What is the meaning of Exodus 32:13 when God said “I will make your descendants a numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever,” and also Genesis 22:17 ” He said also “and the sand on the seashore”. That is a very large number. Can you help me to understand it?
Looking into the sky Abraham would have seen an enormous number of stars. If we live in an urban area then the stars we see are far fewer, although still numerous, because electric lights obscure the night sky. This illustration was God’s way of communicating to Abraham that he would have very many descendants. There is no need to apply modern estimates of how many stars there are. The land that was promised was specific.
Gen 13:14-16 After Lot had departed, the LORD said to Abram, “Look from the place where you stand to the north, south, east, and west. (15) I will give all the land that you see to you and your descendants forever. (16) And I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone is able to count the dust of the earth, then your descendants also can be counted.
Obviously the land that Abraham was promised is literal because Abraham was told to look at it and walk through it. It was also obvious to Abraham that a literal number was not intended because self-evidently people as numerous as grains of dust cannot fit in the promised land.
Importantly Abraham did not receive the land during his lifetime.
Acts 7:5 He did not give any of it to him for an inheritance, not even a foot of ground, yet God promised to give it to him as his possession, and to his descendants after him, even though Abraham as yet had no child.
Gen 23 describes in detail Abraham’s purchase of a burial plot for his wife. The scripture emphasizes that Abraham has not yet received the land that he was promised, because he even needed to buy a burial plot. Since God’s promises will be fulfilled it follows that Abraham will be resurrected to take possession of the land. The apostle Paul explained that the main promised descendant is Jesus Christ.
Gal 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, “and to the descendants,” referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” referring to one, who is Christ.
This promise is described as “the gospel”. The promise to Abraham comprises the structure of the gospel which was fleshed out in more detail with the coming of Jesus Christ.
Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”
Paul also explained that the promise of the land, although initially made to the Israelite descendants, is applicable to Christians.
Gal 3:26-29 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. (27) For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female — for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.