Monday, March 11, 2019

Abram: Pro and Con

"Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe" (Genesis 12:10).

Genesis 12–13 records Abram’s entry into the land of promise and his first few years there. It is often remarked that Abram’s willingness to pick up and leave his life as a nobleman in Ur and Haran indicates great faith. We can see from how Pharaoh and others treated Abram that he was a powerful and impressive figure on the international scene. This man, however, was willing to obey God and move to a place where he would dwell in tents and never be able to settle down permanently.

The first thing Abram does in the land is build altars (12:7–8; 13:18). Abram began the conquest of Canaan by establishing true worship there. These three key sites later become important in Joshua’s military conquest.

Now we read several things about Abram that are debatable. Remember our lesson about historical narratives last week. Here we have several illustrations of the point that it is not always clear from the narrative itself how we are to evaluate the actions of biblical heroes.

Should Abram have gone down to Egypt (12:10)? Some say, “No, Abram should have trusted God in the famine, and to look to Egypt was faithless.” Others say, “But remember, Egypt had not yet been defined as a bad place to go, and moreover God told Jacob to go there in the face of famine” (46:3).

Was Abram in sin by deceiving Pharaoh (12:11–20)? Some say, “Yes, because he did not tell the whole truth, and was rebuked for it.” Others say. “But Sarah really was Abraham’s sister (20:12), and the brother is the sister’s protector. Pharaoh should have negotiated with Abraham for Sarah, and when he simply took her, it was attempted rape. It was Pharaoh, not Abram, who was plagued by God. Abram was blessed with spoil.”

Should Lot have picked the best land (13:8–13). Again, some say, “No, Lot should have allowed Abram as the leader to do the picking, or at least have picked second best.” Others say, “But the best way for Lot to honor Abram was to obey him and do his own picking and to honor Abram’s generosity by picking what he really wanted.”

Is the focus in these stories on the personal morality of these men, or is it mainly on the acts of God in bringing in His kingdom? Can we really know the hearts of Abram and Lot? The admitted difficulty of reading their hearts should force us to grapple with our own motivations and actions. Cooperate with the Spirit, who is the searcher of hearts (Romans 8:27).