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I structured the paper after the ten accounts given in Genesis. I know these are under some amount of controversy, because the names of the accounts do not seem to match the content. For example, the “account of Jacob” comes after most of Jacob’s story, and seems to cover the Joseph story. I’ve heard a couple of explanations for this: One, the statements of accounts refer back to what has happened in previous chapters. However, this does not work with certain accounts, notably the account of Noah, for which the statement of account comes before the story of Noah. Another possibility, and the one I favor, is that “account” should be translated “generations.” That is, the accounts cover not the story of the person himself, but the generations proceeding from that person: his “seed.” I utilized this view in the paper.
Also, I used God’s covenant name Yahweh whenever it seems important. This name had not yet been given to the Hebrews, but Moses uses it in writing Genesis, particularly when discussing the covenants—at least, in my Bible His name is translated LORD, which usually refers to Yahweh in the text. If I had had more time (my fault I know!), I would have made sure that all of the names of God were correct in context, including His other names (“El Shaddai”, “Elohim”, “Adonai”, etc.). Instead, I have tried to use Yahweh when dealing with a covenant situation, and have used God elsewhere. I feel it is important to use the name that God has given us to call him, since the Hebrew word for “god” (“el”) is a generic word even used occasionally for human judges.
Finally, I believe that the covenants instituted in Genesis form the foundation of our relationship with God even today. All other covenants in the Bible build on these, particularly the Abrahamic. Since this subject is so central to Genesis and vital to our theology, I have added a section at the end of the paper detailing the covenants, their stipulations, and their blessings after the chapter-by-chapter synopsis. This is why there is little detail about the covenants in the synopsis itself.
I wish that I had been able to write so much more! By the time I got finished editing it down to the right number of pages, all I had left was the bare bones of a synopsis, showing none of the richness and theological depth of Genesis. Nearly everything in Genesis is a type of something that will come later, and I wanted to expound on those; not to mention that I could write a paper this length just on the covenants! I hope that I have been able to leave enough interesting connections in there so this paper won’t be just another dry summary of the book.
“In the beginning…” The word ‘genesis’ itself means beginning, or origin, and the book Genesis tells us the origins of many things: The universe; our earth; plants, animals and humans; work; marriage and family; and sin. It also tells of the first covenants God made with man.
Genesis is, in many ways, the most indispensable book of the Bible, for it tells us why we need a Savior. Without the fall in chapter 3, the rest of the Bible is pointless. Genesis gives us the first Messianic prophecy, and tells of the first covenants God graciously initiated with fallen man.
Genesis One: Creation. The Bible tells us the origins of the earth and everything on it. There is no concept of evolution here, not even theistic evolution. God created the universe by speaking.
THE GENERATIONS OF THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH
Genesis Two: Spotlight on creation of man. An expansion of the sixth day of creation, chapter two tells the specifics of the creation of man. Adam’s need for a helper was not met by any of the animals created on previous days, so God created a woman from Adam’s rib and gives her to him as a wife. Adam named her Eve, thereby establishing his headship over her in the marriage relationship. The fundamentals of marriage are spelled out here: marriage partner as helper; a man and a woman; and the becoming of one flesh. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the most beautiful place on the earth He had created. They were allowed to eat from any tree in the garden, except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was no arbitrary command; rather, God intended all along for man to partake in the knowledge of good and evil, but on God’s timing—not man’s.
Genesis Three: The Fall. In chapter three, Satan took the form of a serpent and tempted Eve to disobey God by challenging God’s word (“hath God really said”), distorting God’s word (“you many not eat from any tree in the garden”), and lying (“you will not surely die”). Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation and sinned, eating the fruit of the tree. God came down to the garden and found the couple hiding behind the trees, ashamed of their nakedness. Upon their confession (albeit through blaming each other), God cursed them and kicked them out of the garden. Chapter three is possibly the most important chapter in all of Genesis. It is the great turning point in the history of the world. The creation goes from being pure and perfect to sinful and unrighteous in one action. Everything is tainted by sin, and humanity undergoes an immediate death of separation from God. However, in this same chapter—one of the most devastating in the Bible—God already begins to reveal his plan of salvation. A descendant of Adam and Eve’s would crush the head of the serpent, defeating sin—but the serpent would also strike his heel: Our first picture of Jesus’ defeat of death through his own death on the cross.
