Christian Churches of God
Abraham and Sarah
(Edition 2.0 20030923-20070123)
The Lord God said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your fatherís household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you." This paper has been adapted from chapter 6 of The Bible Story Volume 1 by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press, and the papers Abraham and Sodom (No. 91) and Melchisedek (No. 128), published by CCG.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã 2003, 2007 Christian Churches of God, ed. Wade Cox)
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Abraham and Sarah
We continue here from the paper Nimrod and False Religion (No. CB9).
Two years after the flood, when Noah's son Shem was 100 years old, Shem had a son called Arphaxad (Gen. 11:10). When Arphaxad was 35 years old, he had a son named Salah (Gen. 11:12). Several generations went by in this manner. When about 300 years had passed, a man by the name of Abram was born. His fatherís name was Terah (Gen. 11:26).
Abram was brought up in a city in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2) called Ur, not very far from the spot where Nimrod began to build Babel (Gen. 11:2). Here Abram, like Noah, learned to obey God's Laws, while again the people of that world were worshiping idols and living further from God's ways. Abram was one of the few who didn't take part in pagan ways. In Mesopotamia Abram had his first vision or call from God to leave his country and his people (Acts 7:2). When he was about seventy-five years old Abram was again told to move with his family to another country.
The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your fatherís household and go to the land I will show you. (Gen. 12:1)
Abram obeys God
God promised him that if he would obey all His instructions, Abram would be blessed himself and he would become the father of a great nation (Gen. 12:2-3). In time this nation would enjoy some very special blessings. Abram didn't know what the land he was going to would be like, and he didn't know what the blessings to his people would be, but he trusted God and obeyed.
Besides his wife, Sarai, Abram took along his nephew named Lot and Lot's wife, and shepherds to take care of flocks of sheep and herdsmen to handle herds of cattle. It was no small task for Abram to move his family and their possessions to a distant land (Gen. 12:4).
After many weeks of travel, they arrived in the land of Canaan, where God had said Abram should go (Gen. 12:5). Canaan was a very fertile land where there was good soil for growing things. But the people there were evil. Therefore God caused a famine to come on that area. This famine occurred just after Abram reached Canaan (Gen. 12:10). Lack of rain caused the fruit trees, vegetable plants and grass to dry up. There was little food for the animals Abram and Lot had brought to Canaan. And without cattle or sheep, there wouldn't be enough food for Abram and those with him.
Abram goes to Egypt
Reports came to the travellers that in the land of Egypt there was no lack of rain, so Abram and his family went down into Egypt to save their flocks. God had already made a covenant with Abram to give him the land and feed him where he was, yet he did not have the faith to stay and trust God. Later we will see that Abraham was a faithful servant and a friend of God through his obedience. See the paper Abraham and Isaac: A Faithful Sacrifice (No. CB11).
In the land of Egypt a great civilisation had grown up since the flood. The Egyptian kings, or Pharaohs, had become wealthy and powerful in spite of their worshipping of idols. They enjoyed all the good things that came from the ground. Whatever they lacked they took from others.
Because Sarai was a beautiful woman, and Abram was afraid the king of Egypt might want her for one of his many wives, he asked Sarai to pose as his sister instead of his wife (Gen. 12:12-13). Sarai was actually Abram's half-sister, because her father was Abram's father, but her mother wasn't Abram's mother. Abram wanted to convey this half-truth because he feared that if it were known that he was Sarai's husband, the Egyptians might kill him so that Sarai would be free to be married.
The thing that Abram feared soon happened. Although about 65 years of age, Sarai still appeared as a young and beautiful woman. She was very fair to look upon. Before long it was reported that this unusual woman might find special favour with Pharaoh, who commanded that she be brought to his palace.
