Eternal contract

13 eternal contract

When Abram was nearly a hundred years old, God appeared and said, “I’m God Almighty. Walk before me and be perfect. I’ll make my promise between us, and I’ll make you abundant.”

Abram fell on his face.

God continued, “Here’s the promise: I’m making you the father of many nations. Your name is hereby changed to Abraham, “Father of Nations.” Even kings will come from you. This promise is established forever through your generations. I’ll give you and your offspring this foreign land, that is, all of Canaan forever, and I will be their God.”

Abraham remained prostrate on the ground with his forehead down in the dirt.

“As for you and your side of the promise,” God said, “you and every male among you, through every generation, will cut off their foreskin. This is the way of the promise. When each baby boy is eight days old, including slaves born in your house or any other male purchased with money, they will be circumcised. Why? For the promise to be irrevocable, it must cut into the flesh. Anyone who has not had his foreskin cut off will himself be cut off from your people, because he will have broken the promise.”

Abraham remained still and silent before God.

“As for Sarai,” God continued, “she is now Sarah, and she will give you a son. I will bless her, and from her womb will come nations and kings.”

Abraham couldn’t contain a sudden fit of laughter. He muttered under his breath, “We’re too old to have children, and my wife is barren.” He lifted his head. “Bring Ishmael into the blessing.”

God answered, “Sarah will bear you a son next year, and you’ll call him Isaac. Through him my eternal promise will be secured, not with Ishmael. As for Ismael, I will bless him for your sake and give him a large family. He will be a great nation, the father of twelve kings.”

When God ascended, Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and all the male slaves born or purchased in his house, and he cut off their foreskins. Then he had someone cut his own foreskin.

Ishmael was thirteen years old when his foreskin was cut off.

Inspiration: Genesis 17

Cruel mistress

12 cruel mistress

Abram and Sarai had no children of their own. Sarai wanted to pave a way for God’s promise to be fulfilled for Abram, so she suggested that Abram sleep with her Egyptian slave, Hagar.

“Since God has prevented me from giving you children,” she reasoned, “perhaps I can have a child through her.”

Abram considered this, and after they had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai brought Hagar into Abram’s bed. When Hagar got pregnant, she hurled insults at Sarai and behaved with an air of superiority.

Sarai lit into her husband. “May the tables turn on you! I offered you my slave as a second wife, and she became a monster. May God be the judge between us.”

Abram deflected. “She’s your slave. Take care of the situation however you wish.”

On that very day, Sarai’s treatment of Hagar became so unbearable that the slave escaped and ran away into the wilderness.

An angel of God approached Hagar as she trudged along a spring toward Egypt. “Hagar, where’d you come from?” the angel asked. “And where are you going?”

Continuing along the path undeterred, she answered, “I’m getting away from my cruel mistress.”

The angel stepped in front of Hagar, stopping her in her tracks. “Turn around,” the angel said. “Go back and submit to Sarai. As a reward, I’ll give you more descendants than a census can track.”

Hagar dropped to her knees and held her belly. How could she go back to that abusive woman?

The angel of God knelt beside her and said, “Your son will be named Ishmael, because God hears your pain. However, Ishmael will make an ass of himself and will have enemies all around him, including his own family.”

“And I’ll call you Elroi,” Hagar answered in astonishment, “because you’ve apparently seen God and live to tell about it.”

After the encounter, the well of the spring was called “Beerlahairoi” or “Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.”

Hagar returned to her mistress, bore Abram a son, and named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old.

Inspiration: Genesis 16

God’s promise

11 gods promise

After Abram’s conquest and victory over the king of Elam, he stirred sleeplessly in the night, fearing retaliation.

“Don’t be frightened, Abram.” God appeared in a vision and spoke as if in the flesh. “I’m your protection, and your reward will be significant.”

Abram remembered the promise God had made when he called Abram out of Ur, so he answered, “But what will you give me? I’m childless, and my heir is my adopted son and servant Eliezer of Damascus.”

