Did Elohim Deceive Abraham?
Biblical Prophecy Studies: The Abrahamic Covenant
Did Elohim Deceive Abraham?
It is not surprising that one of the central claims today is that the Abrahamic promises were not to be literally fulfilled.
Yet is this really so? Did Elohim, in whom is no guile, make clear to Abraham—and to us through the pages of Scripture—that the wonderful promises he was given would never see a tangible, literal, physical reality? Was Abraham given to understand that his covenant was simply a spiritual matter of the heart? Or did Elohim deceive Abraham?
Let us state at the outset that there were indeed some great spiritual benefits conferred through the Abrahamic covenant. In the latter part of Genesis 12:3, we read, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” These blessings included salvation by faith, as Paul and James made clear in the Berit Hadashah (New Testament): “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed Elohim, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:23) However, nowhere are we told that these family blessings would be limited to spiritual matters, nor are many of the other Abrahamic promises so easily spiritualized.
In the first part of Genesis 12:2, Abraham is told, “And I will make of thee a great nation…” It is popular today among Gospel preachers to claim that this “nation” is the church, and that the church is the New Covenant form of Old Covenant Israel. Since both are singular entities in opposite Testaments, New and Old, this may sound like a reasonable interpretation until parallel passages are compared. Abraham was further promised, “And I will make Nations of thee.” (Gen. 17:6) Since this is plural, was Elohim actually promising Abraham that “churches”—a multitude of incongruent Christian denominations—would be his great reward? We can see that the “nation = church” interpretation breaks down upon analysis. This also clarifies Matthew 21:43, which promised, “The kingdom of Elohim shall be…given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” No, that fruitful, believing nation which inherited the promise is not limited to the church!
The modernist approach to Abraham and the covenants is to assume that the Jewish people alone inherited them, and whatever prophecies do not fit the Jews are then spiritualized and given to the church. However, since quite a number of the distinct Abrahamic provisions cannot fairly be interpreted to fit today’s Jewish people, nearly all such promises are spiritualized instead. This has led to an incipient antagonism toward any literal interpretation of the Biblical covenants. Yet it is somewhat surprising that reasonable people could read the Divine promises and assume most of them to be spiritual with no literal basis in history. When Abraham was given the Divine call, “Get thee out of thy country…” (Gen. 12:1), he did not take it as a spiritual matter of the heart but a physical reality and promptly obeyed: “He went out, not knowing whither he went.” (Heb. 11:8) Was the Divine call literal, or did Elohim deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 15:5, Abraham was promised, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.” As the patriarch lifted his head and gazed heavenward at the seemingly endless number of stars shining forth, was he not justified in assuming that these brilliant points of light betokened an immense, nearly unlimited number of literal descendants? Or did Elohim deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 22:17, Abraham’s gaze turned earthward as he was promised, “…in multiplying I will multiply thy seed…as the sand which is upon the sea shore.” With seas and waterways covering over seventy percent of planet earth, that is a lot of shoreline! Would Abraham not have been justified in assuming that the vast sea shore and its sand was a material sign promising an exceedingly vast number of physical descendants? Or did Elohim deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 13:16, Abraham was promised that his descendants would be in number as “the dust of the earth.” To confine this number to the small and steadily declining contingent of Jews remaining in the world today would be an incredible overstatement bordering on falsehood. Did Elohim deceive Abraham?
In Genesis 17:6, yet another promise was given: “…kings shall come out of thee.” If our mainstream evangelicals are correct, and the promised nation is the church, are kings the church ministers? No, I am not being silly, but pointing out the silliness of entirely spiritualizing the promises to Abraham. Who, then, are these kings? Evangelical expositors cannot simply spiritualize this promise, nor can they affix it upon the Jewish people, who have no kings. Unless there are birthright nations in the world descended from Abraham, with kings or queens ruling over them, Abraham was deceived by Elohim! Kings rule on the thrones of nations; where are all of these nations today?
Again, these nations are not the New Testament church. Genesis 35:10-11 tells us of Jacob, “And Elohim said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And Elohim said unto him, I am El Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.” Abraham’s grandson Jacob was promised marvelous fruitfulness; the Divine majesty of this promise implies a relatively large number of large nations. Where are these “company of nations” representing literal Israel today?
Jacob was told in Genesis 35:12, “And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land.” Abraham was given literal land in Canaan, yet the “Living Bible” version of Hebrews 11:8-10 instead makes the promise into something heavenly. This popular paraphrase claims that Abraham was actually “waiting for God to bring him to that strong heavenly city.” Did Elohim deceive Abraham?
It should be clear at this point that the modern Jewish people alone are not in view in many of these Abrahamic prophecies. They are not bringing forth spiritual fruit, nor are they a literal company of nations. They have no kings or queens. Their population is small and declining; in contrast to the unconditional Abrahamic covenant promise of an increasing great number of descendants as the stars of heaven, as the dust of the earth, and as the sand on the seashore. Who then represents this people of promise?
The Berit Hadasha (New Testament) provides the answer. In Galatians 3:7, the Apostle Paul definitively states that, “They which are of faith (i.e., believers), THE SAME ARE THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM.” Again, the Apostle informs us, “But the promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his Seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Messiah…And if you are of Messiah, then you are seed of Abraham, and heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 29; The Scriptures Version) There is no question that believers in Messiah are “fellow heirs” (Rom. 8:17, Amplified Version), “joint heirs” (Rom. 8:17, KJV) with believing Israel, and many believers have Hebrew ancestry without even knowing it today! Israel is not cast out of the promises, but believers are “grafted in” (Rom. 11:19, 23) and have become a “joint participant” (Rom. 11:17) in the covenants of promise.
This teaching in the New Testament Scriptures is an “emplacement theology,” because Elohim is taking believing Israelites and believers called out of all nations, and joining them into one covenanted body, His ekklesia. May Yah show you your true place in His plan and purposes!