|Abraham - |
Abraham ("father of a multitude".) Up to Genesis 17:4-5, his being sealed with circumcision, the sign of the covenant, ABRAM (father of elevation). Son of Terah, brother of Nahor and Haran. Progenitor of the Hebrew, Arabs, Edomites, and kindred tribes; the ninth in descent from Shem, through Heber. Haran died before Terah, leaving Lot and two daughters, Milcah and Iscah. Nahor married his niece Milcah: Abraham Iscah, i.e. Sarai, daughter, i.e. granddaughter, of his father, not of his mother (Genesis 20:12). Ur, his home, is the modern Mugheir, the primeval capital of Chaldaea; its inscriptions are probably of the 22nd century B.C. The alphabetical Hebrew system is Phoenician, and was probably brought by Abraham to Canaan, where it became modified. Abraham, at God's call, went forth from Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11:31-12).
In Haran Terah died. The statement in Genesis 11:26, that Terah was 70 when he begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran, must apply only to the oldest, Haran. His being oldest appears from the fact that his brothers married his daughters, and that Sarai was only ten years younger than Abraham (Genesis 17:17); the two younger were born subsequently, Abram, the youngest, when Terah was 130, as appears from comparing Genesis 11:31 with Genesis 12:4; Acts 7:3-4; "before he dwelt in Charran Haran, while he was in Mesopotamia," in his 60th year, at Ur he received his first call: "Depart from thy land, to a land which I will show thee" (as yet the exact land was not defined). In Haran he received a second call: "Depart from thy father's house unto THE land (Heb., Genesis 12:1( which I will show thee;" and with it a promise, temporal (that God would bless him, and make him founder of a great nation) and spiritual (that in him all families of the earth should be blessed).
The deluge, the revelation to Noah, and the Babel dispersion had failed to counteract the universal tendency to idolatrous apostasy, obliterating every trace of primitive piety. God therefore provided an antidote in separating one family and nation to be the repository of His truth against the fullness of time when it should be revealed to the whole world. From Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14-15, it appears Terah and his family served other gods beyond the Euphrates. Silly traditions as to Terah being a maker of idols, and Abraham having been east into a fiery furnace by Nimrod for disbelief in idols, were drawn from this Scripture, and from Ur ("fire"). The second call additionally required that, now when his father was dead and filial duty had been discharged, after the stay of 15 years in Haran, he should leave his father's house, i.e. his brother Nahor's family, in Haran. The call was personally to himself.
He was to be isolated not only from his nation but from his family. Lot, his nephew, accompanied him, being regarded probably as his heir, as the promise of seed and the specification of his exact destination were only by degrees unfolded to him (Hebrews 11:8). Nicolaus of Damascus ascribed to him the conquest of Damascus on his way to Canaan. Scripture records nothing further than that his chief servant was Eliezer of Damascus; he pursued Chedorlaomer to Hobah, on the left of Damascus, subsequently (Genesis 14:15), Abraham entered Canaan along the valley of the Jabbok, and encamped first in the rich Moreh valley, near Sichem, between mounts Ebal and Gerizim. There he received a confirmation of the promise, specifying "this land" as that which the original more general promise pointed to. Here therefore he built his first altar to God. The unfriendly attitude of the Canaanites induced him next to move to the mountain country between Bethel and Ai, where also he built an altar to Jehovah, whose worship was fast passing into oblivion in the world.
Famine led him to Egypt, the granary of the world, next. The record of his unbelieving cowardice there, and virtual lie as to Sarai (See ABIMELECH) is a striking proof of the candor of Scripture. Its heroes' faults are not glossed over; each saint not only falls at times, but is represented as failing in the very grace (e.g. Abraham in faith) for which he was most noted. Probably the Hyksos (akin to the Hebrew), or shepherds' dynasty, reigned then at Memphis, which would make Abraham's visit specially acceptable there. On his return his first visit was to the altar which he had erected to Jehovah before his fall (compare Genesis 13:4 with Hosea 2:7; Revelation 2:5). The greatness of his and Lot's substance prevented their continuing together. The promise of a direct heir too may have influenced Lot, as, no longer being heir, to seek a more fixed home, in the region of Sodom, than he had with Abraham, "dwelling in tents." Contrast the children of the world with the children of God (Hebrews 11:9-10; Hebrews 11:18-16). His third resting place was Mamre, near Hebron ("association", namely, that of Abraham, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner; next called Kirjath Arba; then it resumed its old name, Hebron, the future capital of Judah). This position, communicating with Egypt, and opening on the pastures of Beersheba, marks the greater power of his retinue now, as compared with what it was when he encamped in the mountain fastness of Ai.
