The Early Life of Abraham Part 4

Today we will continue our discussion from the last post.  If you recall, Abram went into Egypt because there had been famine in the land of Canaan.  Pharaoh had taken Sarai to be his wife but he was afflicted by plagues so that he would not lay a hand on Sarai but return her to Abram.

After Pharaoh released Sarai to Abram, they went back to Canaan with Lot and their households.  The herdsmen of Lot began to quarrel with the herdsmen of Abram because there was not enough room in the land for all of them.  According to the book of Jasher, Lot’s herdsmen were also allowing their flocks to graze in the fields of the people of the land.  This was causing problems between Abram, Lot, and the people of the land.

As a result of this, Abram asked Lot to separate from him and choose where he wanted to live.  Lot chose the plain of Jordan and dwelled in Sodom. Abram promised that if necessary, he would help Lot in a time of need.  Abram dwelled in the plain of Mamre which is in Hebron.

At that time, Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam called the three other kings he had a covenant with to come and make war against the towns that rebelled against him by not paying him a yearly tax.  Nimrod, also known as Amrafel came from Shinar and was joined by Tidal, king of Goyim, and Arioch, king of Elasar.  This confederacy made war against the five kings of Sodom and Gomorrah:  Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboyim, Bera king of Sodom, Bersha king of Gomorrah, and Bela king of Zoar.

The four kings of Elam ran off their opponents and plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and took all the people including Lot, his possessions, and household. Abram’s servant, Unic fought in the battle and reported what happened to Abram.  When Abram heard what happened, he rounded up 318 of his men and pursued the kings of Elam, rescued his nephew Lot and his household, and took back everything else that had been taken.

Meanwhile, Bera, the king of Sodom and his men managed to get out of the lime pits they had fallen in and met Abram to reclaim what was his.  Another man heard what had happened and went to meet Abram.  The book of Jasher called him by the title, Adonizedek which means “Righteous Lord.”  The Book of Genesis called him by the title, Melchizedek which means “Righteous King.”  He was the King of Salem – the King of Jerusalem.  He was a priest before God and the book of Jasher specifically identifies him as Shem, the son of Noah.

It was to Shem, Noah’s son that Abram gave a tenth of everything.  By that time, Shem was the oldest righteous person in all the earth.  If you remember, it was Shem and Noah who raised Abram and instructed him in the ways of the Lord.

The Biblical account and that from the book of Jasher give us a picture of what is coming in the future.  As most adults know, there is quarreling taking place over the land of Israel.  It’s a relatively small piece of land yet Israel’s enemies do not want to share it with the Jews.  They want to wipe its inhabitants off the map of the world and keep it for themselves.

Leaders of the world want to see peace in the Land and much discussion takes place on how to divide it.  How it will be divided remains to be seen.  Despite what many believe, the answer probably doesn’t lie in dividing it but in allowing the Jews to stay in the Land God promised would be their inheritance and for the others to go into the plain of the Jordan or elsewhere.  Obviously, this is not going to happen.

Whatever man does with the Land will only be temporary.  The future border of the Land during the millennial reign of Christ will be much larger than it is now (see Ezekiel 47:13-20) and Jesus will make sure His people live in the Land.

Since true and lasting peace is not going to happen by the hands of men, there will eventually be war over who has rights to the Land.   Psalm 83:1-8 says that Israel’s enemies will consult with each other, form a confederacy, and through craftiness will attempt to cut them off from being a nation. 

Zechariah 14:2 says that it will really be the Lord who will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.  The city will be taken, the houses will be ransacked, and the women will be raped.  Half of the city will go into captivity but a remnant of the people will remain in the city. 

After that, the ultimate Adonizedek (also known as Melchizedek, Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus Christ, and the Son of God) will come with His army to fight Israel’s enemies, the righteous remnant will return to the Land from the four corners of the earth, and people will bring offerings to the Lord (Isaiah 66).

Can you see how God’s plan was foretold in patterns from the early days of the Patriarchs?

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The Early Life of Abraham Part 3

As we ended our last discussion, Terah, Lot (Haran’s son), Abram, and Sarai finally left Ur of the Chaldeans with Terah’s household and possessions but instead of making it to Canaan, they stopped in Haran where Abram taught the ways of the Lord to those living there. 