Genesis Four: Cain and Abel. The sin that began with two people resulting in individual curses spreads to the family. The farmer Cain and the shepherd Abel each offered sacrifices to God, but Cain’s was not received by God. Rather than change his attitude, Cain killed his brother Abel and pretended not to know anything about it when questioned by God. God knew better and banished Cain from Eden, but agreed to protect Cain from harm. Following this is an account of Cain’s offspring, down to the seventh generation Lamech, by which time the family line had degenerated into bullies and murderers.
THE GENERATIONS OF ADAM
Genesis Five: Genealogy from Adam to Noah. Tells the generations from Adam down to Noah.
THE GENERATIONS OF NOAH
Genesis Six-Genesis Nine: Noah and the Ark. Another devastating chapter in the history of mankind. The people of God began to intermarry with the people of the world, and evil increased on the earth to the point that “every inclination of the thoughts of [man’s] heart was only evil all the time.” God destroyed everything He’d created, saving only the one righteous man of the time: Noah. He told Noah that He was going to destroy the earth, to build an ark to save himself and his family, and that He would establish a covenant with Noah. Noah did as Yahweh commanded, taking his family and pairs of each kind of animal on the ark to save a remnant of the world. After the waters receeded, God established the Noahic covenant. However, the story ends on a sobering note: Noah’s son Ham dishonored his father by viewing his nakedness and earned his curse, a curse that would follow Ham’s descendent Canaan for generations.
THE GENERATIONS OF SHEM, HAM, AND JAPHETH
Genesis Ten: The genealogies of Shem, Ham and Japheth. Japheth was the ancestor of the Caucasian race. Ham was the father of Mizraim (that is, Egypt) and Canaan, among others. The cursed Ham’s legacy included all of the nations driven out by the Israelites in Joshua. Shem was the ancestor of Abraham, and the Hebrew nation.
Genesis Eleven: The Tower of Babel. The men of Shinar decided to build a tower up to heaven in order to make their names great and so that they would not be scattered throughout the earth. In reality, this was an attempt to supplant God; to make Him unnecessary, as all sins ultimately are. In a delightful bit of irony, Yahweh had to come down from heaven to even see this great tower they were building. He then confused their languages and scattered them throughout the earth.
THE GENERATIONS OF SHEM
A short genealogy from Shem to Abram at the end of chapter eleven. Actually, the account of Terah (next) begins at the very end of chapter eleven.
THE GENERATIONS OF TERAH
Terah was Abraham’s father, but is hardly mentioned—a good reason for the ‘accounts’ to be ‘generations’ or ‘seed.’ Abram, later renamed Abraham, is the first of the Hebrew Patriarchs—the fathers of the nation of Israel. The first covenant God made with His chosen people was made with Abraham. Abraham is cited in the New Testament as one of the most faithful people in the history of the world—however, not even he was perfect.
Genesis Twelve: The Call of Abram. Yahweh called out to Abram to leave his home and family in Ur and follow Him to another place. This was the first segment of the Abrahamic covenant. Abram followed God, but got sidetracked to Egypt to avoid a severe famine. He lied about his wife Sarai, telling Pharaoh that she was his sister, afraid that he would be killed so Pharaoh could marry her. This was true (Sarai was his half-sister), but still deceitful, as it gave Pharaoh a misleading picture of their relationship. Abram fell into this sin twice (cf. Gen. 20, also Gen. 26), and it both times it caused the other man to nearly take her as his wife, but God graciously saved Abram and Sarai from the hands of Pharaoh.
Genesis Thirteen-Fourteen: Abram and Lot. Abram and his nephew Lot traveled together up from Egypt and separated, taking possession of different sections of the land. Abram moved into Canaan, while Lot chose to live near Sodom—a poor choice, as will be seen later. After a war in Sodom, Lot was taken prisoner by foreign kings. Abram heard about it and took his personal army to rescue Lot and his family, meeing non-Hebrew priest-king Melchizadek king of Salem. This is the first instance of a specific Gentile God-fearer, and also one of the only priest-kings mentioned in the Bible. Jesus is described in Hebrews as a priest in the order of Melchizadek.
Genesis Fifteen: The Abrahamic Covenant. The expanded version of the Abrahamic covenant, including all of the promises previously made in 12.1-3, but with added stipulations, promises, and clarity.
Genesis Sixteen: Hagar and Ishmael. Abram tired of waiting for Yahweh to deliver the promised son and tried to speed up the process by taking Sarai’s maidservant Hagar as a concubine. Hagar had a son, Ishmael, but God made it very clear that this was not the promised child.
