The first patriarch, Abram (God later changes his name to Abraham in Gen. 17:5), is introduced in Genesis 11:27-31. God begins the new form of the theocratic administration by making a covenant with Abraham. The Abrahamic Covenant is defined as “God’s promise to the first patriarch, Abraham, which functions as the basis for Israel’s covenant with Yahweh.” The covenant starts out as promises from God to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3:
“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.'” (NASB95)
The main promises God gives to Abraham are a land, making of him a great nation (seed) and a blessing. These promises are ratified and made into a covenant in Genesis 15:1-21. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains “In the solemn ceremony in which the Lord made a binding covenant with Abram, God assured him of the ultimate fulfillment of His promises (vv. 7, 18–21).”
This is an everlasting, unilateral and unconditional covenant; meaning there is no expiration date for the blessings. The covenant was ratified while Abraham was asleep, thus it rests entirely on the sovereignty of God. Charles Ryrie explains it this way: “By passing alone between the pieces of the animals, God (whose presence was evident by the fire and smoke; cf. Ex. 13:21) swore fidelity to His promises and placed the obligation for their fulfillment on Himself alone.” Furthermore, God gave Abraham no conditions for the covenant to be fulfilled, and no conditions came up when the covenant was reaffirmed in Genesis 17 and 22. However, there were conditional blessings (conditioned upon obedience) that will be discussed later.
Pentecost points out “It becomes apparent throughout Scripture that the history of Israel and God’s dealing with Abraham’s descendants is founded and built on the Abrahamic Covenant.” In a sense, Pentecost is saying this covenant becomes a foundation and starting point for the following Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants. Each of these covenants build off the Abrahamic Covenant in different and distinct ways, all the while continuing God’s Kingdom program.