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GENESIS

SECTION  THREE - ABRAHAM

THE  CALL
Genesis 12:1 - 14:17

THE CALL OF ABRAHAM GENESIS 12-13

Until the time of the Dispersion, and for some time after, God had been dealing with mankind as a whole. The postdiluvian world had begun with Noah and his sons, and they all had shared in the knowledge of the true God and His laws and purposes. It had not been long, however, before rebellion had again entered the human family, finally becoming almost as serious as in the days before the Flood.

There were a few here and there who retained some knowledge of the true God, even among those who practiced polytheism. There were apparently even a few (as illustrated by Job, Melchizedek, and others) who genuinely loved God and tried as best they could to maintain a form of true spiritual worship among their own families and communities. But such were few and scattered, with the result that there was real danger that, in a generation or so, knowledge of God would vanish from the earth.

Or at least this is the way it might have seemed from the human point of view. God, however, cannot fail, and He will never "leave himself without witness" (Acts 14:17) God undertook a completely new approach toward mankind. He began to prepare a new nation, one which would be responsible for carrying God’s revelation to other men and through whom the Redeemer could finally come into the world to work out God’s plan of salvation. For this purpose, He chose a man named Abram, a descendant of Shem and a son of Terah-the two men who, since the Flood, had kept the records of God’s dealings with the world.

Abram had gone from Ur, in the land of the Chaldees, to Haran with his father Terah. While he was in Haran, God renewed His call to Abram (given earlier while he was still in Ur, according to Stephen, in Acts 7:2,3) to go into the land of Canaan to establish the new nation. According to Joshua 24:2, even Terah had begun to worship other gods while still in Chaldea, and it is possible that some of this culture had begun to rub off on Abram and Sarai. In any case, God did call him once again, and this time Abram obeyed without further delay.

    Genesis 12:1-3

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father ‘s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

    John 8:56

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad."
Quite a statement to make, so lets look at the life of Abraham to try to find out when he saw it.

THE BIRTH OF ABRAM AND HIS BRETHREN     Gen. 11:27

    11:26     ABRAM.

The name was in common use at Babylon. ‘Abi-rama’ is a witness to a Babylonian deed long before the days of Abraham.

    11:28     UR OF THE CHALDEES

Usually identified with Mugheir, a town on the Euphrates some distance east of its junction with the Tigris. The name UR occurs in the inscriptions in the form URU, which was one of the old Babylonian royal towns and a center of the moon-god worship. Astounding* discoveries have in recent years been made, and are still being made, in its ruins. These enable us to have a vivid picture of contemporary life in the native city of Abraham.

DISCOVERIES

The citizens of UR were living in large two-story villas with thirteen or fourteen rooms. 
The lower flat was solidly built of burned brick; the upper flat, of mud brick. 
The walls were neatly coated with plaster and whitewashed
The houses themselves reveal comfort and even luxury. 
We found copies of the hymns which were used in the services of the temples and together with them mathematical tables. 
On these tables were anything ranging from plain addition sums to formula’s for the extraction of square and cube roots.
(The Bible as History Page 19,20)

    11:29     SARAI.

The personal names ‘Sarai’ and ‘Nahor’ also occur in Babylonian inscriptions.

    11:31     HARAN.

A town on the highway from Mesopotamia to the West; the converging point of the commercial routes from Babylon in the South, Nineveh in the East, and Damascus in the West.

    11:32     TERAH.

The death of Terah did not take place till Sixty years after Abram had left Haran;

THE JOURNEY TO CANAAN     Gen. 12:1-6

It was a long journey to Canaan, approximately four hundred miles to the southwest of Haran. The testimony of Hebrews 11:8 tells us that "by faith, Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." Abram knew where he was going in general, but not where he would settle in particular. Trade routes from Haran down into Damascus and the Canaanite countries were already established at this time. As he entered Canaan, he stopped for a time at Sichem (or Shechem) near the center of the land, where he built an altar unto the Lord. This was near a well-known landmark of the time, the #oak or terebinth grove (a more likely translation of the Hebrew word than "plain") belonging to a Canaanite named Moreh.

    OAK OR TEREBINTH GROVE

Some translate, ‘the directing terebinth,’ the oracular tree held sacred by the tree-worshipping Canaanites. Such trees were attended by priests, who interpreted the answers of the oracle to those who came to consult it. The terebinth (or turpentine tree) grows to a height of from twenty to forty feet, and may therefore well have served as a landmark.

    12:7     THE LORD APPEARED.

"And the Lord revealed Himself unto Abram," So states the Targum of Onkelos on this verse of Scripture or as the King James states "And the Lord appeared unto Abram," One thing is true that God made Himself known to Abram. In what way this appearance was made we know not; it could have been by the great angel of the covenant. It is worthy of remark that Abram is the First Man to whom God is said to have Shown Himself or Appeared. I believe that this appearance was by a theophany (The Living Word of God) who walked with Adam in the Garden and who now appears to Abram. The Targum’s use the term Memra (word). John 1:18

    12:8     BETH-EL.

In Central Palestine, the modern Beitin, 10 miles north of Jerusalem. The place is here called by the name given to it by Jacob (Genesis 28:19). Here he built another altar and again called on God for guidance and help. The Targum renders, ‘and prayed in the name of the Lord.’ He proclaimed the knowledge of the true God (Talmud). He had the moral courage to preach his conception of God and duty in the very face of the soul-degrading ideas of divine worship and human duty held by the peoples then inhabiting the land of Canaan.

    12:9     THE SOUTH.

Or, ‘the Negeb,’ the name by which the Southern district of Judah is known. The Midrash explains that Abram was being drawn towards the city of Jerusalem, which is in the south of Palestine. Finally traveling the entire length of the land of Canaan.

