Messianic Education Trust
(Gen 18:1 - 22:24)

B'resheet/Genesis 22:18   And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves in your seed, because you have listened to My voice.

View whole verse and interlinear translation ...

Here is the voice of the , the Angel of the L-rd, speaking as The Name ...

HaShem: literally, Hebrew for 'The Name' - an allusion used to avoid pronouncing the Tetragrammaton, the so-called 'ineffable' name of G–d
HaShem in the first person singular. He is speaking to Avraham for a second time, after he has stopped him from sacrificing his son, Yitz'khak, on Mt. Moriah. The classical Jewish commentators address each half of the verse separately, splitting at the word , because, which immediately follows the atnakh accent that usually denotes the major semantic break in most verses in Tanakh. Who Is ...

Abraham Ibn Ezra: (1089-1167 CE), born in Tudela, Spain; died in the South of France after wandering all around the shores of the Mediterranean and England; a philosopher, astronomer, doctor, poet and linguist; wrote a Hebrew grammar and a commentary on the Bible
Ibn Ezra explains that "the 'because' used here, ekev, refers to something that comes 'on the heels' (another meaning of the word ekev) of something else. In this case, what comes 'on the heels' of obedience is reward."

The first phrase of the verse begins with the verb , the Hitpa'el 3cp affix form of the root , to bless, with a vav-reversive to give a future tense. The Hitpa'el stem usually has either a reflexive or iterative meaning, so the most likely rendering here is "and they will bless themselves". The next word, , literally "in your seed", gives the agency for the blessing - "by your seed" - and is followed by the subject, "all the nations of the earth". The Who Is ...

The Radak: Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235 CE), rabbi, biblical commentator, philosopher and grammarian; born in Narbonne, France; best known for his commentaries on the Prophets, he also wrote a philosphical commentary on Bresheet that makes extensive use of the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel; influenced by a strong supporter of Ibn Ezra and Maimonides
Radak visualises all the nations saying, "May G-d bless us as He blessed the seed of Avraham." Looking to the time when HaShem will bring all the nations under His authority, the Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno paraphrases the text - "Then I will make the peoples pure of speech, so that they all invoke the L-RD by name and serve Him with one accord" (Zephaniah 3:9, NJPS), - and explains that "When the nations all call upon G-d's name to serve Him with one accord, they will all seek blessings through your seed and endeavour to emulate them."

Moving to the second phrase, the Radak is worried that "because you have obeyed My voice" might be misinterpreted, so wants to clarify what is being rewarded: "as a reward for your having obeyed My command, in this and in everything else I have commanded you." This isn't about a single action, he says, but a reward for Avraham's whole life of obedience. Taking his text this time from the Mishnah, the Sforno adds that "because 'the reward for one mitzvah is another mitzvah' (m. Pirkei Avot 4:2), you will merit that your children will be a 'banner for the nations' (Isaiah 11:2), teaching them to serve the Almighty and this will be considered as a righteousness for you." Rabbi Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch moves to comfort Avraham that "now, you are just alone in obedience to Me, but as a result of that, at present so unique, blind obedience, the whole of mankind will ultimately attach itself to the blessing-bringing ways of your descendants."

Attentive ears will recognise that these words have a familiar ring to them as if we have heard something very similar to them before; and indeed, we have. Avraham will have recognised them too. When HaShem called Avram (as he was then) to go to the land of Canaan, He told him that "all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you" (B'resheet 12:3, NJPS). This verse uses the Nif'al stem, , so literally means, "they will blessed in you"; all the families of the earth will derive a blessing from you. Bruce Waltke notes that "this underscores the certainty of the covenant."1

Intersecting with the Radak's comment above, James McKeown points out that the call in chapter twelve "called for Abraham's obedience (12:1). This has been demonstrated, not only in the patriarch's departure from Haran (12:4-6), but also in his willingness to sacrifice the land to Lot (13:8) and Yitzkhak to G-d (22:10-12)."2 Terence Fretheim astutely comments that "because Avraham has done this, previously spoken divine promises can be reiterated." Observing that in chapter 12, "the promises were originally made independently of Abraham's response," but that in the meantime, G-d's promises have created Avraham's faith [15:6], he points out that "here the promises are reiterated {in an emphatic way) to a trusting Avraham."3 Avraham has changed in the intervening years. At the beginning, he was obedient because he was called and responded to the call; now he has proven his obedience many times and grown in faith and relationship with HaShem. He has become faithful and one who exercises faith, so that the writer to the Hebrews can report that "By faith Avraham, when he was tested, offered up Yitz'khak, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son" (Hebrews 11:17, ESV).