God’s voice was clear. “Eliezer won’t be your heir. Your own flesh and blood will pave the way of my promise.”

God led Abram outside of his tent and said, “Count the stars if you can. Your sons and daughters will be as many.”

Abram believed God’s promise, so God declared him righteous.

“I’m God. I took you from Ur to give you everything as far as the eye can see.”

Abram faltered. “How can I be sure it’ll be mine?”

God answered, “We’ll make a pact. Bring me a heifer, a female goat, and a ram, all of them three years old. Also bring a turtledove and a pigeon.”

Abram did as he was instructed, bisected them, and stacked each half onto the other. The birds he left whole. Abram guarded the sign of God’s promise against birds of prey, driving them from the pyre until he grew weary.

At sunset, Abram fell asleep and descended into a terrifying nightmare. The vultures circling overhead turned into captors of his future offspring, and he saw them carried off to a strange land for four hundred years. God said, “Your descendants will be slaves, poorly treated and beaten down, but I will punish the nation responsible. In the end, they will be adorned with great riches.” Then he said, “Abram, you’ll die at a ripe old age and will be buried in peace.”

Abram’s night terrors subsided, and he began to breathe easier. God appeared once more and said, “Your offspring will come back here and take the land in the fourth generation. That’s when the Amorites will have come to ruin because of their evil practices.”

The sky was black when a vision of a smoking firepot and a lighted torch passed between the carcass halves. He said, “I give this land to your blood relations, from the Nile to the Euphrates.”

The embers smoldered and the presence of God lingered into the next morning.

Inspiration: Genesis 15

Salem’s alot

10 salems alot

For thirteen years a syndicate of kings, including King Bera of Sodom, served under King Chedorlaomer of Elam, east of Babylonia. All the kings had to pay tribute from the resources of their rich lands, and soon this became intolerable to the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela (a little town later renamed Zoar). (Incidentally, Sodom falls under the curse of Canaan, while Elam comes from the house of Shem. Recall here the prophesy that Shem would rule over Canaan.)

In the fourteenth year, King Chedorlaomer and his band of loyal kings went to Siddim Valley to quell the rebellion and to force tribute, if only by the tip of the sword.

The valley was peppered with tar pits, and as the rebel kings fled, some fell prey to the pits while the rest found safety in the hills. King Chedorlaomer went and took all the spoils of Sodom and Gomorrah, including Abram’s nephew Lot, and all he possessed.

One of the Sodomite rebels who escaped went to plead with Abram at Mamre Oaks. When Abram learned of his nephew’s capture, he rallied all of those of his own blood relations who had been trained in the art of war and the religion of the Hebrews. They totaled 318 men, an impressive family gathering but a poor turnout for an invading army.

Abram called on his allies, Mamre, Eschcol, and Aner. Together they pursued the armies of Chedormaomer as far as Dan, where they regrouped. At nightfall, they divided their ranks and attacked them by four sides at Hobah.

This shock and awe strategy brought Chedorlaomer and his mighty armies to their knees. Abram brought back Lot and his possessions. And although he was under no obligation, but for Lot’s sake, he liberated the Sodomite women and other captives along with their goods.

Abram and his men were camped at King’s Valley, and the king of Sodom came out to meet him. Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of God Most High also came and presented refreshments of bread and wine to Abram and his men.

He blessed Abram, saying, “God Most High, maker of all things, blesses you, Abram. May God Most High be blessed for delivering your enemies to you.”

As a humble token of respect and thanks, Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all the spoils of war.

Bera, King of Sodom, pulled Abram aside and said, “Give me the people and you can have the goods.”

Abram fixed his eyes onto the king. “I swore to my Lord, God Most High, maker of all things, that I’d not take a single thread or shoe,” Abram said. “I’ll not have it said by anyone, ‘I have made Abram rich.’”

The king was dumbfounded.