Genesis Seventeen: Circumcision. Yahweh again confirmed and expanded the covenant, changing Abram’s name from Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many”) and instituting the sign of circumcision as a sign of the covenant. Abraham was skeptical that God would grant him a son, but God was adamant and even told him that the child’s name would be Isaac. Abraham and all his household were circumcised.
Genesis Eighteen-Nineteen: Sarah/The Sodom Story. Three angels delivered the promise of a son once more, and Sarah overheard and laughed. The Lord rebuked her, telling her that nothing is impossible with God. The angels also warned Abraham that the righteous judgment of Sodom and Gommorah is imminent. Because of Lot, Abraham begged God to spare the cities if He could find ten righteous people there. However, God could not find even ten righteous people in all of Sodom and Gommorah. The angels warned Lot and convinced Lot to leave, but despite the warning to not look back, Lot’s wife could not resist the temptation to look at the destruction and was turned into a pillar of salt. Besides this, when the family got away, Lot’s daughters slept with Lot to gain heirs to the family, bearing Moab and Ammon, the fathers of two of the most wicked nations in the Ancient Near East.
Genesis Twenty: Abraham and Abimelech. Abraham and Sarah again moved from Canaan and end up in the land of Abimelech. Abraham again lied about Sarah’s relationship to him, and Abimelech attempted to take her as a wife. Yahweh appeared to Abimelech in a dream telling him not to do it, and Abimelech let Abraham and Sarah go, giving them land and flocks, for the fear of the Lord.
Genesis 21-24: Stories of Isaac. The promised son Isaac is finally born. When Isaac grew older, God commanded Abraham to do the unfathomable: Abraham must take his promised son Isaac, through whom all of the promises God made to Abraham would be fulfilled, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering to God. Abraham did not question God, but trusted Him, preparing Isaac as a sacrifice. But before he could kill him, the angel of the Lord appeared and told him to use a ram caught in the bushes instead. Abraham had full faith that God could raise Isaac even from the dead if necessary in order to keep His promise. However, Isaac was not the perfect sacrifice needed to propitiate mankind’s sin—that perfect sacrifice would not come along until Jesus Christ. After this important incident, Sarah died and Abraham bought a field in Canaan to bury her. When Isaac grew older, Abraham sent a servant back to Padan Aram to get a wife for him rather than let his son intermarry with the Canaanites. Intermarriage with the people in the Land was a continuous problem for the Israelites as they returned to conquer the land in Joshua and on through the period of the kings. The servant returned with Rebekah, a relative of Abraham’s.
Genesis Twenty-Five: Abraham’s Death & Jacob and Esau. Abraham died and left everything to Isaac, except some gifts he gave to his sons by his second wife Keturah.
THE GENERATIONS OF ISHMAEL
An account is given of Ishmael’s sons—interestingly, there are twelve tribes of Ishmael. They lived in hostility toward their brothers, as was prophesied by the angel of the Lord in chapter sixteen.
THE GENERATIONS OF ISAAC
Rebekah, like Sarah and many other women in the Bible, was barren until God’s intervention. She bore twins, Esau and Jacob. God told Sarah that the older would serve the younger, a motif that is carried through most of the Bible. Isaac favored the rough and ready Esau, while Rebekah loved the sensitive Jacob. Many of the problems in both Isaac’s family and later Jacob’s family stemmed from this favoritism and failure to parent faithfully. Here, Esau despised his birthright by selling it to Jacob for a pot of stew.
Genesis Twenty-Six: Isaac and Abimelech. Isaac and his family moved down to Philistia to escape a famine. On the way, God extended the covenant to Isaac. The king of the Philistines (though named Abimelech, not necessarily the same as in Chapter 20)), and Isaac lied to him exactly as his father Abraham had, telling him Rebekah was his sister—and the same thing happened. But the Lord was with Isaac and his crops and livestock increased greatly, to the point that Abimelech made him leave, afraid of Isaac’s power, and they make a treaty not to harm each other.
Genesis 27-29: Jacob’s Blessing & Jacob’s Ladder. The name ‘Jacob’ can mean ‘deceiver,’ and this definition comes to the forefront in chapter 27. With Rebekah’s help, Jacob deceived the blind Isaac into giving Jacob the blessing Isaac had meant for Esau. Now, despite the lying and deception going on here, all of this was according to God’s plan, for Jacob was meant by God to have the blessing all along. Isaac sent Jacob to Padan Aram to get a wife. On the way, Jacob went to sleep and dreamt of a ladder leading into heaven with Yahweh standing on top of it. Yahweh extended the covenant to Jacob. Jacob set up an alter, but made a conditional vow of his own: If Yahweh would be with him through his journey, then Yahweh would be his God. Jacob, despite being one of the patriarchs, is not such a pillar of faith that Abraham was and Joseph would turn out to be. Rather, he seems to take Yahweh almost for granted, and often refers to him as the God of Abraham and Isaac rather than his own God.
