Abraham—Father of Many Nations. (Gen 17:4)

In Genesis 12, God makes a promise to His friend Abram, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:3).


The phrase “all the families of the earth” translates the Hebrew phrase “kōl miš·pə·ḥōṯ hā·’ă·ḏā·māh.”


Although the world “miš·pə·ḥōṯ” DOES refer to “families,” it may be understood in another sense in the Jewish thought. This word also means tribes or clans. Thus, it can be read this way: “In you, all the clans or tribes of the earth shall be blessed.” This points attention to a variety of people/ethnic groups—the blessing of Abram would spread to ALL HUMANITY.


God intends to use Abram to accomplish a GLOBAL work, whereby ALL THE FAMILIES of the Earth would receive the same blessing he received which is righteousness by faith (Gen. 15:6).


This is no easy task as Abram’s world is full of sinful men. About 27 million people existed on the Earth in Abram’s day (Ralph Winter). So he is shouldered with this responsibility of heralding Yahweh’s missionary message to a large multitude of sinful people! It is Yahweh’s plan that none perish in sin.


Later on, He changes Abram’s name to remind him of this promise as well as his responsibility:


Genesis 17:3-4 (NKJV)

3 Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 4 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS. 


The word “father” in the Hebrew refers to someone whom others follow, one who’s lifestyle others imitate. What did Abram do that the nations were to follow? Genesis 15 tells us.


Genesis 15:1-5 (NKJV)

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and COUNT THE STARS if YOU ARE ABLE TO NUMBER THEM.” And He said to him, “So shall YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.”


God is showing him His universal plan of salvation. Abraham would have NUMEROUS children. He would be their father. How would he father children as numerous as the stars? This cannot be referring to Israel. Israel’s population is just about 8 million (at the time of this writing), and there are about 10 trillion stars that we can visibly see. Thus, God’s promise supersedes Abraham’s physical descendants. He intimates a spiritual progeny.


Recall that the word “father” means a role model, one who others imitiate or copy. These descendants (as numerous as the stars) would become Abraham’s children by IMITATING him. What did Abraham do?


Gen 15:6 (NKJV)

6 And he BELIEVED in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.


This is what God means when He says “father of many nations.” He means one whom the nations will imitiate. They will believe just like Abraham believed!


This therefore reveals that Abraham would have some children who are not Jews! Those he will father will be by faith, not descent—he would have spiritual children! Paul aptly explains this in Galatians 3.


Galatians 3:7-9 (NKJV)

7 Therefore know that ONLY THOSE who are OF FAITH are SONS OF ABRAHAM. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, PREACHED THE GOSPEL TO ABRAHAM BEFOREHAND, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those WHO ARE OF FAITH are BLESSED with believing Abraham.


God preached the Gospel to Abraham and he believed what God said! His children would follow his footsteps. Thus God says in Genesis 17:5, “No longer shall your name be called ABRAM, but your name shall be ABRAHAM; for I have made you a FATHER OF MANY NATIONS.


Abram meant “exalted father” BUT “Abraham” means “father to a multitude of nations.“!


(For a thorough treatment of this subject, you may consult the sermon-series “God Wants The World!” by Pastor Josh Banks)


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2021.


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