Abraham 1980 AM – 2155 AM, contemporaneous with Noah, Shem, Nimrod, Eber, Jacob
Key precept: The meaning of “Father of a nation.”
Isn’t it interesting that Abraham’s journeys covered the entire Cradle of Civilization during the renaissance of the godless pre-flood civilization.
This is like Paul’s missionary journeys through the apogee of that same pagan civilization some thousands of years later, during which he impressed upon his Gentile converts that all believers in the Promised Seed/ Messiah/ Christ, not just the physical descendants, are the children of Abraham. Note that the following passage is from the letter to the Romans, which is specifically addressed to Gentiles.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness…Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered…How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:” (Ro 4:1-10)
Is it incredible to think that Paul was following in the footsteps of Abraham when he became a missionary? Or is your embedded impression from Sunday School that Abraham just hung out raising sheep and cattle all his life? Don’t we get the message that Abraham was a witness? There is much more to Abraham’s life than the few incidents recorded in scripture, but those are certainly international, and you can be sure that word of Abraham’s amazingly powerful God spread like wildfire!
Part of the problem with understanding the Bible, I’m sorry to say, is that the church experience typically isolates Old Testament “Bible stories” in Sunday School – “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden”, ‘Noah and the Ark”, “The Tower of Babel”, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah”, “Abraham Offers Isaac”, and so on. If we take everything recorded in the Bible as a coherent whole story we will understand so much more of God’s entire message to us.
Apparently I need to work through the parts of Genesis chapters 10-11 we generally skip over because of awkwardly pronounced names and the lack of an interesting narrative. It is a valuable database bridging the “stories” from Noah to Abraham. The record appears to jump randomly from one topic to another, but only if we fail to connect them with the over-riding theme of the Bible: the battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent to win total control of the kingdom of heaven and earth. Then the scattered puzzle pieces fit into place and we see the big picture.
The timeline provided by the genealogical record from Shem to Abram informs us that everyone listed in this program was alive and active at the same time, and the backdrop to Abraham’s significance as “a father” falls into place.
The following chart gives the Anno Mundi / In the Year of the World dates in the Jewish system that calculates from the beginning of the world, set at 3760 BC, and matches them to the BC Before Christ / BCE Before Christian Era dates used by historians. Doubtless the dates are not 100% accurate but they are in the ballpark of conservative biblical scholarship (minus ~250 years for Bishop Ussher’s calculation of 4004 BC for Creation) and serve our purpose of putting key players and events into chronological order. When we look at the numbers as well as the names we get panoramic vision.
|BC||AM||Birth / Event||Death|
|-1765||1996||Dispersed from Babel||Peleg|
|-1761||2000||Abram to Canaan|
|-1713||2048||Sodom & Gommorah|
|-1653||2108||Jacob & Esau|
|-1545||2216||Joseph to Egypt|
|-1526||2235||Kehoth son of Levi|
|-1523||2238||Jacob & Family to Egypt|
|-1393||2368||Joseph – end of Genesis / Beginnings|
When the narrative resumes “stories”, the spotlight is on Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, hybrid seed of the serpent, leader of the rebellion against God. While he is obviously a highly significant individual, we shouldn’t let him distract us from the presentation of the main character – God’s Anointed Son, seed of the woman in the order of Melchizedek, leader of those who remain obedient to Almighty God.
The literary account is subtle, even offhand, as God expresses through a grammatical shrug that he is not impressed with the terrifying army assembled against his small group of faithful subjects. (Understand that I am using this famous event only to visualize this spiritual concept, not to impute righteousness to the British Empire. More on that later.)
After listing all the fierce and giant peoples, without pausing for a breath we read “Unto Shem also…” The order of Melchizedek always stands in opposition to the man of sin and his host of evil ones. Look closer at Genesis 10 with this concept in mind.
“And the sons of Ham;
- Cush begat
- Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth…And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. Out of that land went forth [i.e. partnership was severed in order to establish his own kingdom] Asshur [a son of Shem and brother to Arphaxad/Sargon, listed here as a powerful rival to Nimrod, as we know from the rise and fall of their empires], and builded Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.
- Mizraim begat
- Casluhim (out of whom came Philistim,) and
- Sidon his first born
and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad…These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations. Unto Shem ALSO, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.” (Gen 10:6-21)
Think I am exaggerating the significance of the paragraph structure? Fair enough. Look closer at Genesis 11, where once again we see the narrative contrasts the rebel nations with the order of Melchizedek without missing a beat.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do…So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. These are the generations of Shem..:” (Gen 11:6-10)
Shem is listed as the progenitor of all his physical descendants, and so are his brothers Japheth and Ham. “Now these are the gene(s)-rations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth…” (Gen 10:1) These three divisions constitute what came to be known as the Yellow, Black and White races. Shem, Ham, and Japheth are not, however, considered the fathers/heads of families/nations of all their descendants. “These are the families of the sons of Noah,
- after their generations,
- in their nations…” (Gen 10:32)
This is because not all their descendants identified with their genetic forefathers. This concept is absolutely key to understanding our standing with God as Christians who identify with the Messiah / Promised Seed. More on this as we proceed in this study on “father” Abraham.
Follow me closely through the haze of ancient history. Not every ancient father became a patriarch, “a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family.” But all peoples on the earth were identified with – joined with – one or another of the patriarchs present at the scattering into nations at the Tower of Babel.
“These are the families of the [grand]sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.” (Gen 10:32)
As we study the development of the early nations through the lens of the Bible, bear in mind the means by which individuals came out from among one nation to become citizens of another. As is still the case with citizenship in today’s nations, citizenship in the early nations was obtained not only by genetic descendants but also through
- via emancipation from slavery, converting the non-person into a person (as recently as the 19th century in America),
- and – pertinent to our study – as a privilege bestowed on those who eagerly sought the benefits of belonging to that nation.
“The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, [Na na nana na!] But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” (Act 22:24-29)
But in every case citizenship was certified by adoption as sons into a national family.
This is what was being attempted in changing the names identifying Dani-el and his Jewish compatriots as sons of the nation of the God of Isra-el to new names identifying them as adopted sons of the nation of the Babylonian gods.
It is evident from our casual treatment of God our Father that Westerners don’t understand the extreme depths and heights of our relationship towards God as our Father and our responsibilities and citizenship requirements in his nation. Our American “nation under God” is not a biblical nation based on a patriarchal family system. Our society is an outgrowth of Rome, where law, which has been defined as the “Art of Social Control”, reigns supreme and supercedes both God and family.
But even under ancient Roman law a “citizen” was defined as anyone who had been accepted into a Roman tribe by birth, adoption, emancipation, or governmental grant. And still today in the Middle East where the Bible originated, society is run by the male heads of clans, and survival depends on living by the clan laws.
Clans pose a challenge to state development in ways that are often difficult for Westerners to appreciate. Part of the challenge is cultural. Members of clans are united by powerful feelings of solidarity that impede or erode the overarching national identity essential for democratic citizenship. But more important, throughout history, from medieval Iceland and Scotland to modern-day Libya and Yemen, where clans function as basic units of social organization, they claim to have the legitimate authority to administer justice for their members by using their own force.
