Son of Abraham

Jesus is the true “son of Abraham,” the heir and the one who receives and implements the inheritance

Holy Land - Photo by Laura Siegal on Unsplash
The introduction to
Matthew declares Jesus is the “son of David, the son of Abraham.” This is more than a name entered on a genealogical record. It prepares the reader for the theme of fulfillment that dominates this gospel account. Christ is the Davidic Messiah and the King of Israel, the true Son, and the promised heir of the Patriarch. In him, the covenant promises made by Yahweh find their fulfillment - [Holy Land - Photo by Laura Siegal on Unsplash].

The book of Genesis traces Abraham’s lineage back to the first man, Adam, a line that included many righteous and remarkable men such as Enoch and Noah. Yet, in Matthew, Abraham is the starting point of the genealogical record:
  • (Matthew 1:17) – “So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David to the carrying away to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the carrying away to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.”
Not only was Abraham pivotal to the history of Israel, but the covenant with all its promises also began with him, and the arrival of the promised Messiah, the “seed of Abraham,” is the climax of the covenant.

God covenanted with Abraham, promising to bless his “seed.” Nations and kings would come from his line. Moreover, in him, “all the tribes of the earth” would be blessed. From its inception, the covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the “nations of the earth”:
  • (Genesis 12:1-3) – “Now Yahweh said to Abram I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, and you will be a blessingand in you will all the tribes of the earth be blessed.
  • (Genesis 17:4-8) – “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nationsI will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give you, and to your seed after you, the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
In Luke, the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God was about to fulfill His covenant promises to Israel, especially those given to Abraham:
  • (Luke 1:31-33) – “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God will give unto him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom, there shall be no end.
Jesus is also the “son of David,” the promised king who reigns forevermore, not only over Israel but also over all the nations and the “kings of the earth”:
  • (Psalm 2:7-9) – “I will tell of the decree: Yahweh said to me, you are my son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me and let me give nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the earth: You will shepherd them with a scepter of iron, as a potter’s vessel, you will dash them in pieces.
In her song celebrating what God had done, Mary invoked the covenant with Abraham and linked it directly to the miraculous child in her womb:
  • (Luke 1:47-55) – “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has looked upon the low estate of his handmaid: For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is unto generations and generations, on them that fear him… He has given help to Israel his servant, that he might remember mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, toward Abraham and his seed forever.”
Thus, Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise “to Abraham and to his seed.” Her reference to his “mercy being to generations and generations” echoes God’s covenant with “you and your seed after you throughout their generations.” Yahweh had sent his Son as promised, and he would rule over all the nations of the earth. As Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, confirmed:
  • (Luke 1:68-73) – “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; For he has visited and wrought redemption for his people, and raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets that have been from of oldTo show mercy towards our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he swore to Abraham our father.
But physical descent alone did not qualify anyone for membership in the covenant. For example, Ishmael was the biological son of Abraham, yet he did not receive the promise. Likewise, many years later, Jacob was accepted by God, but Esau was rejected. Being the “son of Abraham” entailed much more than any biological relationship.

Famously, John the Baptist warned the Jews in his audience not to appeal to their descent from Abraham for confirmation of their covenant status:
  • (Matthew 3:9) – “And they were being baptized in the Jordan River by him, openly confessing their sins. But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, Broods of vipers! Who suggested for you to flee from the coming wrath? Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance; and think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham as our father. I say to you, God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Repentance and submission to the Messiah were mandatory for entrance into the Kingdom, not physical descent from Abraham. And in John’s saying, “stones” is metaphorical for Gentiles brought into the covenant, an integral part of the original covenant promise. Compare the following words of Jesus with those of Yahweh to Abraham:
  • (Matthew 8:8-12) – “But the (Roman) centurion said, Lord! I am of no consideration that under my roof you should enter, but only say with a word and healed will be my servant… Now Jesus, hearing, marveled and said to them that were following him: Truly, I say to you, with no one in Israel such faith as this have I found. But I say to you, many from east and west will come and recline with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the darkness outside.
  • (Genesis 13:14-16) – “And Yahweh said to Abram: Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are; northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you are beholding, I will give to you, and to your seed to times everlasting. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, your seed also may be numbered.
East and west” echoes the call for Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” to see the extent of the promised land. In both Hebrew and Greek, the term rendered “land” can also refer to the “earth.”

Thus, the covenant always anticipated something far larger than the small territory of Canaan and the biological descendants of Abraham - (Genesis 12:313:14).

Although he limited his ministry to the children of Israel, Jesus did not exclude Gentiles from his efforts. His occasional interactions with non-Jews anticipated the later opening of the gospel to the nations. And while many Jews did reject him, he responded positively to individual Gentiles who approached him in faith.

And like its beginning, the conclusion of Matthew recalls the covenant with Abraham and the messianic promises to the House of David – “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” - (Matthew 28:18-19).

His final saying in Matthew echoes the promise from the second Psalm to give the Messiah the “nations as your inheritance, and as your possession, the ends of the earth.” Likewise, the promise to “bless all the nations” in Abraham reverberates in the words of Jesus. He is the True and Greater “son of David, and son of Abraham.” Therefore, already, he has “all authority,” not only on the earth but also “in heaven.” Accordingly, he now sends his heralds throughout the earth to announce his rule and the arrival of the Kingdom of God.