In the Bible Abraham is an important Patriarch. The three major monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam have written accounts about Abraham. The Hebrew Bible, from which Jesus Christ often quote, is exactly the same Bible as the Christian Old Testament, though with the books organized little differently. The narrative about Abraham is found in the first book of the Old Testament called Genesis. Genesis deals with beginnings, like the creation of the world, the beginning of life, the beginning of mankind, the introduction of sin and death, the promise of redemption through Jesus Christ, the beginning of languages, the beginning of nations etc. The Bible describes accounts about real men and women who had real communications and dealings with real God and does not deal with activities of imaginary heroes. Genesis was written by Moses around 1400 BC and covers a period of about 2500 years of history. Major portion of Genesis deals with the life and times of 4 Patriarchs, i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. In this post we will examine the life of Abraham and his interaction with God in the book of Genesis. From the various historical information and accounts that we have before us, it is estimated that Abraham was born roughly around 2000 years before Christ.
Family from Mesopotamia
Abraham, whose birth name was Abram, was born to his father Terah in Ur of the Chaldeans, located in Mesopotamia, which was in modern-day Iraq. Abram had two brothers named Nahor and Haran. Haran had a son named Lot. Haran died before his father in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram married Sarai and Nahor married Milcah, the daughter of Haran. Sarai was barren and she had no child. Terah took Abram, Lot, and Sarai and left Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan. On the way they settled down at Haran. Terah died while they were in Haran.
God’s call to Abram
While Abram was in Ur of the Chaldeans, God called him the first time to come out of Ur of the Chaldeans to inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:7). The God of glory appeared to Abram in Mesopotamia and said ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you’ (Acts 7:3).
God had said to Abram, “Get out of your country, from your family, And from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1). Abram knew the direction that they had been going, but did not know the place in which he would finally be. God had given a seven-fold blessing to Abram for obedience (Gen 12:2-3).
- I will make you a great nation
- I will bless you
- I will make your name great
- You shall be a blessing
- I will bless those who bless you
- I will curse him who curses you
- In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed
Abram by faith obeyed God’s command by departing from his native land as God had spoken to him. Lot too went with Abram. Abram departed from Haran with Sarai, Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered and the people whom they had acquired in Haran to go to the land of Canaan. Now Abram was 75 years old and in his middle age it is certainly a challenge for him to leave his comfort zone behind and take the leap of faith and move over to a new place, new culture and re-establish himself. It is his faith alone that makes it possible for him to make this move.
Wandering in the land of Canaan
Though God called Abram into the land of Canaan, he did not settle permanently in any specific place in the land of Canaan. He lived in tents and kept moving from place to place. The first place that he pitched his tent was Shechem in the Oak tree plains of Mamre and lived there with the Canaanites. He built an altar to God in every place that he stayed in the land of Canaan including Shechem. Next he moved to the mountain region and stayed in the mountain with Bethel to the East and Ai to the West. From there he kept travelling into the desert region in the South. From there he went to Egypt to survive the famine that was then in the land of Canaan. From Egypt through the south desert region he returned back to the mountain between Bethel and Ai. Here Abram and Lot separated because the land could not support both their livestock together with the Canaanites and Perizzites then living there. After Lot separated from him, Abram moved once again to the plains of Mamre in Hebron.
It seems that Abram never stayed in any one place for very long time. It could be because of the large livestock that he had to move from place to place to provide for the livestock. In this process he seems to have gone all over the land of Canaan that God had promised to him and his descendants forever.
God’s expanded land promise to Abram
God continued to communicate with Abram in the land of Canaan throughout his wanderings. In the plain of Mamre God appeared to Abram and promised “To your descendants I will give this land.”(Gen 12:7). Earlier the scope of God’s land promise to Abram seemed to be limited to Abram alone. Now that promised is expanded to include his descendants.
After Lot had separated, God said to Abram “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered. Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” (Gen 13:14-17). Now the promise of further expanded. The earlier promises did not say what the size of land would be. Now all the land that he could view from the mountaintop is promised to Abram and to his descendants and the period is expanded to be forever. The promise is also expanded to say that his descendants will be very large and a large land would be needed to contain such a large number of descendants. God’s command to walk in the land through its length and breadth could also be reason why Abram widely traveled through the land of Canaan.