Three years later, Abram, Sarai, and everything that belonged to them left Haran and went to Canaan leaving Lot and Terah behind.  After another three years went by, Noah died.  When Abram had dwelt in the land of Canaan for 10 years, Nimrod went to war against Chedolaomer who was one of his princes and lost.  As a result, Nimrod, also known as Amrafel was subjugated under Chedolaomer for a long time. 

The book of Jasher continues by saying that God promised Abram that the land of Canaan would belong to his descendants but that they would not possess it until the 4th generation.   Abram and his people then returned to Haran to visit with his parents.  When 5 years were completed, God reminded Abram of His original command to go to Canaan so Abram returned there with Sarai, Lot, and all of their household and possessions.  Abram was 75 years old when they returned to Canaan.  

All of a sudden, the book of Jasher appears to detour from the narrative about Abram to tell us about a very wise but poor man named Rikayon who became wealthy by exacting a tax from the dead without the knowledge or authority of the king.  Eventually, the Egyptian king named him Pharaoh and made him prefect under the king.  Ultimately, Rikayon usurped the government of Egypt and exacted a tax from all of the Egyptians.  The writer of Jasher tells us that the Egyptians loved him so much they called all of the kings after him “Pharaoh.”  I don’t know why they liked him so much.  They didn’t like being taxed.  His unauthorized method seemed “wisely wicked” to me.  

This seemingly unrelated account is important because this appears to be the center of a large chiasm in the book of Jasher which is part of our discussion on Abram.  The book of Jasher turns back to Abram and tells us there was a great famine in the land.  As a result of that famine, Genesis and the book of Jasher tell us Abram and Sarai went to Egypt.  Both books tell us that Abram was concerned for his personal safety and asked Sarai to tell those who ask that she was his sister.  Actually, Sarai was his half-sister so this wasn’t a complete lie.  Jasher proceeds to reveal something not found in Genesis—Abram hid Sarai in a chest to protect her from the Egyptians!  When the Egyptians finally came upon them, they assumed the contents of the chest were valuable and demanded a tithe of it.  They seized the chest and opened it.  To their surprise, Sarai was inside and when they took her to be Pharaoh’s wife, Abram prayed for her deliverance.  While Sarai was in Pharaoh’s house, she prayed for the same and God sent an angel to deliver her.  The angel inflicted plagues upon Pharaoh and his house.  Realizing these plagues were a result of taking Sarai, Pharaoh returned her to Abraham and sent them away with various gifts.

Now, let’s look at a few parallels between this account in Jasher and the Torah:

  • Rikayon usurped the government of Egypt and exacted a tax from all of the Egyptians.  In Exodus, Pharaoh enslaved the Hebrews and forced them to build supply cities which were most likely paid for by heavy taxes.  Now, ask yourself, what it’s going to take to pay for all our current government’s pricey programs and get America out of enormous debt?  The one causing this enormous debt seems to have usurped our country yet many love him and what he’s doing.
  • Abram went to Egypt because of a famine.  The 70 descendants of Israel came to Egypt because of a famine during Joseph’s time as second in command of Egypt.  In the last days, we know there will be famine because Revelation 6:6 tells us the enormous price of food that will result from the shortages.
  • Abram was concerned for himself and his wife, Sarai so he hid her in a chest.  Moses’ mother was concerned for his life and hid him in a basket.  At some point, God’s people will be commanded to enter their rooms like they did during the 10th plague of Egypt in order to hide until God’s wrath is past (Ex. 12:21-24; Isaiah 26:20).
  • The Egyptians took Sarai, Abram’s wife for his own.  Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses as her own son.  In addition, the Egyptians took God’s people (the Hebrews) to be slaves in Egypt.  God brought them out of Egypt to bring them to Mount Sinai so they could become His bride.  We will eventually be controlled by a world-wide government.  God commands us to come out of Babylon the Great so we can eventually attend the marriage supper of the Lamb.
  • God sent an angel to inflict plagues upon Pharaoh and his house in order for Sarai to be released.  God sent plagues on the Egyptians and finally the angel of the Lord passed over to destroy the Egyptian first born sons so that Pharaoh would release His people.  If we don’t come out of Babylon the Great, we will suffer the plagues of Revelation along with the rest of the wicked.
  • Pharaoh returned Sarai to Abraham and sent them away with various gifts.  The Egyptians gave God’s people gifts when they left Egypt under Moses’ leadership.  Israel’s enemies will be plundered in the final days when Christ returns (Ezekiel 39:10).

