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Abraham, Issac and Jacob

Introduction


The first eleven chapters of Genesis ended with the Gentile nations being scattered.  God had given them up to walk with Satan in his kingdom of darkness.

Looking back, we can see that man’s rebellion at the tower of Babel brought the third dispensation to an end.  This dispensation was known as human government under the direction of God.  Man refused to follow God’s directions, chose to go his own way, and thereby, elected to align himself with Satan rather than God.

The Apostle Paul tells us that: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen”  “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Rom. 1:24-25, 28).

Going back to the era after the Tower of Babel, we again pursue the golden thread of promise that is revealed in Scripture.  When the time was right, God chose a man out of the city of Ur, which is located in southern Mesopotamia, present day Iraq, to become a chosen earthly vessel through whom He would work.  It is through this man, Abram, later called Abraham, and his descendants that God developed His plan, sent His Son and revealed Himself more fully.  God entered into a covenant relationship with this faithful man, and a new dispensation began – the dispensation of promise.

Call of Abram

Call of Abram Beginning with Genesis 11:10, we can trace the genealogy of the descendants of Shem through his great-grandson, Eber, to a man named Abram who lived in the city of Ur of the Chaldeans somewhere between 1900 to 2000 BC.  Clay tablets found by archeologists record the immigration of the nomadic clan, Habiru, into this area of the Tigris-Euphrates valley around 2000 BC. Many scholars consider the Habiru or Hebrews to be the descendants of Shem’s great-grandson, Eber.

Ur, with a population of perhaps one-half million people, was a seaport and a major center of transportation into the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.  Many of the people of Ur were well educated in such disciplines as reading, writing, mathematics, rules of commerce (accounting and law), and the celestial sciences.  Of these, astronomy and astrology were especially important because they were part of the religious training of the day.  As at Babel, a central temple-tower with a step-pyramid design was the religious center for the city.  This temple-tower was dedicated to the moon god who served as the city’s chief god.  The people also worshipped their ancestors and other minor gods through small figurines that were kept in street-corner chapels, and even private chapels in the larger homes. As Abram grew up, it is highly probable that he was exposed to most of the cultural benefits of the city of Ur.  

Bible references to his relatives indicate that they were wealthy and worshipped figurines of the gods of Ur.  Again we turn to Josephus, the Jewish historian of the first century, to get some additional light.  Josephus, in chapter seven of book one of “Antiquities of the Jews” quoted from Berosus of Mochus, a third century BC Chaldean priest, and said that Abram was trained in the celestial sciences of astronomy and astrology.  Josephus also said that Abram’s study of the heavenly bodies convinced him that they obeyed fixed laws of the universe rather than acting independently of each other as true gods would do.  As he continued to study, Abram became convinced that there must be a supreme god of the whole universe who controlled everything.  Oh, what value is found in a properly prepared mind!  Without realizing it, Abram was about to keep his own appointment with destiny.

“… The LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. …” (I Chr. 28:9b).  When God saw that Abram’s mind and heart were open to His guidance, He spoke to him with words that are recorded for us in the twelfth chapter of Genesis.  “Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3).

God told Abram to do three things: 1) To get out of his city and country; 2) To separate himself from his family; and 3) To go to a land that He would show him.  There were four promises that God made to Abram: 1) He would become the father of a great nation; 2) He would be blessed and his name would be great; 3) God would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him; and 4) All the families of the earth would be blessed in him.

God was ready to continue revealing Himself, and He chose by divine grace this man Abram, a pagan in a pagan home and pagan city, to become His channel of blessings to mankind.  Today, after nearly four thousand years, we can look back and see the fulfillment of those promises.  From this man, God created a special privileged nation with whom He dwelled and revealed Himself more fully.  God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, and made this name so great that it is still known around the world today.  The three great religions of the world – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – all trace their origin to Abraham.  Time and time again we have seen how God has blessed the seed of Abraham, and history has recorded the downfall and destruction of those who have persecuted the Jews, God’s chosen people.

