Son of Abraham

OVERVIEW - Jesus in the true “son of Abraham,” the heir of the covenant promises, and the one who receives and implements the inheritance

Jesus Mural - Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash
The introduction to 
Matthew declares Jesus to be the “son of David, the son of Abraham.” This was more than an entry on a genealogical record; it prepared the reader for the theme of fulfillment that dominates this gospel. Jesus is the Davidic Messiah and King of Israel, and the True Son and promised heir of the Patriarch. In him, the covenant promises of Yahweh have found their fulfillment - [Jesus Mural - Photo by Stephanie LeBlanc on Unsplash].

The Book of Genesis traces the lineage of Abraham all the back to the first man, Adam, a line that included many righteous and remarkable men, including Enoch, and Noah. Yet, in Matthew, Abraham is the starting point of Christ’s genealogical record:
  • (Matthew 1:17) – “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the carrying away to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”
Not only was Abraham pivotal to the history and identity of Israel, the covenant with Yahweh on which all the promises were based, began with the Patriarch, Abraham. The arrival of the promised Messiah, the “seed of Abraham,” was the product and climax of that covenant.

In Genesis, God covenanted with Abraham, promising to bless his “seed.” Nations and kings would come from his line. Moreover, in him, “all the tribes of the earth” would be blessed. From its inception, the covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the “nations of the earth”:
  • (Genesis 12:1-3) – “Now Yahweh said to Abram I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you will be a blessingand in you will all the tribes of the earth be blessed.
  • (Genesis 17:4-8) – “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nationsI will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give you, and to your seed after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
In Luke, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God was about to fulfill His covenant promises to Israel:
  • (Luke 1:31-33) – “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God will give unto him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Jesus was the “son of David” and the promised king who would reign forevermore, not only over Israel, but also over all the nations and the “kings of the earth”:
  • (Psalm 2:7-9) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me, you are my son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me and let me give nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the earth: You will shepherd them with a scepter of iron, as a potter’s vessel, you will dash them in pieces.
In her song celebrating what God had done, Mary invoked the covenant with Abraham and linked it directly to the miraculous child in her womb:
  • (Luke 1:47-55) – “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is unto generations and generations, on them that fear him… He has given help to Israel his servant, that he might remember mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, toward Abraham and his seed forever.”
Thus, Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise “to Abraham and to his seed.” Her reference to his “mercy being to generations and generations” echoes God’s covenant with Abraham for “you and your seed after you throughout their generations.” Yahweh had sent his Son, who was to rule over all the nations of the earth in fulfillment of the covenant. As Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, confirmed:
  • (Luke 1:68-73) – “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; For he has visited and wrought redemption for his people, and raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of oldTo show mercy towards our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to Abraham our father.
But physical descent alone did not qualify anyone for membership in the covenant, let alone to inherit the blessings of Abraham, as the record in Genesis itself demonstrated. For example, Ishmael was the biological son of Abraham, yet he did not receive the promise. Likewise, many years later, Jacob was accepted by God, but Esau rejected. Being the “son of Abraham” entailed much more than biological relationship.

Famously, John the Baptist warned the Jews in his audience not to appeal to their physical descent from Abraham for confirmation of their covenant status:
  • (Matthew 3:9) – “And they were being baptized in the Jordan River by him, openly confessing their sins. But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Broods of vipers! Who suggested for you to flee from the coming wrath? Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I say to you, God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Repentance and submission to the Messiah were mandatory for entrance into the Kingdom of God, not physical descent from Abraham. In John’s saying, “stones” is metaphorical for God’s intent to bring Gentiles into the covenant, an integral part of the covenant from the very beginning. Compare the following words of Jesus with those of Yahweh to Abraham:
  • (Matthew 8:8-12) – “But the (Roman) centurion said, Lord! I am of no consideration that under my roof you should enter, but only say with a word and healed will be my servant… Now Jesus, hearing, marveled and said to them that were following him: Truly, I say to you, with no one in Israel such faith as this have I found. But I say to you, many from east and west will come and recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the darkness outside.
  • (Genesis 13:14-16) – “And Yahweh said to Abram: Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are; northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you are beholding, I will give to you, and to your seed to times everlasting. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, your seed also may be numbered.
East and west” echoes the call for Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” to see the extent of the promised land, and of the promise to bless all nations. In both Hebrew and Greek, the term rendered “land” can also refer to the “earth.” Thus, the covenant always anticipated something far larger than the small territory of Canaan and the biological descendants of Abraham - (Genesis 12:313:14).

Flock of Sheep - Photo by Jaka Škrlep on Unsplash
Photo by Jaka Škrlep on Unsplash

Although he limited his ministry to the children of Israel, Jesus did not exclude Gentiles from his efforts. His occasional interactions with non-Jews anticipated the later opening of the gospel to the nations. And, while many Jews did reject him, he responded positively to individual Gentiles who approached him in faith.

On one occasion, he declared to a group of Jews, “What things I have seen with the Father I speak; you also, then, what things you have heard from your father are doing.” They responded by pointing to their descent from Abraham. To this, the true “son of Abraham” countered:
  • If you are children of Abraham, then you would do the works of Abraham, but you seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you… this Abraham did not do.” - (John 8:38-44).
They did indeed do “the works of their father” - The Devil!  Biological descent was no guarantee of their participation in the inheritance, let alone of their right conduct.

Finally, the conclusion of Matthew, like its beginning, recalls the covenant with Abraham and the messianic promises to the House of David.
  • (Matthew 28:18-19) – “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.
The passage echoes the promise from the second Psalm to give the Messiah the “nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the earth.” Likewise, the promise to “bless all the nations” in Abraham reverberates in the words of Jesus. He is the True and Greater “son of David, and son of Abraham.” Therefore, already, he has “all authority,” not only on the earth, but also “in heaven.”


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