Abraham Genesis 11:27-29

Genesis 11:27-29; Genesis 12:1-5

After the flood, the sacred narrative rapidly conducts us to the man, the history of whose descendants—their sins, their sorrows, their excellences, their rewards, and their punishments—forms the great theme of the remainder of the Old  Testament. It seems that in ten generations after the flood, mankind had again corrupted its way, and had fallen very far into forgetfulness of God. Yet God would not again destroy the earth for man’s sake. The purpose of the Most High was to choose a man, and in him a family and a nation, to be his witness upon the earth, and the repository of ancient truths, and of Messianic hopes, until the fulness of redeeming time should come.

The person on whom this choice fell was Abraham, Note: Or rather Abram, as he was at first named: but we find it convenient to give him throughout the name he subsequently acquired, and by which he is generally known.] the son of Terah, of the line of Shem, whose native place was “Ur of the Chaldees.” Besides Abraham, Terah had two other sons, Nahor and Haran. Haran, though named last in the sacred text, was plainly the eldest, as was Abraham the youngest of the three—although for dignity named first; for the father was 70 years old when the first of his sons was born, but he was 130 years old at the birth of Abraham, seeing that his son was 75 years old when his father died at the age of 205. Haran, however, died prematurely, “before his father;” and from the emphasis with which this is mentioned, it seems to have been in that age a most extraordinary thing for a man to be cut off in his prime. He left two daughters, named Sarah, Note: Or rather Sarai, as she was named at first: but we shall call her throughout by her later name.] and Milcah. The former became the wife of Abraham, and the other of his brother Nahor. The son, whose name was Lot, became famous from the connection of his history with that of Abraham. The great seniority of Haran is shown in the fact that his daughter Sarah, who became Abraham’s wife, was but ten years younger than Abraham, and his son Lot seems to have been about the same age as the patriarch.

In “Ur of the Chaldees,” the word of God came to Abraham, when he was seventy years old, saying, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the  land that I shall show thee,” Act_7:3. The country to which he was to go was not indicated—he was simply required to detach himself from all the ties of kindred and country, and proceed in a direction to be indicated. This was a hard command; but Abraham obeyed it, and forthwith quitted his native land. His father and brother were, however, willing to go with him. But they halted on the way, at Haran, in Mesopotamia, from some unknown cause, till the death of Terah, when the command to Abraham was renewed, and the country to which he was to proceed was clearly indicated. This was the land of Canaan—destined to become the possession of this man’s descendants. It may be conjectured that the Divine intention was to isolate Abraham and his seed completely, by removing him to a strange land; it did not consist with that purpose that he should thus be accompanied by his family into Canaan; but that, in regard to his filial affection, Abraham was graciously permitted to remain at Haran, and lay his father’s head in the tomb, before any further indication as to the course of his journey was afforded.

It is painful to state, that there can be no doubt that the family of Terah was involved in the general idolatry of the age and country. This is expressly affirmed in Jos_24:2 : “Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood (the Euphrates) in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nachor, and they served other gods.” It is even asserted by Epiphanius and others that Abraham’s father and grandfather were makers of idolatrous images. Bishop Newton and others question that men had descended so low in idolatry at this time as to employ images in their worship. But we do not feel so clear on this point, knowing that Laban, a member of this age and family, had images (the teraphim) which he called “his gods,” and which were at least used for divination, if not for worship.
Ancient story and tradition undertake to fill up the blank in the early history of Abraham, by informing us of his search after the true God, his discovery of the impotence of  idolatry, and of his persecution for righteousness’ sake It happens that the name of the place from which Abraham came (Ur) means “fire,” on which simple fact is doubtless built the legend of his being cast into the fire by Nimrod (!) and miraculously delivered therefrom.

Nevertheless, seeing that Abraham must have already known the God who required him to quit for his sake all that he held dear, and whom he even to that extent obeyed; and seeing that he had acquired this knowledge while the member of an idolatrous family, he had doubtless meditated much on these things, and had been favored with special communications by that God who intended to make his name great, and to render him a blessing to many nations.
A specimen or two of the early researches after truth, which Oriental or Jewish tradition ascribes to
Abraham, may not be unpleasant to the reader. The Jewish legend is this—Terah was an idolater, and as he went one day on a journey, he appointed Abraham to sell his idols in his stead. As often as a purchaser came, Abraham inquired his age, and when he replied, “I am fifty or sixty years old,” he said, “Woe to the man of sixty who would worship the work of a day!” so that the purchaser went away ashamed.

One day a woman came with a bowl of fine flour, and said, “Set it before them.” But he took a staff and broke all the idols in pieces, and put the staff into the hands of the largest of them. When his father returned, he inquired, “Who hath done this?” Abraham said, “Why should I deny it?—there was a woman here with a bowl of fine flour, and she directed me to set it before them. When I did so, every one of them would have eaten first; then arose the tallest and demolished them with his staff.” Terah said: “What fable art thou telling me? have they any understanding?”

Abraham replied, “Do thy ears hear what thy lips utter?”
 Whereupon Terah took him and delivered him to Nimrod, who said to Abraham, “Let us worship the fire!”
“Rather the water that quenches the fire.” 
“Well, the water.”
“Rather the cloud which carries the water.”
“Well, the cloud.”
“Rather the wind which scatters the cloud.”
“Well, the wind.”
“Rather man, for he endures the wind.”

“Thou art a babbler,” said the king. “I worship the fire, and will cast thee into it. May the God whom thou adorest deliver thee thence!” Abraham was then cast into the burning fiery furnace, but was saved by the power of the Lord.

The Mohammedans have also large traditions on the same subject, from mixed Jewish and old Arabian sources. They enter largely into the contest between Abraham and Nimrod, of which we can only give the outline.

Nimrod, forewarned of danger from the birth of a boy, commanded all the male children born at that time to be slain. Abraham was however preserved, and nourished secretly by his mother in a cave, but was sustained far more by miraculous food. There he grew and flourished. On stepping out the first time beyond the cave, he saw a beautiful star, and said, “This is my god, who has given me meat and drink in the cave.” But soon the moon arose in full splendor, and made the star look dim. Then he said, “That is not my god, I will worship the moon.” But when, towards morning, the moon waxed pale, and the sun appeared, he acknowledged the latter for his god, until he also sank below the horizon. He then asked his mother, “Who is my god?” and she replied, “It is I.”

“And who is thy god?” he inquired further.
“Thy father.”
“And who is my father’s god?”
“And Nimrod’s god?”

But his mother had by this time got to the end of her resources, so she struck him on the face, and bade him be silent. He was silent; but he thought within himself “I will  acknowledge no other God than he who created heaven and earth, and all that is in them.”

Then follows the affair of his destroying the idols, nearly as already given, his being brought before Nimrod, and condemned to the flames. A month was the pile in preparation, and every one who contributed wood to it, thought that he did his god service. “The women,” it is said, “were especially active. They washed, or did other work for hire, and with their earnings bought wood wherewith to burn the blasphemer.” Nimrod, after one more effort to convince Abraham of his own title to divine honors, consigns him to the fire. But God made the flames cool around him. They seemed to burn, but had lost all their warmth. Seven days was his faith tried in the fire, “and,” it is beautifully said, “these seven days Abraham, in later times, frequently called the most precious of his life.”