God Chose Two Weak People And Started A Nation
It was God’s purpose to call a man and his wife and from them build a family. From that family He would build a nation, and from that nation, God would bless all the nations of the earth (12:1-3; 18:18). From start to finish, it was a work of God’s grace; for when God called Abraham and Sarah, they belonged to a family that worshiped idols (Josh. 24:2). In both Ur of the Chaldees and Haran, the people worshiped the moon god.
The Family of Terah
This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living.
Genesis 11:27-28 (NLT)
Abram’s hometown was Ur of the Chaldees. As the result of extensive archaeological excavations by C. Leonard Woolley in 1922-34, a great deal is known about Abram’s background. Space will not permit more than a glimpse at excavated Ur, but a few items will show the high state of civilization.
The entire house of the average middle-class person had from ten to twenty rooms and measured forty to fifty-two feet; the lower floor was for servants, the upper floor for the family, with five rooms for their use; additionally, there was a guest chamber and a lavatory reserved for visitors, and a private chapel.
A school was found and the clay tablets discovered there showed what the students studied. In the days of Abram the pupils had reading, writing, and arithmetic as today. They learned the multiplication and division tables and even worked at square and cube root.
A bill of lading of about 2040 B.C. (about the era in which Abram is believed to have lived) showed that the commerce of that time was far-reaching. Even the name “Abraham” has been found on the excavated clay tablets (J.P. Free, Archaeology and Bible History).
Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.)
Genesis 11:29 (NLT)
Milcah, the daughter of Haran—Many suppose Sarai and Iscah are the same person under two different names; but this is improbable, as Iscah is expressly said to be the daughter of Haran, and Sarai was the daughter of Terah, and half sister of Abram.
But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children.
Genesis 11:30 (NLT)
This is the beginning of three successive generations of women in this family who were barren: Sarai, Rebekah, and Rachel (this verse, Genesis 25:21, and 29:31). God granted each of them children miraculously.
The remarkable thing about God’s call of Abraham and Sarah was that they were childless. Abram means, “exalted father,” but he wasn’t a father at all! They were the least likely candidates to have a family and build a great nation. But God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9), and by calling and blessing a barren couple, the Lord revealed the greatness of His power and His glory. Abram would be named “Abraham,” which means “father of many nations.”
One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years[a] and died while still in Haran.
Genesis 11:31-32 (NLT)
It appears that Terah did believe and took charge of the family and their travels, but Terah was the man who stopped. He traveled 500 miles, as far as the city of Haran, and there he settled down and there he died. Perhaps the journey was too great for him, but it was God’s plan that Abraham and Sarah follow Him without their family. The death of Terah left them only with Lot, the son of Haran who had died back in Ur. Lot became the man who strayed, because he finally left Abraham and settled down in the wicked city of Sodom (13:10-13).
Moved Away From Ur of the Chaldees
Chaldea is sometimes understood as comprising the whole of Babylonia; at other times, that province towards Arabia Deserta, called in Scripture the land of the Chaldeans. The capital of this place was Babylon, called in Scripture the beauty of the Chaldees’ Excellency, Isaiah 13:19.
Ur appears to have been a city of some considerable consequence at that time in Chaldea; but where situated is not well known. It probably had its name Ur, which signifies fire, from the worship practiced there. The learned are almost unanimously of opinion that the ancient inhabitants of this region were worshippers of fire, and in that place this sort of worship probably originated; and in honor of this element, the symbol of the Supreme Being, the whole country, or a particular city in it, might have had the name Ur.
Bochart has observed that there is a place called Ouri, south of the Euphrates, in the way from Nisibis to the river Tigris. The Chaldees mentioned here had not this name in the time of which Moses speaks, but they were called so in the time in which Moses wrote.
Chesed was the son of Nahor, the son of Terah, Genesis 22:22. From Chesed descended the Chasdim, whose language was the same as that of the Amorites, Daniel 1:4, 2:4. These Chasdim, Chaldeans, of the Septuagint, Vulgate, and all later versions, afterwards settled on the south of the Euphrates. Those who dwelt in Ur were either priests or astronomers, Daniel 2:10, and also idolaters, Joshua 24:2-3, 14-15. And because they were much addicted to astronomy, and probably to judicial astrology, hence all astrologers were, in process of time, called Chaldeans, Daniel 2:2-5.
The building of Babel, the confusion of tongues, and the first call of Abram, are three remarkable particulars in this chapter; and these led to the accomplishment of three grand and important designs:
- The peopling of the whole earth;
- The preservation of the true religion by the means of one family; and
- The preservation of the line uncorrupted by which the Messiah should come.
When God makes a discovery of himself by a particular revelation, it must begin in some particular time, and be given to some particular person, and in some particular place. Where, when, and to whom, are comparatively matters of small importance. It is God’s gift; and his own wisdom must determine the time, the person, and the place.
But if this were the case, have not others cause to complain because not thus favored?
Not at all, unless the favoring of the one for a time should necessarily cut off the others forever. But this is not the case. Abram was first favored; that time, that country, and that person were chosen by infinite wisdom, for there and then God chose to commence these mighty operations of Divine goodness. Isaac and Jacob also received the promises, the twelve patriarchs through their father, and the whole Jewish people through them. Afterwards the designs of God’s endless mercy were more particularly unfolded; and the word, which seemed to be confined for two thousand years to the descendants of a single family, bursts forth on all hands, salvation is preached to the Gentiles, and so in Abram’s seed all the nations of the earth are blessed.
Therefore none can find fault, and none can have cause to complain; as the salvation which for a time appeared to be restricted to a few, is now on the authority of God, liberally offered to the whole human race!
There’s quite a contrast between man’s ways at Babel and God’s ways in calling Abraham and Sarah. The world depends on large numbers of powerful people in order to accomplish things, but God chose two weak people and started a new nation. The people at Babel wanted to make a name for themselves, but God promised to make Abraham’s name great. The workers at Babel followed the wisdom of this world, but Abraham and Sarah trusted the Word of God (Heb. 11:11-12). Babel was built by the energy of the flesh and the motivation of pride, but the nation of Israel was built by the grace and power of God and in spite of human weakness.
We live in a confused world and Babel is still with us. But God still has His faithful remnant that follows Him by faith and keeps their eyes on the heavenly city (Genesis 13-16).
Are you a part of that remnant?