What Was Promised to Abraham?

This post gathers certain passages for the record—the goal of which is to compile what all was promised to Abraham.  Here are the passages, with a few notes in red.

Genesis 12:1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
NOTE:  This was not just about Abraham and his descendants, but about “all the families of the earth”.  Obviously, this is speaking of events that would occur after Abraham’s death, for he did not come into contact with “all the families of the earth” during his lifetime.

Genesis 12:5b …When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
NOTE:  Here it says “to your offspring”, but we shall see in Genesis 13:15 (below) that it is stated “…to you and to your offspring.”

Genesis 13:6 so that the land could not support both of them dwelling together; for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together,
NOTE:  Abraham’s possessions were great.  You will see this in Isaac and Jacob, etc., but there are also hints of this in the fulfillment of all this prophecy about turning Abraham into a great nation and blessing the entire earth through him.  Riches are nowhere included in the explicit promises made to Abraham, but they may well have been implied in the promises to “bless” him.

Genesis 13:12 Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord14 The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever.
NOTE:  This word “forever” does not mean “endless eternity”, but “to the age”.  That is, to the end of the age–whenever that would be.  The promise did not exceed that amount of time.  I believe that that age ended completely in 70AD, at which time God took all the faithful away to heaven and destroyed Jerusalem, the Temple, and much of Israel.
16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.
17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
NOTE:  Regarding the offspring, we may wonder whether this is a reference to his literal progeny, or perhaps to those who would come to believe in God as a result of what all God was doing through Abraham and his progeny—or both.

Genesis 14:14   When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. 16 Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.
NOTE:  Again, here is Abraham being blessed with possessions–to which Melchizedek will testify below

Genesis 14:17  After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.) 19 And he blessed him and said,
Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
    Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High,
    who has delivered your enemies into your hand!
And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.
NOTE:  Notice that Melchizedek, whom I suspect was a divine given special charge over the earth, brings bread and wine to Abraham and blesses him.  Melchizedek’s priesthood will later be replaced by Jesus “on the order of Melchizedek”.  Jesus also gave bread and wine to his followers.  Melchizedek, I believe, was known throughout the world as a sun god (Shamash, for example), and at the end of the story, God and Jesus will light that heavenly Jerusalem, it having no need, therefore, of the “sun and moon”.   But this would also be true before that Heavenly Jerusalem, that New Jerusalem, would be opened for their inhabiting.   So says Isaiah 60:19 The sun shall be no more
    your light by day,
nor for brightness shall the moon
    give you light;
but the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun shall no more go down,
    nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your days of mourning shall be ended.
21 Your people shall all be righteous;
    they shall possess the land forever, (“to the age”)
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
    that I might be glorified.
In other words, these people were going to walk by a different “light”–a better light.  And Jesus, of course, was called the “light”.  Let us note also that Abraham’s victory over his enemies was part of this blessing.  And this would be part also of this special time of blessing that God had been foretelling to Abraham—except in this case, it would not be military conquering, but the conversion of men’s souls unto righteousness from unrighteousness.

Genesis 15:1  After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.  And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half. 11 And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.  12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.
NOTE:  God tells Abraham about what will happen in Egypt, but he doesn’t mention any details about the later Babylonian ransacking of Jerusalem and the ensuing captivity.  Note that his offspring would come out of Egypt with “great possessions”, which seems to be a continuance of the blessing theme.
17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.
NOTE:  See the Wikipedia map, roughly showing the area selected.

Genesis 17:1  When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting (to the age) covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
NOTE:  “Establish” here is in the future tense.  God had already made the promise, but this is something different.  He was referring to something he would yet do future to this conversation.  In other words, this establishing had not yet been done.  The question of when it would be established is important.  In verse 8 just below, he says “I will give…” and not “I have given”.
And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting (to the age) possession, and I will be their God.”  And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”  15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.

Genesis 18:10  The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.  …….17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”
NOTE:  Again, it’s not only Abraham who is in view, but “all the nations of the earth”.  We see this being played out in the First Century through the work of Jesus and the apostles.

Genesis 22:15  And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
NOTE:  I plan to get back to vetting this, but I suspect that the second “offspring” here is a reference to Jesus and to what is mentioned here:  Matthew 16:18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Genesis 26:2 And the Lord appeared to him (to Isaac) and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Genesis 26:15  14 He (Isaac) had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him.
NOTE:  The theme of great possessions continues to Abraham’s son, Isaac.

Genesis 26:24 24 And the Lord appeared to him (to Isaac) the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
NOTE:  Abraham had also built an altar after first receiving this promise.

Genesis 27:26  Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” 27 So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, “See, the smell of my son
    is as the smell of a field that the Lord has blessed!
28 May God give you of the dew of heaven
    and of the fatness of the earth
    and plenty of grain and wine.
29 Let peoples serve you,
    and nations bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
    and may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be everyone who curses you,
    and blessed be everyone who blesses you!
NOTE:  This is likely more than the good wishes of a father for his son.  The last couplet, for example, is surely a restatement of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3.  It says, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.”  Is it the case, then, that this “fatness of the earth” and “plenty of grain and wine” is implied in the “blessing” that had been promised to Abraham?  Likely, yes.  This, of course, is a bit troubling in light of this modern “prosperity gospel”.  But it is what it is.

Genesis 28:6  Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother’s father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham!”
NOTE:  Here Isaac blesses Jacob with the same promises given to Abraham by God.

Genesis 28:10   Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
NOTE:  This is new.  This promise to “bring you back to this land.”  This is what was reiterated again and again in these promises.  This prophecy that they would “spread abroad” may also have been new.  It might not have been intended as the general idea that they would continue to grow, but that they would be passively acted upon by God.  The Hebrew word here is parats, and it’s the first time it’s used in the Bible.  While it’s not always used this way, it’s frequently used of God “breaking forth” on or against somebody to do something to them by way of punishment.  (Read about the word and its uses here.)  I wonder, therefore, whether this is a reference to their ultimate dispersal throughout the world in the Babylonian captivity.

Genesis 35:5 And as they (including Jacob) journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother. And Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died, and she was buried under an oak below Bethel. So he called its name Allon-bacuth.
NOTE:  After a delay, Jacob now builds an altar in response to God’s promise, as had Abraham and Isaac before him.  Perhaps the timing of what follows is not coincidental to this fact.
God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. 10 And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 12 The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you. 13 Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. 14 And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. 15 So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.
NOTE:  God still has something future in mind, for he says “I will give to you…”  Further, it is significant, I think, that Jacob was the heir, stead of the firstborn Esau, for this “deceiver” was now named Israel, after “prevailing” in a wrestling match with God and insisting that God bless him.  This tenacity is what won him the name by which the descendants of his grandfather Abraham would become known (Israel).

Genesis 36:6  Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his livestock, all his beasts, and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan. He went into a land away from his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together. The land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom.)
NOTE:  Jacob, Abraham’s grandson is blessed with riches.

Romans 4:13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.


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