Since God made plans from the beginning to send His Son to pay the price for sin and man’s redemption, Abraham’s faith allowed him to receive these blessings.   It was God’s desire to reconcile man to Himself, and to have fellowship with him.  God’s last promise to Abram was that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed.  It was through the lineage of Abram and the promised nation that God would send His Son, “The Lamb of God” and “The Seed of Woman”.  The assurance of this last promise was so certain that Abraham was allowed to enter into a measure of fellowship with God even before the necessary payment was made.

Response To The Call

God told Abram to do three things: to leave his country, to separate himself from his family, and to go to a land that He would show him.  Abram, like many of us, only partiality obeyed God’s command.  Taking his family with him, he traveled some 600 miles up the Euphrates River to the city of Haran and took up residence there.  Haran was the city where caravans bound for Egypt turned south to cross the desert.  Abram disobeyed God by taking his entire family with him including his father, brother and nephew.  We can only speculate whether or not the accompaniment of these relatives was part of the reason that Abram stopped short of the promised land.

We do not know how many years Abram dwelled in Haran after his father Terah died, but Abram did eventually obey God’s command to go into the land that He would show him.  “So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed to go to the land of Canaan. So they came to the land of Canaan. Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth tree of Moreh. And the Canaanites were then in the land” (Gen. 12:4-6).

Abram did not take either of the two main roads south; he went down the mountain ridge, which later became Samaria and is known today as the West Bank.  He stayed away from the populated areas along the Mediterranean Coast and in the Jordan Valley.  Abram successfully made the transition from city life back to the nomadic lifestyle of his forefathers.  He had large flocks and herds and probably many servants.  Probably the quieter, more solitary environment provided in the wilderness enhanced his communication with God.  Abram was slowly stepping out on faith, but he had not completely separated himself from his family as his nephew, Lot, still accompanied him.

God appeared to Abram when he stopped at Shechem, which is near the present day West Bank City of Nablus.  “Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I will give this land’ And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him” (Gen. 12:7). We should carefully note that God did not promise the land to Abram until, by faith, he came into the land. This is also the first Biblical record of Abram building an altar to honor God.

It is interesting that even today, the Jews and Arabs are still disputing the ownership of this land, which is in the heart of the West Bank.  The city of Nablus is occasionally in the news as one of the hotspots of the troubled area.  A few years ago, we saw news stories and pictures flashed around the world covering its mayor who lost both of his legs in an explosion resulting from an ambush.

Abram had a mountaintop experience of faith where he met God, his Creator.  But soon, as most of us have experienced, he was about to fall into the valley of darkness and despair.  Since Abram was a son of Adam, he received a sinful nature that was about to take control of his life.  After a period of time, a famine came upon the land of Canaan; Abram, who was in a panic situation because of his state of affairs, forgot his Creator, and turned to his own wisdom and understanding.  In search of greener pastures, he left the Promised Land and went south into the land of Egypt.

When we are outside of God’s will, we fall into sin and get into trouble.  So it was with Abram.  Fearing for his life because of his wife’s great beauty, Abram lied to the Egyptian Pharaoh, and claimed that Sarai was his sister.  At sixty-five plus years of age, Sarai’s beauty was so appealing that Pharaoh took her into his house, and rewarded Abram with many gifts of great value.  But God, out of His great mercy, protected Sarai by bringing great plagues upon Pharaoh and his house.  Realizing that the plagues came because Sarai was Abram’s wife, Pharaoh chastised Abram, and had the army escort him and his family out of the country.  Abram journeyed back to the land of Canaan with his wealth of gold, silver and livestock.

We are told that Abram returned to the place where he had built the altar, and called upon the name of the Lord.  We have no record that God spoke in response to Abram’s plea.  Abram was still in disobedience because he had never fully separated himself from his family; his nephew, Lot, remained with him.  But a growing strife between Abram’s herdsmen, and Lot’s herdsmen soon led to the needed separation.  Abram decided to give Lot first choice of the land; Lot chose the rich valley at the southern end of the Dead Sea and left the hills to Abram.  So Abram separated his family, his servants and his flocks from those of Lot.

