Religion / Abraham

Abraham

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Autor:  anton  29 September 2010
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ABRAHAM

God selected Abraham to be the father of the His people. The bible does not directly state why God selected him, but after reading scripture one can conclude that God selected Abraham due to his great faith. Abraham’s life lends itself as an example to all who desire to walk with God.

EARLY LIFE

Abraham was one of three sons born to Terah in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans. Research conducted by Elmer Towns indicates that Abraham was younger than his two brothers, Nahor and Haran, although the bible does not specifically indicate that (56). The exact date of his birth cannot be determined, but it is estimated to have been between 2100 and 1800 B.C. (Davis, 159). He was born after the flood and through the family line of Shem, ten generations from Noah. Through his ancestry Abraham can be traced back to Adam and God’s creation. His given name at birth was Abram which means “Exalted Father” (Alter, 73). Later, God would change his name to Abraham, meaning “Father of the Multitudes”, in order to amplify the call that God had placed upon his life (Towns, 108-109).

Growing up in Ur was not the ideal location for a believer in the one true God, Ha Elohim. Ur was located in what is now southern Iraq near the waters of the Persian Gulf. It was a Babylonian city which meant it was a polytheistic society due to the fact that the Babylonians worshiped many gods. Exposure to this surrounding lifestyle may have been the impetus behind Abraham’s father serving other gods as revealed in Joshua 24:2. The influences of idolatry were evident in Abraham’s upbringing; however the bible does not mention that Abraham himself entered into such practices. It can then be inferred that Abraham was able to resist the pagan beliefs and influences of his surroundings and remain steadfast in his belief in Ha Elohim.

God certainly recognized that Abraham was strong in his faith and as a result selected him to carry out a greater plan in life than just living among idolaters. God was initiating a plan that paved the way to salvation for future generations (Hayford’s Handbook, 6). As revealed in Acts 7:2-3, It was in Ur that God first called upon Abraham to leave his family and current city-dwelling lifestyle to follow Him in obedience to a land that was yet unrevealed.

Abraham did make the first move of his journey by relocating to Haran in conjunction with his father and other family members. Genesis 11:31 says that Terah moved the entire family from Ur to Haran, minus his son Haran, who had previously died. The bible does not indicate how long Abraham lived in Haran, but it does say that he remained there until his father’s death. At this juncture in Abraham’s life, God again called out to him.

RESPONSE TO GOD’S CALL

In reaction to God’s call, Abraham departed Haran enroute to Canaan. At 75 years of age, he abandoned his way of life assembled his wife, his nephew Lot, his servants, livestock, and material possessions and moved in accordance with God’s leading. Abraham’s obedience to God serves as an example for all believers to emulate. He left his “comfort zone” of living to follow God’s spoken promises even though there was definite uncertainty as to how they were going to come to pass.

Abraham sojourned in faith as God led him on his journey through the land of Canaan. He demonstrated a pattern of reliance on and fellowship with God during his trek by building altars at stops along the way. Genesis 12:7 points out that God spoke to Abraham in Shechem, promising the land to his descendants and Abraham constructed an altar. Genesis 12:8 shows that Abraham communed with God after moving from Shechem to Bethel by erecting an altar. Abraham’s movements through Canaan appear to be at God’s leading and as a result of their communion, but God does not yet give him possession of the land. The land through which he and his family are traveling is occupied by other inhabitants. A key point here is that while Abraham and his family are traveling as immigrants throughout a foreign territory, God protected them from harm. This protection provides evidence that God protects those that are obedient in response to His direct calling.

INTO EGYPT

After a period sojourning through Canaan, Abraham traveled into Egypt. The bible does not state that Abraham was instructed by God to go into Egypt, but it does state that there was a famine in the land. A conclusion could be drawn that Abraham through his own reasoning abilities elected to travel into Egypt as a direct result of the surrounding famine. Keeping in mind that he had livestock and servants, besides his immediate family to feed, his circumstances might have persuaded him in his decision making to go to Egypt. Evidence indicates that Egypt was not suffering the effects of the famine at this point (Davis, 175-176). Therefore, Abraham may have looked at it as the country which would provide refuge and alleviate the pressing need for sustenance.

