Abraham’s Inheritance “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8, NASB).
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In ancient times, an inheritance was very important. For example, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, demanded that Hagar and her young child be sent away because Sarah was concerned about who would inherit Abraham’s wealth. Genesis 25:5 states that even after taking another wife, Keturah, who bore him six more sons, Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac. His other sons received gifts from Abraham while he was alive, but Isaac exclusively inherited his promises and wealth when Abraham died.
God Called Abraham
God called Abram to leave his family and community and come away to a foreign land. Genesis 11:31 reveals that Terah took his son Abram, Sarah, and Lot out of Ur of the Chaldeans towards the land of Canaan and settled in a place called Haran. At Haran God came to Abram and told him to go and see the land that God would show him. Genesis 12:5 reveals that after Terah died in Haran, Abram took his wife and his nephew Lot along with all their possessions and the people in their household and journeyed to Canaan. They traveled throughout it surveying the land Jehovah had picked out for him. They obtained a good sense of the land including experiencing a famine so harsh that they had to move further south to Egypt to wait it out.
Inheritance of the Land
While they journeyed through Canaan, God confirmed to Abram that He would give this land to Abram’s descendants (Genesis 12:7). In other words, this land would be Abram’s inheritance. The Hebrew word “give” (Strongs H5414) conveys the authority to grant ownership. However, the ownership is addressed to Abram’s “descendants,” more like an inheritance or heritage. At the time of this declaration, verse 6 indicates that the Canaanite was still in the land. While others may have laid claim to the land at the time, the one with the true authority to grant ownership was Jehovah.
The Psalmist confirms Jehovah’s authority to give this land in Psalms 24:1 (NASB): “The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” Leviticus 25:23 confirms Jehovah’s ownership saying, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is Mine.”
While Genesis 12 does not use the Hebrew word for “inheritance” (Strongs H5159), Hebrews 11:8-10 confirms that this land was Abraham’s inheritance.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (NASB).
There was no question about God’s intent to grant Abram the land promised. Jehovah took great care in describing the boundaries of this land in Genesis 15:18-21. “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite” (NASB). This expanse of land was not immediately available to Abram, so he did not take possession in his lifetime. However, it was fully his to give to his son, Isaac, as an inheritance. It would take future generations of his descendants to experience the reality of this promised inheritance.
Birth of Isaac
Earlier in Genesis 15, Abram raised a vital issue regarding this promised inheritance—the lack of an heir! Genesis 15:2-4 reads, “Abram said, O Lord GOD, what will you give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Since you have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir. Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.”
Abram believed Jehovah, and God reckoned it to him as righteousness. Then Isaac, the child of promise, was born to Abraham and Sarah at a very advanced age. One can only imagine their joy and gratitude for the gift of this son. He would be the true heir to the grand inheritance that God had bestowed on Abraham. This child would seem to be the most important thing in Abraham’s life at this point. However, Abraham trusted God so much that he did not overestimate the value of this gift when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac at God’s command. Abraham’s faith during this remarkable experience was credited to him as righteousness, and he received an expanded inheritance in his seed (Roman 4:9, NASB).
Abraham’s Seed More Than Isaac
The Scriptures tell us that Abraham’s seed will be more than just Isaac. In fact, Abraham was promised a much more numerous seed as a result of his faith in Genesis 22:15-18. “Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
In Genesis 15:6, Abraham had already been “reckoned” righteous on account of his belief in God. Because of his obedience in offering Isaac, God swore by Himself to provide two additional gifts with Abraham’s inheritance. First, God would greatly multiply his seed beyond just Isaac, to be “as the stars of the heavens and as the sand … on the seashore;” and second, through this seed, “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
From Galatians 3, we know the seed was a part of Abraham’s inheritance (Strongs G2817) because the 18th verse confirms it was granted by God’s promise. This chapter of Galatians provides us with a clearer understanding of the seed. Galatians 3:6-9 says, “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (NASB).
Here Paul cites Genesis 15 to recall Abraham as the father of faith, and then connects us through faith to this seed that will bless all the peoples of the earth. Paul concludes by stating that if we belong to Christ, then we are Abraham’s descendants and heirs according to promise. By logical extension, all those in Christ are Abraham’s descendants and, if faithful to their covenant of sacrifice, they will be joint heirs with our Lord (Romans 8:16). They will share in the work of Christ’s kingdom to bless all the families of the earth. This kingdom will allow all people the opportunity to come back into harmony with and truly know God.
Stars of Heaven and Sands of the Seashore
God promised Abraham that his descendants (seed) would multiply as the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore (Genesis 22:17). This reveals that the seed of Abraham has both a heavenly and an earthly component to it. We know that through Isaac, Abraham became the father of the nation of Israel, the earthly seed. There are further references to this earthly seed, such as in Genesis 13:16 and 28:14, where the earthly seed is compared to the dust of the earth. In Genesis 28:14, the promise of this earthly seed is passed on to Jacob.
From Galatians 3, and other Scriptures, the bride of Christ is shown to be the heavenly seed. In further support of the dual seed, Exodus 19:5-6 describes Israel as God’s own possession among all peoples and a nation of priests. Similarly, Peter uses this same script to refer to the Church as God’s possession and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9-10). The word “multiply” regarding both the spiritual and earthly seeds can be understood on two levels. Both the bride of Christ (“stars of heaven”) and Israel (“sand of the seashore”) are significantly larger than Abraham’s single son Isaac when the promise was confirmed by God’s oath. God’s plan would multiply the spiritual seed to being 144,000 plus our Lord — a number far larger than just Isaac or even the number of stars man can see in the night sky. Similarly, Christ’s kingdom will multiply the nation of Israel to include the entire human family. Through the work of Christ’s kingdom, the vast majority of mankind will “go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3). By their obedience to the Law that comes forth from Zion and the word of the Lord that comes from Jerusalem, most of mankind will become Israelites “inwardly” with “circumcision … of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter” (Romans 2:29). The word “multiply” (Strongs H7235) also has a meaning of being great and prominent. The imagery of the stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore could also mean the forceful prominence of both of Abraham’s seeds in fulfilling their respective calling by God. We know that God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). Therefore, it follows that Israel, and the Church called by God, will have prominence in fulfilling their respective earthly and heavenly roles in the coming kingdom of Christ.
Abraham’s inheritance was more than just the land of Canaan. The land was a major inheritance because it was a special grant by God with its fulfillment running through the course of human history. Ultimately, it takes God’s miraculous intervention and His mighty power to secure the land as Israel’s everlasting inheritance. This grant of the land is a perfect example of the Lord’s faithfulness. While the land described in Genesis 15 was “given” to Abraham, it would take over 6000 years to realize this inheritance as the Prophet Ezekiel describes in chapters 36 and 37. While we are witnessing the return of Israel to the land, Ezekiel’s fulfillment will not take place until near the beginning of Christ’s kingdom.
Similarly, Abraham’s seed in blessing all the families of the earth will also take the complete work of Christ’s earthly kingdom to be fully realized. Abraham’s inheritance was not granted in his lifetime to enjoy. Instead, Hebrews 11:10 says by faith “he [Abraham] was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (NASB). Abraham enjoyed his inheritance by faith as if he had it already in hand. According to Ephesians 1:13, we have been given the holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance as part of Abraham’s spiritual seed. By the grace of God, through faith, we are now dwelling in “Heavenly Places,” appreciating the glory of the coming age of Christ’s kingdom.