Lesson 9. The promise to Abraham: Something better than just a child!

 

Genesis 12

Welcome back, our online students! As we dive into Lesson 9, we appreciate your enthusiasm and dedication which make this learning community thrive. And of course, we appreciate the mighty input of the Holy Spirit; it is not by might or power.

As we progress from now onward, our approach to studying historical events will involve examining them through two lenses: the physical and the spiritual. The physical aspect is crucial for us as historians, providing us with tangible evidence and insights. The spiritual perspective is useful to us as believers. So in essence we are studying history to get proof of the spiritual. Simple. The spiritual aspect encompasses the following elements: (1) the events contributing to the Salvation History Timeline and (2) Prophecy, and the fulfillment of Prophecy.

As you can notice we’ve skipped events like The Flood (Chapter 7) and the Tower of Babel (Chapter 11).  We encourage you to get such lessons from great teachers like Skip Heitzig and Paul LeBoutillier. Their insights can provide valuable lessons.

Lesson 9 is from Genesis 12 but picks up from the final verses of Genesis 11:27-32 (these final verses highlight a simple yet useful genealogy depicting the emergence of a man named Abram, a son to Terah).

 

Terah’s family: Description and migration

Genesis 11: 27-32

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot.

28 While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth.

29 Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milkah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milkah and Iskah.

30 Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.

31 Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.

32 Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Harran.”

Click here to see genealogy table 1. Terah was an idol worshipping (Josh 24:2-3) father of three sons – Abram, Nahor, and a daughter, Sarai. Sarai and Abram share different mothers (Genesis 20:12), making them half-siblings. Sarai’s mother likely is either the same as Nahor and Haran’s but not Abram’s, or Terah had a third wife who was specifically Sarai’s mother. The Talmud suggests a connection between Sarai and Iscah, who is identified as the daughter of Abraham’s deceased brother Haran. If this identification holds, then Sarai would be Abraham’s niece, as well as the sister of Lot and Milcah. In this scenario, this genealogy table 2 (Click here) would be the correct one. Sarai married Abram but she was barren.

As we saw in Lesson 8 idol worship was common Babylonian practice, and Terah, a Semite Babylonian was doing just what every Babylonian did. Around 2100 BCE, the Babylonians practiced polytheism, worshiping a pantheon of gods and goddesses including Marduk, Ishtar, Nabu, and Sin. The Babylonians constructed elaborate ziggurats, such as the famous Tower of Babel, as places of worship for their deities. These idols and gods were invoked through rituals, prayers, and sacrifices as the people sought divine favor and protection. The city of Ur, where Terah hailed was known for the worship of Sin, the moon god. Haran, one of Terah’s sons, died in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans, before the family set out for Canaan. Haran never migrated to Haran! Apocryphal accounts say he was blazed in a fire by King Nimrod, the king who built Babylon. Nimrod from Lesson 8 was a descendant of Cush, son of Ham. Haran was the father of Lot. Lot was probably close to his eldest uncle, Abram.

While the Apocrypha and Lost Books of the Bible provide more detailed additional insights into the times of Terah’s family, migrations, and settlements, it’s important to note that, as Christians, our faith centers around the canonical 66 books of the Bible. These books are considered Spirit-inspired and hold a unique place in Christian theology. While there may be value in studying the Apocrypha and Lost Books for historical and cultural context, our primary focus remains on the Canon, and any exploration of these additional texts would be considered for future study and understanding within the broader context of the Christian faith.

Terah, along with his family, including his son Abram, his grandson Lot (son of Haran), and Sarai, set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan in what we shall term as the Terah & Family Migration. Moving North-Westwards along the R. Euphrates, they however decided to settle in Haran. Perhaps they decided to migrate because they were trying to deal with the grief of Haran’s death, distancing themselves from the place of this traumatic event, and seeking a fresh start. Or maybe the family might have wanted to provide a better environment for Lot, Haran’s son, and relieve him of the pain associated with his father’s fate. They could also have been influenced by a combination of other factors. Economic prospects and the allure of new opportunities in the city of Haran might have been one of them, along with a potential desire for a more stable and favorable environment. Or the nomadic lifestyle, common in ancient cultures, could have driven the family to seek fertile lands for agriculture and livestock. Or turmoil and instability in Ur might have prompted the family to seek a more politically stable environment in Haran (Apocryphal accounts speak of a harsh rule by Nimrod, king of Babylon). Nahor, Terah’s second born is not mentioned in the Terah & Family Migration. Nothing much is said of him past here. Maybe he remained in Ur to carry out trade. Maybe he remained there because he had COVID-19 hahaha…

 

Chapter 12: 1-3.