One school of thought is Abraham lacked faith in God’s ability to provide the needed resources to care for himself and his family, servants and animals. This school of thought points to the lack of mention in the bible of Abraham worshipping the Lord by constructing an altar as was his practice earlier in his journey (Towns, 68). Another school of thought holds that Abraham exercised wisdom and foresight by moving his family to Egypt to procure the resources needed to take care of his family (Davis, 176). This could be based upon the fact that God gives us the intellectual ability to determine courses of action to meet our circumstances and reliance upon Him to lead us down the right path. There is no reference to Abraham’s relationship status with God during this period.

While in Egypt, Abraham felt the need to deceive Pharaoh by saying that his wife, Sarai, was his sister. Although, this was technically true, since Sarai was his half-sister, he was guilty of telling a half truth. Elmer Towns points out that this can be seen as a result of a distant relationship with God represented by the lack of an altar being constructed for worship (68).

Although God had shown that He was more than able to protect Abraham from harm in the past, Abraham revealed a weakness in his faith. He succumbed to the thought that the Pharaoh would kill him if he learned that Sarai was his wife. Because of the lie, Pharaoh did bring Sarai into his house. As a result of the relationship, Abraham directly prospered in livestock, finances, servants, and the like. It is noteworthy to mention that Hagar became a maid servant of Sarai at this time. (Later this would prove to be significant when Abraham and Sarai took matters into their own hand to produce God’s promise of a child.) However, Abraham’s deception was discovered when God intervened and plagued Pharaoh and his house. The plagues served to preserve Sarai from defilement and keep her qualified for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Genesis 12:20 explains the consequence of Abraham’s lie; he and his family were commanded by Pharaoh to leave Egypt.

RETURN TO CANAAN

Abraham departed Egypt with everyone and everything belonging to his household and journeyed back into Canaan. Genesis 13:3-4 says that he returned to the altar which he had previously built near Bethel and called upon God. This may have been the first time Abraham communed with the LORD since the last time that he was encamped there. There is no mention in the scripture of an altar or communication among Abraham and God during the period between these two events.

After their return to Canaan, the relationship between Abraham and Lot required a change. According to Genesis 13:6-12, Abraham and Lot decided to separate company. This was mainly because of the friction between their herdsmen and the fact that the land could not support both families residing in such close proximity. Abraham allowed Lot to choose what land he preferred and then took the remainder.

The rest of Genesis 13 shows God re-enforcing His promises to Abraham about the possession of the land and the population of his descendants whom would inherit the land. It also depicts Abraham in close communion with God.

Although Abraham and Lot had departed company, Abraham still concerned himself in the welfare of his nephew. During this occasion, Abraham assembled his men and showed himself as a warrior against an array of forces in order to rescue Lot from captivity. He and his men were victorious in retrieving Lot and all the stolen bounty. After the rescue, Abraham was blessed by and tithed to Melchizedek, the king of Salem, who was also performing in the duties of a priest of God (Peterson, 53).

GOD’S COVENANT

Although Abraham had great faith and continued to worship God at the altar, he also had moments of question. Genesis 15 depicts one of those moments. Abraham is questioning the LORD about the promise of his descendants inheriting the land, when he and Sarah are without a child. Abraham in his own mental reasoning was trying to figure out who the heir could be. He prompted God about Eliezer, his servant, and God’s answer was that Abraham’s own offspring would be the heir. Then God instructed Abraham on carrying out the blood sacrifice covenant and then confirmed the promise which He had made to Abraham about being the father of many descendants.

IN THEIR OWN HAND

After waiting a period of ten years, Abraham and Sarah decided to take matters into their own hands to gain a child. Sarah relied on society’s custom of presenting her maid servant as a concubine to Abraham in order to produce a child (Davis, 188). This may have been the legal custom of the day, but it certainly was not God’s plan to fulfill the promise He had for Abraham. As a result of their union, Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Although this union was not in God’s perfect plan for Abraham, God did intervene when there was trouble between Sarah and Hagar. God actually provided Hagar with the name for the child, Ishmael (Davis 189). Genesis 16:16 reveals Abraham was 86 years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. God was absent from Abraham for the next thirteen years.

BACK ON GOD’S PLAN

God re-energized communion with Abraham and continued to press forward with His plan for Abraham and Sarah. There is no indication in scripture that God held the action and lack of belief of Abraham and Sarah against them. God just came right back after the absence and re-established His covenant with Abraham. Genesis 17:5 is where God changed Abraham’s name from Abram to Abraham, “a father of many nations.” Then in Genesis 17:15-16, God changed the name of Sarai to Sarah and stated that she would have son; the heir that He had earlier promised them. In Genesis 17:19 God told them to name their son Isaac and also proclaimed His everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants.

