Now that we have arrived at Stage #2, the time has come for us to exit the Truth Train and make our way into the theatre, where Act 1, Scene 2 of God’s One Big Story will soon be getting underway. As we leave, let’s remember to take with us the Program Guides we were given on the first leg of our journey. These will prove to be helpful because, while we are watching the smaller stories taking place on the Earthly Stage before us, they will help us keep in mind the larger story that is taking place on the Heavenly Stage above us.
In the event that you have misplaced your guides—or, if you are new to this study tour—here are some extras that you can take with you.
As you can see from Guide #2, in Act 1, Scene 1, God was the Celestial Suitor who, in anticipation of His upcoming betrothal, created the earth as the ideal home for His future wife. We watched in awe as He, through the 9 Vignettes in Genesis 1-11, created a world full of nations out of nothing, and made ready the Earthly Stage for the imminent appearance of His Bride, Israel.
So, now that our stage has been set, where does that put us in our Story?
It is here, at Act 1, Scene 2, in Genesis 12-50, that we will be introduced to the four men most responsible for the creation and development of the nation of Israel. They will be introduced to us through the use of Four Biographical Pictures—or, what we will be calling, the 4 Biopics of the Patriarchs. They are…
The first Patriarch we will be studying is Abraham, known today as the Father of Israel. He plays such an important role in the story of Israel that, of the fifty chapters in Genesis, fifteen are given over to him and his earthly pilgrimage of faith. By comparison, only eleven chapters of this first book of the Bible were used to cover all the major events of the world from its creation to the dispersion of the people into nations following God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel.
As for when his part in our story takes place, if we calculate the years given in the genealogy of Shem in Genesis 11, when he makes his entrance upon our stage, approximately 1946 years have passed since the Creation, 288 years since the Flood, and—if the division into nations took place during Peleg’s lifetime—anywhere from 27 to 266 years since the episode at the Tower of Babel. As a result of that incident, and God’s confusion of the one universal language there, the people have dispersed into different nations, taking with them the false religious beliefs they had adopted at Babel.
Concerning Shem’s descendants, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, his five sons settled in the areas making up much of today’s Middle East. There…
- Elam became the father of the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians (Iran).
- Ashur became the father of the Assyrians (northern Iraq).
- Arphaxad became the father of the Arphaxadites, later called the Chaldeans (southern Iraq).
- Aram became the father of the Aramites, or Syrians, as they were known by the Greeks.
- Laud became the father the Laudites, later called the Lydians (Turkey).
Given that Abram is a direct descendant of Arphaxad, it should come as no surprise to learn that at some point in his life, he and his family have resided in Ur, a prominent city in the land of the Chaldeans, a land wholly given over to the worship of idols. In fact, we are told later in Joshua 24:2 that even Abram’s family have, in the past, been idol worshipers…
Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River [Euphrates] in old times; and they served other gods (Joshua 24:2).
Although you may not remember it, we actually met Abram/Abraham in Genesis 11:27-36, at the end of Scene #1—and it was there that we learned…
Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans.
Then Abram and Nahor took 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. But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.
From this brief introduction, we are told several important things about Abram/Abraham…
- At this stage in his life, he is still being called by his given name, Abram, a name meaning exalted father–and, a meaning made all the more ironic by the fact that at this point, and for many years to come, he and his wife are and will remain childless;
- He and his family have left their hometown of Ur for reasons which, for now, are still a mystery to us; and,
- When he left Ur, Abram’s original destination was Canaan but, also for reasons unknown, his journey there has been put on hold and they are currently living in the city of Haran.
Before delving deeper into the life of Abraham, though, we first need to discuss the significance of these things and learn why they are so important to our Story…
- As we learned back in More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, being a descendant of Shem means that Abraham is among those who have been charged with the Stewardship of God’s Revelation to the world, and being a descendant of Arphaxad places him in the generational line leading directly to the Redeemer promised back in the Garden of Eden.