From resolving disputes over land [think Abraham and Lot] and arranging marriage settlements [think Jacob and Hamor] to exacting revenge within the context of the blood feud [think Simeon and Levi], clans exert legal powers that are independent from those of the state [think Peter and John as member of God’s clan declining to obey the Jewish rulers]
…It also weakens a core liberal value: individual rights. [Think the early church.] Under the rule of the clan, people are afforded protection not as individuals per se, but rather as members of the lineage groups to which they belong. Law is conceived on collective terms. Thus an injury to a clan member [is an injury to all clan members, think “I am crucified with Christ, Gal 2:20” and] not only demands a response from all members of the clan of the victim [think Stephen’s insulting rebuke to the Jewish rulers], but also can be exacted against any member of the clan of the perpetrator [think Saul’s persecution of the church]. This collective principle diminishes the dignity of the individual by weakening public life [think “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters” (II Cor 6:16=18)]
In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi put clan loyalty at the heart of his revolutionary ideology, seeking to forge a stateless state, guarded by his leadership but organized around decentralized local institutions and clans, which he viewed as the natural basis of the social order. [As did Jesus when he forged his New Testament church.]
In Yemen, the Saleh regime’s highest priority has been to buy at any price the loyalty of the more powerful clans.
In the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat implemented a series of policies in the wake of the Oslo Accords that took power away from the university-educated leaders of the first intifada and strengthened the power of clan elders, which he could control directly through patronage. [As did Jesus Christ in the wake of the new covenant, where the nation that lost power is not the entire group of Israelites, but the ruling Judah clan and the new nation / clan is the group that identifies with him and he empowers with his Spirit, the Christ-ians.]
When during the second intifada Israel destroyed numerous local government institutions, such as police stations and courts, the clans Arafat had strengthened rushed to fill the vacuum. [As did churches after 9/11. This should be our response to men’s hearts failing for fear.]
These cases are part of a more general dynamic, which varies in intensity throughout the region. The 2004 Arab Human Development Report calls it “clannism.”
How can modern democracies be built in the face of push-back from clans?…in addition to encouraging trade and economic development [think “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (I Joh 2:15-16)], the United States should do what it can to help reformers in the region strengthen the identity and power of the intellectual and professional classes, among whom personal identity is most powerfully peeled away from the social core of kinship. [Think “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” (I Cor 1:26-27)]
Now that we understand that nations provide “belonging”, let’s look at the reasons why individuals and families transfer their citizenship, i.e. support and civic duties, from one nation to another.
Migration is prompted by “push” factors driving people out of their homeland and “pull” factors luring people to go to the trouble of resettling in a strange land. These usually come into play during periods of internal social or external military conflicts. This is reflected in the graph showing historic peak migrations to America. Understand that these same factors were active in the earliest stages of history. We just need to change the names and the cultural identifiers.
- Famine. In Ireland during the mid-1800’s a potato blight causing mass starvation and disease prompted mass emigration. It is estimated that in just four years at its worst one million people died, one million emigrated, and others became nation-less refugees resulting in an immediate population drop of 20-25% out of a population of nine million, with a continuing population decline for a century. The destruction of the Irish people is attributed to England, which ruled Ireland from 1801-1922 as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and which permitted for the benefit of the wealthy landowners “a mass of poverty, disaffection, and degradation without a parallel in the world.” Although Ireland produced twice as much food needed tofeed the entire Irish population, the British refused to lift the strict export rules on the foods to divert them to home use so as not to lose profits for, therefore political support from, the wealthy merchant class. The British also refused to send basic food supplies into the country stating, and I quote, “the judgment of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson.”
Sound vaguely familiar?
“And the famine was sore in the land. And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, their father said unto them, Go again, buy us a little food…They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come…for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” (Gen 43:1-2, 47:1-6)
- Subjugation. Government policies in 18th century Germany turned many of its people into virtual serfs / slaves. German laws of primo-geniture permitted only the eldest sons in families to inherit all of a fathers’ land. Heavy taxation prevented accumulation of capital for investment into private ventures, and constant warfare cut short the lives of generations of young men. From the 1700’s through the 1800’s millions of Germans emigrated to America, many of them as farmers developing America into the top exporter of food to the world, with Johann Jakob Astor demonstrating German Americans’ success in business by becoming America’s first multimillionaire. Given their love for personal freedom it should come as no surprise that German Americans opposed slavery, not only because it provided most of the farm labor in the southern U.S. states but because some of the German immigrants were political refugees from the many failed revolutions of 1848 in Europe who came to the United States filled with ideals and continued to fight for freedom as leaders in the American abolitionist movement. In the Civil War nearly one-quarter of all Union Army troops were German Americans, about half of whom had been born in Europe.
Illustration of the most famous scene from the expose Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, in which the slave Eliza has to cross a treacherous body of water to reach freedom from the slavers pursuing her and most importantly, to save her son.
Seem vaguely familiar?
“the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field…And Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, Every son that is born ye shall cast into the river…And the angel of the LORD appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows…Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt…But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea…And the LORD said unto Moses…speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward…And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground...(Ex 1:13-22, 3:1-10, 14:9-22)
- Class struggle by laborers against capitalists. The 19th century was marked by an endless series of wars, with the British emerging as the victors, defeating both the Napoleonic and the Hapsburg Empires to become the largest empire in history, controlling the fourth part of the world’s population and landmass including much of Asia and almost all of Africa under colonial rule. The Pax Britannica (updated Pax Romana) ushered in unprecedented globalization and economic integration. In combination with the Second Industrial Revolution this resulted in skyrocketing profits and power accruing exponentially to the upper classes who built gorgeous mansions and filled them with treasures from around the world, but in plummeting standards of living for the vast majority of people on whose labor the rich were getting richer. This was due in large part to a massive population shift from farms to urbanization. Outright slavery was abolished but factory and mine workers were treated no better than slaves and often even worse. Widespread unemployment of able bodied men destroyed families as factory and mine owners increasing their profits by preferentially employing women and children who were paid less per hour. Children as young as 6 years old worked up to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Diseases swept through the crowded and unsanitary cities but the newly established governments had neither the medical knowledge nor administrative will to combat them. Increasingly desperate people found it more and more difficult to find a reason to stay home. At the turn of the 20th century Italian immigrants made up 10% of the foreign immigrants. At the same time, Russian discriminatory policies imposing poverty through relocation to desolate areas spurred millions of Jews to emigrate.
Seem somewhat familiar?
“And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life…For he had dominion over all the region on this side the river, from Tiphsah even to Azzah, over all the kings on this side the river: and he had peace on all sides round about him. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely…And king Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was 30,000 men. And he sent them to Lebanon, 10,000 a month by courses: a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home: and Adoniram was over the levy. And Solomon had 70,000 that bare burdens, and 80,000 hewers in the mountains; Beside the chief of Solomon’s officers which were over the work, 3,300, which ruled over the people that wrought in the work…And the 1) house which king Solomon built for the LORD…when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither…And the whole house he overlaid with gold, until he had finished all the house...seven years in building it. But Solomon was 2) building his own house thirteen years…He 3) built also the house of the forest of Lebanon…Solomon 4) made also an house for Pharaoh’s daughter, whom he had taken to wife…
All these were of costly stones…stones of ten cubits [which I calculated to be at least 15 feet square, or roughly the size of one end of the largest quarried stones known, at Baalbek, Lebanon, and if cubed I calculated to be about 2,500 pounds or 1 1/4 tons each] , and stones of eight cubits…and cedars…two pillars of brass, of eighteen cubits high apiece: and a line of twelve cubits did compass either of them about…And Solomon left all the vessels unweighed, because they were exceeding many: neither was the weight of the brass found out. And Solomon made all the vessels that pertained unto the house of the LORD: the altar of gold, and the table of gold, whereupon the shewbread was, And the candlesticks of pure gold..And Solomon brought in the things which David his father had dedicated; even the silver, and the gold, and the vessels, did he put among the treasures of the house of the LORD….Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country...And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon’s servant…even he lifted up his hand against the king…And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he [had] made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph...And [when] Solomon slept with his fathers…Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee…And king Rehoboam consulted with the young men that were grown up with him…thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. So…the king answered the people roughly…So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house[hold], David. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day…there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.” (I Ki 4-12)
- Benefiting future generations: In 2015 Mexican immigrants accounted for more than 1/4 of all US immigrants. What is seldom expressed in the polarized and inflammatory political discourse is that many Mexicans feel forced to leave their native country. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) displaced more than five million agricultural workers from their land. Many Mexican immigrants who would prefer to stay home come to the US so that they can provide a better future for their children and future generations.
