Introduction to the Life ofAbraham (Gen. 12-25)

This study is to do a character and spiritual examination of Abraham by looking at the major events in his life in accordance with scripture and other history and customs. In addition, this examination will be projected to see how the spiritual principles from those events could be applicable today. For simplicity, the name Abraham will be used throughout this study although his original name was Abram. God changed his name to Abraham (father of a multitude) in Gen. 17:5. Likewise, the name Sarah will be used for Abraham's wife even though her name was initially Sarai and was changed to Sarah by God (Gen. 17:15).

When examining the character of a person, traits such as trust, faithfulness, trustworthiness, strength, honesty, moral attitudes, integrity, and reputation are considered. This study examines some of these attributes relating to Abraham. He will be shown to be the man with whom Jews, Christians, and even Muslim rightfully have placed so much love, trust, and compassion. He will also be shown to be have human frailties that we might consider quite negative.

It is appropriate to look at some history of Abraham's times. This could give information on factors that could have influenced some of the life decisions Abraham made. Scripture (Gen. 11:10-24) lists the descendants from Shem, the son of Noah, to Terah, Abraham's father. Geneology from Shem to Terah

Abraham was the beginning of a new race that is guaranteed to never go away. They WILL be preserved. The way God chose to do this was to pull Abraham away from everything he knew and then follow God's instructions, implicitly. Alfred Edelsheim in Bible History says that Abraham's scripture and life is divided into four phases.

  • Abraham is called into active service (Gen. 12-14)
  • Abraham receives the promise of a child; God makes a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15-16)
  • The Covenant with Abraham is sealed by changing his name from Abram; Circumcision used as a sign and seal of the covenant (Gen. 17-21)
  • Abraham is tried, proved, and perfected in the offering of his own son as a sacrifice (Gen. 22-25:11)

    Abraham was apparently the third and youngest of the three scriptural sons listed for Terah. They were Nahor, Haran, and Abraham. The times of Abraham and his family were times of paganism. The people lacked a single God direction. The people had gods for everything. They went on with their normal life of human desires trying to satisfy many gods and hoping that would assure success and happiness.

    There really is no scriptural reason to believe Abraham was not a pagan before his encounter with God. That was the society in his time. Some scholars even believe that Terah, Abraham's father, might have been in the pagan idol business (Josh 24:2) or was a person who operated a caravan between Haran and southern Ur. Haran died while still in Ur. He left at least three children: Lot, Milcah, and Iscah. Terah now cared for Haran's children. It was not unusual for people to marry within their own families. Nahor married Milcah, Haran's daughter (therefore, Nahor's cousin). Even Abraham married within the family. He married Sarah who was the daughter of his father Terah and Abraham's stepmother (therefore, Sarah is Abraham's stepsister) (Gen. 20:12). Isaac, Abraham's son, married Rebekah who was the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, Nahor's wife (Isaac's second cousin). These types of relationships will become more important later in this study. Wasn't this dangerous or improper? We have to go back to the previous study of Genesis 1-11 to examine that. Remember that God originally made the world perfect and good. The "impurities" such as genetic problems which haunt us today were not existent then. As time went on and people intermarried and diseases were prevalent, family intermarriage became a problem. In the last couple of hundred years it could be disasterous. How do you think the population grew from Adam and Eve. Cain had to have married his sister. For additional study on this subject, go to the previous study of Genesis.

    God does not tell us how he communicated with Abraham. As normal, God only tells us what He feels is necessary to know. We do not need the "hidden" or unsaid information to be able to understand what God is telling us. It is clear that there was something in Abraham's and/or Terah's life that told them to head toward the Land of Canaan. When Terah takes his family, he goes to Haran "to enter the Land of Canaan" Gen. 11:31.. However, they do not continue traveling at that point. They appear to stop and live for a long time in Haran. There are more details in Chapter 12. There is scripture states that Haran was "the city of Nahor" (Gen. 24:4, 10). There are some scholars that say that Nahor, Abraham's brother, may have moved later to Haran. It does not appear, by scripture, that Nahor went with Terah, etc. to Haran. Therefore, that leads some scholars to assume that Nahor probably lagged behind in the move but retained the idolatry way of life. These scholars think that "the city of Nahor" refers to Nahor, Abraham's brother. I propose another thought. Because of the idolatry way of life "before Abraham", the city may have been named "the city of Nahor" after Abraham's grandfather, also named Nahor (review genealogy again). One of the things to keep in mind is, because of Terah's business, Nahor (grandfather) and Terah would have probably regularly have run a business caravan from the Ur in the Mesopotanian valley to Haran. Ur and Haran both worshipped the moon god. Therefore, the area could have been very familiar to the family and the business people of that geographical area. Settling in Haran could have been a natural thing to do. There are a few that think the trip was so arduous and dangerous, the family was very tired by the time they got to Haran and that was the reason for stopping. However, we do not know exactly why they went to Haran.

    The father was traditionally the head of the family. Whatever the father felt he had to do, the family followed. So it appears to have been with Abraham (Gen. 11:31). He went with his father on his father's move to the land of Canaan. There are some that believe Abraham may actually have been born in Haran. This can be justified somewhat in later scripture (Gen. 24). This will be further examined later with the search for Isaac's wife. The family could have traveled down to southern Ur to live. It appears, at this point in scripture, it was Terah's idea to leave southern Ur. There is no indication Abraham influenced his father in the move by telling his father he had been spoken to by God.

    A further detailed discussion will be held when Chapter 12 is examined.

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