The covenant with Abram. Studying Genesis 12

In Genesis, we see three acts of divine judgment each followed by acts of divine grace. 

We see the curse of the original sin which brings forth death but the Lord also makes a promise of ultimate victory to come from an offspring of the woman (Genesis 3:15). 

The next major divine judgment is the flood where God wipes out the earth and all of its inhabitants, save for Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark. But then we also see this event followed by another divine blessing as the Lord makes his covenant with Noah. In this sense, Noah becomes like another Adam figure in a reconstituted world. 

In Genesis 11, we see another major sin event: the Tower of Babel as a prideful world tries to build a monument to their own glory. The Lord brings confusion to the people in Genesis 11. But we are also introduced to Abram in that same chapter and it would be Aram through whom the Lord would make a great covenant. 

In this sense, Abram too will be another Adam figure who is the father of a new humanity, a people of God and through whom the Lord will ensure divine blessings to the world and through whom he will bring the ultimate blessing of the Lord Jesus (Galatains 3:16). 

In Genesis 11, Abram is introduced as a son of Terah. We’re also told that he has a wife named Sarai and that she is barren. This introduces a theme of barrenness that will also come up in numerous future Bible stories including with Rachel and Rebekah as well as with Hannah in First Samuel and with Elizabeth in the Gospel of Luke. 

Genesis 11 ends by saying that Abram and his family had settled in Haran. 

Genesis 11:31-32: 

​​31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. 

Genesis 12 hits the ground running with the Lord calling Abram away from the land where they had settled. 

Genesis 12:1-3: 

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

The Lord makes three promises to Abram. 

A great nation

As Adam was the first man in the world, as Noah was the leader of a new world and the one chosen by God to be spared (along with his family), Abram is also uniquely positioned as the one man through whom the Lord makes this covenant. As Thomas Schreiner notes in the Short Studies of Biblical Theology of Covenant, the rest of the world was still opposed to God when he made his covenant promise with Abram. 

As with all covenants in the Bible, it is totally at the initiative of God that the covenant is made. The Hebrew word translate for “covenant” is not found in Genesis 12 but it is found in chapters 15 and 17 in similar contexts of talking about the same promises. For that reason, it is appropriate to view chapter 12 as the beginning section of this covenant. 

In verse 2, the Lord promises to make Abram a great nation. This promises will also be elaborated upon in Genesis chapters 15 and 17. The promise of being a great nation will imply two things. 

In chapter 11, a kingdom had just fallen at Babel. But here, the Lord tells Abram that he will be a great nation. It’s because the Lord was establishing a nation that would be dedicated to him and set apart for the purposes of God. As Schreiner notes, “the word nation also implies offspring, for Abraham couldn’t be a great nation without offspring” (Covenant and God’s Purpose for the World, Page 43). 

In chapters 15 and 17, the Lord would also promise that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars (15:5) and that Abram would be a father of many nations (17:4) and that kings will come from him (17:6). 

Abram would also later be gold that his offspring would possess the gates of their enemies (22:17). This victory links the offspring of Abram ot the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15 who would defeat the serpent. 

In the New Testament, we see that this promise is fulfilled in Christ. 

Galatians 3:16: 

the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ

We see a further elaboration of the political natures of God’s promise to Abraham. 

Genesis 28:14: 

Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

And again in Genesis 35:11 where we see a furthering of the promise: 

God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. 

And all of this happens through a man and a woman who are barren and have no children when we’re first introduced to them! 


God had also promised land to Abram. 

Schreiner notes that if Abram is like a new Adam, then the Promised Land is like a New Eden. 

In Genesis 15:18, we’re told of the parameters of the Promised Land: 

18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates,

They arrive in the land under the leadership of Joshua.  

We seem to see a realization of these promises during the reign of King Solomon. 1 Kings 4:20-21: 

20 Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 21  Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. 

We saw a picture of what God’s promises were supposed to look like but the people sinned and lost it. God was still faithful to his people. 


Abram was told that he would be a blessing. Schreiner points out that the covenant was always intended to be a blessing for all of the nations, not just Israel. God would bless his people but also bring blessings to the world through his people. 

In the New Covenant age, we see the blessings to the world through the gospel and as a result of the cross of Christ.