Fourteen years previously Chedorlaomer, king of Elam (the region S. of Assyria, E. of Persia, Susiana), the chief sovereign, with Amrephar of Shinar (Babylon), Arioch of Ellasar (the Chaldean Larissa, or Larsa, half way between Ur, or Mugheir, and Erech, or Warka, in Lower Babylonia), and Tidal, king of nations, attacked Bera of Sodom, Birsha of Gomorrah, Shinab of Admah, and Shemeber of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela or Zoar, because after twelve bears of subordination they "rebelled" (Genesis 14). Babylon was originally the predominant power; but a recently deciphered Assyrian record states that an Elamitie king, Kudur Nakhunta, conquered Babylon 2296 B.C. Kudur Mabuk is called in the inscriptions the "ravager of Syria," so that the Scripture account of Chedorlaomer (from Lagsmar, a goddess, in Semitic; answering to Mabuk in Hamitic) exactly tallies with the monumental inscriptions which call him Apda martu, "ravager," not conqueror, "of the West." Abraham, with 318 followers, and aided by the Amorite chiefs, Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, overtook the victorious invaders near Jordan's springs, and attacked them by night from different quarters and routed them, and recovered Lot with all the men and the goods carried off.
His disinterestedness was evinced in refusing any of the goods which Arabian war usage entitled him to, lest the king of worldly Sodom should say, "I have made Abraham rich" (compare Esther 9:15-16; 2 Kings 5:16; contrast Lot, Genesis 13:10-11). Melchizedek, one of the only native princes who still served Jehovah, and was at once king and priest, blessed Abraham in the name of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed God in Abraham's name, by a beautiful reciprocation of blessing, and ministered to him bread and wine; and Abraham "gave him tithes of all." Immediately after Abraham had refused worldly rewards Jehovah in vision said, "I am ... thy exceeding great reward." The promise now was made more specific: Eliezer shall not be thine heir, but "he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels ... Tell if thou be able to number the stars; so shall thy seed be." His faith herein was called forth to accept what was above nature on the bore word of God; so "it (his faith) was counted to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15).
Hence he passes into direct covenant relation with God, confirmed by the sign of the burning lamp (compare Isaiah 62:1) passing between the divided pieces of a heifer, she goat, and ram, and accompanied by the revelation that his posterity are to be afflicted in a foreign land 400 years, then to come forth and conquer Canaan when the iniquity of the Amorites shall be full. The earthly inheritance was to include the whole region "from the river of Egypt unto the ... river Euphrates," a promise only in part fulfilled under David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:3; 2 Kings 4:21; 2 Chronicles 9:26). Tyre and Sidon were never conquered; therefore the complete fulfillment remains for the millennial state, when "the meek shall inherit the land," and Psalm 72:8-10 shall be realized; compare Luke 20:37. The taking of Hagar the Egyptian, Sarai's maid, at the suggestion of Sarai, now 75 years old, was a carnal policy to realize the promise in Ishmael.
Family quarreling was the inevitable result, and Hagar fled from Sarai, who dealt hardly with her maid when that maid despised her mistress. Abraham in his 99th year was recalled to the standing of faith by Jehovah's charge, "Walk before Me and be thou perfect" (Genesis 17). God then gave circumcision as seal of the covenant of righteousness by faith, which he had while yet uncircumcised (Romans 4). His name was changed at circumcision from Abram to Abraham (father of many nations), to mark that the covenant was not to include merely his seed after the flesh, the Israelites, but the numerous Gentile nations also, who in his Seed, Christ, should be children of his faith (Galatians 3). Sarai (my princess, or "nobility," Gesenius) became Sarah (princess) no longer queen of one family, but spiritually of all nations (Galatians 3:16). The promise now advances a stage further in explicitness, being definitely assigned to a son to be born of Sarah.
