What Is the Abrahamic Covenant?

The Abrahamic Covenant is really the beginnings of the formal revelation of the covenant of grace, of God's decision to reach into humanity and specifically save people for Himself.
Updated Oct 23, 2023
What Is the Abrahamic Covenant?

What Is The Abrahamic Covenant of Grace?

(Interview with Michael Lawrence. Transcript of the video above, edited for readability)

The Abrahamic Covenant is really the beginnings of the formal revelation of the covenant of grace, of God's decision to reach into humanity and specifically save people for Himself. It comes in the form of a promise to Abraham. Abraham, who's the son of an idolater, who did not know God. God takes the initiative with him, calls him into a relationship with Himself, and makes just unilaterally some promises to Abraham. He promises that Abraham is going to be a great nation, that he is going to be given a land, a place to live, and that through Him, all of the nations will be blessed.

Genesis 12

Now that promise that's given in Genesis 12 takes on a very formal, a covenantal form, later on in Genesis, in which God reaffirms the promises and takes an oath, basically makes a lasting promise to Abraham that He will not fail to come through on this.

Where Does the Abrahamic Covenant Come From?

Normally, when a covenant was made in the ancient Near East, they would talk about the covenant being cut. The cutting of the covenant involved the sacrificing of animals. Animals would be literally cut in two. The person who had to keep the promises would walk through those animals, basically saying, "If I don't keep my end of the bargain, may be done to me what has been done to these animals." Typically, in a covenant, the great king would force the lesser party in the covenant to walk through those animals. It was up to the junior member of the party to keep the terms of the covenant.

What's so amazing in the Abrahamic Covenant is that God Himself takes the threatened curses upon Himself, guaranteeing, as He walks through those animals that are cut in two, that He will certainly bring this promise to pass.

Genesis 17

Later on, in Genesis 17, the promise is given a specific sign with the sign of circumcision. Abraham and his son, Ishmael, are circumcised, making clear that they and all of their household are set apart to the Lord. This covenant, this promise, of blessing to Abraham, to Abraham's seed, and then to the nations through Abraham really is the beginning of the covenant of grace that's going to find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ.

What Can We Learn about God from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

We learn several vital things from God’s work through these three men.

1. God is the God of living promises

“But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Luke 20:37)

When God refers to himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he does not speak of them as dead but alive. This is a reminder that all of God’s promises are living promises. In God’s kingdom and in God’s economy, there is no such thing as a dead promise. Regardless of how long ago he said it, his promises remain alive and well. 

2. God is the God of enduring promises

The Bible is clear that God’s love and mercy endure forever. What we also know is that his promises endure forever as well. This is the reason God is so trustworthy because his promises don’t change; they endure. We know from the scriptures Abraham was declared righteous by faith. The same way God responded to Abraham’s faith is the same way he still responds to anyone who puts their faith in him. This has not changed and will not change through all generations. The promise that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom.10:13) was true then and will be true forever because the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only makes enduring promises.   

3. God is a God of fulfilled promises

The truth about a promise is that it is only as good as the person making it. If they have no intention or ability to fulfill the promise, it is meaningless. That is not who God is. He has a track record of making promises and fulfilling them. You can be certain of one thing. Everything God has said he will do… he will do. You won’t always know when he will do what he promised. You can’t always know how he will do what he promised. You can be sure that he will do what he promised. 

For thousands of years, people have been putting their faith and hope in God’s promises. Whether it is for salvation, provision, protection, or any of the other promises God has made, God has fulfilled them. When you think of God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, let it be a reminder. You serve a God who sees his word through to the end and will always do what he has said he will do.

(excerpted from "Why Does God Refer to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?" by Clarence Haynes, Jr.)

How Does God's Promise to Abraham Affect the Whole World?

(Interview with Jim Thompson. Transcript of the video above, edited for readability)

In Genesis 12, the Lord appeared to Abraham and he made a number of promises to Abraham. His promises included that God would bless Abraham, that God would make a great nation out of Abraham, but also that God, through Abraham, would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. As we read from Genesis 12 onward, we begin to see that God starts to fulfill those covenant promises. At the beginning, the blessings and the promises are centered around Abraham personally. He and his wife, Sarah, were barren, and God miraculously brings about the conception of Isaac. Sarah's past the normal age of giving birth to children but God provides a miracle and Isaac is born.

God's blessing is evidenced in Abraham's life personally, as he gets Abraham out of several predicaments that Abraham got himself into, in dealing with Pharaoh and dealing with Abimelech. Now, as Abraham's descendants began to multiply, we see this in Exodus, for example, God's hand is upon the descendants. They're greatly increasing in Egypt, they're made slaves, and God comes in, he delivers the Israelites from Egypt, and he brings them into the land of Canaan. He establishes the descendants of Israel into a kingdom. He establishes them into a nation. Now, in these days, we begin to see the blessing going forth beyond the borders of Israel. In one sense, through the judgments, Egypt begins to know and have a knowledge of the Lord. As they're moving into the land of Canaan and beginning the conquest of the land, for example, we have a woman named Rahab who comes into the knowledge of God and is blessed because she changes her allegiance from her old God to the God of Israel.

As the nation of Israel is established, we see an example of someone like Ruth, who comes along and she changes her allegiance from her gods to the God of Israel. Now, the fullness and how the blessing of how all the earth is going to be blessed through Abraham doesn't come about, in large measure, until Jesus Christ is born. Matthew identifies Jesus as a descendant of Abraham and Jesus Christ is identified, as the Bible, as God's unique son. He is Savior and Lord of the entire earth. And so Jesus commissions his apostles and disciples to go forth and to make disciples all the nations, to take that saving message about himself to the uttermost parts of the earth. And we began to see that story displayed in the Book of Acts as the gospel makes its way through Israel and the gospel makes its way to the Samaritans, and the gospel begins to make its way outside the borders of Israel.

And once again, we see in the picture of revelation five and revelation seven, that the gospel of Jesus Christ will be successful, it will penetrate all nations, it will penetrate all language groups, it will penetrate all tribes, and a number of men, women, and children will be saved by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/sedmak


Christianity / Life / Bible / What Is the Abrahamic Covenant?