The Verse on which Support for Modern Israel Hinges

Recently, Charlie Kirk, the founder and CEO of Turning Point USA and host of the Charlie Kirk show, shared Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” on his X account (formerly Twitter) along with a picture of a Jewish man praying at the Western wall. The post received 2.9 million impressions, 1.4K reposts and at this writing more 7.1k likes. This verse is of course not an obscure passage for those who see it as their civic and religious duty to support the modern state of Israel.

In Timothy Weber’s book, The Road To Armageddon: How Evangelicals became Israel’s Best Friend, he notes that historically this passage has been used to generate political support from a religious (dispensational) perspective for Israel since at least the late 1800’s, even prior to the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. In these cases, including those provided by Weber and likely the reference made by Kirk, the general idea is that those nations, particularly the United States, that bless Israel, taken as the meaning of you, in the form of political, economic, and/or military support will themselves receive a blessing. But is that the meaning of the passage? The verse in reference with it’s context is cited below.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3

Before we get into how this verse is being interpreted and used by those above, we need to first understand how it was meant originally. Chapter 12 of Genesis highlights a significant change from global humanity, via creation, fall, flood, and Babel, to now one particular family. This family is initially called out by God through Abram as he is instructed to leave both his family and his land. Land and Seed, two significant themes in Genesis as we have seen before. This calling, which represents the initiation of the Abrahamic Covenant, is followed by promises of land, multiplication into a nation, blessing personally on Abram, upon his name, and a blessing extending from Abram to others. The final element is the promise of God to bless those who bless Abram and curse those who dishonor him, intensified by the promise that in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. The mention of blessing and curse is not unique here in chapter 12, rather the former has been seen since the original creation (Gen. 1:22, 28; 2:3; 5:2; 9:1) and the latter subsequent to the Fall (Gen. 3:15,17; 4:11; 5:29; 9:25). The emphasis for our post is the statement that, “in you [Abram] all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

What does it mean, in you and who are the families receiving the blessing?

Difficulty arises because this phrase in you has been supplied in order to make sense of what is being said. It could also be read as by you. The implication appears to be something within or as a result of Abram. Thankfully this verse is not held in isolation because these promises are repeated and clarified to Abram in several places throughout Genesis. They are also cited in the New Testament. First, we ought to note that the repetition of these covenant formulas in Genesis each have their own contexts and two of the five have grammatical variations with the phrase we are looking at (Gen. 22:18 & 26:4). In beginning, we note the repetition of the promise to Abram in Genesis 18:18 within the context of the Lord appearing to Abraham and Sarah regarding the promise of an offspring, as well as the pending judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah.

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Genesis 18:18-20

Of significance in this passage, aside from the repetition of the covenantal formula, is the alteration from the word used earlier for families here changed to the word used for nations, which is the Hebrew word goy as well, sometimes translated as Gentiles. The word translated as families in the original promise conveys the idea of a subset from a nation or tribe. In other words, a smaller group from within a larger group. Here, we see the same word used with respect to making Abraham a great nation, though it is now used in the plural. We’ll develop this point more fully below as we look at the New Testament commentary on these passages. Next, the phrase in Genesis 22:18, with grammatical variation as noted above. This time it is in the context of Abraham not withholding the sacrifice of Isaac, the son of promise.

“By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Genesis 22:16-18

In this passage, we are gifted additional clarity on the original promises from Genesis 12 as the phrase is translated, “in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Rather than in you or in him, we now see that it is more clearing in your offspring, which carries with it the idea of the promised seed to Abraham. Additionally, we ought to note the end of this phrase is conditioned upon the obedience of Abraham in not withholding Isaac, i.e. because you have obeyed my voice”. Thsi same conditionality occurs also in our next reference from Genesis 26:4.

I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

Genesis 26:4

Here the context is not the promise given to Abraham, rather it is the conveyance of the promise to Isaac, again noticing it is because of Abraham’s obedience. This is critical to understand as Ishmael was certainly the offspring of Abraham, but it was in Isaac that the promise was to continue. Clearly any notion of a strict genealogical principle is limited and conditioned by God Himself as seen here in the choose of Isaac and immediately after with the choice of Jacob over Esau. This leads to our fifth and final recapitulation of this covenantal formulaic promise, though with added nuances provided by the grammar. Here the conference of the promise is to Jacob.

And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Genesis 28:13-15

The covenant promise which we initially saw given to Abraham is conveyed to Isaac and then Jacob, each in their turn with the promise to each son reaching back to Abraham. Returning to the phrase that began our study, we saw that families of the earth would be blessed in or by Abraham and read of some additional insight stating that this promise would come by way of an offspring or seed. This should have caused our ears to perk up because the original promise of God, the protoevangelium (first gospel), was also made concerning a seed, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 This offspring was promised to crush the head of the serpent and was anticipated to bring rest and reversal of the curses brought on by sin (Genesis 4:1; 4:25; 5:29). We of course know that this promised seed was none other than Christ Himself.

