, He explained to Abraham, the deed that would make the Covenant binding, and that was "circumcision." The passage reads, "3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 "As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God" 9 Then God said to Abraham, "As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you" (Genesis 17:3-11 ). The fact that this regulation came after the promises, by the way, proves that the promises were not dependant upon it. Nevertheless, those who wished to be a part of the covenant had to become circumcised as commanded. The circumcision would be a constant reminder of their covenantal relationship with God. This sign would, no doubt, strengthen the participants' faith in God and in His promises. [12]

Verses twelve through fourteen state, " For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant." [13]

The Promise of a Natural Heir [Isaac]Edit

God promises Abraham a natural heir in this important event. This is in keeping with His promise to make Abraham the father of many.Genesis 18:10 reads, "10 Then the LORD said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son." We then read in verses 13-14 , "Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

Abraham's Testing on Mt. MoriahEdit

Image-Abraham

Abraham Sacrificing Isaac by Laurent de La Hire

The final event which draws the Covenant to its conclusion occurs when Abraham's faith and obedience was put to the test on Mt. Moriah. God orders Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Genesis 22: 9-14 reads, 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. 12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son." 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." [14]

This test on Mt. Moriah was a test of Abram's faith, and the obedience that came through his faith. [Romans 1:5 states, "Through him (Christ) and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith."] [15]. After passing the test, God reaffirmed the Covenant that had already been established between them, and adds that all nations ill be blessed through his offspring. Genesis 22:15-18 states, "15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

In promising to bless all nations through Abraham's offspring or seed, God was clearly referring to a future heir of Abraham's who would arrive at a time when God decides to bless all nations in addition to the Israelites. Christians know that the seed to whom God was referring was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, whose lineage is traced back to Abraham and who is the only through whom all nations on the earth could be blessed. This major event served to connect the Abrahamic Covenant to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. [16]

THE NATURE OF THE COVENANTEdit

The Abrahamic Covenant, as stated before, was unconditional, predicated on Abraham's faith in the true God. There were many promises that came with the covenant such as, to make Abraham a great nation, to bless him to make his name great and to make him a blessing, to bless them that bless him and to curse them that curse him; and finally, that in him [or through his seed] all nations of the earth will be blessed.

The fact that God had promised to bless Abraham's offspring, without a showing of their faith or obedience proves also that this Covenant was unconditional. Later on, God even tells Moses of His disappointment with the Israelites prior to their entering the promised land, but says that He will allow them to still enter the land because of the promise He had made to Abraham.

Although God made no statement to Abraham concerning the obedience of his heirs, He must have felt that they should obey Him as Abraham did, or that their failure to "walk before him" would hamper their receiving the blesings; for God instituted a law covenant as a way of bringing them into obedience. Biblical records indicate that while the Israelites were encamped in the wilderness, God instituted the Mosaic Law Covenant mentioned above, for He was not able to abide with them in their present spiritual state of disobedience. This could also indicate, and very strongly I might add, that Yahweh had known beforehand that He would bring the the Israelites into submission through the Law Covenant, and thereby made the promises to Abraham. So the Law Covenant, a covenant requiring very strict obedience, would not nullify the Abrahamic Covenant, but would aid the Israelites in obtaining the promises already made to them.[to add reference]. For the Christian, such spiritual aid would come through the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.

In respect to the blessing that was promised to come through Abraham's seed [Christ], God made a statement that corroborates the belief that Christ was the promised seed, for it reveals that God viewed Himself as the nations' promised blessing. God says, "Fear not, Abram, I am your shield and your exceeding great reward" (Gen. 15:1).

THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROMISE IN CHRISTEdit

When God told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his seed, He was referring to the Messiah of heaven and earth, the Lord Jesus Christ. This promise was assuredly fulfilled in the Messiah at the time of His crucifixion and resurrection. His redemptive sacrifice made it possible for all who exercise faith in God and in Him to become partakers of the blessings promised to Abraham.

Once persons of faith come to belong to Christ, they are considered Abraham's heirs. The Apostle Paul's says at Galatians 3:39, "If you be Christ's, then you are the seed of Abraham." Entrance into the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant, therefore, must come through Christ alone.

The circumcision of the flesh regulation stated previously was a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant,but Christ circumcises those who have faith in Him, and this circumcision is of the heart [Rom 2:28-29] [Luke 22:20]. Note what it says at Colossians 2:11, "In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ."

