13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
Verses 13–15 give the experience of Abraham from Genesis 22. God made promises to him beginning with chapter 12 and again in chapters 13, 15, 17, 18, and 21. In Genesis 22 God put Abraham to the supreme test of faith, where he was challenged to sacrifice his son Isaac upon an altar. At the last moment God stopped Abraham from doing this. After offering a ram caught in a thicket, God reiterated His promise by an oath to make his progeny a great nation (He 6:14). Abraham was a man of faith in Jehovah.
Abraham became the father of the nation Israel. He was connected to Melchizedek, who is a theme of this section of Hebrews (Ge 14).
Starting with Hebrews 5:13, the author began to return to his main subject of the superiority of Christ after a parenthesis (He 5:11–6:12). Now he turned to God’s promise (vv. 13–15), God’s oath (vv. 16–18), and our High Priest (vv. 19–20).
The word “for” connects verses 13–20 with verse 12. Having challenged the readers to “imitate” mature believers, the author now gave an example of someone to follow who was mature—Abraham. He was a person who received “blessings” from God by faith.
when God made a promise to Abraham,
God first made a promise to Abraham when he was still in Haran in the Mesopotamian valley at age 75 years (Ge 12:1-3). He repeated it when Abraham reached Shechem in Palestine (Ge 12:6–7).
In Genesis 12 Abraham became the first Jew by faith. He was the father of the Jewish nation, God’s chosen people. He took God at His Word by believing His promises. In Genesis 15 God made another promise to this patriarch—that his progeny would be innumerable (Ge 15:5). The unilateral promise assured Abraham that his progeny would multiply into a nation. This is called the Abrahamic Covenant. God alone passed between sacrificed animals, signifying that He would keep His promise solo. This was a one-way covenant; Abraham had nothing to do with the oath itself. It was an unconditional covenant. The oath was unilateral on God’s part.
Since God’s promise to Abraham was unconditional, it was a guarantee that his progeny would become a great nation. At the time of the initial promise to Abraham, Isaac was not yet born. Abraham waited for 25 years for that event. After Isaac had become a young man, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar. Abraham took his son Isaac to sacrifice on an altar on Mount Moriah (Temple Mount today in Jerusalem).
We find the reference to this event in Genesis 22:16–17, where God confirmed His promise with an oath (He 6:14). God made a promise, then backed it up with an oath (Ge 22:16). It was given after Abraham’s willingness to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.
God made a pledge to give the believer assurance.
God gave Abraham a promise at 75 years of age (1) that his progeny would be a great nation, (2) that he would have territory from the Euphrates to the Red Wadi near Egypt, and (3) that his “seed” would bless generations to come (Ge 12:1–9). God repeated this promise again in Genesis 13:14–17 and yet again in Genesis 15 and 17.
At the time of the sacrifice, Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead in order to fulfill His promise (He 11:19). Christians are to live by faith just like believers in the Hall of Fame chapter. Everyone in Hebrews 11 lived by faith. They were people who placed their trust in God. This should also characterize Christians today. At the core of Christian living is trusting God by faith.