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People's Dictionary of the Bible

Abram

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Abram (â'bram), high father, afterwards named Abraham (â'bra-ham), father of a multitude, Genesis 17:4-5, the great founder of the Jewish nation, as well as of the Ishmaelites and other Arabian tribes. Genesis 25:1-34. He was a son of Terah, a descendant of Shem, and a brother of Nahor and Haran, and was born in Ur, a city of Chaldea. Genesis 11:27-28. Here he lived 70 years, when at the call of God he left his idolatrous kindred, Joshua 24:2; Joshua 24:14, and removed to Haran, in Mesopotamia, Acts 7:2-4, accompanied by his father, his wife Sarai, his brother Nahor, and his nephew Lot. Here, a few years after, Terah died. Abram's proper history now begins. He was commanded to go into Canaan, receiving at the time a two-fold promise, that his seed should become a vast multitude, and that through them all the families of the earth should be blessed. Abram was become a wealthy chief, and, with the servants and the substance that belonged to him, accompanied by his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, he entered Canaan. 12:1-5. The country was already occupied by descendants of Ham. He passed through the heart of the country by the great highway to Shechem, and pitched his tent by the oak of Moreh. Genesis 12:6. Here he received in vision from Jehovah the further revelation that this was the land which his descendants should inherit. Removing from Moreh he pitched on a mount to the east of Bethel, and journeying south he went down into Egypt (famine then afflicting Canaan), establishing there the first link of that mysterious chain which so long, through almost all their history, bound the chosen people for discipline and for warning to the Egyptians. But here, alas! Abram's faith wavered. Fearing that the great beauty of Sarai might tempt the powerful monarch of Egypt and expose his own life to peril, he arranged that Sarai should represent herself as his sister, which her actual relationship to him, as probably the daughter of his brother Haran, allowed her to do with some semblance of truth. But her beauty was reported to the king, and she was taken into the royal harem. He was rescued by God's providence from the false position in which he had placed himself, and enriched by Pharaoh he returned to Canaan. Genesis 12:10-20. Abram was wealthy; and Lot was wealthy too. Had the land been empty, they might very well have extended their encampments in it. But the Canaanites and Perizzites were there too; and therefore uncle and nephew must separate. From a hill near Bethel, which it is said may still be identified, Abram and Lot surveyed the country; and Lot, having his choice allowed him, selected the rich valley of the Jordan for his abode, careless what kind of associates he would thus meet with; while Abram, with the renewed assurance that Canaan should be given to his seed, went southward to Mamre and dwelt there. Lot was soon involved in the disasters of the neighborhood he had chosen. He was made prisoner in the irruption of an eastern monarch, of whom something, it is said, is yet to be dimly traced In the deciphered Assyrian inscriptions (see Assyria and Lot). Abram resolved to attempt his nephew's rescue. On his victorious return he received the blessing of Melchizedek. But Abram's faith began to be sorely tried. The promise was to him in his seed; and as yet he had no child. Years rolled on; and the likelihood of his having offspring grew less and less. The promise was therefore repeated: Abram believed it. And now, because his faith held on, not only when accomplishment seemed easy, but when it was delayed and seemed most difficult, well-nigh impossible, now, when there was the word alone, the bare promise, with no outward confirmation, and Abram still believed, God "counted it to him for righteousness." The trial of his faith was very, very precious, "much more precious than of gold that perisheth." 1 Peter 1:7. And then there was a symbol vouchsafed him, and larger promise that his posterity should possess the whole extent of country between the river of Egypt and the Euphrates. Sarai's faith, however, faltered; and, as the promise was not yet announced that the holy seed should come from Sarai's womb; she gave her husband her Egyptian maid, intending to adopt her child. Abram then had a son, Ishmael; but he was not the heir of promise. Thirteen years passed on, perhaps spent at Mamre: and the purposes of God were ripening. The covenant was now made more definite: Sarai was included in the promise; the names of the pair were changed to Abraham and Sarah; and the sign of circumcision was added, to be a token throughout all generations that God had been with and was blessing Abraham his friend. But there must be delay and trial still. The Lord held again mysterious conference with Abraham, before Sodom was destroyed, and Abraham, perhaps in consequence of that catastrophe, journeyed south-west into the land of the Philistines at Gerar; and there the evil step in Egypt was repeated. At length God's time was come; and Sarah bare Abraham a son (probably at Gerar) in his old age. And then indeed there was joy; the promise long waited for being now fulfilled. The name given to the child, Isaac (laughter or sporting), indicated this. Once Sarah had laughed incredulously at the idea of her having a son, and Abraham had laughed too, his faith, strong as it was, being then inclined to fix on Ishmael as the heir of his name and blessing. Gen. chaps. 