“It came to pass that Shelach had lived for thirty years, and he begat Eber. And after he began Eber, Shelach lived another four-hundred and three years and he begat sons and daughters.”
And here the pattern continues. At times this may seem to get redundant, but the presence of these genealogies reminds us of God’s patience through the generations and the long gaps of time in between his covenantal activities. Our tendency is to be impatient and we want everything yesterday. God’s design is that he may never intend to bring earth-shattering events in our generation, but it may be through our children, our grandchildren, or through our great-great-great grandchildren whom we will never live long enough to meet in this life. There are basically ten generations that are traced here from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham. In which generation are we? We may be called simply to live in faith and obscurity, setting an example in our children or grandchildren to follow, for it may be in their generation that God is going to fulfill our prayers and move. We may pray for revival, but God is the one who brings such revival and he does so in His timing.
The name Eber comes from the Hebrew word meaning, “to pass by” or “to cross over.” Typically this is seen to reflect the nomadic lifestyle given to the descendants of Noah (they were to multiply and fill the earth — Genesis 9:1). It could also reflect the deliverance that God had given to his people through the flood as they passed over the waters of judgment if only still in the loins of Shem. It is also rather prophetic, because the people of God would pass through the Red Sea and the Jordan River by God’s divine working. There is some debate as to the origin of the word Hebrew, but some trace the word back to this son of Shem’s name. Hebrew traditionally is understood to be taken from the term “the ones who come from across the river.” Prophetic indeed.
The bottom line is that God is still continuing to work. Shelach and Eber may not be mighty judges or covenant mediators, but they prove faithful to God and hand down what they know from one generation to the next — something that we are all called to do as believers. We must be engaged in this privilege — teaching our children and grandchildren about the mighty works of God. The sad thing is that in our culture today, many parents are not doing that, but rather are taking the attitude that children should make up their own mind on such matters. Yet, for a plant to grow strong and healthy, it must be biased by good soil, plenty of water, and good sunshine; for a child to grow strong and healthy, he or she must be biased toward the truth — we are called to do that biasing by the way we live and by the way we teach our children. And while history may simply record us as a name in the line of another, our faithfulness will bear fruit in the generations that follow in faithfulness to God’s call and design.
“I will erect my covenant between me and between you and between your seed who come after you through their generations as an everlasting covenant—to be God to you and to your seed after you.”
Even the language that God uses here denotes the permanent nature of this covenant. He says, “I will erect…” The verb that he uses here denotes the idea of building a castle tower, something strong and permanent that stands for all people to see. In addition, the Hiphil form of this verb is used, which reflects that God is causing something to take place—God is the one erecting this covenant, Abraham has no part in its building (and as we saw in chapter 15, no part in its completion). In addition, the eternal nature of God’s unchangeable purpose (Hebrews 6:17-18) and character (Malachi 3:6) provide this everlasting covenant its absolute permanence. Because God is, this covenant stands even today despite the wickedness of the heart of man. Friends, that is something to rejoice about.
Notice too, the language about the seed of Abraham. This is a reference to his children and to his children’s children throughout the generations. Some would try and suggest that this language of seed only applies to Jesus, as Paul says that the Seed is Christ (Galatians 3:16). Yet, while the covenant is clearly fulfilled in and by Christ, to see Christ as the only end of this promise is to take the language out of context. God is clearly promising this covenant not only to Abraham, but to his covenant household—hence the sign of the covenant that will be given a little later in this chapter will be placed not only on Abraham and not only on those in Abraham’s household old enough to accept the covenant on their own, but also on their children and infants. Thus, in the New Testament age, we place the covenant sign of baptism on the children of believing parents to indicate that they are part of the blessings of this covenant because of their parents.
Loved ones, cherish God’s covenantal promises to you—he will be God to you and will never abandon you. This promise is more valuable than anything else on the whole of the earth. It is permanent and established in stone and God will never fail to bring it about in your lives. In addition, the covenant is not just about you, but it is about your children and your children’s children after you. Rejoice in that and raise your children up knowing these great promises of God that one day they too may accept them as their own. Sing of the might of our God, for these promises do not rest on the work of men, but upon the character and plan of God. He has established them in stone, confirmed them in blood, and will renew them in your life—day in and day out.
Come, let us use the grace divine, and all with one accord,
In a perpetual covenant join ourselves to Christ the Lord;
Give up ourselves, through Jesus’ power, His Name to glorify;
And promise, in this sacred hour, for God to live and die.