What is the Abrahamic Covenant?

by Matt Slick
Nov 14, 2015

The Abrahamic covenant is God's promise to Abraham (approximately 2000 BC) to give him land, descendants, and that through him all the nations would be blessed.  It is the foundation for Israel's covenant relationship with God.  The significance of Genesis 12:3 is worth a quick examination.

"And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed," (Gen. 12:3).

This verse is quoted by Paul in Galatians.

"The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU," (Galatians 3:8).

Notice that Paul says this is the gospel. Therefore, in order for the nations to be blessed in Abraham, it must be speaking of his distant descendent Jesus, the Messiah. For it is only through Jesus that the world and receive a blessing from God.

The particulars of the Abraham a covenant are as follows. 

  1. Specified in Gen. 12:1-3
    1. It is unconditional since it depends only on God's faithfulness and not on Abraham.
      1. Made between God and Abraham and Abraham's descendants, (Gen. 17:7).
    2. Includes
      1. Promise of land, Gen. 15:18-21; 17:8
      2. Promise of descendants, Gen. 12:2; 15:5; 17:2-5
      3. Promise of blessing of nations, Gen. 12:3
    3. Sign of the covenant
      1. Circumcision, Gen. 17:10-14)
      2. Children included in the covenant, (Gen. 17:12).
  2. Fulfilled
    1. Gave him the land, (Gen. 13:14-17)
    2. Gave him descendants, (Gen. 22:17; 49:3-28)
    3. Blessed the nations in Christ, (Gal. 3:8)

Abraham, a descendent of Shem and originally known as Abram (Genesis 17:1), is one of the most important figures in the Old Testament biblical history. He was called by God out of the city of Ur to become the patriarch through whom God's people, and eventually the Messiah, would come.  He was circumcised at the age of 99 (Genesis 17:24) and visited by the Lord (Genesis 18:1).  James 2:23 refers to him as the "friend of God. He had Ishmael when he was 86 and Isaac when he was 99.

"After Terah’s death, God told Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” This command was the basis of a “covenant,” in which God V 1, p 12 p 12 promised to make Abram the founder of a new nation in that new land (Gn 12:1–3). Abram, trusting God’s promise, left Haran at the age of 75. Entering Canaan, he went first to Shechem, an important Canaanite royal city between Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal. Near the oak of Moreh, a Canaanite shrine, God appeared to him (12:7). Abram built an altar at Shechem, then moved to the vicinity of Bethel and again built an altar to the Lord (12:8)."1

The life of Abraham is recorded in Genesis 11:26-25:10 and is summarized in Acts 7:2-8.  Abraham is an important figure in the New Testament and is mentioned in many times. Here are some of the references to Abraham. Matthew 1:1; 3:9; 22:32; Luke 1:55, 72-75; 16:23; John 8:39, 56-58; Acts 3:25; 7:2-8, 17; Romans 4:1-3; Galatians 3:6-8; 4:22; Hebrews 2:16; 7:1-6; James 2:21; 1 Peter 3:6.

 

  • 1. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.
 
 

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.