“Now the Lord said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your kindred and from you father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (Genesis 12:1-3).
This promise is repeated in slightly different words throughout the book of Genesis (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:13-21; 17:1-11, 18-21; 22:15-18; 26:2-5; 28:13-15). This promise was made to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:13-21; 17:1-11, 18-21; 22:15-18), to Isaac (Genesis 26:25), and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15).
This promise was a prominent reference in the message of the New Covenant (Acts 3:25-26; 13:32-33a; 26:6; Romans 4:13, 16; 9:6-9; Galatians 3:16; 4:28; Ephesians 3:6; Hebrews 6:13-18; 11:8-13). Peter referred to it (Acts 3:25-26), as did Paul (Acts 13:32-33a; 26:6; Romans 4:13, 16; 9:6-9; Galatians 3:16; 4:28; Ephesians 3:6), and the writer of Hebrews (Hebrews 6:13-18; 11:8-13).
Let’s notice …
1. Get out of your country.
Abram originally was called from Ur (Acts 7:1-3). Ur’s remains are located in what is today southern Iraq. In Abram’s day, Ur was a place filled with idolatry. “Much light has been shed on the worship and religious life of Abram’s day. Nanna was the moon-god worshipped there. The temple, Ziggurat, and other buildings used in connection with the worship of this pagan deity have been found. Evidence of worship in the homes of that day are revealed by idols found in private niches in the home walls” (Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary, p. 876). Human sacrifices occurred in this city (ISBE Vol. 4, p. 3039).
Abram got a second call. This time he was to leave Haran (Genesis 12:1-3). Haran was located in what is now south-eastern Turkey. Jack Lewis has pointed out that Haran “was another center of Moon-worship” (Archaeology and the Bible, p. 18). “It was a seat of the worship of Sin, the moon-god, from very ancient times” (ISBE Vol. 2, p. 1337).
2. And from your kindred.
Abraham’s own father was involved in idol worship (Joshua 24:2). Wayne Jackson has written “it is interesting to note that the name of Abraham’s father, Terah (Genesis 11:26) derives from a Hebrew term which is usually connected with the moon-god” (Biblical Studies in Light of Archaeology, p. 10). Others in Abraham’s family may also have been idolaters.
3. To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation.
God did not initially specify the land. We’re told that Abraham “obeyed when he was called … And went out not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). Abraham and Sarah never personally received the land/nation. They died “in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off” (Hebrews 11:13). They had their eyes on an even greater land (Hebrews 11:10, 16). The land/nation promise would be for Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 15:15-22). Abraham’s told, “you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here… To your descendants I have given this land” (Genesis 15:15-16, 18).
The borders of the land finally were specified (Genesis 15:18; Numbers 34:1-15). God fulfilled this, keeping His promise (Joshua 21:43, 45; 23:14; I Kings 4:21 cf. Genesis 15:18; Nehemiah 9:23-24). NOTE: Their keeping this land was conditional (Numbers 33:55-56; cf. Exodus 23:31-33; Deuteronomy 7:2; Psalm 106:34, etc. / Deuteronomy 28:15-68, esp. v. 63). They did not keep the conditions which God gave them (Judges 1:27-36; Psalm 106:34; etc). In time, they would be in the same position as the Canaanites (Genesis 15:16; cf. Matthew 23:32; 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16).
4. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.
The point of these words is found in the words God told Jacob “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (Genesis 28:15). God was protecting Israel. He had plans to bring blessing to the world through Israel. God told Israel “I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For my angel will go before you” (Exodus 23:22-23). Balaam understood this point (Numbers 24:9b).
5. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
This blessing was to come through Abraham. It was to come through his own body (Genesis 15:4), and through Sarah (Genesis 17:19). It was 25 years from the promise made in Haran till the birth of Isaac (Genesis 12:4; cf. 21:25).
The blessing was for “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3). Later, Abraham told that it is for “all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 22:18). This finds its fulfillment is Jesus. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say ‘And to seeds’, as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16). It has to do with the forgiveness of sins which come through Jesus. “‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ … God having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:25-26).
Additional consideration: Why did God choose to work His plan through Abraham? It had to do with the character of Abraham. The answer is found in the words “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him” (Genesis 18:19) and again “because you hast obeyed have obeyed My voice” (Genesis 22:18).