The Abraham event

Bible mapYahweh commanded Abraham to leave his country and his kindred to where He will lead him (Gen 12,1-3). To leave one’s land and kin and to face an uncertain future was to subject oneself to grave danger. Yahweh assured Abraham of guidance and protection on the way. The promise[1] “I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse” can thus be understood as a protection formula.[2] Yahweh spoke simply of “a land that I shall show you.” When Abraham left on his journey he did not know the goal to which Yahweh would lead him. Hence we could say the journey Abram undertook was a pilgrimage of faith in full confidence in the Lord who called him.[3] Whereas the people of the Tower at Babel sought to make a name for themselves (Gen 11,4), Yahweh promised to make the name of Abraham great and to make of him a great nation.[4] The great nation alludes to the future nation of Israel, which is here foreseen as the effect of the blessing of Abraham. The promise of becoming a great nation was made to one whose wife was barren (Gen 11,30) and was seventy-five years of age[5] (Gen 12,4). The matriarchs of Israel were almost all initially barren show that Israel was a creative act of God.

“You are to be a blessing.” Blessing originates in God, but as a power of the soul. The seat of blessing is the soul of the person and it is there that God works.[6] The action of God does not fall outside of the human recipient but affects the very centre of one’s being. Hence we can say that blessing is not automatic. The one blessed must continue to maintain good relationship with God and people.


[1] Cf. R. Rendtorff, ““Covenant” as a Structuring Concept in Genesis and Exodus,” JBL, Vol. 108, no. 3, The Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, (1989), 385-393, 393.

[2] Cf. C. Westermann, Genesis 12-36: A Commnetary, (E. Tr. J. J. Scullion), Fortress Press, Minneapolis, (1995), 151.

[3] Cf. J. S. Spong, “The Continuing Christian Need for Judaism,” in R. W. Rousseau (eds.), Christianity and Judaism: The Deepening Dialogue, Ridge Row Press, Montrose, (1983), 73-80, 76.

[4] Cf. A. Van Der Heide, “The Call of Abraham as Read by Jew and Christians,” Concilium: The Bible and its Readers, Vol.1, SCM Press, London, (1991), 13-26, 13.

[5] Cf. A. Tharekadavil, “The Call of Abraham and Formation of the Chosen People,” BB, Vol. XXX, no. 2, Bible Bhashyam Trust, Kottayam, (2003), 115-162, 141-142.

[6] J. C. Okoye, Israel and the Nations: A Mission Theology of the Old Testament, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, (2006), 45.

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