- As for the exact date of Abraham’s appearance on the earthly stage, we are not sure. A number of different dates from 1800-2200 BC have been suggested, however, if we do some calculations using other scripture references, we will arrive at a date of 2166 BC. This is a pivotal time, not only in human history but also in God’s Story of Redemption because…
- By and large, the other nations of the world are now in place and the peoples are worshiping a host of false gods, rather than the one True God;
- While the other nations have been formed naturally through their common languages and shared cultures, Israel will soon be created supernaturally in response to the Word and Promise of God, as the nation through whom God’s Son will born into the world, for the purpose of reconciling that world to God;
- With human government(s) now in place (and because of its corruption at the Tower of Babel), this not only marks the beginning of the nation of Israel but also the beginning of a whole new dispensational period in God’s Redemptive Story—the Dispensation of Promise. As this chart illustrates, dispensations are merely the periods of administration or stewardship of God’s revelation to Man, taking him from the period of innocence of the Garden to the kingdom rule of Christ in the Millennium.
- The fact that Abram/Abraham comes from a family of idol worshipers is a reminder to us that, in spite of his spiritual heritage and the part he is about to play in God’s Redemptive Plan, he is himself a sinner—and a member of a family of sinners who are comfortable living in a sin-saturated culture. As such, he has done nothing special to merit God’s favor but, like everyone else who has or who ever will become a member of God’s Family, he is merely the beneficiary of God’s Grace.
- Being born in Ur of the Chaldees means that Abraham…
- …has been accustomed to living in a prosperous industrial, commercial, and agricultural center with a population of about 360,000 people; a great city-state enclosed by a wall 2 1/2 miles around and 77 feet thick, and one dedicated to the worship of the Moon God.
- …is most likely a member of an upper class family living in a spacious home in town and, because the sons of the upper class are the only ones allowed to go to school, he is sure to be an educated and literate person. Since the government doesn’t allow most people to just up and leave Ur, for Abram and Terah to be able to do so, they would have to be free merchants or high officials.
- Because Abraham and his family stop for an indefinite time at Haran, and Haran means Caravan City, it is likely that they are involved in and prospering from the lucrative caravan trade linking Mesopotamia and the Far East with Egypt. We know that such a trade exists because of the ancient Egyptian texts which speak of caravans at this time numbering 500, 600, and even 1000 donkeys.
- At this point in our Story, the reason why Abraham would choose to leave all of this prosperity behind and go to Canaan is still a mystery. Unlike Ur or Haran, Canaan is pretty much a rural backwater with no major cities or city-states, and no governmental bureaucracy to offer him any economic opportunities or protection. Patriarchal Rule is the law of the land and central to every aspect of life there; with the head of each clan having absolute power—even the power of life and death—over every member of his clan.
- Probably the most important fact we have been given so far is the one concerning the barrenness of Sarai. This is important to our Story for several reasons…
- It is an embarrassment to Abraham and makes a mockery of his name(s);
- It is a reproach to Sarai–because God’s original blessing was the ability to have children, this would seem to indicate that she, for some reason, has lost favor with God;
- It means that Abram/Abraham will not enjoy the natural immortality (immortality that comes from having one’s name carried into the future through succeeding generations) or care in his old age that a son would provide; and, most importantly,
- It means that God’s promise of a coming Redeemer will not be realized.
Now, equipped with a better understanding of the dynamics operating within the life and times of Abraham, the time has come for us to get on with the Story of the Man himself—and, to do that, we need to return to where his story started in Genesis 11: 27-32. But, before the curtain rises on that scene, let’s pause briefly so that we can think about the information we have just been given.
 Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 42.
 In 1 Kings 6:1, we learn that the 4th year of Solomon’s reign—966 BC—was 480 years after the Exodus [966+480=1446], and from Exodus 12:40-41, we learn that the Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years. So 1446+430=1876, making that the year that Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Since Jacob was 130 when he appeared before Pharaoh, Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and Abraham was 75 when he entered the Promised Land, this would mean that the total time spent in Canaan would have been 215 years [130+60+(100-75)=215]. Adding 215 years to 1876, then 75 (for Abraham’s age until then)—the year that Jacob and his family moved to Egypt—we arrive at a date of 2166 BC for Abram’s birth.