Friday, January 27, 2012
The Story of Abraham
GENESIS 11 and 12, Part 1
The story of Abraham starts with a journey. Abraham lived in a very interactive society. Wandering clans, or tribes, of extended families were never far from settled urban areas. These traveling clans consisted of many different levels of family: servants, slaves, livestock, animals, and all other possessions. Some of these clans were very wealthy and powerful, and contained large populations.
They bought and sold goods with local merchants and peoples, then picked up and moved on to the next location. These wandering clans tended to travel along routes with ample water. These routes ran North and South near rivers, brooks, streams, lakes, etc.
However, caravan routes also ran East to West, leading directly through the heart of the Arabian desert. These routes connected Mesopotamia directly to Canaan. Though much shorter in distance, these caravan routes were much more dangerous and less traveled than the routes leading northward, along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The book of Genesis describes the story of Abraham and his father, Terah , as traveling along one of the northward routes along the Euphrates.
Abraham was not a settled man, nor was he a wanderer. Rather, he was a combination of both. This fact is alluded to in the terms that are associated with Abraham. He is called an Aramean,a Hebrew ,an Aramu and a Habiru. These terms are commonly used to describe seminomads; people that live outside the typical structure of settled civilization. Over time, these terms merged together to form the catch all word "Arab". The book of Joshua tells how the Israelites ancestors - Terah, Nahor, Abraham - lived "beyond the Euphrates", and served other gods.
Note that Terah was a known idolater. The narrative in Genesis suggests that perhaps Terah was the initial receiver of God's call to leave Mesopotamia. Yet, Terah failed to obey God, and stopped in Haran. Terah could not break from his idolatrous beliefs, and clung to the polytheistic system of religion in Babylon. His settlement in Haran is seen by God as a sign that Terah will not step out in faith and obey (Gen 11:31-32). Thus, the next chapter of the story of Abraham (Gen 12) begins with God's call for Abram to leave his "father's household", and head for the land of Canaan.
Indeed, the story of Abraham starts in Mesopotamia. It is quite possible that many of the traditions and stories in Sumerian mythology, are parallel accounts of the Bible stories with which they share so much in common. There is a clear and obvious similarity between ancient Mesopotamian stories of the flood, and the Genesis flood. The ancient Mesopotamian city of Eridu, near Ur, has been tied with the Biblical Eden. Some scholars claim the Enkidu of Mesopotamian myth stories, is the same as Enoch of Genesis. It becomes clear the story of Abraham is heavily influenced by his Mesopotamian background. Abraham, as the link between the two, is not unreasonable at all.
Through the lists obtained from s0me scholars and with archaeological finds, such as the ancient tablets from Ebla and Mari , the following dates have been prescribed to Mesopotamian kings; Sargon, and the Old Akkadian Period from 2360-2180 B.C.; Ur-Nammu, and the Third Dynasty of Ur, from to the end of the second millennium, or start of the first; Hammurabi, dated to the exact period from 1728-1686 B.C.
Scholars have dated the story of Abraham in Genesis as occurring in the period between Ur-Nammu and Hammurabi. This period falls in the Middle Bronze Age, from between 2100-1550 B.C.E. The story of Abraham and the other Patriarchs are widely agreed upon to have happened in this time frame. After years of study and wavering, some scholars finally concluded that Abraham existed between the 20th and 19th centuries B.C.
The Ussher chronology places the story of Abraham around 2000 B.C. Traditionally, his birth was placed at 2056 B.C. However, this was not widely agreed upon, and many other dates have surfaced over the course of debate.
Edward R. Thiele published a modified chronology which placed Abraham's birth in 2167 B.C. Though the date is not agreed upon unanimously, his existence is rarely denied.
The names mentioned in the Abrahamic narrative correspond with many names located throughout northwestern Mesopotamia, particularly Haran and the surrounding neighbors. It is reasonable to make an assumption that the patriarchal narratives and traditions were born in this region.
The story of Abraham and his arrival in Canaan have been associated with northwestern-speaking Semitic peoples. These people came after the Amorites, but perhaps were Amorite in lineage. Abraham, Isaac , and Jacob are Israelite, as well as Amorite names.
Gracious Father, Loving God, When a baby is born, family members argue over the babies physical features; and yet, were we not all created in Your spiritual image? Jesus came so we could know our God. His mission was to show us the Father. This He did through the life He lived to all who will believe in Him, listen and obey His word. Help us Father to seek You each day; enable us to change into the likeness of our Savior, the life for which You created us. Help us to focus on our true purpose in life as we seek to follow Your commands and instructions in accordance with Your Word in Christ Jesus. Guide us in every way and allow Your Word to be our light, our path, and our labor of love. This we pray in the wonderful name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen!