Published: 26 July 2021

Father Abraham Had Many Sons

Leaving home.

After describing the incident at the city of Babel, which revealed the origins of the world’s nations and cultures, Genesis resumes the genealogy of Shem and introduces us to Abraham. This short list of Shem’s descendants links the world of primeval history recorded in the first eleven chapters of Genesis to a man named Abram. Later on, God will rename him Abraham (Gen 17:5).

By some reckonings, Abraham was born as early as 2150 BC and died in 1975 BC. This is too early to fit the biblical narrative. Using information from the Bible, we can calculate that Abraham was born in 1951 BC and died in 1776 BC. 

When did Abraham live?

Abraham is probably the first person in the Bible whom we can date with confidence. Galatians 3:16-17 says that 430 years passed between the promise God made to Abraham and the giving of the law. God gave the law on Mount Sinai just a few months after the exodus from Egypt, but when was the exodus? 

1 Kings 6:1 says 479 years elapsed between the exodus and King Solomon beginning construction of the temple in Jerusalem (the construction began in the 480th year). There is scholarly consensus that the construction of the first temple began in 967 BC. Putting this all together we get this:

Dating Abraham.

Based on these dates, we can determine the approximate years of Abraham’s birth and death. Abraham was 75 years old when God made the promise to him (Gen 12:4) so that would place his birth in 1951 BC. We know that he lived a total of 175 years (Gen 25:7), therefore he would have died in 1776 BC.

What did God promise to Abraham?

“1 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.”” (Gen. 12:1–3 ESV) 

7“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” (Gen. 12:7 ESV)

God made three promises to Abraham.

  1. He would make a great nation of Abraham’s offspring (v. 2)
  2. He would bless all the world through Abraham’s offspring.  (v. 3)
  3. He would give land to Abraham’s offspring (v. 7)

These were big, big promises. First of all, Abraham’s wife Sarai (who God will later rename Sarah – Gen 17:15) was barren and could not have children (Gen 11:30). How would God make Abraham’s offspring so numerous that they would become a great nation if his wife couldn’t conceive?

God also promised Abraham that he would give his offspring the land he was traveling to as a possession. This is also a big promise since he had no offspring and saw no means by which he and Sarah could ever have any.

The promise that God would bless all the nations of the Earth through Abraham and his offspring cannot be emphasized enough. This is huge and the author of Genesis does not draw a great deal of attention to it here. However, Genesis will repeat it several times in the book so that even a casual reader should not miss it. 

What’s so important about the promises?

We must not miss the importance of this promise! The author of Genesis is communicating that it is through Abraham’s offspring that God will bring about the “Seed” that He in Gen 3:15 who would defeat the serpent.

“[T]he Old Testament itself quite clearly intends us to see Israel’s history not as an end in itself or for the sake of Israel alone, but rather for the sake of the rest of the nations of humanity.

Genesis 1–11 is entirely occupied with humanity as a whole, the world of all nations, and with the apparently insoluble problem of their corporate evil. So the story of Israel, which begins at chapter 12, is actually God’s answer to the problem of humanity. All God’s dealings with Israel in particular are to be seen as the pursuit of God’s unfinished business with all nations. Old Testament Israel existed for the sake of all nations.”[1]Wright, Christopher J. H.. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set) (p. 46). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

Pivotal moment in human history

God’s promise to bless the nations through Abraham’s descendants is the reason behind, and focus of, everything else in the remainder of the Bible! As Genesis will go on to tell us, Abraham became the father of all the Hebrews (also known as Jews). 

The fulfillment of the promise to bless the nations would not come to pass for almost 1900 years. The blessing came in the form of a Jewish baby boy named Jesus. Jesus was more than just a Jewish offspring of Abraham. Jesus was Divine; He was God who took human form. Jesus is the one who blessed the entire world by crushing the head of the serpent and delivering us from the power of sin and death.  

God created the nation of Israel

How many ethnic groups know who their very first ancestor was? The Jewish people know who their earliest ancestor was – he was Abraham. The Jewish people exist today because God performed a miracle. He made it possible for Sarah who was both barren and advanced in age to conceive and have a child. 

“Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (Heb. 11:12 ESV)

The Jewish people exist today because Abraham had trust in God. God’s mission since the day Adam and Eve sinned was to repair the broken relationship between Himself and humanity. God created the Jewish people so that He could work through them to introduce Jesus to the world. 

As a result of what Jesus accomplished on our behalf, God will restore the conditions of the garden of Eden. Once again we will walk with God in the garden. God honored the man named Abraham by choosing his family to bring about this blessing that all of God’s people will one day enjoy. 

References

References
1 Wright, Christopher J. H.. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set) (p. 46). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.