Abraham’s steadfast faith, his determined obedience, and his position as the first of the Hebrew patriarchs make him one of the most significant figures in the Bible. In Genesis 17:4-7, God made a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, declaring that the former would be the father of many nations and that kings will be born from his bloodline.
Consequently, Abraham is the primogenitor of the 12 tribes of Israel through his son, Isaac. He is also recognized as the patriarch of the three monotheistic or Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — the latter deriving through his firstborn son, Ishmael.
However, does the Bible reveal God’s intention for choosing Abraham to be the Father of Israel and all the nations?
A Name Change and a Promise
Abraham was originally named Abram (in Hebrew Avram), which means “the Father is exalted.” His wife was Sarai meaning “my princess.”
In Genesis 12:2, God first made a promise to Abram to bless him and make him into a great nation: “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
God further empathized his promise in Genesis 15:5: “He took him outside and said, “’Look up at the sky and count the stars — if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’”
In Genesis 17, God again appeared before Abram and made a covenant with him, which He would abide by with Abraham’s posterity. Abraham unquestioningly honored all the requirements that God made, including male circumcision, which would be an outward sign of the covenant between God and His children.
Additionally, God promised Abram that He would be “the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4) and accordingly changed his name to Abraham (Avraham in Hebrew). God also changed Abraham’s wife’s name to Sarah meaning “princess:” Its regal connotations reflected that kings, including Jesus Christ, would be born from her lineage.
Additionally, Sarah, as Abraham’s wife, would be the mother of all nations through the son she would bear him (Genesis 17:16). When their son Isaac was born, Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old, respectively.
God’s Specific Promise
Abraham was born in Ur in the Chaldees. Although the Bible explains little of his life up until the age of 70, Joshua 24:2 reveals that Abraham resided in Mesopotamia where his father Terah was engaged in polytheism.
Although we do not know whether Abraham had engaged in the same idolatry practices of his family in his earlier years and to what extent, we do know that Abraham exhibited great faith in God.
In fact, it was his steadfast faith, his unquestioning obedience, and his constant seeking of God that is believed to be the reason why God chose Abraham to be the first patriarch of the Hebrews, and ultimately the rest of the nations.
This is evident in Genesis 12:1-6 when Abraham obeyed God’s call to leave Mesopotamia, and to travel to the land of Canaan with Sarah, his nephew Lot, and their entire possessions. Hebrews 11:8 states, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
In Genesis 22, Abraham passed a significant test of obedience when he was prepared to sacrifice his son at God’s command. As Abraham reached for his knife to slay his son, God stopped him and reiterated His promise that his progeny would be many and that through them, all the nations on earth would be blessed (Genesis 22:16-18).
God’s grace and Abraham’s unwavering faith fulfilled the covenant promises that Abraham and his descendants would be blessed by:
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring — not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all (Romans 4:16)
Why did God choose to bless a mere man with multitudes of descendants, who would in turn also be blessed?
In Galatians 3:29 it states, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
God’s plan to bring His gift of Salvation to mankind through His Son began with Abraham. He was the root of man’s redemption, through which the genealogy of Jesus Christ would be established.
A Fulfillment of Spiritual Blessings
As descendants of Abraham, we, too, are able to receive the spiritual blessings that God promised Abraham: “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41:8).
Through God’s grace, we can find redemption and receive Salvation through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. And it all started with Father Abraham.
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Madeline Kalu is a Christian writer and the co-founder of Jacob’s Ladder Blog. She was born in England, was raised in Australia, and currently lives in Germany with her husband Solomon. Madeline is in recovery from burnout, chronic depression, and anxiety. She believes that God can take life’s adversities and work them out for His good; hence, she uses her writing voice to raise awareness of mental illness, as well as to spread the light of God’s love to those who are mentally trapped in the dark, and provide them with hope and encouragement.