Genesis 29-31: Jacob Deals With Laban. Upon arriving in Padan Aram, Jacob was smitten by Rachel. He agreed to work for her father Laban for seven years in order to marry her. However, at the end of the seven years, Laban tricked Jacob and gave him Rachel’s sister Leah instead. Jacob had to work seven more years for Rachel. Between his two wives, and their two maidservants, Jacob had twelve sons and at least one daughter. These twelves sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob decided to get leave Padan Aram and convinced Laban to let him have all of the spotted and streaked livestock (which turned out to be most of the livestock born that year, through Yahweh’s intervention). After taking most of Laban’s flocks, Jacob left rather quickly. Laban heard of Jacob’s flight and pursued him. Rachel deceived Laban so that he did not find the gods she had stolen from him. Jacob apparently did not make it clear to his wives and family that they were to fear Yahweh (cf. Gen. 35). The whole family seemed to be growing up liars and tricksters, often more interested in their own gain than in what God had in store for them. However, as always happens with Yahweh God, His plan continues despite sinful men and families.
Genesis 32-33: Jacob Meets Esau and Wrestles With God. Understandably a little nervous about meeting his brother, Jacob sent messengers with many gifts ahead of his family to meet Esau. While waiting to hear from Esau, Jacob wrestled with a man all night, refusing to let him go until the man blessed him. The man, who Jacob identified as God in the next verse, gave Jacob the name Israel, which means ‘he struggles with God.’ This would turn out to be a very descriptive name not only of Jacob, but of the nation of Israel as well. All of Jacob’s worries about Esau’s reception of him turned out to be for naught, for Esau embraced him and greeted his family warmly. Jacob moved near Shechem.
Genesis Thirty-Four: Dinah and the Shechemites. Shechem, the prince of Shechem, fell in love with Jacob’s daughter Dinah and slept with her. Shechem intended to marry the girl, and even sent messengers with his intention to Jacob. Jacob, however, refused to take a leadership role in his family and kept quiet about the issue until his sons came home. They were enraged at the whole thing, rightfully, for intermarriage with the Canaanites was forbidden and unhealthy (see Joshua thru II Chronicles). They told Shechem that he would have to become circumcised if he wanted to marry her. Shechem agreed, and even got all of the men in the town of Shechem to join him. It is difficult to tell whether the Shechemites were being genuinely converted or merely grasping for Jacob’s great wealth. Anyway, it became a moot point, because Simeon and Levi killed all of the Shechemites while they were still in pain. This is the first disastrous consequence of Jacob’s lack of leadership in his family.
Genesis Thirty-Five: Bethel and Deaths of Isaac and Rachel. God told Jacob to return to Bethel, the site of Jacob’s ladder. Jacob finally told his family to give up their foreign gods and acknowledges that God had been with him all the time. God again renewed the covenant, telling Jacob that nations and kings would descend from him and that He would give the land promised to Abraham and Isaac to his descendents. After they left Bethel, Rachel gave birth to another son, but died in the process. Jacob named the boy Benjamin. Soon after, Isaac died as well.
THE GENERATIONS OF ESAU
Genesis 36: The Account of Esau. The genealogy of Esau and the kings of Edom, the land named after Esau.
THE GENERATIONS OF JACOB
Genesis 37: Joseph Sold into Slavery. Joseph, Rachel’s older son, was favored by Jacob, causing Joseph’s brothers to become jealous of him and hate him. Joseph’s dreams of his brothers bowing down to him someday did not help. The brothers plotted to kill Joseph. Reuben suggested that they throw him in a pit instead—planning to come back and rescue him later. Before he could, however, some Ishmaelite slave traders happened by and the brothers sold Joseph into slavery, stealing his beloved coat and wetting it with blood to make Jacob think that his favorite son had been killed by wild beasts. Again, all this might not have happened if it were not for Jacob’s poor parenting. On the other hand, it was again part of God’s plan. Not that this excuses Jacob—it merely proves how God can work through sinful man to make sure His purposes are accomplished.