“And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ‘Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.  Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.’  Then Abram moved his tent, and went and dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron, and built an altar there to the Lord” (Gen. 13:14-18).

While touring Israel a few years ago, our tour bus stopped on top of a mountain near old Shechem, present day Nablus.  From this point we could see many miles in all directions. The coastal plain and the Mediterranean Sea were westward, the Jordan River Valley and the land beyond were eastward, the Jezreel valley and the hills of Galilee were northward and the hills of Judea were southward.  From this mountaintop we could see a large part of the land of Canaan.  Many think this or a similar nearby location was where God showed Abram the land that he was to possess.  If Abram had demanded the valley and given Lot the hills, his greed would have greatly restricted his view.  Since mountains surround the valley, the view from the valley is restricted and appears to be the walls of a fortress.

Notice that God waited until Abram was completely obedient before He revealed the full extent of his blessings.  God’s gift of the land was to be forever.  The Bible makes this unconditional statement, and reconfirms the promise many times.  We will look more closely at other Scriptural support for this promise as we move along.

King of Salem

After their separation, Lot and his household moved into the city, Sodom, which is located on the southern end of the Dead Sea.  Soon after they arrived, Sodom was attacked by kings of the east, and Lot and his family were taken captive.  When an escapee brought word to Abram of the plight of his nephew, Abram took three hundred and eighteen of his trained servants, and rescued Lot and the other captives.  Upon Abram’s return, two kings – the king of Sodom and the king of Salem met him.  We will now focus our attention on Melchizedek, the king of Salem.  He is quite unique in the plan of God.

Genesis 14:18 identifies Melchizedek as a priest of the most high God.  This king-priest brought bread and wine, blessed Abram, and praised God for delivering the enemies into Abram’s hand.  Abram recognized the position held by Melchizedek, and gave him a tenth of everything he had recovered from the marauding kings.

Where did this man Melchizedek come from?  His ancestry is a mystery.   Genesis clearly records the genealogy of all of God’s faithful ones with the exception of Melchizedek.  Scripture provides no genealogy for him, and gives us no clue of his origin or his death.  He walks onto the pages of Scripture to meet Abram carrying bread and wine.  Yet, he is clearly a priest of the Most High God, the creator of the universe.  He is king of Salem, which means peace.  Salem later became Jerusalem and that city later became the capitol of Israel.

If Genesis were our only reference to Melchizedek we would be without any answers.  But the Messianic prophecy of Psalms 110 gives us a clue.  “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek“ (Ps 110:4).  The psalmist indicated that Melchizedek is a type of the priesthood of Christ.  Christ is to be a king-priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

The seventh chapter of Hebrews provides a more direct statement.  “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually” (Heb. 7:1-3).

Isn’t it amazing how the Holy Spirit led the writer of Genesis, many years before the coming of Christ, to record the nature of Christ’s priesthood in the person of historical Melchizedek?  It is equally amazing that the psalmist, who was writing many years before the coming of Christ, was led by the Holy Spirit to record the historical Melchizedek of Genesis as a type of the Christ who was yet to come.  We are seeing only one of the many prophetic visuals of the nature of Christ as recorded for us through types in the Old Testament.

The Aaronic priesthood, which we will study later, typifies Christ’s priestly work.  But it is Melchizedek who typifies the nature of Christ as the King-Priest.  Melchizedek has no recorded beginning or end.  His name means King of righteousness, as Christ is our King and the source of our righteousness.  He was king of Salem, which means king of peace, as Christ is our king of peace.  It is interesting that Melchizedek met Abram with bread and wine.  Christ offered these same ordinary substances to His disciples, and gave instruction that the bread and wine were to become a living memorial to Him.

An Unconditional Covenant

Now to continue this study click on: An Unconditional Covenant.

The Promised Son

Now to continue this study click on: The Promised Son.

Covenant Reconfirmed

Now to complete this study click on: Covenant Reconfirmed.

All quoted scripture is from the New King James Version (NKJV) version unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The New America Standard Bible (NASB) is copyrighted by The Lockman Foundation.

The other source is the King James Version (KJV)