Jesus Christ left a ritual for those of faith to perform regularly in order stay in remembrance of Him and His role of redemption, and this allows Christians to "remain in Him." This ritual is known as "the Eucharist" [aka, "The Lord's Supper","Holy Communion", "The Divine Liturgy" etc.]. This is where the faithful partake of the 'bread, "christ's body," and the wine, "Christ's blood". [Loving one another was a commandment that all Christians have to follow as well.]

It was by Christ's blood alone that our sins were forgiven in order that we could receive of His grace [the Abrahamic promises]. If we remain "in Christ," we are then heirs of the promises God made to Abraham. Jdgray 14:53, 20 September 2008 (UTC)

CONCLUSIONEdit

In conclusion, God covenanted with Abraham, promising him many blessings. While doing so, God revealed to him the kind of God He truly was: truthful, trustworthy, faithful, loving, forgiving and generous. Knowing beforehand, man's weaknesses, He still made unconditional promises to bless Abraham's natural offspring as well as the nations of the world through his seed. The Abrahamic Covenant found fulfillment in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who by His crucifixion, bought salvation for all men and made it possible for them to become partakers of the blessings God had promised earlier. One can only marvel at the love and faithfulness of God who never broke His promise to Abraham even when all men went astray.

Abraham and ArchaeologyEdit

Image-Map Land of Israel

Archaeology corroborates biblical history as its discoveries are linked to biblical personages, events, culture groups, etc. In the case of the patriarch Abraham, archaeological findings indirectly support certain key biblical facts about his life.

One U.K. source presents notable archaeological evidence pertaining Abraham's life. In a section entitled, "B: The Bible's Archaeological Evidence," they say that "Abraham's name appears in Babylonia as a personal name at the very period of the patriarchs, though the critics believed he was a fictitious character who was redacted back by the later Israelites." They present the following information: "The field of Abram in Hebron is mentioned in 918 B.C., by the Pharaoh Shishak of Egypt (now also believed to be Ramases II). He had just finished warring in Palestine and inscribed on the walls of his temple at Karnak the name of the great patriarch, proving that even at this early date Abraham was known not in Arabia, as Muslims contend, but in Palestine, the land the Bible places him." This source further says that "the Beni Hasan Tomb from the Abrahamic period depicts Asiatics coming to Egypt during a famine, corresponding with the Biblical account of the plight of the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

This site also mentions the time period of Sodom as indicated by its doors, explaining how the doors of Sodom offer clues that support the Bible's time period for the city's existence. They write, "The doors of Sodom (Tell Beit Mirsim), dated to between 2200-1600 B.C., are heavy doors needed for security; the same doors which we find in Genesis 19:9." The writers conclude that, "if this account had been written between 900-600 B.C., as the critics previously claimed, we would have read about arches and curtains, because security was no longer such a concern then."

The same writers also point to evidence where "Joseph's price as a slave was 20 shekels (Genesis 37:28), which, according to trade tablets from that period is the correct price for 1,700 B.C." "An earlier account," they state, "would have been cheaper, while a later account would have been more expensive." They write that Joseph's Tomb (Joshua 24:32) has possibly been found in Shechem, as in the find there is a mummy, and next to the mummy sits an Egyptian official's sword!" [17]


Alan R. Millard, in his article, "Where Was Abraham's Ur," discusses supportive and contending views on the biblical assertion that Ur existed in southern Mesopotamia. He writes the following:

The Ebla tablets from the third millennium B.C. name Ura and Uru among scores of places within Ebla’s immediate neighborhood. There is nothing to show they had any particular importance, however.
According to an Alalakh text of about 1600 B.C., a village named Urê lay at the western edge of the Fertile Crescent. Other Alalakh tablets from about 1450 B.C. attest to a place called Urê and a village named Ura.
The Nuzi tablets from about 1400 B.C. name a Great Uri and a Small Uri in Nuzi’s vicinity.
The modern town of Urfa, called Orhai in Syriac sources and Edessa in Greek, maintains a traditional association with Abraham, but it may not date to the pre-Christian era. The name Orhai is of unknown origin, but if related to the biblical Ur, it is surprising that the final syllable is not represented in Hebrew. The modern form of the name Urfa cannot be traced prior to Turkish times."
The best northern candidate is preserved on a 19th-century B.C. document found at Tell Shemshara, at the eastern edge of the Fertile Crescent, which names a place called Ura’u; it is associated with Khaburatum (a name connected with the river Habur; see 2 Kings 17:6) and so possibly lay west of the Tigris and therefore nearer than the southern Ur to Haran, to which Abraham moved after leaving his birthplace.