Genesis 38: Judah and Tamar. This seems to be a parenthetical story stuck into the Joseph story, unless you consider it as a ‘seed of Jacob’ story. This is another example of what happened in Jacob’s family as a result of his lifestyle. Judah married a Canaanite woman (not a really good idea) and had three sons. His oldest son’s wife was Tamar. But the son sinned and Yahweh destroyed him. The Hebrew custom was for the second son to lie with the dead brother’s wife to produce an heir for the dead man. This would keep the estate intact. However, the second son also displeased Yahweh and was killed. Afraid for his third son, Judah tried to keep Tamar from marrying him. Tamar realized this and, dressed as a prostitute, tricked Judah into lying with her. She conceived, and exposed him by his seal and staff. Judah then recognized his sin in deceiving her.
Genesis 39-41: Joseph in Egypt. Joseph, a slave in Egypt, pleased his master Potiphar, becoming head of the household staff. But when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, he refused, prompting her to tell Potiphar that he had tried to rape her. Potiphar had him thrown into prison. Because Yahweh was with him, Joseph earned the respect of the prison guard, who allowed him freedom within the jail. Also in prison were Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker, who began having strange dreams. Joseph interpreted them and foretold that the cupbearer would soon return to Pharaoh’s favor, but that the baker would be executed. And it happened just as Joseph had said. Then Pharaoh began to have strange dreams. Pharaoh got Joseph out of prison to interpret the dreams: There would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh believed Joseph and made him second in command in Egypt.
Genesis 42-45: The Brothers Go to Egypt. This famine was all over the entire land, even Canaan. So Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain. They did not recognize Joseph, but he recognized them and questioned them about their family. He wanted to see Benjamin, and would keep Simeon in prison in Egypt until they returned with Benjamin. Joseph was understandably afraid for his only full brother’s life. After all, his brothers had nearly killed him; what would they do to his mother’s other son? However, Jacob refused to let Benjamin go, afraid that he would lose his other favorite son, and giving Simeon up for lost. But the famine went on, and the brothers had to purchase more grain. Taking Benjamin with them, they went back to Joseph. They bought their grain and started to return home, but Joseph had ordered his silver cup be put into Benjamin’s sack. He sent a messenger after them to look for the cup, saying that whoever was found to have it would become Joseph’s slave, the rest going free. The most common explanation for this event is that Joseph was testing his brothers to see if they had learned how to love each other. And they pass this test, as Judah offers his own life in exchange for Benjamin’s life. But could God also be testing Joseph as well? Perhaps Joseph’s conscious intent was simply to get Benjamin away from his brothers and get rid of the rest of them. He probably did not really want them around anyway. After all, they had tried to kill him. But God forced Joseph to forgive his brothers and show grace to them. Joseph, alone with his brothers, told them who he was. He then sent them back to Canaan with Pharaoh’s approval to bring Jacob and their families to Goshen. Jacob rejoiced that Joseph was still alive, and agreed to go to Egypt to see Joseph before he died.
Genesis 46-50: Jacob in Egypt. Jacob left for Egypt with God’s assurance of the covenant. Joseph went out to meet Jacob and move him into Goshen with Pharaoh’s blessings. Through Joseph’s management of the famine supplies, all of the Egyptians became slaves to the crown. But the Israelites grew in power. As Jacob neared death, he took Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons. However, he blessed them with the younger on the right—another case of the younger brother superceding the older in blessing and birthright. Then Jacob brought his sons together for his final blessing. The birthright blessing fell to the fourth son Judah because of the sins of his older brothers. Judah was promised that the scepter would not pass from his line, which it did not. Joseph was given the greatest of the blessings second to Judah. After this, Jacob told them to bury him in the family grave in Canaan, along with Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah and Leah; and he died. Joseph took Jacob’s body back to Canaan to be buried. Even the Egyptians mourned Jacob. After many years, Joseph knew he was about to die and told the sons of Israel to carry his bones out of Egypt when they left. Four hundred years later, when Israel left Egypt under Moses, they followed out his wishes. In the final verses of Genesis, the children of Israel are still in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus, set four hundred years later.
I would like to take a few paragraphs to look at the covenants specifically. It is through the covenants initiated by Yahweh that we know Him, what He expects of us, and what He has promised us. Therefore it is vitally important to know the covenants, particularly the original ones talked about in Genesis, as all later covenants are based on these. A covenant is an agreement, or a contract. Covenants instituted between men (e.g. Abraham and Abimelech) were nothing more than a contract between two parties. However, most Biblical covenants are initiated by Yahweh and kept by Yahweh. They involved commands (obey Yahweh, and recognize him as God) and promises. They were conditional in the sense that for man to receive the full benefit of God’s blessings, he would have to keep the covenant. But Yahweh in His graciousness does not abandon His promises even when man neglects his.
