(For Part 1, go here.)
Alice C. Linsley
Who was Abraham?
Fr. Robert Hart said “Abram was a pagan, a worshiper of idols, until God revealed Himself to him, and revealed His purpose through him. The text is clear that he had, until then, worshiped his father's gods.”
Abram swore by the “God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” that he would not take booty after the defeat of Chedor-Laomer and his allies. He said, “…not a thread, not a sandal strap will I take of what is yours, for you to be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich” (Gen. 14:22). To swear using this formula in reference to himself as Abram, indicates that he was a righteous man, not a pagan.
Further, Abram’s first action after arriving in Canaan (his mother’s homeland) was to seek guidance from the Moreh (teacher, seer, prophet) at the Oak at the “holy place at Shechem” (Gen.12:6). The next verse states: “The Canaanites were in the country at the time” so it is evident that this account is written well after Abraham lived there.
We also have these words: “Abram put his faith in Yahweh and this was reckoned to him as righteous” (Gen. 15:6). We note that here too he is still called ‘Abram.’ The idea that Abraham was an idoler worshiper comes from a midrash of the Common Era, centuries after the Pentateuch was written. It indicates that Abraham realised that his father's idols (Teraphim) had no power and perceived that there is but one God.
Genesis is like the law tablets that were broken in two. To gain the big picture, one must put the two parts together. Seemingly contradictory things are said about Abraham, yet together these statements help us to understand who he was. For example, Abraham speaks of himself in Canaan as an alien living among the Hittites (Gen. 23:3), yet when addressing him, the Hittites speak of him as a “prince of God” among them. Of course, both are true of Abraham since he had not lived in that region from his childhood, but his mother’s Horite people were regarded as elect or chosen to serve God. They are the likely origin of the concept of a 'nation of priests.'
God also is spoken of in contradictory ways. In Psalm 104:2, we are told that Yahweh is robed in light, but in Psalm 18:11 we are told that He made darkness his covering. If we ignore one of these statements we gain a partial picture. We must look at details, some of which seem to contradict the dominate view. We must also discern patterns, such as these binary opposites, as they present to us how the ancient Semites thought.
Abraham was a Horite. The Horites were devotees of Horus, called “Son of God,” and they anticipated His coming from their bloodline. As bloodline was traced through the mother, the expectation was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary, daughter of a priestly line.
It has been difficult to piece together the origins of our Messianic Faith because critical information is missing about the chiefs who were the contemporaries of Reu, Serug and Nahor (see here.) The information that is missing pertains to Abraham's mother's people who controlled a region between Mt. Hor (northeast of Kadesh-barnea) and Mt. Harun (near Petra). Genesis 10:30 tells us that these were the clans whose dwelling place extended from Mesha "all the way to Sephar, the eastern mountain range." They are called Horites (Egyptian Khar) in Genesis 14:6, and 36:20, and in Deuteronomy 2:12. Numbers 33:27-28 mentions 'Terah' as a place near Mount Harun (Mount of Aaron in Jordan).
Besides being the name of Abraham's father, Terah is also the name of an Arabian tribe (Terabin) that dwells chiefly between Gaza and Beersheba (Keturah's home). This information links Terah to Joktan and Sheba, from which Terah took his wife, Abraham's mother. It also suggests that Terah's mother was a daughter of a Horite chief named Terah and Terah's patrilineal cousin, since she named her first-born son Terah after her father according to the cousin bride's naming prerogative.
Poetreader made the comment: “Scripture is strikingly clear that Abraham was brought up to serve his father's polytheistic gods, and did indeed receive what he had from the true God by special revelation. That is the very heart of his story.”
Only one place in Scripture refers to Terah as an idol worshiper. Abraham is never referred to as an idol worshiper, so we should exercise suspicion here, since the weight of Scripture and extra-biblical evidence is against such a claim. Abraham left his father’s house as a response to God’s call, and THAT is the heart of the story. We are not told what he expected, but since Abraham and his ancestors were rulers, and since Nahor received Terah’s territory, it is likely that Abraham sought a kingdom of his own. To gain that kingdom, he needed a son. So, here we have the Gospel: By faith and obedience in this life we receive a Kingdom and it is the Kingdom of the Son of God. Isn’t this the heart of the Story?
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6
1. "Torah" means that which is thrown by the hand of the Moreh (oracle or prophet). Abraham received guidance when he pitched his tent at the Oak of Moreh. The word "Torah" is usually rendered guidance or instruction, but the word is also associated with a prophet sitting under a tree. These treses were at the sacred center (See Eliade's research). Abraham pitched his tent at the “Oak of Moreh” between Ai and Bethel (Gen. 13). Likewise, Deborah who deliberated on behalf of Israel, judged from her tamar (date nut palm) between Ramah (meaning high or lifted up) and Bethel (meaning house of God).
2. Teraphim were ancestor statues, still commonly used among Africans, but the ancestors are not worshiped in the sense that is suggested about Terah and Abraham. The reverance shown to the ancestors of the ruler-priests is not unlike that shown by Christians to saints and martyrs to whom they turn for intercessions. There is a darker side to this however, observed in Africa today and experienced by St. Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:16-18), where demons are invoked and false prophets declare through demon possession.
3. Fr. Hart mistakenly assumes that Abraham's patriarchal people traced bloodline through the fathers. This overthrows the significance of the Virgin-birth of Christ. While social status, office and trade were received from the father, bloodline was traced through the mother. So Jesus was a carpenter, following Joseph's trade, yet the Son of God, not the son of Joseph.
Sigfrid of Wearmouth - Benedictine monk. Spiritual student of Saint Benedict Biscop, and brother monk to Saint Esterwine of Wearmouth and Saint Ceolfrid. Biblical scholar. Co-a...
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