“…And Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field unto his flock, And said unto them, I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me…And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying…arise, get thee out from this land…And Rachel and Leah answered and said unto him, Is there yet any portion or inheritance for us in our father’s house? Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money. For all the riches which God hath taken from our father, that is ours, and our children’s: now then, whatsoever God hath said unto thee, do.” (Gen 27:41-45, 31:4-16)
Now that we have realigned our Sunday School flannelgraph and coloring book images with the reality of human nature, let’s examine the nations that came into existence in the line of Shem. Which one did Abr(ah)am join, and why?
Arphaxad was only 350 years old when Abram, his descendant, i.e. younger clan member who would have been subject to his rule, was born in his territory. Arphaxad lived until Abram was 88 years old. Even though he lost his position as Sargon over other tribes in the incessant warfare of that time and place (as realistically portrayed in the Mad Max series), he would still have been, like Jehoiachin, retained as a knowledgeable and sought-out advisor by the conqueror, an influential chieftain keeping the peace over his tribe / nation, and a high priest in the Akkadian’s polytheistic religious practices, which, like Rome’s Universal Church during the Reformation, was the prototype for all subsequent national religions.
“And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood [obviously in context referring to the mighty river, the Euphrates, not Noah’s flood] in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods…Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Josh 24:2-15)
Obviously Arphaxad was not a righteous clan leader / father figure for Abraham. As long as Abram was in the land of the Chaldeans, like Bible believers in 16th century England or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylon, he would have been subject to its laws.
“Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?…if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.” (Dan 3:14-20)
And here is where God’s Melchizedek / Seed of the Woman / Chosen One / Messiah / Christ most evidently opposes the Seed of the Serpent / Man of Sin / Antichrist. Unlike Arphaxad and Salah, Eber and his people rejected Antichrist Nimrod and his earthly promises and terrorist threats and submitted to Melchizedek Shem’s rule in God’s spiritual kingdom.
This is why Shem is called “the father of the children of Eber / the Hebrew” rather than “the father of the children of Arphaxad”. Eber was the first scion who could be acknowledged by Shem as being in his likeness and capable of carrying out his righteous legacy. Remember, “a child became a son or daughter not primarily by the fact of physical generation but rather through acknowledgement or election by the father...The perfect son then is the incarnation and extension of his father’s will and character, and he points to his father, not to himself.”
Understanding this gives us to realize that “Hebrew” encompasses, but is not synonymous with, “Jew” (descendant of Judah) or even Israelite (descendant of Israel / Jacob). Names are meaningful. We shouldn’t be careless with them. Long before there was a nation of Israel the Hebrews are defined as the people of the LORD God.
Jews from Judah who belong to larger group of
Israelites from Israel/Jacob who belong to larger group of
Hebrews from Eber
“And Joseph said unto him…think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews:” (Gen 40:12-15)
In context here while Joseph is including his family as Hebrews, he is not defining his family as the only Hebrews. His family of Israel became a subset of the nation of the Hebrews, just like the twelve tribes were subsets of the nation of Israel. But when Joseph was in Egypt, before Jacob / Israel’s sons coalesced into a unit, but rather were falling apart (Gen 34, 37, 38, 49), the Egyptians were interacting with Hebrews who were not part of Israel’s family. This is demonstrated by the description of long-established religious practices by the Egyptians towards the Hebrews before the Egyptians knew they were interacting with Joseph’s family.
“And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, which did eat with him, by themselves: because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.” (Gen 43:32)
Job’s address as “the land of Uz” (Job 1:1) referencing one of Shem’s grandsons, his herding lifestyle in what soon became a heavily urbanized area, his experience with the pre-urbanized raiding Chaldeans, and his long lifespan estimated at about 200 years dates him as living during the formative stages of post-flood civilization. He was not an Israelite. He would have been an Hebrew. He documents for us that the way of salvation in ancient times was the exactly the same as that known to us under the terms of the New Covenant – repentance and profession of faith in the promised Redeemer.
“Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! [As a sure testimony in the day of judgment.] That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! [As was Cyrus the Great’s last words.] For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God [resurrection]: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me…Then Job answered the LORD and said…I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 19:23-27)
Paul’s claim to be a Hebrew confirms that there is a religious significance to this identification, which precedes and is separate from the Israelite national identification, and is important enough for Paul to brag about.
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I.” (II Cor 11:22)
“Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phili 3:5-6)
Now that we understand Abraham’s cultural background, especially his Hebrew heritage, we are ready to study our father’s life.
The book of Jasher, which is referenced twice in scripture thus confirming its reliability as a source, gives historical details of Abram’s early life and the culture from which he was sent out. Though not described in the Bible, these details are credible, and more trustworthy than my imagination. The timeline documented in Genesis 11 places Abram’s early years smack in the middle of Nimrod’s violent and idolatrous culture so this much is verified in scripture. Other details match historical events involving other Spirit-empowered men of God so are valid. One thing is certain, Abram didn’t just go through a daily routine of making a living, and if his biography isn’t exactly as recorded by Jasher it would be close to it.
Nimrod was born about 300 years after the flood, late in his father’s lifetime. Jasher reports a workforce on the Tower of Babel of about 600,000 men plus women and children, for a total population of a few million people (Jasher 9:23) This is consistent with the population growth calculation referenced above.
And Cush the son of Ham, the son of Noah, took a wife in those days in his old age, [being in the same generation as Arphaxad, Cush would have lived until about 2100 AM] and she bare a son, [according to ancient sources about the year 1927 AM, when Terah was about 50 years old] and they called his name Nimrod…At that time the sons of men again began to rebel and transgress against God, and the child grew up, and his father loved him exceedingly, for he was the son of his old age…
And Nimrod strengthened himself, and he rose up from amongst his brethren, and he fought the battles of his brethren against all their enemies round about…And when Nimrod was forty years old, at that time there was a war between his brethren and the children of Japheth, so that they were in the power of their enemies. And Nimrod went forth at that time, and he assembled all the sons of Cush and their families, about four hundred and sixty men, and he hired also from some of his friends and acquaintances about eighty men, and be gave them their hire, and he went with them to battle, and when he was on the road, Nimrod strengthened the hearts of the people that went with him…
And all the men that went were about five hundred, and they fought against their enemies, and they destroyed them, and subdued them, and Nimrod placed standing officers over them in their respective places. And he took some of their children as security, and they were all servants to Nimrod and to his brethren, and Nimrod and all the people that were with him turned homeward.
