Western Civilization I – Lesson 5

A Hebrew history from Abraham to Moses

When many people think of Abraham, you think of that song that goes “Father Abraham, had many sons …” Yep. That same Abraham.

Abraham was promised descendants as numerous as the stars. Yahweh (God) had promised that Abraham’s barren wife Sarah would give birth to a son. When Sarah found out, she laughed, thinking “I am too old to bear a son!”. Well, she had to eat her words when she gave birth to Isaac, whose name means “laughter”.

Fun Fact: When Isaac was born, Abraham was one hundred years old!

You can imagine, after years of waiting and waiting for a son, how Abraham and Sarah would have loved their son. Also unthinkably difficult is the command God gave to Abraham, “Sacrifice your son to me in the land of Moriah.”

Now God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He hates child sacrifice, he hates the false gods, and he hates all of the false God practices. He would NEVER want a child sacrificed. Yet God chooses to ask this of Abraham for a test. Would Abraham trust God and sacrifice his son, relinquishing HIS right to HIS son?

Abraham made the journey to Moriah with Isaac, makes an altar, and binds Isaac upon it. At the last minute, when Abraham is about to slay his son, (probably weeping as he does so,) … God calls to Abraham, saying “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (KJV, Genesis 22:12) Abraham passed the test with flying colors. Because Abraham had faith in God, He blessed him and promised a blessing upon Abraham’s seed, and said that through his descendants all the nations of the world would be blessed.

Eventually Sarah dies. When Abraham decides that Isaac needs a wife, he commands his servant to go to Nahor, his home country, to find a bride for his son. The servant wants to find the perfect bride, and so implores God to allow the chosen woman to offer him drink for himself and for his camels. A beautiful woman named Rebekah fulfills this, and the next day she leaves with Abraham’s servant to become Isaac’s bride. When they arrive, Isaac sees them and receives Rebekah, and he loves her.

(How beautiful is the first Biblical mention of love between a man and a woman! Ravi Zacharias has a wonderful video teaching on this.)

Anyway, back to the story. Even though Rebekah turns out to be barren Isaac implores God to open her womb, and He does! Rebekah gives birth to twin boys, Esau and Jacob. The elder, Esau, grows up to be a strong hunter, covered in red hair. The younger, Jacob, remains among the tents of his family during the day. And Isaac loved Esau – but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Fun Fact: The Hebrew word used to describe Jacob (tam), often translated as ‘mild’ is used in many other cases to mean ‘blameless’ or ‘guiltless’ or ‘perfect’.

One day Jacob was cooking stew and Esau came up, hungry. He was so hungry that he agreed to sell Jacob his inheritance (his blessing) for a bowl of stew. And when Isaac their father grew old and his eyes grew dim, he told his eldest son, Esau, to go hunting for wild game and bring him a dish of it, and that he would then give Esau the blessing. But while Esau was gone Rebekah and Jacob made a dish of goat’s meat and covered Jacobs arms with hair. Jacob went to his father, pretending to be Esau … and deceitfully obtained the blessing. When Esau found out, he was furious and hated Jacob and said that he would kill him! So Rebekah quickly sent Jacob to her brother, Laban, to get him away from Esau.

Jacob’s first glimpse of his uncle’s family was his cousin Rachel, a beautiful girl, with the sheep. He rolled away the stone on the well so her sheep could drink (probably showing off his muscles!) Then he told her who he was. She ran to tell her father, Laban ran back to embrace Jacob, and Jacob had quite the favorable welcome to his uncle’s household!

He asked to work seven years for Laban, if he could only marry Rachel. This was agreed upon, but the morning after the wedding, Jacob found that he had been deceived, and boy was he mad! He had been given Leah, Rachel’s older sister, instead of Rachel! Laban said it was cultural to marry off the older sister before the younger, but that Jacob could have Rachel too. So Jacob worked another seven years so he could marry Rachel, the one he loved.

Well, Leah had four boys, and Rachel was barren. She wanted kids so badly that she gave Jacob her maid, Bilhah, so that Jacob could have children by her. Bilhah had two sons. Leah decided to jump on the whole maid-band-wagon affair and so she gave Jacob HER maid, Zilpah. Zilpah had two sons as well. Then Leah had two more sons and a daughter. Finally, after years of being barren, God healed Rachel’s womb, and she gave birth to two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Unfortunately, she died at Benjamin’s birth.

Now Jacob has 12 sons – Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Already the rest are overcome with jealousy when Jacob gives a multicolored robe to Joseph, his favorite. But then Joseph starts sharing dreams, dreams that they interpret to mean that they will bow to their brother Joseph. Thus their anger turns to hatred, and the first chance they get, they rip off his robe and sell him into slavery in Egypt. Then they smear the robe with blood to make Jacob think that Joseph is dead, mauled by a wild animal. Jacob is heartbroken.

Joseph becomes a slave in Potiphar’s house, and is wise and handsome. Potiphar’s wife begins to lust after him, and when he refuses her advances, she revengefully makes up this story about him trying to take advantage of her. He is thrown in prison, yet even there he becomes in charge of the prison management. Eventually he is put in charge of a baker and a butler, who both have dreams. Joseph correctly interprets the dreams: The baker is executed and the butler ascends back to the position of Pharaoh’s butler – but the butler forgets about Joseph, at least until the Pharaoh has a disturbing dream. Then it all comes flooding back, and Pharaoh sends for the Hebrew ‘interpreter-of-dreams’.

Joseph predicts seven years of plenty and seven years of famine in the land, and suggests that the Pharaoh appoint a wise man to oversee crop collection and stores for the years of drought to come. Pharaoh appoints the wisest man in Egypt, Joseph himself, to be the most powerful man in the kingdom besides Pharaoh.

Soon Jacob’s sons go to Joseph (who’s Egyptian name is Zaphenath-Paneah) and ask for grain, but they did not recognize him. They thought he was dead. Joseph tests them several times to be sure their hearts have become unhardened. When Judah selflessly steps up in order that his father might not lose the son he loves, Benjamin, Joseph knows their hearts have been changed, and finally reveals himself to them. He invites his family to come live in Egypt, where they will be safe and well-fed.

After many years a new Pharaoh came to the throne, who did not know Joseph, and he ordered that the Hebrews be made into slaves, and that all the baby boys be killed. Levi’s nephew (Amram) was married to Levi’s daughter (Jochebed) and they have a baby boy. Jochebed tries hard to keep him hidden but finally surrenders him to the river, setting him in a floating basket and leaving her daughter (Miryam) to watch him and see what happens.

Pharaoh’s daughter finds the little baby, and has compassion on him. Miryam goes up and offers to find a nurse for the baby, and returns with her mother. Through a miracle of God, the baby is saved, and becomes a prince of Egypt. Pharaoh’s daughter names him Moses.

Moses grows up to be a great leader, one of the greatest in Hebrew history.

(Thanks so much for reading! I appreciate the few minutes you took to look at this! Be sure to check out my next post! ;))


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