Introduction to Abraham

After the account of the tower of Babel, in Genesis chapter 11, we are introduced to the man, Abram, later named Abraham. His wife was called Sarai (later known as Sarah) and she had a maid, Hagar.

The following lineage chart illustrates the ancestry line from Adam to Abraham and notes the significant historical events during their lives. The elliptical shaped names are those in the ancestry/family line of Abram. Sarai’s shape is elliptical because she married Abram. God made some specific promises to Abram/Abraham about his descendants and those promises were carried on through Isaac. Future genealogy charts will use elliptical shapes to follow those promises.

Abraham was originally known as Abram, which means “high father.” Genesis 11:26 tells us that he was the son of Terah and lived in the land of the Chaldeans, in Ur, the capital of Chaldea. This would not have been far from the attempted construction site of the tower of Babel.

While there, he took a wife, Sarai, who was unable to have children. Then he and part of his family moved to Haran where his father died.

We are told in chapter 12 that the Lord spoke to Abram and instructed him: “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

So, Abram left with Sarai and his nephew Lot and moved to Canaan.

A famine in the land drove Abram, Sarai and Lot to Egypt. Abram, fearing the people of the land, instructed Sarai to tell others that she was Abram’s sister, rather than his wife. The Pharaoh of the land took Sarai into his house and gave gifts of cattle, sheep, donkeys, oxen and servants to Abram. This is probably where the woman, Hagar, came into the picture, and she was acquired as a slave for Sarai.

In order to protect Sarai and guard Abram’s bloodline, the Lord sent plagues on Pharaoh and his house and Pharaoh realized that Sarai was actually Abram’s wife. The Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abram and sent them on their way. Abram, Sarai, and Lot took all of their possessions and moved back to the Negev and then on to the place he had been before, between Bethel and Ai.

Abram and Lot prospered greatly such that the land wouldn’t sustain them both if they stayed in close proximity, so they parted ways. Lot chose to move to the luscious area of the Jordan River Valley and the city of Sodom. Abram moved to the land of Canaan. For more details you can read Genesis 12-14.

In Genesis 15, we come across a highly significant interaction between God and Abram. At this time, Abram had no children and the possibility of having any children of his own seemed bleak. The Lord made a covenant with Abram that his descendants would possess the whole land that Abram could see. God also told Abram a little about the future of his descendants. God said,

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions…Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:13-16)

We will see in future chapters how this information from God came to pass.

Abram had received very clear promises from God that he would have his own bloodline descendants. However, as we will see in the next chapter, people sometimes try to help God fulfill His promises, and it never turns out well.

History Break: Adam to Abraham

 

We’ve covered fundamental events described in chapters 1-4 of the book of Genesis. Before we get to the next major historical figure, Abraham, and the next set of questions from God, we must make note of a few highly significant events. These events shaped the world and provide a context in which we can better understand Abraham and God’s interactions with him.

At the end of Genesis 4, Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, whose name means “to set in place.” Eve named him that with the thought that Seth had been born to replace her son Abel, whom Cain had killed.

In chapter 6 we meet a descendant of Seth named Noah, who is said to have found favor with the Lord. Noah’s name is derived from a root word that contains the meaning “rest, quiet, savor, abide, continue and resting place” – a good name for the man through whom mankind continued and found a resting place in times of turmoil!

The Great Flood

Genesis 6-9 tells us about the Great Flood, or the “Noah and the Ark” account that many of us first learned about in a church nursery or toddler class. What most of us didn’t learn about in school – or even Sunday School for that matter – are the many major geological evidences testifying that this global flood actually occurred and had a profound effect on our planet. If you are interested in pursuing those studies, I refer you to the Answers in Genesis ministry and the Creation Museum located in Petersburg, Kentucky (see links at right).

The truth is that God instructed Noah to build a great boat to save him and his wife, his three sons and their wives from the coming global flood, and God brought animals of each kind to Noah to bring onto the ark in order to save them too. After the flood receded, they left the ark and began populating the earth again. God made a covenant to never destroy all of mankind by means of a flood again.

After this, we see a very short, but important, account of Noah’s sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) in Genesis 9:20-27. Noah’s son, Ham, wronged his father, but Shem and Japheth were honorable towards their father. As a result, Noah blessed Shem and Japheth, but for the descendants of Ham, he pronounced a curse. Interestingly, it is from Shem’s line that the Messiah comes. And it is from Ham’s line that we see trouble.

One of Ham’s descendants was Nimrod. Nimrod founded the city of Babylon, in which the next major historical event takes place – an event that impacts us even today. This is the account of a tower built in the land of Shinar. You may have heard of this as the story of “The Tower of Babel.”

The Tower of Babel

God commanded the descendants of Noah to go out into the world and populate it, but the people decided to build a great temple to make a name for themselves, and so they would not be spread out into the world. When the temple construction began, all people spoke the same single language.

Almost humorously, as the people were building their tower to “reach to the sky” God descended to them and changed their one language into many different languages. The word Babel in Hebrew means to “confuse” which is just what God did with the language. Unable to communicate, the people spread out into other parts of the world (as God had originally told them to do) and the temple was left unfinished. The city they left behind was dubbed “Babel.”

This event is significant in two ways. First, it explains the many languages people speak today and how people groups divided up and ventured into different regions of the world. The languages we hear today are rooted in the original languages from Babel. And the different races we see today are descended from the people groups that spread out.

Second, the building of the temple is a visual template of humanity striving to do their own thing in rebellion against God, and many cultic practices began in this area. The original location of the Tower of Babel was in the area of Babylon, which is modern day Iraq. In the Bible, Babylon represents humanity’s rebellion against God. It epitomizes a moral, economical, and spiritual culture set against God.

Throughout history, there have been various attempts to rebuild the temple. Not too long ago, I noticed in the news that there is yet another attempt to rebuild this temple in the name of historical interest. Personally, I think the real interest lies in the fact that historically, it has never been completed.