Abraham's Heir

INTRODUCTION: Terah took Abram, Sarai, and Lot from Ur of the Chaldees to go to Canaan, but when he arrived in Haran he remained there. The LORD called Abram from Haran to leave his father's house and to go where the LORD would direct him, and he would receive many blessings. Before the scripture continued the story of Abram, the text confirms that Terah remained in Haran and died at the age of 205. While in Canaan, Abram first thought that his heir would be a servant, next he petitioned the LORD to bless his son Ishmael through Hagar, and finally Isaac was born of Sarah when she was thought to be past childbearing. The son of promise came to Abram after the LORD had changed his name, and later he faced yet another major trial of faith about Isaac.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the American King James Version.


A - A MOVE FROM UR OF THE CHALDEES TO HARAN

Genesis 11 "24 And Nahor lived nine and twenty years, and begat Terah: 25 And Nahor lived after he begat Terah an hundred and nineteen years, and begat sons and daughters. 26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran. 27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. 28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. 29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. 30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 31 And 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 to Haran, and dwelled there. 32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran."

COMMENTS: Terah took some of his family members with him to go into Canaan without a stated reason, but they stopped at Haran. Sarai is referred to as Abram's wife and also as the daughter-in-law of Terah, but neither of her parents is identified. A close family relationship in marriage is recorded that Nahor's wife, Milcah, was also his niece since she was the daughter of his brother Haran. The Levitical law that prohibited marriages within a variety of close family relationships was not established until many centuries later. The only indication we have about the parents of Abram's wife Sarai is found in two passages, but the first does not give all the detail. Genesis 12 "18 And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that you have done to me? why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why said you, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold your wife, take her, and go your way." The second passage is in the setting of Canaan. Genesis 20 "10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, What saw you, that you have done this thing? 11 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. 12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said to her, This is your kindness which you shall show to me; at every place where we shall come, say of me, He is my brother." The scripture gives no more detail about Terah after the Genesis chapter 11 passage closes by giving his age as 205 when he died in Haran.


B - THE LORD CALLED ABRAM TO CANAAN WITH A PROMISE

Genesis 12 "1 Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you: 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: 3 And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. 4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. 5 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." ... "10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land."

Genesis 13 "1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south. 2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold. 3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai; 4 To the place of the altar, which he had make there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. 5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. 6 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. 7 And there was a strife between the herdsmen of Abram's cattle and the herdsmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. 8 And Abram said to Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we be brothers. 9 Is not the whole land before you? separate yourself, I pray you, from me: if you will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. 10 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 you come to Zoar. 11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. 12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom."

COMMENTS: When Abram left Haran he had possessions and servants with him that he had gained in that land. After he had been in Canaan for a time, he went down into Egypt for relief from a famine. Over the period of time in Egypt Abram and Lot both increased their possessions. When they returned to Canaan, the amount of possessions and servants of Abram and of Lot led to some strife among their servants while close together, and Abram offered Lot his choice of locations. Lot chose to move away eastward toward Sodom while Abram remained in Canaan.


C - THE PROMISE OF AN HEIR FOR ABRAHAM

Genesis 13 "14 And the LORD said to Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: 15 For all the land which you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever. 16 And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered. 17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it to you. 18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelled in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar to the LORD."

Genesis 14 "13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelled in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram. 14 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 to Dan. 15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them to Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 16 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 15 "1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am your shield, and your exceeding great reward. 2 And Abram said, LORD God, what will you give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me you have given no seed: and, see, one born in my house is my heir. 4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, This shall not be your heir; but he that shall come forth out of your own bowels shall be your heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if you be able to number them: and he said to him, So shall your seed be. 6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."

COMMENTS: We are not given Abram's age when the LORD promised him that he would possess the land where he remained, and that his exceedingly numerous offspring would possess it after him. He had been in Canaan since he was 75, and he had gone into Egypt for a time and then returned to Canaan. Lot had been in the plain of the Jordan for some time before he was taken captive. In chapter 14 Abram and his 318 trained servants from his household rescued Lot and the others with him. The geographic separation between Abram and Lot became significant as Lot later became the father of the Moabites and the Ammonites, while Abraham became the patriarch of those that the LORD would further separate to become the nation of Israel.

In chapter 15, Abram was assured by the word of the LORD in a vision that the LORD was his shield and also his reward. Abram asked what the LORD would give him since he remained childless and thus his steward Eliezer would become his heir. The LORD did not chastise Abram for his statement, but instead reassured him that the heir would come from his own body, not by his steward. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. The word translated as steward is the combination of a word which means son with another word used only here in all of the Old Testament, and that second word denotes one who possesses, or the heir. It is also interesting that the name Eliezer means "God is help." There are eight other men in the Old Testament with this name, and all of them were descendents of Israel.

Abraham's faith was a key point as the apostle Paul compared works of the law with God's grace. Romans 4 "1 What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God. 3 For what said the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5 But to him that works not, but believes on him that justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."


D - HAGAR BORE A CHILD FOR ABRAM

Genesis 16 "1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bore him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, Behold now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing: I pray you, go in to my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelled ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, My wrong be on you: I have given my maid into your bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and you. 6 But Abram said to Sarai, Behold, your maid is in your hand; do to her as it pleases you. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face."

Genesis 16 "8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, from where came you? and where will you go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9 And the angel of the LORD said to her, Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hands. 10 And the angel of the LORD said to her, I will multiply your seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, Behold, you are with child and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael; because the LORD has heard your affliction." ... "15 And Hagar bore Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram."

