God’s Covenant with Abraham


Dr. John Hoole



When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it did not catch God by surprise.  God already had a plan of salvation before the foundation of the world. When God passed judgment upon Adam and Eve and the serpent, He promised a “seed of the woman” who would break the power of the serpent.


In time, God zeroes in on one man, named Abram.  He was a worshipper of false gods.  How do we know they worshiped other gods?


Joshua 24:2 NKJV


2    And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the river in old times; and they served other gods.


      But God places a call on Abam.


God’s statements and conversation with Abram has unbelievably far-reaching implications.




He lived with his brothers in Ur of the Chaldees.  The biblical record of Abram, later to be called Abraham, begins in the last sex verses of Genesis 11.  Here is where the modern-day country borders lie.


In the final two verses of Genesis 11, we are told  Abram and all his father’s living family leave UR and travel up the Euphrates River and arrive at Haran.  The Lord’s call upon Abram is mentioned in chapter 12.


We read those statements in Gen. 12:1.


1 `Now the Lord had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.


Notice the past tense in the first line.  The call probably came when they were still in UR. But, in Haran, he had not yet left his father’s household.


Verse 4 says Abram left Haran with his nephew, Lot, who was the son of his brother Haran.


Verse 5 tells us they arrive in Caanan.


But in the two verses before the fourth, God makes a series of promises to Abram.


Genesis 12:2-3 (NKJV)


2 `I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.

3 `I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."


In completely sovereign grace God comes to this undeserving idolater and says, with life-creating authority, "I am going to bless you, and through you bring blessing to the whole world."


And with that begins the history of the people of Israel.


To see how amazing this beginning is, let me ask you a question.  Why didn't God send Christ into the world to die for sin and rise again in Genesis 12 instead of enduring the 2,000-year roller-coaster relationship of Israel's apostasy and repentance?


Why didn't God right then issue the Great Commission to go to all the nations  instead of dealing almost solely with Israel for two millennia?


I raise these questions only so that God's mysterious freedom might strike us. He is the only person in the universe who has absolute freedom to act as He desire. Isaiah 46:10 say of God: “I will do all that I please.”  He could have designed redemptive history anyway he pleased. And, contrary to all human expectations, for his own wise purposes, God set his favor on a single man named  Abram, and commenced an amazing 2,000- year history that would, in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), bring forth Jesus Christ the Redeemer for all the world.


In the verses we just read in Genesis 12, God makes a covenant which include the promises he gave to Abraham.  As God continues to converse with Abraham and his lineage, He will add additional promises to these.


In Genesis 12:2-3 which we read a moment ago, God makes 6 promises to Abrham.


1.   From Abraham would come a great nation.


2.   God would bless him.


3.   His name would be great.


4.   Abraham himself would be a blessing.


5.   Special circumstances would occur where He (God) would bless those who blessed Abraham and would curse those who cursed him.


6.   These blessings would extend to all the families of the earth.


From these, we can see three categories of promises.


•  Personal promises were made specifically to Abraham.


•  National promises were given to Abraham’s seed.  Here, the promise was hat a nation (singular) would come from Abraham.


•  And universal promises were given to all the families of the earth.


      Abram and the rest of this father’s family stay in Haran until the death of his father, Terah.  Only then does Abraham and Sarah, along with Lot, travel south into Canaan.


Following this initial visitation to Abraham in Ur, God often spoke to Him and his descendants.  When He did, He would often reiterate his promises made to Abraham and sometimes adding more details.  As time went on, there occurred further revelation concerning his promises to the nation of Israel.


Only a few verses later ion Genesis 12, and with them now in Caanan, we read this:


Genesis 12:7 NKJV


7          The Lord appeared to Abram and said, "To your offspring I will give this land."


Prior to this, all Abram had been told by God was that he was to go to a land God would show him. Now, God is saying, “this is the land,” and I am giving it to you.


Two chapters later, God reiterates this promise.


Genesis 15:7 NKJV


7          Then He said to him, "I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it."


And in the verses that follow in this chapter, God makes what I believe is an unconditional and eternal covenant with Abraham and his descendants.


How do we know it was and everlasting unconditional covenant?  There are actually many verses elsewhere in Scripture that emphasize and corroborate this fact.  The Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional.  The promises we read a moment ago, in chapters 12 & 15, placed no conditions on Abraham for them to be fulfilled.  They should also be taken literally.


