GENESIS 11, 12, and 13
Abraham: The Man of Faith and the Friend of God.
It is hard to overstate the importance of Abraham to the purposes of God in his redemption of mankind. Missing out on the next few days’ bible readings will be a major setback in your understanding of the entire Old Testament, and much of the New also! God’s call and promises to Abraham are ‘milestones’ in Bible history and in God’s story of redemption (12:1-3). All God’s blessings to us are through his promises to Abraham – see also all Galatians chapter 3. Here are some key points in Abraham’s life and his walk with the Lord:
God had several ‘landmark’ meetings with Abraham: found in 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:5, 18; and 17:1-8. These were key stages where Abraham moved deeper into God’s purposes and his destiny. Abraham’s character, in particular, was tested on many occasions (see also Hebrews 11:8-12):
- Obedience: 12:1 Values: 13:5-18 Love and loyalty: 14:1-24
- Faith: 15:1 – 21:34 Isaac’s “sacrifice”: 22:1-19 Final years of his life: 22:20 – 25:18
Abraham (originally named ‘Abram’) was from pagan roots in Ur (Mesopotamia), which is possibly the birthplace of all civilization after the Great Flood. He miraculously heard the call of God as a young man and persuaded his father and his nephew to join him in pilgrimage to the Promised Land.
His walk of faith with God was punctuated by incidents where he gave way to fear (Gen 12:10-20; 16:1-5; 20:1-17). But he was also brave, generous and had a great trust in God.
The arrival of Isaac was the pivotal point in Abraham’s life and almost the reason for his existence. All God’s promises to Abraham were to be made real through Isaac; this underlined the huge importance of the test of faith in chapter 22. The key verses – perhaps of the whole story of Abraham – are in 22:15-18. God is saying: “Because you gave me your only son, I will give you my only Son (Jesus)”.
Abraham later finds a wife for Isaac and the biblical ‘spotlight’ then shifts onto Isaac – Abraham’s life’s work is then essentially completed (although he lives to the age of 175 !!)
We have a third genealogy in Genesis, which connects Shem, the godly son of Noah, with Abraham (then known as ‘Abram’). Notice how the lifespans of each son decrease rapidly with each generation. The atmospheric conditions after the Great Flood were likely to have been quite different from before it, and these may have contributed to the reduction in human longevity by allowing harmful ultra-violet and cosmic rays to reach ground level.
The above genealogy turns into an account of Terah’s life and the movements of the family. Terah, Abram’s father, was a Moon god worshipper – along with many of those living in Ur of the Chaldeans. There was a family tragedy, when the eldest of Terah’s sons, Haran, died prematurely young, having first produced at least three children, including Lot.
Later, Terah, Abram, Sarai and Lot moved away from Ur and settled in a city also called Haran. Why did this sudden movement occur? A quick glance at Genesis 12:1-3 explains it:
The Lord HAD said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”.
In the Middle East, gods were geographically based and household-based; the Lord therefore wanted to wean Abram out of bad habits by moving him to a new land, and by breaking up a pagan, idolatrous household, to form a new one headed by Abram. So the impetus for this move came from God, through Abram. A quick glance at Acts 7:2-3 proves that this call from God occurred whilst the family was still resident at Ur in Mesopotamia.
Terah decided to copy Abram’s obedience to God’s command, and the family quickly journeyed as far as Haran. However, Terah – undoubtedly still deeply grieving his dead son – found a convenient centre of moon-god worship in ‘Haran’ and was probably attracted to a place that had the same name as that son. It is apparent that his whole life became a memorial and he became ‘stuck’. Our of deference, Abram paused his own journey until after Terah’s death.
The blessings of verses 2-3 represent seven unconditional promises by God to Abram. In obedience, Abram uproots his entire household from Haran and moves to the promised land of Canaan.
During one of many famines, Abram then has a ‘faith-crisis’ when he runs to Egypt and, to save his own skin, tells lies and offers his wife as a bride for Pharaoh. Sarai was apparently stunningly beautiful at the age of 65! Note that, in those days, even among the pagans, adultery was seen as a major sin, and the king expected God’s punishment for his actions. Mercifully, Abram was restored by the Lord, forgiven, recompensed, made wealthy, and sent on his way from Egypt.
Lot, Abram’s nephew was generously given first choice of home in the land of Canaan; unwisely he chose the well-watered plain of the river Jordon in the East, near the notorious towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. This location later caused Lot a great deal of pain, inconvenience, and harm. You cannot always choose your neighbours, but if you can, then choose wisely! After Lot departed, God effectively gave Abram the entire land, including Lot’s portion! Abram then chose a new base at Mamre in Hebron, a place that became his spiritual home and where Sarah was later buried.