Today we will be looking at the person and life of Abram – who later God called Abraham. A man 21 generations from Adam who came out of a pagan, idolatrous culture – into a personal relationship with the eternal creator God. He was a man of magnificent faith. He was a leader of at least hundreds – but more likely thousands of people. Throughout his life he spoke with God, he dined with kings of nations; he went to war against 4 kings who took into captivity his nephew Lot, Abram encountered Angels, was given visions about future events and conceived a child at 100 years old – his wife was around 90 years old. Abraham was the recipient of an unconditional covenant that would last for eternity, relating to his descendants, and the Promised Land we now know to be called Israel.
Abram was 21 generations from Adam – the first man. Abram is one of the foundational men of faith in the bible. He was chosen by God because of his faith, and has an amazing testimony.
Genealogies are often ignored in the bible, people will often skim over them – but when we begin to understand who many of the men are in the genealogies – it helps add context to what took place.
Between Adam and Noah, there are 10 generations.
Methuselah’s name literally meant; ‘death shall bring’, and his father Enoch was both a teacher, and a preacher of righteousness. Jude (Jesus brother) quotes the book of Enoch;
“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Jude 14
Enoch was given a prophecy, that as long as his Son Methuselah was alive, the flood would not come – hence the meaning of his name; ‘his death shall bring’. Enoch of course never died – but was caught up into heaven, and never experienced death. The year Methuselah died – was the year of the great flood.
Between Noah and Abram, there were 10 generations.
We don’t know a lot about all of these people – but Peleg, the 5th from Noah was alive when the events of the tower of Babel took place (Genesis 10:25, 1 Chronicles 1:19). It says, “in his days the earth was divided”. Mankind collaborated to build a tower to reach into the heavens in the context of some of the first pagan religions established by Nimrod.
Abram’s father was Terah, and he had 2 brothers – Nahor and Haran (Genesis 11). They were born in a city called Ur, which was located in the land of the Chaldeans. Historical evidence reveals that Ur was located in modern day Iraq. The reason the city was called ‘Ur’ was because it was derived from the name ‘Urim’ which means; ‘the abode of Nanna’. Nanna was the Assyrian-Babylonian moon god. Interestingly, Islam – worships this same moon god today – but they give it a different name – they call it Allah, and we know that all false gods, all gods other than the one true God are demons (fallen angels).
So the environment in which Abram grew up was highly idolatrous and demonic. At this point, idolatry was everywhere. Babylon was the heart of all paganism, but spread when God dispersed everyone by confusing the languages at the tower of Babel.
Genesis records that Abrams brother Haran died in Ur.
We’re also told that Abram’s brother Nahor married his brother Haran’s daughter – Milkah. Abram married his ½ sister who was his Fathers daughter, but not his mothers – Sarai (Genesis 20).
Terah, Abram’s father set out with Abram and Haran’s son Lot from Ur (Iraq) to go to the land of Canaan but they never arrived. Instead they stopped at a place called ‘Harran’ – most believe to have been located in Turkey. Terah eventually died in Harran, never arriving in the land of Canaan.
Then when Abram was 75 years old – God spoke to him, and told him to go to the land he would show them. During Abrams time in Harran – he accumulated many possessions, and acquired people.
In biblical times – slavery was often very different to the kind of slavery we understand today. They were called bondservants, and often people would sell themselves to be looked after, protected and cared for. Of course under pagan religious systems, slavery would have been horrible, abusive, and oppressive, but the biblical kind of slavery that God permitted later with Moses was very different – and we could assume Abram would have operated under a similar moral conviction.
Biblical slavery under the Mosaic Law had the following criteria:
- If a slave was abused by his masters, he was to be set free, both male and female (Exodus 21). An abusive master suffered great financial loss… he was heavily fined.
- Foreign slaves that sought asylum in Israel were protected, cared for, looked after (Deut 23)
- It was illegal for slaves to be oppressed in any way, shape or form (Deut 23)
- Slaves enjoyed Sabbath rest with all of Israel (Saturday).
- Slaves also could have their own slaves under them (2 Samuel 9).
This form of slavery could almost be called a form of communal servant hood. It is very different to the form of slavery that is associated with the term today.
Thi sis an assumption, but it’s likely that Abraham operated in a way similar to the Mosaic Law – and in so doing, would have been going against the flow of the pagan culture around him. If this was the case, slaves would have wanted to join him because of his faith in the true God, his Godly character, and his willingness to treat fairly, protect, care for, build up, and look out for the needs of others. People that were in need would offer themselves for service in exchange for protection, provision, and community. This form of slavery was not oppressive in any way, but for many was something likely sought after.
