Time Line - Historical Overview
Now Abram, who had formerly lived in Ur of the Chaldees with his father and two brothers, was present at his brother Haran’s death. Then he traveled with his father, his wife Sarai, his remaining brother, and his dead brother’s son Lot, on the way to Canaan, going as far as Haran. While in Haran, Abram’s father died. (1)
1. Land of the Chaldees
We must understand at this point that in Ur of the Chaldees and in Haran, they worshiped pagan gods of heaven, in particular the Sumerian moon god.
So it should be no surprise to us that, without further explanation provided us in the Hebrew Scriptures, GOD calls Abram (in Genesis 12) to LEAVE his country, his relatives, and his father’s house, to go to a land which Abram had not seen. There GOD promised to make of him a great nation, that GOD would bless Abram and make his name great.
2. GOD’s Promise to Abraham
GOD called to Abram in that far-off land, and presented a CONDITIONAL ETERNAL covenant.
"If you will leave the land and family of your father and come to the land which I will show you, then I will bless you."
Abram meets the condition as he travels to Canaan and we learn more about the promise: A great name, many descendants, and possession of the land. AND something more!
"And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," (Gen.12:3)
A HINT of the work of the miraculous deliverer Who would come.
Later, when Abram has entered Canaan as far as Shechem, GOD added that He would give the land to Abram’s descendants. This is the first brief statement of GOD’s Covenant with Abram, a statement which is later expanded and further refined.
GOD later says that Abram would have many descendants, "as the dust of the earth." Abram was to look from where he stood - to the North, South, East and West, that he should walk about the land through its length and breadth. (Gen 13) GOD more precisely defines all this land which would belong to Abram and his descendants (Gen.15) (2)
3. Abraham’s Heir
But Abram and his wife Sarai were without children, and beyond the normal age to have children. Would one born in Abram’s house be his heir, namely Eliezer of Damascus his servant, Abram asked? GOD said that NO, one who would come forth from Abram’s own body would be the heir. (Gen.15)
It is at this time that GOD warns Abram that there would come a time that his descendants would be strangers in a land not theirs, that they would be oppressed and enslaved there for 400 years, that afterward they would return, but after Abram dies. (GOD was speaking of the Jewish captivity in Egypt.) (Gen.15)
Would the child Ishmael, Abram continued - born by Abram out of Sarai’s handmaid Hagar - be his heir? NO, though Ishmael would be fruitful and become the father of twelve princes, GOD said that Sarai, Abram’s wife, would bear him a son Isaac, that GOD’s everlasting covenant would be established with Isaac and his descendants. (Gen.17)
4. Three at the Oaks of Mamre
At an unusual time of GOD’s own choosing, He set His plan in motion concerning the heir of Abram (by now renamed Abraham).
One hot summer day, while Abraham sat at the door of his tent by the oaks of Mamre, suddenly there appeared THREE MEN standing opposite him. Immediately he arose and ran to meet them. Bowing low to the ground, he begged them to remain awhile, to rest under the tree, to have food and drink brought to them to be refreshed - to which they agreed. When the food was brought to them, Abram stood nearby under the tree as they ate.
When they asked where was Sarai (by now renamed Sarah), Abraham answered, "In the tent."
And GOD, who was among the strangers, said that at this same time next year when He would return, Sarah at that time would have a SON.
Understand, Abraham at that time was 99 years of age, and Sarah was about 90 years of age. When Sarah laughed at the shear impossibility of bearing children at that age, GOD responded, "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?"
(True to GOD’s promise, in about a year’s time, the son Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah.)
THE OCCASION for this meeting, at which GOD announced Isaac’s birth, as we have said, was most unusual indeed. As the angels arose and departed toward Sodom, the LORD turned back to speak to Abraham, to confide in him what GOD was about to do in Sodom and Gomorrah, since Abraham would surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the world would be blessed. (Gen.18)
But when GOD explained the sin of that place and His intent to destroy it, Abraham bargained with GOD, seeking to preserve the righteous men who might still be left there. (His nephew Lot was one of these.)
After much bargaining, Abraham said, "Oh, may the LORD not be angry, and I shall speak only this once. Suppose TEN are found there (who are righteous)?" And the LORD replied, "I will not destroy it on account of the ten."
Out of this narrative has developed the Jewish tradition of the ten righteous men, the Jewish 'MINYAN.’ There must be ten righteous men present to conduct any important ceremony, at a funeral and at tombstone unveilings in order to recite the mourner’s prayer or 'Kaddish,’ at a ceremony to change a first name, for the naming of a girl.
In the Hebrew Scripture, the young man Gideon took ten men of the servants when he destroyed his father’s altar to Ba’al (Judges 6). In the Book of Ruth, Boaz took ten men of the elders at the city gate to negotiate as kinsman-redeemer for the land of Naomi and for the hand of Ruth (Ruth 4).
5. Abraham Tested at Moriah
Following the birth of Isaac, the promised heir of Abraham, there was one more important step in GOD’s plan.
It came about, after the passage of time that GOD tested Abraham saying, "Take now your son, your only son whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering," that is, as a sacrifice, "on one of the mountains which I will show you." The mountain, of course, is in Jerusalem where the Temple Mount built by Solomon now stands. GOD was requiring Abraham to prepare for sacrifice his only son, his heir through which all his descendants would come.
Abraham did not question, but prepared to depart with his donkey, two young men, and Isaac his son. At the mountain, after the wood was split for the sacrifice, Isaac - by that time certainly a young, strong teenager - carried the wood and went with his father up the mountain.
Isaac did not protest, but only asked, since there was the wood and the fire, where was the lamb for the sacrifice, to which Abraham answered, "GOD will Himself provide!"
Abraham built the altar on the mountain, arranged the wood, and bound his son on top of the wood. But when Abraham was about to strike with the knife to slay his son, GOD called out to stop him, "Do nothing to harm the lad, for now I know that you fear GOD, since you have not withheld your son, your only son." Then GOD provided the sacrifice, a ram caught in a nearby thicket by his horns.
GOD said, "by Myself I have sworn, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, indeed I will bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore. And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Gen.22)
It is said elsewhere in scripture that Abraham believed through faith, and GOD accounted it to him as righteousness.
6. Purchase of the Burial Cave
Before leaving the account of Abraham, we take brief note of an important financial transaction.
When Sarah his wife died, Abraham located a cave in a field at Kiriath-Arba, namely Hebron, in which to bury his wife. After negotiating with the elders, Abraham paid four hundred shekels of silver for the land and the cave of Machpelah, for which he received a deed. (Gen.23) Since that time, Abraham was also buried there, with Isaac, Jacob, and most of Jacob’s sons.
This is the FIRST recorded transaction in the Hebrew Scriptures of the purchase of land in Canaan by the Jewish people.
FINALLY, we call attention to GOD’s closing words to Abraham following the incident on the mountain at Moriah, words which reaffirm the prophecy which appears at the start of Gen 12.
"And in YOUR SEED all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
GOD was announcing that the 'seed of the woman,’ the miraculous deliverer who would crush the head of the serpent, would be a DESCENDANT OF ABRAHAM!
This is a portion of a more extensive historical overview prepared by Mr. Charles Quigley. Select the more inclusive "sessions" for the TANAKH SURVEY (from the menu on the left) to view the overview in its entirety. This historical overview was originally created for oral presentations that cover Israel's history from its origin to a period leading to the 'Current Era' (CE). See note below on use of this presentation material.
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