The Abrahamic Covenant is God’s promise to Abraham that consisted of seven specific assurances (see below.) It is a significant moment in the book of Genesis that begins the unfolding of God’s plan for the redemption of the world.
Context of the Covenant
At the end of the events at Babel, where God confuses the languages of the people and divisions are created between nations on the basis of language, God calls on Abram. God acts on His desire to form a chosen people in miraculous fashion. He is going to use a man with no children and a barren wife to birth this new nation. In connection with this, God is going to ask Abram to leave his old life behind a move to a land of God’s choosing.
God then makes a series of promises to Abram (his name would be changed to Abraham later) that would affect the entire world for the rest of history. There are seven specific promises. Let’s look at each one individually.
The Seven Parts of the Promise
- “I will make you a great nation” – The first part of the promise had to appear to Abram as the most outlandish. He had no children and with his wife Sarai being barren, he has no hope for a future posterity. In spite of this, God promises that he will have offspring. Not only a child, but an entire nation would spring from Abram’s family tree. In Genesis 17:4, God reiterates this promise and expands it to include a multitude of nations that would spring forth from Abram.
- “And I will bless you” – Abram would live under the direct blessing of God. In both good times and bad, God would be with him. The word used here as “bless” is a common word that carries the idea of being full specifically being full of strength. When God is for us, who can be against us? God can fill us on a level that worldly goods cannot. Temporary things can only satisfy temporarily but God’s provision has eternal implications.
- “And make your name great” – God also promises Abram the eternal benefits as well. A great name would include strength, wealth, importance, and influence. We can see these things exemplified in the life of Abram. His household was strong. Strong enough to rescue Lot when he was carried away by marauding kings. His wealth is evident as well as his importance as he speaks with kings, separates from Lot because their combined flocks were too great, and purchases land. Influence is a hard thing to measure but I do not believe anyone would argue Abram’s significance. We are still discussing him thousands of years later and we continue to be inspired by his faith.
- “And so you shall be a blessing” – This is a promise and a command. Abram is to actively pursue a life that encourages, builds and helps others. In that endeavor, he will be successful. It seems as if God routinely blesses us so that we can be the conduit of that blessing to others. God’s love is not to become a stagnant pool within us but instead should flow through us into those who need it so desperately. Abram certainly was a blessing and the faith that he taught his children allowed them to carry that torch. In the seventh declaration of this promise, we will see the great extent of that blessing throughout the generations.
- “And I will bless those who bless you” – The blessing of Abram is expanding outward. Not only would Abram be a blessing to others, but those who act positively toward him will be blessed in return. I believe you can see the validity of this promise throughout human history. God has promised to pour out a blessing on those who continue to bless Abram.
- “And the one who curses you I will curse.” – The opposite is also true. God will protect His people. Just as those who bless will be blessed, those who curse will be cursed. Both promises give us the concept of an active response. The hand of God moves, and He is personally involved. Of the seven promises, this is the only one that carries a negative consequence. It is a terrifying proposition to oppose an almighty, all-powerful God.
- “And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” – God’s promise to Abram would echo through eternity. A Savior would be born that would once and for all deal with humanity’s sin problem. This Savior would come through the line of Abraham and ultimately sacrifice himself on a cross for us all. Jesus Christ is that Savior; from the seed of Abraham; born of a virgin; incarnate Deity. He died a death He did not deserve so that we could have forgiveness of sin. Every person in every family on earth now has the opportunity to have a restored relationship with the Father and to be redeemed from the pain and penalty of sin.
Is the Abrahamic Covenant Conditional or Unconditional?
The Abrahamic Covenant would be considered unconditional. Once enacted, its fulfillment rested solely on God without any requirements on Abram’s part. Abram’s only task was to take the first step of faith and go where God directed. After that first step of faith, God begins upholding His promise to Abram and a few chapters later changes his name to Abraham. The ongoing enactment of this promise is based completely on the faithfulness of God.
Is the Abrahamic Covenant Fulfilled or Still in Effect?
When looking at the Abrahamic covenant, there are elements that are fulfilled and elements that are still in effect. Abraham certainly enjoyed these promises while he lived, and they also have been enacted through his lineage. We can see the fulfillment of the blessing to all peoples through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. He conquered sin and provided a way to be reconciled with God. This also has a future fulfillment when those who have put there faith in Christ will be free from the presence, power, and penalty of sin for eternity.