Abraham's Torah

If Abraham's righteousness was obtained only through faith, and not obedience, why does the Bible say that God blessed him because he obeyed the Torah?

This etching by Rembrandt depicts the story of Abraham, who was ordered by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. (Rembrandt van Rijn, Dutch, Leiden 1606–1669 Amsterdam, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, public domain) Date:1645

Toldot

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Toldot (תולדות | Family history)
  • Torah: Genesis 25:19-28:9
  • Haftarah: Malachi 1:1-2:7
  • Gospel: Matthew 10:21-38

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 25:19 | The Birth and Youth of Esau and Jacob
    • Genesis 25:29 | Esau Sells His Birthright
    • Genesis 26:1 | Isaac and Abimelech
    • Genesis 26:34 | Esau's Hittite Wives
    • Genesis 27:1 | Isaac Blesses Jacob
    • Genesis 27:30 | Esau's Lost Blessing
    • Genesis 27:41 | Jacob Escapes Esau's Fury
    • Genesis 28:6 | Esau Marries Ishmael's Daughter
  • Prophets
    • Mal 1:1 | Introduction
    • Mal 1:2 | Israel Preferred to Edom
    • Mal 1:6 | Corruption of the Priesthood

Portion Summary

The sixth reading from the book of Genesis is named Toldot (תולדות), which means "generations." It is so named because the Torah portion begins with the words "Now these are the records of the generations of Isaac" (Genesis 25:19). Toldot tells us the story of the birth of Jacob and Esau and their struggle for the birthright and blessing of their father, Isaac. We also learn about Isaac's trials and difficulties in the land of Canaan. The portion concludes with Jacob's deception of Isaac in order to procure the family blessing.


The LORD appeared to Isaac just as He had appeared to Abraham. He told him, "I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham" (Genesis 26:3). He restated the promise to multiply his descendents, to give them the land and to bless all nations through them "because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws" (Genesis 26:5). Isaac was inheriting the Abrahamic blessing because Abraham had merited God's favor.

How did Abraham keep God's charge, commandments, statutes and laws? The commandments of God's Torah—His divine law—had not been given yet. Did Abraham know all the laws of the Torah given through Moses at Mount Sinai? If not, how could he be said to have kept them?

Rashi claims that this means Abraham kept the entire Torah and the oral traditional law of Judaism. That seems like a stretch, but what does it really mean? What laws did Abraham keep?

Some say that Abraham knew the laws of God because they had been handed on to him through the line of Noah. Other sources imagine that perhaps he had a book written by Enoch that contained the laws that would be given at Sinai. Still others say that God communicated all the laws to him in advance of giving the Torah at Sinai.

Another opinion has it that he kept all the laws he knew, such as the basic laws of morality and stipulations God had revealed, like circumcision.

Whatever the case may have been, it is important to note that Abraham's righteousness was not a matter of faith without obedience. Anyone who teaches that observing God's laws is contrary to the life of faith should consider this verse. The Bible says that God passed the blessings and promises to Isaac because Abraham obeyed God's laws. This is in keeping with what the Apostle Paul teaches when he says, "Is the Torah then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be!" (Galatians 3:21). James, the brother of Yeshua, shows that the life of faith results in obedience to God's laws:

You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected. (James 2:22)

Keeping God's commandments is an important part of practicing the faith of Abraham: "Yeshua said to them, 'If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham'" (John 8:39).

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