The Bible says that the fathers of the Jewish nation are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But in many instances it also singles out Abraham as the father of the nation of Israel. His original name was “Abram” which means “exalted father,” but God changed it to “Abraham” which means “father of many nations.”
Genesis 17:5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.
The footnote in the NIV (New International Version Bible) says that “Abram” means “exalted father” and “Abraham” means “father of many.”
Father of Many Nations
The apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Roman believers that anyone who has faith in the God of Abraham also becomes an offspring of Abraham by that faith, for sonship in God is by faith, and so with sonship in Abraham. Thus, through that faith God fulfills His promise to Abraham that he would become a father of many nations. He is not only the father of the Jews but also of all the believers of his God, Jew or Gentile. (Romans 4:12-18) Of course, God is ultimately the Father of all believers, the Divine Father of all believers from all nations, Jew or Gentile, through faith in Jesus Christ, an offspring of Abraham (through the tribe of Judah) and the one and only begotten Son of God (as conceived in the virgin Mary through the Holy Spirit).
God our Father is indeed the ultimate model for all earthly fathers for He is not only perfect as a Father but also perfect in everything – in love, holiness, wisdom, justice, power, knowledge, mercy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, etc. It is indeed God’s desire that we aspire to be like Him as individuals, and especially more so as fathers, if we are fathers. But today I would like to focus on Abraham. I had often wondered why God chose him to be the father of Israel and the father of many nations, through whom all nations would be blessed. Why not Enoch, or Noah, or Job or Melchizedek, etc.? What was special about Abraham?
From the stories in the Old Testament we can tell that God chose certain personalities to accomplish His special purposes. David was “a man after God’s own heart,” thus, he was chosen to be king of Israel, and to him was shown by God where the temple would be built, and its location was also shown to be in “the city of David.” From him also the Messiah would come, the true king of Israel, and the world – the King whose government would have no end. On the other hand, Moses was chosen through whom God would give the Torah (Teaching / Law; the first five books of the Bible). He was known to be the most humble man on earth.
Numbers 12:3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (NIV)
Noah, the man whom God chose to build the ark and to be preserved with his family in the Great Flood, together with the animals, was known as “righteous” in his age, an age of great violence and moral degradation and spiritual defilement. (Genesis 6:9) So, what was special about Abraham?
The Man of Faith
Abraham was a man of faith.
Genesis 15:6 Abram believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.
In fact, because of his faith he became known as God’s friend.
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
So the narrative goes. Abraham is so highly commended in the Bible for his faith that in Hebrews 11, the chapter of the “Faith Hall of Fame,” Abraham’s acts of faith are mentioned in detail over a total of six verses in all, in contrast to the others whose acts of faith are described only in one verse each (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, etc.) Truly, Abraham lived a life of faith as He was challenged by God in many ways to believe Him so that he could fulfill the highly important role of founding the Jewish nation that would bring forth the Savior / Messiah to the world. Henceforth, God was able to fulfill His most important promise to Abraham, that he would be blessed and through him all the peoples of the world would also be blessed. What an overwhelmingly awesome promise! Amidst the pain and sorrows of our earthly curses of poverty, sickness, wars, prejudice and hatred against one another, and one’s self, just think, God said one person will be a blessing amidst all these. That person was Abraham. In fact, for bringing forth the Messiah, Abraham indeed brought THE blessing that exonerates us from all our earthly curses, IF we choose to be exonerated! Such was the pivotal role of Abraham in the history of the world.
Personally, I believe that the most powerful evidence of Abraham’s faith was the fact that he could believe that God would raise Isaac from the dead even if he sacrificed him at the altar in Moriah according to God’s command. For one thing, this was the son he was waiting for, the same son God promised to him through whom all His other promises would be fulfilled, one of which was that of becoming a father of many nations. There had been no event of resurrection performed by God in the history of man in Abraham’s time. The only event known in the Hebrew recorded history related to death and resurrection was the translation of Enoch to Heaven. It was close but it wasn’t exactly the resurrection that Abraham thought God would or could do. Even miraculous physical healing was not ever mentioned before Abraham’s time. In fact, the first event of miraculous physical healing was performed by God through Abraham himself when he prayed for Abimelech and his household and they got healed.