And when Nimrod had joyfully returned from battle, after having conquered his enemies, all his brethren, together with those who knew him before, assembled to make him king over them, and they placed the regal crown upon his head. [Since Nimrod becomes the new king he must have rebelled against Sargon / Arphaxad.] And he set over his subjects and people, princes, judges, and rulers, as is the custom amongst kings. And he placed Terah the son of Nahor the prince of his host, and he dignified him and elevated him above all his princes… [Check the timeline above. As a direct descendant of Arphaxad, Terah would have been a prince, trained in warfare and government. It makes perfect sense that Nimrod elevated a defeated Chaldean to the highest level of his government, just like Nebuchadnezzar did with Daniel.]…and Nimrod reigned in the earth over all the sons of Noah, and they were all under his power and counsel.
And all the earth was of one tongue and words of union, but Nimrod did not go in the ways of the Lord, and he was more wicked than all the men that were before him, from the days of the flood until those days. And he made gods of wood and stone [to lure the unclean spirits of the dead Nephilim into these inviting host bodies as his honored guests in hopes of accessing their power] and he bowed down to them, and he rebelled against the Lord, and taught all his subjects and the people of the earth his wicked ways; and Mardon his son was more wicked than his father…And Terah the son of Nahor, prince of Nimrod’s host, was in those days very great in the sight of the king and his subjects, and the king and princes loved him, and they elevated him very high.” (Jasher 7:34-47)
And it was in the night that Abram was born [when Nimrod was about 50 years old] that all the servants of Terah, and all the wise men of Nimrod, and his conjurors came and ate and drank in the house of Terah, and they rejoiced with him on that night. And when all the wise men and conjurors went out from the house of Terah, they lifted up their eyes toward heaven that night to look at the stars, and they saw, and behold one very large star came from the east and ran in the heavens, and he swallowed up the four stars from the four sides of the heavens. And all the wise men of the king and his conjurors were astonished at the sight, and the sages understood this matter, and they knew its import
…and they all went to the king and bowed down to him to the ground, and they said, May the king live, may the king live…a son was born to Terah the son of Nahor, the prince of thy host, and…and knew by our wisdom…the child that is born to Terah, who will grow up and multiply greatly, and become powerful, and kill all the kings of the earth, and inherit all their lands, he and his seed forever. And now our lord and king, behold we have truly acquainted thee with what we have seen concerning this child. If it seemeth good to the king to give his father value for this child, we will slay him before he shall grow up and increase in the land, and his evil increase against us, that we and our children perish through his evil.
And the king heard their words and they seemed good in his sight, and he sent and called for Terah, and Terah came before the king. And the king said to Terah, I have been told that a son was yesternight born to thee, and after this manner was observed in the heavens at his birth. And now therefore give me the child, that we may slay him before his evil springs up against us...And Terah hastened, (as the thing was urgent from the king), and he took a child from one of his servants, which his handmaid had born to him that day, and Terah brought the child to the king and received value for him. And the Lord was with Terah in this matter, that Nimrod might not cause Abram’s death, and the king took the child from Terah and with all his might dashed his head to the ground, for he thought it had been Abram; and this was concealed from him from that day, and it was forgotten by the king, as it was the will of Providence not to suffer Abram’s death. And Terah took Abram his son secretly, together with his mother and nurse, and he concealed them in a cave, and he brought them their provisions monthly. And the Lord was with Abram in the cave and he grew up, and Abram was in the cave ten years, and the king and his princes, soothsayers and sages, thought that the king had killed Abram…
And when Abram came out from the cave, he went to Noah and his son Shem, and he remained with them to learn the instruction of the Lord and his ways, and no man knew where Abram was, and Abram served Noah and Shem his son for a long time. And Abram was in Noah’s house thirty-nine years, and Abram knew the Lord from three years old, and he went in the ways of the Lord until the day of his death, as Noah and his son Shem had taught him; and all the sons of the earth in those days greatly transgressed against the Lord, and they rebelled against him and they served other gods, and they forgot the Lord who had created them in the earth; and the inhabitants of the earth made unto themselves, at that time, every man his god; gods of wood and stone which could neither speak, hear, nor deliver, and the sons of men served them and they became their gods.
And the king and all his servants, and Terah with all his household were then the first of those that served gods of wood and stone. And Terah had twelve gods of large size, made of wood and stone, after the twelve months of the year, and he served each one monthly, and every month Terah would bring his meat offering and drink offering to his gods; thus did Terah all the days. And all that generation were wicked in the sight of the Lord, and they thus made every man his god, but they forsook the Lord who had created them.
And there was not a man found in those days in the whole earth, who knew the Lord (for they served each man his own God) [the oldest living religion Hinduism, acknowledges at least 33 million gods] except Noah and his household, and all those who were under his counsel knew the Lord in those days. And Abram the son of Terah was waxing great in those days in the house of Noah, and no man knew it, and the Lord was with him. And the Lord gave Abram an understanding heart, and he knew all the works of that generation were vain, and that all their gods were vain and were of no avail…
And in the fiftieth year of the life of Abram son of Terah, Abram came forth from the house of Noah, and went to his father’s house. And Abram knew the Lord, and he went in his ways and instructions, and the Lord his God was with him. And Terah his father was in those days, still captain of the host of king Nimrod, and he still followed strange gods…
And when Abram saw all these things his anger was kindled against his father, and he hastened and took a hatchet in his hand, and came unto the chamber of the gods, and he broke all his father’s gods…
And the king said to the princes and sages, Have you heard what Abram, the son of Terah, has done to his father? Thus has he done to him, and I ordered him to be brought before me, and thus has he spoken; his heart did not misgive him, neither did he stir in my presence, and behold now he is confined in the prison. And therefore decide what judgment is due to this man who reviled the king; who spake and did all the things that you heard.
And they all answered the king saying, The man who revileth the king should be hanged upon a tree; but having done all the things that he said, and having despised our gods, he must therefore be burned to death, for this is the law in this matter.
If it pleaseth the king to do this, let him order his servants to kindle a fire both night and day in thy brick furnace, and then we will cast this man into it. And the king did so, and he commanded his servants that they should prepare a fire for three days and three nights in the king’s furnace, that is in Casdim; and the king ordered them to take Abram from prison and bring him out to be burned.
And all the king’s servants, princes, lords, governors, and judges, and all the inhabitants of the land, about nine hundred thousand men, stood opposite the furnace to see Abram. And all the women and little ones crowded upon the roofs and towers to see what was doing with Abram, and they all stood together at a distance; and there was not a man left that did not come on that day to behold the scene. [What a public testimony!]…
And the Lord loved / joined identity with Abram and he had compassion over him, and the Lord came down and delivered Abram from the fire and he was not burned [establishing a basis of trust for future occasions with Abram’s children.] But all the cords with which they bound him were burned, while Abram remained and walked about in the fire…three days and three nights, and all the servants of the king saw him walking in the fire, and they came and told the king, saying, Behold we have seen Abram walking about in the midst of the fire, and even the lower garments which are upon him are not burned, but the cord with which he was bound is burned.
And the king ordered Abram to be taken out from the fire; and his servants approached to take him out and they could not, for the fire was round about and the flame ascending toward them from the furnace. And the king’s servants fled from it, and the king rebuked them, saying, Make haste and bring Abram out of the fire that you shall not die. And the servants of the king again approached to bring Abram out, and the flames came upon them and burned their faces so that eight of them died.
