About Jesus Steve Sweetman
The Abrahamic Covenant And Prophetic History
is an important man in history.
Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all claim close association with
I say about Abraham, and especially God's promises spoken to him, may be
a bit technical for some people, but it's important if you want to
understand the message of both the Old and New Testament.
God's promises to Abraham are first seen in Genesis 12, then
thread their way to the last chapter of Revelation.
God promised Abraham is commonly known as the "Abrahamic
When properly understood, these promises are the basis to a good
understanding of the Bible, and especially
to Israel's place in Biblical prophecy.
You may or may not agree with my position.
That's your prerogative.
The debate over this issue has been raging a long time and is
presently in the forefront of debates again.
I certainly won't end the debate.
So as the apostle Paul said, "consider what I say and the
Lord give you the understanding in all things (2 Timothy 2:7)."
The term "Replacement Theology" is important to the discussion concerning the "Abrahamic Covenant". Replacement Theology teaches that all the promises that God spoke to Abraham, and subsequently to Israel, and confirmed throughout the Old Testament, are no longer promised to Israel. They are promised to the church. Thus, the church has replaced Israel in the prophetic history of the Bible. All the prophetic promises directed towards Israel in the Old Testament are seen as being directed towards the church.
Replacement Theologians thus understand the Old Testament prophecies in a way that those Israelis living during the Old Testament wouldn't have understood them.
be clear, I do not believe in Replacement Theology, and will show you
why in the following pages.
In my opinion, the whole debate over
Did God Promise Abraham?
quote what God promised Abraham from the NIV.
Reading these passages will refresh your memory.
I begin, I need to say a couple of things.
Paul, in Galatians 3:16 speaks of
"promises" God made to Abraham.
It's important to know that God promised Abraham more than one
thing, and on more than one occasion. Paul
addresses many of these promises separately throughout his writings, and
so should we. We tend to
lump them all together into some sloppy soupy mix that is hard to
notice the word "offspring" that appears in certain verses in
the NIV. The KJV uses the
word "seed" instead of "offspring".
Both words mean the same thing in the context that they are used.
Paul builds a major argument on the fact that the word
"seed" is singular and not plural.
For this reason I've placed the word "seed" in brackets
after each time the word "offspring" occurs.
also notice the word "descendents", that's plural, not
singular. If you consider
what Paul says, the word "descendents" differs in meaning from
the words "offspring" or "seed" which are singular.
This has led to much confusion.
I'll talk about that later.
are the promises God made to Abraham in the order in which they occur in
will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make
your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will
curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
(Genesis 12:2 and 3)
your offspring (seed) I will give this land." (Genesis 12:7)
look north to south, and east to west.
All the land you see will be given to you and your offspring
(seed) forever." (Genesis 13:14 and 15)
man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be
your heir … Look up at the
heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them … So shall
your offspring (seed) be ... I
am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this
land and take possession of it." (Genesis 15:4 to 8).
your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they
will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.
But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards
they will come out with great possessions … you
however will go to your fathers in peace …" (Genesis 15:13 and
that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham and said, 'to your
descendents I will give this land. From the
will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase
your numbers … As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be
the father of many nations. No
longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have
made you a father of many nations. I
will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you and kings will
come from you. I will
establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and
your descendents after you for the generations to come, to be your God
and the God of your descendants after you.
said … your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him
Isaac. I will establish my
covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendents after
him … my covenant I will establish with Isaac …" (Genesis 17:19
will surely return to you this time next year, and your wife Sarah will
have a son." (Genesis 18:10, also in verse 14)
will surely become a great and powerful nation and all nations of the
earth will be blessed through him …" (Genesis 17:17 and 18)
it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." (Genesis
will surely bless you and make your descendents as numerous as the stars
in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.
Your descendents will take possession of the cities of their
enemies, and through your offspring (seed) all nations on the earth will
be blessed …" (Genesis 21:17 and 18)
they are. Hopefully I can
clarify any confusion.
Up The Promises
count 13 main promises God made to Abraham. There's
a few more minor ones. I've
placed them in three categories.
1 - Personal promises
- that it would be through Isaac that his offspring or
- that he'd be a great nation (Genesis 12:2 and 3)
- that he'd be the father of many nations, not just
- that these promises would be forever and that He'd
– that he'd die in peace at an old age (Genesis 15:15)
2 - Promises relating to Abraham's descendents
- that the number of his descendents would be as
- that his descendents would inherit a specific piece of
- that his descendents would be freed from four
- that his descendents would possess the cities
3 - Promises relating to Abraham's offspring or seed
- a certain piece of land to Abraham's offspring that
- that his offspring would number as many as the
- that all nations of the earth would be blessed
you go, specific promises in three categories. You will notice that
promises relating to land, numbers, and greatness are promised to both
Abraham's descendents and also to his offspring.
This is important because Paul teaches us that descendents are
not the same as offspring. I'll
sum up, God promised Abraham certain things relating to personal issues,
descendents issues, and offspring or seed issues.
– The Seed
is an important point that I have to address before I go any farther.
I have just said that there are 3 recipients to the Abrahamic
I say this based on the NIV Bible.
If you read the KJV Bible, you will note that there are only two
recipients to the Abrahamic Covenant.
They are Abraham and his Seed.
This is an important issue because this is where our present day
problem lies, or so I believe.
will explain the 2 major theological issues that concern the Abrahamic
One say there are 2 recipients of the covenant while the other
states there are 3 recipients.
When I come to explaining Galatians 3:15 to 18 where Paul says
there are 2 recipients of the covenant, this becomes an issue.
Hebrew word "zera" is the word in the Genesis account that is
translated as "seed", or as "descendents" in the
KJV only translates "zera" as "seed".
It does not translate "zera" as "descendents
anywhere in the Genesis account.
Why would this be so.
of all, it is clear the NIV translators translated "zera" in
some places as "seed" (singular) and in other places as
"descendents" (plural) because of the context.
Simply put, they felt the context made it clear that
"zera" should be singular in certain places and plural in
other places, and when it was plural, that would refer to Israel. When
it was singular, as we will see later in Galatians 3:15 to 18 it is
Some might suggest that they NIV translators had a theological
bias, and I cannot discount that, but I am far from convinced that is
suggest that the KJV translators had a bias and did not translate
"zera" as "descendents" because that would have
as having prophetic and historic significance right up until the end of
this age, and most theologians back then did not believe that.
There was very much an anti-Israel bias throughout church
depending on what translation of the Bible you prefer, might well
determine what theological position you will hold to.
do want to make this note.
Even though Paul stresses the point that the word
"seed" is singular in Galatians 3:16, it is clear that he sees
the same word "seed" as plural in Galatians 3:29.
This then shows us that there were in fact 3 recipients of the
So, in my thinking, the NIV translators have done a better job at
translating "zera" into English than the KJV translators did.