This is our reference scripture; let’s break it down phrase by phrase.

Verse 1: The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you…'”

  1. ‘The Lord had…’ The word ‘had’ shows that even before Terah decided to move his family in the Terah & Family Migration in Genesis 11: 31 the Lord had revealed himself to Abram and given him His instruction to move to He-din’t-tell-him-where. Terah had a mind to move his family to Canaan and God had the mind to move only Abram to Canaan. Both God and Terah had the same destination in mind; difference is that God did not let his boy Abram know where he was to take him, but Terah let his boy Abram (and the rest of the family) know where they were headed. Almost same thing but quite different. Read that again and you will see the difference! Abram must have been quite surprised when he finally came to know that the land God had not revealed to him earlier when he called him was actually the same land where they had meant to migrate to with his father Terah! Beautiful Canaan! See, the righteous walk by faith, not sight.

Picture the scene in ancient Babylon, filled with the daily routines of life. Abram, while growing up and living amidst the complexities of the crazy and evil Babylonian culture, may have heard tales from his ancestors about God and his dealings with man—from the many stories passed down from his great-great-grandfather Noah through the generations to his father Terah. Stories of the great flood of Noah and the Tower of Babel scatter of languages might have been told to Babylonian children like Abram around fires or cooking pots before supper. This way these stories lingered in the collective consciousness of Babylonians; but the events in them had long been ignored (not forgotten, just ignored) by this generation and everyone was going about his business, worshipping whichever useless idol he found helpful. Picture an ordinary day in the life of young Abram going out to the market to buy his father some idol worship stuff. Abram bumps into his friend Lugal in the market streets and they strike up a casual chat.

*Abram: What’s up, Lulu? What’s the rush? I need to talk to you about something. I am here for some shopping for my dad’s idol worship stuff. But, bro, it’s getting tricky. He sent me to buy him incense for his newest idol, claiming it’s got to be from some mystical mountain.

Lugal: Mystical Mountain? Old Terah and his ways! Hahaha…Sounds like a quest in itself. What’s next, searching for the tears of a dragon?

Abram: Hahahah…! You joke. And that’s not even the crazy part.  He also wants a rare gem for the idol’s eyes. Says it channels the essence of celestial beings.

Lugal: A rare gem? I hope the market isn’t hosting a bidding war among us, mere mortals. This divine shopping spree is turning into an epic quest.

Abram: You speak with such grown-up vocabulary! Like my father. And tell you what, he won’t settle for just any wood for the mini-tower. He is building a mini tower. And the wood has to be from an ancient, sacred grove. Ever heard of one around here?

Lugal: Sacred grove? I hope it’s not guarded by mythical creatures. This adventure might require more than just a market stroll.

Abram: Right? Ancient shopping for these gods isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Let’s hope we don’t stumble into some mythological mess tonight. Oh…by the way, have you noticed the elders whispering about the gods’ discontent with our city lately?

Lugal: Now that you mention it, yeah. Rumors say it could be payback for that Tower of Babel chaos.

Abram: My dad claims the gods weren’t impressed. They turned our ambitious tower into a babble of languages. Classic divine intervention. Now I am starting to speak like you. Boy, you are contagious!

Lugal: Divine babble, got it. And what about Noah’s flood? Any waterlogged tales in your family?

Abram: Absolutely. The flood, my friend, was like a divine reset button. My dad insists it wiped the slate clean.

Lugal: Clean slate, huh? Guess the gods decided to Ctrl+Alt+Del the whole world.

Abram: Hahahahah…you joke too much, Lulu. Oh, look, there’s Enlil, the wise elder. Let’s ask him about the real scoop on these divine tales. Enlil might have the inside track on the gods’ narratives.

Enlil (an old man in his hundreds): Greetings, young ones. What brings you to seek the wisdom of an old man like me?

Lugal: Enlil, we were just discussing the tales of the Tower of Babel and Noah’s flood. My friend Abram here says his dad claims the gods turned our tower into a babble of languages.

