Day 4: Genesis 12-16; Enter Abraham and the Covenant

If we could divide the book of Genesis up into parts, we would then consider chapter 12 to be the second part of the book of Genesis.  It could even be the third if you ask some.  N.T. Wright divides the Bible, or rather redemptive history into a “5 Act Play.”  You can read more about this on the blog “Dead Heroes Don’t Save“.  He (N.T. Wright) outlines it like this:

Act 1: Creation

Act 2: Fall

Act 3: Israel

Act 4: Jesus

Act 5: Church

(Act 6: Consummation, End of Time, God’s eternal Kingdom)??

In any case, this would be the the beginning of Act 3, the beginning of God’s working through the nation of Israel to bring about the redemption and restoration of the entire world through Jesus Christ, the true answer to the promise of God spoken in Genesis 12:3 ” in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Did anyone notice in the story of Genesis 14 the mention of Melchizedek?  He is somewhat of a mystery in the Bible, mentioned only a handful of times.  Yet he plays a very important role here, being “priest of God most high” and blessing Abram.  Did you notice too what he brought out when he blessed Abram?  Bread and wine.  This is largely considered the first time these two elements would be mentioned together.  In literature this is called foreshadowing… what do you suppose this small feast of blessing points forward towards?

Reading the beginning stories of Abraham, or Abram as he is called right now, it is interesting to see the dichotomy between Abram’s lack of faith and trust in God and the times in which he believes God.  He goes down to Egypt and pawns his wife off as his sister to save his own life.  This after being promised that he would be made into a great nation.  One would think that God would be preserving his life in order to fulfill this promise.  Yet Abram takes matters into his own hands.

Later on, Abram questions God and is again promised the same thing, and Abram believes God and we are told that it is “counted it to him as righteousness.”  Keep this in the back of your mind as you continue reading.  It must be genetic or something because it happens to Abram again, and his sons and their sons, and the whole nation of Israel time and time again.

Genesis 15 is the second time we see a formalizing of the covenant relationship between God and humanity.  We see it somewhat informally with Adam & Eve.  This is renewed and expanded upon with the blessing and promise to Noah after the flood.  This is the first time however, that this covenant relationship is made specifically in relation to a certain people or nation.  God has chosen Abram and his decedents who would become the nation of Israel to be the instrument through which God would work to bring about redemption and restoration.  Abram’s vision of the smoking firepot, the blazing torch, and the God’s passing through the two halves of the animals is a sign of the reality and truth of the covenant.  The vision that Abram has is very symbolic.  Darkness, smoke, fire, and movement between the animal halves all represent things in the vision.  What do you suppose they are?

22 Responses to “Day 4: Genesis 12-16; Enter Abraham and the Covenant”

  1. lgenzink says:

    I’m curious about the symbolism you mentioned…can you explain? (“Darkness, smoke, fire, and movement between the animal halves all represent things in the vision.”) Thanks.

    • Jon says:

      I’d love too! Thanks for the question! Biblical imagery can often be confusing because the images do not often have a 1-to-1 correlation. When we see the image of a dove, it does not always mean that it is representing the Holy Spirit. It could mean peace and sometimes refers to purity or gentleness. There is also a cultural disconnect when it comes to Biblical imagery. Abraham would have likely understood most of what he saw in the vision, and the Hebrew people looking back on this story would have likely understood it even more. In our day and age, we think more concretely. Fire is fire, smoke is smoke. If the pot is on fire, we’ve cooked it a bit too long… That is not necessarily the case here.

      Fire and smoke are two images that are often associated with God. Fire often refers to several of the characteristics of God: Presence, Power, Holiness, and often purifying. Remember the stories of the burning bush, Elijah, and Pentecost… all have examples of fire as signifying some characteristic of God. Smoke often accompanies fire. It can signify a cloud or barrier between God and those around Him. Remember when Israel is camped at Mount Sinai and the presence of God resets on the mountain? The mountain is covered in Smoke and fire.

