Bible Study Lesson 4 – Abraham

Abraham and the 3-Fold Promise
Average Time to Read: 5 minutes

Gen 10 & 11—table of nations (70 names mentioned in genealogies, symbolic of all the nations of the world)

In Chapter 12, the focus is on Abraham to show that he will minister to all the previously mentioned nations: from the beginning of the bible, there is the sense of Universal Mission

Gen 12– Abram goes to Egypt with Sarai and leaves enriched (a type of the people of Israel who later go to Egypt and leave with treasure…)

There are 3 promises made to Abram:

  • Land-almost the whole fertile crescent!
  • Great name (Shem)- includes descendants as well as kingship, dynasty
  • Universal blessing through his “seed”

These three promises will be ratified in covenants.

A promise is good, but a covenant is better; a promise can be broken, whereas a covenant only dissolves in the death of one of the parties. (i.e. Marriage)

Gen 13 & 14-Lot, Abram’s nephew, splits from Abram and takes residence in the Jordan valley.

However, at this time, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are there. Lot is captured and Abram rescues him out of duty for his kin. As a result of this, we see a rather odd story about Melchizedek, a “priest of God most high”, who offers a sacrifice of bread and wine, blesses Abram, and Abram gives him a tenth of everything

“Melchizedek” means “king of righteousness” and is therefore a title. He is also the king of “Salem” (meaning peace) which will later become “Jerusalem.”

This scene is rich in typology. A whole class could be done on him. The explanation for many types is found in the book of Hebrews, chapter 7.

In brief:

  • Melchizedek has no stated genealogy, nor do we know how old he was. Therefore, according to the Scriptures, he “has no beginning or end”—he is eternal and thus so is his priesthood! This is why we say Christ is “a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek
  • His priesthood is better than the Levitical priesthood because, following the logic of the book of Hebrews, Levi “offered tithes” to Melchizedek symbolically because he was present “in seed form” when Abram gave a tithe to Melchizedek—you only give tithes to someone greater than yourself.
  • Melchizedek is also greater than Abram because he blesses Abram.
  • Melchizedek offered a sacrifice of bread and wine-prefiguring the Todah sacrifice of King David and later the Eucharist in the New Covenant.

A Fun Aside:

The Jews ascribed to a Kinsman-Redeemer God that fulfilled the Middle-Eastern obligation of a family member as any other male relative in the nomadic cultures of that day would. The obligation of the male relative was three-fold: a. Seek revenge on a murderer of a family member (think “The Sopranos/Mafia”), b. Assure that childless widows within the family are left with at least one offspring to carry on the family line (think “obligation to marry/lie with your brother’s widow until she becomes pregnant”…why? This was the social security program of the BC era), c. raise a ransom to buy a relative out of slaver’s debt or kidnapping. In striking Israel’s enemies dead, through miraculous births involving old or barren women, and in leading the slaves out of Egypt, God showed the Jews, via the accepted culture of the day that He wanted to be a member of the family (head of …actually)

Gen 15- 1st Covenant: Promise of Land ratified

  • To “make a covenant” in Hebrew is to “cut a covenant.” This phrase refers to the ritual re-enactment mentioned in this chapter.
  • invokes a curse of death-“may I be like this animal”—similar to “cross my heart and hope to die”-actual meaning is self-curse if you don’t fulfil your promise—called a Drohritus (curse ritual) in theological language.
  • your word must be backed up with your life…This is similar to the structure of the Trinity-God gives us His Word, backs it up with His Spirit (life).
  • The appearance of the torch and pot is a theophany or divine manifestation, like the burning bush or the fiery mountain of Sinai.
  • God promises the whole fertile crescent to Abraham and his decendants (including Ishmaelites…)

Gen 16- The Fall of Abraham, sleeping with Egyptian slave Hagar—Ancient reproductive technology  “There is nothing new under the sun”

  • Parallel with 2 previous falls (Adam, Noah) having sexual overtones (nakedness, shame) -departs from God’s plan for marriage and problems result (Ishmaelites and Israelites are bitter enemies to this day!)
  • Marriage is an icon of the divine life; a natural sign of the Trinity written into creation. *False religious systems have skewed view of Marriage
  • Since there is a fall, the covenant needs a renewal!

Gen 17- 2nd Covenant: promise of Great Name ratified -“Walk before me and be blameless”—implicit rebuke of act with Hagar? -renewal of 1st covenant, but with changes:

  • nations and kings shall come from you (great name)
  • name change-Abram to Abraham (exalted father to father of many nations—a sign of the “great name” to come), Sarai to Sarah (princess to queen)
  • Isaac, not Ishmael will be the bearer of covenant blessing
  • Covenant sign of circumcision—a ritual rebuke of the sexual activity surrounding the fall of Abraham, consecrating the sexual organ to the will of God.

Gen 18-20- Events leading to Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as Lot’s daughters as parallel with Abraham and Noah’s fall

  • Church Fathers saw “3 visitors” as a type of the Trinity—Abraham recognizes it because he addresses them as “my Lord” (singular). Lot, however, says “my lords.”
  • The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are many: Homosexuality, inhospitality/abuse of strangers, murder, etc.—their stated intention in this story is abuse/rape of the visitors—a gross violation of hospitality!
  • After the destruction of the city, Lot and his daughters live in the mountains. The daughters get him drunk and become pregnant by their father—again we see incest resulting in offspring who are bitter enemies of Israel! (Moabites & Ammonites)

Gen 21-Birth of Isaac, Ishmael banished

Gen 22-Covenant of Universal Blessing

Isaac as a type of Christ:

  • Isaac carrying the wood for his own sacrifice
  • Only Son (repeated 3 times)àJn 3:16 “God so loved the world…”, Baptism of Jesus
  • Submitted to the Father
  • God provided the sacrifice, a lamb
  • On Mt. Moriah, the site of the Temple-in vicinity of Calvary.

*Difference is that Jesus actually goes through with the sacrifice, becomes the lamb!

*Jews saw sacrifice of animals as a re-presentation of the sacrifice of Isaac—tie to Eucharist as re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary

*The covenant here is Unconditional, unlike ch. 17 which requires circumcision.

“By your seed shall all the nations of the Earth be blessed”—points to future fulfillment in Christ

Extra tidbits:

These 3 covenants are fulfilled with 3 later covenants

  • Mosaic- given rights to the promised land
  • Davidic- 2 sam. 7: David on Mt. Zion receives promise of eternal kingship-great name
  • Eucharistic- Promise of universal blessing fulfilled through the Spirit being poured out from the sacrifice of the Cross (symbolized by the water from the side of Christ—blood is the sacraments). This has tangible manifestations in the people at Pentecost

Jeremiah 31:31ff- only instance of “new covenant” in the old testament—link with Luke 22

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