Genesis 20:17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again,
18 for the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech’s household because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
The word “navi” which translates to “prophet” in English is also first mentioned in the Bible in that particular account, and it refers to Abraham. (Hence, I would say, one trait of a prophet is that he / she is able to heal the sick through prayer to God.)
Genesis 20:7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.”
Now as I write this I wonder if the fact that because Abraham saw how God healed Abimelech’s household through his prayer it actually led him to think and believe that if God can heal then He can certainly resurrect a dead body as well. Now this illuminates how Abraham’s journey of faith, as led by God, enabled him to receive the promises that God had given him, one step at a time, from glory to glory. Actually, if we study the life stories of all the important Bible characters we would be able to see how God dealt with them and how they responded and grew in their faith and fulfilled the destiny that God had for them.
The Great Mentor
So, definitely, the most prominent trait that stood out in Abraham’s character was his faith in God.
But there is one other item that recent teachers have been highlighting about Abraham. I first heard this from Sid Roth of “It’s Supernatural!”, a Jewish believer in the Messiah Jesus who is an evangelist, teacher, tv producer and healing minister. He says that this other trait of Abraham is what made God choose Abraham to be the father of Israel.
As a Messianic Jew, that is, a Jewish believer in the Messiah Jesus, and one quite senior at that, I actually kind of look at him as a father figure of the Christian faith for our present-day generation. By taking on the mammoth task of evangelizing the Middle East through television, and the rest of the world, too, he is doing a great job of gathering the people of Israel, and the nations, to a saving relationship with God our Father. So very much in line with the call of Abraham as a blessing to the nations! What he’s saying about Abraham is nothing new. It’s right there in the Bible. But he is the first person I came across who has emphasized this. Maybe other preachers have also taught this, and are teaching this now, but I give credit to him for bringing it to my attention first.
Sid Roth says the secret of why God chose Abraham to be the founder of the nation of Israel is found in the following passage:
17 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?
18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.
19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
The ONMB (One New Man Bible) version says it a bit differently and sheds more light on this passage:
17 And the LORD said, “Will I hide from Abraham that thing which I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him and they will keep the Way of the LORD, to do acts of loving kindness and judgment, so the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him.” (ONMB)
If we combine these two translations, it would mean that God chose Abraham because He knew him, that he would command (teach) his children and household to be faithful in keeping the Way of the LORD. The ONMB footnote says that “acts of loving kindness” means “going beyond the requirement of God to be just, to do right.” So, God knew Abraham would teach his children and his household the Way of the LORD, and go beyond just fulfilling the basic requirement of a righteous and just life, but by being truly pleasing to God. So, did Abraham really teach his children and household well?
We can see how Isaac feared God, that in fact, one of the titles of God in the Bible is “the Fear of Isaac”. (Genesis 31:42, 53)
Isaac was obedient to the point of death, a true shadow of the Lamb of God, Jesus Himself, who would eventually take away the sin of the world. For truly, Isaac was a shadow or type of Christ. He was the Promised Son, and so was Jesus. God demanded that he be sacrificed on an altar in one of the mountains in Moriah. Abraham faithfully complied, wholeheartedly, without delay. The Bible account makes it sound like Isaac was a child when this happened but according to the ONMB (One New Man Bible) translation footnote Isaac was 37 years old and Abraham 137 when this happened. Isaac could easily have escaped from that sacrifice if he wanted to defy his father Abraham. Truly, he was obedient to his father Abraham and to Father God, even unto death, just like Jesus Himself. Here, in this account is exemplified before us the person of Abraham being a shadow or type of Father God Himself. Both are willing to give up their begotten son to fulfill the purposes of God’s plan for the redemption of mankind.
Eventually, Abraham too would become a father of many nations through his sacrifice of Isaac, the Promised Son he had waited for for so long, and as such he foreshadows God the Father who truly is the Father of all nations, being the Creator of the universe and all worlds and of all mankind, and the Father of Jesus Christ, the Promised Son. For being obedient to God the Father to the point of giving up his own beloved son Isaac, Abraham was proven by God, and received the confirmation of the promises God had given him in the beginning – becoming the father of a great nation from whom the Messiah would arise, the father of many nations, and the dominion and supremacy of his descendants.
That Isaac himself lived a faithful life, sired and taught Jacob who eventually would become the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, is evidence enough that Abraham taught his son Isaac well.
