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The materials for the facts of the life of Abraham are found in Holy Scripture, in the Book of Genesis, and in some of the later writings. I have taken it for granted that these statements are authentic, and have not thought it necessary to follow Ewald and his school in distinguishing the various authors of them, assigning this to the Book of origins, and that to the First narrator, and that to the Second, and so on. Nor have I esteemed the details thus given as accretions that have grown up round a great central figure in the lapse of centuries, the outcome of hero-worship, the result of a natural desire to accumulate on a great forefather anything that would tend to elevate his personal character or exalt the favour with which he was regarded by God. The narrative appears to me to be, consistent, derived doubtless from different sources, but worked up by the compiler into a fairly complete biography, which, taken in conjunction with hints afforded by the later Scriptures, leaves on the mind a finished picture of the Father of the Faithful. Accessory to the Scripture account are the history of Josephus and some treatises of Philo, which contain additional facts more or less mythical, derived from certain histories or Jewish tradition. Eusebius in his "Praeparatio Evangelica", adds some circumstances, and a. few of the Fathers afford a little further information, Ephraem Syrus is said to have composed a work on Abraham's sojourn in Egypt, which however, if existing in MS., has not been published. A plentiful crop of legends has, as was natural, risen around the true story of this celebrated man. Many of these will be found in The Book of Jubilees, which under the name of Kyfale has been discovered in an Abyssinian dress, and translated in Ewald's Jahrbucher, II. and III. The most copious collection, however, gathered from the Talmud and other sources, has been made by Beer in his Leben Abraham’s nach Auffassung der jüdischen Sage. The Koran has contributed largely to this legendary lore. Other Mussulman traditions are found in Weil's work, The Bible, the Koran, and the Talmud. Immense assistance to the understanding of the various phases of the Patriarch's life has been derived from the interpretations of the cuneiform inscriptions of the East and the hieroglyphs of Egypt, embodied in the works of Schrader, G. Smith, Rawlinson, Sayce, Brugsch, and others. Topography is cleared by the travels of Robinson, Thomson, Stanley, Tristram, Loftus, Porter, Malan, etc., and the publications of the Palestine Exploration Fund. The commentaries of Kalisch; Delitzsch, and especially Dillmann, afford most valuable information. Of monographs on this subject very few exist. The best and most recent is that by Dr. Oswald Dykes, Abraham, the Friend of God. The Rev. R. Allen's work, Abraham ; His Life and Times, as by a Contemporary, is a romance founded on reliable materials, but extending only to the arrival at Haran. The Rev. H. Blunt published some Lectures on Abraham in 1831, and the Hon. L. J. Barrington a book entitled “From Ur to Machpelah”; but these are rather homiletic and edificatory than scientific. It is almost unnecessary to add that the Dictionaries of the Bible, such as those of Herzog, Winer, Smith, Kitto, and McClintock and Strong, contain epitomes of most necessary information, with references to other works which bear on the subject.

Whether Abraham was acquainted or not with the art of writing (and there is no certain evidence on either side), there is certainly no reason why he should not have known it. His contemporaries at Ur inscribed their names on the bricks of which they built their temples ; there is writing in Egypt of earlier date than his time; his great-grandson, Judah, possessed a signet ring, which, doubtless, as in the case of those discovered in Chaldean tombs, was engraved with a device and inscription. It is not, then, altogether beyond the bounds of possibility that he transmitted the events of his life by written documents to his descendants. But even without such memorials, oral tradition may easily have handed down the wonderful incidents of his career to a more literary age, and thence to Moses. Isaac was seventy-five years old when his father died; Jacob had lived for the first fifteen years of his life in daily intercourse with his grandfather, who must have often recounted to the gentle boy the leading events that had befallen him; and this narrative must have been continually repeated by Isaac, whose death anticipated that of his son only by some five and twenty years. Thus, when Jacob arrived in Egypt, he carried with him the stories which he had received from his grandfather and father, and during the seventeen years of his life in that country he could impart the family traditions to his sons and grandsons, who would have found no difficulty in committing them to writing in a land where literature flourished, and of whose chief seat of learning, On, Joseph himself was a denizen. Granted that Moses was the chief composer of the Pentateuch, there is no difficulty in believing that the history which he relates was transmitted to him in an authentic form, and that he had good warrant for his wonderful story.





CHAPTER 1. Abram’s Birthplace

Ur; Chaldea: its aspect; Former fertility; Religion of its in­habitants ; Population ; Civilization—Abram bom—His family— Selection of a centre of true religion—Legends of Abram's early life—Truth underlying such myths.

CHAPTER 2. First Call

Causes of the migration—The call; its nature ; Ahram’s obedience—Journey from Ur to Haran—Erech—Calneh—Babylon— Sepharvaim—Ivah—Hena—The river Habor—Haran ; its neigh­bourhood—Arrival of Nahor —Death of Terah.

CHAPTER 3. Second Call

The second call with its promise — Departure from Haran ; necessity of this movement—Route to Canaan—Tadmor ; Kuryetein ; Damascus—Arrival in Canaan—Encampment at Morph— Shechem described.

CHAPTER IV. The Promised Land

Canaan; the name; Language then spoken—Its inhabitants; Aborigines; Canaanites proper; Amorites; Hittites; Perizzites; Philistines — Their religion — Fertility and natural features of the country; its capabilities — Characteristics of the Canaanitish tribes — The Fellaheen — Abram’s life — New promise — Selection of Canaan as the cradle of true religion — Bethel.

CHAPTER 5. Egypt

Famine in Canaan — Abram in Egypt — Condition of that country — The Hyksos; their civilization — Abram’s policy — Sarai taken to Pharaoh’s house ; rescued by God’s intervention.

CHAPTER 6. Separation

Return to Canaan — Lot separates from Abram — The Cities of the Plain — Renewal of promise at Bethel — Residence at Hebron — Description of the locality — Hittite allies.

CHAPTER 7. Chedorlaomer

Invasion from Shinar — Kings engaged — Chedorlaomer ; his expedition against the West — Battle in the vale of Siddim — Defeat of the Sodomites and capture of Lot — His rescue by Abram — Dan — The King of Sodom — Melchizedek ; Abram's dealings with him ; his office and typical character.

CHAPTER 8. The Covenant

A vision bringing comfort — Promise of a son and numerous posterity — Abram’s faith counted for righteousness — Jehovah's covenant with him — Nature of,such covenant — Mode of ratification — Prophecy of the future — Chronology of the period of four hundred years — Dispossession and destruction of the Canaanites — Boundaries of the Promised Land — Tribes to be dispossessed.

CHAPTER 9. Hagar—Circumcision

Sarai’s impatience — She gives to Abram Hagar as secondary wife — Concnbinage — Hagar a type — Her flight — She is met by the angel of the Lord — Promise of a son — Character of the Ishmaelites — Ishmael born — Renewal of the covenant — Abram’s name changed — Extension of the promise — Circumcision ; its nature and signification — The numbers “seven” and “eight’’ — Sarai’s name changed — Promise of a son from her.

CHAPTER 10. Sodom

Three heavenly visitors — Renewed promise of a son to Sarah — Abraham intercedes for Sodom — Ramet-el-Khalil — Destruction of the Cities of the Plain — Testimonies, of ancient writers — Physical agents of the catastrophe — Site of the five cities —Treatment of the angels in Sodom — Lot saved — Lot’s wife — Catastrophe widely reported — Subsequent history of Lot — Moabites and Ammonites - Lot called “righteous.”

CHAPTER 11. Gerar and Beersheba

Removal to Gerar — Philistines — Abraham's evasion — Sarah taken by Abimelech ; saved by God’s interposition — Abimelech’s conduct — His rebuke — Beersheba — Treaty between Abimelech and Abraham — Origin of the name Beersheba — Isaac born ; signification of his name — Ishmael’s conduct — He and his mother cast out — Reason of this expulsion — Peril in the wilderness ; relieved by the angel of God — Ishmael’s subsequent history — Tribes sprung from him.

CHAPTER 12. Temptation

The great trial — Abraham commanded to sacrifice his son — The command examined — Objections answered — Meaning of the trial — Human sacrifice — Explanation by Bishop Horsley and others — Rationalistic views — Jewish legends — Abraham obeys — Moriah — The sacrifice — The knife arrested — Substitution — Typical import — Reward — The future of the promise — Jehovah-Jireb.

CHAPTER 13. Machpelah

Sarah dies; her character — Burial-places — Abraham buys Machpelah — The contract — Money — Mosque of Hebron and Abraham’s burial-place described — Life beyond the grave and resurrection of the body.

CHAPTER 14. Isaac’s Marriage

Choice of wife for Isaac — The steward’s mission — His promise and oath ; arrival at Haran ; simple faith — The sign — Rebekah — Laban — Consent obtained — Rebekah accompanies the steward — Bethuel — Meeting of Isaac and Rebekah — Marriage — Esau and Jacob born — Contrast of the twins.

CHAPTER 15. Closing Years—Death

Marriage with Keturah ; difficulties in connection therewith — Tribes sprung from this union — Abraham dies — His burial — The friend of God — General view of his character.






Chaldaea : its aspect; Former fertility ; Religion of its Inhabitant Population; Civilization — Abram born — His family — Selection of a centre of true religion — Legends of Abram's early life — Truth underlying such myths.



Some five thousand years ago, when civilization first visited the alluvial plain of Babylon, and the Babylonian monarchy came into existence, the Persian Gulf extended inward far beyond its present limits, and sites now more than a hundred miles distant from the sea were then close to the coast, and enjoyed all the advantages and participated in all the dangers of such proximity. The alluvium brought down by the two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, encroaches on the gulf with marvellous rapidity. The present rate of increase is estimated at one mile every seventy years, and it is upon grounds satisfactory to geologists considered that the average growth during the historic period has been as much as a mile in every thirty years. We must take this fact into account in estimating the extent of the country called Chaldea and the position of many of its towns. Among the cities which were thus placed was that which is called in the Bible “Ur of the Chaldees,” now known as Mugheir, situated on the right bank of the Euphrates, some six miles distant from the stream, and nearly opposite the point where the river Shat-el-Hie, which comes from the Tigris, joins the Euphrates. The name Ur, or Uru, is the Semitic form of the Accadian eri, meaning “city,” and was probably given to this place as being the most important in the locality or as the first settled dwelling of its once roving inhabitants. It was, in fact, “the capital of one of the oldest of the pre-Semitic dynasties, though it had probably passed into the hands of the Semitic Casdim” (Chaldees) before this time. Of course, this adjunct, Casdim, does not appertain to the original name, but is an explanation added by the Hebrew narrator. The modern name of this place means “the bitumined,” and is appropriate owing to the quantity of bitumen which is found in the neighbourhood. If it was not actually on the coast, it was placed so low down the Euphrates as to be practically a maritime town and to serve as the port of Babylonia. The native inscriptions constantly speak of the ships of Ur and of the brisk commerce carried on by its inhabitants. It was a city of great importance, and BC 2000 was the capital of a powerful monarch called Urukh, or Lig-Bagas (for the reading is uncertain), who founded the great temple dedicated to the moon-god, Hurki, the remains of which are still to be seen. This monarch was an independent sovereign, and exercised a sway over a tract of country extending as far north as Niffer, the ancient Calneh. The magnificence of his buildings and the extent of his constructive operations prove him to have possessed large resources and high conceptions. A mistaken tradition, followed by many commentators ancient and modern, identified Ur with the Greek Edessa, the modern Orfa, which seems to have had the name Orrha at one time. This city, situated in Upper Mesopotamia, which became famous in Christian times as the capital of that king Abgarus who is supposed to have written a letter to Christ, still retains some traditions of Abraham in the names of its mosque and lake. But all the most probable notices that have come down to us place Ur in Chaldea proper, the alluvial country on the Persian Gulf; and there can be no reasonable doubt that Mugheir which, as the inscriptions witness, bore the exact name of Ur, or Hur, was the birthplace of Abram.

Even the tradition quoted by Eusebius from Eupolemus, a pre-Christian Greek historian, that Ur, or Uria as he called it, is the Babylonian city Camarina, or Chaldaeopolis, points to the same view; for, as Professor Rawlinson remarks, these names make it a city of the moon-god, which, as we have seen, was the case with Ur. The remains of the town consist of a series of low mounds disposed in an oval shape, measuring about two miles in extent, and dominated by that on which the temple was erected, which is very conspicuous, rising some seventy feet above the plain. This temple is built of large bricks, raised on a basement of great size, and facing the cardinal points. Originally this basement rose in receding stages, on the highest of which was placed the shrine containing the image of the god. It was surrounded by date groves of luxuriant growth ; and from its huge size and towering height, the building was conspicuous from all parts of the city, and compelled every inhabitant and wayfarer to recognize the worship of Hurki, the great moon­god. There is a peculiarity in the building which confirms the fact gathered from the inscriptions, that it was the work of two different monarchs, the earliest of whom is supposed to have reigned about B.C. 2200. In the lower stage the bricks are cemented with bitumen, in the upper with lime mortar. The cylinders recording the name of the founder were found, as usually in Chaldean buildings, deposited at the corners.

Among the edifices raised by the builder of this temple was a palace called the house of Rubu-tsiru, “the supreme prince,” the ruins of which are still to be traced. What this monarch left uncompleted his son Dungi finished; and this son extended his father’s kingdom northward, so that he has left traces of his handiwork in the rebuilding of the temple of Erech, and in a temple which he erected at Babylon. It was probably in his time that Abram was born.

The present appearance of Chaldaea is singularly monotonous and uninteresting. Being strictly an alluvial region, owing its existence to the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, it is a level plain, unrelieved by mountain or hill. But its amazing fertility is unquestioned, and with a teeming population and under a system of high cultivation, it must have presented a striking contrast to its present barren and dispeopled condition. The dreary stretches of sandy waste were once well watered and cultivated, and were mines of wealth to the industrious peasant. Herodotus, who himself visited the country, thus describes its fecundity: “The land is but little watered by rain, but the root of the corn is nourished by other means. It is fed by the river, not by its overflow, as in Egypt, but by artificial irrigation. No part of the known world is so fruitful in grain. No attempt, indeed, is made to grow the fig, the vine, or the olive; but in grain it is so fruitful as to yield commonly two hundred-fold, and in the best seasons even three hundred-fold. Wheat and barley often carry a blade of four fingers in breadth. As for millet and sesame I shall not say, though within my own knowledge, to what a surprising height they grow ; for I am not ignorant that what I have already said concerning the produce of Babylonia must seem incredible to those who have never visited the country. The whole plain is covered with palm trees, most of them bearing fruit, and from them they make bread, wine, and honey.” Modern travellers recognize the productive powers of the soil while deploring the neglect and idleness which have led to its present miserable condition. The two great natural products are the wheat plant and the date palm. The former, it is said, grew so rankly that it was mown twice, and then fed off by cattle, in order to check its luxuriance and induce it to run to ear. The beautiful date palm gives a charm to the monotonous landscape, which in that country can scarcely be overestimated. Its utility is proverbial, and it was applied to more purposes than Herodotus mentions. Besides furnishing the inhabitants with bread from its fruit and pith, wine and honey from its sap, it supplied firing, ropes, vinegar, and a famous mash for fattening cattle. Fruits, such as pome­granates, apples, grapes, and tamarisks, were abundant; but the country produced great forest trees ; and the cypress, acacia, and palm could alone be encountered in many days’ journey. To supply this lack of timber the Chaldeans had recourse to the enormous reeds which are almost peculiar to this region, and of which to this day the Arabs make both houses and boats. Reeds were also used in constructing some of the great Chaldean buildings. They were placed in the form of matting as a foundation for successive layers of bricks, and by projecting beyond the external surface served for a time to protect the earthen mass from disintegration. The country produced no stone for building ; if any was used, it had to be imported or conveyed from a long distance down the rivers. But excellent clay was everywhere found, and sun-dried bricks cemented with bitumen formed the usual material from which the edifices were constructed.

