1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
There’s a great irony as we move into Genesis 12: the very thing the Tower builders sought for themselves apart from God (“a name” for themselves-11:4), the Lord promises to Abram: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (12:2). Indeed, the Lord’s promise far exceeds the builders’ ambition. He will make Abram’s the greatest of all names on the earth because it will be the name through which all the families of the earth will be blessed!
Something much greater than God’s covenant with Noah is here. The Lord announces something far greater than the global stability & preservation guaranteed by His covenant with Noah. Rather than protecting the world from another flood of judgment, through Abraham & his seed, the Lord announces His intention to flood the world once again, not in judgment but with blessing!
The Lord’s covenant with Noah is a Self-imposed gracious restraint upon His prerogatives as the Righteous Judge of the world. This promised stability preserves conditions so that the Triumphant Seed of Genesis 3:15 can emerge, but does not change those conditions, and leaves open questions concerning how God will advance His purposes.
In the Lord’s covenant with Abraham, the invasion of God’s redemptive grace into the world begins in earnest, with 12:3’s explicit promise that He intends to do far more than preserve the status quo, but to affirmatively bless all the families of the earth, a purpose which harkens back to the Lord’s design in 1:26—28! If the Lord had destroyed all the earth and all men (including Noah & his family), then His original design would have been abandoned. Instead, He demonstrates His supremacy by overcoming, triumphing over sin & all its consequences.
God’s purpose has not changed! Just as in Genesis 1:26–28, He still intends to bless the entire earth. As in Genesis 3:15, He will raise a seed of the woman, who we now know will be a son of Abraham, to bring His blessing to the 4 corners of the globe! The relationship between God and all the families of the earth will now depend on Abraham & his seed mediating the blessings of the covenant to all. Likewise, the relationship between the families of the earth and the Lord will depend upon their relationship to Abraham & his Seed (12:3).
I’m grateful for the following insight from Bruce Waltke in his wonderful commentary on Genesis:
“The expansion of the promise of 12:1—3 from individual to national to universal salvation is the essential movement of Scripture. The Bible is a missionary guide: concerned with bringing salvation to all the families of the earth. Abraham as a blessing bearer of salvation is an anticipation of the blessing-bearing Christ. When Christ ascends into heaven, He extends His pierced hands, hands that blessed infants and gave sight to the blind, to bless His church (Luke 24:50—53).” Waltke 209