Loyalty points

King Abimelech and his army commander Phicol came to Abraham for a little chat.

“It’s obvious God watches over you,” the king said, then added, “Promise me, in the presence of your God, that you’ll never betray me or my family tree. After all, I’ve been loyal friend.”

“I promise,” Abraham answered, “but I should make you aware of a dispute over one of my water wells. Your servants seem to think it’s yours.”

Abimelech answered, “This is the first I’ve heard of it. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It wasn’t a big deal.” Abraham brought Abimelech sheep and oxen, and they promised they’d be loyal to one another. Then Abraham took seven female lambs and set them apart from the rest of the fold.

“What are these for?” Abimelech asked.

“These seven lambs are given in exchange for your word that I dug the disputed well.”

They named that place “Beersheba,” Well of the Oath. After they sealed their promise, Abimelech and his commander went back to the land of the Philistines.

Abraham remained there awhile and planted a salt cedar near the well. There he spent some one-on-one time with God, and afterward, he surveyed the land of the Philistines.

Inspiration: Genesis 21

Eternal contract

When Abram was nearly a hundred years old, God appeared and said, “I’m God Almighty. Walk before me and be perfect, and I’ll promise you a kingdom of abundance.”

Abram fell on his face.

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

Abraham remained flat on the ground with his forehead jammed into the dirt.

“As for you and your side of the promise,” God said, “you and every male among you, through every generation, will have their foreskin removed. This is the sign of our contract. When each boy is eight days old, including slaves born in your house or any other male purchased with money, they will be circumcised. Why? This is a formal contract, and for it to be irrevocable, it must cut into the most intimate part of 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 flinched uncomfortably as the reality of the command set in.

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

Abraham laughed and muttered, “We’re too old to have children.” Then he lifted his head toward heaven. “Bring Ishmael into the blessing. He’s my son.”

God answered, “Sarah will bear you a son next year, and you’ll call him Isaac. Through him, my eternal contract will be secured and fulfilled, 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 princes.”

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 Eliezer cut off his master’s foreskin.

Ishmael was thirteen years old when his foreskin was removed.

Inspiration: Genesis 17

God’s 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 one night. “I’m your protection, and great will be your reward.”

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

God’s message was unmistakable. “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 mustered renewed faith in the promise, and for that, God considered him righteous.

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

Abram stammered. “Help me believe.”

“We’ll make a pact,” was God’s reply. “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 told, cut them in half, and stacked each piece onto the other. The birds he left whole. Abram guarded the sign of God’s promise against the birds of prey circling overhead, shooing them from the pyre until, around sunset, he dozed off.

Abram descended into a terrifying nightmare. The circling vultures turned into the captors of his future offspring, and he saw them being carried off to a strange land for four hundred years.

“Your descendants will be slaves, poorly treated and beaten down,” God said in the dream, “but I will punish the nation responsible. In the end, they will know my might, and they will inherit great riches.” Then He said, “As for you, you’ll die at a ripe old age and will be buried in peace.”

Abram’s night terrors subsided, and his breathing calmed. God appeared once more and said, “Your offspring will come back here and take the land in the fourth generation, for at that time the Amorites will have come to ruin because of their evil practices.”

The sky went black, and a smoking firepot and a lighted torch passed between the carcasses. God said, “I give this land to your blood relations, from the Nile all the way to the Euphrates.” The pyre, the sign of God’s promise, was ignited, the animal flesh burned up in the holy fire.

As dawn approached, the presence of God lingered, and the fire’s embers smoldered into fine dust.

Inspiration: Genesis 15