This a two-part article regarding two covenants mentioned in the Bible, and also a confirming or strengthening of these covenants. The first covenant occurred in the distant past and is described in the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, and is between God and Abraham and his descendants. The second “covenant that is confirmed” is described in the book of Daniel and later expounded upon in the last book of the New Testament, Revelation. It is an event that will occur in the near future and is between Satan’s man, the antichrist, and the modern nation of Israel.
The father of the nation of Israel, Abram, was 75 years old when, by faith, he heeded the word of the Lord and departed out of Haran to a land God would show him. The Lord said, “I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless you, and curse them that curse you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
Abram took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, 70 servants, all their possessions, and entered the land of Canaan in approximately 1876 BC. Upon entering the promised land, Abram built an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him and said: “Unto your seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7). Abram’s entourage relocated to Egypt after a famine struck the land. As time passed and the famine receded, Abram returned to Canaan. The first thing he did when he was back in the land was to call on the name of the Lord. He did it in the exact place where he had previously built the altar unto Him.
Lot and Abram were very rich in cattle, silver, and in gold. The land was not able to bear both Abram’s and Lot’s flocks, so they parted ways. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
“And the Lord said unto Abram, after Lot was separated from him, Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward, southward, eastward, and westward: for all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed forever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered. Arise walk through the land in the length of it and in the breath of it, for I will give it unto you” (Genesis 13:14-17).
Thus, God confirmed his promise to Abram, guaranteeing the land and possession of it to Abram and his descendants.
Abram obeyed God and traveled to the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron. As before, he built an altar unto the Lord to worship Him. This was the 3rd time that Abram had built an altar unto the Lord. Years later the King of Elam, Chedorlaomer and four other kings defeated five kings in the land, including the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. They took Lot and his family and all of their possessions and departed back to their homeland. When Abram heard of this, he gathered 318 of his men and pursued Chedorlaomer’s army and attacked him near Damascus. With God’s help he defeated them and recovered Lot and his family and all of their possessions.
Upon Abram’s return, Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the most high God, brought forth bread and wine and blessed him and God. Abram, in return, gave tithes to Melchizedek. Melchizedek means “king of righteousness,” and Salem means “peace.” Here is how Hebrews 7:2-3 describes him: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God and abides a priest continually.” He was a type of Jesus Christ, both king and priest (as Jesus will be in the future during his millennium reign on earth).
Abram refused to take booty from the victory lest people would say Abram’s riches came from the king of Sodom instead of the Lord. “After these things the word of the Lord came into Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not Abram: I am your shield, and your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Abram questioned God as to how this would be accomplished, as he was childless with no son to inherit the land.
The Lord assured Abram his descendants would inherit the land and they would be as numerous as the stars in the heaven. “And he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). However, Abram asked the Lord God how he would know that he would inherit it. The Lord told him to take a heifer of three years old, a she goat of three years old, a ram of three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon: and cut in half and divide them in the midst, laying each piece against one another (except the birds).
“And it came to pass, that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, Euphrates” (Genesis 15:17-18). This was the original covenant between the Lord and Abram/descendants and occurred in approximately 1866 BC.
As Abram and Sarai grew older and were still childless, they tried to help God along with His promise by giving Sarai’s servant, Hagar, to Abram to be his wife. Abram was 86 years old when Hagar birthed a son to him. They named him Ishmael. He was the patriarch of the Arabs, to be the ancestor of the Ishmaelites. Ishmael was born in 1865 BC.
In 1852 BC, when Abram was 99 years old (Sarai was 90 years old), the Lord appeared to Abram and confirmed his covenant with him. “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto you, and to your seed after you. And I will give unto you and your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8). This confirmed/strengthened the original covenant between Abraham and God that occurred 14 years earlier.
Abram and his male descendants were to keep their part of the covenant by circumcising the flesh of their foreskins (a form of cutting and dividing of the flesh). Ishmael was 13 years old at this time. Circumcision was a symbol of “cutting off” the old life of sin, and dedicating oneself to God. Circumcision, more than any other Hebrew custom, separated God’s people from their heathen neighbors.
The Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of a Great multitude.” He also changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. He promised Abraham the following regarding Sarah: “And I will bless her and give her a son also of her: yes, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations: kings of people shall be of her” (Genesis 17:16).
“Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, Oh that Ishmael might live before you” (Genesis 17:17-18). Yes, even the man of faith, Abraham, sometimes felt moments of doubt. God explained that Sarah, herself, would bear unto Abraham a male son in her old age, and they would name him Isaac. He told Abraham; “But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto you at this set time in the next year” (Genesis 17:21).
After the confirmation of the covenant between Abraham and his descendants and God, the Lord (Jesus, in the form of the Angel of the Lord) and two angels appeared unto Abraham and Sarah. They confirmed God’s promise regarding Sarah bearing Abraham a son. The Lord also told Abraham about his plan for Sodom and Gomorrah:
“And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him and he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment: that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him” (Genesis 18:17-19).
Abraham bargained with God regarding the fate of the people of Sodom (including Lot). He asked the Lord if He would destroy the righteous as well as the wicked citizens. Abraham started his petition with God by asking if there were 50 righteous within the city, would He still destroy and not spare the place for the 50 righteous that are within. The Lord said if He found 50 righteous in Sodom, then He would spare the place for their sakes. Abraham bargained all the way down to 10 righteous people in the city, and the Lord agreed he would not destroy the city. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, 10 righteous people were not found and God kept his word. Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed.
However, a remnant was saved from the great tribulation of that time period. All the inhabitants of the cities died except 3, as God rained down fire and brimstone from heaven. Lot, his wife, and two daughters were led out of the city by two angels. They were warned to “make haste” and to escape into the mountains. They were also commanded to not look back towards the city. Lot’s wife did not obey and was turned into a pillar of salt. She probably lingered behind and was overcome by the ash and heat as she kept looking back towards her beloved city. Lot and his two daughters were the only survivors… the remnant of the great tribulation of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Some months later, the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, “And the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him” (Genesis 21:1-5). These events occurred in approximately 1851 BC.
The confirmed covenant between the Lord and Abraham had begun. Both parties kept their end of the bargain. Abraham lived to be a hundred and seventy-five years old. He then gave up the ghost and died in a good old age. The 3 patriarchs of the Jewish race are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 3:15). God chose Abraham out of the nations of the earth. He also chose Isaac over the firstborn son, Ishmael. God then chose Jacob (name later changed to Israel) over Esau, the oldest twin brother. Jacob’s 12 sons and their descendants would eventually become the nation of Israel…God’s chosen people.
There were 3 times Abraham was called the “friend of God”: 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8, and James 2:23. Here is how the writer of Hebrews describes Abraham’s faith: “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 has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
To be continued in part two.