Abram must “go” in order to become a nation, and there he must “be a blessing” in order that the curse from Genesis 3 may be overcome.
Published January 5th, 2017
Genesis 12:1–3 details the commissioning of Abram (i.e., Abraham). There are two clear sections to God’s commissioning, both distinguished by imperatives. The first imperative לֶךְ ("Go!”) is followed by the second imperative וֶהְיֵה ("And be!”). The command to “be a blessing” in 2d is itself followed in verse 3 by a form that provides the ultimate result of Abram’s commission: “with the result that in you all the families of the ground may be blessed.” By analyzing the grammar, we see that Genesis 12:1–3 has two distinct units, with the second being conditioned upon the fulfillment of the first. Abram must “go” to the land in order to become a nation, and there he must “be a blessing” in order that the curse from Genesis 3 may be overcome by God's blessing. The Old Testament makes clear that the patriarch’s descendants, known as the nation of Israel, fulfilled stage-one of his command (a great nation). However, although stage-two saw some realization in the Old Testament period (e.g., in the lives of Joseph and David) , both Moses and the later prophets make clear that we would have to wait until the coming of Christ and the new covenant to see its ultimate realization (all the earth blessed). The Mosaic and new covenants, therefore, fulfill stages one and two of the Abrahamic covenant.
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם
And YHWH said to Abram,
לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַרְאֶֽךָּ׃
"Go from your land and from your kindred and from your father's house to the land that I will show you,
וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְג֣וֹי גָּד֔וֹל
so that I may make you into a great nation,
and may bless you,
and may make your name great.
Then be a blessing,
so that I may bless those who bless you,
but the one who curses you I will bind with a curse,
וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃
with the result that in you all the families of the ground may be blessed."