The religion of the Chaldeans was markedly polytheistic, and seems to have been developed from the worship of the celestial bodies. But it was not as mere powers of nature that these were adored, but as real persons with a history and character, many of whom bear a striking resemblance to the personages of classical mythology. The principal deity is II (the Hebrew ET) or Ra; then follows a triad, Ana, Bil, or Belus, and Hea or Hoa, who correspond partly in attributes to the classical Pluto, Jupiter, and Neptune, and have each their wife. Another triad succeeds; accompanied by female powers or wives, viz., Vul or Iva, Shamas, San, or Sansi (the Sun), and Sin or Hurki (the Moon). The predominating influence of Ur caused the worship of the moon-god (whose name means the Protector of the land) to extend far and wide, and to eclipse the fame of Shamas (the Sun) in most towns of Babylonia. Next in order comes a group of five minor deities, representatives of the five planets respectively, Nin or Ninip (Saturn), Bel-Merodach (Jupiter), Nergal (Mars), Ishtar or Nana (Venus), and Nebo (Mercury). These principal gods are followed by numerous divinities of the second and third order, which at present it is impossible to describe or classify. The older commentaries, both Jewish and patristic, attributed to the Chaldeans the worship of fire, and some legends connected with Abraham are based on this assumption. But there is no trace of this practice in the monumental records; and the writers who allude to it in connection with Ur seem to confound the Magian tenets prevalent in Media and Persia with those held by other Eastern nations. Of the degraded nature of the Chaldean religion there can be no doubt. However poetically the popular faith was treated by men of polish and learning, and although the received mythology was moulded into graceful forms vying with the best creations of Greek and Roman story, yet the mass of men never rose to these higher conceptions. Believing that their own destinies and the forces of nature were controlled by capricious deities without moral sense, they resorted to propitiatory sacrifices and prayers where they ought to have used prudence and ordinary means, and neglected many sciences and arts which otherwise they would have studied and practised. Thus instead of seeking to cure disease or to alleviate pain by the use of medicines or surgical appliances, they resorted to charms and spells. A great portion of Babylonian literature now extant is composed of formulae for warding off disease and sorcery, for bewitching people, or for exorcising evil influences. There are also many treatises on omens and divination. From all this we gather that the popular religion was of a base and sensual type, one that tended to degrade, rather than to elevate, its adherents.

The population of Chaldaea was of a mixed origin, but chiefly of Cushite descent, as the Bible witnesses. Modern investigators have supposed that Babylonia was first peopled by Turanian tribes (allied to the Turks and Tartars of the present day), who invented the cuneiform system of writing, and that they were conquered and dispossessed by the Semites. Whether this be true or not, it is certain, says Professor Sayce, that these early settlers s poke, as those tribes did, an agglutinative language, that is, a language in which grammatical relations are formed not by inflections, but by the attachment of independent words, as e.g. of pronouns to verbs to from the conjugation, and of prepositions to substantives to form declension. This was allied to the dialects spoken in Elam, and it is probable that the Accadian language, as it is called, was the medium of communication between the various peoples of a very wide district on the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. At Ur, one of the primitive capitals, as the great port of the country, was to be found a collection of many nationalities. The ships of Ur traded with Ethiopia and the lands bordering on the Red Sea, which term included both the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean; and the people were thus brought into contact with foreign nations, and many settlers from distant countries doubtless took up their abode in the city. One Semitic family we know settled there, the family from which sprung Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, the friend of God, whose story we have to tell. The remote ancestor of this family was Eber, who descended through Arphaxad from Shem. Arphaxad, as the name of a country, represents a region in the north of Assyria, on the borders of Armenia; from this region the Hebrews, or posterity of Eber, migrated southward. The usual cause of such like emigrations is doubtless that restless love of change and desire for new fields of enterprise which are implanted in man for wise purposes. We do not know the particular impulse which led these Shemites, whose predilections were for a pastoral life, thus to become inhabitants of a busy, bustling, unquiet city. If they brought with them their simple habits, they must have felt utterly alien in the midst of the commerce, the arts, and civilization, of this seaport The profligate idol worship which here met their observation, even if they too soon learned to acquiesce in it, must at first have seemed an outrage on their own pure religious tradition. Under the open heaven, in the free air of the plain, they could have worshipped the Lord as their forefather Noah had worshipped; here the atmosphere was noxious with idolatrous associations, and everything around tended to degrade their higher conceptions and to facilitate the descent to false religion.

The inhabitants of Chaldea, however, were not confined to cities. There was an agricultural as well as an urban class ; and there was, besides these, also a nomadic population who dwelt in tents, and roamed the country with their flocks and herds. It is very likely that Terah’s clan was of the latter class, and that the name “Ur” included the neighbouring district. The Chaldeans were a peaceable nation, and never, as far as we know, aspired to foreign conquest and the foundation of one great empire till the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Being not distracted by schemes of ambition, they turned their attention to the arts of peace, and arrived at a high pitch of civilization even in very early times. Their achievements in building and sculpture witness for themselves after four thousand years. The lucidity of the atmosphere, where the stars rather blaze than shine, led to the study of the heavenly bodies; and astronomy, with its kindred science of astrology, received the greatest care at the hands of the learned class. Mathematics, law, government, were duly studied and reduced to system; weaving, metal-working, gem-engraving, were practised with remarkable skill. Writing was well known, and libraries were collected, the books being tablets of clay on which letters were impressed. One has always been accustomed to picture the patriarch Abraham dressed in garments like the sheikhs of the desert, and from engravings on seals which have been found among the debris of ruined buildings, we see that at this time long flowing robes, richly embroidered, were used by the chiefs of the country.

Such was Chaldea. In this highly civilized but idolatrous land, amid this remarkable people, and with such surroundings, Abram was born, some two thousand or more years before the Christian era. He appears to have been the youngest of three brothers, the sons of Terah, who is reckoned the tenth in descent from Noah, as Noah is accounted the tenth in descent from Adam. That Abram in the genealogy is named before his brothers, Nahor and Haran, may be explained by the fact that he was the heir of God’s promises, and the personage whose history was of such vast importance that the rights of primogeniture were overborne by this consideration. The eldest of the three was probably Haran, as Nahor married his daughter Milcah, and Abram (as it is supposed) his other daughter Iscah or Sarai, who was ten years younger than her husband. Another argument for the same fact may be found in the marriage of Abraham’s son Isaac to Rebecca, the granddaughter of Nahor by the youngest of his eight sons. Unless we suppose that Abraham was greatly the junior of Haran, such a marriage would suggest a very remarkable disparity of years, which we know did not exist. But taking Nahor as the eldest son, born when Terah was seventy years old, and remembering that Terah died at the age of two hundred and five when Abram was seventy-five, we find that his father was one hundred and thirty years of age when Abram was born.

The name he bore has been recognized in the form Abu-ramu, “the exalted father,” in some of the early Babylonian contract­tablets; just as Sarah is the Assyrian Sarrat, “queen,” and Milcah is “princess” in the same language.

Terah seems to have been an idolater; Joshua speaks of him and his family as worshipping other gods; and we find his descendant Laban possessed of “images” or teraphim, and calling them his gods, the honouring of which, whether they were used for purposes of divination and magic, or regarded as guarantees of domestic prosperity, showed an amount of ignorance and superstition, incompatible with sincere worship of the true God.

That the knowledge of the true God had become greatly obscured even in Noah’s time is certain from the incident of the building of Babel; deterioration once begun is not easily arrested; rather, its tendency is to develope itself in grosser and deadlier forms. Even the descendants of Shem, who had longest retained the pure spirit of religion, had gone astray; every century that passed bore witness to the decay of piety and of the knowledge of God. Some new intervention was required. To avert this growing degeneracy God designed to choose out a family which should keep alive true religion, be the receptacle of Divine communication, and finally give to a fallen world the seed of the woman to be its Redeemer. The family thus selected was that of Terah, and the individual member who was ordained to receive the revelation was Abram. From this centre celestial light was to radiate. As far as we know, from the time of “Noah the Divine voice had not been heard; the heavens had not sent forth a visitant to earth; the pure faith had been left to the support of tradition. There was a pause in the outward communication; there was no open vision. And men had already swerved aside; they had learned to worship and serve the creature instead of the Creator; they had indeed sunk into creature worship; they had refused that apprehension of God which the light of conscience and the physical universe might have taught; and losing sight of the unity and spirituality of the Divine Being, they became the slaves of their own lusts, fell into unnameable sensualities, and imagined deities of like character with their own degraded instincts.” The lesson of the Flood had lost its power, and a new revelation was needed, if the knowledge of God was not to be wholly obliterated. The method by which God works is that which is always found most efficacious, which is true in nature as in grace—namely, from within outwards, from a nucleus to its surroundings. The patriarchal principle which obtained so largely in primitive times afforded great facilities for the separation of one family for this purpose. The distinctions of race and clan and tribe were clearly marked out and maintained, and it was no hard task to observe them and keep them unviolated. Looking forward to this future selection Noah had said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem”. From this individual among his sons the knowledge of Jehovah should spread to Ham and Japheth, and unto the utmost parts of the earth. It was in view of this choice of a people to be the bearers of salvation that Moses sang;

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance.

When He separated the children of men,

He set the bounds of the peoples

According to the number of the children of Israel.

Not that God left Himself without witness in the rest of the world. Natural religion, the law of conscience, moral government, were not lost; there was still light, if men chose to see it and guide their way by it. We learn in the case of Melchizedek and Balaam that true religion overpassed the limits of the single family, and found a home in most unlikely spots. The Canaanites were of Hamitic descent, yet among them traces of the old monotheistic faith declared themselves. But God thought fit to place the germ of the plant, which should grow into a great tree overshadowing all nations, in one narrow plot, that there it might be carefully tended and watered and cultivated, sheltered from harm, exposed to ripening influences, and in the end bring forth much fruit. Jewish bigotry indeed narrowed the blessing to Abram’s natural descendants, but to the patriarch himself the promise was not so limited; to him in progressive revelation it was unfolded that all the world should share in the favour and reap the benefits of God’s merciful condescension.

Many legends touching Abram’s early life are found in the writings of Jew and Moslem, and possibly have some historical basis on which they were erected. The “Book of Jubilees” tells how that from his early years he was filled with loathing for the vices of those among whom he lived. When only fourteen, he separated himself from his father, refusing to worship his idols, and praying to the great Creator to save him from being led astray by the evil practices of his countrymen. At his command, and reverencing his sanctity; the ravens refrained from devouring the seed that was sown in the fields; more than this, he improved upon the practice of scattering seed broad­cast over the ground, and invented a kind of drill, which was attached to the plough, and covered up the seeds as they were deposited in the soil. As he grew older, he remonstrated with his father upon the worship of idols, and showed the folly and wickedness of this practice. Terah assented to his words, but dared not openly avow his sentiments for fear of his relations, who would slay without scruple all who presumed to oppose the prevailing religion. Other legends “tell how a wonderful star heralded his birth; and how Nimrod, the king of Babylon, fearing that one so favoured might hereafter rise to a dangerous eminence, required his father to surrender him to death. Terah substituted a slave’s child for his own son, and thus Abram escaped. He was hidden for some years in a cave; on emerging from this, and for the first time beholding the heavens, he began to ask who had made all this wonderful scene. When the sun arose, he fancied that bright orb must be the Creator, and prayed to it all day long ; but when it set he thought it could not have made all the world and yet itself be subject to extinction. The moon rose, and the stars shone out. “Surely,” he cried, “the moon is the Lord of the Universe, and the stars are his ministers.” But the moon sank, the stars faded, and the sun again appeared on the horizon. Then he said: “These celestial bodies could not have created the world; they all obey an invisible Ruler, to whom they owe their existence ; and Him only henceforward will I supplicate, to Him alone will I bow.” Abram’s growth from infancy to boyhood was so rapid that his mother, who had been some short time separated, did not recognize him when she met him again, and could scarcely believe in his identity when he assured her that he was her son. “How is it possible,” she asked, “ that thou hast so grown in this little while?” “Ah, mother,” answered Abram, “learn from this that there is an Almighty, everlasting God, who seeth all things and is Himself unseen, who is in heaven, and whose majesty filleth all the earth.” “What!  cries the mother; “Is there any God save Nimrod?” “Certainly,” he says, “the God of heaven and earth, who is also the God of Nimrod. Go thou to Nimrod and tell him this.” His mother carried this conversation to Terah, and Terah acquainted the king with this and other wonderful matters concerning his son. Nimrod was uneasy at this report, and sent a body of his warriors to arrest the youth. Abram prayed to the God of heaven, and Gabriel shrouded him suddenly in a clond, and so terrified the warriors that they fled to Babylon, a journey of forty days, leaving their errand undone. They were followed by Abram riding on the angel’s shoulders. Arrived at the city gates, the youth exclaimed with a loud voice: “The Eternal is the only true God; there is none like Him. He is the God of heaven, God of all gods, God of Nimrod himself. Bear record, all ye inhabitants of Babylon; I, Abram, worship Him, and Him alone.” Informed of these circumstances Nimrod is sorely perplexed what to do ; but at length he ordains a festival of seven days in which all his people are to come and worship him. Abram comes boldly before the king, lays hold of his throne and tosses it about, denouncing, in stern language, Nimrod’s idolatry and infidelity. As he speaks, a wonderful thing happens : the idol temples in the city suddenly fall to the ground with a crash; Nimrod is seized with a death-like trance; all his courtiers are panic-stricken. On recovering his senses, the king asks: “Was it thy voice which I heard, or the voice of thy God?” Abram answers: “It was the voice only of one of the meanest of God’s creatures.” “In sooth,” says Nimrod, “thy God is great and mighty, and indeed King of kings.” And he dismisses Terah and his son in safety.

All these legends agree in making Abram to have early arrived at a purer notion concerning God than his contemporaries. Some say that he obtained this knowledge from Shem, who survived to his day ; but most stories tell how the more he thought on these things, the more convinced was he of the truth of monotheism, and the more resolved to spread this belief among mankind.

According to another Jewish legend Terah was an idolater, and going one day on a journey he appointed Abram to sell his idols in his stead. As often as a purchaser came, Abram asked his age, and when he replied, “I am fifty or sixty years old,” he said, “Woe to the man of sixty who would worship the work of a day.” And the would-be purchasers went away ashamed. Other Mahommedan myths tell how, staying at home on one occasion, when his fellow townsmen had gone on a pilgrimage to some shrine, he destroyed seventy-two idols which were set up in a temple, obtaining from this adventure his honourable title of Khulil Allah, “Friend of God.” Accused before Nimrod of this offence, he was condemned to be burnt alive. Previously the following conversation is reported to have taken place:  Let us worship the fire,” said the king. “Rather,” replied Abram, “the water that quenches the fire.” “Well, the water.” “Rather the cloud that carries the water.” “Well, the cloud.” “Rather the wind that scatters the cloud.” “Well, the wind.” “Rather man, for he endures the wind.” “Thou art a babbler,” cried Nimrod. “I worship the fire, and will cast thee into it. May the God whom thou adorest deliver thee thence.” He was accordingly thrown into the burning pile. All the inhabitants of heaven and the creatures of earth were eager to save him ; but God sent Gabriel to cool the flame, which miraculously lost all its heat; and though Abram remained seven days in the furnace he was unharmed, and sat amid the flames as in a blooming garden.

Is there not a great truth lurking beneath these fantastic legends? All that will live godly must suffer persecution, ft is the law of God’s kingdom. The disciple is not above his master. “If they have persecuted Me,” said Christ to His followers, “they will also persecute you.” The sacred narrative, indeed, gives no hint of any such trials; but we know from the necessities of the case that it must have been so; nor would the character of the patriarch have shown such patience, courage, steadfastness, without a training of danger and difficulty. What is meant by Isaiah’s expression: “The Lord who redeemed Abraham?”. Does it not point to a rescue from perils, such perils as met him at the hands of idolaters whom his pure life, if not his actual teaching, rebuked? We read of no such hazards undergone after his migration. He encounters no religious opposition in Haran, or Canaan, or Egypt. In those stages of his career he is a mature believer, who unhesitatingly enunciates his sentiments, and whose utterances are received with respect and submission. Assuredly, he had had to do battle for the faith before he arrived at this calm maintenance of his religious convictions, and this power of impressing others. In his early home he must have had many such conflicts as legendary history relates—conflicts with the secular power, as represented by Nimrod; conflicts with popular superstition, as represented by the priests ; and, what was harder to bear, conflicts with his own family, who did not share his faith, and who derided his enthusiasm—when his foes were those of his own household. Such trials he endured with the constancy of a Christian saint.

“Not wondering, though in grief, to find

The martyr’s foe still keep her mind ;

But fixed to hold Love’s banner fast,

And by submission win at last."





Causes of the migration—The call; its nature; Abram’s obedience­journey from Ur to Haran—Erech—Calneh—Babylon—Sepharvaim— Ivah—Hena—The river Habor—Haran; its neighbourhood—Arrival of Nabor—Death of Terah.