COMMENTS: When Abram had been in the land ten years, Sarai was still barren and she gave her handmaid to Abraham believing that the child born of her handmaid would be considered to be hers. That child would of course also be the seed of Abram, and he may have considered that would be the way the LORD's promise would be fulfilled. . When Hagar conceived she "despised" her mistress Sarai, and when Sarai complained to Abram he allowed Sarai to drive Hagar away. Abram still had faith that the LORD would fulfill his promise, as the pregnant Hagar was cast out with no expectation that she might return. After Hagar received her own promise from the LORD, she obeyed him and returned and submitted to her mistress, and apparently Sarai accepted her at that time.


E - THE COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION

Genesis 17 "1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be you perfect. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall your name any more be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you. 6 And I will make you exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come out of you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you, and to your seed after you. 8 And I will give to you, and to your seed after you, the land wherein you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9 And God said to Abraham, You shall keep my covenant therefore, you, and your seed after you in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your seed after you; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And you shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant between me and you. 12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of your seed. 13 He that is born in your house, and he that is bought with your money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."

COMMENTS: When Abram was 99 and the LORD appeared to him and began to talk with him, Abram fell on his face in submission and worship. The LORD changed his name to Abraham to signify that he would be the father of many nations. The LORD also promised the land of Canaan would be an everlasting possession to Abraham and to his descendents, and that the LORD would be their God. Therefore the LORD required that the everlasting covenant of circumcision be kept for all generations, to include Abraham's descendents and all those bought with their money. And the males at eight days old were to be circumcised among the generations, whether descendents or strangers bought with money. Any males not circumcised had broken the covenant and were to be cut off from the people.


F - THE PROMISE MADE FOR SARAI BY THE LORD

Genesis 17 "15 And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give you a son also of her: yes, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell on his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18 And Abraham said to God, O that Ishmael might live before you! 19 And God said, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son indeed; and you shall call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear to you at this set time in the next year. 22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. 23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said to him. 24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin."

COMMENTS: When the LORD changed Sarai's name to Sarah and told Abraham that she would bear a child for him, , he fell on his face and laughed. When he fell on his face it was a repetition of the way he had demonstrated total submission to the LORD in the earlier passage of Genesis 17:3, and the laugh was a response from his inner thoughts that he and Sarah could conceive a child at their advanced age. He then asked the LORD to bless his son Ishmael, and Abraham was not chastised for his laugh or for his request for Ishmael. The LORD said Ishmael would have a blessing by fathering twelve princes for their nations, but Sarah's child would be named Isaac and the LORD would establish his covenant with him for an everlasting covenant. The circumcision that followed would have involved a significant number of males since there were already 318 armed men in Abram's household when he had pursued and rescued Lot from his captors. We have no further detail about the number or ages of these males at the time of the circumcision, but any born from that time forward were to be circumcised on the eighth day as directed by the LORD.


G - THE SON OF PROMISE IS BORN

Genesis 21 "1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born to him." ... "8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. 9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born to Abraham, mocking. 10 Why she said to Abraham, Cast out this female slave and her son: for the son of this female slave shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. 11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son. 12 And God said to Abraham, Let it not be grievous in your sight because of the lad, and because of your female slave; in all that Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac shall your seed be called. 13 And also of the son of the female slave will I make a nation, because he is your seed."

Genesis 22 "1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said to him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of. 3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him." ... "9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar on the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. 11 And the angel of the LORD called to him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not your hand on the lad, neither do you any thing to him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son."

COMMENTS: The son of promise was conceived in Sarah after Abraham had been circumcised, and when Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him on the eighth day as commanded by the LORD. This established the sign of the covenant in Abraham's flesh before he conceived his son, and Abraham obeyed the circumcision sign of the covenant on the eighth day for his son of the promise. When Isaac was weaned and Abraham held a feast for the occasion, Sarah told Abraham that Ishmael could not remain with them because he had mocked Isaac. Abraham was troubled, but the LORD directed him, and Abraham obeyed the LORD and sent Hagar and Ishmael away with no gifts. The LORD had earlier told Abraham that he would make of Ishmael a great nation and this was likely a comfort to Abraham. After several more years, while Isaac was a young man, the LORD commanded Abraham to take him to an appointed place and to sacrifice him to the LORD. Abraham demonstrated his strong faith in the LORD by following the command to the very point where the LORD stopped him from plunging the knife into Isaac. The LORD commended Abraham for his faith, and he provided a substitute sacrifice to save the life of Isaac. The New Testament declares this to be a picture of resurrection. Hebrews 11 "17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall your seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from where also he received him in a figure."


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord I have been blessed as I have reviewed the series of events in the various passages that described the long life of Abraham. His wife Sarah was reported as barren even before they left Ur of the Chaldees, and she remained such until she was of an age that she could not expect to conceive. Your grace to Abraham was demonstrated Lord even when it seems his faith had weakened as he represented his wife as his sister to Pharaoh. You spared him from harm and even increased his possessions before he returned to Canaan. Even after you LORD had told Abraham that you were his shield and reward, he represented his wife as his sister for a second time because of his fear. This also was after scripture recorded that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. I am comforted knowing that even as I have believed in Christ, there are times when my faith is very weak, so I claim your grace to draw me back to you. Abraham believed that Eliezer would not be his heir, but his son Ishmael through Hagar also was not to be the promised heir. Though Abraham loved his son Ishmael, he trusted you LORD as he sent Ishmael and Hagar away without any gifts after Isaac was weaned. Even when Isaac was a young man, Abraham demonstrated his faith as he was willing to offer this precious son as a sacrifice to the LORD. When I realize how little you have asked of me and how much grace you have given, I can only thank you Lord for bringing me to your word and teaching me through your Spirit so I can be blessed by your gift of faith. Hallelujah to the ever faithful and only true God! Amen.

Published 17 May 2013