God made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Gen 15:18-20). This covenant specified the extend of the land and the people who were living in that land of Canaan then. As long as Abram lived he had not acquired any property in the land of Canaan, except for the burial place to bury his dead in the field of Machpelah in Hebron.
Abram’s wife Sarai was barren and she had no child. God had promised to Abram “One who will come from your own body shall be your heir Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be.” (Gen 15:4-5). Even after Abram had lived in the land of Canaan for 10 years he still had no heir. So Sarai gave her Egyptian maid Hagar as wife to Abram and Hagar bore his son Ishmael when Abram was 86 years old.
When Abram was 99 years old God appeared to him and said "You shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Gen 17:4-8).
God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. (Gen 17:9-13).
God further said “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” (Gen 17:15-16).
Abraham circumcised all the members of his household as a sign of the covenant with God. Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised. Ishmael was 13 years when he was circumcised.
As God had promised, In her old age Sarah conceived and gave birth to a son and called him Isaac. Abraham circumcised Isaac on the eighth day as a sign of the covenant. Abraham was 100 year old when Isaac was born.
God tests Abraham’s faith
God told Abraham “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen 22:2). God had earlier promised Abraham that his promise would be fulfilled by the son born to Abraham and Sarah. Here God was asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac born to Sarah as a burnt offering.
Abraham believed God and thought that even if Isaac was sacrificed God would be able to raise up Isaac again as many promises that God had made to Abraham had to be fulfilled through Isaac. So early next morning he left for the land of Moriah with Isaac, two young men with donkeys and split wood for sacrifice. When they neared the site of sacrifice he left the men behind with the donkeys and made Isaac carry the wood.
At the site, Abraham made an altar and arranged the wood. Then he tied Isaac to the altar and raised up his knife to kill Isaac. From heaven angel of God called Abraham to stop killing Isaac. By this Abraham confirmed to God that he feared and obeyed God since he did not withhold his only son from God.
God confirmed his blessings on Abraham further by saying “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Gen 22:16-18).
Death and burial of Sarah and Abraham
When Sarah was 127 years old she died in Hebron, in the land of Canaan. To bury Sarah Abraham bought the cave at Machpelah in Mamre for 400 pieces of Silver. Here Abraham buried Sarah.
Abraham lived a very good and a long life and died in his old age of 175 years. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham in the cave of Machpelah where Sarah was buried.
Lessons learnt from Abraham’s Life
- Abraham had a close relationship with God and he obeyed all that God required of him. He also taught his family all that he learnt from God.
- Circumcised all the male members of his house as soon as he made the covenant with God
- When God called Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering, he did not hesitate and believed that even if Isaac died God would raise him up because of the promises that God had given to Abraham about Isaac.
- He cared for the lives of people in Sodom and Gomorrah that negotiated with God from 50 righteous to 10 righteous people to stop him from destroying the cities.
About this Post
This post is adapted from the Term Paper that I submitted to World Video Bible School as a part of my study of Genesis Course. I joined this Online Bible School as a Formal Student on 18th May 2016. It took me almost one month to complete the Genesis Course. As a part of this course I had to study the Book of Genesis and two other books The Global Flood of Noah, and Creation Compromises and complete 4 exams and one Term Paper. This is the first course that I have completed. I have got to work on 44 more courses to study all the books of the Bible.
This course by World Video Bible School is free to register. Auditing Students can only watch the Online Videos and do not have access to the course notes and additional online books. The Informal Students can take the courses in any order they please and would have access to course notes and have to take examinations to receive Completion Certificate. The Formal Students will have to follow the prescribed order of courses.
I also found from YouTube the Online Videos by Great Commission Bible Institute. This Play List has more than 250 Videos of 2015 Class Sessions chronologically arranged to cover all the books of the Bible. I watched relevant GCBI Videos to gain additional teaching in addition to WVBS teaching. Both the teachings put together gives a wider understanding of the books of the Bible. You too can watch these video teachings of the Bible and be blessed.
You can read about the God that I believe in from my earlier blog The GOD I believe in.