The history of Abram’s call is not fully given in Genesis. There is much more in the matter which we should like to know, much that, if told, would enable us better to estimate his religious character in this stage of his life, and to understand what advance he had made in the knowledge of God. But one part of Scripture supplements another; details that are wanting here are supplied there; hints are cursorily given which complete the sketch otherwise imperfect. Of the hand that led him, and the voice that first called him, St. Stephen speaks ; of the blind obedience that followed that Divine direction the Epistle to the Hebrews tells us, when it teaches that he “went out, not knowing whither he went.” Had we the record of Genesis alone, we should not know what was the impulse which led to this migration. For we read merely : “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.” This might have been merely the movement of a nomadic tribe, restless in confinement, and not altogether weaned from ancestral habits, seeking new pastures and a new sphere of activity. Or it might have been the unwilling departure of a conquered horde, whom some superior power had driven from their home. Either of these suppositions the passage in Genesis would allow us to adopt. An explanation of the movement much nearer to the truth is given in the Book of Judith, from the mouth of Achior the Ammonite. “This people,” said he to Holofernes, “are descended of the Chaldeans, and they sojourned heretofore in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the gods of their fathers which were in the land of Chaldea. For they left the way of their ancestors, and worshipped the God of heaven, the God whom they knew: so they cast them out from the face of their gods, and they fled into Mesopotamia, and sojourned there many days”; or, as the Latin version puts it, “thus abandoning the ceremonies of their fathers, which consisted in the worship of many gods, they worshipped one god of heaven, who commanded them to depart thence and to dwell in Charran.” Doubtless this account is based on the facts of the case. The Chaldean religion was not altogether tolerant. The monarch gave the word to his subjects. Public opinion was thoroughly Erastian, and elected to believe what the ruling power proposed to its aceptance. “I make a decree,” said Darius in after years, “ that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.” So an attack on the prevalent faith was not likely to be allowed to pass without notice, and a preacher of monotheism would have found himself opposed both actively and passively, by open persecution as well as by tacit reproof and official discountenance. The legends mentioned above invariably show Abram as a devout believer in one God, and suffering persecution for his faith.

But the true signification of the change of residence is given by St. Stephen in his speech before the Sanhedrin, where he states that Abram had had a direct revelation from God before the Lord appeared unto him in Charran. “The God of glory,” he says, “appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.” The tradition of monotheism, handed down from Noah and his sons, had doubtless never been lost, though overlaid with accretions and combined with many superstitions; and to such a mind as Abram’s it must have had a vast attraction which discredited all the allurements of idolatrous worship.

Never till now has any mention been made of a distinct appearance of the Lord to man, and what the expression imports has occasioned some perplexity. When God spoke to Adam in Eden, or to Noah, the mode of the Divine manifestation is not expressly stated. That the appearance in the present case was not a direct vision of Jehovah in a bodily form is certain, for “no man hath seen God at any time.” That it was not a subjective impression on the seer’s mind without any objective reality, the wording of the passage seems to necessitate; but it may be questioned whether this appearance was that of a created angel or of the Son of God, anticipating, as it were, the Incarnation. There are many passages in both Testaments which imply that such manifestations were made by created angels, acting as messengers of, or personating, the Lord; but the majority of the Fathers always held that, on the most solemn occasions, it was the Logos who appeared to the men of old, assuming an angelic form or imparting His immediate presence to the revealer of His will. This is He whom Malachi calls “the Angel of the Covenant,” whom the LXX. in Isaiah ix. 6 term “the Angel of mighty counsel,” and who, while designated “the Angel of God,” is often identified with God Himself. We may reverently conclude that it was the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Only Begotten Son, who appeared to the patriarch at Ur, and called him to leave his country and to fare forth on an unknown journey.

This first call was accompanied by no promise; it demanded simple obedience. This was Abram’s training; by little and little God was leading him to his great sacrifice; as he answered one call, another and a greater was ready for him. Every step forward was an advance towards the final and consummating summons. The old story tells how, in gazing on the starry heavens, he learned to adore the Creator, and felt the nothingness of the idolatry and creature worship which satisfied his family and countrymen. “When night overshadowed him,” says the Koran,” “he saw a star, and said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set, he said, ‘I like not those that set.’ And when he saw the moon rising, he said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when the moon set, he answered, ‘Verily, if my Lord direct me not the right way, I shall be as one of those that err.’ And when he saw the sun rising, he said, ‘This is my Lord, his is greater than the star or moon? But when the sun went down, he said, ‘O my people, I am clear of these things. I turn my face to Him who hath made the heaven and the earth?” Thus was he educating himself for greater things. He was called to make a great sacrifice, and he obeyed. He might have argued that the summons was too indefinite ; it assigned no limit to the migration. He was a childless man, and had no sons to send forth to other territories ; his present substance was sufficient for his wants. The enmity of his countrymen might be overcome by some slight compromise or reticence concerning his opinions. Why should he leave ease and comfort, and go forth into unknown dangers and cares? Was it really the voice divine that claimed this sacrifice at his hands? But no such considerations influenced his actions. We do not indeed know anything of his character and feelings before this time ; but there must have been a certain fitness in the recipient of this revelation; his antecedents must have prepared him for the demand; such claim on his obedience was net altogether strange and unexpected. And he was equal to the occasion. Like all noble minds, he rose higher with the emergency. When the call came it found him ready to hearken and obey. He had habituated himself to listen to the Divine voice in his heart; and he was thus well prepared for further measures of grace.

This new revelation of God to Abram led to immediate results. It could not lie barren in his soul; it involved action, zeal, sacrifice. The old legend tells how, like Gideon, he burned to the ground the idol temple of his native place (which may well be true), and how Haran perished in the flames as he tried to rescue the images of the gods whom he still served. This latter statement is so far confirmed by the sacred record, in that it says that Haran “died before his father in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.” Josephus adds that it was grief for this death of his son that impelled Terah to leave his native place. St. Jerome recounts a tradition of the Hebrews, which has been mentioned above, to the effect that for this outrage on the national religion Abram was cast into the fire, which he refused to adore, and was miraculously preserved. This story is founded on the rendering of Ur as “fire,” in Gen. xi. 28, thus—instead of “in Ur of the Chaldees,” “in the fire of the Chaldees. This version is found in the Latin Vulgate—Neh. IX. 7.

Following the Divine impulse Abram left Ur and proceeded some three hundred miles northwards to Haran, accompanied by his father and his family and dependents. How Terah was induced to quit his old home we are not told. It may be that the son’s faith had enlightened the father’s mind, and made him loathe the superstitions that once held him captive, so that he was eager to free himself from the sight and chain of degrading associations; or it may be that Terah’s act, in contradistinction to that of Abram, sprang from merely human motives, but, God so ordering it, coincided with the Divine summons, and made a way for its accomplishment. Whither this call was to lead finally seems not to have been disclosed at first. It is true that Terah is said to have left Ur “to go into the land of Canaan;” but this is probably mentioned from the writer’s own knowledge and in anticipation of the more definite statement in the next chapter. At this time the destination of the movement was left uncertain. Abram was to depart unto a land which God would in due course show him. As in God’s providence we are led gradually on our course, and are bidden not too carefully to forecast the future, so Abram’s part now was to leave his old home, and to trust to other revelation to teach him what to do hereafter. This was the inward or spiritual side of the movement. The outward view would represent it as the migration of a clan with all its slaves and property. Thus Terah, the head, takes with him his son Abram with his wife Sarai, and his grandson Lot with his wife, and all his household effects, and advances slowly up the stream seeking new pastures, or a spot sufficiently clear of inhabitants where he might settle. Such a position he found at Haran, and arresting his further march, made for himself a second home, and remained here during the rest of his life.

Of the route taken by Terah and his family from Ur to Haran we have no account. The shorter way would lead them, keeping to the right bank of the Euphrates, through a district full of marshes and closely abutting on the Desert, till they left the river in the far north, somewhere near the spot where it is joined by the Ualikh. The other road would take them up the eastern bank, through a populous and well-watered region, and past many celebrated cities, even in those early days of magnificent proportions, and strongly fortified. Larsa o’ Ellasar, a town now identified with the ruins of Senkereh, lay out of their course; but Erech or Warka, “the city” (Uruk) par excellence, with its huge temple of Anu, would stand in their path some forty miles from Ur. “Standing upon the summit of the principal edifice, called the Buwariyya, in the centre of the ruins,” says Mr. Loftus, “the beholder is struck with astonishment at the enormous accumulation of mounds and ancient relics at his feet. An irregular circle, nearly six miles in circumference, is defined by the traces of an earthen rampart, in some places forty feet high. An extensive platform of undulating mounds, brown and scorched by the burning sun, and cut up by innumerable channels and ravines, extends, in a general direction north and south, almost up to the wall, and occupies the greatest part of the enclosed area. As at Niffar, a' wide channel divides the platform into two unequal parts, which vary in height from twenty to fifty feet; upon it are situated the principal edifices of Warka. On the western edge of the northern portion rise, in solemn grandeur, masses of bricks which have accumulated around the lower stories of two rectangular buildings and their various offices, supposed to be temples, or perhaps royal tombs. Detached from the principal mass of platform are several irregularly-shaped low mounds between it and the walls, some of which are thickly strewn with lumps of black scoria, as though buildings on their summit had been destroyed by fire. At the extreme north of the platform, close to the wall, a conical mound rears its head from the surrounding waste of ruins—the barrow probably of some ancient Scyth. Warka, in the days of her greatness, was not, however, confined within the limits of her walls; her suburbs may be traced by ruined buildings, mounds, and pottery, fully three miles beyond the ramparts into the eastern desert ... The external walls of sun-dried brick assume the form of an irregular circle, five-and-a-half miles in circumference, with slightly perceptible angles towards the cardinal points."

The name of King Urukh is found impressed upon the bricks of the buttresses which supported the great central edifice, the tower, 200 feet square, called Buwariyya.

Through a country whose soil was a tenacious clay, crossed by many canals and aqueducts, fifty miles’ journey would bring them to the neighbourhood of Calneh, the Cul-unu of the Inscriptions, and the modern Niffar. At one time the capital of this part of Chaldea, the town had now sunk into comparative insignificance, its place being taken by Ur, and the worship of the god Bel being superseded by that of the Moon, who is called the eldest son of Bel. A modern traveller writes thus of the place: “The present aspect of Niffar is that of a lofty platform of earth and rubbish, divided into two nearly equal parts by a deep channel, apparently the bed of a river, about 120 feet wide. Nearly in the centre of the eastern portion of this platform are the remains of a brick tower of early construction, the débris of which constitutes a conical mound rising seventy feet above the plain. This is a conspicuous object in the distance, and exhibits, where the brickwork is exposed, oblong perforations similar to those seen at Birs-Nimrud, and other edifices of the Babylonian age. At the distance of a few hundred yards, on the east of the ruins, may be distinctly traced a low continuous mound, the remains, probably, of the external wall of the ancient city.” Thence sixty miles more conducted them to Babylon, a city which is identified by an uninterrupted tradition with the extensive mounds and ruins on the Euphrates above Hillah, 150 miles from their old home. This city had not attained the eminence which it reached in after years, and was probably at that time inferior to Ur in extent and population. But the great temple was already in existence, and the wonderful building at Borsippa, which moderns call Birs-Nimrud, on the western side of the river, though already in ruins, showed its huge proportions and massive architecture, as they passed it at some fifteen miles’ distance. Sepharvaim, afterwards named Sippara, and now Mosaib, would next be reached, about twenty miles from Babylon. Here, the legend tells, Xisuthrus buried the records of the antediluvian world, which were recovered by his posterity. The plural form of the city’s name is explained by its division into two portions by the river on which it stands.

Leaving now the rich alluvial plains of Shinar, the pilgrims would reach a wide region of upland country, dependent for water on the rains of heaven, and consequently often suffering from drought, lvah or Ava, the modern Hit, with its copious, springs of bitumen, and Hena, the modern An at, whose ruins show it to have been a large city, some hundred miles further, would successively be passed. Next they would enter upon a high plateau, far above the Euphrates, which, no longer calm and sluggish as in Lower Chaldaea, where it falls only three inches in the mile, now rushed along with strong current, battling with the many islands which impeded its course; then they would descend to the lower plain, crossed by valleys, which were rich in pasture wherever they felt the effects of the refreshing river, but otherwise stony, barren, and treeless. Before proceeding northwards they had to cross the river Habor—the Chaboras of Ptolemy, and the modern Khabur, which joins the Euphrates where in later times stood the town Circesium. To find a ford across this stream they would have to ascend its left bank for some days’ march, leaving the familiar Euphrates, and entering on a verdant and beautiful region, bounded by a range of gentle hills. The travellers might then follow the western branch of the Habor, which led in the direction of Haran, where the increasing infirmities of Terah caused them to end their wanderings.

Haran, a city whose name has remained attached to the spot up to this day, lay upon the river Balikh (the Balikhi of the Inscriptions, and the Bilichus of the Classics), an affluent of the Euphrates, in Upper Mesopotamia. The word Haran is probably the Accadian Kharran, “a road,” and would point to the town being situated on the great high-road from east to west. The Greek form Charran is identical. Standing where it did, and with many roads radiating from it to the great fords of the Tigris and Euphrates, it formed an important commercial station, and is naturally mentioned in Ezekiel, as one of the places which supplied the marts of Tyre. It was dedicated to the same deity as the one honoured at Ur, the Moon-god, whose symbol was a conical stone with a star above it. All this district from very early times had belonged to the rulers of Babylonia, of whose kingdom Haran was the frontier town, commanding the high-road that led to Syria and Palestine. It was a region shut in by mountains and rivers, and offering a great variety of soil and climate depending upon elevation and water supply. Haran itself lay in the centre of a rich, alluvial plain of marvellous fertility. One who visited the country a few years ago writes thus: “At every step from Oorfa on the way to Haran, the hills on the right and on the left of the plain recede farther and farther until you find yourself fairly launched on the desert-ocean—a boundless plain, strewed at times with patches of the brightest flowers, at other times with rich and green pastures, covered with flocks of sheep and of goats feeding together, here and there a few camels, and the son or daughter of their owner tending them. One can quite understand how the sons of this open country, the Bedaweens, love it, and cannot leave it; no other soil would suit them. The air is so fresh, the horizon is so far, and man feels so free, that it seems made for those whose life is to roam at pleasure, and who own allegiance to none but to themselves.The village of Haran itself consists of a few conical houses, in shape like bee­hives, built of stones laid in courses one over the other, without either mud or mortar. These houses let in the light at the top, and are clustered together at the foot of the ruined castle, built on the mound that makes Haran a landmark plainly visible from the whole plain around. The principal inhabitants of the place are the Bedaween tribes, which haunt the neighbourhood in search of pasture. One of these tribes, the Anazeez, had spread their tents of black goat’s-hair at the foot of the mound, between that and Rebekah’s well; and I pitched my tent among them. That same day I walked at even to the well I had passed in the afternoon, coming from Oorfa ; the well of this, the city of Nahor, ‘at the time of the evening, the time that women go out to draw water.’ There was a group of them, filling no longer their pitchers—since the steps down which Rebekah went to fetch the water are now blocked up—but filling their water-skins by draw­ing water at the well’s mouth. Everything around that well bears signs of age and of the wear of time ; for, as it is the only well of drinkable water there, it is much resorted to.”

Some time after that Abram and his father had taken up their abode in Haran, the brother who had been left behind at (If removed to their new settlement. The cause of his migration and the date of his arrival are not given in the sacred record; but it is altogether in accordance with the habits of these Eastern tribes, and, indeed, with all roving nations who are not fixed to one spot by physical peculiarities or the possession of great cities, that an advance of one portion of the people should be followed by another section. The report of the discovery of an advantageous locality, with plenteous pasturage and undisturbed occupancy, quickly awoke the desire of change. Nahor and his wife Milcah followed the steps of Terah, and arrived at Haran, bringing with them the superstitions of their old home, and only half weaned from the idolatry which Abram had spurned at so great a sacrifice. Here they met with much worldly prosperity ; their substance greatly increased ; numerous sons were born to them. They became a powerful clan, from which wives were sought in after years for the heirs of the chosen race. Thus the reunited family remained for a time at Haran. The connecting link seems to have been their father Terah. As long as he lived Abram had duties to perform which he could not relinquish; but when Terah’s long life of two hundred and five years came to a close, this reason no longer operated, and the two branches of the clan again divided—the one remaining where it had settled, the other accomplishing its destiny by seeking a new home. Was it because the God of Nahor was not the same divinity as the God of Abram, that the latter separated himself from his brother’s family? Secular history, looking at the matter from an external point, would call this simply a second migration, produced by the causes that occasioned the former movement. Holy Scripture, describing the world as God’s world, gives the hidden actuation of events, and shows behind the apparent fact the finger of an overruling Providence.




