Genesis 12:1 – 17:27 ; Haftarah Isaiah 40:27 – 41:16
We finally meet Abraham. This third parasha continues to trace the history of salvation (and the story of The Seed) and introduces us to one of Scripture’s major figures: Abraham. We study Abraham’s calling and touch upon its complexities – both temporal and spatial. Our main focus however is on the missionary nature of Abram, Sarai and Lot – the trio of missionaries who leave their native country to go to the land of Canaan. We discuss the question: why Canaan? What caused Terach to pick up his family and head to Canaan? We also study Abram’s journeys in the promised land, the morally-complex question of him offering his wife to Pharaoh and its implications. We study the (in)famous separation of Abram and Lot – but with a positive view of Lot as a dedicated missionary and we learn more about Abram’s missionary activities in chapter fourteen. We give special attention to chapter fifteen which is at the heart of the New Testament teachings on faith and see how Christ is prefigured there and we end with chapter seventeen and the establishment of the covenant.
Why did Abram leave his homeland and go to Canaan?
Where and when was he called?
What does it mean that “in [Abram] all the families of the earth shall be blessed”?
How are Abraham and Lot two different and necessary models of dedicated missionaries?
How to understand the morally shocking story of Abram offering his wife to Pharaoh?
Who is Melchizedek?
What roles does God take upon Himself at the striking of the covenant with Abram?
We will try to answer these and additional questions in this episode.
Scripture references from the episode
”The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living” (Acts 7:2-4)
“To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. (Ga 3:15–18)
“Joshua summoned them, and he said to them, “Why did you deceive us, saying, ‘We are very far from you,’ when you dwell among us? 23 Now therefore you are cursed, and some of you shall never be anything but servants, cutters of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God.” (Jos 9:22–23)
So he did this to them and delivered them out of the hand of the people of Israel, and they did not kill them. 27 But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the LORD, to this day, in the place that he should choose. (Jos 9:26–27)
Josephus Antiquities 1.157-160
Berossus mentions our father Abram without naming him, when he says thus:—“In the tenth generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skilful in the celestial science.” (159) But Hecataeus does more than barely mention him; for he composed and left behind him a book concerning him. And Nicolaus of Damascus, in the fourth book of his history, says thus:—“Abram reigned at Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans. (160) But after a long time he got him up, and removed from that country also with his people, and went into the land then called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea, and this when his posterity were become a multitude; as to which posterity of his, we relate their history in another work. Now the name of Abram is even still famous in the country of Damascus; and there is shown a village named from him, The Habitation of Abram.
Hilary of Poitiers – on the trinity 4.23
After God had often spoken with Abraham, Sarah was moved to wrath against Hagar, being jealous that she, the mistress, was barren, while her handmaid had conceived a son. Then, when Hagar had departed from her sight, the Spirit speaks thus concerning her, And the angel of the Lord said unto Hagar, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitude, and again, And she called the Name of the Lord that spake with her, Thou art God, Who hast seen me. It is the Angel of God Who speaks, and speaks of things far beyond the powers which a messenger, for that is the meaning of the word, could have. He says, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, and it shall not be numbered for multitude. The power of multiplying nations lies outside the ministry of an angel. Yet what says the Scripture of Him Who is called the Angel of God, yet speaks words which belong to God alone? And she called the Name of the Lord that spake with her, Thou art God, Who hast seen me. First He is the Angel of God; then He is the Lord, for She called the Name of the Lord; then, thirdly, He is God, for Thou art God, Who hast seen me. He Who is called the Angel of God is also Lord and God. The Son of God is also, according to the prophet, the Angel of great counsel. To discriminate clearly between the Persons, He is called the Angel of God; He Who is God from God is also the Angel of God, but, that He may have the honour which is His due, He is entitled also Lord and God.
Epistle of Barnabas 9.7–9
Learn therefore, children of love, concerning all things abundantly, that Abraham, who first appointed circumcision, looked forward in the spirit unto Jesus, when he circumcised having received the ordinances of three letters. 8For the scripture saith; And Abraham circumcised of his household eighteen males and three hundred. What then was the knowledge given unto him? Understand ye that He saith the eighteen first, and then after an interval three hundred. In the eighteen Ι stands for ten, Η for eight. Here thou hast Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ). And because the cross in the Τ was to have grace, He saith also three hundred. So He revealeth Jesus in the two letters, and in the remaining one the cross. 9He who placed within us the innate gift of His covenant knoweth; no man hath ever learnt from me a more genuine word; but I know that ye are worthy.