Promises to Abraham

The following table lists promises made to Abraham in the order of their occurrence. The main subjects of these promises relate to, Abraham’s seed, inheritance of the land of Canaan, God’s covenant with Abraham’s seed, the birth of Israel as a nation coming out of period of slavery in Egypt and personal promises to Abraham himself.

Ref no.
in order of occurrence
PromiseGenesis reference
1I will make of thee a great nationGenesis12:2
2I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessingGenesis 12:2
3I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth theeGenesis 12:3
4in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.Genesis 12:3
5Unto thy seed will I give this landGenesis 12:7
6Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.Genesis 13:14-15
7I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numberedGenesis 13:16
8walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.Genesis 13:17
9he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.Genesis 15:4
10Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.Genesis 15:5
11I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.Genesis 15:7
12Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.Genesis 15:13-14
13thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.Genesis 15:15
14Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.Genesis 15:18-21
15behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.Genesis 17:4-6
16I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.Genesis 17:7
17I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.Genesis 17:8
18every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 14 the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.Genesis 17:10-11, 14
19As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.Genesis 17:15-16
20Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.Genesis 17:19
21as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.Genesis 17:20
22my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.Genesis 17:21
23I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.Genesis 18:10
24Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in himGenesis 18:18
25in Isaac shall thy seed be calledGenesis 21:12
26also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.Genesis 21:13
27in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore;Genesis 22:17
28thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemiesGenesis 22:17
29in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;Genesis 22:18

A number of the promises such as the birth of Isaac are effectively recorded as being fulfilled in Abraham’s life time and others relating to his seed suffering in Egypt can be related to the events presented in the early chapters of Exodus. However the NT infers longer term implications of these promises:-

John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Galatians 3:14-16, That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

Galatians 3: 26-29 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Hebrews 6:13-20 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Hebrews 7, continues on the theme of tithes paid by Abraham to Melchisedec, claiming that Melchisedec’s priesthood was representative of the work of Christ, drawing on the prophecy of Psalms 110:4 ‘Thou art a priest after the order of Melchizedek’. Jesus in Matthew 22:42-46 quotes this Psalm as relating to himself.

This interrelationship of Christianity and the Gospel message in NT times with the OT promises to Abraham is further demonstrated in Paul’s comments:- Galatians 3:7-14 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The term Paul uses in the above quotation Galatians 3:8 ‘preached before the gospel’ literally in the Greek (proeuaggelizomai) is: to announce glad news in advance. In other words, the claim of Paul is that, the gospel message of God’s Christian plan of salvation being available to Gentile as well as Jew through Christ was predetermined and announced within His promises to Abraham. As also quoted above Paul argues in Galatians 3:16 that when God promises in Abraham’s seed all nations would be blessed, He was referring to Christ as Abraham’s singular seed through which the Gentile might also partake of the Abramic promises.

Other events in Abraham’s life are also used for illustrative purposes in the NT. For example Paul refers to events with Hagar and Ishmael’s banishment as illustrative of the position of the Christian equated with Isaac and the Jew equated with Ishmael:-

Galatians 4:22-31 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Abraham is held up in the New Testament as an example of faith and illustrative of how, to demonstrate the existence of faith, there has to be associated works and how faith may be counted as righteousness (i.e. illustrative of God’s grace, and that salvation is not possible by the works of the Law of Moses):-

Hebrews 11:8-19 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

James 2:21-24 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Romans 4:2-5 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

2 thoughts on “Promises to Abraham

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