Noah, the only living descendant of Adam after the flood, had three children: Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Genesis 5:32, 6:10) Shem became the father of Asia/Arabia (including the Jewish people through Abraham – the terms “semite” or “semitic” are derived from his name).
The line from Shem to Abraham (known as “Abram” at this time) and his family is provided in Genesis 11:10-32.
So, in Genesis 12:2-3, God makes Abram an amazing promise that also has implications for all the rest of Scripture – and for you and me:
“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. 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.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
It has implications for you and me because of the last phrase “and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Not just Israelite families. “All the families of the earth shall be blessed” through Abram. God was promising Abram that he would be the father of a great nation, but also that he would be the father of all those who serve the Lord. Both Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham through Christ, who was Himself a descendant of Abraham (Matthew 1:1) even though He existed before Abraham (John 8:58). Through Christ, all who trust in Him share in the covenant promises and blessings to Abraham (Galatians 3:14).
From this promise, we see that God’s desire is to redeem the entire world. We see that God desires to bless the nations. And we see that God’s desire is to use people to fulfill His redemptive purpose.
God will repeat this promise over and over to Abraham and his sons, usually using the stars in the sky to illustrate the scope of the promise:
And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
This is truly a great promise, but it comes at a cost – God will require Abram’s obedience and trust.
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. (Genesis 12:1)
In other words, God is telling Abram that he will need to leave everything that is familiar to him – his homeland, his way of life, his family and friends – to inherit this promise. Abram’s obedience demonstrates his faith in the promise of God.
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, (Genesis 12:4-5)
Abram obeyed God immediately, even thought God’s promise to him wasn’t fulfilled in his lifetime.