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Genesis 22:15-18

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 19 November 2016

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OBEDIENCE YIELDS BLESSING

 

15 And the angel of ADONAI called to Avraham a second time out of heaven,

16 and said, "By myself I have sworn, a declaration of ADONAI, because you have done this thing, and you have not withheld your son, your only son,

17 that in blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the shore of the sea, and your Seed will possess the gate of his enemies.

18 And in your Seed all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." (Gen 22:15-18 mine)

 

In the story of Abraham no event is more puzzling than God's instruction for him to present his son Isaac as a burnt offering. God clearly had a larger purpose that He hid from Abraham and at the very least tested his faithfulness. The location, Mt. Moriah ["MO-REE-YAH"], which means "seen of Yah" is very significant since it is one of seven mountains on which Jerusalem would later be built and would be the site of the first temple [2Chr 3:1].

Without knowing the "why" Abraham obeyed, trusting in the sovereign care of God. Upon arrival at Moriah Abraham told his servants "we will go worship and return to you" (Gen 22:5). Abraham clearly expected to bring Isaac back alive. The apostle Paul attributed Abraham's confidence to his belief in resurrection [Heb 11:19].

In response to his radical obedience and completion of the burnt offering of the ram God provided, Abraham hears a message of "well-done" from heaven. ADONAI praises Abraham for not withholding his only son. Abraham of course had two sons at the time. Yet he had only one son of promise, the son of the covenant, which hints at the only son of God, the Messiah. ADONAI then made four special promises to Abraham.

The first promise is that God will bless him. The doubling of the verb "in blessing I will bless," gives special emphasis to the action and points to the future as well as present. In other words, Abraham was already blessed with God's favor and that favor would continue and abound. ADONAI could make this promise because at no time did Abraham violate the will of God. Bible commentators find fault with some of Abraham's decisions, but God never does. God will later expand on what he says in verse 18 when He says of him, "Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws" (Genesis 26:5 ESV).

In the second promise the double verb "in multiplying I will multiply" parallels the first promise in emphasis. God had made Abraham physically capable of fathering children. If you'll remember, it was Sarah who was barren, not Abraham. So, what God had been doing for Abraham would be continued. He already had one son of promise but he would produce a multitude in the future. In reality all of his biological descendants from then until now were in his loins at the time, to borrow a phrase from Paul [Heb 7:9-10].

ADONAI then engages in a play on words with the Hebrew word zera [zeh-rah], which means seed or offspring. Zera is a singular noun, but it can be plural as determined from the context. So, the first use of zera has a plural meaning of descendants, because the zera would be as numerous as the stars. Considering all the stars visible to the naked eye in all directions around the Earth, the number of visible stars are estimated to be about 10,000. Obviously God meant more than that since he mentions the sand on the sea shore. Astronomers have estimated there are 10 to the 25th power stars in the universe. That's 10 million billion billion.

The promise to Abraham implies a quantitative correlation between the number of the stars and the number of sand granules. Such a thing is not impossible, but the point of the analogy is that God is able to do more than we can imagine. The One who has the power to create the stars that populate outer space and the grains of sand on the earth can certainly fulfill the promise of Abraham's seed. His descendants would be impossible to count.

In the third promise, the second mention of zera points to the Messiah. This zera will possess the gate of his enemies (cf. Matt 16:18). Most versions translate zera in this clause with a plural meaning, "descendants" and say "their enemies." Thus, the promise might be taken in the sense that Abraham's offspring will become an eternal nation that can never be destroyed by its enemies. This is certainly true. However, the Hebrew word for "enemy" has a masculine singular suffix, thus "your Seed will possess the gate of his enemies," as in the Tree of Life Version.

We should take note of Paul's comment, "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. It doesn't say, 'and to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'and to your seed,' who is the Messiah" (Gal 3:16 TLV). "Possessing the gate of an enemy" is a word picture of a total and crushing defeat. Paul said that in his death and resurrection Yeshua publicly triumphed over Satan and his principalities and powers [Col 2:15]. Satan has been utterly defeated and through Yeshua we have been made more than conquerors [Rom 8:38].

In the fourth promise Abraham's "Seed" (the Messiah) would be the source of blessing for all the people groups of the earth. Most all versions say the nations "will be blessed," which might imply a universal salvation. However, the Hebrew verb form actually indicates that the blessing is accomplished by individual participation. The blessing of the Seed-Messiah is only for those who choose him. And as Paul said in Ephesians we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Yeshua [Eph 1:3]. These promises were given to Abraham because he obeyed the voice of ADONAI. The principle also holds true for us. Obedience produces manifold blessings.

Barukh Hashem

Copyright 2016 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.