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FROM ABRAHAM TO THE EXODUS
(1) Abraham Leaves Home
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3).
After Adam and Eve sinned, God promised that someone would come and make a way to deliver the human race from the consequence of sin. Now God was going to establish a nation through a man named Abram, and it was through that nation that the redeemer would come. The Lord led Abram to the land of Canaan and told him, “Unto thy seed will I give this land.”a The land God promised Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, is modern day Palestine.
At the time this promise was given to Abraham, he was 75 years old. His wife, Sarai, was 65, and they were childless. A number of years passed but they still had no child. Abraham became very concerned about this and thought his servant Eliezer would inherit the promise. The Lord came to him in a vision and told him, “[Eliezer] shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir” (Gen. 15:4).
Then the Lord told Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. . . . In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15:6-7, 18).
In Abraham's day when two parties made a covenant, they would cut an animal down the middle and both parties would pass between the parts. The passing between the parts would make the agreement binding. In verses 12-17 God caused a deep sleep to come upon Abraham, and while he was in this trance he saw God pass through the two parts as a “burning lamp.” Abraham did not pass between the parts. There was no need; his end of the deal had already been sealed by his faith (verse 6). This indicated that it was God who was able to keep His word and did not depend on Abraham.
If God's plan depended on Abraham always being perfect in faith, it would have failed. Abraham began to doubt the Lord and got ahead of Him. He began to work out God's promise in his own wisdom. He listened to his wife and had a child by his Egyptian servant and named him Ishmael. He asked the Lord to let Ishmael inherit the land and let the world be blessed through him. But God said no! He would give him and his beloved Sarai a child, and it was through him, not Ishmael, that the promise would come (Gen. 17:18-21).
After Ishmael was born, God said his descendants would become a mighty people, who would “be against every man.”b Ishmael had twelve sons,c and he is the father of the Arabs.
When Abraham was 100 years old God finally gave him and Sarai a son. They named him Isaac, and it was through him that the twelve tribes of Israel came. Before Isaac was born, God changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's to Sarah.
No doubt some of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs today is the very result of Abraham having to disinherit his first son, Ishmael. If Abraham had been steadfast in his faith and waited on God, perhaps the question of who owns the land of Israel would have never come up.
In his book Seeds of Conflict, Charles DeLoach says, “The origins of this savage conflict are in the early dawn of recorded history—in the loins of Abraham the great patriarch of the covenant people. Abraham begot two sons by two different women. The older son was Ishmael, the traditional father of the twelve Arab nations, the younger was Isaac. It was Sarah's son Isaac who later fathered Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. When Isaac was born in Sarah's old age she demanded that her husband dismiss his concubine and her son, Ishmael. When he assented, a bitterness was born that has never died.”1
(2) The Indestructible Jew
Jewish history began with Abraham. God promised him that his descendants would one day inherit the land of Palestine “for an everlasting possession.”d Just a brief study of their history will reveal it is something of a miracle that they still exist. The Jews and the nation of Israel should long since have been forgotten. By natural laws we should only read of them in ancient history, not today's newspaper. They defy the very course of history. No people has experienced as much devastation and bloodshed or survived as many attempts to destroy them. Their continued existence is nothing less than phenomenal and cannot be explained except in the light of the Bible. One writer, seeing the Jews as a phenomenon, but unable to see God behind it, says:
Jewish history unfolds not within one but within six civilizations. This contradicts many schools of history, which hold that this is an impossibility since, like a human being, a civilization has only one life span, usually lasting five hundred years, but no longer than a thousand years. Yet, as we have seen, the Jews have lasted four thousand years, have had six cultures in six alien civilizations, and most likely will have a seventh. How can we reconcile fact and theory?. . . From a psychoanalytic viewpoint, therefore, it could be that Abraham himself conceived the idea of a covenant with an Almighty Father figure, represented as Jehovah, and projected onto this father figure his own wish to safeguard his children and his children's children for future generations.2
It is interesting how the above writer can believe that Abraham gave birth to an idea and now after 4000 years his idea it still being carried on, rather than believe that God made a promise to Abraham and is fulfilling His word through his descendants. I think even he has doubts about his projection theory. He says, “From a historical viewpoint, it makes no difference whether it was Abraham who projected his experience onto an imaginary Jehovah or a real Jehovah who proposed it to Abraham. The fact remains that after four thousand years the idea of a covenant between the Jews and Jehovah is alive.”3
(3) When Was Abraham Born?
And Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. . . And Terah took Abram . . . and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldeans, to go into the land of Canaan (Gen. 11:26, 31).
God gave us a very clear and detailed account of how many years there are from Adam to the birth of Abraham's father, Terah, and it is a very simple matter to add up the years, which come to 1878. When He got down to the birth of Abraham, however, I think He purposely left it vague for His own good reasons. Based on Act 7:4, some believe Terah was 130 when Abraham was born. Acts 7 records Stephen's address to the Sanhedrin in which he seems to indicate that Abraham did not leave Haran until his father died, but Genesis 12:1-4 infers that his father was still alive when he left Haran.
If Abraham did not leave Haran until his father died, then Terah would have been 130 when Abraham was born. Rene Pache says, “It seems very likely that God had already called Abram at Ur (cf. Gen. 15:7; Neh. 9:7) and then made the call definite at Haran. The departure from that city marked the patriarch's actual going out of Mesopotamia and the end of his submission to his father. Was Stephen making use of a traditional Jewish manner of speaking when he tied this in with the death of Terah, which, however, was actually to take place later?”4
Some believe Genesis 11:26 means that Terah was seventy when Abraham was born. Others believe the verse means that Abraham was the firstborn and by the time Terah was seventy he had two more sons. In its paraphrase, the Living Bible says, “By the time Terah was seventy years old, he had three sons, Abram, Nahor, and Haran.”
If we put verses 26 and 31 together and do a little more paraphrasing, we may get the real meaning of verse 26: And Terah was seventy years old when he and Abraham left Babylon for the land of Canaan. But Abraham stopped in Haran with his father.
If Terah was 22 when Abraham was born, this would put Abraham's birth in the year 1900 and the birth of Isaac in the year 2000. If Abraham left Babylon when his father was 70, this would be 1948 years from Adam, which may give us an interesting parallel to this century. Abraham's descendants were called out of the nations and formed a nation in 1948.
And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age. . . . And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son, Isaac, was born unto him (Gen. 21:1-2, 5).
God had promised Abraham he would have a son in his old age. Though Abraham began to doubt whether God would keep His promise, he is called “the father of faith,” and rightly so; for after Isaac was born Abraham demonstrated one of the greatest acts of faith found in the Bible. He was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, believing that God would raise him from death. (Heb. 11:17-19.)
God had promised him that through Isaac the world would be blessed: and God cannot bless the world through a dead corpse. In a sense Isaac was a type of Christ. Abraham's act of faith pointed to the cross when God sacrificed His only Son and raised Him from death so that we might be saved.
Now Isaac pleaded with the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. . . . So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau's heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them (Gen. 25:21, 24-26, NKJV).
Jacob's name was later changed to Israel. Just as Ishmael had twelve sons, Jacob also had twelve sons. It is from these twelve sons that we get the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jacob's most famous son was Joseph. Joseph was sold to Egypt by his brothers, and like Isaac, he is also a type of Christ. God had told Joseph he would reign over his brothers. Christ will one day reign over the house of Jacob and the whole world. Joseph was sold by his brothers for a few pieces of silver. Christ was betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver.
Joseph was taken out of prison and given the second place in the kingdom of Egypt. Christ was delivered from hell and death and exalted to the right hand of God.
Joseph redeemed his brothers who sold him and saved them from famine. Christ is going to save the children of Israel, and the whole world, from being destroyed by the Antichrist.
Joseph forgave his brothers for their sin. Christ is going to forgive Israel for rejecting and crucifying Him.
Joseph is one of the few characters that the Bible makes no mention of any wrong. But he may have been a little haughty, and when he told his brothers he would rule over them, “they hated him even more.” Considering he was next to the youngest, this didn't set to well with them and the children of Israel became divided. (See Genesis 37.)