13-20. But now the happy parents laughed with thankful joy; and all their friends that heard the tidings laughed and rejoiced with them. Genesis 21:1-7. There was a feast made when Isaac was weaned; yet the mirth of that feast was dashed with heaviness. The son of the bondwoman, jealous perhaps of Isaac's happier lot, was discovered mocking; and Sarah insisted that he and his mother Hagar should be banished from the encampment. It was very grievous to Abraham; but God commanded him to yield; and Hagar and Ishmael went forth, a sign of the call of the Gentiles, and proving the best means of fulfilling the promise that Ishmael should become a great nation. Genesis 21:8-21; Galatians 4:22-31. There were some petty troubles from Abimelech in the patriarch's life, but with this exception nothing is recorded of the space of perhaps 25 years. His residence was now at Beer-sheba. And then came a strange and crushing trial. To comprehend it, we must bear in mind that Abraham lived among idolaters, who ruthlessly made their children pass through the fire. Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 18:24-25; Deuteronomy 18:9-10. Many a time must Abraham have seen from afar the smoke of sacrifices, and known that human victims were offered there. And his heart must have glowed when he remembered that his God required no such homage; and perhaps he had to stand the scoff of those around, that he had chosen a very easy religion, demanding not the self-denying obedience which theirs did. For, surely, though they practiced these cruel abominations, many hearts among them must have bled as their dearest were taken as victims; and though they yielded to the stern law it must have been with grief and bitter tears. Their obedience, then, they would say, was far deeper and more meritorious than Abraham's easy service. But then came the command, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest... and offer him for a burnt-offering." It was not merely the laceration of domestic ties, not only the apparent blight of the promise so long waited for and then fulfilled—the whole basis of his trust seemed overturned, the character of the God he worshipped changed, his religion no better than that of the surrounding tribes. Imagination cannot conceive a harder trial. But his faith, hitherto unshaken, supported him in this final trial, "accounting that God was able to raise up his son, even from the dead, from whence also he received him in a figure." Hebrews 11:19. The sacrifice was stayed by the angel of Jehovah, the promises were again confirmed to him, the spiritual blessings in them being prominently exhibited; and, with gratitude which even the sacred historian does not attempt to describe, Abraham returned to Beer-sheba. This great event was the most wonderful in the patriarch's life. Then it was, no doubt, that his eye was opened to perceive in the dim future another sacrifice, of a dearer Son yielded by a higher Father (and probably on or near that very spot), a sacrifice actually consummated, by the virtue of which a propitiation of world-wide virtue was effected. The rest of Abraham's history is comparatively scanty. He seems to have removed from Beer-sheba to Kirjath-arba or Hebron; and there Sarah died when he was 137. He purchased for her sepulchre the field and cave of Mach-pelah from the princes of the land, for the exorbitant price of 400 shekels of silver. The bargain with Ephron is very characteristic of eastern manners to the present day. Some, misled by Ephron's courteous speech, have fancied that he really intended to offer his field to Abraham for a gift. But this is from sheer ignorance of Oriental habits. Ephron was a shrewd man, who well knew how to drive a bargain; and a good one he made for himself. Genesis 23:1-20. Abraham then took care that his son Isaac should not marry into the idolatrous famines around. And next there is the strange record that he had another wife, and children by her; and even "concubines" are mentioned. Keturah was a secondary or inferior wife, not given to the patriarch by Sarah, as Hagar was. It may be, therefore, that, though the fact is noted so late, the children had been born much earlier. But we can hardly arrive at certainty on this matter. Be it as it may, Abraham sent away his other sons with gifts into the east, that they might not interfere with Isaac, to whom his great inheritance belonged. And then he died, 175 years old, having seen Isaac's sons, and was buried by Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah, where perchance his bones may still be lying. Such briefly is the story of this father of the faithful, from whom the precious seed descended, and into whose bosom the faithful dead are said to have been conveyed. Luke 16:22. His faith we are to follow: his good example we should diligently imitate.


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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Abram'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/rpd/a/abram.html. 1893.

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