Dear Folks, Before you dive into this new post please officially welcome Steven E. Daskal to CMA&A. Steve is a historian and specializes in all forms of Judaica including Messianic Judaism. This site will give attribution to all material created by Steven E. Daskal.
The story about God offering Himself and/or the Torah to many other peoples before the Jews were offered and accepted is a “Jewish joke,” not anything with Scriptural or historical merit.
Steven E. Daskal
Abraham was called by God, and followed in faith, thereby earning by faith the covenant that his descendants would be God’s chosen vehicle to bring His Word to the world, and out of his descendants would come the redeemer of mankind. Abraham was apparently not the only person of his time who believed in the One God — more on this later.
The Patriarchs were ethnically Chaldeans, one of the major groups of Semitic people dominant in what we think of as Mesopotamia prior to the Arab invasion in the 7th century AD.
The Patriarchs were Hebrews… the ones who went over (crossing the Euphrates and going over to Canaan from Mesopotamia). The Children of Israel/Israelites were Jacob/Israel’s descendants, including those whom Moses led under God’s direction and protection out of Egypt, Joshua led into the Promised/Holy Land, and over whom Saul, David and Solomon were kings. When the nation split after Solomon’s death, the southern kingdom that kept the covenant and Jerusalem was Judah, and its people were Jews.
The Israelites affirmed their exclusive faith in God at Sinai, but soon were back to their stubborn, rebellious, slavish ways. Similarly, even after numerous prophetic warnings and the vivid example of God’s allowing Assyria to annihilate and scatter the northern kingdom of Israel, the Jews repeatedly rebelled against God. God sustained them as His people not due to any merit or adherence to the Mosaic covenant on their part, but because He is perfect and He would not break His covenant with Abraham. Similarly, He asked His Son to come into the world and go to the cross to redeem mankind, not because anyone on earth had earned it, but because of His covenant promises.
B’Reshe’es (In the Beginning)/Genesis 11:26-32
— Torah, Tenakh; naming convention for books of the Hebrew Bible
— We are not told why Terakh (NOT Terah) decided to leave Ur or why he decided to settle in the smaller northern city of Kharan (NOT Haran). Had God called Terakh, only for him to falter/lose faith when at the edge of his familiar world?
— There is the obvious similarity of the name of Terakh’s youngest son, who died early, and the name of the city. In most English translations, they are translated the same. But they are NOT the same. In the original Hebrew, Abram’s brother’s name is actually H-aw R-aw N while the town is KH-aw R-aw N. We see here the danger of confusing the Semitic Kh with the Semitic H when translating into English, which unlike Semitic and Slavic languages does not have the Kh.
We later will read mention of a city of Nahor, from whence Abraham sent to find a wife for Isaac. Many Biblical towns and even some cities, especially those referenced in the Torah, are little more than villages by modern definitions.
— Kharan was in upper Mesopotamia — about 1/2 the distance to Cana’an using the “easy” but long northern route rather than the shorter but “hard” route across the Syrian Desert). It was in a region that at the time was largely populated by Semitic Assyrians (Asshur) and Arameans (proto-Syrians). [** If Terakh was 70 when he began to beget his three sons, there must have been a fair age spread between them, because Abram was 75 (Gen 12:4) when he left for Canaan, which was after Terahh’s death, 135 years after the first of the sons were born.]
— Nahor apparently remained in Ur. [Also, we don’t know why Haran died, or at what age. Also, interestingly, Lot became first Terah’s ward, and then Abram’s… not Nahor’s, partly due to distance, partly due to his sister being Nahor’s wife.]
— Abram may have been the youngest — God frequently choosing the youngest as the son to bear His mission, calling, and covenant.
— The Orthodox Jewish rabbis teach that Abram’s calling by God came when he was a boy, urging him to destroy the idols in his father’s shop and thereby demonstrate that the idols were helpless, powerless, and meaningless. If this is true, and Abram grew to be a literal iconoclast, then perhaps Terah left town before he and/or Abram were punished by the people of Ur. But this is supposition based upon legendary rabbinical accounts.
— Chapter 11 ends with Terakh’s death. Chapter 12 begins sometime later.
Genesis 12:1-3 The call — God’s first statement of the Abrahamic Covenant.
— God’s first promise to Abram, found in verses 1-3, is only conditional upon Abram’s going to the land God would show him. Abram went, so the promises were to be fulfilled by God — he would have a vast number of descendants, the land would be theirs (they would no longer be a nomadic sojourner), those who blessed him would be blessed, those who cursed him would be cursed, and all the families of the earth would be blessed through his off-spring. God’s brief promise in verse 7 clearly identified that Canaan, the lands around Shechem/Nablus, were the lands incorporated in God’s promise. This would have encompassed Samaria and Judea and the coastal lowlands below it, visible from that area.
Genesis 12:4-9 “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.” Obedience & faith, not passive, expecting reward of land and descendants — already an old man by the standards of the time (75) — and with little chance of bearing children. Note that Abram left not knowing where God was ultimately going to take him — he was just told to leave.
— In Acts 7:2, Luke cites Stephen’s final preaching before his martyrdom, & states that Abram was called originally prior to his settling in Kharan. It says nothing of his father being the one who originally decided to head for Canaan, but stopped in Kharan. Since we don’t know what motivated Terakh to make this first emigration, it may well have been that Abram, convinced by the Holy Spirit, had convinced his father to do so, although that would have been unusually presumptuous by the social standards of that era and culture.
— Abram had inherited much if not all of Terakh’s wealth (probably mostly livestock, slaves and servants, and other “portable wealth” such as precious metals, rather than land), even though he was apparently not the youngest. (v.5) Lot probably remained with Abram as he was still apparently unmarried, and stood to be Abram’s heir as at this time Abram was childless, and Lot was his ward, and Lot’s own father had died relatively young.
Genesis 12:10 – 13:4 Abram’s sojourn in Egypt. Throughout the Tenakh, going to Egypt is always associated with testing, temptations of worldliness, fear of loss of identity. Sometimes God orders it, sometimes He forbids it, but it is always spiritually dangerous. Abram shows himself doubting the details, the working out, of God’s provision. As a result he is self-willed and deceitful, but the LORD ultimately protected him.
Genesis 13:5-18 Abram acts as a responsible elder/leader towards Lot; God encourages him as a result… note that God’s promise to Abram incorporates all of the land including that which Abram graciously ceded to Lot.
— Note the that Canaanites were Hamitic peoples (like the people of northeastern Africa), and were living under the curse of Ham, cut off from the face of God, and it therefore would be unsurprising that they were, even by the standards of the pagan world, especially brutal in their social, cultural, and religious manners and primitive compared to their Semitic eastern neighbors.