Act 1, Scene 2–At Last!

Welcome to Scene #2–Israel, the Beloved of God


Although it’s taken us a while, we have finally finished Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story. It was there, in our study of Genesis 1-11, that we learned that these chapters were designed to serve as an Overture to the entire story of the Bible, with each of the nine vignettes or main events recorded there providing us with a prophetic picture of God’s Redemptive Plan.

As for the Story itself, we learned that it is a Love Story borne out of God’s Heart and His passionate desire to have a Family of His own to love.  It was for this reason that He created the world and the people living in it—people who, as they multiplied, would eventually become the nations from which one, Israel, would graciously be chosen to become God’s Wife.  When Act 1 opened, however, no nations existed; therefore, to prepare for Israel’s eventual entrance onto the earthly stage of the Story, all the action taking place in the opening scene was for the purpose of bringing those nations into being.


The Program Guide for our Production


As you can see from this program guide, in Act 1, Scene 1, God was presented in His role as the Celestial Suitor who, in anticipation of His upcoming betrothal, created the earth as the ideal home for His future wife.  Throughout the 9 Vignettes in Genesis 1-11, we watched in awe as He created, from nothing, the world full of nations, making the Earthly Stage ready for the imminent appearance of His Bride-to-Be, Israel.

With that stage now set, in Scene 2 we are going to be introduced to the Patriarchs—the line of godly ancestors through whom “Israel: The Beloved of God,” will come into being.  Much like Scene 1, where the story was told through the use of 9 Vignettes, in Scene 2, this part of the story will unfold through the use of 4 Biopics–or biographical pictures of the four ancestors of Israel that are found in chapters 12-50 of the book of Genesis.  Those ancestors are…

Abraham—the Exalted Father who becomes the Father of a Multitude;
Isaac—the Long-Awaited Son of Promise who displaces the Son born in Bondage;
Jacob—the Scheming Shepherd who becomes a Prince with God; and,
Joseph—the Betrayed Brother who not only becomes His Brothers’ Savior but the Savior of the World.


The Ancestors of Israel


Some Important Information on Abraham

The first of our Patriarchs is Abraham, known today as the Father of Israel.  He plays such an important role in the story of Israel that of the fifty chapters in Genesis, fifteen are dedicated to him and his earthly pilgrimage of faith.  By comparison, only eleven chapters of this first book of the Bible were used to cover all the major events of the world from its creation to the dispersion of the people into nations following God’s judgment at the Tower of Babel.

As for when his part in our story takes place, if we calculate the years given in the genealogy of Shem in Genesis 11, when he makes his entrance upon our stage, approximately 1946 years have passed since the Creation, 288 years since the Flood, and—if the division into nations took place during Peleg’s lifetime—anywhere from 27 to 266 years since the episode at the Tower of Babel. As a result of that incident and God’s confusion of the one universal language there, people have dispersed into different nations, taking with them the false religious beliefs they had adopted at Babel. 

Concerning Shem’s descendants, according to the Jewish historian, Josephus, his five sons settled in the areas making up much of today’s Middle East

    • Elam became the father of the Elamites, the ancestors of the Persians (Iran).
    • Ashur became the father of the Assyrians (northern Iraq).
    • Arphaxad became the father of the Arphaxadites, later called the Chaldeans (southern Iraq).
    • Aram became the father of the Aramites, or Syrians, as they were known by the Greeks.
    • Laud became the father the Laudites, later called the Lydians (Turkey). [1]


The Line from Shem to Abraham


Given that Abram was a direct descendant of Arphaxad, it should come as no surprise to learn that at some point in his life, he and his family lived in Ur, a prominent city in the land of the Chaldeans and a land wholly given over to the worship of idols.  In fact, we are told later in Joshua 24:2 that even Abram’s family had, in the past, been numbered among them…

Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River [Euphrates] in old times; and they served other gods (Joshua 24:2). 

Although you may not remember it, we actually met Abram/Abraham back in Genesis 11:27-36, at the end of Scene #1—where we learned that…

Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot.  And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 

Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah.  But Sarai was barren; she had no child. 

And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there.  So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

From this brief introduction, we are told several important things about Abram/Abraham…

    • At this stage in his life, he is still being called by his birth name, Abram, a name meaning exalted father–and a meaning made all the more ironic by the fact that at this point and for many years to come, he and his wife will remain childless;
    • He and his family have left their hometown of Ur for reasons which, for now, are still a mystery to us; and,
    • When he left Ur, Abram’s original destination was Canaan but also for reasons unknown, his journey there has been put on hold and they are currently living in the city of Haran.