Pharaoh was so pleased at the prospect of Sarai becoming his wife, that he gave Abram costly gifts that included livestock, servants and a fine residence. But Abram sinned because he lied and Pharaoh sinned by taking another manís wife. Because of this God sent plagues on Pharaoh's house. Pharaoh was angry with Abram, but he sent Sarai back to her husband, and gave orders to his men to see that Abram and his family and property were safely escorted out of Egypt (Gen. 12:14-20). We can see here that marriage and the Laws of God were known even then.
Back to Canaan
Abram and Lot and their wives and servants then moved their livestock back to Canaan. Abram went to a spot where he had built an altar to God when he first came to Canaan. There he asked for forgiveness and strengthening (Gen. 13:4).
By this time the famine in Canaan was over. The flocks and herds belonging to Abram and Lot had become much greater in number. God blessed Abram and Lot also while he was part of Abramís family. But because the animals were so numerous, Abram's men and Lot's men began quarrelling over the places where there was the most grass and water. Abram didn't want to have any trouble with Lot, so he suggested that they choose separate regions in which to dwell.
God had promised this land to Abram. It was Abram's right to have first choice where he wanted his animals to graze, but he unselfishly told Lot to take the first choice. Lot looked down on the rich soil in the Jordan River valley, and said he wanted the land there. That left the upper lands to Abram, but Abram was satisfied because Lot was satisfied (Gen. 13:5-12).
Later, God spoke to Abram again, telling him that all the land he could see in all directions would forever be his and his descendants', whose number would equal that of the number of specks of dust on the Earth. Then Abram moved his tent to Hebron and there he built an altar to the Lord (Gen. 13:14-18). This was a wonderful promise to Abram, who was by then nearly 80 years old and without children.
Meanwhile, Lot and his family pitched their tents near the city of Sodom in the rich Jordan valley. Lot thought he had made a wise choice in going there. He didn't realise what trouble he would have with the people who lived there. They were exceptionally vile. As a godly man, Lot should never have gone near them.
War breaks out in Canaan
Shortly after Lot moved close to Sodom, war broke out between the kings of the five cities of the Jordan valley and four kings of the land where Nimrod began his kingdom. The four distant kings won the battle. The people of the two main valley cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, were pursued to the mountains, where some of them escaped. Most of them were captured to become slaves of the victors. Among the prisoners were Lot, his family and his servants. Lot's possessions were taken from him.
When word reached Abram about what had happened, Abram set out in pursuit of the victorious kings with only his 318 men (Gen. 14:14). It took courage to face an army with many more men than Abram had. Abram looked to God for help, and God helped him by giving him a chance to quietly encircle the camp of the four invading kings by night. Their men were taken by surprise. In the darkness they couldn't tell how much of a force was attacking them. Fearing that it could be a huge one, they fled to the mountains near Damascus to the north, leaving behind all the prisoners and loot seized in the Jordan valley (Gen. 14:13-16).
The king of Sodom came with his remaining men to honour Abram for what he had done to the enemy. However, he wasn't aware that Abram had done it because of Lot and his family. This meeting took place at a spot near the city of Salem, which later was called Jerusalem.
Melchisedek, king of Salem, also came out to meet Abram. Melchisedekís servants brought out bread and wine to Abram and his weary men (Gen. 14:13-16). Melchisedek blessed Abram for rescuing the people who had been taken captive. Melchisedek was not only a king but also was a priest of God Most High (Heb. 7:1).
It is interesting to note that Messiah was to become a priest forever after the Order of Melchisedek. He is a High Priest forever, but he was not that Melchisedek who met Abraham. He was another priest after that Order (Heb. 7:11 RSV). Jesus went as a forerunner on our behalf. This means that we also are to become priests of that Order. The priesthood of Melchisedek is part of a promise of God (Heb. 6:17-20).
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You [Messiah] are a priest forever, In the order of Melchizedek. (Ps. 110:4)
The significance of the bread and wine being given to Abraham, related directly to the Bread and Wine, established by Messiah, at the Lordís Supper. This event looked forward to the giving of the Holy Spirit under the new priesthood of the Order of Melchisedek, as introduced by Messiah.
Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the goods that had been left behind by the attackers who had fled, even though Abram kept none of it for himself (Gen. 14:20-24). This was to show us that Abrahamís descendants would give tithes to the priests. God's tithing Law states that anyone who fails to give a tenth of his earnings to God's priests is robbing God (Mal. 3:8). All possessions are God's. Giving back a tenth is one of the right ways to honour Him.
The king of Sodom offered to reward Abram for all he had done, but Abram refused to accept anything. He preferred God's blessings to the wealth an earthly king could provide. It is interesting to note that the people of Sodom were blessed here because of Abram, even though they were living contrary to Godís Law.
Another promise to Abram
Some years later, when Abram was living peacefully in his tents in the hills above the Jordan valley, the Angel of the Lord again spoke to him in a vision. He told him that because of his obedience he would become the father of a great nation. Abram and his wife were becoming too elderly to have children so Abram was puzzled by this promise. He reminded the Angel that he was childless and had no heir (Gen. 15:1-3).
Abram was told that his heir would be his own, and that if he could count the stars on a dark night, he would know the great numbers of people who would descend from that one son.
Abram believed and he was blessed for this (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:20-22). Abram was then told to slaughter some clean animals and birds and lay them out as for an offering (Gen. 15:9-10).
A little later a deep sleep fell on Abram. He dreamed that he was in intense darkness, and that the Angelís voice came to him out of that darkness, telling him things that would happen many years after Abram would die (Gen. 15:12-16).
"The people who live after you shall continue to be as strangers in the land," the voice said. "Later they shall become slaves to a foreign nation for four generations, but in about 400 years they shall return to this land with great possessions" (Gen. 15:13-16). This dream was foretelling the captivity and slavery of the Israelites in Egypt in the future.
Abram awoke to see a very hot flame passing over and between the carcasses he had laid out. When he saw this amazing sight, his faith in God became even stronger (Gen. 15:17). On the same day God made another covenant with Abram that he would have a great number of descendants and they would have great possessions of land and other material blessings.
God has always promised good things to those who obey Him. His promise to Abram is one that has had a great effect on the whole world for thousands of years. Throughout the generations Abramís descendants have enjoyed greater wealth and material blessings than most of the other nations.
Abram's first son
Sarai, Abram's wife, was about 75 years old at that time. She believed she was too old to bear a child. She couldn't understand how it was possible for her and Abram to become the parents of a child from whom millions of people would descend. Sarai had an Egyptian maid, Hagar, who was a much younger woman. Sarai told Abram that he should take Hagar as a second wife, with the hope that Hagar would have a child for Abram and Sarai. In those times a man often married more than one wife. Abram did as Sarai suggested, and in time Hagar became pregnant (Gen. 16:1-3).
Eventually Hagar came to despise her mistress because she thought she was better than Sarai now that she was pregnant with Abramís child. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar and she ran away. But the Angel of the Lord found Hagar and asked what she was doing. She explained what was going on and the Angel told her to go back to her mistress. Hagar was also told she would have a son and to name him Ishmael. The Angel of the Lord also promised to bless and increase her descendants, namely those of Ishmael, who was to have 12 sons of his own. When Hagar gave birth to Ishmael Abram was 86 years old (Gen. 16:4-15).
The descendants of Ishmael are the Arab nations. So the blessings to the Arab people come from the promises of the Angel to Hagar. This angel she called "the God who sees". This was the being that gave the Law to Israel in the Exodus.
The covenant of circumcision
Thirteen years passed. When Abram was 99 years old the Lord appeared to him and said: "I am God Almighty! Live according to my laws!" (Gen. 17:1).
We know from John 1:18 that no man has seen God the Father at any time, therefore, the being who spoke to Moses here was acting as a messenger or Angel for Yahovah Most High.