And when the king saw that his servants could not approach the fire lest they should be burned, the king called to Abram, O servant of the God who is in heaven, go forth from amidst the fire and come hither before me; and Abram hearkened to the voice of the king, and he went forth from the fire and came and stood before the king.
And the king said to Abram, How is it that thou wast not burned in the fire? And Abram said to the king, The God of heaven and earth in whom I trust and who has all in his power, he delivered me from the fire into which thou didst cast me…And the king, princes, and inhabitants of the land, seeing that Abram was delivered from the fire, they came and bowed down to Abram.
And Abram said to them, Do not bow down to me, but bow down to the God of the world who made you, and serve him, and go in his ways for it is he who delivered me from out of this fire, and it is he who created the souls and spirits of all men, and formed man in his mother’s womb, and brought him forth into the world, and it is he who will deliver those who trust in him from all pain.
And Abram went forth from the king [Nimrod, in the land of Chaldea when the Lord called him out]…and many of the king’s servants followed him, and about three hundred men joined him. And…Abram served the Lord his God all the days of his life, and he walked in his ways and followed his law. And from that day forward Abram inclined the hearts of the sons of men to serve the Lord…
Do you recognize what is going on here? These men are following Abram to leave one nation and join another. We should understand implicitly that the call to separate from one’s current membership in an idolatrous nation in order to keep the way of the LORD was not just to Abram, but to all the people in all the nations fleeing Nimrod’s Babel and to everyone in every nation from that time forward.
“The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.” (Isaiah 52:10-11)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath The Promised Seed / Christ with Belial / Adversary? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
And Abram said to his father, Dost thou not know that the king thinketh to slay me, and to annihilate my name from the earth by the advice of his wicked counsellors? [Sound familiar? Then assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, And consulted that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him.” Matt 26:3-4] Now whom hast thou here…Now therefore hearken to my voice, and let us arise and go to the land of Canaan, out of the reach of injury from Nimrod; and serve thou the Lord who created thee in the earth and it will be well with thee; and cast away all the vain things which thou pursuest…And Terah hearkened to the voice of his son Abram, and Terah did all that Abram said, for this was from the Lord.” (Jasher 12)
Why would Abram go to Canaan? Recall that in ancient times the head of a tribe or nation was both political and religious authority. “Historically, a patriarch has often been the logical choice to act as ethnarch identified with his religious confession within a state or empire of a different creed (such as Christians within the Ottoman Empire).” The documentation of Abram “the Hebrew” establishes that when Abraham was sent out of Arphaxad’s pagan Chaldea he joined the only nation/clan reported to worship the one true God, his [grand]father Eber’s existing band of Hebrews.
“And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech /My Father is King] king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man [i.e. impotent, unable to beget children Heb 11:12], for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’s wife. But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation? Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine. Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done. And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing? [And that’s what you get for looking like unbelievers.] And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake…And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee. And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.” (Gen 20)
“And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest: Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son’s son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned. And Abraham said, I will swear.” (Gen 21:22-24)
Did you catch Abimelech’s personal relationship with God? He doesn’t say “your” God. In addition, his lifestyle proved his relationship to Yaweh by Abraham’s definition – to “fear God,” hundreds of years before there was the Levitical priesthood to guide the way. But the record shows that The Way was known.
“Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 25:17)
How did Abimelech know about the true God and how to worship him? From Shem and Eber of course. Why should we assume the word of God started with Moses, and men like Abimelech had nothing to guide them to salvation? The following passage written by the Apostle Peter is based on Isaiah’s writings because they were as applicable to the believers suffering oppression under the Roman empire in the 1st century AD as it was to believers being crushed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. This is God’s timeless truth. Just as we accept them as applicable to 19st century AD believers we can see that they apply to the 19th century BC believers.
“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture , Behold, I lay in Sion [in Abimelech’s time the mountain held by Shem Melchizedek] a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded /put to utter confusion and shame.” (I Pet 2:6, also Romans 9:33)
Envision the city of Ur as Abram undoubtedly did when he first saw Mount Zion, which probably had nothing more than a natural stone altar as its “chief corner stone”. The great cities with their fabulous temples could have seemed to prove that the other gods were more worthy of praise than Yaweh. Have you never, as a believer in the God of the Bible, felt confounded, doubting your faith in God’s promise of things to come?
“Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient…a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood [that describes Abimelech as well as Abraham], an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Having your conversation / lifestyle honest [that describes Abimelech as well as Abraham] among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (I Pet 2:12-17)
“Fearing God” identifies believers throughout the ages. And don’t overlook “honour the king”. The king that believers were to honour in Peter’s day was Antichrist Caesar, and in Abimelech and Abraham’s day was a series of conquerors including Antichrist Nimrod, as we shall see later in this post. When we get there don’t overlook the fact that Abraham was not among the people who were attacked. Why not? If Abraham was following God’s code, which was not newly devised for Christians, then he was paying his taxes. He didn’t rebel again the Emporer until compelled by a higher priority to rescue his family.
Very interesting that, consistent with Abraham’s covenant with Abimelech, the land of Gerar is not mentioned in the list of Israelite conquests in Joshua 15. Located in what came to be Philistine territory, but not named as one of the Philistine cities, Gerar would have been rescued from the Philistines by first Samson, then Saul, and finally King David. Ultimately it would have been absorbed through a peaceful alliance into Judah, like so many of Israel’s neighbors under King David and King Solomon.
Hold on! retort those readers who are familiar with Genesis. The pertinent quote is that “the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee…and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And the Canaanite was then in the land.” (Gen 12:1-6)
Good point. Whenever there seems to be a contradiction I’ve found that this is the place to dig around for a gem of truth. This is true in my practice as a psychiatric provider trying to determine truth from a patient who either doesn’t know, or is hiding, the truth, and it is true in scripture. We can either jump to the conclusion that the Bible is full of contradictions and therefore can be tossed aside, or we can “seek” to know truth with at least the effort we put into developing relationships with humans we care about. Hmm, maybe a generalized lack of interest is the fundamental problem? Never mind.
At the time that Abraham entered the land of the Hebrews, it was indeed populated with the patriarch Canaan and his people.
“And Canaan begat Sidon his first born, and Heth, And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha. (Gen 10:15-19)
But don’t forget that the Melchizedek Shem, “priest of the most high God” was also there, and that here is a link between Canaan and Shem.
“Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” (Gen 9:26)
We should expect to find a tribe of Hebrews under the leadership of Shem and Eber in the same land populated by the Canaanites. Why? To challenge the enemy for possession! And in the process we should expect to find Abraham and his household assembling themselves together with their own kind for a number of reasons.
WAbram and his followers left their kindred / nation to become refugees they lost the considerable resources and protections provided by the tribe they left. They were under great pressure to recant their faith in an unseen God and return to physical security as members of a worldly group. Believers of every age face the same pressures and need the same encouragement to endure trials and tribulations.
“Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord…Look unto Abraham your father…for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” (Isa 51:1-2)
“Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed. Therefore my people shall know my name [Savior!] : therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak [through the prophet in the assembly] : behold, it is I. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your reward. Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: [battle scarred]” (Isa 52:5-15)
“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” (Heb 10:23-25)
We also need to assemble together as believers because our God judges his children who fall away to avoid persecution.
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day [of judgment] approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.” (Heb 10:25-33
Last, and probably least to tell the truth, our Adversary as a roaring lion picks off the strays, the weak individuals who straggle and allow themselves to get separated from the flock in the foolish belief that they can avoid being attacked by the enemy if they are not easily identified as a member of the flock.
