“And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.”
God promised to make Abraham the father of a great people and said that Abraham and his descendants must obey God. In return God would guide them and protect them and give them the land of Israel.
When God began working with Abram (his name was later changed to Abraham), God gave him a command and an amazing promise. The command was, “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).
Explaining the promise He would give Abraham in exchange for his obedience, God continued: “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 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” (verses 2-3).
This promise had multiple components, including the promise of multiple descendants, fame, divine protection and that Abraham through his descendants would be a blessing to all people. Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob were “heirs with him of the same promise” (Hebrews 11:9, emphasis added throughout).
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Because of the multiple components that were part of this promise, it is also acceptable to refer to these components as promises to Abraham. Indeed, this is how many translations of the Bible, including the New King James Version, translate Paul’s statement to the Galatians: “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made” (Galatians 3:16).
Our article “Promises to Abraham” explains that these promises were both physical and spiritual in nature. Physically, Abraham’s descendants would become a great nation. The spiritual blessing to all people was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, a descendant of Abraham, through whom people of all nationalities may receive salvation (Acts 4:10-12; Galatians 3:16).
In this article, we will examine some of the components of God’s promises to Abraham. As we will see, there are several additional passages in the book of Genesis that further explain what God was offering to Abraham and his descendants. In addition to Genesis 12:2-3, which we’ve already noted, here are a few more passages in this first book of the Bible that further expound upon the great blessing God was offering Abraham.
Promises to Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:7)
“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.”
When Abraham left his country for the land God promised to show him, “he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). After Abraham arrived in the land God wanted him to see, God announced that He would give this land to his descendants. As Abraham obeyed and grew in faith, God continued to reveal to him the blessings he and his descendants would receive.
Expanding the promises (Genesis 13:2, 14-17)
“Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. …
“And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.’”
God had promised to bless Abraham, and this soon became apparent due to Abraham’s personal wealth. Adding to what He had previously spoken, God now told this patriarch that his descendants would be numerous and that He was giving this land to Abraham and his descendants forever. God then encouraged Abraham to walk through the land—to check out the gift that he was being given.
Promise of countless descendants (Genesis 15:4-6, 18)
“And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. … On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.’”
In response to Abraham’s statement that he was childless and that a servant was his heir, God told Abraham that his own child would be his heir and that through this child and subsequent generations, his descendants would become numerous, like the stars in the sky.
A significant detail here is that Abraham believed that what God had promised would indeed come about. Again, God repeats His promise of land for Abraham’s descendants—this time formalizing this part of the promise with a covenant that included specific geographical boundaries.
God’s promises to Abraham and Sarah, father and mother of many nations (Genesis 17:1-8, 15-16)