Did he teach his household? Oh yes, he did. Even Hagar, a servant in his household and the mother of his son Ishmael had a fear of God though she was of Egyptian descent. I believe she developed that faith through the role modelling of her master Abraham. Hagar’s faith in God was so real that when she tried to run away from Sarai (who was later renamed by God “Sarah”) her mistress, the angel of the LORD appeared to her in the wilderness. He instructed her to return and submit herself to Sarai, was told she would have a son and will have to name him “Ishmael” and that he will also be a great nation, having numerous peoples. Later, when Isaac, the Promised Son, was born to Abraham and Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael were eventually sent away and would have died in the wilderness had not the God of Hagar appear to her again and showed her a well to quench their thirst under the scorching desert sun. (Genesis 16:7-16, Genesis 21:11-21)
Even Ishmael was taught well by Abraham. He was circumcised the same day his father Abraham was, just like all the men in Abraham’s household, when God commanded that all the males in Abraham’s household be circumcised. Ishmael may have been jealous of Isaac, because the latter was made the lawful heir of their father Abraham, and for that he and his mother Hagar were sent away, but Ishmael did not turn into an outright “godless” person like Esau (Hebrews 12:16). His sons became heads of the twelve tribal rulers that God promised He would bless Ishmael with but they did not turn into archenemies of the descendants of Isaac and Jacob, unlike the Moabites and Ammonites (descendants of Lot) and the Edomites (descendants of Esau). They did not figure prominently as hostile to the children of Israel in the Bible account, although eventually the Ishmaelites became known to have spawned the present-day Muslim nations, as they refer to Ishmael as their “father.” Neither did Ishmael remain hostile to Isaac as he even came back at the passing away of Abraham, to bury his father together with Isaac. Genesis 25:18 says, “His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the border of Egypt, as you go toward Asshur. And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers.” (NIV) However, the ONMB states it differently: Genesis 25:18 And they dwelled from Havilah to Shur that is before Egypt, as you go toward Assyria; he died in the presence of all his brothers.
Hence, I would say, Ishmael was well-trained by his father Abraham, too. Nowadays many among the Muslims get dreams of Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah, and because of those dreams they turn to the God, the Father of Jesus Christ and the God of their father Abraham. It is not surprising as Hagar had declared that He is the God who sees her. (Genesis 16:13,14) Indeed, He is the God who sees each one of us, His Creation, especially in our direst need.
He didn’t only teach Hagar and Ishmael. There was also his head servant Eliezer of Damascus. Traditionally, it is believed he was the chief servant of Abraham who was sent by Abraham to the house of his brother Nahor in Aram to bring back a suitable bride for his son Isaac. Eliezer himself had such a real faith in God that when he was tasked of finding a suitable bride for his master’s son Isaac he prayed for God to guide him every step of the way and he was spot on! God guided him so clearly that he actually found the rightful bride Rebekah, granddaughter of Nahor (brother of Abraham), daughter of Bethuel, sister of Laban, the very one intended by God for Isaac. It was a perfect match and Rebekah brought happiness to Isaac and comfort to him after the death of his mother Sarah. (Genesis 24)
Then there were the 318 men born and trained in Abraham’s household. Were they his army? According to the account in Genesis 14 there were these wars between Kedorlaomer king of Elam and his allies and the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah and their allies where Lot, the nephew of Abraham, was caught in the cross-fires and was carried away as booty with all his possessions and his whole household. Abraham and his 318 men pursued the raiding party and successfully brought back Lot, his household and all his goods. It was nothing short of a miraculous rescue. Who were these 318 men?
Genesis 14:14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (NIV)
According to the glossary notes in the One New Man Bible the Hebrew word for “trained” in Genesis 14:14 is “hanikh” and it means “trained or educated” but certainly not trained for war. Apparently, when Abraham, Lot (his nephew), Terah (his father) and Sarah (his wife) moved from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan there were people who came along with them. Whether they all came from Ur or they joined Abraham’s party only along the way (they tarried in Haran / Paddan Aram for a while) is not clear. If they were “trained or educated” by Abraham it looks like they were taught by him about God and His call and purposes for his life. 318 men would mean many more women, children and older men who would be with that contingent. In the ONMB translation they are mentioned as “disciples” not trained men:
Genesis 14:14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his disciples, born in his own house, three hundred eighteen, and pursued them to Dan. (ONMB)
Abraham had disciples! He truly was a teacher / mentor of many! They were not soldiers trained for battle, as this was the only war that Abraham ever fought, but they were shepherds and herdsmen trained by Abraham to have the same faith in His God. The ONMB notes on Abraham even goes as far as saying he was an “evangelist” because those “disciples” were his converts who continued on to follow him, even moving to Canaan with him. Thus, the successful rescue operation! It was a battle of the LORD and it was a miraculous success.