(7) The Thirty Year Discrepancy
God had told Abraham, “Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Gen. l5:13). But Exodus 12:40 tells us, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.”
The New Testament gives us two statements concerning the 400 and 430 years. Stephen refers to the verse in Genesis 15 about the descendants of Abraham being in Egypt 400 years.e But Paul used the number mentioned in Exodus 12:40,f which said the “children of Israel” would be in Egypt 430 years.
The first child of Israel to be in bondage to Egypt was Joseph. The 430 years may have started with Joseph being sold into Egypt and Paul had him in mind as a type of Christ.
Joseph was sold into Egypt about the age of seventeen.g At the age of thirty he was made second in command.h After Joseph was made ruler, he went throughout the land of Egypt to prepare for the seven good years that were to come, which may have taken about eight years.
We can gather from Genesis 45, 46, and 47 that Jacob and his household entered Egypt during the second year of the famine, and that he was 130 years old at the time. If there are thirty years between Israel's Joseph being sold into Egypt and all Abraham's descendants entering in, this would clear up the so-called discrepancy between the 400 and 430 years.
Egypt can symbolically stand for bondage to sin. For thirty years the children of Israel bore the shame of selling Joseph. They were forgiven, but they were not delivered for another 400. The number 430 is an important number in Bible chronology. It may have a short and long range meaning, when the children of Israel will once again be delivered from Egypt. (More about this later.)
The total number of years between the birth of Abraham and the children of Israel coming out of Egypt was 690 years.
100 Age of Abraham when Isaac was born, Genesis 21:5.
60 Age of Isaac when Jacob was born, Genesis 25:24-26.
130 Age of Jacob when he entered Egypt, Genesis 47:7-9, 27-28.
400 Time in Egypt, Genesis 15:13, Acts 7:6.
(8) The Inspiration of the Scriptures
When God led Israel out of Egypt, He began to have His Word written for a witness for the ages to come. Someone wrote, “The Bible is made up of 66 individual books with some forty different authors. Some were kings, others were but simple fishermen. They wrote independently, knowing almost nothing of the other's part. The period of composition extended over 1500 years, three different languages, and on three continents.”
You would think with all this, there would be countless subjects going in all directions. But this is not the case. The Bible from beginning to end points to one person and one subject. The person is Christ, and the subject is redemption from sin. There is no adequate explanation for this, except that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16).
Peter said, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”i In other words, they didn't dream up their own writings. The Living Bible says, “No prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
It has been estimated that over 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at Christ's first coming, and we are seeing many being fulfilled today, setting the stage for His second coming. W. R. Wallace says, “The accurate forecasting of future events is one of the strongest evidences of the existence of God and the authority of the Book He has written. . . . Hundreds of fulfilled prophecies establish beyond question that He who knew all things before the beginning wrote the Bible.”5
Many times the writers of the Bible did not understand God's message. They would write it down and then ponder over its meaning. Peter says, “This salvation was something the prophets did not fully understand. Though they wrote about it, they had many questions as to what it all could mean. They wondered what the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about, for he told them to write down the events which, since then, have happened to Christ: his suffering, and his great glory afterwards. And they wondered when and to whom all this would happen” (1 Peter 1:10-11, TLB).
The primary purpose of the Bible is the redemption of man. It is not a textbook on science and history, but when it speaks on these matters —it is 100 percent accurate. Men once thought the earth was flat, but Isaiah 40:22 tells us, “It is he [God] who sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” Men once thought the moon produced its own light. Now we know that the moon doesn't shine by itself, it only reflects the sun's light. Job 25:5 says, “Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not.”
In the past men had different theories as to what the earth rested upon. Some thought it was held up by huge animals. But Job 26:7 tells us, years before modern science, that God suspended the earth in space. “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.” In the past men had different theories about the rising and setting of the sun. They thought the earth was stationary and the sun rotated around the earth. The Catholic Church condemned Galileo because he said the earth revolved around the sun, which we now know is true. God gave us an illustration of this some 4000 years ago, when He said, “It is turned like clay to the seal” (Job 38:14).