The second call with its promise—Departure from Haran; Necessity of this movement—Route to Canaan; Tadmor; Kuryetein; Damascus—Arrival in Canaan—Encampment at Moreh—Shechem described.


It was after his father’s death that a second and more definite call came to Abram with a magnificent promise attached to it. And this was the Divine intimation:  “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse : and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Here was a threefold blessing promised—partly temporal, partly spiritual. He was to be brought unto a land where he should make his home; he was to become a great nation; and in and through him all the families of the earth should be blessed. The full meaning of this announcement time alone could develope. How much of it Abram understood we cannot tell; but he must from it have learned a new lesson concerning God. He now saw in the Lord, not merely the great Creator, but also a moral Governor; he recognized His ruling Providence; he knew that it was God’s will that he should settle in the land to which he was directed, that in this new home he and his posterity should receive some extraordinary blessings, and that from his seed should spring some wonderful good to all mankind. This solemn promise filled his soul, directed all his conduct, made him cling with such affection to the land of Canaan with which the blessing was inseparably connected. He was now of mature age, seventy-five years old. Fifteen years had passed since the Lord had appeared to him in Ur, and he had obediently set out on his pilgrimage. He had had time for meditation on this call, and for fortifying his resolve to follow the guiding hand. In giving himself up to God he had done so unreservedly. Of the old superstitions in which he was brought up not a trace remained. Some of his family long retained a regard for heathenish practices, as Laban had his teraphim; but Abram once and for all abandoned everything inconsistent with his faith in God; he received his new creed wholly and implicitly, and acknowledged the duties which it imposed upon him. A living faith involves action; its result is practice. So Abram recognized the moral obligation arising from a more perfect revelation, and “went out, not knowing whither he went.” More than this, he left his kindred and his father’s house. Lot indeed accompanied him in his new venture, but Nahor with all his dependents and family stayed behind in or near Haran, in a locality called “Nahor’s city”, in whose neighbourhood for many years afterwards, as Assyrian inscriptions witness, names of a Canaanitish and Hebraic type were commonly found. From all these ties he tore himself asunder. He was comparatively a solitary man when he set forth on his journey to the promised land, with only his wife and nephew out of his own immediate relations. But he took with him all the substance that he and Lot had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; flocks, herds, slaves, dependents, all accompanied the pilgrim on his way. It was rather the migration of a tribe, than the removal of a family from one place to another. As purposing never to return, he left nothing behind; he fared forth into the wilderness as a wanderer who for ever had forsaken his old home, and would see it no more. An imposing spectacle must this caravan have presented. It has been computed by Kitto, from calculations grounded on the stock acquired by Jacob in Padan-aram, that Abram and Lot’s possessions in cattle must have been at least equal to those of Job, and we are told that “his substance was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household”. Some few years later, after Lot had left him, Abram could at shortest notice put himself at the head of three hundred and more well-trained slaves, which would imply more than twice as many incapable of bearing arms; so that we may reckon his whole company to have numbered not less than a thousand souls. The tents for such a multitude must have been at least one hundred, made probably of black goat’s-hair, such as the Bedouin tribes use at the present day. Thus we have a picture of the migration of the patriarch, which affords us a vivid notion of his wealth and power. And this large household had doubtless learned true religion from their master. That “he had gotten souls in Haran” is explained both by Jewish and Christian commentators to signify that he had converted them to the worship of Jehovah and taught them his own faith. It was a wrench doubtless thus to cut himself loose from old ties. A man with ambitious motives, a warrior fired by the lust of conquest, a chieftain with a family to provide for and a home to win, might have felt a call to emigrate from this peaceful spot; but Abram was none of these. Looking at the matter in a worldly point of view, he had nothing to gain and much to lose by this pilgrimage. But obedience implies self­sacrifice. The journey was difficult and dangerous, the future was utterly unknown, the coming benefit was intangible; what then? God commanded and must be obeyed. This break up of family ties was necessary; it was part of the heavenly plan thus to isolate the holy race. Abram saw this necessity of being free from old associations, of tearing himself away from the evil influences of superstition, and he committed himself to the guiding hand in utter and unquestioning faith. The further he went from home and kindred, the closer he came to God; the less dependence he could place on others, the more he clung to the everlasting arm which upheld him. All was leading him to perfection; every trial was but smoothing the way for the final “temptation.” A new starting-point was here taken for the promotion of the true religion. To have hung back at this juncture would have been fatal to the plan, as it would have been contrary to Abram’s previous conduct. It was a kind of renunciation of the world which he had to make. Here was a foreshadowing of the stern lesson which the gospel teaches: “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple”.

A momentous time was this when into the desolate wilderness the pilgrims from Haran took their way. Empires that changed the aspect of the world were as yet unknown; centuries must pass before Greece and Rome shall make their voices heard, or their arms felt, amid the concourse of nations. In the childless man seeking an unknown land we see the great teacher of the stupendous truth, destined to conquer all false systems and to form the basis of all true religion, that God is one. A mighty victory this, dwarfing into nothingness the achievements of an Alexander, a Caesar, a Napoleon. Here was the laying of the foundation stone of that building which was to rise four-square in the New Jerusalem; here was the final separation of that new stock from which was to spring the Messiah, the bloodless victor, the unstained conqueror of the fallen world. Solitary in his communications with heaven, solitary in his hopes and motives, meeting with scant sympathy from his nearest friends, Abram, firm in purpose, relying on unseen aid, made his venture. Lot could ill sound the depths of his uncle’s heart; even Sarai’s faith was but weak. Tears and wailing and regret accompanied the hero on his first stage; many a backward glance was sent across the river, many an answering look was returned from the relations left behind ; but he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. He had no misgiving ; the path was marked out, the issue lay with God.

Terah’s purpose had been originally to migrate to Canaan, and Abram now pursues the long-interrupted journey, turning his face steadfastly to the south-west country.

Of the route which he took to Canaan we are not informed. The record simply states: “They went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.” Tradition has endeavoured to fill up this slender account by details of doubtful authenticity. Thus Josephus, following a native writer, Nicolaus, states that, after leaving Haran, Abram came with his forces to Damascus, and reigned there as king, but was eventually compelled by a rising of the people to depart into Canaan.

His name, however, he adds, is still famous in that city, and a village is shown called to this day “Abram’s Dwelling,” situated about a mile and a half from the northern gate. Justin, too, seems to refer to the same tradition, though he has crowded as many errors as possible into his paragraph. Thus he writes: “The Jews took their origin from Damascus, the most illustrious city of Syria, which received its name from its king Damascus. After him reigned Azelus, then Azores, Abraham and lsrahel.” In Azelus possibly may be traced the Syrian Hazael, a common name of the later kings; and in Adores Ewald sees Eliezer, Ador or Ader being a dialectic variation for Ezer.

Of this story there is no confirmation in Scripture but what may be derived from the incidental mention of the steward of Abram’s house being Eliezer of Damascus. But it is not in itself improbable that the patriarch chose this way to enter the land of promise. With his flocks and herds and numerous dependents a journey of such a length was an arduous enterprize, and could only be successfully accomplished by taking such a direction as would afford necessary supplies of food and water. The nearest way across the waterless Syrian desert would have offered insurmountable difficulties to such a cavalcade; but from the ford at Thapsacus a great caravan route led to Damascus, traversed continually by merchants, and not unused by armies, and doubtless supplied more or less abundantly with the necessities of life. This road avoided the dangers of the desert by skirting its northern border, dropping down upon the oasis of Damascus from the north, and falling into one of the great tracks from thence to Egypt. These southward roads avoided the centre of Palestine which was occupied by mountains, and was by no means easy to traverse, and either kept on the eastern boundary of the country, crossing the desert on the south, or they took the coast line which was comparatively level. The difficulties of the more direct caravan route from the eastern countries were in after years greatly diminished by the founding of the city of Tadmor in the wilderness, which under its name of Palmyra has never been forgotten. The oasis in which this ancient city stands has doubtless always been a green spot and a refreshing halting-place in the arid Syrian desert; but there are many miles of parched country to pass both before it is reached and after it is left, and. the northern track was, if longer, easier for such a tribal migration. For instance, the nearest water to Palmyra on the Damascus road is at Kuryetein, some forty miles distant, the intervening country being a dreary, bleak plain, without pasture, spring, or shelter. The copious fountains at this place make it a little Paradise in the midst of desolation, and it is supposed on good grounds to be that Hazar-enan, “village of fountains”, mentioned by Ezekiel as situated on the borders of the territories of Damascus and Hamath towards the east. The region west of Kuryetein is thus described by Mr. Porter: “We are now in the desert. The ground is covered with small fragments of flint and scathed-looking limestone, through which a sickly grass tuft, or a half-withered weed, here and there springs up. Not a tree, not a green shrub appears within the range of vision, and animal life is equally rare, for, except chance throws in our way a troop of gazelles or a Bedawy ghuzu (marauding party), we sweep along for hours together without seeing a living creature. A gravelly soil, an undulating plain, and naked mountain sides are ever around us, with an unclouded sky above and a fiery sun pouring down showers of burning rays upon the parched landscape from morning till night.”

The sojourn of Abram in Damascus could not have been of long continuance, and left but a short time for the events foisted in by legendary invention. He seems to have arrived in Egypt within a year after he quitted Haran. For he was seventy-five then, and eighty-six when Ishmael was born; and we are told that he had been ten years in Canaan when he took to wife Hagar, whom he had brought with him from Egypt, and whom Sarai had had for ten years as her maid.

From Damascus to Canaan it is most probable that Abram took the southern track which led on the east side of lakes Merom and Gennesareth, crossing the Jordan at or near the Bridge Jisr el-Mejamia, some eight or nine miles south of the latter lake, thence to the locality afterwards known as Bethshean or Scythopolis, whence passing the ridge of Gilboa, it continued to Samaria and the south country. This is now the great caravan road between the south and Damascus, and owing to the physical features of the region the route could not have varied much from the earliest times.

“And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem,” or Shechem. Here the Hebrew, he who had come from the other side of the great river, the river Euphrates, made his first station in the land of promise, at the oak or terebinth of Moreb. Who or what was “Moreh” we know not. It may be the name of a chieftain who was, or had been, famous in those parts; it may mean, as the Septuagint Version has it, “ofty,” or as the Latin Vulgate renders, “illustrious”; or it may be etymologically connected with a verb meaning “to see,” and so may refer to the vision there vouch­safed to Abram. Be this as it may, in this oak-grove he pitched his tent, and rested for awhile from his wanderings. The particular tree which shaded the great father of the race was long venerated, and survived unto Jacob’s time; for we are told, that “under the oak that was by Shechem,” he buried the teraphim which his family had brought with them from Padan-aram. The situation of Shechem is one of remarkable beauty. It lies in a sheltered valley, protected by Gerizim on the south and Ebal on the north. The feet of these mountains, where they rise from the town, are not more than 500 yards apart. The bottom of the valley is about 1,800 feet above the level of the sea, and the top of Gerizim 800 feet higher still. Those who have been to Heidelberg will assent to Von Richter’s remark, that the scenery, as viewed from the foot of the hills, is not unlike the beautiful German town. The site of the present city, which we believe to have been that also of the Hebrew city, is placed exactly on the water summit; and streams issuing from the numerous springs there flow down the opposite slopes of the valley, spreading verdure and fertility in every direction. The somewhat sterile aspect of the adjacent mountains becomes itself a foil, as it were, to set off the effect of the verdant fields and orchards which fill up the valley. “ here is nothing finer in all Palestine,” says Dr. Clarke, “than a view of Nablus [Shechem] from the heights around it. As the traveller descends towards it from the hills, it appears luxuriantly embosomed in the most delightful and fragrant bowers, half concealed by rich gardens and by stately trees collected into groves, all around the bold and beautiful valley in which it stands.” “The whole valley,” says Dr. Robinson, “was filled with gardens of vegetables, and orchards of all kinds of fruit, watered by fountains which burst forth in various parts and flow westward in refreshing streams.” “There is no wilderness here,” says Van de Velde (i. 386); “there are no wild thickets, yet there is always verdure, always shade, not of the oak, the terebinth, and the caroub-tree, but of the olive grove, so soft in colour, so picturesque in form, that, for its sake, we can willingly dispense with all other wood.”





Canaan; the name; Language then spoken—Its inhabitants; Aborigines; Canaanites proper; Amorites; Hittites; Perizzites; Philistines—Their religion—Fertility and natural features of the country; its capabilities—Characteristics of the Canaanitish tribes—The Fellaheen—Abram's life—New promise—Selection of Canaan as the cradle of true religion —Bethel.


The country was not untenanted at the time of Abram’s arrival. “The Canaanite was then in the land”. The descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, under various tribal appellations, were seated in the lowlands of Palestine, on the seashore, and in the valley of the Jordan. The name of Canaan was applied originally to that strip of territory called Phoenicia by the Greeks and Romans, between Lebanon and the sea; but as the tribe there settled and its kindred clans spread abroad, the whole land came to be called Canaan, and its inhabitants, without regard to origin and affinity, were termed generally Canaanites. The language which they spoke was closely related to, if not substantially identical with, Hebrew; in Isaiah xix. 18, the Hebrew-Phoenician tongue is called “the language of Canaan.’’ In all the intercourse of the Hebrews with the old inhabitants there is no sign of the necessity of an interpreter; all communications pass directly with no mediator. The proper names of Canaanitish persons and places are, to all intents, Hebrew, and capable of being explained by Hebrew etymology. Of course, it is possible that the Israelites translated the native names into their own language, giving Hebrew equivalents for them, just as they altered Assyrian and Egyptian words into Hebrew forms; but there is no doubt that the remains of the Phoenician language which have been preserved have the closest analogy to the Hebrew ; and that the Phoenician tongue was the Canaanitish is well established.

With the aboriginal inhabitants of Canaan we do not find that Abram came in contact. Traces of Troglodytes have been discovered, not only in Edom, where the dwelling-places of the Horites are well known, but also at Beit-Jibrin, on the borders of the Shephelah, and in the Lebanon, where their flint instruments are mingled with the bones of the reindeer and wild ox. We often hear mention of a gigantic aboriginal tribe, the Rephaim, who dwelt chiefly in Bashan, and whose capital was Ashteroth-Karnaim, named from the two-horned goddess whom they worshipped. These people are found also in the west, settled among the Philistines, and have left their name in a fertile valley near Jerusalem, which has been the scene of some stirring events in Jewish history. Offshoots of this gigantic clan are named, Anakim, Emim, and Zuzim. There is no reason to suppose that, though individuals of enormous stature occasionally appeared, the race generally exceeded the average height of tall, well-grown men. The Hebrews, recalling the legends of early times and investing these dwellers in the hoary past with monstrous attributes, applied the term Rephaim to the dead, perhaps with some idea that Sheol was the residence of these fallen giants. Another ancient people, the Avim, dwelt on the sea coast to the south. It was with the conquerors of the aboriginal inhabitants that Abram was concerned. At Sichem he found the Canaanites in possession. This people descended, as we have said, from Canaan, the son of Ham, and differing in many particulars from nations of Semitic origin, seem to have invaded Palestine from the south-east, gradually spreading to the north-west, and establishing themselves in Sidon and other strong places on the coast, as well as on the western side of the Jordan valley up to the Sea of Galilee. Another nation with whom the patriarch had dealings were the Amorites. Their name implies that they dwelt in the mountainous district. Originally their home was beyond the mountains at the foot of the Dead Sea, and south of the subsequent territory of Judah; but in patriarchal times they occupied the central and south­eastern region of Palestine, and contained among them some relics of the aboriginal population. They are described as a warlike and fierce race; and Abram’s alliance with them enabled him to carry out successfully his attack on the Elamite ravagers. In contrast with these warriors stand forth the peaceful Hittites, or “ons of Heth,” an offshoot of that great nation, the discovery of whose importance is one of the triumphs of modem investigation. Their city, Hebron, is most closely connected with Abram’s life; it contains his sepulchre. The sacred historian, in mentioning that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan, or Tanis, in Egypt, countenances the idea that the Hittites formed part of the Hyksos forces which invaded that country some time earlier than this, and that a division of them remained behind in Southern Canaan and settled there. If this is so, it accounts for Abram finding friends when he went down into Egypt because of the famine in Canaan.