THE ADAMIC COVENANT
(Genesis 1.28-29; Genesis 2.16-17) The covenant made with Adam was simple: Man’s responsibilities were to be fruitful, fill the earth, and subdue it. Adam was allowed to eat any plant, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he ate from that tree, he would die. Adam broke this covenant, eating the forbidden fruit, and Adam (and the whole human race, as his descendants) died, in the sense of separation from God. Yahweh God would no longer come down and walk with man in the cool of the day. However, even after Adam broke the covenant, Yahweh did not break His part of it, giving the first glimpse of the coming salvation in His curse on the serpent.
THE NOAHIC COVENANT
(Genesis 9.1-17) After the flood, Yahweh renewed the Adamic covenant with creation, adding a new promise. The command to be fruitful, increase in number, and fill the earth was repeated. The death penalty was instituted as a reminder of the sanctity of human life due its reflection of the image of God. Yahweh’s promise to Noah (and all creation) was that He would never again destroy every living thing.
THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANTS
(Genesis 12.1-3, 6) The only command Abram received in the first covenant Yahweh instituted was simply to follow Yahweh to an unknown land. But Yahweh’s promises in this covenant would be renewed and revised throughout covenant history. Yahweh would make Abram into a great nation, bless him personally and make his name great. Abram would be a blessing to others. Yahweh would bless those he blessed and curse those he cursed. And Yahweh would use Abram to bless all peoples on the earth. Abram listened to Yahweh and followed Him. When he reached Shechem, Yahweh promised to give the land of the Canaanites to Abram’s offspring. All of these Land promises were fulfilled literally over 400 years later, in Joshua’s time.
(Genesis 15) Our closest look at the covenant ritual. Yahweh reminded Abram of what He had already done for him: brought him out of Ur and to the Land. Then Yahweh told Abram to bring certain animals and split them in half, arranging each half opposite the other. After dark, a blazing torch (a theophany) appeared and passed between the halves of the animals. This was a solemn oath taken by Yahweh: “May it be done to me as it has been done to these animals if I break this covenant.” In human covenants, both parties would have walked between the pieces. However, in this one, only Yahweh did. He knew that Abram would not be able to keep his half of the covenant perfectly. Yahweh took on Abram’s responsibilities as well as His own.
(Genesis 17) Circumcision was instituted as a sign of the separateness of Yahweh’s people. Yahweh renamed Abram (“exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of many”). He commanded Abraham to obey Him Yahweh promised that nations and kings would descend from Abraham, that He would be their God, and that they would inherit the Land of Canaan. This is really the first covenant in which Yahweh makes it fully clear that the covenant is conditional (cf. 17.9). Those who are refuse to be circumcised will be cut off from the people of God.
COVENANTS WITH ISAAC AND JACOB
Isaac and Jacob do not have their own covenants; rather, they have Abraham’s covenant extended to them.
(Genesis 26.2-6) Yahweh extended the covenant to Isaac, with all the same promises from the Abrahamic covenant.
(Genesis 28.12-15) Yahweh appeared to Jacob at the top of a ladder from earth to heaven. He identified himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac, and made the same promises to him as He had made to Abraham and Isaac.
(Genesis 35.11-13) Jacob returned to the Bethel, and God appeared to him and confirmed a covenant which was a mixture of the Adamic/Noahic covenants with the Abrahamic covenants. God renamed him Israel, commanded him to be fruitful, promised that a nation would descend from him, and that his descendants would receive the Land.
COVENANTS AFTER GENESIS
The Davidic Covenant, promising mostly an eternal throne, is important for its foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus Christ as King. The line of David did not last on earth, but Jesus will reign forever in heaven.
The New Covenant is given to all of us through the life, ministry,
and death of Jesus Christ. The covenant was for the first time extended
beyond the ethnic Jewish nation. (Gentiles had become followers of Yahweh
previous to the New Covenant, but only by becoming part of Israel.) Under
the New Covenant, we must put our trust in Christ as the only Savior (cf.
Acts 16.31); in return, He will take away our sins and replace them with
This paper originated as part of a term paper for Old Testament History, Missouri Baptist College, Fall, 2000.
©2000 by Jandy Stone