Home > Barry Horner, Bible Study, Church Replacement Theology, doctrines, eschatology, Genesis, hermeneutics > Bible Reading: The Abrahamic Covenant’s Plural Offspring

Bible Reading: The Abrahamic Covenant’s Plural Offspring


In my recent reading through Genesis (list 2 in a modified Horner Bible Reading Plan), I noticed again the references to Abraham’s offspring, or “seed.”  Though Reformed Theology emphasizes the singular offspring (Christ), spoken of by Paul in Galatians 3, yet it is obvious from just reading Genesis 17 that some of the Abrahamic covenant texts use offspring in a plural sense, and a sense that clearly cannot be talking about God.  For instance, Genesis 17:7And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

I especially noticed the phrase “to be God to you and to your offspring after you.”  Of course this is not talking about Christ as the singular seed of Abraham, or of Christ being the true Israel — for that would be saying that God is “to be God” to Himself.  The very next sentence, verse 8, gives the land promise in terms that could not be plainer:  And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

Paul in Galatians 3:16 refers to “the promises” and Genesis 18:18, “and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.”  Just because Paul cites one aspect of the Abrahamic covenant in no way invalidates other aspects of that covenant.  The same principle is at work in other oft-cited passages brought forth as “proofs” of Church Replacement Theology:  just because the writer of Hebrews cites the full passage of the New Covenant from Jeremiah 31 does not take away from its meaning in the original text or change its meaning.  Acts 15, with James’ citation of Amos 9, is similar.  All that James says is that the words of the prophets “agree with” what was happening — which is clearly not the same as having the meaning changed to some unexpected “new meaning.”

Barry Horner, in Future Israel  (p. 98) further expands on the issue of singular and plural senses of “seed”:

… the promise of Genesis 12:3 is not made to Christ as the mediator, but to Abraham, and this Scripture overwhelmingly affirms. Further, the seed of Abraham having application to Christ according to Galatians 3:16, this in no way invalidates the “seed” of Genesis 12:1-3 being the nation of Israel anymore than does “seed” in Genesis 13:15; 17:7. The exegetical reason is that God says to Abraham, your “descendants [seed]” shall be as the innumerable stars of heaven (Gen. 15:5). These references clearly refer to the nation of Israel, and not exclusively Christ as an individual. Paul’s employment of Midrash, distinctive Jewish, applicatory interpretation, incorporates Christ as the root of promised blessing without at all denying the obvious promise of national blessing, the plurality of “Abraham’s descendants [seed], heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).  Plainly the terms of the curse/blessing in Genesis 12:2-3 principally refer to the national seed here, notwithstanding the attempted textual manipulation which betrays a difficulty that the obvious sense presents. To be sure, Christ is the ground of covenant blessing, but this does not nullify national blessing as is plainly indicated.

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