The Covenant With Abraham: The Keystone of Biblical Architecture -- By: Eugene H. Merrill

Journal: Journal of Dispensational Theology
Volume: JODT 12:36 (Aug 2008)
Article: The Covenant With Abraham: The Keystone of Biblical Architecture
Author: Eugene H. Merrill


The Covenant With Abraham:
The Keystone of Biblical Architecture

Eugene H. Merrill, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Dallas Theological Seminary;
Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Interpretation; Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Certain times and texts in the unfolding revelation of God in the Bible are so crucial to its fundamental, central message that they constitute turning points that launch that message into trajectories it would otherwise not have traversed. This is eminently true of the Abrahamic Covenant and its significance to the salvific purposes of God for Israel and the church. How one understands the nature and function of this covenant will largely determine one’s overall theology and most particularly his eschatology.

The Canonical Setting Of The Abrahamic Covenant

The importance of the Abrahamic Covenant is seen in the fact that it is the topic first introduced in the patriarchal narratives that immediately succeed the so-called “primeval history” (Gen 111).1 After a brief introduction to Abram as a son of Terah with whom he had left Ur for Haran (11:27–32), the author hastened to arrive at Abram’s call to leave his land and family in order to fulfill some great destiny God had for him. In the span of only three verses (12:1–3) the essentials of God’s call are delineated and the foundation is laid for a covenant that will actualize God’s promises to the patriarch.

The call comes none too soon for the primeval history is essentially the dismal record of the Fall (3), the Flood (69), and the attempt by mankind at Babel to supplant God and to rule in His stead (11:1–9). Only the genealogy between Shem and Abram offers hope of a better age to come for it links the Noahic Covenant (9:1–17) with the Abrahamic (12:1–3; 15:1–21; 17:1–21), the covenant in the former case made with all mankind and in the latter with a single man who would sire a nation of salvific intermediaries. The placement of that covenant at precisely this point

communicates not only Israel’s assessment of its significance but, more important, ...

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