Abram: Yes, and Lugal’s father has it that the flood was a divine reset button. Computer stuff. What’s the real story, Enlil?

Enlil: Ah, the Tower of Babel, a tale of ambition and consequence. A mysterious God, mightier than all the gods we worship around here indeed scattered our languages to humble our pride. We were building a Ziggurat… aah…you don’t really know what that is.

Abram: I know ziggurats! My father talks about them a lot.

Enlil: Well there. Your father is a man of his own ways. Do you know we were building this ziggurat, a big tall tower, trying to reach this God? And the…yes…the flood, that was a purification of the world due to mankind’s transgressions. It was massive. I wonder that we are back to the very things that are said to have caused this flood. But, well such is life.

Lugal: So, the stories are true?

Enlil: True enough, my young ones. But remember, every tale has layers, and the divine is often beyond mortal comprehension. Now, why do you seek such knowledge?

Abram: I am on a shopping errand for my father… a shopping spree for his idols. He just got some new idols for a new god. Why all these endless gods? Can’t we have just one? Like the one you just talked about…the one mightier than the rest?

Enlil: Wonderful question, my boy. But it’s getting late. And I am quite busy. Bye. Greet your father for me.*

It is in growing up in such kind of a secular situation that one day, Abram, a grown-up man now going about his ordinary activities, experienced a profound encounter with God. A God he had only heard about in stories that seemed like fairy tales. In the quiet moments or perhaps amid the clamor of city life, God’s voice reached Abram, instructing him to leave his country, his people, and his father’s household for a land He did not tell him. This encounter, marked by a deep sense of divine calling, would likely evoke a mix of emotions in Abram. Having heard about the wonders and judgments of God from his family’s stories, Abram might have felt breath-taken and reverence. So indeed the stories are true. God really exists! And He just spoke to me! Right now! The ancient memories of the flood and the dispersion at Babel might have created a complex backdrop for Abram’s encounter, stirring both a sense of God’s power and a recognition of the need for obedience.

In light of the above mood, Abram likely refrained from sharing about his encounter with God and the accompanying command (requiring him to leave), with his father and the rest of the family. This reluctance could be attributed to two main reasons: (1) the expectation that his family would not believe him and (2) the understandable reluctance of Terah and the family to face a family break-up, especially following the recent loss of his youngest son, Haran. Consequently, Abram may have chosen to keep this significant information a secret, confiding only in his wife Sarai. It’s a common belief that men find it challenging to keep secrets from their wives, and Abram’s deep affection for Sarai probably played a role in sharing this secret with her. This act may have served as a way to console her for the absence of children and to conceal his inner desire for a child. I don’t want her to feel bad about not bearing children. And I am going to make her feel like a queen despite everything. This substantial secret remained with Abram until a specific moment, after his father had died; it was at this juncture (in verse 4) in the land of Haran, that he decided to break the silence and disclose this profound encounter.

Task 1: Using a pencil and crayons, in your notebook draw a conversation between Abram and his brothers and their household members, not long after the burial of Terah, with him trying to tell them about God’s call and how he had decided to move southwards to a land that he did not know yet.

Note: After the death of Terah, Abram was mandated as eldest brother to stay with the rest of the family and keep them together. But here he was, speaking of breaking up with them to go to he-could-not-tell-them-where. Use this map to see Abram’s journey.

 

  1. “Get out of your country…”

Abram’s country was Ur of the Chaldeans, not Haran, where they had migrated. This further emphasizes the idea that, although Abram had received instructions from God, he did not respond immediately. The reasons have been discussed in the previous paragraphs.

In Stephen’s testimony in the Book of Acts, he recounts the story of Abraham (Abram) and mentions his migration from Mesopotamia in the 2100 BCE. Acts 7:2-4 (NIV):

“And Stephen replied: ‘Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’ So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.'”

Ur, Chaldea (Chaldeans), Mesopotamia, and Babylon are interconnected historical and geographical terms, primarily associated with the ancient Near East. Ur was a prominent city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, situated on the banks of the Euphrates River in what is now modern-day Iraq. It was a significant Sumerian city and served as a crucial center for trade, culture, and religious practices during the third millennium BCE. Chaldea or the Chaldeans refers to a region in the southeastern part of Mesopotamia, and the term is often used to describe a specific group of people who later played a notable role in the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The Chaldeans emerged as a distinct group, and their influence grew over time, especially during the later periods of Mesopotamian history. Mesopotamia, meaning “between the rivers,” broadly encompasses the region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is often considered one of the cradles of human civilization, hosting various city-states, including Ur and Babylon. Mesopotamia was characterized by advanced agricultural practices, the development of writing (cuneiform script), and the establishment of complex societies.

