In the Book of books we learn about Avram (“the Father is exalted”) or Avraham who often is considered the first one of the religious group who got its name from “Judah“. It is also the man who let many think of the “father of many nations” and of the “Chosen People“, the Jews, though the Jewish concept of a “chosen people” has, in essence, nothing to do with Jews being better than anyone else. Rather, it refers to God’s relationship with Avr’am, later named Avraham or Abraham, and the Israelites, as well as receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. In both cases, the Jewish people were chosen to share the Word of God with others.
Born in the city of Ur in Babylonia Abram (Abraham) lived with his father, Terah, and his wife, Sarah. Terah was a merchant who sold idols, but Abraham came to believe that there was only one God and smashed all but one of his father’s idols. After Terah’s son Haran died in “Ur of the Chaldees,” Terah migrated with his youngest son Abraham and his grandson Lot, together with their families, from Ur, intending to go with them to Canaan; they went 300 miles north and got to stay at Haran. This was after the glory of God had appeared to our father Abraham and had asked him to go out from his land and from his kindred to go into the land that the Hashem was going to show him. (Acts 7:2-4).
Till the age of seventy, Abram had sojourned among his kindred in his native country of Chaldea. When he was 75, the Hashem promised Avram that he would become the father of a multitude, his descendants being an abundant nation of people. As a symbol of the covenant promise to multiply his descendants into a great nation that God would call his own, God changed Avram’s name into Avraham or Abraham. The moment God called him to the unknown territory of Canaan, Abraham demonstrated remarkable faith and trust, immediately leaving his home which he had earlier received and his clan. Then he came to settle in a region surrounded by pagans, Canaan, which God promised to give to Abraham’s descendants. Abraham agreed to the pact, which formed the basis of the covenant, or b’rit, between God and Abraham’s descendants. This b’rit is fundamental to Judaism.
Abraham had to endure more tests by God, which made him at certain moments doubt and go in against God’s wish to be in Canaan. When famine struck, rather than waiting on God for provision, he packed up and took his family to Egypt. Once there, and fearing for his life, he lied about his beautiful wife’s identity, claiming she was his unmarried sister. Thinking this beauty not being married Pharaoh took her from Abraham in exchange for generous gifts, to which Abraham raised no objections. Abraham found himself honoured by Pharaoh, but as a husband, his life came in danger and Abraham’s foolish deception backfired. But God kept his covenant promise intact. Jehovah inflicted disease on Pharaoh and his family, revealing to him that Sarah must be returned to Abraham untouched.
Also when Sarah was without child, they thought to take it into their own hands, being impatient to see that great nation coming. At Sarah‘s encouragement, Abraham slept with Hagar, his wife’s Egyptian maidservant. Hagar gave birth to Yishmael (Ishmael), but he was not the promised son. God returned to Abraham when he was 99 to remind him of the promise and reinforced his covenant with Abraham. A year later, a miracle child, born to Abraham and Sarah in their old age as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants a great nation, Jitshak (Isaac = “he laughs.”) was born.
When Isaac was a youth, there came another test of God unto Abraham, which sounded very strange, because not Abraham had a boy, but God was demanding him to be offered to Him. Abraham loved his God so much he did not question Him and took his beloved son to a mountain to sacrifice him.
Saddened and confused, Abraham bound Isaac with ropes and placed him on a stone altar, taking his knife to slay this long-awaited son. At that moment an angel of God called out to Abraham to stop and not harm the boy. The angel said he knew that Abraham feared the Elohim because he had not withheld his only son. When Abraham looked up, he saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. He sacrificed the animal, provided by God, instead of his son.
It was a test of Abraham’s faith, and he passed. For his part, Isaac willingly became the sacrifice because of his faith in his father and in God.
And the Malach Hashem called unto Avraham out of Shomayim the second time, And said,
By Myself have I sworn,
for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine ben yachid: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy zera as the stars of the skies, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy zera shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy zera shall kol goyei ha’aretz be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice.
(Gen 22:15-18 OJB)
This oath is the foundation of Israel’s blessings (Gen 24:7; Gen 26:3; Gen 50:24. Exo 13:5, Exo 13:11; Exo 33:1). David’s “sure mercies” all grounded on it (Psa 89:35; Psa 132:11. Compare Luk 1:73). As such with this last act of submission to God Abraham became the founder of Judaism, the physical and spiritual ancestor of the Jewish people, and one of the three Patriarchs (Avot) of Judaism.
Christianity and Islam also claim him as their patriarch, and therefore are also two major Abrahamic religions, we shall sometimes have to look at and compare with the faith and teachings of those who follow the Mitzvot of the Hashem.
When we look at the hope given to Abraham, which in the later books was repeated to his descendants, we learn that there are certain conditions to be able to be a partaker of that “Faith of Abraham”. From the different books in the Bible we learn that God was pleased by the faith of Abraham. Like Abraham was tested severely in more than one instance, we also can be tested more than once. Like Abraham demonstrated extraordinary faith, trust, and obedience to the Ratzon haEelohim (or Will of God), those willing to be partakers of the hope, should also demonstrate such belief and trust in God. Like Abraham had the courage to face a powerful enemy coalition, we too have to face hasatan or the adversary of God.
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