Son of Abraham

The introduction to Matthew’s gospel declares Jesus is the “son of Abraham.” But this is much more than another name on a genealogical list. He is the heir of the covenant promises made by God to the Patriarch. And his descent from Abraham forms the basis of the theme of fulfillment that dominates Matthew.

The book of Genesis traces Abraham’s lineage to the first man, Adam, a line that includes many righteous men. Yet, in Matthew, rather than Adam, Abraham is the starting point of the genealogical record - (Matthew 1:17).

Not only is the Patriarch pivotal to the history of Israel, not only did the covenant begin with him, but the arrival of the Messiah, the true “seed of Abraham,” is its climax. He is the one who now brings the promises to fruition.


God promised to bless Abraham’s “seed.” Nations and kings would come from him, and in him, “all the tribes of the earth” are blessed. And thus, from its inception, the covenant 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 blessing… and IN YOU WILL ALL THE TRIBES OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED - (See also Genesis 17:4-8).

In the gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that God is about to fulfill His covenant promises, especially those made 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.

In Matthew, Jesus is also called the “son of David,” the promised king who reigns forevermore, not only over Israel but also over the nations and “kings of the earth” - (Psalm 2:7-9).

And in her song celebrating what God did for her, Mary invokes the covenant with Abraham and links it 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 his seed.” Her reference to his “mercy being to generations and generations” echoes God’s original covenant with Abraham - “Your seed after you throughout their generations.”

Yahweh sent his son as promised, and now he rules over all the nations of the earth. As Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist confirms in Luke:

  • (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 old… To show mercy towards our fathers and REMEMBER HIS HOLY COVENANT; THE OATH WHICH HE SWORE TO ABRAHAM OUR FATHER.


But physical descent alone does not qualify anyone for membership in the covenant community. Ishmael was the biological son of Abraham but did not receive the promise. Likewise, Jacob was accepted by God, but Esau was rejected. Being the “son of Abraham” entails much more than any biological relationship.

Famously, John the Baptist warned the leaders of Israel NOT to appeal to their descent from Abraham to validate 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 are mandatory for entrance into the Kingdom, not physical descent from Abraham or the nation of Israel. And in John’s saying, “stones” is metaphorical for Gentiles that are brought into the covenant, just as Yahweh promised Abraham.


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.

The clause “EAST AND WEST” echoes the command to Abraham to look “north and south, east and west” and see the extent of the promised land. And in both the Hebrew and Greek language, the term rendered “land” can refer to the “earth.”

Thus, the covenant always anticipated something larger than the small territory of Canaan and the biological descendants of Abraham - (Genesis 12:3, 13:14).

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 all nations.


Like its beginning, the conclusion of the gospel 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).

Christ’s final saying echoes the promise in the second Psalm to give him 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 Abraham,” and therefore, he now has “all authority.”

Accordingly, he now sends his disciples as envoys to announce his rule and kingdom. The era of fulfillment arrived in him, and this glorious message is heralded to the nations whenever his gospel is proclaimed.


Two Little Horns?

Language of the New Testament