“Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 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; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Gen 26:3-5
This saying of God to Isaac puzzled me the first time I read it, because God, I had thought, did not give His commandments, statutes, and laws until He gave them to Moses on Mt. Sinai. That event was still hundreds of years in the future. So I looked up the Hebrew for charge, commandments, statutes, and laws, thinking that maybe something didn’t translate well into English, and it really meant something other than what it seemed to be saying.
I was floored when I discovered that “laws” is in Hebrew, torah, Strong’s H8451 – in fact, this is the first occurance of the word torah in Scripture! But the five books of the Law are The Torah, which I knew were given to Moses. Since I was confused, I wrote to my Hebrew teacher, Brad Scott of Wildbranch Ministry, and asked him, “If the Torah was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, what is the torah that Abraham kept?”
“As you probably well know, this ministry is based upon ancient Hebrew and the culture surrounding it. When you read a western lexicon (Strong’s, Vines, Thayers, Brown, Driver, Briggs, etc.) you are getting ‘Americanized Hebrew’. The word torah comes from the root ‘yarah‘ which is an agricultural word (surprise, surprise) which means to cast forth rain or fruit. I.e., God designed this word so that when you see the result of rain on flowers, trees, plants, etc., you see the reason for His Torah for us. We see the rain (torah) cast forth and cause the ground to produce fruit. This is the reason for the Torah and this is one of the reasons why you and I come from the ground.”
The passage today says the same thing: Abraham’s seed receives the blessing of land and multiplied descendants, and then through Abraham’s seed, all the nations of the earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed the Lord’s voice and kept His torah. His torah was given, like rain is given, so that fruit which blesses will result!
Many scholars believe that God’s way, His torah, His instruction in righteousness, was known at least in part before Moses encoded it all in legal form on Mt. Sinai. For example, Cain and Abel knew the torah, or way, of bringing sacrifices – Abel brought his in compliance with the way, or torah, therefore God respected his sacrifice, and Cain not in compliance with the way, therefore God did not respect his sacrifice (Gen 4:3-4). Noah knew which animals were clean and unclean (Gen 7:2-5), and so forth.
For further study: Elements of Isaac’s life are repeating elements of Abraham’s life! Can you find the repeats? Was Isaac’s faith in the promise of land and descendants tested? Did he display Abraham’s character trait of yielding rights? Knowing that one of the Scripture teaching tools is repetition, what might God be trying to teach by this repetition? Is there a chaistic structure?
Finding Messiah: God said to Isaac, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,” Gen 26:4. The Seed of Isaac is the Promised Seed, Jesus Christ!
Please forgive me for this bunny trail: when I see “all the nations of the earth” in Scripture, I think of the Tower of Babel incident, because that is when all the nations of the earth got together to defy and reject God. His plan, then, that we are seeing unfolding in Genesis, is to create one nation from Abraham, who would obey His voice and keep His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His torah, through whom the Promised Seed could come, who would undo all that Satan had done.
So all the nations of the earth had defied and rejected God. What is His response to them? Is it wiping them off the map in a vengeful tirade? No – it is to work to bring about that which will bless them, by restoring them to Himself. The God of the Old Testament has been so misrepresented to us; He is exactly the same as the God of the New Testament, for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8)!
For further reading:
The Tares Among the Wheat by Brad Scott – if YHVH is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who is the god of Cain, Ishmael, and Esau?