Before delving any deeper into the life of Abraham, let’s first take a few moments to discuss the significance of this information to our Story…

As we learned back in More Blessing, Cursing, and Big Time Rebellion, being a descendant of Shem meant that Abraham was among those who had been charged with the Stewardship of God’s Revelation to the world and, as a descendant of Arphaxad, he was in the generational line leading directly to the Redeemer who had been promised back in the Garden of Eden. 

As for the exact date of Abraham’s appearance on the earthly stage, we are not sure.  A number of different dates from 1800-2200 BC have been suggested, however, if we do some calculations using other scripture references, we will arrive at a date of 2166 BC. [2] This was a pivotal time, not only in human history but also in God’s Story of Redemption because…

        • By and large, the other nations of the world were now in place and the peoples were worshiping a host of false gods rather than the one True God;
        • While the other nations had been formed naturally through their common languages and shared cultures, Israel would be unique in that she was to be created supernaturally in response to the Word and Promise of God—and to be the nation through whom God’s Son would one day be born into the world to reconcile that world back to God;
        • With human government(s) in place (and because of its corruption at the Tower of Babel), this not only marked the beginning of the nation of Israel but also the beginning of a whole new dispensational period in God’s Redemptive Story—the Dispensation of Promise.  As this chart illustrates, dispensations are merely the periods of administration or stewardship of God’s revelation to Man, taking him from the period of innocence of the Garden to the kingdom rule of Christ in the Millennium.


The Progressive Revelation of God


The fact that Abram/Abraham came from a family of idol worshipers is a reminder to us that in spite of his spiritual heritage and the part he was about to play in God’s Redemptive Plan, he himself was a sinner—a member of a family of sinners who were comfortable living in a sin-saturated culture.  As such, he had done nothing special to merit God’s favor but, like everyone else who has or who will ever become a member of God’s Family, he was merely the beneficiary of God’s Grace.

Being born in Ur of the Chaldees meant that Abraham…

        • …had been accustomed to living in a prosperous industrial, commercial, and agricultural center with a population of about 360,000 people; a great city-state enclosed by a wall 2 1/2 miles around and 77 feet thick, and one dedicated to the worship of the Moon God.
        • …was most likely a member of an upper-class family living in a spacious home in town and, because the sons of the upper class were the only ones allowed to go to school, he was sure to be an educated and literate person.  Since the government didn’t allow most people to just up and leave Ur, for Abram and Terah to have been able to do so, they most likely would have been free merchants or high officials.

Because Abraham and his family stopped for an indefinite period of time at Haran, Haran meaning Caravan City, it is likely that they were involved in and prospering from the lucrative caravan trade linking Mesopotamia and the Far East with Egypt.  We know that such a trade existed because ancient Egyptian texts speak of such caravans at this time numbering 500, 600, and even 1000 donkeys.

At this point in our Story, why Abraham would choose to leave all of this prosperity behind and go to Canaan is still a mystery to us.  Unlike Ur or Haran, Canaan was pretty much a rural backwater with no major cities or city-states, and no governmental bureaucracy to offer him any economic opportunities or protection.  Patriarchal Rule was the law of the land and central to every aspect of life there, with the head of each clan having absolute power—even the power of life and death—over every member of his clan.

Probably the most important fact we have been given so far is the one concerning the barrenness of Sarai.  This is important to our Story for several reasons…

        • It was an embarrassment to Abraham and made a mockery of his name;
        • It was a reproach to Sarai. Because God’s original blessing was in having children, this would seem to indicate that she had lost favor with God;
        • It meant that Abram/Abraham would not enjoy the natural immortality which came from having one’s name carried into the future by succeeding generations, and it also would have deprived him of a son to care for him in his old age; and,
        • Most importantly, it meant that God’s promise of a coming Redeemer would not be realized through him.

Now that we have been armed with this background information about the life and times of Abraham, the time has come for us to get on with the story of the man himself. To do that, we will need to return to where his story started in Genesis 11: 27-32—which is where we will begin, when we return for our first biopic, Abraham: Called to Wander, Worship, and Witness.





[1] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 42.

[2] In 1 Kings 6:1, we learn that the 4th year of Solomon’s reign—966 BC—was 480 years after the Exodus [966+480=1446], and from Exodus 12:40-41, we learn that the Israelites lived in Egypt 430 years.  So 1446+430=1876, making that the year that Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.  Since Jacob was 130 when he appeared before Pharaoh, Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born, Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born, and Abraham was 75 when he entered the Promised Land, this would mean that the total time spent in Canaan would have been 215 years [130+60+(100-75)=215]. Adding 215 years to 1876, then 75 (for Abraham’s age until then)—the year that Jacob and his family moved to Egypt—we arrive at a date of 2166 BC for Abram’s birth.


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