Abraham Obeys God's Call
"Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods." (Joshua 24:2) God had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you." So Abram left, as God had told him. Abram was seventy-five years old. (Genesis 12:1,4)
Q : What do you think was the attitude of Abraham's family when they saw him forsaking their beliefs which they had been brought up with (fetra), denying (monkar) what was common (maaroof)?
They must have counted him as a traitor who deserves the harshest punishment.
God's Promise to Abraham in his Old Age
Abram said, “O Sovereign GOD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus. So a servant in my household will be my heir.” Then the word of God came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:1-4)
Ishmael from Hagar
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “God has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, he slept with Hagar and she conceived. And she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of God found Hagar and told her, “Go back to your mistress. I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael." Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. (Genesis 16)
Q : Which country did Hagar, Abraham's concubine, come from?
She was originally Egyptian.
Abram becomes Abraham
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, God appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, and Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother." Abraham laughed and said to himself, “Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!" Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac."
God Confirms His Promise
God appeared to Abraham. He looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by." "Very well. Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then God said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for God?" So she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” (Genesis 17, 18:1-15)
Q : Compare the examples of Adam and Abraham following their wives' words.
Adam sinned when he ate from the same forbidden fruit that Eve ate from, and Abram followed Sarai's advice to sleep with Hagar when she didn't think that she could conceive, so he had two sons, not only God's one promised son.
Isaac From Sarah and Abraham
Sarah became pregnant and bore a son. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. Abraham was a hundred years old. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son!" So Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. When the water in the skin was gone, the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “Do not be afraid!" Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. (Genesis 21:1-21)
Q : What's the reason for the conflicts that we see now between the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac?
It is the struggle between the brothers which started with Cain killing his brother Abel in an attempt to apply human rules that conflict with God's wise plans.
Abraham Obeys God by Agreeing to Slay his Son
Some time later, (when Isaac's age was 30 before Sarah's death of 127 as is mentioned in chapter 23), God said to him, “Abraham! Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Genesis 22:1-10)
Q : What do we learn from God examining Abraham, even though He knew beforehand the results?
The aim of God examining people is to let us know and learn about ourselves and others.
God Rescues Isaac
But the angel of God called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. The angel of God called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares God, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. (Genesis 22:11-19)
Q : Why did Abraham make animal sacrifices to God?
Because agreements, covenants and contracts in the old times used to be accompanied by the cutting of an animal into two halves. The agreeing parties walked in between the two halves, thus agreeing that whoever broke the covenant deserves the same fate as the animal. (Genesis 15:17 and 21:27-32)
The Death of Sarah and Abraham
Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron, in the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. (Genesis 23:1,2,19 & 25:7-10)
Q : Why did God call Abraham his friend?
Because he was sincere towards God.
Q : Put the story in order according to the ages of its characters.
1- Abram left his land, his people and his father's household when he was 75 years old.
2- God promised Abram offspring when he was 85 years old, but Sarai asked him to get her a child by sleeping with Hagar, according to the tradition at that time.
3- When Abram was 86 years old Sarai was provoked and became jealous when Hagar conceived Ishmael. (Genesis 16)
4- God changed Abram's name to Abraham, & reminded him (when he was 99 years old) of His promise of a child through Sarah (when she was 89 years old) and she then gave birth to Isaac. (Genesis 17)
5- When Sarah saw Ishmael (about 13 years old) mocking her little son Isaac, she used her authority to make Abraham cast Hagar and her son out of the home. That's when Isaac became the only son at home. (Genesis 21)
6- Before Sarah's death at age 127 God asked Abraham to give his only son remaining at home as a sacrifice. Then God sent the lamb, his GREAT ransom. GREAT is the Lord our God.
Q : Which son of Abraham was ransomed? Give reasons.
(To be answered by the reader)