Here we see in the book of Jasher a historical account that would become part of the pattern for what God did in Egypt and what God plans to do in the future. 

Remember, Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”  (NIV)

Come back for more because this is not the rest of the story or the rest of the pattern!

Meanwhile, ask God to show you how we can respond to the rulership of Rikayon today.

The Early Life of Abraham Part 2

Today, I want to continue the account of Abram from the Book of Jasher.  At the end of the last post, Abram was living with Noah and Shem.  Abram left Noah’s house when he was 50 years old and returned to his father to convince him that idolatry was vain and to destroy his father’s twelve idols.  When he came to Terah’s place, Abram entered his father’s chamber of idols and destroyed 11 of his father’s idols and made it look like the 12th idol did it.  When his father came in and asked what happened, Abram blamed everything on the 12th idol.  

As you can imagine, Terah was furious with Abram because he knew that idols were not capable of destroying each other or of eating the meat offerings he always brought them but he was not ready to forsake his idolatry.  After trying to reason with Terah without success, Abram destroyed the 12th idol too. 

Terah was so angry Abram destroyed his idols that he went to discuss the problem with King Nimrod.  In the process of talking with Nimrod, Terah had to confess that he had not given Abram to him shortly after birth but that it was really the baby of his concubine that Nimrod had killed. 

Abram justified the destruction of his father’s idols to the king and princes and encouraged them to forsake their wickedness and to serve the Lord or be prepared to face God’s judgment which awaited them.  Abram spent ten days in jail for his “wicked” crime at the end of which King Nimrod called together the other kings, princes, governors, and sages to discuss Abram’s fate.

Oddly enough, they suggested Abram should be hung on a tree for reviling the king but ultimately, they decided he must be burned to death for destroying Terah’s gods.  Terah almost suffered the same judgment of a fiery death for not giving Abram to Nimrod shortly after birth but out of fear, he falsely accused his oldest son, Haran of advising him to swap the babies.  As a result, both Haran and Abram were bound and thrown into the furnace in which a fire had been prepared for 3 days and 3 nights. 

Haran quickly burned to ashes in the fire but God delivered Abram from certain death and made it possible for him to walk freely in the fire for 3 days and 3 nights.  Intrigued, the king ordered Abram to be removed from the fire but 8 men died trying to get him out.  When Abram finally came before the king, he explained that it was God who saved him from death.  Nimrod then gave Abram gifts and two servants, one of which was Eliezer.  About 300 of the king’s men joined and followed Abram as he returned to his father’s house.  Shortly after that, he married Sarai.

As I reflected on this passage from Jasher, I imagined that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego knew that Abram had once been delivered from a fiery furnace and knew that if God desired, he could deliver them too. 

I also noted that there are various shadows of Christ in the account of Abram and Nimrod’s fiery furnace: 

  • Abram destroyed the idols in the chamber of Terah’s gods.  Jesus cleansed His Father’s temple.
  • The officials suggested crucifying Abram for his “crime.”  Jesus was convicted of blasphemy by the religious leaders and was crucified.
  • Abram was in the furnace three days and three nights where he should have died but he came out alive and returned to live with his father.  Jesus’ dead body laid in the grave three days and three nights and His spirit descended into the fire of hell where He made a proclamation to the imprisioned spirits but He rose from the dead and returned to live with His heavenly Father (Eph. 4:9, 1 Peter 3:18-20).
  • One person was delivered from judgment and the other was not.  One criminal who was crucified with Jesus went to paradise and the other one did not.
  • A multiple of 3:  Three hundred were added to Abram’s household whereas 3000 were added to the faith after Pentecost (Shavuot).

Now, let’s get back to Abram.  Two years after Abram came out of the fiery furnace, Nimrod had a dream that was interpreted by one of his servants who explained that Abram’s seed would rise up to destroy Nimrod and his army.  When Nimrod heard this, he commanded Abram to be killed.  Eliezer heard about Nimrod’s command and warned Abram who fled to Noah and Shem’s house where he stayed a month.  Terah visited him there and finally Abram convinced him that they had to leave and go to Canaan in order to survive Nimrod’s death threats.  So that was when Terah, Lot (Haran’s son), Abram, and Sarai finally left Ur of the Chaldeans but instead of making it to Canaan, they stopped in Haran where Abram taught the ways of the Lord to those living there.