Babylon was a prominent city-state in Mesopotamia and became a major political and cultural center under the rule of Hammurabi (18th century BCE). Later, during the Neo-Babylonian Empire (6th-4th centuries BCE), Babylon reached its zenith under rulers like Nebuchadnezzar II. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a testament to the city’s architectural achievements. Click here to see a map of this region. This is the country God was telling Abram to leave.

 

  1. “From your family and your father’s house…”

The decision by Terah to move his family from Ur northwards (to Canaan but later deciding to settle in Haran) might be seen as having been caused by more physical factors, seemingly unrelated to God’s whispers to Abram. However, if Abram was spiritually sensitive at this point in his life, it would serve as a sign and reminder that, though he was reluctant to barge, God’s instruction to him was serious and very important. So, it was not merely a physical decision by Terah to move. It is also possible that God caused whichever factor influenced Terah’s decision to happen so that Abram would be pushed further into God’s purpose; perhaps Abram needed some ‘push.’ The fact that when they reached Haran, Terah did not move Southwest along the Mediterranean shows that the rest of the journey was to be taken by Abram alone.

It might have taken Abram time to fully gather up the courage to move because he didn’t know where he was heading. Geographically, the nearby land southwest of Haran and beyond was a desert, which did not favor his profession of animal husbandry. From physical reasoning, it is safe to say that the following factors might have pushed him further:

  1. Ancient tales about God: If Abraham picked anything from the stories he was told by his grandfathers about God (how He treated the disobedience of Adam and Eve and the obedience of Noah), he would know that this was a God who did not like being disobeyed. So, the earlier he obeyed, the better for him.

 

  1. Family Affairs: The death of Terah might have helped Abram to man up and make bold decisions for himself and his family. In essence, he was breaking away from his extended family setting. However, it’s also probable that Sarah’s inability to give Abram a child might have worsened the already strained relationship with his brothers’ household members, stemming from when they were still in Ur (the Apocrypha has it that Abram caused Haran’s death. But why don’t you read this story about Nimrod and Haran yourself?). Abram was Terah’s eldest son, and Terah’s youngest son, the late Haran, had already had a child, Lot. In this tense setting, the inability of a woman to bear children was a significant challenge. Though she was a close relative, she was not spared taunts and mistreatment for failing to give birth. The people they found in the Haran community might have made it worse for her.

 

  1. The Mediterranean Sea: This sea was not only a route for taking this journey but also a probable trade route for coastal business. Robust trade might have been ongoing at the coast of this sea during this time, as seen in later times (from Ezekiel 27, Tyre, a coastal location along this sea, later developed into a busy trade area, doing business with Egypt, Persia, Lydia, Libya, etc). This would attract Abram to break away from his family to get richer. After all, had the Lord not talked of blessing him with richness? What better way of getting rich was there than lucrative coastal trade? Coupled with animal husbandry and a great labor force from the servants, Lot’s household, and Eliezer, there you have a millionaire!

 

  1. Abraham’s Deepest Desire: Abraham had a deep desire for a child, and God’s promise of ‘…I will make you a great nation…’ might have excited him, motivating him to take the risk and move. Again it’s probable that Sarah’s barrenness was no accident. It was a bait that God used to prompt Abram to make a tough decision. God was using Abram’s deepest desire to fulfill His deepest desire – the salvation of man.

However, one thing can explain all this even better: the Lord was slowly growing Abram’s faith in Him, putting all these barriers before him and helping him overcome them. In essence, Abram developed the courage to move by faith, not by his acumen or the influence of any physical factors, or by the influence of his father. Abram’s journey was not based on his expertise so that God would take all the credit; by the fact that he walked without knowing where he was going, there was little input from him, apart from just walking and walking… Therefore, he had nothing to boast about.

Hebrews 11:8-9 (NIV):

“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.”