“The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory [Peter is referring to his impending martyrdom] that shall be revealed [spiritual power over physical suffering]: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock…Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (I Pet 5:1-9)
“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles [notice, believers are no longer identified with the Gentiles]…deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus…Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (I Cor 5)
Those who don’t understand the absolute necessity of belonging to a nation / state haven’t grasped the dire consequences of not belonging to a state.
Hannah Arendt is considered one of the most important modern thinkers. She spent her entire life critically discussing statelessness as a core concern of human rights and international politics…Her book The Origins of Totalitarianism is a fundamental reference…
Arendt wrote about the refugee crisis during World War II in a brief essay entitled, “We Refugees.” …In 1993…the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben reflected on Arendt’s essay within the context of his time…Arendt’s argument that statelessness is a consequence of the modern nation-state forms the backbone of much of Agamben’s powerful critique of sovereignty. The political and legal structure of the nation-state based on the rights of…citizen excludes those who are not citizens. The exclusion of the stateless, as we witness today, results in the administration of the excluded by national agencies, smugglers, strangers, charities, international organizations and, most tellingly, the police. Agamben is, of course, right. “We Refugees” needs to be read in the context of Arendt’s…The Origins of Totalitarianism.
The pogroms by medieval European states were possible because the Jews were not citizens., therefore not under the protection of the state. The Holocaust of 6 million Jews occurred because they were stateless, unprotected by Germany’s laws, and unable to obtain access to another country’s protection through immigration.
We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement…nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution…
(Christian Armenians on a death march during the Islamic Ottoman genocide.)
We know about the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire, but are we aware that Christians are being persecuted in record numbers today. Can we apply that understanding to the believers in the Seed of the Woman under Nimrod’s Empire? One man standing alone couldn’t last long. The need to belong to a nation of believers is basic and imperative, and emphasized as such in scripture. God works through social order in families, nations, and assemblies of worshippers, not just in the New Testament or the nation of Israel but since the beginning of time.
“And God said, Let us make man…and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth…and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion…and [the woman’s] seed [a partnership between God and mankind]…shall bruise [smash] thy [Serpent’s] head…” (Gen 1:26-28, 3:15)
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord…one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:” (Letter to the Hebrews 2:3-7)
Part of the great salvation we should not neglect is the protection and resources available though membership in a nation whose prime directive is to “...provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….” This is why it is so important to understand the details on the nations that God bothered to give us in Genesis 10-11 as the background to Abraham’s significance. Abraham doesn’t just show up, like Superman, out of the blue, to save the world single handedly. Yes, he has the royal Melchizedekian ancestry with legal documents to prove his legitimacy and the right to be the next patriarch in line to lead the Hebrew people – but he also has the Hebrew people to back him up!
Think I am inflating the importance of this concept? Neither does Jesus show up to save the world single handedly! He waits for the collaboration of all his chosen people to whom he has delegated responsibility. All the following verses link together, like an email or text message string.
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [refers to the nation’s leadership, like “Washington” for America] thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Mat 23:27-39)
“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time [i.e. death] no longer: But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said…Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings…the holy city shall they [the Gentiles] tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth…And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified…And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven…And the seventh [last] angel sounded [his trumpet]; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. (Rev 10:5-11, 11:12-15)
“And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God…And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war…and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” (Rev 19:11-14)
Abraham is the Commander in Chief of one of those armies. During this post-apocalyptic era Abram is not just another refugee looking out for himself and his family. He is being assigned the most important job on earth. Like the President of the United States, he has been chosen to preserve, protect, and defend liberty and justice for all the peoples of the earth. Abram’s nation is the only nation capable of doing so because its constitution, the word of God, covers the whole world, and its boundless resources can provide for a steady stream of refugees.
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram…Get thee out of thy country…unto a land that I will shew thee:
- And I will make of thee [the father of] a great nation,
- and I will bless thee…and thou shalt be a blessing:
- And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee:
- and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-4)
This is typically taught as meaning that The Seed of the Woman / Promised Savior / Jesus Christ would be a descendant of Abraham, which is true, but there is an immediate aspect to this pronouncement that shouldn’t be overlooked. In context, “all the families of the earth” were just coming into existence in Abram’s day and scattering across the earth as they fled from endless war, butchery and slavery in Mesopotamia. This was “the Bronze Age“, a brutal era, a vicious struggle for existence.
Father of a great nation
This nation is typically taught as being Israel but it is patently obvious on the face of it that Israel is the father of the nation named after him, so no, that’s not Abraham’s nation. And the nation of Israel didn’t come into existence for over 400 years after God promised to bless the world through Abraham. Are you thinking there was no blessing the world until then? Seriously? The failure to recognize that there is a greater nation superceding Israel is the reason the “Judeo-Christian” people can’t, like NATO’s people with our common heritage, truly join forces to protect and bless each other.
Abraham became – like Joseph in Egypt, after developing the requisite competencies – the head of the Hebrew nation after Eber was gone. Abraham is the honored ancestor, not Eber, who is barely mentioned in the Bible. Apparently he wasn’t around much. First Shem, then Abraham, became the national father of the children / people who identified with Eber’s God. Since he lived as long as his father, it is unlikely that Eber was martyred under Nimrod. As can be seen from the chart above, he did outlive Shem so you’d expect he would be called the father of his own nation. I’d like to think that, like Paul, Eber was a missionary constantly traveling to spread the Gospel to the scattered heathen nations while the Shem and Abraham, like the other apostles, held the fort and grew the greatest population of believers in Jerusalem.
Thou shalt be a blessing
The people groups who packed up and left Mesopotamia were enslaved workers fleeing Nimrod’s tyranny for freedom at any cost, trading one hard urban life for another hard life on the frontier, risking death in unfamiliar beast-infested wilderness. No doubt there was a kind of Oklahoma land rush as the Babel emigres needed to find a place to settle onto as soon as possible for sheer survival.
Their life was a struggle for existence as they, like Robinson Crusoe on a deserted island or our own American pioneers heading west, had to build all the food-production infrastructure of flocks, fields, vineyards, orchards, irrigation ditches, wells from the ground up.
And all the while protecting their livelihood and lives from predators in a situation akin to Crusoe’s Caribbean cannibals or the Wild West’s Johnson County War.
“And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee…there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.” (Job 1:14-17)
Abraham didn’t just sit back and doze on the back pew once he joined his congregation of Hebrews. He went to work fulfilling the marching orders in God’s kingdom to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” with LIFE. Do we not recognize the walking dead when we see them? Or do we just not care, at least not enough to save them from their ultimate destruction?
I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee
“…Abram the Hebrew…dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite [from a wicked nation], brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram…And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet…Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” (Gen 14:13-24)
These men had to be believers like Abimelech in order for Abraham to be in league with them. Or for them to be in league with Abraham. They had to have enough faith in Abram’s God and Abram’s leadership to follow him into what was otherwise a suicide mission in the War of Four Kings Against Five. In support of this conclusion, the God of Abraham memorializes them with himself in his eternal word: Mamre is forever identified as the gracious seller of the first plot of promised land, Eshcol is forever identified with the lushious first fruits of the promised land.