He healed the sick. He had encounters with angels. God spoke to him directly. He led a miraculous combat-rescue operation. I think he was some sort of an Old Testament “apostle”!
After Sarah died Abraham married again and his wife Keturah had six sons, from among whom were, most prominently descended, the Midianites. A daughter of a priest of Midian, Zipporah, later became Moses’ wife and the priest, Jethro (Reuel) became his father-in-law. They were Midianites and were a refuge for Moses at a low point in his life when he was running away from pharaoh. It was at that juncture in time when he was commissioned by God to bring the children of Israel from Egypt back to Canaan. (Exodus 2:15-4:17) That there was a priest of God who was a Midianite whose daughter was suitable to be Moses’ wife, is evidence enough that the sons of Keturah followed in faith and obedience to the God of Abraham, their father. Indeed, Abraham taught them well.
And what about Lot, you would say. If Abraham was a great mentor and role model to this great community he had brought along with him into Canaan as well as among the children he bore with his wives and concubines, why was Lot lost? I believe Lot was mentored, too, but he had his sight on the fertile lands of the valley of Sodom. His end would have turned out glorious as well had he chosen to live within the security of Abraham’s community. He had his own worldly ambitions and it led him astray. This is one example of one who may have been taught well but still missed the way because of his own foolhardiness.
How about Sarah? Was Abraham’s faith a great inspiration to Sarah? She was the one who suggested “helping” God fulfill the promise of an heir by giving her servant girl Hagar to Abraham as wife, thus they had Ishmael, which later caused a lot of problems for their whole family. I would say Sarah didn’t have as much faith as Abraham did? Indeed, God’s promise of an heir was to Abraham, not necessarily a son through her but surely a son of Abraham. Probably she thought the heir didn’t necessarily have to be through her. Thus, she thought of giving her servant girl Hagar to Abraham to be his concubine. However, even later when God visited them and promised that the heir will come through her, she laughed. (Genesis 18:1-15) Sarah may have had lows in her faith as they struggled waiting for their son but the Bible does give her credit for being submissive and respectful to her husband, despite the fact that he exposed her to the danger of lustful and murderous men two times! She did not give in to fear but instead trusted in God to deliver her. (1 Peter 3:5,6)
The Heart Factor
So why was Abraham zealous for the LORD, in obedience and trust in Him and also in teaching others about him? The Bible says he was a friend of God.
Isaiah 41:8 “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend,… (NIV)
2 Chronicles 20:7 O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? (NIV)
According to the ONMB version the Hebrew texts for these verses are rightly translated as:
Isaiah 41:8 But you, Israel, are My servant; Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham who loves Me. (ONMB)
2 Chronicles 20:7 Are you not our God, Who drove out the inhabitants of this land before Your people Israel and gave it forever to the seed of Abraham who loves You? (ONMB)
So there, that’s the secret. Abraham was one who loved God. Everyone is loved by God but not everyone loves God. Again, my first life verse speaks there. Jesus summarizes intimacy with God here:
John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
Abraham heard the command of God and He immediately obeyed. That’s how he loved God and he loved Him so much he couldn’t help but teach whoever was willing to be taught about God. Such was his passion for God and such was God’s favor for him in return. When God shows Himself to you, you get to see His glory! The glory of the LORD is His goodness! (Exodus 33:18,19) Truly, Father Abraham is a great example to us all, especially to us who are fathers!
Happy Father’s Day Week, everyone!
All Scripture references are from the 1984 New International Version, unless otherwise specified.
Morford, W.J. (2011). The One New Man Bible. Travelers Rest, South Carolina: True Potential Publishing, Inc.
If you wish to cite this blog, citation is as follows: PureJoyLand. (2018, Jun 23). Father Abraham [Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://purejoyland.com/2018/06/father-abraham/