For those that in hostility argue that the bible endorses slavery… they have not understood biblical slavery. They have attached pre-conceived ideas about slavery, and created a straw man biblical representation, taking a high ground moral position, and they’ve torn down the straw man – but in so doing they have misrepresented Gods word – and have believed a lie. The kind of slavery – or communal servant hood was not evil in any way, shape or form. It was a mighty blessing to many people in various situations and circumstances.
While Abram was in Haran God said to him;
“Get out of your country [modern day Turkey], from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12)
This is one of Gods unconditional covenants. God unconditionally made a covenant with Abraham to bless not just him, but also all the nations of the earth through him, and ultimately Jesus was a descendant of Abraham – and through Jesus salvation has been made available to all people.
Abram was 75 years old when he left Haran, and made his way alongside Sarai and lot to the land of Canaan.
Sometime after Abram enter Canaan – there was a plague in the land and so they went down into Egypt.
“And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” (Genesis 12)
Remember that Sarai was Abrams wife – she was his ½ sister by blood.
So it was, when Abram came into Egypt, that the Egyptians saw the woman, that she was very beautiful. The princes of Pharaoh also saw her and commended her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house. He treated Abram well for her sake. He had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels.
But the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. And Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go your way.” So Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.
So what took place was – God made a covenant with Abram – that anyone what blessed him would themselves be blessed – and that anyone that cursed him would themselves be cursed. Pharaoh took Abrams wife unknowingly into his house– and plagues came upon his household.
Today Abrams descendants share in that covenant. Those that bless the descendants of Abram will to varying degrees be blessed, and those that curse them will be cursed. When nations come against Gods chosen people Israel, they enter into dangerous waters, not because the Jewish people necessarily are a force to be reckoned with (although they are), but because the eternal creator God made a covenant with them that is absolutely unconditional.
Abram journeyed back into the land of Canaan, but because they had so much livestock and possessions – it became difficult for Lot and Abram to live side by side without contentions. So Abram said to Lot – “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13)
Lot chose the plain of Jordan, which was beautiful country. Genesis likens it to the garden of the Lord, or the land of Egypt. Egypt at this time wasn’t the desert-like nation we see today. It was filled with vegetation, and was very beautiful. Genesis tells us that Lot pitched his tent even as far as Sodom – which was an incredibly corrupt city – full of sexual immorality.
Abram went and lived in the land of Canaan, and God made another unconditional covenant with him;
“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.” (Genesis 13)
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.
A Great War
In Genesis 14 we read about an intense war between many nations and people groups. It was 4 nations against 5
Shinar, Ellasar, Elam and Goyim, went to war against Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboyim, and Bela (also called Zoar).
Sodom and Gomorrah was defeated in battle, and its enemies took all its possessions. Because Lot lived in Sodom he was taken also.
When Abram heard about it – he took 318 trained servants and went to war against these nations – Shinar, Ellasar, Elam and Goyim, and defeated them, recovering all their possessions.
But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15)
Justification Through Faith
In Paul’s letter to Rome he made a big deal about this concept that Abraham believed the Lord, and that it was credited, or accounted to him as righteousness. Almost every other religion on earth attempts to work their way to heaven. But every attempt to work to earn salvation is like a criminal in a court of law trying to bribe the judge. It’s only through atonement that our sins can be forgiven – and that atonement is only appropriated through sincere repentance, and genuine faith in the one through whom that atonement was made.
“Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.”
Remember that the law was given to the Jews at Mt Sinai – but here Paul makes a clear case that those who are of Abrahams ‘seed’ are not just descendants by blood i.e. the Jews – but those who are children of faith – who share in the same faith Abraham had – which was the reason why God chose Abraham in the first place. Faith.
“… Who is the father of us all (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things, which do not exist as though they did”
Abraham is not just a father to the Jewish people, but he is also a father to the gentile believers – because we share the same faith. The faith is in the context of this resurrection of the dead.
“… Who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Because Abraham was FULLY CONVINCED that what God had promised, he was able to perform – Abraham’s faith was accounted to him as righteousness. Abraham was rightly positioned before the throne of God because his faith was in the one who was able to raise him from the dead, after he died – and was able to justify him through the blood of the promised Messiah, who even Enoch prophesied about 14 generations prior.
“Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.”