ABRAHAM INTERCEDES

God visited with Abraham along with two angels and prior to ending the visit revealed His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Elmer Towns relates that the sharing of this thought with Abraham indicated the level of intimacy in their relationship. He states that “Good friends do not keep secrets from friends” (119). God planned to destroy the cities because of the depravity of the people living within them. Upon learning of the pending destruction, Abraham began interceding on the behalf of the righteous people in Sodom. Again, Abraham showed concern for Lot by his intercession. God ultimately destroyed Sodom and also Gomorrah as planned, however, Lot and some of his family escaped. Nonetheless, Lot continued in sin with his daughters.

ABRAHAM SLIPS BACKWARD

While settled in Gerar, Abraham again lacked faith in God’s hand of protection. Just as he had done earlier in Egypt, Abraham told the half-truth that Sarah was his sister as opposed to revealing that she was his wife. Abimelech, the king of Gerar, was only temporarily deceived. God again intervened to preserve Sarah’s qualifications for the birth of the promised child, Isaac. Abimelech restored Sarah back to Abraham along with material riches (Alter, 92-96).

ISAAC’S BIRTH

God carried out His promise in fulfillment of the covenant He made with Abraham. Isaac was born as predicted. Elmer Towns states it in a few words, “Abraham waited twenty-five years for the promised seed, but Isaac arrived right on time according to God’s calendar and clock” (132). To convey a clear understanding that Isaac was in the righteous line, the promised seed, God had Abraham send Ishmael and Hagar away. However, because Ishmael was of Abraham’s seed, God still provided a blessing for Ishmael by making him the father of a nation as well (Hayford’s Handbook, 7).

GOD’S TEST

God’s instruction to Abraham to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice was the greatest test of Abraham’s faith. After waiting many years for the promise of a son to be fulfilled, only to turn around and kill him on the altar must have been hard to grip. However, Abraham wholeheartedly obeyed the directive from the LORD. As stated in Hebrews 11:17-19, Abraham offered Isaac up to God by faith and with a belief that God would return Isaac back to him. As Elmer Towns digested scripture and points out, that Abraham knew prior to going up on the mountain that both he and Isaac would return (142). The main point to the test was as Towns states, “God did not want the sacrifice of a son but rather the surrender of a father” (141). Abraham passed the test of complete obedience and surrender to God’s perfect will. This was his high point of faith which set the example for all that followed.

THE LATTER YEARS

The rest of Abraham’s days were anti-climatic. He handled the burial of Sarah, who according to Genesis 23:1 died at 127 years of age. He arranged the marriage of Isaac to Rebekah. He also took a second wife and continued to have children as spoken about in Genesis 25. Also stated there is the fact that, “he gave all that he had to Isaac.” Then in Genesis 25:7-9 the scriptures describe Abraham’s death. He died at 175 years of age and buried next to Sarah.

WORKS CITED

Alter, Robert Genesis: Translation and Commentary. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,

Inc., 1996.

Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,

1973.

Hayford, Jack W., editor. Hayford’s Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson

Inc., 1995.

Hayford, Jack W., editor. New Spirit Filled Life Bible: NKJV. Nashville, TN: Thomas

Nelson, Inc., 2002.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Remix: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado

Springs, CO: Navpress, 2003.

Towns, Elmer L. A Journey Through the Old Testament. Mason, OH: Thomson Learning

Custom Publishing, 2002.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alter, Robert Genesis: Translation and Commentary. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,

Inc., 1996.

Davis, John J. Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House,

1973.

Feiler, Bruce. Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Publishers, 2002.

Goldstein, David. Library of the World’s Myths and Legends: Jewish Legends. New York:

Peter Bedrick Books, 1987.

Halley, H.H. Halley’s Bible Handbook. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1965.

Hayford, Jack W., editor. Hayford’s Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson

Inc., 1995.

Hayford, Jack W., editor. New Spirit Filled Life Bible: NKJV. Nashville, TN: Thomas

Nelson, Inc., 2002.

Lockyer, Herbert. All the Men of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1958.

Peterson, Eugene H. The Message Remix: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado

Springs, CO: Navpress, 2003.

Towns, Elmer L. A Journey Through the Old Testament. Mason, OH: Thomson Learning

Custom Publishing, 2002.

Wright, Ernest G., editor. Great People of the Bible and How They Lived. Pleasantville, NY:

Reader’s Digest Assoc. Inc., 1974.

Youngblood, Ronald F., editor. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN:

Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995.



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