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I am a Christian and a gentile. Could you please help me understand how the promise of God that appears in Genesis 12:3 to bless non-Jews is viewed both currently and historically in Jewish circles.

I do understand this to mean the material blessings that have come to mankind because of the Jewish community, for there are cultures who have been materially well off even without hearing the name of Abraham.

  • Welcome Vincent. – kouty Apr 6 '16 at 7:17
  • Is it impossible to take blessings from G_d without hearing the name of G_d? ;) – kouty Apr 6 '16 at 8:32
  • The Hebrew translates to "all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you." The issue would be to understand what it means to be blessed "in" not "through" you. This is often understood simply to mean "using your name" or "with your name" as in "may you be like Abraham". – rosends Apr 6 '16 at 10:47
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    Vincent welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for this first question! I allowed myself to edit the beginning of your question as it wasn't connected directly to the question, and in addition Christian teachings are not relevant to Mi Yodeya. I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest and stay learning with us. – mbloch Apr 7 '16 at 2:57
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What Danno has stated —

The Hebrew translates to "all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you." The issue would be to understand what it means to be blessed "in" not "through" you. This is often understood simply to mean "using your name" or "with your name" as in "may you be like Abraham".

— is the explanation of Genesis 12:3 according to its plain meaning as found in Rashi.

But there is a point that should be emphasized. This covenant is being made to Avram, meaning Avraham before the covenant of circumcision. Like it states, all the families of the earth that bless Avram (in his efforts and mission) will be blessed by the Creator. And those that curse him will be loathed (אאר). It says that Avram together with his wife, Sarai and the 'souls which they had made there in Charan', meaning those people who had come to serve the Creator like Avram, according to the faith of Shem (meaning keeping the 7 commandments of Noach) departed for the land.

Rashi explains that at this point, Avram, who was a direct descendent of Shem, was being told by the Creator to leave the land of his birth (Ur and later Charan) and to go to the land that G-d would show him.

It says that this land was occupied by the 'Canaanites' (which means traders or merchants) at this time. As Rashi explains, the land of Israel had originally been given by the Creator through Noach to his son, Shem. These foreign merchants had come to the land of Israel from their original home and subjugated its inhabitants, the descendants of Shem, and taken up residence. Avram was being told to go as a rightful heir to Shem and reclaim possession of this land for his future descendants as the Creator had originally intended.

These occupying merchants were called 'Philistines' (from the word פלסטון which means 'fraudulent in business'. It also is associated with the idea of being 'extreme' from the root פלש as in פלשתי. Midrash describes how they initially established these trading outpost by using their women in forced prostitution. This is what initially lured the customers to come and do business.) This was connected to their worship of the 'snake goddess' called 'As-sa-sa-ra' which seems linguistically to be the source of the prohibition of worship of 'Ashera' mentioned in the Torah. They were originally called Kaftorim by the Egyptians.

According to current archeological evidence they appear to be part of the Minoan civilization, an early Mediterranean seafaring nation that was in direct competition with the Egyptians. They practiced human sacrifice and were reputed to be powerful warriors known for their expertise with a type of sling which was secured to their heads. Recent digs around the Aegean have shown evidence that they practiced cannibalism. They had trading outposts along the coastline all around the Mediterranean with their home based in the Aegean on the islands of Crete, Karpathos (as in 'Kaptorian') and Santorini. They were incredibly successful and despised by many of the other nations in the area. The Minoan civilization was destroyed by an act of G-d through the eruption of Thrace and the ensuing multiple tidal waves around 1613 BCE. The remnant of this civilization tried to make permanent settlements around the Mediterranean including the land of Israel. See the following links for some of these details.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caphtor https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_snake_goddess_figurines http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/santorini/minoan-eruption/size.html

The verb for 'loathed' (ארר) which is the consequence of cursing Avram in his mission is unusual and has a distinct meaning. (קלל means 'to make easier' or 'to lighten' and the opposite of this is קללה which means 'to curse' or 'to make more difficult'). 'Loathe' on the other hand has a meaning of 'disappearing' or 'ceasing to be revealed'. This can be seen in the commentary of Ramban on Genesis 4:11 and the Shadal of Exodus 22:27. This can also be seen in Yerushalmi Sotah discussing the ink that is erased in the water which a suspected adulteress will drink.

In context, this means that those peoples of the earth who assist the inheritors of Avram's task to take possession of the land of Israel, meaning those people who help the Jewish people, will be blessed with continued good life and existence. This who hinder and obstruct this mission will, like the letters that are erased in the waters of the suspected adulteress, disappear from the world and cease to receive the blessings of life from the Creator.

