Sarah’s burial

23 sarahs burial

At a hundred and twenty-seven years old, Sarah died at Hebron. Abraham sat by her bedside and mourned. Then he went to the Hittites and said, “I know I’m a stranger here, but sell me a plot so I can bury my wife on my own land.”

A Hittite representative said, “Master, you’re a great prince. We wouldn’t withhold even the best of our burial grounds.”

Abraham bowed and said, “If you’re willing, let me talk to Ephron, Zohar’s son. I’d like to buy the cave of Machpelah at the end of his field. With you as a witness, I’ll pay full price.”

Ephron was present among those with Abraham, and he said, “No, master, listen to me. The field is yours along with its cave. As my people are my witnesses, it’s yours. Go, bury your wife.”

Abraham bowed again before the Hittites and, looking squarely at Ephron, said, “I’m paying full price, and that’s final.”

Ephron answered, “Okay, master. What’s four hundred pieces of silver among friends? Pay me and go bury your wife.”

Abraham agreed to the price, paid the man according to the current exchange rate, and took possession the field, along with all its vegetation, which was located east of Mamre. He buried Sarah in the cave facing Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Inspiration: Genesis 23

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

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

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

Trumped tower

06 trumped tower

Noah was a farmer with a vineyard.

One day he got drunk and passed out on the floor of his tent, stark naked. Noah’s youngest son, Ham, discovered his father and promptly ridiculed his undignified condition in the company of his two brothers.

Shem and Japheth took a robe, walked into their father’s tent backward, and with their heads turned away, they covered the unconscious man.

Later, when Noah found out what Ham had done, he cursed Ham’s future lineage. “Your son Canaan will be a slave to Shem and Japheth.”

God’s curse didn’t end with Canaan either. Ham’s grandson, the mighty warrior Nimrod, was the chief architect of the Babel project in Babylonia, not to mention he was the founder of Nineveh, a city with problems we’ll deal with later.

In Babel, the locals decided to build a great city, and at its epicenter, construct a mud-bricked tower of record-breaking heights.

This was an affront to God’s purpose. When God had told the people to go populate the whole earth, he meant business. Instead, everyone seemed hell bent on settling a tiny plot of real estate, grasping at heaven atop a grotesquely ornate high-rise.

God saw the people were determined, tech savvy, and unified in their endeavor. The fact that every engineer and worker on the project spoke the same language meant they’d likely accomplish their goal of autonomy and power.

So God personally descended, caused vernacular confusion, and scattered them across the earth.

The tower construction was ultimately abandoned and the people recontinued their migration to the four corners as God intended.

Inspiration: Genesis 9, 11