A transition has taken place. Walter Moberly explains that "a promise which was previously grounded solely in the will and purpose of Yahweh is transformed so that it is now grounded both in the will of Yahweh and in the obedience of Abraham."4 HaShem is no longer operating on His own in a vacuum: instead of being just an employee in the firm, Avraham has become a partner in the enterprise. By his obedience, often at great cost, Avraham has been able to partner with G-d so that when the prophet addresses future generations he can say, "Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, My friend" (Isaiah 41:8, ESV). Talking about the tension between faith and works, and the way that Avraham's faith was completed by his works - putting his money where his mouth was, so to speak - in being prepared to sacrifice Yitz'khak, James writes that "the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Avraham believed G-d, and it was counted to him as righteousness' -- and he was called a friend of G-d" (James 2:23, ESV).

Walter Brueggemann moves us along another step when he suggests that "in the end, our narrative is perhaps not about Avraham being found faithful. It is about G-d being found faithful."5 We need to think carefully about what is happening in the story. HaShem sets up the scenario by asking Avraham to sacrifice Yitz'khak as a burnt offering upon Mt. Moriah. Avraham, whose faith has grown to the point where he can trust that even though he is being asked to let his dream, his promise, die by sacrificing the child of the promise, doesn't question G-d but goes ahead with His instructions. During the ascent of Mt. Moriah, Yitz'khak innocently asks "Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?" (B'resheet 22:7, NJPS), Avraham neatly and prophetically turns the scenario on its head by replying, "G-d will see to the sheep for His burnt offering, my son" (v. 8, NJPS). All of a sudden, instead of this being about Avraham's obedience, it is now about HaShem's covenant faithfulness. Having given the promise - "it is through Yitz'khak that offspring shall be continued for you" (21:12, NJPS) - what will He do? Avraham has been obedient and has publicly declared his faith; now it is down to HaShem!

Because Abraham didn't fail his test, HaShem is held accountable for His test and must provide the ram. In like manner, because He promised Israel that He would send a redeemer for His ancient people - "And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, declares the L-RD" (Isaiah 59:20, ESV) - HaShem sent Yeshua: "when the fullness of time had come, G-d sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV). Similarly, because He promised the nations that they too would be redeemed - "It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6, ESV) - Yeshua is the redeemer for all people: "we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world" (1 John 4:14, ESV). When we faithfully obey Him, He provides for us, "G-d is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV).

Our last point comes from Gordon Wenham, who revisits the change from "in you>" (B'resheet 12:3) to "in your seed" (22:18). This implies, he says, that "the world has already been blessed through Abraham, yet more blessing is to come through his descendants. And all 'because you have obeyed Me' ... This is analogous to the assumptions underlying intercessory prayer. Faithful human response to G-d is taken up and incorporated with the purposes and activity of G-d."6 Here is our promise that when we obediently and faithfully intercede, G-d hears our prayers and responds to them. Prayer really does and will change things, albeit not necessarily in the way we want or expect, because G-d is faithful. We hear, we respond, we obey and heaven is changed. What power and privilege we have when we respond to G-d in faith!

1. - Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), page 309.

2. - James McKeown, Genesis, Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), page 118.

3. - Terence Fretheim, "Genesis" in The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, Vol I, edited by Leander E. Keck, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015), page 159.

4. - R. W. L. Moberly, "The Earliest Commentary of the Akedah", Vetus Testamentum 38 (1988): 320

5. - Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation, (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1982), page 194.

6. - Gordon Wenham, Genesis 16-50, Word Biblical Commentary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), page 112.

Further Study: B'resheet 26:3-5; Romans 4:3-5; Galatians 3:8-9

Application: Are you listening and being obedient to G-d's voice in Yeshua? Do you hear the Spirit nudging you to step into His plans and take an active role in changing the world? Now is the moment to make a difference while there is still time before Yeshua returns. Get the Boss's take on what needs doing and then do it. Right away; today!

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© Jonathan Allen, 2023

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