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The promise in Genesis is the only one that is we're aware of - that descendents of Abraham and the Jewish nation inherit what was promised to Abraham. But G-d certainly blesses all humans with tremendous good each and every day!!! Sunshine, rain, food, the ability to breathe, talk, etc. The blessings we all receive are innumerable and incomprehensible to the human brain.

  • Shoshana, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for your first answer! If you haven’t done so already, you should take a look at the tour. I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest and stay learning with us. – mbloch Apr 17 '16 at 3:20
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We perhaps can clear up any doubts:

Can we say that the whole world is living in abundance thanks to an individual, even an unknown? The weight of an individual

A righteous man can justify the well being of the whole humanity, remaining unknown. Abraham[1], Rabbi Chanina ben Dossa[2]. One of the ways to understand it is that humanity will progressively estimate the righteousness this man, the force of good.
for the increasingly widespreading Abraham's conviction See Sefer Mada AZ, 1, 3[3]. The world progressed in the way of Abraham. Progression continues.


[1] See mishna Avot 5, 1
There were ten generations from Noah to Abraham. This is to teach us the extent of G‑d's tolerance; for all these generations angered Him, until Abraham came and reaped the reward for them all.
It was worth waiting the work of Abraham, establishing the legitimacy of the creator, and finalize the world.

See Avot 6, 10:
10. G‑d acquired five acquisitions in his world. These are:.. one acquisition is Abraham,... Abraham, as it is written (Genesis 14:19), "And he blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram to G‑d Most High, acquirer of heavens and earth."
See Maharal Miprag Gvurot Hashem chapter 5. he quoted the midrash Bereshit Rabbah, 12. אלה תולדות שמים וארץ בהבראם, אמר רבי יהושע בן קרחה בזכותו של אברהם נברא העולם אותיות באברהם שנאמר and went on to explain at length that Abraham had the merit to justify the creation, for Abraham the world were maintained. And the words of Rambam cited bellow give a rational explanation for this.
[2] Brachot 17b
For Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: Every day a divine voice goes forth from Mount Horeb and proclaims: The whole world is sustained for the sake of My son Hanina, and Hanina My son has to subsist on a kab of carobs from one week end to the next.

[3]
The world continued in this fashion until the pillar of the world - the Patriarch Abraham - was born. ... etc... He had no teacher, nor was there anyone to inform him. Rather, he was mired in Ur Kasdim among the foolish idolaters. His father, mother, and all the people [around him] were idol worshipers, and he would worship with them. [However,] his heart was exploring and [gaining] understanding.

Ultimately, he appreciated the way of truth and understood the path of righteousness through his accurate comprehension. He realized that there was one God who controlled the sphere, that He created everything, and that there is no other God among all the other entities. He knew that the entire world was making a mistake. What caused them to err was their service of the stars and images, which made them lose awareness of the truth.

Abraham was forty years old when he became aware of his Creator. When he recognized and knew Him, he began to formulate replies to the inhabitants of Ur Kasdim and debate with them, telling them that they were not following a proper path.

He broke their idols and began to teach the people that it is fitting to serve only the God of the world. To Him [alone] is it fitting to bow down, sacrifice, and offer libations, so that the people of future [generations] would recognize Him. [Conversely,] it is fitting to destroy and break all the images, lest all the people err concerning them, like those people who thought that there are no other gods besides these [images].

When he overcame them through the strength of his arguments, the king desired to kill him. He was [saved through] a miracle and left for Charan. [There,] he began to call in a loud voice to all people and inform them that there is one God in the entire world and it is proper to serve Him. He would go out and call to the people, gathering them in city after city and country after country, until he came to the land of Canaan - proclaiming [God's existence the entire time] - as [Genesis 21:33] states: "And He called there in the name of the Lord, the eternal God."

When the people would gather around him and ask him about his statements, he would explain [them] to each one of them according to their understanding, until they turned to the path of truth. Ultimately, thousands and myriads gathered around him. These are the men of the house of Abraham.

He planted in their hearts this great fundamental principle, composed texts about it

Nowadays Idolatry is clearly less important, less credible.

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You asked, "... how is God's promise to bless all nations through Abraham fulfilled?"

Answer: Abraham married the descendants of Shem (Sarah), Ham (Hagar) and Japheth (Ketura [source: The Yalkut Shimoni (Iyov 904)]).

All the nations are blessed in that any one of them can claim, through any of these three women's offsprings, descent from Abraham "the father of many nations".

I link my answer to: If Ketura wasn't Hagar, who was she?

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