Trembling, Abram bowed with his face to the ground while the Angel told him that because he was obeying Godís Laws, he would keep the promises he had made years before. He informed Abram that his name would be changed to Abraham, which means father of many people (Gen. 17:3-6). Sarai's name was to be changed to Sarah, which means princess.
The covenant given to Abraham was for him and his household and his future generations to keep. The sign of the covenant was that every male among them had to be circumcised. Future generations were to circumcise their male babies at eight days old (Gen. 17:9-14). However, the covenant was established through Sarah also for the Lord said, "She shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her" (Gen. 17:15-16).
God then promised Abraham that Sarah would surely have a son, although she was already eighty-nine years old. The son was to be named Isaac (Gen. 17:15-16, 19). See the paper Isaac: The Son of Promise (CB12).
The three visitors
Not long after that, three strange men came to Abraham's tent. These men were angels appearing in the form of men (Gen. 18:1-2). In those days, because travel was more difficult and tiring, hospitality was greater. Abraham invited the three to rest and eat. A meal was prepared for them (Gen. 18:3-8). After they had eaten, Abraham was informed that within the year Sarah would have a son. This was wonderful news to Abraham and Sarah. Sarah, especially, could hardly believe it (Gen. 18:9-15).
When the men got up to leave they looked towards Sodom. Then the Lord told Abraham the angels were going to Sodom to find out just how evil the people were there.
"If they find that most of the residents are vile and perverted, I shall destroy the whole city!" the Angel declared (Gen. 18:16-22).
"If you find fifty good people there, wouldn't you spare the city so that those fifty won't die?" Abraham asked.
"If I find fifty good people in Sodom I will not destroy it," he replied.
Abraham then asked if Sodom would be spared if only forty-five good people could be found there. The answer was that even if only forty-five such people could be found there, the city would be spared. Abraham kept on asking about the matter, each time lessening the number of people. Finally he was told that if only ten good people could be found in Sodom, it would be spared (Gen. 18:23-33). Abraham was asking for the righteous people to be spared along with his family members.
Lot, the nephew whom Abraham had rescued from the kings who had attacked Sodom, had unwisely returned there to live. That evening, the two angels, appearing as men, arrived at Sodom and met Lot who was seated by one of the city's gates (Gen. 19:1). Lot saw that they were strangers, and graciously asked them to his home for food and rest. He didn't know they were God's messengers. At first they resisted, but then agreed to go with Lot. Lot himself was being tested.
Lot had a special meal prepared for his guests. Later, as they were about to go to bed, a noisy crowd surrounded Lot's house. These people knew that there were two strangers in the house. They yelled to Lot to put the two out into the street, where they intended to treat the strangers shamefully (Gen. 19:4-5).
Lot went outside and pleaded with the crowd to go away. The shrieking, evil mob wouldn't listen to Lot. Some of the men rushed at him, pinning him against the door. The two angels inside reached out, pulled Lot in, and slammed the door shut (Gen. 19:6-10). The angry crowd rushed against the house to break into it. Then a strange thing happened. The attackers began to stagger and grope aimlessly about. Their angry yells turned to moans. God's messengers had struck them with sudden blindness! (Gen. 19:11).
When the rest of the mob saw that something awesome was happening, it drew back from the house. But something still worse was about to happen. All the men in the city had joined the crowd (Gen. 19:4). Inasmuch as all had the same base desires, that meant that there weren't as many as ten good men in Sodom. There was no reason for God to spare it.
"If you have relatives in Sodom you want saved, tell them to leave the city at once!" the angels told Lot. "Sodom and its people are about to be burned up!"
Lot hurried out to find the young men who were pledged to marry his daughters. When he told them what was about to happen, they refused to believe him (Gen. 19:14). He was so disappointed that he decided to stay at his house until they joined him. The angels warned him that he must leave at once, but Lot lingered. Even after they seized him, his wife and two unmarried daughters and forced them outside the city, Lot still hoped the rest of his family would show up (Gen. 19:15-16).
