Although I do not have time to cover the “Patriarchal Promise” during my 20 minute session on the Mount of Olives I spend time on it when teaching my class “Jerusalem: Earthly City Heavenly Symbol.” This in spite of the fact that the promise does not specifically mention Jerusalem it although it does mention plethora of topics related to Jerusalem: God’s People; the Land of Canaan; God Being with Abraham’s Descendants; Kings; Divine Blessing for Gentiles; and Eternality.
I was first introduced to the God’s Promise–Plan through the teaching of Water Kaiser Jr. during my seminary days. He believes that the Promise–Plan is the overarching theme of scripture—and many of us agree with him. In what follows I will outline my understanding of the elements of the promise that was repeatedly made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—along with the relevant scriptural references. Major “Promise–Plan” passages include: Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-16; 15:4–21; 17:4-17; 22:15-18. The basic promise was initiated in the following passage:
Genesis 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.
2 “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. [CR: better—’be a blessing’]
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram left, . . . and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
6 Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.
From this, and other passages, it appears to me that the Promise–Plan, as initiated, contains the following elements.
- That Abraham will have numerous descendants—variously called “nation, offspring, seed . . . .” See Genesis 12:2; 15:4-5; 17:2-4—actually about 30 times in Genesis.
- That the descendants of Abraham would occupy the Land of Canaan. See Genesis 12:7; 13:15–17; 15:18; 17:8—about 12 times in Genesis.
- That there would be Divine Blessing(s) for the descendants of Abraham and also for the Gentiles. See Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:17–18; 26:3–4; 28:13–14.
- That God would be the God of Abraham’s descendants and that they would be His people—”I will be with you.: See Genesis 17:7-8; 26:3; 31:3; 48:21.
- That kings would descend from Abraham. Genesis 17:6, 16; 35:11.
- That the Promise is eternal. Genesis 13:15; 17:7, 8, 13, 19; 48:4.
Take Away — In previous posts we noted how humans were placed in the presence of God to live their lives in worshipful obedience (Gen 2:15). How this relationship was broken and how God promised to rectify it by “dwelling in the tents of Shem” (Gen 9:27). Well, Abram/Abraham was a distant descendant of Shem via Terah who was the father of Abram (Abraham; Genesis 11:10–27). In this regard please note #4 in the list above! Among many other things, God was promising ‘to dwell in the tents of Shem’—i.e., to be with the descendants of Abraham. This evidently would take place in the Land of Canaan where the descendants of Abraham would dwell.
It seems to me that three elements in Genesis 12:2–3 focus primarily on Abraham—namely:
- There would be blessing for Abraham (12:2)
- That Abraham’s name would be great (12:2)
- That God would bless/disfavor those who blessed/disfavored Abraham (12:3)
It does seem that Abram actually “visited” Salem/Jerusalem during his life time for Salem is identified with Zion/Jerusalem in Psalm 76:
Genesis 14:18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High,
Psalm 76:2 His tent is in Salem,
his dwelling place in Zion.
For the promise doctrine see Kaiser, Walter C., Jr. Toward an Old Testament Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978 or more recently The Promise–Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.