There is no need to spiritualize the promise to Abraham.  I believe God’s promises to Abraham’s descendants will be fulfilled literally.


Later, when Abraham was 99 years old, God makes these statements to him.


Genesis 17:5-7 NKJV


5    No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

6    I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

7    And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.


In the next verse, God again calls it an “everlasting possession.”


Earlier, I said elsewhere in Scripture we have this continuing statement of the covenant made with Abrham and his descendants is an everlasting covenant.  Let’s turn to Psalm 105 where I think we find one of the strongest arguments for it being an everlasting covenant.


In the verses of this Psalm God has made a special, unique commitment to one human family, descended from Abraham.


Psalms 105:8-10 NKJV


8          He remembers His covenant forever, the word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,

9          The covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac,

10     And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant


I think this is an amazing passage.  I know of no other use of words to express a solemn commitment  of God - whether you say “covenant, word, commandment, oath, statute, everlasting covenant, there is no language used in the Bible that could more strongly emphasize God’s total commitment.


Every covenant of God represents a solemn commitment, but this one is further described as an everlasting covenant.  It remains in force forever.  It can never be removed.


Furthermore, in addition to His Word, it is expressed or confirmed by His oath.  The writer of Hebrews tells us why God gives His oath.


In Hebrews 6:17-18 NKJV, The writer is speaking of Abraham, and he says:


17 `Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,

18     that by two immutable [unchangeable] things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation,…


The first unchangeable thing that God gives is His Word.  The second is His Oath.


What is God so tremendously concerned about?  To what is He taking such great pains to express His total commitment.  The answer He gives in our next verse in Psalm 105.


Psalms 105:11 NKJV


11     Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance,"


What is it about?  I never read this passage without being amazed at almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the King of the earth.  He has gone to great lengths to assert the destiny of a little piece of territory at the east end of the Mediterranean Sea.  God attaches far more importance to it than most of us imagine.


The verses of Psalm 105 that we have just looked at represent the title deed to the land of Caanan.  Just as a title deed specifies the exact identity of the person holding the deed, God also ensures with specific language that we know to whom the land is committed.


He refers to “the covenant which He made with Abraham and His oath,” first to Abraham, then the oath given to Isaac and then confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant (as we read in vss. 9 & 10).


The covenant goes from Abraham through Isaac (no through Ishmael) to Jacob, whose name became Israel.  I don’t’ know how God could have said it more clearly or emphasized it more decisively.


I have personally studied the passages in which God gives His oath in confirmation of His word. For me it is the most emphatic form of divine declaration provided in the Bible.


If Psalm 105 were the only passage of Scripture that records God’s oath confirming His promise to give the land of Caanan to Israel, it would be sufficient by itself to establish this promise beyond question.  But God considered this issue so important that He caused it to be recorded in the Bible in 46 places.


The final passage that records God’s oath concerning the land of Caanan is Ezekiel 47:14.


14     You shall inherit it equally with one another; for I raised My hand in an oath to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance.


Beyond all question, the context indicates that the fulfillment of this promise is still in the future.  All of Ezekiel 47 is still future.


This should rule out any suggestion that restricts the outworking of God’s oath to events that have already taken place.  On the contrary, it stretches out into the future to which no limits are set.  As long as the land continues to exist, its destiny will be determined by God’s oath.


An argument that is sometimes raised by Christians is that Israel had her chance but was unfaithful and failed God.  Those who support this view say God has changed His mind and the promises given to Israel are now for the church.


When I hear this theory, I find myself mentally looking back over 19 centuries of church history.  I see endless successions of heresy, apostacy, idolatry, immorality, continual squabbling and division and ceaseless struggles for power and preeminence. Add to this the centuries of vicious inti-Semitism, and I am left wondering:  “Who has been more unfaithful, Israel or the church?”


If God changed His mind about His promises to Israel and take her name and give it to some other group, surely He could just as well change His mind about His promises to the church take her title and give it to some other group.  This is an important issue, then, for every Christian to consider.


In the final analysis, our confidence in God’s mercy is based on His commitment to His Word and His covenants.  If God can change His commitments and annul those covenants, we are left with no security whatever as Christians.  Therefore, the issues of the identity and destiny of Israel concerns not only the Jews, but also all Gentile believers who have come to God through the new covenant in Jesus Christ.


God has indeed given the land by an irrevocable covenant to Israel.