With the clan dwelling at Mamre the patriarch had the most amicable relations. He pastures his flocks in their midst; he turns to them when he wants to effect the purchase of Machpelah. They were a cultured and highly-civilized people. A city of theirs in the south of Judah was known as Kirjath-sepher, i.e., Book Town, a title which implies the possession of a library; and many inscriptions in peculiar writing have been discovered belonging to them. Their dress, as we learn from the monuments, even in their southern home recalled their Cappadocian origin. They are always depicted as wearing boots with turned-up toes, such as are still worn by mountaineers in Asia Minor. In figure they are short and thick-set, of a yellowish complexion, with black hair, but without beards. Such in ap­pearance, doubtless, were Abram’s friends, the children of Heth, at Kirjath-Arba. The Perizzites, dwellers in villages, pagani, were probably only Hittites under a different appellation, and in a different locality. The Philistines are mentioned as dwelling at Gerar, in the south-west. Whether they had already given the name Philistia to the sea coast of Canaan and the maritime tract towards Egypt, is difficult to determine. It seems certain that they had settled in Crete (where the name of the river Jordan appears), and they may have peopled that island at the same time as they appeared in Canaan. This would account for their connection with Caphtor, if, as is supposed by Ewald, the name Caphtor designated the whole or part of Crete. A remarkable relic of this people existed in Malta some forty years ago, though it has since been greatly mutilated. This monument is called Hdjar Cham, “stones of worship,” and consists of a temple of the rudest workmanship, in the walls of which were found figures of female deities, probably Asthoreth. In front of these statues were stone altars, and in another enclosure was an altar carved with the palm-tree, the Phoenician symbol, together with the high-priest’s seat, on the back of which were graven two serpents and an egg. This temple is supposed to have been erected by some of the inhabitants of Palestine, who fled before the conquering arm of Joshua. But the Philistines were evidently in patriarchal times possessed of little power, and lived a quiet pastoral life, displaying none of that restless activity and warlike skill which made them such formidable enemies in the age of Saul and David. This later change in national character is accounted for possibly by the infusion of a fresh element, owing to another immigration of these “strangers,” as the Septuagint calls them.

The religion of these tribes was the worship of nature, gradually degenerating into immorality and cruelty. The Hittites borrowed many of their deities from Babylonia, so that among them Abram found traces of that religion which he had abominated in his old home. Their chief goddess was lstar or Ashtoreth, whose worship they carried with them wherever they went, and introduced especially among their Syrian neighbours. The other tribes worshipped also Baal under various names—El, Moloch, Adoni. As in all such systems that have broken away from revealed religion, the people learned to consecrate their own lusts and passions, and to impress a Divine element on the indulgence of them. To propitiate offended powers of nature they practised human sacrific; and from the notion that the more costly the offering the more favourably would the offerer be regarded, they scrupled not to slay their own offspring on the altar of their gods. Of primitive idolatry vestiges are still to be found in stone circles, obelisks, and dolmens, though the zeal of Jewish kings destroyed most of them in Judaea. At the same time, in some quarters, a purer religion was cultivated. Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God (Elion); and whether this term Elion was applied, as Eusebius says, to the Phoenician deity or not, it is plain that Abram acknowledged the king of Salem as a worshipper of the same God as himself. Abimelech appeals to God (Elohim), as recognized both by himself and Abraham; and though in the plural form of this word many have seen an intimation of polytheism, yet, joined as it is with a verb in the singular number, it was doubtless used not only to adumbrate a monotheistic creed, but likewise to prepare men’s minds for the full development of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. But without pursuing this subject further, we may see that in Canaan at this time, side by side with idolatry and polytheism, there was a tradition of true religion, and that Abram was recognized as a worshipper of one God, and was not persecuted or despised on this account. In his intercourse with the inhabitants of the land he may have been eager to grasp at any intimation of purer doctrine and to turn it to a holy purpose; as when he uses the local term El-Olam, the eternal God, and identifies it with Jehovah; but no intimation is ever given that he was hereby exaggerating the belief of his hearers or attributing to them a faith which they did not profess. The example of such a man, in the midst of corruption of religion and abominable vice, must have had some influence for good, and led to the inference that the God whose worshipper was of so high a character was not as the gods of the heathen.

The fertility of Palestine was always remarkable. It was no zain boast when Moses described it as “a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil-olive and honey.” Though little cultivated in patriarchal times, its capabilities were great; its wadys and pools were always there; its natural products were the same then as now. The climate indeed is variable, but would not be unhealthy if drainage were more attended to. The danger arises from the cold winds concurring with the hot autumnal sun, and from malaria, especially in the low country. Hence towns were always built either on hills or on the sea coast. The rainfall averages in the year about twenty-five inches, which with ordinary care would obviate all fear of drought. Probably in early times, when trees were more abundant, the supply of rain was greater; and the numerous cisterns in all parts of the country show that it was found necessary to store it where no springs or streams occurred. The Negeb, or south-land, is pastoral, but owing to the subsoil being a porous chalk is much subject to drought. The Shephelah, or low ground, is the richest part of the country, abounding in corn, olives, and at all times celebrated for its sycamores and terebinths. The Hebron hills are the home of the vine. Many of the forests which once existed have disappeared. Dense thickets of lentisk and dwarf-oak, with some scattered pines, are common on the western slopes. The box, the fig, and the acacia are indigenous, but very partially distributed. The present aspect of this part of the country represents to a great extent its state in these early times, the change being “one of degree and not of kind.” The Jordan valley is now a wilderness, with a deadly climate and tropical heat. But the soil is rich, and, where it was irrigated artificially, produced immense crops. The plain at the foot of the hills, watered by natural mountain streams, was always extremely fertile. Josephus called it “a region divine and the immediate neighbourhood of Jericho meets with the most glowing description at the hands of old writers. In Philistia, especially round Gaza, the soil is so rich and even now unexhausted, that good crops are raised with very little cultivation. But in these plains along the coast the sand steals on year by year, and covers the fertile ground. In primitive times there was a much wider stretch of verdant land before the dunes had encroached. From Jaffa to Carmel was all forest. The very name Sharon, as the plain was called, signifies “oaks but a few trees scattered thinly over the open country are all that now remain of that ingens sylva which is mentioned by Strabo. In Lower Galilee the plain of Esdraelon is extremely rich, watered by numerous springs, and producing olives, palms, and every kind of grain and vegetable. The natives call it Merj Ibn Amir, “the meadow, the son of cultivation,” a title which, however inappropriate in Abram’s day, shows at any rate the natural capabilities of the district. The hills round Nazareth are chalky and bare, but the low ranges to the west are covered with oak woods, and where these sink into the plain a fine open country is exposed, more fertile even than Esdraelon. The dense forests which once surrounded the Sea of Galilee have disappeared ; but the fertility of the land, which was afterwards apportioned to the tribe of Naphtali, is well attested both by Josephus and the Talmud. The latter, speaking of Bethshan in this neighbourhood, says that, if Paradise is to be found on earth, its gate is here; and that its soil was so prolific that one peck of sown corn produced seventy quarters. In the Carmel region there is evidence that in the day of Israel’s prosperity a great proportion was under cultivation; the remains of terraces and watch towers prove that what is now thicket and rank undergrowth was formerly a scene of vineyards and gardens. The once “fruitful field” has returned to its primitive condition, and its tangled brakes and wild vegetation represent the picture which would have met the patriarch’s eye had his steps wandered in this direction. Upper Galilee, through part of which Abram passed, if not on his way to Canaan, yet certainly on his expedition against Chedorlaomer, is the healthiest and most picturesque quarter of the whole country. Round Banias there are remnants of vast primeval forests, and the vine has always flourished in the district, though its wines were not considered by the Talmudists to be so good as those produced by the grapes of Hebron. The tract of land along the coast, called Phoenicia, is composed of sand and low hills of soft limestone. Here the palm finds a genial soil, and the olive, lemon, and banana grow luxuriantly. From these notices, which the accurate survey of modern travellers enables us to collect, we may gather a fairly correct sketch of the aspect of that good land which was to be the nursery of true religion and the home of God’s people. That Abram is represented as confining his wanderings to the comparatively unfertile districts of the south, and neglecting the rich and fruitful region of North Palestine, is an argument for the authenticity of the narrative. A mythical or romantic history of the patriarch would have placed him in situations more favourable to his mode of life; and we can account for the present record only by concluding that it is based on the true facts preserved by memory or tradition.

There was one peculiarity in Palestine: it was able to support a far larger number of inhabitants than its small size would lead one to expect. The area of Western Palestine is only 7,000 square miles, or about the same as that of Wales; but this is so diversified by hill and valley, so well-watered and fertile under cultivation, that a dense population found food in abundance. When the census was taken in the plains of Moab, the people belonging to the nine and a half tribes who were to inhabit Western Palestine were estimated at about two millions. This would give 285 to the square mile, which is a far less proportion than is found in many countries now-a-days ; Belgium having 330, North Holland 455, and South Holland 467 inhabitants to the square mile. In the best of times every available spot was inhabited ; every hillside was a garden, or orchard, or vineyard. Cities and villages were seen in all directions; mountain, plain, valley, were covered with dwellings. The number of ruins at this day astonishes and bewilders the traveller. All this presupposes a large population and unwearied labour. Such a country under other circumstances would soon fall back into barrenness and desolation. And this is its state at the present time. Such was its condition when Abram settled there. Few towns existed; if we except the cities of the Jordan circle, we read of no more than some half-dozen in all the rest of the land ; and the population must have been even more sparse than it is now. From seven to ten tribes are enumerated as dwelling in Palestine or its confines ; but most of these were of small size, held together by no common policy, governed by no supreme chieftain, and sufficiently separated from one another to prevent feuds or disputes about territory. Abram found no difficulty in pasturing his flocks and herds where he pleased; his house­hold made him respected as a powerful sheikh and the natural head of a confederacy of native chiefs, when a common danger gathered them together.

Of the physical and moral peculiarities of these tribes, of their habits and characteristics, though at so distant a period, we may learn something from the study of their successors, if not descendants, the Fellaheen of Palestine. These are not Arabs, like the Bedouins who roam the desert, or the Belladeen who live in towns; they differ from the Arabs in dress, feature, habits, and speech ; and though they have been affected by Jewish, Greek, Christian, and Mussulman influences, yet they are by many regarded as the representatives of the old inhabitants whom the Israelites on their invasion found settled in the country, and who, in their earlier days, were thinly scattered aver the districts where Abram pitched his tent. The Jews did not wholly extirpate them; they lived side by side with them; and in time these aborigines more or less adopted their conquerors’ religion, and were mingled with, though never confounded with, the invaders. So at this present time, while adopting the Mahommedan faith, they have retained many of their ancient superstitions. There are traces among them of their old polytheism; their love for “high places,” and their fetishism for certain trees, sanctuaries on hills, and venerated groves, are as marked as ever they were when prophets raised their voice against them, and pious monarchs used their best efforts to put them down. The remarkable way in which they have preserved the names of places shows a continuity of tradition passing through kindred hands. They offer propitiatory sacrifices with quite a Phoenician ritual; they have superstitions about the moon wholly distinct from the ordinary Arab myths; they use amulets and other articles made after Phoenician methods; their fetes, their language, their ways, their tales, take one back to prehistoric times, and have about them a haze of antiquity, compared with which the Mussulman conquest seems a modern event. We must suppose that these Fellaheen have much degenerated since the time of Abram; for travellers who have studied them say that they are the very worst type of humanity in the East. They are destitute of all moral sense; “Lying is the salt of a man,” is one of their proverbs. They are always taking the name of God on their lips in attestation of the truth of their words, and at the same time perjure themselves without the slightest scruple. Robbery and theft and murder are habitual with them, provided they can commit these crimes without detection or punishment. The women are degraded into mere child-bearing animals or beasts of burden. The children have no moral training whatever, and grow up in perfect ignorance of right and wrong. They are not, indeed, wanting in intelligence in their early years, but after the age of puberty they never improve; and marrying as, in our view, mere children, their evil habits and crass ignorance become stereotyped in their nature and are never eradicated. The Fellaheen are hospitable after their fashion, always offering a meal to the passing traveller; but their means are small arid their resources vile. They live in miserable huts, dark, dirty, and comfortless, sometimes built of stone, generally of mud, roofed with rough timber and a coat of earth. The furniture consists of some pots and pans and a few rush mats. They eat meat only when some animal has been killed to prevent its dying a natural death, or at the great annual feast ; the usual food is barley or millet bread, wild mallows, sour milk, butter, cheese, and eggs. They have one virtue, if it is a virtue ; they love their native land. This does not mean that they have any patriotic feeling, or care anything for their rulers, or the general welfare of the country. Their love is for the soil on which they dwell; they cling with the utmost tenacity to the hills or plains where their forefathers lived and died. With no notion of combining together for any general movement, utterly careless of one another, if not openly hostile, they never quit their native village unless carried off by conscription or such-like cause, and then their only aim is to return as quickly as possible to their squalid home.

If such were the peasants in Palestine when Abram first appeared there, it is certain from our record that the dwellers in towns were more civilized and better acquainted with the arts of life. They understood trafficking, transacted business, had a medium of exchange, and administered justice in the place of public resort, the gate of the city. It was in the neighbourhood of these more settled habitations that Abram made his temporary abode. His manage offered a pleasing contrast to that of the natives. Simple and unluxurious, he spread his tent in some favoured spot, having a separate one for his wife and her women. Food was plentiful. There were unleavened cakes baked amid the cinders, clotted cream or butter, flesh of kid or calf. The slaves, either home-born or purchased, were well treated, and formed an organized community over which the chief presided with, absolute authority tempered with kindness and liberality. To this day the “law of Abraham,” as it is called, an unwritten code handed down from primitive times, is preferred by the Fellaheen to that of the Koran, and is administered by the sheikh and the elders of each tribe. The women of the patriarch’s tent were not the degraded creatures of the peasantry around him. Though they are found drawing water at the public well, and preparing food for honoured guests, this was only in agreement with the primitive simplicity of their habits, and showed no marked inferiority or debasement. The mutual love of Abram and Sarai, of Isaac and Rebecca, of Jacob and Rachel, and the respect with which each treated the other, are beautiful pictures upon which we ponder with pleasure, and which present a very high idea of the place which women held in these households.

And now that his feet trod the soil of Canaan, Abram received a new revelation, and the object of his pilgrimage was at length announced to him. Obedience came first, then knowledge. Again the Lord appeared unto him, and made the definite promise to this childless man : “Unto thy seed will I give this land”. And he believed the word. The accomplishment was beyond human control, would have seemed incredible to the carnal mind ; but he staggered not in unbelief; here, as everywhere, faith was triumphant over sight; and to mark his trust and to show his devotion, he built an altar unto Jehovah. This was his practice wherever he paused in his wanderings. No house for himself he reared, no permanent habitation where he might gather round him the comforts of a settled home, but he prepared a place for Divine worship. As Noah, emerging from the Ark, offered his eucharistic sacrifice on the renovated earth, so here the father of the faithful proclaimed his faith and consecrated the land by raising his lowly altar to the Lord who had appeared to him. Here was his witness to the true religion which he embraced with his whole heart; here was his protest against the polytheism and idolatry which surrounded him. More tolerant, or more indifferent than his own countrymen, the Canaanites offered no opposition to this act of worship ; they saw not that it was a preparation for a mighty future, a taking possession of the land in the name of the Lord.

The special means ordained by God for preserving the knowledge of Himself in a world which had lost its primeval faith was not merely the selection of one family to maintain the great truth, but also the appropriation of one territory to be the nursery of true religion and the habitation of the true believers. The position of Canaan made it most suitable for this great purpose. It was isolated; it was nowhere in immediate contact with the great idolatrous nations, yet not so remote as to be secluded from sight or knowledge. It lay in the midst of mighty empires whose struggles for pre-eminence raged around, but yet did not necessarily affect its existence. The routes of merchants and of warriors both by land and water passed its borders; caravans and armies, journeying from the Euphrates to the Nile, skirted its confines ; but no great highway led through its centre. Natural barriers, difficulties of position, held it apart from contact with the stranger, left it at liberty to establish relations with foreign countries or to maintain its isolation and thorough independence. It touched, as it were, the three divisions of the world. Europe, Asia, Africa met therein. “I have set her in the midst of the nations, and countries are round about her”. It was a centre from which at the appointed time might radiate the light which should illuminate the heathen darkness. Its national independence was not difficult to defend. The country itself fought for its inhabitants ; the thirsty wilderness on the south, the hill barrier on the north, the harbourless sea on the west, and the marvellous ravine, the Arabah, together with the great Syrian desert, on the east, rendered it almost impregnable under circumstances of ordinary prudence and watchfulness. Here might true religion flourish unchecked by adverse influences; hence might emanate a spiritual force which should reach to the “sons of the stranger” far beyond the narrow limits of Israel. This house of God should be a house of prayer for all nations. And if this high ideal was never realized, if the people were drawn away to follow the evil customs of the remnant of the nations which were left in their land, if internal dissensions often exposed them to foreign invaders and left them helpless in times of emergency, these are only instances of the weakness and sinfulness of man which mar the merciful intention of God and bring to nought the Divine purpose. Neither in the case of nations nor of individuals does God do violence to man’s free will. It is always possible to resist grace.