Abram concluded. “I’ll take nothing except what my men have eaten. Let my allies, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre take their share.”

Inspiration: Genesis 14

Parting ways

09 parting ways

Leaving Egypt, Abram had more gold, silver, and livestock than he needed. He and Sarai, along with his nephew Lot, journeyed on until they reached the place where Abram first invoked the power of God. To the west was an area later named Bethel, and to the east was Ai. The altar he had built remained, so he invoked the divine power again by calling on the name of God.

Lot was also a wealthy man, and soon the land couldn’t support both estates. Their respective shepherds often bickered amongst themselves, but when they started a turf war, Abram decided something had to be done.

Abram went to his nephew and said, “Look, I’m not going to fight with you, and I’m certainly not going to allow our herders to go to blows. We’re all family here.”

Abram put his arm around Lot’s shoulder. “All this land is ours,” he said, making a sweeping gesture across the vast horizon. “Let’s agree that if you go east, I’ll go west. If you go west, I’ll go east.”

Lot looked around. To the east, he saw that the plains of Jordan were lush and fertile. Their natural irrigation systems were reminiscent of Eden and its cascading rivers.

“I’ll go east,” Lot decided, and he spread his estate among the cities of the plains. He personally pitched his tent at Sodom, a town known for its wickedness against God.

Abram moved westward, bringing his people and possessions to settle in Canaan.

One day God said, “Abram, look up from the spot you’re standing on. Look north, south, east, and west. Everything you see will be yours and your family’s forever. I’ll make your children as numerous as the stars.”

Abram took up his tent, settled down south at Mamre Oaks in Hebron, and built an altar to God.

Inspiration: Genesis 13

Beauty tips

08 beauty tips

Due to a food shortage from drought, Abram decided to live in the fertile land of Egypt for awhile. As they entered the city, Abram pulled Sarai aside and said, “It’s no secret that you’re stunningly beautiful, and when the Egyptians see you, they’ll kill me to get to you.” Then Abram suggested, “Tell them I’m your brother. They’ll be all too happy to keep me alive on your account.”

As Abram predicted, everyone admired Sarai’s beauty. Egyptian officers described her features to Pharaoh, and soon Sarai found herself standing before the very god of Egypt in his own court.

Sarai became the newest installment in the royal harem, and Pharaoh treated Abram like a brother, with great hospitality and respect.

Abram acquired sheep, oxen, donkeys, camels, and slaves from Pharaoh. On the other hand, Pharaoh’s family acquired nothing but a contagious illness. Putting two and two together, Pharaoh became wise to the deception.

“What’s going on?” Pharaoh asked Abram. “Why’d you lie about Sarai being your wife? Thankfully, I never laid a hand on her. Get her out of here so your God will clear the air!”

Pharaoh’s officers escorted Abram and Sarai out of Egypt along with all the gifts he had acquired.

Inspiration: Genesis 12

Abram’s call

07 abrams call

From Shem’s family line, the Semites, came a man named Abram of Ur in Babylonia. He and his wife, Sarai, lived with his father’s tribe in Haran.

God told Abram to leave his father’s family and to head south. He said, “You’re going to be a great nation. You’ll be blessed, renowned, and you’ll be a blessing. Anyone who blesses you will be blessed, and anyone who curses you will be cursed. Because of you, every family in the world will have reason to celebrate.”

Abram took God at his word. When he was seventy-five years old, he packed his bags and loaded up his household, his nephew Lot, their livestock, and all the servants they had acquired in Haran.

Traveling through Canaan, they stopped at Moreh Grove in Shechem. God appeared to Abram and said, “This will be the land of your children.”

Abram had no children and knew his wife was barren, but he believed the promise and built an altar to God anyway.

Abram moved on a little further south into the hill country and pitched a tent. He built another altar and called on the name of God. From there, he and his small band of travelers continued due south.

Inspiration: Genesis 10-12; I Chronicles 1