Bible Answer

Are Gentiles included in the Old Testament covenants?

Do Gentiles receive the promises of the covenants given to Abraham?

In Ephesians Paul teaches that Gentiles were not natural recipients of the covenants though they were included. Beginning with Abraham, the Lord made promises to bring a Deliverer through Abraham’s family. The family of Abraham are the Jewish people, beginning with Isaac. Prior to Isaac, there was no such thing as Jew or Gentile. By definition, the word Gentile means someone who is not Jewish, therefore the concept of a Gentile has no meaning unless a Jewish nation exists. 

Therefore, we say Isaac was the first Jew (i.e., the first in Abraham’s family to receive the promises). All who descend from Isaac and Jacob are the people of the covenant. Later, God elaborates on His covenant by speaking through the prophets and eventually through Christ Himself. All these promises were given to the Jewish people, not to Gentiles, and only those who trace their ancestry to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob may be considered Jews. 

Thankfully, the Lord also made accommodation for Gentiles in His covenants:

Gen. 12:1  Now the Lord said to Abram, 
    “Go forth from your country, 
    And from your relatives 
    And from your father’s house, 
    To the land which I will show you;
Gen. 12:2  And I will make you a great nation, 
    And I will bless you, 
    And make your name great; 
    And so you shall be a blessing;
Gen. 12:3  And I will bless those who bless you, 
    And the one who curses you I will curse. 
    And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Notice in the covenant given to Abraham, the Lord declared that through Abraham’s family (i.e., the Jewish people) all families (i.e., the Gentiles) would be blessed. Clearly, the Lord sees other nations as distinct from Abraham’s family because He declares Abraham’s family will become a great nation apart from all other families on earth. 

So the Lord promised that He would extend the blessing He assigned to the Jewish people into all the world. Gentiles are the not recipients of the covenants but we do have opportunity to participate in them (by faith) and therefore receive the blessings of these promises. Paul describes our relationship to the covenants given to Israel in this way:

Rom. 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,
Rom. 11:18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

Gentiles are “grafted” into the promises given to Israel by our faith Christ, Who is the promised fulfillment of those covenants. Paul says were are being grafted into a root that we were not naturally a part of, though we now are nourished by the root. The root in Paul’s analogy is the nation of Israel and the covenants God gave to that nation. We are not naturally born Jews, but nevertheless we are receiving what God promised to the Jews by our faith. 

One day, the Jewish people will receive what was promised too, though for now they are being hardened Paul says for our sake. For a more complete understanding of these things, we recommend you listen to Chapters 9-11 of our Romans study.