And [after the fiasco at the tower of Babel] Nimrod son of Cush was still in the land of Shinar, and he reigned over it and dwelt there, and he built cities in the land of Shinar. [Remember, cities are built for war.] And these are the names of the four cities which he built, and he called their names after the occurrences that happened to them in the building of the tower. And he called the first Babel, saying, Because the Lord there confounded the language of the whole earth; and the name of the second he called Erech, because from there God dispersed them. And the third he called Eched, saying there was a great battle at that place; and the fourth he called Calnah, because his princes and mighty men were consumed there, and they vexed the Lord, they rebelled and transgressed against him. And when Nimrod had built these cities in the land of Shinar, he placed in them the remainder of his people, his princes and his mighty men that were left in his kingdom. And Nimrod dwelt in Babel, and he there renewed his reign over the rest of his subjects, and he reigned securely, and the subjects and princes of Nimrod called his name Amraphel, saying that at the tower his princes and men fell through his means. And notwithstanding this, Nimrod did not return to the Lord, and he continued in wickedness and teaching wickedness to the sons of men; and Mardon, his son, was worse than his father, and continued to add to the abominations of his father…At that time there was war between the families of the children of Ham, as they were dwelling in the cities which they had built [for that purpose].
And Chedorlaomer, [a title] king of Elam [a Semite], went away from the families of the children of Ham [i.e. he severed his alliance with Nimrod], and he fought with them and he subdued them, and he went to the five cities of the plain [in Canaan, i.e. also children of Ham] and he fought against them and he subdued them, and they were under his control. And they served him twelve years, and they gave him a yearly tax…And in the fiftieth year of the life of Abram son of Terah, Abram came forth from the house of Noah, and went to his father’s house.” (Jasher 11:1-13)
“Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim,
- the Zuzims in Ham, [use of personal name as place name undoubtedly indicates the place Ham established residence] and
- the Emins in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
- the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of
- the Amalekites, and also
- the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar…
- And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
And they took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew…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. And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people. (Genesis 14)
We see from the account of this battle that Abraham was living in the midst of dangerous and warring peoples. He was prepared for this battle because he had already armed and trained his household. They did not live at ease, even before they were attacked by foreign enemies they were on constant alert against the enemies that surrounded them. Anyone who presumes to be a son/ child of Abraham, i.e. “the incarnation and extension of his father’s will and character” must expect to do the same. Membership in a family/nation has its privileges and responsibilities.
“Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Eph 6:10-18)
“And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation…For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me…” (Gen 18:18-21)
Do we make a backwards assumption in a superficial reading of this passage? Did Abraham have the responsibility to ensure that all his existing household keep the way of the LORD, or did Abraham have the responsibility to limit his household to only those who kept the way of the LORD? In brief, what comes first – being a member of Abraham’s household or keeping the way of the LORD?
The context of the statement, in which the LORD warns Abraham of his plan to destroy the city where Lot lives, clues us in that keeping the way of the LORD precedes becoming a member of Abraham’s household. The reason God told Abraham in advance of the impending catastrophe was to warn him not to bail Lot out of the mess he had created for himself. What we call tough love.
This is significant because Abraham was Lot’s father in the legal sense when Abraham accepted him as a member of his household on the death of the family patriarch Terah. I have heard pastors condemn Abraham for not abandoning all his relatives on God’s orders to leave his kindred, but that just doesn’t fit with Abraham’s biblical responsibilities, first as a son to submit to and care for his aging and vulnerable father, and secondly on Terah’s death to assume responsibilities as the new head of the family for any dependents. This is logically the reason why the record of Abraham’s delayed emigration to Canaan is annotated with family dynamics.
“Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees…And Terah took [note he is the leader, TERAH TOOK] Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there…and Terah died in Haran. Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 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…So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. (Gen 11:27-32, 12:1-5)
And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (Gen 13:2-9)
Bear in mind, this was Abram’s promised land. Giving Lot any of it was giving him an advance on an inheritance. This action alone shows that Abram designated Lot as his heir, as would be expected.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.” (Gen 13:10-11)
This separation was more than physical distance, it severed family ties. Listen to how the LORD comforts Abram on the loss of the future hopes he had pinned on Lot, even more than the loss of a huge amount of wealth. Remember, Abram is getting on in age, and Lot was the closest relationship to a son he could expect to ever have.
“And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered…And Abram said, LORD God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless [now that Lot is gone], and the steward of my house [next in line to inherit not just ownership but responsibility] is this Eliezer of Damascus [not even a blood relative]? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Gen 13:14-16, 15:2-6)
Contrast this account of Abram’s relationship with God the Father to Lot’s relationship with Abram as father. Lot does not reflect Abram’s righteous character. Even though Abram had assumed responsibility as a clan member to rescue Lot from the four kings, there is no record of submission to either Melchizedek’s or Abram’s authority. Even the king of Sodom has more respect!
“Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom. But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly…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…And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods…And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God…And he [Abram] gave him tithes of all. [But Lot didn’t.] And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. [That’s appropriate, but Lot didn’t offer!] (Gen 13:12-13, 14:14-21)
And when Lot hits rock bottom he still won’t admit that he is a sinner who got himself into his awful predicament, and plead for forgiveness and mercy.
And there came two angels to Sodom…And the men said unto Lot…because the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the LORD…the LORD hath sent us to destroy it...then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters, which are here; lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city…Escape for thy life…neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: [Now here is arrogance personified, arguing with the Angel of Death.]…I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: [And what evil does he fear awaiting him in the mountain? None else but Abraham’s chastening.]…And Abraham gat up early in the morning to the place where he stood before the LORD: And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” (Gen 19:2-38)
As you read the following story contrast Lot’s actions with this other son’s in the same circumstances.
“A certain man had [a son who] said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto [him] his living. And not many days after the…son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance...and he began to be in want…And when he came to himself, he said…I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father.” (Lu 15:11-20)
Unlike the prodigal son, at no point in his tragic life did Lot have the humility to submit himself to Abraham’s authority in order to take possession of his resources. And in the end, Lot was not a member of Abraham’s household of faith. Abraham commanded his children and household to keep the way of the LORD, and when Lot didn’t, Abraham didn’t accommodate his lower standards.
I’m afraid we don’t understand who is in charge of our national membership from a biblical standpoint. We take it for granted that we can have the benefits of being children of Abraham because the patriarch / father of a nation has the authority to choose who will be included in his nation, regardless of their genetic ancestry. But it seems that Christians overlook the essential element of that – the father of a nation has the authority to choose who will be included in his nation. Period.
Bestowing of sonship and inheritance by the Father to person(s) of his choosing is what Abra(ha)m was talking about as he prepared to make his trusted servant his heir.
“And Abram said…the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus…mine heir.” (Gen 15:3)
I’m afraid we don’t pay attention to the Father’s piece of the sonship process. Belonging and inheritance is only granted by the Father. Yes, we get that it is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done…” (Titus 3:5). But neither is it left up to the individual to finalize the process of becoming a son or a citizen. It is up to the Father of the family or nation.
“And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. (Gen 15:4)
The essential condition of receiving the inheritance and privileges of a son only as granted by the Father to one who is the extension of his will and character is what John the Baptist was talking about as he prepared hearts to receive the promised inheritance of “a great nation” (Gen 12:2) through Abraham’s Promised Seed / Messiah / Christ, first in his physical presence as David’s royal heir then in his fully empowering presence as the Holy Spirit.
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees [Conservatives] and Sadducees [Liberals] come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father…I indeed baptize / overwhelm you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize / overwhelm you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. (Mat 3:1-12)
The allusion to grain and chaff would have brought to the minds of the literate Jews anticipating the arrival of the Son of David the abstract meaning of the treasured story of the human origins of the Davidic dynasty, which included the Moabite Ruth who had to be accepted by Boaz.