The Bible goes into great detail about the ancient city of Nineveh in Assyria, which became covered by the sands of time. It was said by some this city never existed, until they found it buried in the sand in the 1800s.
Isaiah 20:1 mentions King Sargon of Assyria. For years it was argued that no such king ever existed during that time, and the Bible was wrong. But his palace was found and excavated at the ancient site of Khorsabad and we now have much information about his exploits. King Sargon boasted that it was he who captured Samaria and led Israel captive. The World Book Encyclopedia says he “was one of the last and greatest kings of Assyria.”
To deny something simply because you cannot see the evidence is not very scientific.
About 1400 B.C. God directed Moses to write the law, the account of creation, and world history up to his time. He wrote about the patriarch, Abraham, and of him coming from a place called Ur. The skeptics at one time said no such man or place ever existed. Dr. Clifford Wilson says, “No scholar who knows his facts would make the sweeping assertions against the Bible records of the patriarchs that were so confidently put forward only a generation ago. Now we know that the patriarchal narratives—stories of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob and his sons—are historical records.”6
Satan and his angels are powerful beings. When a person shows interest in Christ, they use every trick in the book trying to make him doubt The Book. If they can't do that, they will try to make one worship it, which is even worse.
When we consider that a new Christian does not come full-grown in the faith, it is sometimes quite easy for doubt to do its destructive work. Some never overcome their doubts. Those that do can be used in a better way for the Lord. Billy Graham says, “In August of 1949 I was so filled with doubts about everything when I stood up to preach and made a statement, I would say to myself: 'I wonder if that is the truth. I wonder if I can really say that sincerely.' My ministry had gone.” He goes on to say that when he took the Bible in simple faith, the Lord began to use it and him in a greater way.7
Dr. Graham said what many need to say, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
As a youth, Dr. B. H. Carroll thought he had discovered a thousand contradictions in the Bible. When he grew up, he said that he had seen so many errors and contradictions in the Bible melt away that he had lost all confidence in their existence.8 One of the most seemingly errors in the Bible is found in 2 Chronicles, where it has a son being two years older than his father. I believe even this can be cleared up (see Appendix A).
There are many seemingly errors and contradictions in the Bible, but the problem is not with the Bible—it is our understanding and our lack of faith in it. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Books written by men often need revising. Since I began this book in the early 70s (under the title, The Seven Times Seven Plan of God), I have had to revise a few things. And since this is a book about The Book, something else may need changing, especially given the scope of it. But the Bible is one book that never needs changing; for it was written by fallible men under the direction of an infallible God who kept them from error, and this is what sets it apart from all other books.
God used different methods to give us His Word, but regardless of what method He used, the writers were under His direction. Hebrews 1:1 tells us, “God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets (in visions, dreams, and even face to face), telling them little by little about his plans” (TLB).
It has been said the Bible is like an anvil that has wore out many hammers that have come against it. Many so-called Bible myths have been laid to rest. In time, the rest will be buried by the truth. Concerning the claim that Bible prophecy was written after the fact: Isaiah 53 predicted the crucifixion of Christ in such a vivid manner, it was once though by some the chapter must have been written after the cross. But the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written long before the cross, have laid this to rest. Among the scrolls was found the entire book of Isaiah.
The Bible predicted the Jews would return to their ancient homeland in the “latter years.” And they are back. The Bible also predicts Israel will one day see the meaning of Isaiah 53, but only after the greatest time of “tribulation” the world has ever seen.
God could have made the Scriptures clearer and cleared up all the seemingly contradictions. The Father's Word to the world became flesh. He allowed Him to be neglected and rejected. They didn't believe or understand Him. He has allowed His written word, the Bible, to bear the same ridicule.
Scripture References [a] Gen. 12:7, [b] Gen. 16:10-12, [c] Gen. 25:12-16, [d] Gen. 17:8, [e] Acts 7:6, [f] Gal. 3:17, [g] Gen. 37, [h] Gen. 41:46, [i] 2 Peter 1:20-21.
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