Hebrew History IIIa:  Introduction to the Genesis 12-50 Period

  1. Survey of the Period.

The period which we are now to study begins with the call of Abraham and closes with the death of Joseph in Egypt. Geographically nearly all the ancient Biblical countries are involved. Beginning in Chaldea on the Persian gulf the records take us through the Mesopotamian valley, Haran, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. Prior to this period we could not be specific as to dates or geographical locations. In this period we can be sure of the approximate date of Abraham and we are on sure ground geographically. We consider these records as actual history since we are dealing with characters who are real and with events and localities which are generally recognized as authentic.

This period in Thru the Bible is covered in Thru the Bible # 8, “The Living God of the Living”:

II. God and the Gospel of Christ and the Everlasting Kingdom.
1. Genesis 12:1-3 and Galatians 3:8.9.
(1). With Gods call to Abram to another land, God gave the everlasting covenant of: (a) From Abram’s seed God would make the great nation of Israel; (b) Through his seed Christ the name of Abram would be great; and (c) Through Abram all the families and nations of the earth would be blessed.
(2). Paul writes in Galatians 3:8,9 that:
a. When God said “In thee shall all nations be blessed” God was preaching the Gospel to Abraham;
b. This all nations meant the Gentiles, or heathen which is the favorite word of the Bible for Gentiles;
c. This Gospel is justification through faith; and
d. All Gentiles and Jews who believe in Christ become the seed of Abraham through faith.
2. Genesis 15:5,6, Romans 4:18, and James 2:23.
(1). In Genesis 15:5 God identifies that the seed of Abram will be as numerous as the stars of the sky, and in Genesis 15:6 since Abraham believed God will He said this the belief was counted for righteousness.
(2). In quoting “So shall your seed be” from Genesis in Romans 4:18, Paul emphasizes how Abraham believed in hope against hope that he would indeed be the father of many nations although he had at the time no sons.
(3). The Apostle James in James 2:23 reiterates how the faith of Abraham was counted as righteousness, adding that Abraham was called the friend of God.
3. Genesis 17:5 and Romans 4:17.
(1). As God changes the name of Abram to Abraham, He says “A father of many nations have I made thee”. 
(2). Paul tells us in Romans 4:17 that this quote from Genesis 17:5 tells us two things about God Himself: a. God is a life-giving God; and
b. God is a God that can call into existence what did not previously exist.

III. God of the Living, our Father in Heaven.

1. Genesis 18:12-14 and Mark 10:27.
(1). God told Abraham and Sarah that though old and stricken in years they would have a son, and when Sarah laughed God said, Is any thing too hard for the LORD? 
(2). Jesus in Mark 10:27, not in the same context but with a paraphrase of the same meaning, talks of salvation as all things are possible with God .
2. Genesis 22:18 and Galatians 3:16.
(1). All nations will be blessed with salvation through the seed of Abraham.
(2). That Seed is singular, the Seed is Christ. 
3. Genesis 38:8 and Mark 12:19.
(1). Judah told Oman to raise up children to his brother Er whom God had slain.
(2). When the Saducees brought up the matter of raising children by a died brothers wife and as to whose wife she would be in the resurrection, Jesus told them that what was important was that God was the God of the living, the God of the living Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
4. Exodus 3:6 and Luke 20:37.
(1). God told Moses in the call at the burning bush that He was the God of Moses father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(2). About the dead being raised to life, Jesus quotes Moses and Exodus 3:6 how God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and with the emphasis on God as each time God with repeated with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

  1. Beginning of the Hebrew Race.

For many years competent scholars have held that with Abraham we have the real beginning of the Hebrew people as a race. Abraham was selected for this purpose and certainly this idea dominates the covenant relationship between Jehovah and him. In both the Old Testament and the New this idea is emphasized. The Hebrew people themselves always looked upon Abraham as founder and father. Thus we are to deal with one of the outstanding characters in history as we enter upon the study of this period. In every respect he was a great man. With him a new era in history was inaugurated.

  1. God’s Purpose for the Hebrews.

In calling Abraham to be the head of a new race God had a specific purpose. This chosen race was to be his peculiar people. They were elected to he the chief, medium in his program of revealing himself to mankind. His blessings upon the race and the dealings with them had religious significance. “In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” What a high and holy mission for any people! Greece has made her intellectual and cultural contribution, Rome has given her law and idea of government to the world, and other nations have left their respective contributions to the enlightenment and welfare of humanity, but no nation has made as high and as noble a contribution as the Hebrew people.

  1. The Civilization of This Period.

We have abundant sources for the study of the life of this period. From the study of these sources one is impressed by the advanced stage of culture, learning and progress in the ancient Babylonian empire, whose influence dominated the countries of the “Fertile Crescent.” A common language was used in the whole area, making communications between different peoples easy and frequent. Extensive trade enterprises were conducted on land. Some years ago a tablet was discovered on which was recorded a contract between two men for the renting of a wagon. The owner who lived in Babylonia at the time of Abraham specified in his contract that the renter of the wagon was not to drive it to the sea (Mediterranean). The Phoenecians and others sent their ships to far distant ports in the Mediterranean world. Irrigation by canals was used to insure good crops in the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Workmen were skilled in the manufacture of metals, ornaments and fabrics.

There were great libraries filled with volumes some of which have been translated. Astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences were taught. Elaborate buildings testified to the knowledge and skill of architects and workmen. The banking and legal professions were well developed and orderly government was maintained. The solar year had been calculated and time was divided as we now have it in the 60 unit system of rotation (sixty seconds to the minute, sixty minutes to the hour). The Code of Hammurabi , c 1900 B.C. – 1750 B.C., of which we shall speak later, gives a revealing insight into the highly developed civic, business and social life of these people.

It is to be remembered, therefore, that Abraham lived in an advanced civilization, though it was deficient in moral and spiritual qualities. This gives a new meaning to the whole career of this remark-able man, and of the unusual mission committed to him by God.

  1. Life Among the Hebrews.

At this point it will be well to look briefly at the chief features of the life of the Hebrew people in this period. They were a nomadic people, living in tents and moving frequently, having at the time no settled home, but looking forward to the time when they could be at home in the “Land of Promise.” They were shepherds and farmers, and they seem to have been acquainted with some of the arts. Western people need to be reminded that nomadic life was not like that of the modern “gypsy,” but that it was an honored and highly respected life.

Abraham and his descendants were not wandering tramps nor marauders, but were wealthy, distinguished citizens. They touched the foremost civilizations of the time. They had great flocks and herds, money, jewels and expensive robes. They displayed the finest traits of Oriental culture such as hospitality and generosity and courtesy. Abraham was a dignified chieftain and apparently was accepted by his contemporaries as a distinguished adviser and citizen.

Their government was simple, being patriarchal in nature. The central idea was the high position of authority held by the father or head of the tribe. His authority extended to every area of life. In the family he was the chief leader. To him the wife and all the children looked for guidance and judgment in all cases. He was head of the house. Even after their marriage his children were subject to him as long as he lived. In case of his death the eldest son assumed leadership of the family. However, his authority seems to have been a benevolent one, not autocratic nor tyrannical. The chief was also the leader in all phases of life among his tribe. He was a military leader. He served as priest in religious matters. In civil affairs he was the judge whose decision usually was final. In the Orient today this idea still prevails to a remarkable extent.

  1. Ur of the Chaldees.

Abraham ‘s original home was Ur of the Chaldees. This city on the Euphrates River near the Persian Gulf was one of the most important in early history. Extensive excavations have been made there, the most valuable by Woolley. These ruins cover several square miles and from these some very remarkable “finds” were made. These include royal palaces, tombs, cuneiform inscriptions, a ziggurat, and a temple of Nebuchadnezzar. Down beneath the several layers or strata of ruins excavators found a deep deposit of silt which indicated that at one time the area was under water and human occupation had been interrupted. Some scholars hold that this is evidence of the Flood, though others feel that this may not be conclusive evidence. Archaeologists were deeply impressed by the discovery of the tomb of Queen Shub-ad who had not been buried alone. With her were ten women, probably her servants, who had been slain and buried with her so as to serve her in the next world. Outside this tomb were the skeletons of five men who were probably placed there as guards to prevent any intruders from disturbing the queen and her attendants. The large temple of the moon-god was uncovered. Deposits of jewelry and ornate carvings and a frieze of human and animal figures dating back to 3000 B.C. were found. Along with these were many other treasures which bear testimony to the remarkable civilization which flourished here prior to the days of Abraham. The more recent discoveries at Mari, an ancient Mesopotamian city north of Ur, give substantial proof of the advanced cultural and civic life at the time of Abraham.

Topically and exegetical this period of Genesis 12-50 is covered in Top topic #1  “The Living God of the Living”.  You may download it free at http://sungrist.org/TopTopic1.pdf .

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