"Hurry to the mountains!" the angels insisted. "Don't stop or even look behind you at what is about to happen!"
"It's too far to the mountains," Lot argued. "There's a town over there in the valley we can reach sooner. Let us go there!" (Gen. 19:17-22).
The angels' patience was almost at an end with Lot, who was still hopeful that his sons-in-law would somehow follow him. The party hurried on. The sun was just coming up as they reached the town of Zoar, several miles from Sodom.
Back in Sodom and in Gomorrah, the other main city on the plain, there was a sudden ground tremor. It has been assumed that in the nearby area of the flammable bitumen pits, the earth cracked open to loudly spew out oil, salt and sulphur high into the sky. In an instant these mingled and exploded with a deafening roar, blowing glowing chunks of matter even higher. Seconds later the chunks rained back, hundreds of them plummeting on Sodom and Gomorrah like so many blazing meteorites. There was no way for the people in or nearby the cities to escape. However, the Bible says simply that fire was rained down on Sodom from Yahovah in Heaven.
Even much of the plain near the two cities withered under the terrible heat. Nothing was left alive in that region. The greenest bushes and grass ignited and burned. Other asphalt deposits were set on fire, causing a chain reaction that made devastation there complete (Gen. 9:24-25). God thus dealt with the people there because they were harming themselves by living in their evil ways instead of by His Laws.
At the beginning of the firestorm, just as Lot and part of his family were about to enter Zoar, Lot's wife turned back to look on the scene of destruction. She was probably remembering all she had left behind there and was maybe sorry that she had to leave that sinful place, in spite of all its sins. Lot and his daughters hurried on to Zoar, but Lot's wife never arrived with them. She had been turned into a piece of rock salt the shape and size of a human being (Gen. 19:26; Lk. 17:29). But God was merciful to Lot in sparing him and his two daughters. The lesson to us is that when we are called out of sin we should not desire to go back to it but leave it behind without a backward glance.
Abraham views the frightful scene
Safe in his peaceful home in the mountains, Abraham got up early to look down in the direction of Sodom. He was startled to see clouds of smoke rising above the blackened plain and its cities (Gen. 19:27-29). It was clear to him that not even ten good men had been found in Sodom.
Later Abraham learned, to his great joy, that God had answered his prayers. The town of Zoar, even though it was on the plain area with Sodom and Gomorrah, had been spared so that Lot would have refuge there.
Realising that by staying in Zoar he would still be dwelling among people who had no respect for God, Lot and his daughters fled to the mountains (Gen. 19:30). He would have been richer and much more trouble-free if he had chosen not to live among the wicked people of Canaan.
The death of Sarah
Later Abraham moved to Hebron in the southern part of the land of Canaan. Here Sarah died at the age of 127 years (Gen. 23:1-2). Abraham bought a large field in that region. There was a cave in the field, and there he buried his wife Sarah.
We might wonder why Abraham, who was a wealthy man with a great number of livestock, moved from one place to another so often. Well, for one thing it was sometimes best to move for the sake of the flocks. If there was not enough rain the animals did not have enough grass to eat. In that case Abraham simply pulled up his tents and herded his flocks to greener pastures.
But the more important reason why Abraham lived in tents and moved about was that God directed him to move from one place to another. Most of the people in those countries didnít know much about God. They worshipped idols and God did not want Abraham or any of his family to settle down and begin to follow the ways of those people.
The death of Abraham
In time Abraham married another woman whose name was Keturah. She bore him six more sons (Gen. 25:1-4).
Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living he gave gifts to his other sons (Gen. 24:5-6). The Law provided for a double share of the fatherís property to be given to the first-born son when the father died (Deut. 21:15-17).
Altogether Abraham lived 175 years then he died. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave where Abraham had previously buried his wife Sarah. After Abrahamís death God blessed his son Isaac who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi (Gen. 24:7-11).
Learn more about Abraham, his descendants and Godís promises from the web site: www.abrahams-legacy.org