We have previously studied that faith is an element that was/is planted in an individual by grace to perform a certain task. And here, the task was the laying of the foundation for a nation through which salvation would come to man. As one teacher at Rest Assured Fellowship, Sam, always puts it: God, in this instance, and many others preceding and coming after this, was experimenting on the effectiveness of faith. Much later, He would need it to be used by all who would need to be saved. They would need to have their faith placed in Jesus Christ for their salvation, without their input at all, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

P.S: The rest of Terah’s family needed to remain in Haran so that at a point in the future when God wanted to give Isaac a nation that He promised to his father Abram, it would be through Jacob by Rebekah (a girl bred from here). And when he wanted to give both the said nation and material blessings to Jacob, it would be through Rachel/Leah (girls bred from here) and Laban (Jacob’s rich uncle and a resident of this place) respectively. Strategy!

 

Verses 2 and 3:

  1. “I will make you a great nation and bless it. And through you, all nations of the world will be blessed.”

This PROMISE is where the spiritual aspect, which is the true reason for God’s whole encounter with Abram, is enveloped. In essence, God had all along been ‘dying’ to say these words. The whole very long process, spanning hundreds of years, from choosing Seth down to Shem and finally all the way to Abraham was to tell him these words, of things He wanted do for man.

  1. I will make you a great NATION and bless it
  2. And through you all NATIONS of the world will be blessed.

These are the words that shape the rest of the history of the Bible! Words that shape our history as mankind! The promise onto which believers cling. This is the true meaning of the word Prophecy! See you next week…

 

 

Dictionary

  1. Semite: Descendant of Shem
  2. Ziggurat: A ziggurat is a type of ancient Mesopotamian temple tower characterized by its distinctive stepped or tiered structure. The word “ziggurat” itself comes from the Akkadian language, a Semitic language used in ancient Mesopotamia, and it means “to build on a raised area.”
  3. Talmud: The Talmud is a central text in Rabbinic Judaism, serving as a compilation of teachings, discussions, and commentary on the Torah, which includes the written and oral traditions of Jewish law. It consists of two main components: the Mishnah and the Gemara.

 

  1. Apocrypha; Lost Books of the Bible

The Apocrypha refers to a set of books that, while historically and culturally valuable, are not included in the canonical scriptures of the Old or New Testaments of the Bible. These texts are found in some versions of the Bible, particularly in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible) and certain editions of the Latin Vulgate. The Apocrypha includes books such as Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, and others.

Additionally, the term “Lost Books of the Bible” generally refers to various ancient texts and writings that did not make it into the recognized canon of the Bible. These books often contain interesting stories and perspectives on biblical events and figures.

8 thoughts on “Lesson 9. The promise to Abraham: Something better than just a child!”

  1. Woah!!!
    Not yet with the leason but am seriously enjoying….. I was about to ask what happened to Nahor coz I had not seen him in the Terah & family migration but the answer was really interesting, 😂😂😂
    I enjoy the dialogue of Abram, Lugal, and Enlil. It was really interesting,,..
    Sarai was a half sister to Abram and at the same time she might have been her Niece due to the connection between Sarai &Isiah daughter of Haran and Sarai would be a sister to Lot….. WOW, things I never thought of hearing of!!!!!! Thank you so much Tr. Josh, am still following the the lesson 💪💪💪💪

    1. SCOPE BIBLE SCHOOL

      Thanks for taking those observations, Hidden. They are really crucial for historical context. Now it’s easier to draft revelations from these stories in context…

  2. I have read this scripture several times but I had never put my focus on how it starts 🤔🤔…. “Now the Lord had said to Abram ….” There’s a way the luganda version brings it out, it leaves out something very crucial.

    I’ve been always thinking and knowing that Abram received the instructions of leaving his Father’s House and his country in Genesis chapter 12:1, kkumbe he had received the instructions earlier even before their travel to Haran….My God!!! My eyes are being opened, I was blind but I have started seeing… 😀😀😀😀

    1. SCOPE BIBLE SCHOOL

      It’s important to always study scripture from different Bible translations, versions and also draw meaning from the original translations for perfect Bible interpretation. Thanks for these observations.

  3. Thank you so much Teacher for this lesson, I’ve really learned much that I didn’t know.

    But I have a question please 🙋🙋

    -Were only Terah, Abram Lot and Sarai the only people in the Terah & family migration, or there might be other people that were with them.?

  4. SCOPE BIBLE SCHOOL

    Not really. The family was an extended family, with servants and maids. It was definitely a large family and homestead.

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