From his encampment at Sichem, Abram removed by easy stages to the neighbourhood of Bethel, then called Luz. The Canaanites may have regarded with suspicion this stranger from a far country, and made his position in the open valley insecure; or the necessity of finding fresh pasturage for his numerous flocks and herds may have obliged him to change his quarters to the mountainous district between Bethel and Ai, towns about two miles apart. The site of Bethel, now Beitin, has never been lost. The village stands some ten miles north of Jerusalem on the great watershed which divides the country, and from it a steep incline leads down to Jericho eight miles distant. There are some perennial springs in the neighbourhood welling from the chalky rocks and keeping the herbage green amid the stony soil. The site of the altar which Abram built here has been placed by the late survey at the ruins of Burj Beitin on a little plateau, stony but fertile, east of the village. In after times how many a solemn thought must have clustered round these altars thus witnessing to God in different localities. Memories of ancestral achievements not committed to writing were preserved by these visible tokens. The tales of tradition were certified and represented in these external objects. Children yet unborn would recognize {hem as the work of their great forefather; they would see that the land was dedicated to the worship of Jehovah, and that it was destined to be their possession. They would realize the unseen; they would acknowledge the hand Divine that had guided him who erected these shrines, and they would trust their own future to its leading. Desolate and miserable as is now the appearance of Bethel, it has always been held in the highest honour as a sacred spot. The very scanty coveting of soil on the rocks deprives it of verdure ; and though there is an abundant supply of water in the valley collected into an immense reservoir which seems to be of great antiquity, yet it could never have been a good pasturage. “All the neighbourhood,” says a late traveller, “is of grey, bare stone, or white chalk. The miserable fields are fenced in with stone walls, the hovels are rudely built of stone; the hill to the east is of hard rock, with only a few scattered fig-gardens; the ancient sepulchres are cut in a low cliff, and a great reservoir south of the village is excavated in rock. The place seems as it were turned to stone, and we can well imagine that the lonely patriarch [Jacob] found nothing softer than a stone for the pillow under his head, when on the bare hillside he slept and dreamed of angels.” In that most ancient religious sanctuary Abram pitched his tent; he watered his cattle at the springs in the reservoir, his maidens filled their pitchers at the same. From the heights above in after years the summit of Solomon’s temple could be discerned ; and this spot, badly eminent for the base worship of the calf, was in sight of the mountain of Moriah, where the shrine of the true God of heaven and earth offered its silent protest against the novel idolatry of Jeroboam. The Bethel had then become Bethaven—the “House of God” had turned into a “House of Vanity.” Whether Luz in Abram’s days was a royal city is not ascertained. It is mentioned in Joshua as the seat of a Canaanitish king, but of its history before it came into the possession of the Israelites we know but little




Famine in Canaan—Ahram in Egypt—Condition of that country—The Hyksos; their civilization—Abram’s policy—Sarai taken to Pharaoh’s house ; rescued by God’s intervention.


A quiet pastoral life Abram continued to lead, staying in one spot as long as food and water lasted, and when these failed removing to some more favoured locality, but “going on still toward the south,” that southern tract of Palestine, which is called in the Hebrew Negeb. And everywhere as he went, he offered his sacrifice, and “called upon the name of the Lord.” He bade his own household to the worship of Jehovah, and, doubtless, as far as was possible, acted as a missionary to the benighted heathen around, preaching true’ religion and showing the faith that animated all his actions.

But now a new trial beset him. “God’s athlete,” as St. Ambrose says, “is exercised and hardened by adversity.” The land which was promised to him, to which he clung as his future heritage, to which he had been so marvellously guided, could support him no longer. A mighty famine arose. He must leave his present position or starve for lack of water and grass. A country such as Canaan, only partially cultivated, with no artificial irrigation, and greatly dependent on the annual rainfall for the very existence of its pasture, often suffered from drought. Similar great famines are recorded as happening in the days of Elijah and Elisha such are the visitations mentioned by the prophet Amos: “I have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places ; and also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest.” In such emergencies the Palestinians naturally turned to Egypt, as we find them doing in the days of Joseph. In that country, though rain was not infrequent on. the northern coasts, the river was the great fertilizer, and by its regular rise rendered the vast level plain through which it flowed a very paradise of fecundity. Thus, independent of local rainfall, Egypt was revelling in plenty when other districts were suffering from famine ; and grass, and vegetables, and food of all kinds were to be had in abundance at all seasons of the year. Thither Abram betook himself “to sojourn” for a time. Nothing is said of his having asked counsel from heaven before taking this important step; and succeeding events lead rather to the inference that he trusted to his own judgment in this matter, and consequently fell into error.

To determine the exact date of Abram’s arrival in Egypt, and who was the Pharaoh whom he found upon the throne, is impossible. Josephus calls him in one place Nechaoh, and in another Pharaothes; other Jewish authorities name him Rikaion or Rakaion, adding that he came from Sinear, and obtained the royal dignity by force and fraud. Malala gives him the name of Naracho, of which Rikaion seems to be a corruption, and which is probably the same as the Nechaoh of Josephus. That the Egypt even of that early date was a country of vast importance, and of venerable antiquity, is certain from the monuments which have survived; but the obscurity of its early annals has not yet been cleared up, nor is the chronology of its several dynasties accurately fixed. But it was probably between the sixth and eleventh dynasties, and during the dominion of the Hyksos or Shepherds, that Abram appeared in the land. The word Hyksos is the Egyptian hik shasu, “prince of the Shasu,” or Bedouins. They were of Semitic origin; and issuing from Canaan and Arabia, they conquered the native princes, and established a strong government at Zoan or Tanis, which maintained its position for a period estimated variously at 160 or 500 years, and was with difficulty overthrown by Aahmes or Amosis, the founder of the eighteenth dynasty, after the time of Joseph. Though Abram found here a people of kindred blood, and speaking a language like his own, their manners and customs were far removed from the pristine simplicity of tent life, or the habits of uncultured nomads. They had become thoroughly Egyptian in dress and mode of life: they called their ruler no longer shalat, the old Semitic title, but Pharaoh, like the people whom they had dispossessed ; they had adopted the luxury and vices of their neighbours. They erected temples, and engraved sculptures, and set up their own images, quite in the manner of the vanquished natives. But they not only learned useful arts and sciences from the subject races; they also taught them some profitable knowledge. They introduced the practice of dating events from the first regnal year of their first king Set or Saites ; they were the authors of a more realistic execution in sculpture; they established a system of military and civil organization; and they effected changes in the language and literature of the country which issued in increased production of records. We may judge of the character of their rulers from the hints given in Scripture concerning the Pharaoh of Joseph’s days, who has been identified with Apepi, the last of these monarchs. He “is no rude and savage nomad, but a mild, civilized and somewhat luxurious king,” who has a grand court, lives in state, rewards his favourites, is beneficent to his subjects, and conciliating and mild to strangers. But the Egyptians, though they had a code of morality which was remarkably pure, and in many points anticipative of Christianity, were in practice most licentious, and paid no regard to the commonest precepts of purity. Sensuality was a chief business in life; drunkenness and gluttony were virtues; luxury and pleasure were the objects of universal pursuit. The king indulged in a plurality of wives, and beautiful maidens were eagerly sought after to be taken into his harem. The zeal displayed by the nobles and officers of the Egyptian court in bringing to the king’s notice beautiful women is well attested, and an illustration of it is preserved in the papyrus of Orbiney referred to by Ebers in his work “Egypten und die Bucher Moses.” Tn this narrative the sight of a lock of hair accidently discovered leads to the inference that the original owner must be “ a daughter of God,” and worthy of being the favourite of Pharaoh, and she is accordingly sought for and taken to the king.

Such being the character of the Egyptians, it was natural that Abram should feel some apprehension at bringing his wife into this country. His fear concerned not only the security of his wife’s honour, but his own personal safety. He thought that the Egyptians, if they knew of the real relationship between Sarai and himself, might very possibly take his life in order to get possession of so fair a woman. He therefore persuaded her on this and on another occasion, as we shall see further on, to say that she was his sister.. A parallel transaction occurs in the life of Isaac; and critics have inferred from the similarity of the three events that they are simply variations of one story. But there is no improbability in the three separate accounts. Like circumstances might naturally produce like effects. Such a story, by no means redounding to Abram’s credit, would hardly have been invented and repeated. The candour and authenticity of the sacred history are noteworthy as showing that the writer’s object was truth, not hero-worship, or the ideal biography of a perfect character. Such blemishes in the conduct of a saintly personage make us feel akin to him, draw us nearer, show him to be a man of like passions with us, not too far removed from our sphere, but able to afford us warning as well as example. That the patriarch should act as he did was at least natural. The fact that Sarai must have been more than sixty years old when she was “commended before Pharaoh” does not detract from the veracity of the story. Many instances of women retaining their beauty to a very advanced age are recorded. Sarai had not been weakened by the pains of child-bearing, or worn by the cares of children. Her comeliness may well have lasted till this time, as she lived to the age of one hundred and twenty-seven years, and at ninety was able to be the mother of Isaac. We cannot lay much stress on the supposition that her fair complexion offered a favourable contrast to the dusky beauties of Egypt, as the Italians of the present time set great store by the blue eyes and rosy cheeks of the women of the north, and as Virgil makes his hero Eneas a model of beauty with face as fair as ivory or Parian marble, framed in a setting of yellow hair.

But the monuments show that the Egyptians would have found no especial novelty in such colouring, and that they were accustomed to complexions which would not be regarded as swarthy. That Sarai was a woman of unusual beauty is obvious; Abram’s fear, therefore, in approaching the profligate court of Egypt was well founded, and the care for his own safety shown by making Sarai call herself his sister was a matter of worldly prudence, to which a man, whose conscience was but imperfectly enlightened with regard to many moral duties, would very probably resort. The plea that in calling her his sister he was stating the truth, though not the whole truth, does not much mend the question of morality regarded from the Christian’s standpoint. In saying this he implied that she was not his wife; for though the marriage of a brother and a sister was not unknown in Egypt (as the mythology of the country witnesses);” yet one man in such a case would have been supposed to make this assertion except to signify that there was no nearer tie between them. He was guilty of prevarication and deceit; he lost his perfect trust in God’s guardianship  and he endangered his wife’s chastity and honour in selfish care for his own safety. St. Augustine, indeed, sees herein a proof of Abram’s faith, in that he entrusted his wife to God’s care, feeling that he himself was powerless to protect her. Others have supposed that God Himself inspired this proceeding, in order to give fresh proof of His care for the chosen family, and how He brings good out of evil. We, who recognize the obligation to truthfulness under which we lie, cannot resort to such considerations in order to justify what in Christian eyes must be deemed lying or equivocation. But it seems probable that Abram had no intention of sinning, no thought that in telling only half the truth he was virtually guilty of falsehood. It was an idea that had long been present with him; he had made the plan with Sarai when he first entered a strange country. He tells Abimelech, on the second occasion when he resorted to the same subterfuge: “It came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is the kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.” He lived in an atmosphere of lies; to this day, the Arab regards falsehood as a proper way of gaining his end; and it may be that, knowing the length and tediousness of the ceremonies which preceded a marriage in Egypt, Abram, by this pretence, sought only to gain time, and hoped in the interval, by his own wisdom, to find means of saving his wife. In considering the artifice as his plan for securing his own life, we must take into account the feeling about death entertained in patriarchal times. Though these early believers doubtless had a certain confidence in the life beyond the grave, which was expressed in their formulary, “being gathered to their fathers,” yet they did not rest in that hope as we Christians have learned to do; they looked more to temporal blessings, regarded a long life as the greatest of boons, and considered a premature death as a punishment or an evil, rather than as the gate of everlasting happiness. A mistake is commonly made in the case of Old Testament worthies. We do not put ourselves in their position, but are inclined to try their conduct by the Christian standard. The education of the soul is gradual. Though God’s law is perfect and uniform, it is not revealed all at once, its excellency and completeness are only unfolded by degrees. No man is altogether what he ought to be. Even religious people, under the full light of the gospel, fail in some particulars of conduct. And shall we be offended that one, who in general lived devoutly in the fear of God, and showed such remarkable faith, now and then fell into error, and, leaning on his own understanding, stooped to subterfuge and equivocation ? In calling this man “the friend of God,” the sacred writers do not make the Lord countenance sin. The appellation is warranted by the favour with which God distinguished him, and by that life and character which, in an age uninformed as to many moral duties, and possessed of no written code of law, rose far superior to all surrounding influences, and gave witness to a very real piety and a most self-sacrificing faith, which raised him far above all contemporaries, and has left a high example to all time.

What Abram feared came to pass. It is quite in accordance with what we know of Egyptian customs, that news of the arrival of an illustrious stranger should be at once carried to the king. There were officers stationed at the frontiers whose duty it was to notify all such events, and we still possess some of the reports made under similar circumstances. So the princes received intelligence of the coming of this great sheikh with his beautiful sister, and “the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house,” with a view to honourable marriage in due course of time. Large presents were made to her so-called brother, by way of securing his good-will in the transaction, and, according to the customs of the country, purchasing the bride. Though certain carping critics have asserted that some of the animals mentioned among the presents were not then known in Egypt, further research has proved the accuracy of the Biblical record. The account names sheep, oxen, asses, and camels; and though the last-named animals are not found represented on the early monuments, it is impossible that they could have been unknown, as they have always been used in the peninsula of Sinai, of which the Egyptians of those days were masters.1 Sheep, oxen, and asses were frequently pictured. The absence of the horse is more remarkable ; but, besides that it would have been of little use to the patriarch, this creature is not indigenous in Egypt, and was probably a later introduction. Together with these animals Abram received a number of slaves ; and the king thought that he had done all that was necessary to secure Sarai for his harem; so he took her for his wife. But God interfered to protect her in this dilemma. The destined mother of the chosen race must be secured from this wrong. A mysterious sickness fell upon the house of Pharaoh, and impeded the proposed marriage. The king, according to Josephus, inquired of the priests for what cause this plague was sent, and was informed by them that it was inflicted because he was intending to take a married woman for his wife. Alarmed at this report, he called for Sarai, and obtained from her the truth of her relation­ship to Abram. It argues much for his mildness and civilized feeling that he did not more deeply resent the deception which had nearly betrayed him into the commission of a grievous crime. His rebuke is calm and dignified : “Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife ? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? So that I took her to be my wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.” And he withdraws none of the presents which, under his misapprehension, he had given unto Abram; but, now that the famine in Canaan is relieved, sends him on his way, with a special charge to his servants to protect him and speed his journey. Thus the Psalmist’s song is justified:

“And they went about from nation to nation.

From one kingdom to another people.

He suffered no man to do them wrong: Yea,

He reproved kings for their sakes ; Saying,

Touch not Mine anointed,

And do My prophets no harm."

How long a sojourn in Egypt was made by Abram is not recorded. It was probably only of a few months’ duration. We are told only that he had become “very rich in cattle, and in silver, and in gold”. According to Josephus, he had gone thither not merely to share the plenty of the land, but likewise to examine the religion, and to converse with the priests on the opinions concerning God which they held; and if, as he supposed most likely, he found these unreasonable, to endeavour to teach a more excellent way. His investigation proving that the native sentiments were vain and unfounded, he used every opportunity for demonstrating the superiority of his own belief, and by the lucidity of his statements and the persuasiveness of his oratory gained the reputation of a learned philosopher, and was venerated as a prodigy of wisdom and sanctity. The Jewish historian adds, what is plainly apocryphal, that he taught the Egyptians the knowledge of the stars and arithmetic, which he had himself learned in Chaldaea. If, as is possible, he helped the shepherd king in maintaining his position against his rival in the upper country, this may account partly for the distinguished treatment with which he met. He was likewise too powerful a sheikh to be slighted or injured with impunity. So we may see that now, as ever, Egypt was a scene of trial and temptation to the chosen seed. Worldliness, covetousness, trust in the arm of flesh, or leaning to one’s own understanding—these were the dangers which beset the saint, and out of which God mercifully delivered him.




