Saturday, July 2, 2022

Who Are the Seed of Abraham

by James C. Morris – 

Many make very bad usage of the following scripture:

Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.” (Galatians 3:7-9, 15-18)

Because of this passage, these people imagine that all the promises made to Abraham were only made to “Christ,” and not to any of Abraham’s other physical “descendants.” And as “the church” is in “Christ,” they reason that the scriptural term “the seed of Abraham” means “the church.” But when we examine the scriptues carefully, we see that this cannot be correct. For God unquestionably referred to Abraham’s “seed” in other senses than the one referred to here. This can be seen in the following:

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.’ And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed.’ ” (Genesis 21:9-13)

Here, the Hebrew word זָרַע, zera’ in our alphabet, word number 2233 in Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, which translates literally as “seed,” was specifically used of two different physical descendants of Abraham, one of whom (Isaac) was the one through whom Abraham’s “seed” would “be called.” But the other (Ishmael) was also Abraham’s “seed.” This Hebrew word, or some form of it, is the one used in every Old Testament promise about Abraham’s “seed,” or his “descendants,” as the translation we are using (the NKJV) often (correctly) renders it.

The Greek equivalent of this Hebrew word is found in the first passage we examned. For the Greek word translated “seed” two times in Galatians 3:16 is σπέρματι, spermati in our alphabet, This is the dative singular neuter form of the Greek word σπέρμα, sperma in our alphabet, word number 4690 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary, whose English deritative is obvious. Likewise, the Greek word translated “seeds” in that same verse is σπέρμασιη, spermatisin in our alphabet. which is the dative plural neuter form of that same Greek word.

The fact is, that although Galatians 3:16 speaks of one of the promises made to “Abraham,” the scriptures themselves distinctly differentiate between various promises made to him. For we read in Romans 4:13 that “the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Here, the Greek word translated “or” is the single letter ἤ, e in our alphabet, word number 2228 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary. Strong defines this word as “a primary particle of distinction between two connected terms.” This word is distinctly different from the Greek word translated “and” in Galations 3:16. There, the Greek word is καί, kai in our alphabet, word number 2532 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary. This Greek word literally means “and.” So in one place the New Testament combines the two words “Abraham” and “seed” with the word “and,” meaning both of them, and in another place, it combines them with the word “or,” meaning either of them. That is, there was a promise made to both “Abraham” and his “Seed,” which the scriptures distinctly tell us speaks of “Christ.” And there was also a promise made individually to both “Abraham” and to his “seed.” And the promise made individually to each of them was “the promise that he would be the heir of the world.”

Again the New Testament quotes two different promises made to Abraham. The first of these is:

I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) This is the promise referred to in Genesis 18:17-18, where we read. “And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?’ ” This is quoted in Acts 3:25, where we read, “You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

But a highly similar promise was made to Abraham a number of years later The words used the second time were almost, but not exactly, identical, saying “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:18)

The first time the blessing was stated to be “in” “Abraham,” and about “all the families of the earth.” But the second time it was stated to be “in” Abrahams “seed,” and the word “families” was changed to “nations,” saying, “And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 26:4) This is the one quoted in Galatians 3:8, which says, “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.’

So we have seen that the New Testament clearly differentiates between various promises made to Abraham, and specifically quoted different ones of these promises in different places.

And, as we have seen, we know that the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 was about the gospel, And the promise made to him in Genesis 22:18 was about Christ. We know these because in both cases we are explicitly told so in the New Testament. But does this mean that all the promises made to Abraham’s “seed” were references to Christ? Most absolutely not. For there are two other senses of this expression plainly set forth in scripture.

Those who think that “the church” is “Israel” also make much of the following passage, imagining that it re-defines the term, “the seed of Abraham.” But such is not the case.

Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 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.’ So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham” (Galatians 3:7-9)

This is speaking of becoming children by faith, in the same sense as Paul wrote to the Corinthans, “I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-15) And as He also wrote “Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2 KJV) and “To Timothy, my dearly beloved son.” (2 Timothy 1:2 KJV)

But another, and far more common, sense for this term is found in numerous other scriptures. In each of the following passages, the Hebrew word correctly translated “descendants” is the same Hebrew word זָרַע, that is, zera’ that we have noticed before, which literally translates as “seed.” But in Each of these cases, it was most certainly correctly translated as “descendants,” rather than “seed,” even though “seed” would have been a more literal translation, and was used in other translations. For in each of them, the meaning was plainly the physical “descendants” of “Abraham,” being considered together as a group.

And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are--northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.’ ” (Genesis 13:14-16 )

Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’ 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.’ 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.’ ” (Genesis 15:3-5)

He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.’ ” (Genesis 15:13-14)

By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-- blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” (Genesis 22:16-17)

In the first of these four passages, “Abraham” was told that his “descendants,” that is, his “seed,” would be “as the dust of the earth,” in that they would beyond counting. In the second and fourth, he was told the same thing, except the comparison was to the uncountable number of “stars.” And in the fourth, he was also told that they would be “as the sand which is on the seashore.” But in the third, he was also told that they would be enslaved “in a land that is not theirs” for “four hundred years.”

