Hebrews 11:12

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. Hebrews 11:12

The word, “Therefore,” is based upon what has been said since verse 8, and which spoke of both Abraham and Sarah. However, this now goes beyond only Abraham and Sarah, though it is still fulfilled in Abraham and Sarah together as well (see Deuteronomy 1:10, for example). The author says, based on those previous thoughts, that “from one man,” meaning Abraham, something rather amazing would come about. This begins to be seen in, “and him as good as dead.”

The words here speak of what is probably based on his relationship with Sarah, not on his inability to sire children. This is certain because when Sarah gave Abraham her maidservant Hagar, she bore with no problem. This is more certain because, after Sarah’s death, Abraham bore other children through another wife, Keturah, as well as concubines (see Genesis 25:1-4). However, before these things came to pass, it looked as if there was only a dead end to any descendants for him from Sarah. Despite this, and through Sarah (as well as those others), there “were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude.”

The Greek word is “heaven,” and it fits better here. The stars in the sky at any given time aren’t a jillionth of those in heaven. In fact, one might not see any stars in the sky depending on conditions. However, heaven is filled with them, regardless of the condition of those visible in the sky. This is what the offspring of Abraham are equated to. And then again, another superlative is used in the words, “innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”

In the original promise of a son to be born to Abraham, a part of this same thought was conveyed –

“Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” Genesis 15:5

After Abraham was tested with sacrificing Isaac, that was expanded upon, and it is what is being referred to now by the author of Hebrews where both of the terms were used in Genesis 22 –

“By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.” Genesis 22:16, 17

Understanding these promises, it is certain that there is both a literal and a spiritual fulfillment of them. The literal fulfillment is that Abraham’s descendants of the flesh fill the world. This includes those of Sarah, her maidservant, and his later wife and concubines. But the promise also extends spiritually to those who are of the faith. This is made explicit by Paul in Galatians 3 –

“Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Galatians 3:7

And again –

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

In both a literal sense and in a spiritual sense, the promise to Abraham, because of his faith in the word of the Lord, was exactingly fulfilled.

Life application: Though literally fulfilled in physical descendants, the promise made to Abraham is also fulfilled in a spiritual sense in those who are of faith in the word of the Lord. This is not only in faithful Jews looking forward to the Messiah, but also in all – Jew and Gentile alike – who look back on the work of the Messiah. When you read about this great promise to Abraham, understand that you are included in the innumerable host of God’s children, all because of your faith in the Messiah, our Lord Jesus.

What a gift! We are children of God and sons of Abraham by faith in Jesus! What more could we ask for when we realize the magnitude of this concept. All our sins are forgiven and eternal life has been bestowed upon us by grace through faith. Glory to God for His immeasurable gift of love! Amen.

7 thoughts on “Hebrews 11:12

  • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 6:21 am

    Pastor Charlie, I have a couple of questions?
    1. Is it because this is pre-law that Abraham had concubines, or was it the accepted culture of the day?
    2. If the promise to Abraham about his descendants, include the descendants of Hagar, ( the promise that says ‘your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies’) who then would be considered the enemies of Abraham and Hagar? I always believed that the descendants of Hagar were always at war with the descendants of Isaac, having come out of a Muslim background, and because to this day, my Muslim relatives hate the Jews with a passion.

    I am thankful that the promise to Abraham was fulfilled in a spiritual sense because that includes me. ” If you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed.”
    There is so much to learn from this book of Hebrews, and I thank you for being our teacher.

    • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Hi Ruth!

      Concubines, even under the law, were not considered wrong. Solomon is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). David had wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13). Nothing is said in the New Testament, either way, on this issue. The only prohibition of this kind is found in the appointment of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy and Titus. Other than that, the Lord doesn’t seem to interfere in this issue at all. Even the law itself (Leviticus 19:20) mentions concubines as something that was considered as a part of life. This doesn’t mean this was the original intent, but it is a fact of life.

      In the second one, the promise to Abraham of Genesis 15:6 was innumerable descendants. That is not to be confused with the promised son and his offspring. A simple statement about the numerous descendants isn’t qualified in Genesis 15. it is simply a truth which will come about. It isn’t until later in Genesis that the son of promise is named and he also would lead to descendants “as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.” One could assume that this is only speaking of Isaac – Jacob – Israel, but this would be incorrect because Paul then explains that any who are of the faith are included in this, and many of the literal descendants are not (Galatians 3:7).

      As the disbelieving Jews are “at war” with this precept, then it is actually no different than those of a Muslim background. All that matters in the ultimate sense is faith in Messiah. The ancient hatred between the Jews and the surrounding nations is actually only an earthly skirmish. But at this point – both parties are at war with the truth. And so either – Jew or Muslim – must first come to Christ to be considered a true son of Abraham.

      This is why I had no problem including all of them in the commentary. In the end, there are natural sons, and then there are sons of promise!


      • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 6:39 pm

        Thank you very much. this is a lot to take in, because I now have to ‘unlearn’ these things which I was taught early in my christian life.

  • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 7:39 am

    thank you

  • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 8:10 am

    Ok then this sort of answers my question of how are we Gentiles considered descendent of Abraham? I assumed we Gentiles would be ( not in a bad way) relegated to second born status in heaven because the Jews are the chosen people and we are in by default because they dropped the ball when Jesus first came to save them. We are still sons and daughters of God just not the first born. If this makes sense? And the Jews will get back their numero uno status with God Ok my head hurts I am done Oh great question Ruth I am interested
    In Charlie’s response to it.

    We ARE another day closer to home
    Grace mercy and peace on you and yours
    God bless my friends we fly soon

    • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      I gave her the response. Take a gander, but remember Galatians 3:7 is really key.

  • Saturday, March 9th, 2019 at 8:29 am



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