Its temporal blessings Ishmael shall share, but the spiritual and everlasting with the temporal are only to be through Sarah's son. Sarah laughed. more from joy though not without unbelief, as her subsequent laugh and God's rebuke imply (Genesis 18:12-15). Now first, Jehovah, with two ministering angels, reveals Himself and His judicial purposes (Genesis 18) in familiar intercourse with Abraham as "the friend of God" (John 15:15; Psalm 25:14; 2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23; Amos 3:7), and accepts his intercession to a very great extent for the doomed cities of the plain. The passionate intercession was probably prompted by feeling for his kinsman Lot, who was in Sodom, for he intercedes only for Sodom, not also for Gomorrah, an undesigned propriety, a mark of genuineness. This epiphany of God contrasts in familiarity with the more distant and solemn manifestations of earlier and later times.
Loving confidence takes the place of instinctive fear, as in man's intercourse with God in Eden; Moses similarly (Exodus 33:11; Numbers 12:8); Peter, James, and John on the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17). A mile from Hebron stands a massive oak, called "Abraham's oak." His abode was "the oaks of Mamre" (as Genesis 18:1 ought to be translated, not "plains".) A terebinth tree was supposed in Josephus' time to mark the spot. It stood within the enclosure, "Abraham's house." Isaac's birth, beyond nature, the type of Him whose name is Wonderful (Luke 1:35-37, and contrast Mary's joy with Sarah's half incredulous laugh and Zacharias' unbelief, Luke 1:38; Luke 1:45-47; Luke 1:20), was the first grand earnest of the promise. Ishmael's expulsion, though painful to the father who clung to him (Genesis 17:18), was needed to teach Abraham that all ties must give way to the one great end. The full spiritual meaning of it, but faintly revealed to Abraham, appears in Galatians 4:22-31.
When Isaac was 25 years old the crowning trial whereby Abraham's. faith was perfected took place (James 2:21-23). Still it was his faith, not his work, which was "imputed to him for righteousness"; but the faith that justified him was evinced, by his offering at God's command his son, to be not a dead but a living "faith that works by love." Paul's doctrine is identical with James's (1 Corinthians 13:2; Galatians 5:6). The natural feelings of the father, the divine promise specially attached to Isaac, born out of due time and beyond nature, a promise which seemed impossible to be fulfilled if Isaac were slain, the divine command against human bloodshedding (Genesis 9:5-6), --all might well perplex him. But it was enough for him that God had commanded; his faith obeyed, leaving confidently the solution of the perplexities to God, "accounting that God was able to raise Isaac even from the dead" (Hebrews 11:19), "from whence he received him in a figure." The "figure" was: Isaac's death (in Abraham's intention) and rescue from it (2 Corinthians 1:9-10) vividly represented Christ's death and resurrection on the "third" day (Genesis 22:4).
The ram's substitution represented Christ's vicarious death: it was then that Abraham saw Christ's day and was glad (John 8:56). The scene was Moriah (i.e. chosen by Jehovah); others suppose Moreh, three days' journey from Beersheba. His faith was rewarded by the original promises being now confirmed by Jehovah's oath by Himself (Hebrews 6:13; Hebrews 6:17); and his believing reply to his son, "God will provide Himself a lamb," received its lasting commemoration in the name of that place, Jehovah Jireh, "the Lord will provide." His giving up his only and well beloved son (by Sarah) typifies the Father's not sparing the Only Begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, in order that He might spare us. Sarah died at Kirjath Arba, whither Abraham had returned from Beersheba. The only possession he got, and that, by purchase from the Hittites, was a burying place for Sarah, the cave of Machpelah, said to be under the mosque of Hebron.
His care that he and his should be utterly separated from idolatry appears in his strict charge to Eliezer as to the choice of Isaac's wife, not to take a Canaanite woman nor yet to bring his son back to Abraham's original home. Abraham being left alone at Isaac's marriage, and having his youthful vigor renewed at Isaac's generation, married Keturah. The children by her, Midian and others, he sent away, lest they should dispute the inheritance with Isaac after his death. He died at 175 years, Isaac and Ishmael joining to bury him beside Sarah. Through his descendants, the Arabs, Israelites, and descendants of Midian, "children of the East," Abraham's name is still widely known in Asia. As "father of the faithful," who left home and all at the call of God, to be a sojourner in tents, he typifies Him who at the Father's call left His own heaven to be a homeless stranger on earth, and to sacrifice Himself, the unspeakably precious Lamb, for us: "the Word tabernacled Greek John 1:14 among us."