The Journeys and Tests of Abraham – A Bible Lesson

  • Abraham believed in One God above nature.
  • Before Abraham they only believed in the God known in nature.
  • God is also found in nature as well as above nature.

In synagogues throughout the world this week on the Sabbath will be read the story of Abraham in Genesis:12.  God appeared to Abraham and gave him instructions to leave his native country, the land of his father and go to Israel.  He said to Abraham I will make from you a great nation, I will bless you, and make your name great, you will be for the world a blessing, those that bless you will be blessed, those that curse you shall be cursed, in you all the families of the world will be blessed.

At the age of 75-years old he began his journey with his wife Sarah and his brother’s son Lot. When he reached the land of Israel God again appeared to him saying, To your seed I will give this land. He traveled throughout the land of Israel. It was a test of faith to Abraham to make this trip.  Abraham bravely took this journey into a new land to attempt to make a new life in the Land of Israel. God instructed him to make this journey. It may have been more profitable for him to stay in his father’s land but he had faith that everything would work out and God would help him.

Abraham came to Israel at a bad time. There was a famine in the land of Israel.  The conditions of life in Israel were unbearable and life threatening. He was forced to leave Israel and he went down to Egypt where life conditions were better. He went with his beautiful wife Sarah in a land of strangers. In those days the people when they saw a beautiful woman who belonged to someone else, if they wanted her they would kill her husband and take her. Abraham did not want to die.  He knew Sarah was very beautiful and his life was in danger.

Pharaoh the king of Egypt received news that a beautiful woman had come into their land, and asked his sons his princes to bring her to his palace. Abraham instructed Sarah to tell Pharaoh that she was his sister that he would not be murdered. Pharaoh took Sarah as one of his wives and treated Abraham generously giving him sheep, oxen, asses, camels and servants.

God brought a plague on the house of Pharaoh that he had taken innocently Sarah the wife of Abraham. He realized that his suffering was a result of taking the wife of Abraham. He asked Abraham “Why didn’t you tell me that she was your wife?”  He sent Abraham away with all his possessions. Abraham returned to the land of Israel rich in cattle, silver and in gold which he acquired in Egypt.

A circumcision being done in central Asia.

From this story can be learned several lessons for every person.

Abraham left on his journey at the age of 75-years old. People today when they reach 50 years old feel that it is too late to start their life again in a new direction. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches that a person should never feel old.

When you take on a new project all beginnings are difficult. Abraham left his father’s home and journeyed Israel and was immediately faced with a famine and left Israel to go to Egypt. It is easy to give up on a new career or a new marriage faced with setbacks. Be patient and pray to God for help. Sometimes in life we have to do things which we may regret. Abraham had to lie to Pharaoh and say Sarah was his sister. With the help of God everything is possible.

Abraham became wealthy in Egypt in a peculiar way. There is in life Mazel or Luck and success can come in many ways. We make plans how to succeed and later find out other ways of achieving success. The blessing of God brings wealth and success more than through our own planning.

Abraham had many other tests of faith in his life. He was faced with opposition on all sides. There were wars being fought in Israel. Abraham was in the middle of these battles. He had faith in God and God promised him, “Fear not Avram. I am your shield, your reward will be very great.”

In another prophecy God came to Abraham, “Your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs. And shall serve them; and they will afflict them for four hundred years. Afterwards I will they shall come out with great abundance. To your seed I will give this land.”  Already it had been prophesized that the Jewish people would leave Israel and go down to Egypt where they would be taken as slaves for a long period of time until Moses would come to redeem them. They would be brought out of Egypt by the hand of God to settle in the Land of Israel.

Abraham and Sarah did not have any children. They were already advanced in age. God gave Abraham a handmaid Hagar who gave him his first child Ishmael who he was told would become a great nation.  Then at the age of 99 years old and Sarah was 90 years old they had another son Isaac who became the father of the Jewish people. Abraham circumcised Ishmael and all his servants when they became part of his covenant. Ishmael was 13 years old when he was circumcised. When Isaac was born he was circumcised on the eighth day after birth which is the Jewish custom. As child Abraham was given the name Avram. Through his merits God added to his name a letter of merit that he would forever be called Abraham.

We see the beginning of rivalry between the nation of Ishmael and the nation of Israel. Both children were promised to become great nations.

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David Wexelman

Rabbi David Wexelman is the  author of five books on the topics of World Unity and Peace, and Progressive Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Wexelman is a member of the American Friends of Maccabee, a charitable organization helping the poor in the United States and in Israel.  Donations are tax deductible in the USA.

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