Although the Bible doesn’t say so specifically, we receive the impression that Abram at this time was living more or less as a nomad, moving with his flocks and herds wherever he could find water and pasture and wherever the inhabitants of the land were not too numerous. Although God had promised him the land, as well as a seed to inherit the land, this was not yet the time for the fulfillment of these promises.

ABRAM IN EGYPT     Gen. 12:10

    12:10     A FAMINE IN THE LAND.

Owing to the scarcity of rivers and lack of irrigation, the country was subject to famine if the rainy seasons failed. Palestine nomads would then seek safety in the land of Egypt. A famine drove Abram to Egypt, and the same cause was again to bring his descendants to that same land. As the Rabbis say, ‘The lives of the Patriarchs foreshadow the story of their descendants.’

As he entered the mighty land of Egypt, he became aware of an unforeseen danger. The Egyptians, like the Canaanites, were descendants of Ham (through Mizraim, rather than Canaan) and were also polytheistic, cruel, and immoral. Polygamy and sexual promiscuity were common. As they entered Egypt, Abram probably noted the admiring glances being directed by the inhabitants toward his beautiful wife, Sarai, and he realized that it was not at all beyond them to decide to kill him and his servants in order to have Sarai for themselves.

If Abram openly acknowledged Sarai to be his wife, he reasoned, he would probably be killed and she would be taken by the Egyptians into who-knows-what circumstances of moral degradation. If he said she was one of his servants, his own life might be spared; but she herself would probably be taken and defiled in perhaps even greater ways. The best solution would be to call her his sister. Actually, he reasoned, this was really true, because she was his half-sister (Genesis 20:12). This was still in the early centuries after the Flood, and close marriages were still common and often necessary.

If Sarai were recognized as his sister, both she and Abram would be treated with respect and his life would not be endangered. It is true that this might mean she would be approached by the Egyptians for sexual purposes, but that would be true also if Abram were killed for her sake; so this seemed the best of a bad bargain.

Actually, it turned out better than they had hoped. Instead of becoming involved with the ordinary Egyptians, Sarai came to the attention of Pharaoh himself. She was seen by Pharaoh’s princes, and they "commended" (The word used here is the Hebrew Hallal, meaning "to praise.") her to Pharaoh as a prime candidate to become one of his wives!

    12:15     PHARAOH.

The Hebrew transcription of PR-‘O, the Egyptian title of the king of the country. It signifies ‘Great House’. The statement of some writers that the title did not come into use till much later is inaccurate. In the days of the Nineteenth Dynasty, the age of Moses, the word is the usual reverential designation of the King.

RETURN TO BETHEL AND HAI.    Gen. 13:1-4

    13:2     ABRAM WAS VERY RICH.

The property of these patriarchal times did not consist in Flocks only, but also in Silver and Gold; and in all these respects Abram was CABED MEOD, (exceeding rich). Josephus says that a part of this property was acquired by teaching the Egyptians arts and sciences.

LOT’S SAD CHOICE     Gen. 13:5-18

    13:10     THE PLAIN OF THE JORDAN.

In other words, ‘the circle of the Jordan,’ is the specific name for the land on both sides of the lower Jordan valley. ‘A large part of this valley is of exuberant fertility……Wherever water comes, the flowers rise to the knee, and the herbage to the shoulder’ (G.A. Smith).

    AS THOU GOEST UNTO ZOAR.

Better, As thou camest unto zoar. This is one of the Mosaic ‘touches’ in the book of Genesis. Zoar is NOT the town near Sodom. It is the name of an ancient Egyptian frontier fortress. Speaking to men who had come out of Egypt, Scripture compares the fertility of the Plain of Jordan to the verdure and richness of the land of Egypt ‘ as thou comes unto Zoar’, on the edge of the barren desert and sands.

Abram had learned that God could take care of his needs no matter where he was, so that he offered Lot the choice of fields. As the older man the leader of the clan, Abram by all rights should have had priority; but he graciously offered it to Lot. Instead of deferring to Abram, as he should have done, Lot seized the opportunity to his own advantage (as he thought). He had been infected with the luxury and excitement of Egypt, and was no longer content to be a "stranger and pilgrim in the land" ; (Hebrews 11:13). He looked down to the plain of the Jordan River, as it flows into the Salt Sea, where there were five prosperous, exciting cities, and decided that was where he would like to be. According to verse 10, the Jordanian plain was "as the garden of the Lord."

Lot didn’t move into Sodom immediately, probably having some reservations about living in a city where it was known that the inhabitants were "wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly"; so he only "pitched his tent toward Sodom." He dwelled "in the cities of the plain"-not actually within the cities, since he still lived in his tent, but in their orbit, as it were, near enough to enjoy their advantages but not yet actually a part of their life. Christians today often follow the same path, hoping to have both the spiritual blessings of a separated walk with God and the carnal advantages of fellowship with the world. Sooner or later, however, one has to decide which it will be. He cannot have it both ways. Neither God nor the world will allow it.

THE  PROGRESSION
1. Lot first "pitched his tent toward Sodom,"
2. Soon he "dwelt in Sodom" (Genesis 14:12).
3. Finally "sat in the gate of Sodom" (Genesis 19:1). As one of its business leaders.

 Thus began the tragedy which would ultimately destroy him and his family.

    13:16     AS THE DUST.

‘As the dust of the earth extends from one end of the world to the other, so will thy seed be dispersed throughout all lands. And as the dust causes even metals to decay but itself endures, so will all worshippers of idolatry perish, but Israel will continue forever’ (Midrash)

 

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