These promises did not refer to all of the physical “descendants” of “Abraham.” For in each case, it was speaking only of the physical “descendants” of “Abraham” through one of his sons, “Isaac” and only through one of Isaac’s sons, “Jacob,” whose name had been changed by God to “Israel.” For God has clearly told us that they are not “all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.” (Romans 9:6-8)

But now we come to a promise which speaks of Abraham’s “descendants” in a different way. In this promise, “Abraham” was told that his “descendants” would become “many nations.” but one particular group of his “descendants” was singled out, God promising to give them “the land” wherein Abraham had lived as “a stranger,” “as an everlasting possession.”

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.’ Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.’ ” (Genesis 17:1-8)

We find other examples of referring to Abraham’s “descendants,” that is, his “seed,” as the nation of “Israel,” in the following passages:

But you, Israel, are My servant,

Jacob whom I have chosen,

The descendants of Abraham My friend.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,

And called from its farthest regions,

And said to you,

You are My servant,

I have chosen you and have not cast you away:

Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you,

Yes, I will help you,

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Behold, all those who were incensed against you

Shall be ashamed and disgraced;

They shall be as nothing,

And those who strive with you shall perish.

You shall seek them and not find them--

Those who contended with you.

Those who war against you

Shall be as nothing,

As a nonexistent thing.

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand,

Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

Fear not, you worm Jacob,

You men of Israel!

I will help you,’ says the LORD

And your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:8-14)


Thus says the LORD,

Who gives the sun for a light by day,

The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,

Who disturbs the sea,

And its waves roar

(The LORD of hosts is His name):

If those ordinances depart

From before Me, says the LORD,

Then the seed of Israel shall also cease

From being a nation before Me forever.’

Thus says the LORD:

If heaven above can be measured,

And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,

I will also cast off all the seed of Israel

For all that they have done, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:35-37)

These last two promises are indeed the key to this entire question. For both of them clearly refer to the nation of “Israel,” even calling them “Jacob.” And the first one calls that nation “The descendants of Abraham My friend.” But the second one explicitly calls “Israel” a “nation,” And then promises that “nation” that God would never cast them off. And here again, the Hebrew word translated “descendants” is the same Hebrew word זָרַע, zera’ in our alphabet, that translates literally as “seed.”

We need to particularly notice that there were no conditions attached to any of these promises. Nor is this just a human idea. For in the New Testament, the same God that made these promises stressed the absolutely unconditional nature of His sworn promise to Abraham, by saying:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, ‘Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.’ And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:13-19)

This passage clearly shows, not only the absolutely unconditional nature of the promises made to Abraham, but also the fact that this unconditional nature of the promises of God is fundamental to the Chritian faith. For the fact that God “confirmed it” to “Abraham” “by an oath” is pointed out to have the purpose of showing “more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel.” And then this immutability of the promises of God is made a basis for our own faith. This is why this doctrine is so very important. For if God could legitimately tell “Abraham” that he did not literally mean his physical “desendants,” but that instead, He meant a different people that would come in a future day, He could just as legitimately tell us the same thing concerning the promises He made to us. That is, if the promises made to “Abraham” were not absolutely sacrosanct, then neither would be the promises our God has made to us.

Thus we see that the doctrine that “the seed of Abraham” means “the church,” and thus that the promises that God made to “the seed of Abraham” do not apply to his physical “descendants,” is destructive of the very foundations of the Christian faith. For that would mean that the promises that God made to the ancient “nation” of “Israel” will not actually be kept. But God himself twice stated, that if He were not going to actually keep these promises, He would have been lying when he made them. We find this first in a prophecy made to “Baalak” through the prophet “Baalam.”

God is not a man, that He should lie,

Nor a son of man, that He should repent.

Has He said, and will He not do?

Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)

And again, He said of David:

My mercy I will keep for him forever,

And My covenant shall stand firm with him.

His seed also I will make to endure forever,

And his throne as the days of heaven.

If his sons forsake My law

And do not walk in My judgments,

If they break My statutes

And do not keep My commandments,

Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,

And their iniquity with stripes.

Nevertheless My lovingkindness

I will not utterly take from him,

Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.

My covenant I will not break,

Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

Once I have sworn by My holiness;

I will not lie to David:” (Psalm 89:28-35)

So this doctrine, though widely held, even by many godly Christians, is a deception from the enemy. For if the promises of God were not absolutely reliable, we would have nothing to base our faith upon. And thus, we would have no basis for being certain of either the fact that our sins have been forgiven, or the fact that we will be in heaven. Our entire faith is based on the absolute reliability of every promise that God ever made.


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