Is the promise of blessing from Genesis 12:3 in Abraham, or from his offspring, related? Does it have a future, modern State of Israel in mind or does it have Christ in mind?

Thankfully, the New Testament provides commentary on our passages from Genesis above coming principally in Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia but found also in his letter to the Romans, as well as a brief mention in the book of Acts. Before we immediately jump to those passages and thereby skip over the history of Israel, it is significant to note that Israel was to be the conduit for the continued revelation of God which began at creation, meandered its way to Noah, and now had arrived at Abraham and his family. Throughout each progressive revelation we ought to keep in mind the original promised Seed that was to crush the head of the serpent is continued. This is Who Adam and Eve anticipated, as well as Noah’s father, likewise Jacob in his blessing on Judah (Genesis 49:10), so too in the promise of a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18), a priest like Samuel (1 Samuel 2:35), and a king like David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Israel as a nation was to be a light to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6), but this servant of God’s failed, as had their predecessor, Adam.

All of the promises that had come before, and yes as we will see those in Genesis, were pointing to God’s own Son, the culmination of His revelation, Jesus the Messiah (2 Cor. 1:20). He is the true Israel, as it was out of Egypt that God called His Son (Matthew 2:15). He leads the second Exodus as the Greater Moses, regathering Israel beginning with the Twelve. He is the greater Joshua leading His people not merely to the Promised Land of Canaan, rather to the promised land of the New Heavens and Earth. He is the prophet, priest, and king spoken of earlier, the wiser Solomon, the greater Jonah, the new and better Temple, the second Adam, and the faithful Israel. It was this revelatory promise of the coming Messiah that was given to Israel, despite their national unfaithfulness, nevertheless they were, “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:2) and “to them belonged the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:4-5) In this way they had fulfilled the national greatness promised to Abraham.

Turning now to the letter of Galatians and recalling our passages in Genesis above we find that Paul holds up Abraham as an example of the righteousness of faith, as opposed to the strict adherence of the law.

…just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Galatians 3:6

This of course is a reference to the faith that Abraham exercised at the call of God, first in the call to leave his pagan land and family, then, and more directly, when God told him to look towards the heaven and number the stars if he was able, “Then he said to him, ‘so shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6) Abraham’s faith was in the promise of God that held out the seed form of the offspring. How then did his faith in this promise grant him salvation? Because the promised offspring was not merely Isaac, nor Jacob, nor the twelve tribes, nor even Israel. Abraham’s faith was in the promised Seed, Christ. Continuing on in Galatians, we read

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Galatians 3:7-9

This passage is significant because it references our original passage from Genesis 12:3. Note well that the promise of, “in you shall all the nations be blessed” is said to be the gospel. Could this be a reference to Abraham and still be the gospel? No. Isaac or Jacob? No. Israel under the Old Covenant? No. Modern Israel? No. In order for it to be the gospel, it must be speaking of Christ alone. It is “in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [nations; families], so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14) This is also where are reference to nations (goy) or Gentiles mentioned above comes into view. Continuing on with the citation of Galatians,

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 

Galatians 3:16

The promises made to Abraham with reference to offspring had in view a clear fulfillment in Christ. As the offspring of Abraham, it is Christ Who inherits the promises. It is Christ Who is the faithful Israel. Finishing up our passage from Galatians, we read the following:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 3:25-29

The promises to Abraham must find their way through Christ and then subsequently from Christ. Simply put, there is no going around Him. There are no promises outside of Christ. The modern state of Israel cannot, indeed does not, receive the promises and blessings of Abraham apart from being in union with Christ. That said, these passages, and there are others (Romans 2 and 4), do not negate a future in-gathering of Jewish people as per Romans 9-11, but by faith, not on the basis of geopolitical wars, boundaries, or alliances. Furthermore, as should be clear the verse quoted by Charlie Kirk above has a clear reference to Christ and cannot simply jump over Him in order to reach a modern State of Israel. Our Lord is the source of both blessing and cursing and both must flow through Him now, as the true Israel. Those who by faith embrace Him have received the blessing. Those who do not have been and will be ultimately under the curse of God’s wrath. Those who bless Abraham do so by joining with him by faith in Christ, the Promised Seed, not through political alliances, military support, or financial incentives. Clarity on these issues is long overdue, but extremely necessary in these perilous times.

Grace and Peace

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Christian saved by grace through faith.

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