      Darkness, oddly enough, is also a symbol of the presence of God. We often think of light as being the symbol of God’s glory, but the Hebrew people would have seen a deep and “dreadful” darkness as a symbol of God’s presence. Remember in Genesis 1? Where is God before the world began? God dwells in the darkness. We’ll talk about it more later in Exodus, but in the Tabernacle, where does God dwell? The Holy of Holies… A square room covered on all sides with but one piece in it: The Ark of the Covenant which is also the throne of God. The room is sealed, it is completely dark. This is where the presence of God dwells. More to come on this!!

      The movement between the two animal halves is a bit more difficult. I’m not entirely sure about this one, but I think it has to do with taking a covenant oath. In those time, there were many symbols used to show that a covenant was made. One of those signs would be the movement of the two covenant makers in between the two pieces of a slaughtered animal. Here though, we only see God as doing the moving. This is very symbolic because it shows that it is God who is making the promises, God who is taking the initiative, and God who will do the work to make it happen… referring mostly to the blessing of the whole world through Abraham which could only happen through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection.

      Hope this helps!

      • lgenzink says:

        Wow! Thanks so much! Yes, it does help, and I will make notes about this in my Bible so I can remember the symbolism in the future.

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  3. […] Passover.  We’ve talked a little bit about feasts.  If you don’t remember, it was on January 4 with the feast that Melchizedek gave when Abraham rescued Lot.  That was a foreshadowing of the […]

  4. […] people, and that is via a Covenantal relationship.  We saw the beginning so of this with Abraham, the vision of the smoking fire-pot, and through Isaac, Jacob, and again through Moses.  All of these have been times when God has […]

  5. […] back in Genesis 15, God is promising Abraham the land of Canaan, but is not going to deliver on this promise until now?  This is because, as […]

  6. […] too is a sign that it is indeed God that is present.  Remember all the way back to God’s covenant with Abraham.  The first time we read about this was on Day 4 of our journey through the Bible.  The vision […]

  7. […] to be a nation that was to represent God to the rest of the world.  Apart from the narrative of God’s choosing Abraham and calling him out of the land of Ur in Genesis 12, the Exodus was really the defining moment in […]

  8. […] PSALM 110 is a royal psalm written by David that is both prophetic and Messianic in nature.  This Psalm is quoted in Hebrews 5-7 as the writer portrays Jesus as the “great high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” […]

  9. […] towards Abraham and the many times that the covenant was reaffirmed, we see the emphasis on the covenantal relationship that defines Israel, all which begins with God as well.  We see this with Jacob, Joseph, […]

  10. […] to its foundation.  The God of Heaven had chosen this people to be His people since the time of Abraham their forefather.  All through that time, even in their rebellion and sinfulness, God had always been their for […]

  11. […]  We have seen this covenant develop from the simplicity of God’s promise to Adam, to Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.  Here, now as the people of Israel are returning from their exile, the judgment […]

  12. […] and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land […]

  13. […] Testament.  Remember yesterday Paul was talking about the New Covenant and its superiority to the Old Covenant, yet we see here that Paul is drawing from the very basis of the Old Covenant as He talks about how […]

  14. […] like too, Paul’s explanation of the relationship between the law and the covenant of Abraham.  Many people had and have come to the belief that somehow the giving of the law nullified the […]

  15. […] faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he […]

  16. […] meant for bad, God had always meant for good, for the blessing of the whole world as His original covenant with Abraham […]

  17. […] in the Bible, showing up only a couple times throughout all of Scripture.  He shows up in Genesis 14 and blesses Abraham after he returns from battle.  In return, Abraham gives 10% of everything he […]

  18. […] full and total reign over all things.  The oath that is sworn here is reflective of the covenant promise that God made with His people, starting with Abraham, and continuing throughout the Old Testament. […]

  19. […] Genesis 15:6 – Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. […]

  20. […] God has chosen to work through in the Bible have an experience with an angelic messenger.  Abraham, Gideon, and Hezekiah are just a few.  Like those before him, Zechariah asks for a sign, […]

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