03.01.03 c. 2100 – 1850 B.C. Abraham
Abraham is the patriarch of the Israelite people who many centuries later became known as the Jews. With his father Terah, Abraham left his home in Ur, approximately 600 miles east of modern Israel, traveled around the northern edge of the Arabian Desert (as it was known in ancient times) to the small city of Salem (modern Jerusalem). They left their flourishing community at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to find a land where a nation could be established free of idolatry. It was in Salem where Abraham (then known as Abram) was welcomed by its king, Melchizedek (Gen. 14). God chose to make a covenant with Abraham and the Judeo-Christian faith began to take shape and promise.
There is no place in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) where Jesus was symbolized more than upon Mount Moriah in the story of Abraham and Isaac. God tested the faith of Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his only son Isaac (Heb. 11:17-19), when the young man was 25 years old. This was an event that looked into the future when Jesus, the only Son of God, would die for the sins of the world. Abraham took his only son high upon Mount Moriah, which in the first century was the sacrificial temple site now known as Mount Zion. Isaac was a precious and only child to Abraham, who at this time was in his old age. In obedience, but deep sorrow, he made the decision to obey God and make the sacrifice. Abraham is considered a “type and shadow” of God, as shown: Isaac was dearly beloved of Abraham just as Jesus was dearly beloved by God the Father. Isaac willingly honored His father and allowed himself to be bound and laid upon the altar. Likewise, Jesus willingly honored His Father and allowed Himself to be bound and crucified. Isaac carried the wood to die on the altar just as Jesus carried His cross to die for the sins of humanity.
Abraham had made the decision to sacrifice his most precious gift. Just when he slowly raised his knife for the impending death, a sacrificial ram appeared in a nearby bush and God told him to release his son. Isaac’s life was spared; his life was restored. The ram was sacrificed in Isaac’s place. Centuries later Jesus would die a horrific death, but He would be restored to life. Isaac was the means by which God demonstrated his love and means of provision to Abraham. In ancient times, children were the security of parents in their old age. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son was symbolic of God the Father demonstrating His love and means of provision to the Jewish people and all humanity through Jesus. Then God and Abraham entered into an everlasting covenant in which God would give him three important promises.
- Land (Deut. 28-29)
- Descendants (Davidic Covenant, 2 Sam. 7)
- Blessings (Mosaic Covenant, Ex. 19-20; New Covenant, Jer. 31)
The land promise was developed in the Palestinian Covenant; the promise of descendants was promised in the Davidic Covenant and includes Jesus (a Son of David); and the Blessings Covenant is the New Covenant, also known as the New Testament. The latter was the result of the completed work of Jesus at Calvary. The original Promised Land far exceeds the borders of modern Israel today.
The Old Testament prophets had spoken frequently about the fulfillment of God’s covenants given to Abraham, to David (Ps. 89:1-4; 2 Sam. 7:16), to Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:25-30), and to Moses (Deut. 28-30). By the first century, the Jewish people waited anxiously for the Messiah to come and fulfill these eternal and unconditional covenants.
Video Insert >
03.01.03.V The Importance of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants to First Century Jews. Dr. Darrell Bock discusses how the first century Jewish people viewed the importance of their two ancient covenants. (03:35)
Furthermore, God promised Abraham that among his descendants there would be a line of kings (Gen. 17:6, 16) who would come from the tribe of Judah and would rule over alien people, including the tribes of Moab and Edom. Yet when his only nephew Lot, left him, Abraham must have wondered, “How can I be the ruler of many nations if I cannot even rule my own house?” As he discovered, the call of God came with blessings as well as difficulties.
The first century Jews recognized a problem concerning the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant because the reigning Herod the Great was not a descendant of King David, but a descendant of the hated Edomites. Neither he nor any of his sons could fulfill the biblical requirement as the true king of the Jews. Hence, the tension was heightened during the days of Jesus for a messiah to come, depose the Herodian Dynasty, end Roman occupation, and fulfill the promises of the covenant. When Matthew wrote his gospel to Jews dispersed in other lands, he recorded a genealogy that traced Jesus to Abraham since he was the patriarch of the Jews. In essence, he made a connection to the covenant. Likewise, the writer of the book of Hebrews affirmed the promises God gave to Abraham (Heb. 6:13-18).
. Josephus, Antiquities 1.13.2.
. See Appendix 6 concerning Old Testament sacrifices and Jesus.
. In Biblical times, “Mount Zion” was one of three hills upon which was Jerusalem was located. The name became associated with the Temple site, but over time was applied to the hill top located in the western part of the Old City of modern Jerusalem.
. See “Type and shadow” in Appendix 26.
. Gen. 12:2-3; 15:17-21; 17:9; 1 Kg. 2:4; 3:8; Micah 7:20; Zech. 2:11; Rom. 9:4; 15:8; 1 Cor. 7:14; Gal. 3:19; Heb. 6:13, 18.
. The messianic title “Son of David” appears in the following three groups of passages in the gospels where it is always reflective of the Davidic Covenant: 1) In various healings by Jesus – Mt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; Mk. 10:47-48; Lk. 18:38-39. 2) In connection of the harassment the religious leaders gave Jesus – Mt. 22:42-43, 45; Mk. 12:35, 37; Lk. 20:41, 44, and 3) The praise the crowds gave Jesus at His entry into Jerusalem – Mt. 21:9, 15; Mk. 11:10. See Rogers, “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels,” Bibliotheca Sacra. Part 1 of 2. 158-78.
. Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology. 575-76; Rogers, “The Davidic Covenant in the Gospels.” 458-78.
. Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 13:14-16; 15:18; 17:6-8.
. Gen. 49:10; 2 Sam. 22:44-51; Num. 24:17-19; Ps. 2.