Retun to Canaan—Lot separates from Abram—The Cities of the Plane— Renewal of promise at Bethel—Residence at Hebron—Description of the locality—Hittite allies.


The famine which had driven Abram into Egypt having passed away, he returned to the southern part of Canaan, whence he had set out, and by easy stages reached his old encampment at Bethel. Here preserved from danger in a foreign land, and greatly enriched in worldly wealth, he offered his thanksgiving unto the Lord, and thought for a time to have had rest. But it was not so to be. What Christ said to His followers, what is a true word to all God’s servants—“In the world ye shall have tribulation this was indeed the experience of the patriarch. We Christians know the blessedness of affliction; Abram was learning the lesson. The occasion was this very prosperity which God had bestowed upon him. The large increase of substance in the case of Abram and his nephew necessitated a wider area of pasturage than had formerly been required. And they had not the country to themselves; it was occupied by the Canaanites and Perizzites, the former dwelling in the walled towns, the latter inhabiting the woods and mountains and rustic villages. So “the land was not able to bear them.” First the herdsmen of the two masters dispute; one will not give way to the other; each uphold their own lord’s right to the best grazing district; each are decided against making any concession for the sake of peace. And then the principals are drawn into the quarrel,  and a life-long alienation might have been the consequence of this petty difference. A common interest, common trials and dangers, had united Abram and Lot together; and now their mutual prosperity threatened to cause serious estrangement. But Abram was equal to the occasion. His religion was practical; it ruled his conduct; it entered into every detail of life; it made him unselfish and complaisant. Wealth had not altered his character; his heart was as large, his sympathies were as uncontracted, as ever. He anticipated that beautiful phase of the Christian disposition which Christ inculcated: “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” He had learned the spirit which animated St. Paul when he enjoined the Corinthians not to be too eager to maintain their rights. “There is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”. So with touching disinterestedness and self-denial he allays the rising quarrel. He says to Lot: “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we are brethren.” And then, though he was the elder, and in all respects the superior, from love of peace and in deference to his nephew’s inclinations, he waives his own rights. With a noble generosity he exclaims: “Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me : if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot, who had not the single-hearted faith of Abram, was already growing tired of the nomadic life; he cared not to be a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth, to dwell in tents, waiting for the time of the promise to be fulfilled. He longed for a settled home at once; and when Abram bade him choose his own way, and make his abode wherever he liked, he saw the accomplishment of his desires at hand, and proceeded immediately to carry them out. From the encampment on the east of Bethel, he looked down on a wide reach of country. On three sides, indeed, the view was not inviting to a shepherd’s eye. The verdant valleys were mostly out of sight, and what met the gaze were bare hills, and summit after summit unclothed with trees, and sinking into the blue distance. On the north were the mountains which divide what was afterwards known as Samaria from Judaea; westward and southward rose the bleak hills of Judaea and Benjamin, from which the eye, missing the lower ground on Which Jebus stood, passed onwards to the range on the slope of which lay Hebron. But eastward a far different prospect opened. Down a gorge could be seen the circle of the Jordan, the tropical luxuriance of that “region round about Jordan”, set in its amphitheatre of mountains, with the plain of Jericho almost at the beholder’s feet, and brightly green with the verdure fostered by the plentiful streams of the district, watered as “the garden of the Lord,” and recalling to the pilgrims’ minds the fertility of that valley of the Nile from which they had lately returned. Where the five Cities of the Plain were situated, whether at the north or south extremity of the Dead Sea, has not been absolutely determined. From the spot where Abram and his nephew stood, the southern end could not be seen, as it is shut out by intervening hills; nor could that district have supported a settled population; but the “plain of Jordan” was visible; and that term could not be applied to the south extremity of the sea, as the Jordan never flowed there in historic times, and there is very little available ground in that direction. But these Considerations do not occur on the present occasion, as nothing is said of Pentapolis itself being seen, but only of the circle of the Jordan being visible. So Lot looked down on this rich country, and chose it for his new dwelling-place. Little seems he to have cared for the wickedness of its inhabitants, or the possible effects of such association-upon his family and household. The civilization of these cities, however corrupt, had a charm for him ; he wanted a settled home, and would have it, though it drew him into contamination and peril. He is led by sight, not by faith ; he looks to worldly advantage, not to the leading of God’s providence. He refuses to see that the Lord had all along been carefully separating the chosen family from corrupting influences, and setting them apart from wicked nations and dangerous associations ; and he puts himself in the midst of temptation, choosing what seemed most advantageous and pleasant, shunning the hard and rugged road of self­denial and humility. Doubtless at first he had intended to retain as much as he could of his nomadic life ; he had taken his tent with him and pitched it near Sodom. But he did not long keep to this resolution. The attraction of the city proved too strong for his weak purpose. By degrees he relinquished the pastoral life; he, made his home in the wicked town; he became an inhabitant of Sodom, and sunk his nationality so far as to betroth his daughters to native Sodomites. The zeal with which he had once followed the example and leading of his uncle had greatly diminished; he, who formerly had left home and country that he might worship the true God in, liberty and peace, was now content with a barren protest against the idolatry and wickedness of his neighbours, and thought he had done his duty when he refrained himself from imitating their vices and continued to hold his faith in Jehovah.

Sodom, the chief of these cities, and the other four owed their foundation to the race of Ham, which ejected the towers of Babylon, the temples and pyramids of Egypt, and which, proved such bitter enemies to the Israelites in succeeding times. To what height of refinement and civilization they had attained cannot be determined, as we have no monuments or remains by which to test their progress; but we know that they were set in the midst of plenty, in a land of singular fertility, and on the high road of the traffic between Egypt and the East. Thus they grew rich and prosperous; they had lost the restraining influence of a pure monotheism, and had learned to worship deities who were served by the indulgence of human passions and degrading lusts. The enervating effects of the tropical climate in which they lived tended to render the inhabitants an easy prey to vicious and corrupt habits, Their civilization, such as it was, did not raise them to culture and refinement, but was displayed in ministering most successfully to sensual enjoyment. “Behold,” says the Lord by the prophet Ezekiel, “this was the iniquity of Sodom; pride, fulness of bread, and prosperous ease was in her and her daughters ; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me : therefore I took them away when I saw it.” The unnatural crime for which Sodom has become infamous is a token of the utmost moral degradation, and the people among whom such crime prevails has sunk to the lowest depths of evil and is ripe for destruction. God’s hand has written His utter detestation of this vice upon every page of history; in­habitants thus guilty the land “spues out.” Sodom had its warning before its final destruction, but did not profit by it, becoming only more openly sinful, more unblushingly vile.

Sad and lonely felt Abram at the departure of Lot, so long his companion and friend. He could not but grieve at the careless selfishness which had led his nephew into the midst of the seductions of the godless inhabitants of the plain ; he must have felt a solitary man when this last link which bound him to his family beyond the flood was snapped asunder, when he, with none to help him or to confirm his acts and words, was left the only witness for God in all the land. He, whom in default of his own issue he had regarded as his heir and the inheritor of the great promise, had proved himself unworthy of the privilege, had recklessly cast it aside for the ease and comfort of an earthly home. The generous offer had been eagerly seized ; and without regard to consequences Lot had taken up his abode where the name of Jehovah was unknown, and in a place whose inhabitants were sinners before the Lord exceedingly. And now to comfort Abram in this trial, and to show him that the separation for which he grieved was a providential arrangement, the Lord made unto him a new revelation, containing a more formal and distinct reiteration of the promises originally given. Some have thought that a glorious vision of the land in all its extent was vouchsafed to him, even as Christ in His temptation was shown “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them”; but the record merely says thus: “The Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward ; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.” Thus largely is his disinterestedness rewarded. He had unselfishly given Lot the choice of the land ; he receives the promise of the whole of it. He need have no fear that he had parted with him who was to be his heir. His own seed should possess the country, and should be a multitude which none could number. Not as now, mere nomad chiefs, should they range the hills and plains; they should be settled firmly in this territory for ever. Such a promise, of course, was conditional; its fulfilment depended on the continued faith and obedience of the recipients." What Abram could not foresee, God foreknew; and this great promise was only fulfilled in Christ, to whom all power in heaven and earth is given, who has the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. “They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham,” and his blessing “has come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ’’ Still as yet Abram possessed not a foot of land in all the country. It was his inheritance, it was given to his seed, but they must wait God’s good time before entering into possession.

God had said to Abram: “Arise, walk through the land”; but this was not a command, but rather an offer, as if He had said, “If thou wouldst see how fair and wide is this possession which I give to thy posterity, go forth and examine it for thyself.” And, in fact, Abram never took it for a command ; for henceforward he changed his former plan of shifting his own abode whenever the exigencies of food and water necessitated a change of quarters. He now sends forth his trusty retainers to take his flocks to fresh pasture grounds, while he himself remains in some fixed locality. From his second station at Bethel he now removes his tent, and comes and dwells “in the oak-grove of Mamre, which is in Hebron”. Turning southward along the great watershed, passing what was afterwards Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he arrived at a spot near Hebron or Kirjath-Arba, where stood a famous oak or terebinth-tree, named after the Amorite chief, Mamre. Tradition has located this encampment at Er Rameh, some three miles north of Hebron, where Constantine built a large church in commemoration of the patriarch, and where a peren­nial spring supplies the neighbourhood with water. The town of Hebron is beautifully situated on the side of a narrow valley clothed with luxuriant vineyards, whence, it is supposed, that Joshua’s spies obtained the huge bunch of grape's which gave the place the name of “the valley of Eshcol.” There are also groves of olive and other fruit-trees. “The appearance of these vineyards is quite peculiar and very striking: a verit­able wilderness of hills and rocks, rough garden-walls, bushes, small trees, and an infinite number of crooked sticks inclined in every possible attitude except the perpendicular.” But, what is the most important of all points in the position of an Eastern town, there is a good water supply at Hebron. In the vale below are two pools never dry. The larger is one hundred and thirty feet square and twenty-two feet deep, and there are other fountains at no great distance. The town and district were occupied by a Hittite tribe and by a warlike clan of Amorites under three brothers—Aner, Mamre, and Eshcol. These at once received Abram with friendly ardour, and continued to be his staunch allies and supporters. Indeed, we have reason to suppose that they found their advantage in his help, and were very thankful to welcome among them a prince with a powerful following, who, in return for certain concessions, would aid their feeble community with wise counsel and material support. Accordingly, in the neighbourhood of this most ancient city, the patriarch made a more permanent abode than hitherto he had done. In the broad valley extending for some thirty or forty miles southward, and remarkable for its fertility, his numerous flocks and herds found ample pasture. This was his third resting-place in the land that was to be his own. First Shechem, then Bethel received him; and now Hebron or Mamre is his home, and will be his resting-place when his pilgrimage is done. It is probable that he cultivated the land in these more permanent settlements as his son Isaac did after him. For all such purposes he possessed slaves in abundance; and these indeed were necessary for the due care of his flocks in a country unenclosed and exposed to the inroads of predatory tribes and the attacks of wild beasts.





Invasion from Shinar—Kings engaged—Chedorlaomer; his expedition against the West—Battle in the vale of Siddim—Defeat of the Sodomites and capture of Lot—His rescue by Abram—Dan—The King of Sodom—Melchizedek’; Abram’s dealings with him ; his office and typical character.


A NEW scene opens in the life of Abram. The father of the faithful appears himself as a powerful chief, and as the head of a confederacy of Canaanite princes, contesting with the great world-power of Elam. It is a most interesting and important episode, and, from internal evidence, seems to have been introduced by Moses into his narrative from some ancient Canaanitish or Babylonian document. Its accuracy, which had been questioned by sceptical writers, has been wonderfully confirmed by monumental discoveries, and we can now trace the personages and events of the history, and give its approximate date, with all the certainty that can be expected in a time so remote.

Fourteen years before the period at which we have arrived, while Abram was still in Chaldea, the kings of the East, under Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, had made an expedition into Syria, and, among other conquests, had reduced to subjection the inhabitants of the five cities in the Arabah—Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Bela or Zoar—called afterwards Pentapolis. Elam was a country on the east of Babylonia, including what is known as Susiana, and lying partly in the mountains and partly in the plain. It was occupied by a Turanian race of character totally distinct from the Babylonians, with whom they were continually at war. Babylonia was itself split up into various kingdoms and unable to combine against the invading force; hence, it often happened that the Elamites obtained the superiority, and, for a time, exercised supreme power over the whole country. An Assyrian monarch, Assurbanipal, who is identified with Sardanapalus, records in one of his inscriptions show that 1635 years before his own time, i.e., about BC 2280, a king of Elam, named Kurdur-nankhundi, had invaded Babylonia and carried away an image of the goddess Nana who was worshipped there. For many years subsequent to this event the Elamites retained their supremacy, and Chedorlaomer was probably a descendant of Kurdur-nankhundi, and was sovereign of the Babylonian kings who are mentioned with him in Gen. XIV. 1. These kings are evidently named from accurate accounts in national annals. First comes Amraphel, king of Shinar, or Southern Babylonia, whom the Septuagint calls Amarphal, and whose name, though not actually identified in any inscription, contains, according to Professor Sayce, the same element as that of a monumental king called Amar-Aku. Priority is given to him as representative of the great kingdom founded by Nimrod, from whom some writers make him fourth in succession. Next, we have Arioch, king of Ellasar, whom the Vulgate calls “Rex Ponti.” Ellasar is Larsa, a town on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, a little to the south-east of Erech or Warka, and now marked by the mounds of Senkereh. Arioch ruled over that portion of Southern Chaldaea not comprised in the kingdom of Amraphel. The name Arioch occurs as that of a Babylonian in Dan. II. 14. It is, with some reason, supposed to be identified with the Accadian Eri-Aku, “servant of the Moon-god,” who, in an inscription found at Mugheir, and now in the British Museum, calls himself the son of Kudur-Mabuk, “King of Elam,” and “Father of the West,” i.e. Syria. Kudur and Eri are equivalent terms, meaning “servant”; the former being an Elamite word, the latter an Accadian.  Kudur appears as a component part of many Elamite names, and the Biblical Chedorlaomer, or, according to the Septuagint, Chodollogomor, is really Kudur-Lagamar, “the servant of Lagamar,” an Elamite deity, just as Kudur-Mabuk means “the servant of” the goddess “Mabuk.” It is not unlikely that Chedorlaomer and Kudur-Mabuk were brothers, and that Arioch was appointed by the former as vassal-king of Sumer, or Southern Babylonia. The fourth monarch mentioned is, according to our version, “Tidal, King of Nations,” whom Symmachus terms “King of the Scythians”; and others, chief of certain nomad tribes ; and others, again, Prince of “Galilee of the nations.” But the Hebrew word rendered “nations,” Goyyim, is, as Sir H. Rawlinson supposes, doubtless a misreading for Gotim, that is Gutium, which is a tract of country north of Babylonia, stretching to the mountains of Kurdistan, and containing within its boundaries what was afterwards the kingdom of Assyria. The inhabitants of this region are often mentioned in the Assyrian Inscriptions as Guti or Kuti. Tidal, in the Septuagint written Thargal or Thalga, is explained by the Accadian targal, “great judge,” or turgal, “mighty youth.” To relegate this episode to the realms of myth or parable, as is done by certain German critics, is to deny historical facts, and to refuse assent to conclusions quite satisfactory to unprejudiced minds. There is nothing unprecedented in this irruption from the East. This was not the first time that Accadian invaders had turned their arms towards the setting sun. Long before this time Sargon I and his son Naram-Sin had made expeditions into Syria; they had met with considerable opposition, but had succeeded in penetrating to the Mediterranean Sea, and have left carved tablets on the coast. They even crossed over into the island of Cyprus. Kudur-Mabug is called “the father of the west country,” by which expression is meant that he claimed supremacy over Canaan. It is true that neither Babylonians nor Assyrians affix the name of Canaan to this country; it is with them “the western” or “hinder country”; but we know that this term included Tyre, Sidon, and Samaria, Edom and Philistia, and a region that extended to the Mediterranean. In the course of one of these expeditions, Chedorlaomer had established his authority in the plain of Jordan, and maintained it for twelve years. His object, doubtless was to keep open communications with the rival kingdom of Egypt, the great route to which country crossed the Arabah towards the neighbourhood of Pentapolis. It was of consequence in the eyes of these Elamite invaders that the petty kingdoms along this road should own their supremacy. Whether the five cities were situated at the north or south of the Dead Sea, they lay in the way of armies marching from Damascus to Egypt, and had it in their power to impede or to assist the troops that passed their limits. When Lot took up his residence in the plain, the Sodomites owned the suzerainty of the Elamite monarch; but at the end of the period mentioned above, the five kings of Pentapolis, having entered into a mutual alliance, revolted, and refused to pay the customary tribute. But punishment soon overtook them. Chedorlaomer, with his three tributary kings, marched against them. Taking the usual route from the Euphrates to Syria, he and his allies fell first on the Rephaim in Basan, one of the aboriginal tribes of the country, whose capital, Astaroth {mod. Tell Asherah), was about four miles from Edrei; thence, turning south, they attacked the Zuzim who dwelt between the Amon and Jabbok, and the Emim of Kiriathaim, in Moab. The Horites, or cave-dwellers of Petra and Mount Seir, next felt their arms; then turning northward by Kadesh, they overran the land of the Amalekites and Amorites, and thus arrived at the Cities of thp Plain, whose punishment they had reserved, to the last. Then the five kings met the four in the vale of Siddim, “the salt valley,” as the LXX. call it. It was probably situated at the end of the Dead Sea, and a late traveller has drawn attention to the Arabic word sidd, which the dwellers in the Jordan valley apply to the cliffs or banks of marl which exist in the neighbourhood. The older explanation makes Siddim the plural of the Hebrew word sadeh, “a plain.” Here they made their stand, expecting that the pits of bitumen with which the plane abounded would prove a protection to them and a snare to the enemy, whose cavalry and chariots would be seriously, impeded by these obstacles. But their hopes were miserably frustrated. The luxurious and enervated dwellers in the valley of Jordan could ill withstand the hardened and skilful warriors of Chaldaea. The wells on which they relied as a defence proved their destruction when once their line was broken. All order was lost, and their defeat was certain and complete. They fell themselves into their own “slime-pits,” which were of great depth in some places, and the existence of which is attested to this day by the rise of floating masses of bitumen from the southern angle of the Dead Sea, under whose waters the vale of Siddim (“which is the salt sea,”) is, with good reason, thought to be submerged. There exist also in the same locality morasses, in which animals are often lost. So the kings fled, and he of Sodom escaped to the neighbouring mountains of Moab where the pursuers could not follow him. But the enemy plundered the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, took all the goods and all the provisions that were found there, and, as the Septuagint adds, all the war-horses, of whose efficacy in chariots of iron the Israelites in after years had terrible proof. They carried off Lot also, who had ceased to dwell in tents and had a fixed habitation in the city. He had chosen for himself, and he must take the consequences ; he had joined with the Sodomites, and had to share the evils that came upon them. He is taken captive, and would have had to spend the rest of his life in bondage had not deliverance arisen to him from Abram.

