The blessing of the nations
Blessing and cursing
Bless - “barak”; curse - “arar”
Blessing - God’s favour;
Cursing - God’s disfavour.
God’s blessing extends to those who seek to be righteous; the wicked are under the curse.
Gen 1:28 - the first human enjoyed God’s favour and were blessed by Him.
But, with Abraham, the way opens to experience God’s favour again.
Creator and Creation in Harmony
The universe was created with ease, merely by speaking the word, and it was orderly.
And everything was good.
The humans are blessed and the seventh day is also blessed (Gen 2:1-3)
In the garden of Eden
The man is moulded by God;
God provides the right environment for the man (Gen 2:8-17);
And a suitable companion (Gen 2:18-25)
This harmony is broken by eating the forbidden fruit (Gen 2:17).
The consequence is God’s displeasure - they are expelled from the garden.
The serpent is cursed but there is a promised of a final victory (Gen 3:14-15);
The ground is cursed and the work becomes a toil (Gen 3:17-19).
In the garden of Eden there was a close relationship between the man (adam) and the ground (adama).
Now, this relationship is broken.
Relationship between humans and nature;
Relationship between men and women;
Relationship between God and humanity.
All were affected by the sin of Adam
1. Cain murdered Abel and is cursed by God (Gen 4:11-12). The ground will not longer yield its crop. He will be a “restless wanderer on the earth”.
2. The work becomes a painful toil (Gen 5:29).
3. God decides to wipe the humankind from the face of the earth (Gen 6:5).
4. The flood is undoing of the first creation. The waters marked the return to the chaos that existed at the beginning (Gen 7:11-24; 1:2).
5. But, Noah finds favour with God and then there is a promise of never cursing the ground because of humans (Gen 8:21). The curse refers to the flood.
6. So, the ground emerges again from the waters (Gen 8:1-14; 1:9-10) and Noah is blessed again (Gen 9:1; 1:28).
7. The world is renewed but the human nature is not (Gen 8:21; 9:6).
The first human blessing and curse
Noah blesses Shem and Japheth but curses Ham’s son Canaan.
Here, Noah’s words carries divine authority.
From here onwards, those within the chosen line are divinely empowered to bless or curse others.
Later on in the NT, we are called to bless, not to curse (1 Peter 3:9; Luke 6:28).
It is here, that the line of Shem gets prominence (Gen 9:26-27).
Abraham comes from the line of Shem and his descendants will take possession of the land occupied by the Canaanites (Gen 15:18-21), cursed by Noah.
Abraham and the blessing of the nations
“toledot” in Gen 11:27 ends in Gen 25:11.
With Abraham entering the stage, God desires to bless humanity and to reverse the divine curses under which they live (Gen 12:1-3).
But, the fulfilment of this promises is conditional on Abraham’s obedience.
Since divine curses were due to human’s disobedience, so in order to reverse it Abraham has to be obedient.
There is another problem that stands as a barrier against the promise - Sarah cannot have children.
It will be God to make Abraham’s name great, not Abraham himself (see the story of Babel).
Those who “disdain” Abraham will be “cursed” (Gen 12:17; 20:18).
Through Abraham, God’s blessing will be mediated to “all the families of the ground” (Gen 14:18-20 - Melchizedek blesses Abraham and so gets the tithes; Gen 21:22-34 - Abimelech enters into covenant with Abraham).
Thus, Abraham enjoys special relationship with God.
Abraham proved himself and so after the last test of his obedience, God repeats His promise of blessing (Gen 22:16-18).
Finally, Gen 24:1; 24:35 - Abraham is blessed in every way.
Blessing in the remainder of Genesis
1. God’s blessing is closely associated with prosperity (Gen 24:35; 26:12-13).
In case of Jacob (Gen 30:43; 32:3-21), he became rich despite the attempts of his uncle Laban to limit his wealth (Gen 31:6-9).
The same is true of Joseph - from a slave (Gen 39:1-6) and imprisonment (Gen 39:6-23), he ends as the second to Pharaoh (Gen 41:39-43).
2. God’s blessing is associated with fertility (Gen 1:28; 9:1).
In Abraham story the lack of fertility is the setting against which the Lord promises that Abraham will become a great nation.
3. The power to mediate God’s blessing to others is passed on through the chosen line of patriarchs.
Abraham Gen 12:1-3;
Isaac Gen 26:2-5;
Jacob Gen 28:13-15; 35:11-12; 48:3-4.
Each is blessed by God
Laban is blessed because of Jacob (Gen 30:27);
Potiphar prospers because of Joseph (Gen 39:2-6)
The prison warden also (Gen 39:20-23)
And Egypt can survive famine (Gen 47:13-26) and other nations also (Gen 41:56-57).
Finally, Jacob blesses Pharaoh after receiving “the best part of the land” (Gen 47:6-10).
The importance of blessing by the father of his firstborn is seen in the story of Esau and Jacob (Gen 27:1-40).
See also Gen 48- the blessing of the sons of Joseph
Gen 49 - the blessing of the sons of Jacob.
In Gen 49:10, there is an expectation that through a future royal descendant all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
New Testament Connections
Acts 3:25-26 - Jesus is the one through whom God’s blessing will come to others.
Galatians 3:14 - the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ.
Thus, Jesus is the “seed” of Abraham.