“Then Naomi her mother in law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? And now is not Boaz of our kindred, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to night in the threshingfloor. Wash thyself therefore…mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do…So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life…Boaz begat Obed, and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. (Ruth 3:1-11, 4:13-15
The prerogatives of the Father to bestow sonship on persons of his choosing is what Paul was talking about as he fought to integrate Gentile with Jewish believers into Abraham’s nation with full citizenship rights and privileges.
“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is the Promised Seed of the Woman / Messiah / Christ..For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise…For ye are all the children of God by faith in the Promised Seed / Messiah Savior / Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized [merged identities] into the Promised Seed / Christ have put on the Promised Seed / Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female [like the original Adams as described in the previous post]: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal 3:16-29)
“Wherefore seeing we [New Covenant believers] also [as well as the Old Covenant believers] are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;” (Letter to the Hebrews 12:1-2)
Notice what Paul, the great expositor of salvation by grace, says about Jesus. He is the author-ity on our faith. As the author he composed the guidelines, and as the finisher he author-izes who meets criteria. To understand what this means let’s review some civics lessons from high school.
George Washington is the father, i.e. head, authority, of one new nation composed of people from many nations who are now identified as Americ-ans only if they publicly renounce all previous authority and swear allegiance and commitment to live by this nation’s constitution and defend it under the leadership of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Services.
Likewise, Abraham is the human father / leader of one new nation composed of people from many other nations who are now identified as Christ-ans only if they have renounced all previous spiritual authority and sworn allegiance and commitment to live according to the Kingdom of God’s constitution, the Bible, under the leadership of the King/Christ/ Messiah/ seed of the woman/ Yahweh’s Anointed Savior.
Protestants may not have as clear an understanding of this requirement for inclusion in the Kingdom of God as do Catholics who explicitly swear this oath in the baptismal prayer.
V. Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
R. I do.
V. Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?
R. I do.
V. Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.
V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.
V. And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.
There is a heretical teaching that believers are entitled to simply “name it and claim it” as if God is a giant vending machine whose primary role is to indulge his children. Even salvation is treated as being at the discretion of the individual. “Did you pray the sinner’s prayer and truly understand and believe what it teaches? If so, please click on the “I have accepted Christ today” button below.”
We need to understand that citizenship / rights / inheritance in both an earthly nation and God’s nation, like immigration status, is not given to someone simply because they choose it. It is bestowed, by the ruler, on those he determines are worthy as demonstrated by their allegiance / submission to him in their actions / works.
Remember, “Among the Israelites [and all ancient peoples] a child became a son or daughter not primarily by the fact of physical generation but rather through acknowledgement or election by the father...[as the] incarnation and extension of his father’s will and character…” Even in our contemporary society adoption and inheritance are not decided by the child but by the parents based on consideration of the child’s worthiness for the entailed privileges and responsibilities.
“And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, [No.] Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.” (Gen 17:18-19)
“…Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright…afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.” (Heb 12:17)
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained [when he instructed the original sanctified human, Adam, to be fruitful] that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which?…Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 19:16-23)
Hold on! Many fundamentalist Christians will holler that this is teaching that we are saved by works, and point to the passages clearly stating that we are saved by grace, not works.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)
“For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Ro 4:2-8)
But if we keep on reading we find far too many other scriptures balancing what has become an “easy believism” religion of fire insurance after death that doesn’t change one’s daily routine and life goal of fulfilling the desires of the flesh with no evidence of spiritual regeneration. The concept that membership in the Kingdom of God is simply a “get out of jail free” card is absolutely antithetical to what scripture teaches.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only…For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” (Jam 2:14-24)
If we go back to the beginning of the doctrine of eternal security, AKA sure mercies of David, we find that the doctrine we are relying on unarguably teaches God does in fact bestow inheritance on the persons of his choosing, NOT on everyone who wants it.
“I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.” (II Sam 7:14-15)
The next passage referencing the sure mercies of David doesn’t treat this as a gift of God casually distributed like necklaces at a Mardi Gras parade.
There is effort, actions, one can even say work, involved in obtaining salvation. Just read how many action verbs are demanded of those who would get saved. At the very least seeking, repenting, and forsaking.
“Ho, every one that thirsteth,
- come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye,
- buy, and
- eat...Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?
- hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
- Incline your ear, and
- come unto me:
- hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
- Seek ye the LORD while he may be found,
- call ye upon him while he is near:
- Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him
- return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa 55:1-7)
The next passage referencing the sure mercies of David warn that they won’t be granted as a gift to those who despise, wonder / question, refuse to believe. Yes, salvation is a gift, but you can’t claim the free aspect of a gift without also acknowledging the aspect that the gift is given at the discretion of the giver to those of his choosing! In this case, salvation is a gift of God only given to those who prove they are entitled to it by their actions. Like a bonus at work, it’s not part of the wage, but it is only given to those who prove they are worthy of it.
“[Paul speaking] And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David…Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.” (Act 13:32-41)
The works that are spelled out in scripture prove that one is born again into the Spirit hyperdimension. Yes, rebirth happens simply by believing in Creator God’s ability to make this happen as proven by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. But if it really happens there is evidence that one is controlled by the Holy Spirit by one’s
- repentance from evil / self centeredness
- Spirit control over previous destructive physical, mental and emotional obsessions and compulsions
- knowing / growing in relationship with Jesus which shows in
- a changed lifestyle paralleling his of obedience to the Father.
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh...
- an Hebrew of the Hebrews;
- as touching the law, a Pharisee….
- touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But…I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
- And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law,
- but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
- That I may know / be merged with him,
- and the power of his resurrection,
- and the fellowship of his sufferings,
- being made conformable unto his death;” (Phili 3:3-10)
This doesn’t mean that if we sin or fail to live up to a certain standard we “lose our salvation.” Go back to the archetype, David. He committed murder and adultery, but he also repented and brought forth “works meet for repentance” when he accepted God’s chastening in his life. He remained submitted to God’s will, as described in the previous post. To claim salvation because you privately muttered a prayer during a church invitation then went out and continued living as before is to be one of the people of the lie of the devil.
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I Joh 1:5-10)
The reason salvation is not a matter of either faith or works, it is faith and works, should be obvious. Our actions – both righteous and unrighteous – demonstrate the reality or pretense of our trust in, and submission to, the Lord in obtaining his criteria of righteousness.
We should recognize God’s righteousness in relying on our behavior as proof! Unlike the infamous Dreyfus affair, in the day of judgment not even God makes himself the sole judge of our guilt or innocence. It is for our own protection that God relies on DEMONSTRABLE EVIDENCE of our adherence to the requirements for inclusion in his kingdom!
If we really take scripture seriously we should take stock of our behavior as children of Abraham. Are we acting like we are members of the household of faith, citizens with the saints? Are we in fact following in the footsteps of the man we claim is our father, leaving our pagan culture and way of life to serve the true and living God?
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath for them a city.” (Heb 11:8-16)
Or are we numbered among the backslidden children like Lot, content to simply denounce the evil around us without getting clear of it, and despite all his preaching losing his entire family to the wickedness of his society? Actions speak louder than words.
“See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:25-29)
In the next post we’ll examine one of Father Abraham’s many nations – the children of Israel. Why did this family become a subsidiary of the main family of Hebrews? Here’s a clue. Why was Joseph split off from his family?