Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nomadic Tales: Abraham

Recently, I've found myself looking at the story of Abraham's call. It was the journey, not the promise that peaked my interest.

The Players:
There's Terah, Abram's (Abraham's) father.
Terah’s sons were Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
Terah took care of his grandson Lot after Haran died.
Abram married Sarai (Sarah) & Nahor married Milcah.

Terah took Abram, Sarai & Lot, moved from Ur of the Chaldeans & headed for the land of Canaan. He stopped at Haran & settled, eventually dying there. Haran is maybe 65% of the way between Ur & Canaan. We don't get to find out why Terah quit. I wonder, what if Terah hadn't settled down? What if he had made it to Canaan? Would God have given Terah what He later promised Abram? Did Terah forfeit something by staying in Haran? We may never know. But its in Haran that God calls Abram to continue his father's journey. He was 75 at the time.

God told him to leave his country, his father's family & relatives, but Abram took his nephew Lot with him. It almost seems like an afterthought. Why couldn't Lot have stayed with his other uncle, Nahor? Perhaps Nahor & Milcah didn't make the journey to Haran with everyone else. Maybe Lot was closer to Abram & Sarai. Either way, it doesn't seem to matter. We're told Abram did as the Lord instructed & headed for Canaan. He traveled as far as Shechem (in Canaan) & set up camp.

The Lord appeared again, telling Abram He would give that land to his descendants. So Abram built an altar & dedicated it. But he didn't stick around very long. He moved southward to "the hill country" between Bethel & Ai, where he built yet another altar, dedicated it to the Lord & worshipped. Did God tell Him to move on? Its not written anywhere, but Abram continued traveling in stages (as nomads do) south toward the Negev. The Negev is a rocky desert. Why on earth would he want to go there? Would you or I have stayed in a land that God told us our descendants would settle? I might've. I mean, I put so much work into setting up camp, building the altar... How could my descendants settle the land if I didn't stay & actually start propagating? But it wasn't up to Abram, it was up to God. It was God's idea, God's promise. Besides, Sarai, we're told, was barren. Minor detail. Abram moved on.

Eventually, a famine forced him into Egypt (until Egypt forced Abram out). Its a long story. Ok, not really, but we don't need to go into it here. You can read about it in Genesis 12:10-20. We're told after Abram left Egypt, he headed north in stages, along the same way He had traveled previously. He arrived back in "the hill country", at the site of the second altar (between Bethel & Ai) & worshipped God.

Abram came full circle. So far, he had been wandering, living life, gaining wealth & having these random episodes with the Lord. But he still had no descendants to speak of; not even one in the works. I wonder if he & Sarai tried along the way or if he doubted & kept the whole thing to himself... Maybe he just plain forgot... I might have. But then, he made his way back to the second altar for a reason...

Ref: Genesis 11:27-32 (New Living Translation)
Genesis 12:4-6 (New Living Translation)

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