Bearing their plunder with them, the conquerors marched on their homeward way, taking their course northwards up the valley of the Jordan. Abram was still sojourning at Mamrewhen news of this raid reached him. Some of the survivors, knowing his interest in Lot, and recognizing in him the head of a powerful tribe, hurry to him with their intelligence. He is equal to the occasion. He hesitates not a moment. Though, as the account (evidently an original document) calls him a “Hebrew,” a stranger from beyond the river, he is not without friends and allies in this home of his adoption. Three powerful Amorite chiefs—Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol—were, as we have seen above, confederate with him. He calls them to his aid. However unwilling to mix himself with military affairs or to interfere in such secular matters, here was a case that imperatively claimed his attention. His own near relative, his “brother” as the record calls him.

His brother is in danger, has been unjustly carried away captive; it is his duty to attempt his deliverance. He arms his own trained servants, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen in number; he draws them forth in haste, as a sword from its sheath, or as arrows from the quiver, and with his allies sets forth in pursuit. The invaders had already reached the neighbourhood of Laish, afterwards called Dan, and in later time the northernmost limit of the territory of Israel, at one of the sources of the Jordan. Some have doubted whether the place intended be not Dan-jaan in Northern Peraea, as Laish does not stand on either of the roads from the vale of Siddim to Damascus. But Josephus states expressly that the locality was at one of the spring-heads of the Jordan; and Jerome adds his testimony to the same effect. The spot is identified both by its natural features and its present name. It is now called Tell-el-Kadi, the “ hill of the judge,” Dan and Kadi being synonymous. Below the site of the old town, surrounded by a densegrove of oleanders, is a rocky basin, some fifty paces in width, in which a most copious fountain rises, forming a full-grown stream at its very beginning. This is reckoned the third branch of the river; the main stream at Bainas, that at Dan called Leddan, and the smallest and most northern termed Hashbany at Hashbeiza, unite at Shekh Yusef about five miles below Dan, and form the Jordan there nearly fifty feet wide. In this neighbourhood Chedorlaomer and his host were encamped, thinking themselves secure from pursuit and taking no precautions against a surprise. To encounter such an enemy in a pitched battle was very far from being Abram’s design. His object was to rescue his nephew, not to win military renown. So he used stratagem. “He divided himself against them by night, he and his servants.” He did not engage the main body of the invaders, but attacked them at separate points, employing the tactics of Gideon when he divided his little band of three hundred into three companies and surprised the Midianites, or the plan of Saul when he gained such great reputation by defeating the Ammonites. So in the darkness and the confusion caused by his sudden attack from different quarters, Abram routed the Elamites, recovered the spoil and his captive nephew, and pursued the flying enemy over the range of Anti-Libanus to a place named Hobah, which Eusebius' identifies with a village near Damascus inhabited by Ebionites, and at this day pointed out as the spot where Abram prayed on his return from the pursuit of the Mesopotamian kings, but which is more probably placed about half-way between Damascus and Palmyra, on the direct route to the East, where a village of that name is found. With large booty and the rescued captives Abram returned in peace to the valley of the Jordan. But so successful an exploit, involving such a vast benefit to the inhabitants of the country, could not be allowed to pass unacknowledged. The reputation and the influence of the stranger chieftain were largely increased by this expedition, and the gratitude of the people was shown in various ways. First of all the king of Sodom comes forth to meet him, to congratulate hint on his success, and to receive his portion of spoil from his hands. The place of meeting is called “the valley of Shaveh, which is the king’s dale.” This is probably the northern part of the valley of the Kidron, where the “Tombs of the kings” are now shown, and where the childless Absalom reared a memorial for himself that his name might not be forgotten. Full of gratitude for Abram’s, valiant rescue, the king of Sodom wished eagerly to reward him for his services. “Give me the captives of my people whom thou hast delivered ; I want no more ; keep thou everything else which thou hast taken from the enemy.” This indeed was no more than the customary practice which obtained in Eastern countries. In strict right the whole of the recovered booty belonged to the captor, and no longer to the original possessors; but this was not an occasion on which to enforce such a claim, nor was the generous Abram one to insist upon it. The patriarch firmly refused the offer. He had not made war for his own aggrandizement ; he was not self-seeking ; liberal and magnanimous, now as ever free from all taint of covetousness, he vows he will receive nothing. He was no mercenary soldier to be paid for his martial exploits. It would have suited ill with his character, as a pure worshipper of the one God, to lay himself under an obligation to the Sodomites and to accept, favours at hands polluted with sin; so he answers: “I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread nor a shoelatchet nor aught that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich”. All that he will consent to receive is a certain portion of provisions for his servants and allies.

In contrast to his coldness and reserve towards the king of Sodom is his conduct to Melchizedek, king of Salem. Round this personage tradition has gathered a crop of legends which have no credibility in themselves and no foundation in history. The words of our record are these: “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine ; and he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, and blessed be God Most High, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him a tenth of all.” Now there are difficulties in this narrative the solution of which has never been successfully attained. The presence of Melchizedek, “priest of the Most High God” (El Elyon), in the midst of the probably heathen population of Salem, is perplexing. We are scarcely prepared for the sudden .appearance of this Cohen, offering bread and wine in connection with the firstfruits of the spoil, as Philo observes, blessing Abram, and receiving tithes from the patriarch. We have long looked upon Abram as the one witness to Monotheism among an idolatrous people, and to see him holding a position inferior to this hitherto unknown chieftain is an unexpected difficulty. Who he was, of what family or nation, is left in utter obscurity. Suddenly be comes forth in the page of history for one brief moment, and then his name is heard no more for a thousand years, when it is found in the Book of Psalms; a thousand years more pass before it occurs in the Epistle to the Hebrews; so that there is a mystery connected therewith, which gives to it a preponderating interest and charm. The name itself, Josephus explains as meaning “just king,” and the writer of the Epistle, as “king of righteousness.” It is certainly Semitic in character, as Abimelech, Adoni-zedek; and some suppose it signifies “My king is Zedek,” taking the last word to be a name of God. But the old interpretation is probably correct. The place of which he was king is disputed. It has been usual to regard “Salem” as Jebus or Jerusalem; hut other opinions have been held. Jerome, though he says in one place that Salem was the former name of Jerusalem, of which city Melchizedek was king, in another expressly affirms that the Salem mentioned in Genesis was not Jerusalem, but a place so named near Scythopolis or Bethshan, where in his time the ruins of Melchizedek’s palace were still shown. This town lay indeed on the ancient road from Damascus to Egypt, but it is far too much to the north to suit the requirements of our narrative, the incidents of which must have taken place near Jerusalem.. Another hypothesis regards the place as that Salim near AJnon where John haptized, and which has beep, identified with a village, blessed with copious springs, opposite the vale of Nablus. From an account which Eusebius, quotes from Eupolemus, who states that Abram was hospitably entertained at Argarizin, some’ have argued that the meeting took place at Mount Gerizim, the word being really Har-Gerizim. But no import­ance can he attached to this isolated and confused mention. It is safest to follow the exposition of Josephus and the Targums, and to see in Salem the city of Jerusalem, as in Psa. lxxvL 2; “ At Salem is His tabernacle and His dwelling-place in Zion.” There is a striking propriety in the type of David’s great son being king of that city where David himself reigned. But if we regard this point as settled, still as to the person and nation­ality of Melchizedek different opinions have been held, and nothing can with ahsolute certainty be determined. Some heretics, we are told,? considered him to have, been the Holy Ghost; Origen and Didymus deemed him an angel; the Jews, in order to account for his acknowledged superiority to Abram, identified him with Shem, the most pious of Noah’s sons, who according to their genealogies lived till Isaac’s time. Some Christians, both in early and later times, have maintained that he was the Son of God appearing in human form, which of course would nullify his typical character on which such stress is laid in the Epistle to the Hebrews. He could not be a type pf himself; nor would it have heen said that he was made “like unto the Son of God,” if he had been the Son of God Himself. The writer, too, states expressly that his genealogy is not counted from the sons of Levi; and he could never have termed him “ without father and without mother,” if he regarded him as the same person as Shem; nor would the distinction be­tween the priesthood of Melchizedek and Levi be so marked as to support the argument founded upon it. There is no reason to doubt that he was an historic personage. As to his nationality we can conclude nothing from his Semitic name, as that might be only a translation of his original appellation. He is dwelling among Hamites, recognized apparently as the chief of a settled Canaanitish tribe. If he had been of Semitic descent, he could scarcely have been considered so entirely disconnected with Levi and the Jewish priesthood; his sacerdotal office would not have had the isolated character which is attributed to it. Monotheists were to be found among alien people, such as Job in the land of Uz, and Balaam in Pethor. It is reasonable to conclude that he was of the same blood as those among whom he dwelt, preserving in himself that revelation of the true God which was maintained by Noah and his immediate descendants. For the first time in the Bible we meet here with the term, afterwards in frequent use, “God Most High”, whose priest Melchizedek is called. That the true God is meant appears by Abram’s use of the same title coupled with the sacred name of Jehovah, when he answers the king of Sodom:  I have lift up mine hand unto Jehovah, God Most High.” It is quite possible that Melchizedek did not know the name Jehovah; and that was the reason why he blessed Abram in the name of God, the Possessor or Creator of heaven and earth, Him whom he knew only under that attribute. Abram adds to this title that of the One, only, self-existent Deity. The priesthood of Melchizedek possessed something of a higher nature than that which appertained to the headship of a family or tribe, and was recognized as such by Abram himself. So it is said in Hebrews: “Consider how great this man was, unto whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth out of the chief spoils, and he whose genealogy is not counted from the sons of Levi hath taken tithes of Abraham, and hath blessed him that hath the promises. But without any dispute the less is blessed of the better.” And as no man taketh the honour of the priest­hood on himself without authority from God doubtless Melchizedek was not self-appointed, but received his special gift from the Lord, and exercised it among the devout followers who gathered around him from the heathen population, over whom he also reigned as king in this city of peace. His office involved the duties of offering sacrifice and blessing, the latter of which ministrations certainly, and the former probably, he performed on this occasion. One does not see why he is so particularly called a priest, unless he here exercised his special functions. Nothing indeed is said of his offering in sacrifice the firstfruits of the spoil, which Philo asserts that he did, but the immediate mention of his bringing forth bread and wine seems to infer that he offered the cakes and made the libations which became customary in later days. The bread and wine could hardly have been intended as refreshment for the troops, for they had already been supplied from the spoil; but, after a portion had been offered to God, the remainder was distributed to them to consume, as was usual in the case of peace offerings. These emblems of God’s gifts to man were also symbols of the Divine blessing, and were intended to represent that the choicest gifts of earth were merited by this great benefactor. Early writers unanimously have discerned in this transaction a type of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the great “unbloody sacrifice,” as they called it, which Christ, the Priest after the order of Melchizedek, offers for His faithful people. There may have been also in this offering of the fruits of the land to Abram an earnest of his future possession of Canaan, and his partaking of them may be looked upon as bis “livery and seisin” of the promised territory. That the patriarch humbly received the blessing of this kingly priest, as an inferior submitting to a superior, is quite in accordance with his character of lowliness and faith. Recognizing in Melchizedek a faith like his own, and acknowledging in him not merely a tribal headship, but the priestly character in perfection, Abram bent lowly before him to receive his solemn benediction, and gave him tithes of all the spoil that he had taken of the Elamites. Was this the natural impulse of the grateful human heart? There was as yet no written law on the subjec; yet we find Jacob at Bethel vowing his tenth unto God; and the custom, we know, obtained among the heathen in various countries. Thus Croesus advised Cyrus to enforce from his Persian forces the payment of a tenth to Zeus, which they would consider just and reasonable.’ The Carthaginians are said by Diodorus Siculus to have dedicated a tithe of all their profits. Xenophon subjected the occupiers of some land which he possessed near Sqithus to a payment of tithes in support of a temple of Artemis. This offering of a tenth of one’s substance to Almighty God seerps to have been a natural law whose origin, like that of sacrifice, is lost in the mist of antiquity; and the later Mosaic enactments on the subject merely re-enforced and regulated a right of perpetual obligation.

We are intended; to see in Melchizedek a very remarkable type of Christ. His very name and title are full of significance. “King of righteousness,” and “King of Salem,” which is “Peace—could any designations more fitly describe Him who is the Lord our righteousness, and the Prince of peace? Melchizedek was a priest, not of the line of Aaron, not of one particular nation; and he blessed Abram, the father of the faithful, before he was circumcised, in whose seed all families of the earth are blessed. So Christ is the one universal priest of all nations and of all ages, who offered Himself for all, who now intercedes for men, and whose office as Mediator and Intercessor reaches over the whole race of mankind and the whole sweep of time, and who blesses His people with manifold love and power. Melchizedek, king and priest, was superior to Abram, like Christ who is the hlessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, the great High Priest, of whom all other priests are but shadows and figures, faint and fleeting. There is. a representation of ete.rnity about Melchizedek. He stands alone; there is no mention of his ancestry or his. descendants; his birth and death alike are unrecorded; to his priesthood and to his life no beginning and no end are assigned, So Christ, in so far as He is a priest, has no pedigree, and his office has no termination ; in His human nature He had no earthly father; and He is the same yesterday, today, and for ever; He was from the beginning, He is from everlasting, who only hath immortality and liveth for ever and ever. Thus, in his character, in his office, in the manner in which he is introduced into the sacred narrative, Melchizedek offers abundant material for profound thought; and we may well believe that the secrecy as to his antecedents, and the functions which he exercised, were providentially ordered to make him a type of Christ, the priest of all mankind, whose eternal generation and continual office are thus so strikingly adumbrated.