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"Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." - Genesis 12
The Old Testament - A Brief Overview
We now move on to another very important subject. That is the subject of Abraham, who became the first Hebrew, and whose family God chose to weave His scarlet thread through the linen of humanity. It was through Abraham's descendants that the Jewish nation would arise, a people who would receive the covenant of the Lord, and that One of those descendants would be the Savior, not only for the Jews but for the whole world.
Abraham lived in the city of Ur (capital of the ancient kingdom of Sumer). Sometime around 2,000 BC. God called Abraham to leave his home and go to a new land that God would show Him. The Bible traces Abraham's steps from Ur to Haran (north of Canaan), through the land of Canaan, into Egypt, and back into Canaan (which later became Israel).
God promised to give Abraham a son through his wife Sarah who was barren (unable to bear children). Through this son, a mighty nation would arise and also an uncountable amount of descendants, and One of those descendants would be a blessing to all the nations in the world.
This promise seemed impossible because they were so old but Abraham believed what God said, though later he doubted and tried to force God's hand by having a son through Sarah's servant girl, Hagar. In ancient times this was accepted, but not in God's sight. It violated His law for marriage (Gen 2), and Abraham suffered greatly for his sin. His son from Hagar, Ishmael, turned against Isaac, Abraham's son of the promise, who was born 13 years after Ishmael, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. So Ishmael had to leave Abraham's household.
Abraham was called the first "Hebrew" which probably means "to cross over" because he was supposedly so foolish for thinking that there was just one God and if he crosses over the Euphrates river that he would find this new land that God had promised. But it was with Abraham that God established His covenant. This was God's promise:
Gen 12:1-3 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Abraham believed the Lord as it says:
Gen 15:6 And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Circumcision was the seal and reminder of the covenant, and so all of Abraham's male descendants would be circumcised to remind them that God would someday fulfill all the promises that He made to Abraham. Notice that Abraham believed before he was circumcised. Faith came before works. This is an important point that Paul makes in the book of Romans that salvation is by grace through faith alone (Rom 4).
There was a very beautiful yet wicked place in Canaan called Sodom and Gomorrah and the Lord told Abraham that He was going to destroy it but Abraham pleaded with God to spare the sinful cities for that is where his nephew Lot lived. God sent an angel to rescue Lot and his family but destroyed the cities because of their homosexuality and other abominations.
Now there were many important events that took place in Abraham's life but there is one that is important to mention. As Abraham grew stronger in faith, God told him to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering to prove his faith (Gen 22), Abraham obeyed and brought Isaac to Mount Moriah, laid him on the altar and at the last minute the Lord told him not to kill Isaac and gave him a ram for the sacrifice. Here we see Abraham's faith (Heb 11:17-19) and a beautiful picture of Christ. The Bible calls Abraham a friend of God:
Isa 41:8 "But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend.
Before we move on keep in mind that the Lord made this peculiar promise to Abraham:
Gen 15:13-14 Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. "And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.