The Abrahamic covenant

A covenant is a solemn agreement between two or more people.

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God and Abraham entered into a covenant that promised many descendants, a blessed nation and a Promised Land.
The Star of David is a recognised symbol of Judaism and is often found outside synagogues

Abraham’s covenant with God marked the beginning of Judaism and is the reason why Jewish people often refer to Abraham as Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father).

God speaks to Abraham

The book of Genesis records how God spoke to Abraham in a vision. God told Abraham to leave his home in Mesopotamia and travel far away to the land of Canaan, the ‘Promised Land’. In contrast with Abraham’s home, Canaan was an arid wasteland. God asked Abraham to follow the rules he had set and be a good example to others.

God promised to give Abraham and his wife Sarah a child, and to protect them and their descendants as his chosen people. In return, Abraham agreed that he and his descendants would obey and worship God and would lead by example.

Abraham sealed the covenant by circumcising himself and all the males in his family, as God had commanded.

The Promised Land

The Tenakh repeatedly refers to God’s offer of a Promised Land for Abraham and his descendants.

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The whole of the land of Canaan … I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants.Genesis 17:8

Today, many Jews believe that the land now known as Israel should belong to Jews in fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham to give the Jewish people the Promised Land. This has often led to conflict both within and outside the religion. In 1948, the State of Israel was created. This has caused much opposition from Arab countries in the Middle East. Since then there have been many disputes, and even wars, over the land.

Map of the State of Israel

The significance of the covenant

  • Through the covenant, Abraham became the first human to reject false gods in favour of the one true God.
  • Jews believe that the covenant between God and Abraham extends to all Jews. It was the start of the relationship between God and the Jewish people.
  • The covenant carries with it the promise of the land of Canaan. Some Jews believe this promise is still to be fulfilled.
  • The covenant marks the origins of the Jewish practice of circumcision. Today, this ritual is known as Brit Milah.
Question

Outline one reason why Abraham is important to Jews.

Abraham is believed to be the founder of Judaism and he made a covenant with God, which still exists for Jews today. Additionally, Abraham sealed the covenant with circumcision, which is an important ritual for Jews today.