In Genesis 35:11 And The Abrahamic Promise Of Blessings For The Nations -- By: Chee-Chiew Lee

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:3 (Sep 2009)
Article: In Genesis 35:11 And The Abrahamic Promise Of Blessings For The Nations
Author: Chee-Chiew Lee

In Genesis 35:11 And The Abrahamic Promise Of Blessings For The Nations

Chee-Chiew Lee*

* Chee-Chiew Lee is a Ph.D. student at Wheaton College. She is also a former and returning faculty member at Singapore Bible College, 9-15 Adam Road, Singapore 289886.

I. Introduction

When Jacob left Paddan-Aram to return to the land of Canaan, God appeared to him at Bethel and blessed him, saying, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name…. I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you” (Gen 35:10-12; ESV, emphasis added).

God’s promise to Jacob in Gen 35:11 is puzzling. Surely, the nation of Israel shall come from Jacob, but who is this “company of nations” (קהל גוים) that shall come from Jacob? Despite this enigmatic statement in Gen 35:11, few interpreters have addressed the issue.1 Those who comment on the phrase, קהל גוים, may be categorized in two ways. First, some interpret קהל גוים as referring to the tribes of Israel.2 Second, others point out that it alludes to Gen 17:4-5, where God promised to make Abraham “the father of many nations.”3 The first proposal has noticeable weaknesses considering the semantic range of גוי in light of the parallels of the Abrahamic promise

and their reiterations in the Genesis narrative. The second proposal has its strength in relating the passage to Gen 17:4-5, but has yet to articulate the nuances between the promise made to Abraham and its reiteration to Jacob. This relationship must, in turn, be understood within the broader framework of the Abrahamic promise and its development in Genesis. This article proposes that the promise of “a company of nations” coming from Jacob is closely related to the initial promise to Abraham regarding the blessings for the nations and discusses the eschatological implications of such an understanding.4

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