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Some Things about Abraham,
Father of the Israelites
Read Genesis chapters 12 through 25
The story of the Jews originates outside of Canaan. God’s command to Abraham to leave his ancestral home and go to Canaan had a Promise with it. Genesis 12:2 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: (KJV)
That Promise becomes a theme in the Jews ancestral accounts, being mentioned again and again (Gen. 13:14, 15:5; 18:10; 22:17; 26:24; 28:13; 32:12; 35:9; 48:16). That Promise eventually took on a covenant form. Genesis 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant. (KJV)
The Promise to Abraham really has two parts: for the nation and a personal divine blessing for protection. The Promise of blessing indicated the unique, matchless and specific bond between God and His faithful followers, which made the enemies of Abraham and/or the nation of Israel the enemies of God. All those who befriended Abraham and/or the nation of Israel would be blessed. With this Promise of assurance from Almighty God, Abraham started toward Canaan, Egypt, the Negeb, Hebron, Gezer, Beer-sheba and back to Hebron where he and his wife Sarah died.
The accounts of Abraham vary. Sometimes he looks like a lonely migrant, while at other times he seems like a chieftain, the head of a large family, and sometimes as a warrior. The facts about the patriarch, Abraham are hard to form, because his real importance lies in his inner self; determined by those who looked to Abraham as a forefather gained understanding of themselves as people of the promise and gained a sense of appreciation to their relationship to God.
Abraham, in response to the divine command, left Mesopotamia and started to Canaan with his wife, Sarah, and his nephew, Lot. The journey was more than a pilgrimage, for it set up the starting point of a CONTINUING adventure in the nation of Israel. The travelers were not without problems, but be it famine, earthquake, fire and war, but they were and are protected by God, then and now.
Abram (Abraham) is called a "Hebrew" for the first time in: Genesis 14:13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. (KJV)
This Passage records a battle between the patriarch Abram and the kings of countries not yet identified and associates him with the Canaanite king of Jerusalem. The account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah may also rest in the memory of a shift in the earth's crust that destroyed the cities of the plain (earthquake, volcano, maybe both?). Tradition associates Abraham with Hebron. Abraham's adventures in the Negeb, the problems of grazing and watering rights, and the digging of a well at Beer-sheba (Gen.26:32-33), echo genuine problems of the shepherd. The episode involving Sarah and King Abimelech (Gen.12) introduces Sarah's relationship to Abraham as both wife and sister.
If we continue to the next verse, we find a startling revelation about the extent of Abram's possessions. Genesis 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. (KJV) This gives us some idea of the number of servants Abram had. In his own household, he could arm 318. How many more did he have that he could not arm? To have that many men working indicates that Abram had quite a business of raising cattle and sheep.
The close relationship between the Hebrews and the people of the desert and grasslands is acknowledged in the story of Ishmael, the nomadic first son of Abraham; but it is through Isaac, the second son about whom so very little is recorded, that the Hebrews trace their own family line. Genesis 22:2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (KJV)
Both Isaac and his son Jacob keep a separateness from the people among whom they dwell, taking wives from among their own kin in Haran (Gen. chapters 24; 28). The story continues with Jacob, who becomes Israel: Genesis 32:28 And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (KJV)
The stories about Jacob also agree with the Bronze Age law for it is recorded that a man may work for his wife. In dealing with his uncle Laban, Jacob's trickery was matched by his uncle's deceptive acts. There was no condemnation of deception but, instead, the point of view was that to best a man in a business contract revealed skill.
Jacob’s twin brother Esau, who becomes Edom, is shaded with rivalry, trickery and bitter misunderstanding but also contains echoes of Hurrian (people of the Bronze Age) custom. Genesis 36:9 And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir: (KJV) In Hurrian law, birthright could be purchased.
Joseph, the son of Jacob, was sold into slavery by jealous brothers and rose to high office in Egypt. When his father and brothers migrated to Egypt to escape famine, they were royally received and encouraged to settle there. Documents confirming the custom of admitting nomadic groups into the country in time of famine are known from Egypt, and the Joseph story reveals many correct details about Egyptian life and may be derived in part from Egyptian tales.
Read Exodus chapters 1 through 6.
After a period of time, the Hebrews increased in numbers and became a mighty multitude. Then a new pharaoh who was unmoved by the Joseph traditions inherited the throne and persecuted the Hebrews, making them slaves. Moses, a refugee from Egyptian justice, became associated with the Kenite people. On the slopes of Mount Sinai in a dramatic encounter with Almighty God, he was appointed to act as the deliverer of the Hebrews. In a mighty clash with Pharaoh, Pharaoh’s power was utterly surpassed by the power of Almighty God through a series of atrocious events: the Nile was turned to blood, plagues involving frogs, gnats, flies, cattle, boils, hail, locusts and darkness are finally climaxed by the death of all the first-born children of Egypt. (Read Exodus chapters 7 through 11). This final plague is related in tradition with the Passover festival, which persuaded Pharaoh to release the Hebrews (Jews). But, very soon after the Hebrews departed, Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after them to the Red Sea. The Hebrews crossed over on DRY land. Exodus 14:21-22 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. (KJV)
But Pharaoh’s army was not so lucky. Exodus 14:23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. (KJV) Exodus 15:4-5 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. 5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. (KJV)
The Hebrews pressed into the wilderness to Mount Sinai where the law was given and there they entered a covenant with Yahweh. The Ten Commandments were called "the covenant" because they were the basis of the entire contract between God and Israel at Sinai (Deut.4:13). They were not the whole of the law of God and Moses, just the first part of the contract spoken audibly by God. God added no more audibly (Deut.5:22), not because His Law was ended, but because Israel begged not to hear His voice any more, lest they die (Deut.5:23-29; Heb.12:18-21). Numbers 14:39 And Moses told these sayings unto all the children of Israel: and the people mourned greatly. (KJV)
After a failed attempt to seize Canaan by penetrating from the south, they moved eastward and, after many setbacks, took a position on the eastern side of the Jordan, just north of the Salt Sea. Here Moses died. Deut. 34:5-6 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. (KJV)
At the beginning of Israel’s history, the semi-nomadic Hebrews and their flocks of sheep and goats were on their way of moving into a settled way of life. The patriarchs were the chiefs of large families or clans living, and for the most part, lived in peace with their neighbors with whom they entered agreements. From the family and clan beginnings came tribes linked to one another by ancestral blood ties. The bonds between these tribes was very strong.
~. . . ISRAEL . . . ~
Israel, Abraham, Things About
Israel, Beginning of
Israel, 12 Spies
Israel, An Adultress
Israel, A Byword Among the Nations
Israel Defeated in Battle
Israel, Divine Curse
Israel, God Hides His Face From Sin
Israel, Hatred of Israel is a Sin
Israel and Idolatry