Bible stories : 05 God's Promise to Abram.

around 2000 B.C.

Ah, a new era in history. A fresh start. So dark. Earth has been cleared of humanity, save for Noah’s clan. And this is where the story of God’s Chosen People begins. Israel.

So Abram, a descendant of Noah’s, is living in Ur.

Ur was a city-state in Mesopotamia that is close to the Euphrates River.

Abram lives there with his dad Terah, his wife Sarai, and his nephew Lot. Why is Lot living with them? I do not know.

Memory. People’s memories. They fail. Even after a cataclysmic event. Enough time goes by and they forget. The people start to forget. Forget what has happened, forget their religion, forget their God. Abram and his family remain faithful though and make a big decision: they pack up and leave.

They head to a place called Harran that they think will be their new home. But God says no, keep going. So they do.

Leave everyone behind,

God says.

I will make a great nation out of you, and all your descendants.

So they keep going. They’ve got their animals, plus his wife and nephew, and that’s it. Out into the unknown as nomads; wanderers. They move west. Finally they arrive in the land of Canaan.

Canaan was the land west of the Jordan River that was populated by Ham’s son Canaan. So it makes sense that he named it after himself. Better “Canaan” than “Ham.”

Some scholars believe that Canaan the man refused to join his brothers and father (Ham) in their allotted portion of land on the Nile River, and instead basically squatted in the area by Jordan that was part of his brother Shem’s portion. The land that he named after himself. God apparently didn’t like this and therefore sent Abram to populate it with his chosen people.

As a side note: Canaan was the son of Ham. Ham was the son of Noah who apparently was very disrespectful to his dad and ended up getting kicked out of the family, basically, and had to leave the area. So we have Canaan following in his dad’s footsteps and making some poor decisions.

As another side note: the Israelites *spoiler alert* were descended from Shem and his bloodline. So all the later intrigues and violence between the Canaanites and Israelites can be traced back to a pair of brothers and an inability to properly share the land they had been gifted. Sad.

Back to the present. Abram arrives in Canaan. God surprises him. Guess what? You’re here! God tells him to look around in every direction. It’s all yours.

All’s good. Or almost all is good. What’s not good? Sarai seems unable to have children. Too old. They’re so sad. In those days, if you don’t have a son to carry on the name, then...well, that’s considered a horrible thing.

But God steps in again:
Look at the stars.

Abram says.
Pretty. What’s your point, God?

My point,
God says.
Is that I want you to count those stars up. Try.

I can’t.
Abram says.
There’s too many.

Says God.
Trust me. You’re going to be fine. The number of your descendants shall be as many as the stars.

I’d like to believe you,
Says Abram.
But how do I know for sure that’s what’ll happen?

Trust me.
God says.
Trust me.

Then God has Abram go through a ceremonial ritual that involves sacrificing animals and birds and stuff. Abram does so, and hangs around scaring off hyenas and scavengers from the dead creatures, and falls into a trance. Then God speaks to him again and says something like this:

Your descendants are going to live in a land that’s not their own.
They’ll be slaves for a little while. Four hundred years. It’ll be bad.
But then they’ll escape back to this land that I’m giving you.
By the way, it goes from the Nile River to the Euphrates River,
in case you haven’t surveyed it yet.

And you, Abram, shall live to be an old man. An old, old, old man.

In those days, when two people entered into a solemn agreement, they went through a ritual with animal sacrifices similar to what God and Abram did. It meant that if one was to break the ritual, then they should be killed like the animals.

So God was taking this whole promise thing seriously. Good. Good job, God.

To be continued.

Additional notes

Mesopotamia is now known as Iraq.