Abram’s story actually begins in Genesis 12. This is also the major dividing line between the two halves of Genesis. From Genesis 1-11, the story is of Creation and God’s first dealings with mankind. From Genesis 12 and on, the story becomes about Abraham and the covenant God made with his descendants.
Additionally, the Chronological Bible reading plan places the entire book of Job between Genesis 11 and 12. This is because in Job, while there is mention of God, there is no mention of Law or the Abrahamic covenant that is so crucial to the remainder of the Bible. Many Biblical scholars believe that Job was actually the first written of all the books of the Bible – around the second millenium (2000) B.C. – and there is much evidence to support this theory. The Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) written by Moses, by comparison, was written around the 15th century B.C. (between 1446-1406 B.C. to be more precise).
So, Job probably predates Abram, but it is with Abram that things truly start getting interesting because he was chosen by God to receive the first covenant. However, Abram also raises some interesting questions:
- Why did God choose Abram?
- Why not somebody else?
- Was there anything special about Abram that made him more suited to receive God’s covenant than others?
- And why did God choose to bless Abram and his descendants specifically?
God’s “Chosen People”?
Actually, Mark Driscoll makes a very good and interesting point about Abram (I couldn’t find the exact link I heard this from though). He says that God promises to bless all peoples on earth through Abram (12:2-3), not only Abram’s people. So, although the Jews were God’s “Chosen People” – and they knew it – they (Abram firstly) were not chosen to only receive God’s blessing. Rather, they were chosen (Abram firstly) as missionaries of God, to take God’s blessing to all nations on the earth.
Imagine how different things might have been if they (Abram firstly) saw themselves not only as recipients of God’s blessing, but also as deliverers of God’s blessing. After all, throughout the Bible, God is not an exclusive God – playing favorites with peoples and nations, rather, he is an inclusive God – offering salvation to everyone who repents and turns to him (he did send Jonah to Ninevah after all – that non-Jewish, non-“Chosen” nation).
And that brings up another few interesting questions:
- If Abram had truly trusted God’s promise in Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Then, why would he so cowardly lie to the Egyptians about his wife in verses 10-20?
- Did he not think that God would bless Egypt if they blessed him and curse Egypt if they gave him trouble – just as He’d promised?
- Couldn’t God take care of his own?
As it is, God did take care of his own, and at the end of chapter 12, Abram is discovered and dismissed from Egypt for the trouble he’d caused Pharaoh. Abram and his nephew Lot returned by the same route they’d entered Egypt, and separated the land between them – with Lot taking the well-watered Jordan area that reminded him of Egypt (13:10).
Lot was captured during a war that ensued; Abram chased down the captors with his allies and rescued his nephew. Then he met Melchizedek, and tithed 10% to him (showing once again how important tithing is).
Melchizedek is an incredibly interesting person. He is likened to Jesus in Hebrews, and mentioned once by David in the Psalms, but he only appears in these three small places in the entire Bible. One reason he is likened to Jesus is because he was a prophet, priest, and king of God – just as Jesus is. There was never another king of Israel who was also a priest. Saul tried that on his own accord, but failed and was rebuked and ultimately rejected as king (1 Samuel 13).
D.A. Carson preached an excellent sermon on Melchizedek that is well worth watching if you have time and interest. It really opened up my eyes to Melchizedek and his significance, even though he is only mentioned in three verses in the entire Bible.
God’s Legally Binding Covenant – Signed by One Party
In those days, it was customary to make a covenant by cutting animals in half and both parties walking between the pieces. This signified a binding covenant that both parties were obligated to keep, because if one party did not keep the covenant, the halved animals signified what would become of the violating party.
Abram did cut animals in half (a 3-year-old ram, heifer, and goat), but did not himself walk between them. He fell into a deep sleep, God made his covenant promises to him, and a flaming torch and pot made their way between the pieces. This was God entering into the legally binding covenant with Abram – but Abram himself never did “legally” enter that covenant.
Basically, this signifies that God would be bound by his word even up to his own destruction (an impossibility – s0 we can be assured that God never lies). But, Abram (and his descendants) would not be bound to the covenant even up to their own destruction – or God would have been obliged to wipe out the Israelites hundreds of times over due to their sins (they continually turn from God, and run back to him, over and over throughout the course of the Bible. A single instance of that should be considered breaking their end of the covenant promise, except that they were never bound to it).
Lessons to Learn
- God is an inclusive God, not exclusive.
- All nations on earth are blessed and to be blessed through Abram’s line.
- “Chosen by God” does not necessarily mean “chosen to receive” but may often also mean “chosen to deliver.”
- God is truthful, and always keeps his promises.
- God does not bind men to the same obligations he binds himself to.
- God is quick to forgive and redeem those who turn in repentance to him.
- God gives many second chances.