Millard goes on to say, that "none of the arguments arrayed against the southern Ur are conclusive," yet states the existing ojections as well as his own counter-arguments in the following passages:

1: It is said that southern Ur is too far from Haran, about a thousand miles. But merchants and others in the early second millennium B.C. routinely traveled long distances. The traders who went from Ashur to Anatolia between about 1950 and 1750 B.C. followed routes that ran up to the Black Sea coast and far across central Anatolia. Their business had southerly connections into Babylonia, and letters of Babylonian merchants in the same period report their activities far up the Euphrates, at Emar, for example. Three tablets trace a route from Larsa, 25 miles north of southern Ur, to Emar, going via Haran. The route did not follow the Euphrates; perhaps to avoid hostile territory, it ran further east, up the Tigris, swinging west across Upper Mesopotamia.
2: Another objection is that a route from southern Ur to Canaan via Haran is quite roundabout. There may have been reasons for this that we cannot discover, but Ur and Haran were the two main centers for worship of the Moon-god, Sin. The names Terah (Abraham’s father) and Laban, and possibly Milcah and Sarah, may be linked to the moon cult. Terah may well have been associated with the worship of the moon (see Joshua 24:2).
3: It is said that Abraham’s nomadic lifestyle is inconsistent with the urban setting of the southern Ur. But living in tents is well attested for the early second millennium B.C. (around 1300-1100 B.C.). Urban scribes were well aware of tent-dwelling nomads, whom they despised. Moreover, there is nothing to say that Terah’s family was nomadic; they may have lived in a house in Ur, as the excavator, Sir Leonard Woolley, imagined. Perhaps Abraham became a nomad only when he left Haran.
4: Another objection is that the southern Ur lies west of the Euphrates, so it could not be described as “across” the river (Genesis 31:21). But the course of the Euphrates River near Ur in the second millennium B.C. is not well defined. Woolley stated that the “river washed the foot of the western rampart,” taking a new course to the east during the mid-first millennium B.C. For anyone living in the Levant, Babylonian Ur would have lain conceptually “beyond the river,” whatever the precise geography."

Millard makes the final conclusion that "there is no insurmountable objection to the southern Ur, Ur of the Chaldees, being Abraham’s birthplace—as the Bible describes it."

In his article, "Abraham Affirmed," Alden Bass writes, "The most interesting discovery thus far that lends credence to the patriarchal story is the tablets of Nuzu, uncovered between 1925 and 1941. When Abraham and Sarah realized that they were barren and unable to produce an heir, Abraham adopted his slave, Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2). This was common practice for a childless couple in ancient Middle East." For the same reason, Sarah encouraged her husband to take a female servant, Hagar, as a wife, in order that he might produce a son (Genesis 15:2)." [He further quotes William F. Albright, the famed archaeologist of the Bible lands, as saying, "It is now becoming increasingly clear that the traditions of the Patriarchal Age, preserved in the book of Genesis, reflect with remarkable accuracy the actual conditions of the Middle Bronze Age, and especially of the period between 1800 and 1500 B.C."] [18]. (For more references, See article by Joseph Free, (1992), Archaeology and Bible History (Grand Rapids: Zondervan).

The "All About Archaeology" website contains an article, "Cities of Abraham's Time." In the article, they maintain "Abraham's ancestral home of Ur, a powerful city-state of southern Mesopotamia, is mentioned four times in the Old Testament." They state that "Ur has been excavated on and off since the 1800s and has revealed a wealth of information about the pagan culture of Abraham's time." The article explains how Abraham's father, Terah, moved his family north to Haran, [an ancient city that exists in modern-day Turkey], and that also found in that same area of Turkey are villages that still have the names of Abraham's grandfather and great grandfather, Nahor and Serug (Genesis 11:22). "Shechem [The first city that Abraham entered], they say, "was discovered by archaeologists, and was an important city throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Jeroboam made it the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel in the 10th century BC (1 Kings 12:25). Excavations have uncovered huge walls and a fortified gate system containing such important finds as the temple of Baal from the story of Abimelech" (Judges 9:46).). [19] [20]

Yet still another archaeology site from Israel, discusses the archaeological sites Israel, with emphasis on Beersheba. They state, "Tel Sheva, the mound of biblical Beersheba, is located in the northern Negev, several kilometers east of the present-day city of Be'er Sheva. The Arabic name of the mound, Tell es-Sab'a, preserves the biblical name; the archeological finds support its identification with biblical Beersheba." [21]

See Also: Abraham


Other Related References:Edit

Hoerth, Alfred (1998), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker).

Shanks, Hershel (1999), “Herzog’s Attacks on the Bible Unjustified” [On-line], URL: http://www.bib-arch.org/bswbBreakingIllSpecial2.html.


Jdgray 20:58, 10 October 2008 (UTC)

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