As you consider the things that Abram went through, think about what God has done in your life.  Do you have confidence that He will take care of you and be with you through the good and difficult times? 

Please realize that sometimes it’s ok to run away from something.  There were several Biblical people who did so.  That doesn’t show a lack of trust, it shows common sense.  It was God’s way of protecting them.

Is God calling you to go somewhere comparable to the depths of hell in order to teach the ways of the Lord to those around you?

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The Early Life of Abraham Part 1

The book of Jasher continues to be fascinating to me because it gives so much insight into areas that the Bible remains silent on.  Again, the primary reason I’ve been comparing the book of Jasher with Genesis is because it is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18.  Today, I want to continue showing you what God has been revealing to me through this book.

Just before the tower of Babel was being built, Nimrod had conquered his enemies, was crowned king, and reigned over all the sons of Noah.  He rebelled against the Lord, made idols of wood and stone, bowed down to them, and taught everyone his wicked ways.  King Nimrod also set up rulers, judges, and princes over his subjects.  The prince of Nimrod’s army was Terah who became the father of Abram.

More curious than these are the circumstances surrounding Abram’s birth.   In Jasher 8: 9, Nimrod’s wise men and conjurors told Nimrod, “We heard that a son was born to Terah the son of Nahor, the prince of thy host, and we yesternight came to his house, and we ate and drank and rejoiced with him that night.  10 And when thy servants went out from the house of Terah, to go to our respective homes to abide there for the night, we lifted up our eyes to heaven, and we saw a great star coming from the east, and the same star ran with great speed, and swallowed up four great stars, from the four sides of the heavens.  11 And thy servants were astonished at the sight which we saw, and were greatly terrified, and we made our judgment upon the sight, and knew by our wisdom the proper interpretation thereof, that this thing applies to the child that is born to Terah, who will grow up and multiply greatly, and become powerful, and kill all the kings of the earth, and inherit all their lands, he and his seed forever.”  To make a long story short, these men recommended that Abram be killed.  Nimrod demanded that Terah give Abram to him in exchange for money so he could be put to death.  Terah deceived Nimrod by giving his concubine’s newborn baby to him instead and Nimrod dashed this child’s head to the ground.

If you are thinking in terms of thematic parallels, this should remind you of:

  • How Moses escaped death and how the Hebrew male babies died in his place.  In case you didn’t know, the Talmud teaches that astrologers warned Pharaoh a child would be born that would overthrow him.  It was really for this reason that Pharaoh responded by ordering male babies to be thrown in the Nile River.
  • How Jesus escaped death and how male children two years old and under were killed in His place after wise men from the east told King Herod about the star they had seen in the east and that they had come to worship the King of the Jews.

Shortly after this baby was killed, Terah quickly took his wife and Abram to a cave where they lived for 10 years while the king and his men thought Abram had been put to death.  During that time, Terah daily brought them sustenance yet continued to serve King Nimrod.  The story gets even more interesting when we find out that Abram left the cave and went to live with Noah and Shem when he was 10 years old and continued to live with them for 39 years while everyone else living around them including Abram’s father, Terah committed idolatry.

Around that time, the Lord scattered the people at the tower of Babel but King Nimrod remained in Shinar and his princes and subjects called him Amrafel.  This name reappears in the life of Abram and Lot at a later time so tuck that away in your memory banks.

Getting back to Abram, I find it wonderful that Noah and Shem helped to raise him.  God has always been active in peoples’ lives despite the wickedness around them.  Even though Terah lived an idolatrous life and served King Nimrod (Amrafel), God spared Abram’s life and placed him in a home where he could be nurtured in the ways of the Lord.  Praise God that Noah and Shem were still alive at that time and were willing to do this.  If my calculations are correct, Shem was about 395 years old when Abram was born and died when he was 600 years old whereas Noah was about 897 when Abram was born and died when he was 950 years old.

We don’t live as long as they did but it is clear to see that wickedness continues to grow around us daily.  How will we respond when God puts a child, teenager, or another adult in our path?  Will we teach that person the ways of the Lord like Noah and Shem did with Abram so they can become God’s instrument for the future and escape the lake of fire?  Will we teach them truth trusting that they have the potential to become someone as great as Abram?

Has someone done that for you?  Have you had a chance to say thank you?  Do you think you have become what God wants you to be yet?  Remember God’s probably not done with you because there was a lot that God still planned to do in Abram’s life when he was 49 years old.