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STUDY NINETEEN: COVENANT AND PROMISE [Genesis 12 – 50]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

The covenant with Abram [later called Abraham] is stated a number of times.

A. THE FIRST STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT – Genesis 12:1-3

Abram’s lineage is traced back through the godly line through Shem and Noah to Seth and Adam.

Task #1: List the seven elements of God’s promise to Abraham

Verse 2 [4 elements]

 

 

 

Verse 3 [3 elements]

 

 

What was Abram told to do? [verse 1]

 

The call of Abram can seem to be quite arbitrary, ‘out of the blue’, but as we have seen already in Genesis the first spoken anticipation of this call was laid in Genesis 3 immediately after man’s rebellion against God, when God immediately began to implement the plan of salvation already in place for this eventuality. Even though the human line of God’s choosing itself erred, yet God remained faithful, preserving Noah, singling out the line of Shem, and now calling Abram and promising him that through his ‘seed’ all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This blessing to the nations through Abraham’s seed is the first key factor of the Covenant in terms of its fulfilment in Christ.

We see here in this initial call and covenant declaration that it is entirely God’s initiative.


B. THE SECOND STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT – Genesis 15: 1-20

[Note that there is also a mini-reaffirmation of the covenant promises in 13:14-17.]

Task #2: List the five elements of God’s promise to Abraham

Verse 4

Verse 5

Verse 6

Verse 7

Verse 18-20


What was Abram told to do? [verse 1, 9-11]

 

How was the covenant confirmed? [verse 17]

 

What other information is given? [verse 13-16]

 


Some years have passed and Abram is concerned that he as yet has no children. God’s reiteration of his covenant thus includes very strong promises in this regard. It is at this point that a second key factor is introduced that is stressed by the New Testament in reference to the salvation procured through Jesus Christ in fulfilment of the promise to Abram: that faith is credited to Abram as righteousness [15:6].

A few other points deserve mention here:

[1] God ratified his covenant promises by burning the offering prepared by Abram [15:9-11,17].

[2] God revealed to Abram that before his descendants occupied the promised land his descendants would suffer for 400 years in a strange country [15:12-14],

[3] The wickedness of the Amorites who lived in the land was not yet ripe for God’s judgement [15:16], which he would implement when he gave the land to Abram’s descendants. This is an interesting fact, reflected in other Old Testament Scriptures which state that the reason God drove the various Canaanite tribes out of the land was their gross wickedness.

[4] The extent of the land promised to Abram’s descendants is defined [15:18-20].

 


C. THE THIRD STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT - Genesis 17:1-27

Task #3: List the many elements of God’s promise to Abraham

Verse 2 [2 elements]

 

Verse 4 [1 element]

 

Verses 5, 6 [4 elements]

 

 

 

Verse 7 [2 elements]

 

Verse 8 [2 elements]

 

Verse 15,16 [3 elements]

 

 

Verse 19 [2 elements]

 

What was Abram told to do? [verse 1, 9, 11-14]

 

What other information is given? [verse 17-18, 20, 23-27]

 

In this reaffirmation of the covenant the names are changed: we now have Abraham and Sarah.

Abraham and Sarah had by this time despaired of producing a child and had taken things into their own hands, with the result that Abraham now has a son, Ishmael, by Sarah’s maid, Hagar. God, however, has his own plans and assures Abraham that Sarah will have a child.

At this point a few additional features of the covenant are revealed to Abraham:

[1] He will be the father of ‘many nations’ [17:4-6; see also 17:16];
[2] The covenant is an ‘everlasting’ covenant and the land the ‘everlasting’ possession of his descendants [17:7,8,13,19].
[3] God promises to be their God [17:7,8].
[4] The physical sign of male circumcision is required to identify them as God’s covenant people [17:10-14].


D. THE FOURTH STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT – Genesis 22:15-18

Task #4: List the elements of God’s promise to Abraham

Verse 17 [3 elements]

 

 

Verse 18 [1 element]


This reaffirmation of the Covenant follows on from Abraham’s amazing faith and obedience in his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, whom God had specifically identified as the one through whom the Covenant promises would be fulfilled. [We will look at this faith and obedience in a later study.]

The covenant is confirmed, including the reference to the blessing that would come to all the nations through the seed of Abraham.


E. THE FIFTH STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT - Genesis 26:2-5

Task #5: List the elements of God’s promise to Isaac

Verse 3 [3 elements]

 

 

Verse 4 [3 elements]

 

 

What was Isaac told to do? [verse 2,3]

 

What other information is given? [verse 5]

 


God confirmed the covenant and its promises to Isaac, after the death of Abraham. Note that the basis on which this confirmation made is the ‘obedience’ of Abraham.

 

F. THE SIXTH STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT – Genesis 28:13-15

Task #6: List the elements of God’s promise to Jacob

Verse 13 [2 elements]

 

Verse 14 [3 elements]

 

 

Verse 15 [5 elements]

 

 

 

What other information is given? [verse 16-22]

 

 

 

The covenant is similarly reconfirmed to Jacob after he has left his father. The basic elements of the covenant are stated, including again the blessing to the nations through the seed of Jacob. An additional element is stated: that God will be with Jacob and watch over him wherever he goes.

 

G. THE SEVENTH STATEMENT OF THE COVENANT – Genesis 35:9-12

Task #7: List the elements of God’s reaffirmation of the covenant

Verse 9,10 [2 elements]

 

Verse 11 [3 elements]

 

 

Verse 12 [1 element]

 

COMMENTS:
This Abrahamic Covenant, picking up and narrowing down the line through which the promised seed of the woman would come, continues throughout the Scripture as an important foundation for understanding all that is recorded in the rest of the Old Testament, and for understanding its fulfilment in the incarnation and saving work of Jesus Christ. We will look at this in a later study.