A FAMILY PORTRAIT (Part 1)
“This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood … Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah. After he begot Terah … Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot … Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai … But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there … Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 11:10-12:3 (truncated)
Have you ever wondered why the Bible makes such a big deal of genealogies? I’m sure most evangelicals just skim over them as they read through the Bible. I’m, of course, presuming that most evangelicals read through their Bibles! Anyhow, what do you do when you get to one of these genealogies such as the one (abbreviated) above? Remember 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
So then, what benefit to us is a family tree of a bunch of people who died thousands of years ago? Well, for one it shows that Christianity is a religion that deals with real flesh and blood people. However, more than that, genealogies in the Bible demonstrate continuity.
The Bible isn’t just a book of “wise sayings” though it is full of “wise sayings” (e.g., Proverbs). No! The Bible is also the record of the History of Redemption.
The History of Redemption begins with the First Man Adam and ends with the last Adam Jesus Christ. Luke chapter three traces the lineage of Jesus as to His humanity, from Mary through her father Heli all the way back to Adam the son of God. I’ll just mention in passing that Matthew in his Gospel tells us that the father of Joseph, Mary’s husband is called Jacob. I know it’s extra-Biblical, but the Jewish Talmud states that Mary’s father’s name was Heli. Therefore, I believe Luke’s Gospel records the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you and I could trace our roots all the way back to Adam? Then we would know where we’ve come from! But then again, it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out all of us must be descended from Adam! If Adam was the first man then we must be related to him. And of course the Bible tells us that all of us are. However, I’m afraid that to look at Adam is to look at Bad News because the Bible tells us that we all died in Adam. The whole of humanity died to God when Adam our earthly father sinned against God (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21; 22).
So, after that brief introduction, let’s get on with it. In the following we’re being introduced to Abraham, or “Abram” as he’s known here. (The LORD changed his name from Abram to Abraham later). Anyway, we’ve been given some of his family history. He’s descended from Shem who was one of Noah’s three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth). And just as an aside, the name Semitic in “Semitic Peoples” comes from the name “Shem.” The Old Testament historian Albert Edersheim says,
Regarding the division of earth among his three sons, [ie, the sons of Noah], it may be said generally, that Asia was given to Shem, Africa to Ham, and Europe to Japheth.
Presumably Albert Edersheim took the Tower of Babel into consideration when he wrote that. Because, as you know, it was after that episode that God scattered man from there “abroad over the face of all the earth” Genesis 11:9b.
So, we pick up the story, His-story, the history of Redemption in a place called Ur of the Chaldeans. Abraham dwelt there with his family when the Lord said to him Genesis 12:1, “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land I will show you.”
Let us look at a couple of things in general in the following, The Family Tree and The Family Trek. The general gist of what we’re looking at is this: It’s good to know where you’ve come from, but it’s even better to know where you’re going!
The Family Tree
A family tree lets you know where you have come from. It never ceases to amaze me the way some Australians brag about some of their ancestors. I mean everywhere else in the world they try to hide the skeletons in the closet! But not in Australia! Lots of Australians are proud of the fact that they’re great grandfather or whatever was a convict. And when you look around you today it’s not hard to see that many are trying hard to keep the family tradition alive!
Crime always seems to be on the increase. However, I don’t know if you’ve noticed that something else is on the increase. More and more people, it would seem, are tracing their family tree. I have an Australian relative who was tracing her family tree. She was in Scotland and England looking at old grave-stones and church records. I suppose knowing the history of your family gives you a sense of belonging. It’s nice to know where you’ve come from, who your family is. Just ask someone who was adopted as a child if they’d like to know who their real family was, but what’s the LORD doing with Abram here? Well, He’s going to make a new family out of him.
In fact we’re told in Genesis 12:2 that the LORD is going to make a great nation out of Abram. Before the Flood there had been two great families: The Family of Cain and the Family of Seth. One family was the seed of the serpent and the other the seed of the woman. You’ll remember the LORD said to the serpent after the fall, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.” Genesis 3:15a.
We know that the ultimate Seed of the woman is the last Adam Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). However, Jesus was a long way ahead in the future. So, after the Flood nations began to form from Noah’s three sons. And through the loins of Shem eventually Abram arrived in the year 2165 BC according to one reputable scholar.
The LORD here has chosen Abram and he is going to make him into a great nation. However, we see that there’s a little snag back in Genesis 11:30, “But Sarai was barren; she had no child.” Abram’s wife Sarai was unable to give Abram any children. A slight technical difficulty if there ever was one! It makes you wonder why God didn’t choose a man whose wife could conceive. However, as the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “With God nothing will be impossible.”
I remember reading a book by a man by the name of Curtis Crenshaw. He dedicated the book to his son with these words,
Every father wants a son; God has granted Me one. Naturally he has my name. My constant prayer for him is that he will stay in the truth of God’s Word, not be side-tracked into some false gospel, and that we shall spend eternity together in heaven. He is a joy to my heart.
Abraham too wanted a son and so did his wife Sarah. However, it was going to take a miracle from God for this to happen. We’ll see also up ahead that Abraham and Sarah occasionally got side-tracked. Occasionally they got in trouble by venturing from the truth of God’s Word. However, the LORD was ever faithful to keep bringing them back onto the straight and narrow. But just before we move onto our second point let me ask you this question: Those of you who have done your family tree, Have you noticed that most, if not all your ancestors have one thing in common? They’re all dead!
All of Abram’s ancestors were dead and his father Terah was about to die in a place called Haran. Some of Abraham’s ancestors lived to good old ages. But nevertheless, to look at your family tree is to look at a bunch of dead rellies! And more people today are looking among their dead relatives as they search for meaning.
Some of our Asian neighbours even worship their dead ancestors. More and more today are asking the question: Who am I and where do I come from? Albeit in general terms, but the Bible answers those questions for us. You can look at all the grave stones you want as you seek to discover who you are. You can look at all the church records, all the Baptismal Rolls, all the Marriage Records, all the Obituaries, yes obituaries. You can look in all of these places but all your ancestors, like those of Abraham, are dead. All you’re doing is looking at records of a bunch of dead people in the pages of human history.
We’re all descended from Adam and we’re all spiritually dead in Adam. There’s no life in obituaries, there is no life in church records. There is no life carved on the head-stones of the graves of your dead relatives. And there’s a head-stone somewhere waiting for your name! There’s no life in these things, but there is life in the pages of Redemptive History. And that’s what the story of Abraham is all about – life! His family tree contained a bunch of dead people. He was the end of the line (or so it seemed). His family line was about to end with him (his wife couldn’t bear him any children). He knew from whence he had come, a long line of dead people, or was it? What about Enoch who was and then was not? What about your Enochs? What about your Seths? There’s something special about Abram’s genealogy. However, it wasn’t so much as to where it came from but more to do with where it was leading. It’s a good thing to know where you’ve come from but it’s even better to know where you’re going.