Abraham: God's New Grace Initiative
Understanding the Old Testament Lesson #006
February 6, 2000
Father, we do thank Thee that we have the privilege to study Your Word today. That we can be taught and we can understand it by means of God the Holy Spirit Who indwells and fills us. Father, we thank you that He guides and directs us; that He brings to our memory the things that we have learned; that He continuously intercedes for us and prays on our behalf that we might grow into spiritual leaders. Father, we thank you for the Old Testament all that we have there that is tremendous doctrines and implications of the statements and events and how they teach us of Your continuous grace and redemptive work in human history. Now Father, as we study these things, we pray that You will help us to understand and see how they relate and apply to our lives and transform our thinking. We pray this in Jesus Name, Amen.
Open your Bibles with me to Genesis 12:1-3. This is our starting point this morning as we continue our study, our survey orienting to the Old Testament. One of the things I want you to keep in mind as we go through this study is that it is not merely a rehearsal of the, sort of what I would call the Sunday school stories, the basic events and people in the Old Testament. What I am trying to do is not just to go beyond that a little bit and to help you to understand the significance and the purpose of these events. You see that these are not just random stories, different events or biographies of people, but the writers of Scripture themselves wrote a sort of editorialized Scripture, sort of an editorialized view of history from the theologized view of what was going on at that time. This is God's perspective on human history, so that we can understand His plan and His purposes and how He is working out His purposes for mankind.
Now we have seen, I have not emphasized it as much, but I want to bring it out some this morning; that the unifying principle of the Old Testament is the Kingdom of God. This is the overall principle. I will develop that some more as we go on. It is the development of the Kingdom of God and the intrusion of the Kingdom of God into human history. We started off back in Genesis 1 and we saw that when God created man He created him in His image and according to His likeness. And that phrase in the Hebrew implies two things:
1. First of all, that man is in the image of God, but is also to be the image of God. And an image is a representation. So man is created a certain way immaterially as well as physically in order to be the image of God. He is the image of God in order to be the image of God. Does that make sense? He is created a certain way. He has certain characteristics in his soul that reflect God, but his purpose, he is that way to fulfill his purpose of representing God and ruling the earth. He is to exercise dominion over the earth. He is to rule over the earth. He is to subdue the earth. We looked at all that terminology. And yet man advocated his role as the king of the earth, so to speak; so God's vice-regent over the earth, when he disobeyed God, and violated the prohibition in the garden, and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At that point Satan became the prince and power of the air. He took over the rule and operation of the planet because it is now fallen.
2. And so what God is doing is working, just as he did in Genesis 1:2, where we saw the picture of divine judgment on the earth and darkness, tohu-wa-bohu, the churning waters of the deep on the earth. Just as we saw, that was judgment and then the Holy Spirit of God came and moves upon the waters and we saw the beginning of God's redemptive activity. We see the continuation of God's redemptive activity after the Fall of man. And that is really the rest of the story of the Bible. It is God's work to restore the kingdom dominion of man to man. And ultimately that is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ in hypostatic union, His undiminished deity and perfect humanity. So he comes back as the Son of Man, the greater Son of David and He rules and reigns on the Throne of David in Jerusalem during the 1000 year Millennial Kingdom and that fulfills the ultimate purpose of God in creating man back in Genesis 1:26-27. So that gives you the overall picture of God's plan and purposes in human history.
Now in these first eleven chapters of Genesis we have seen that God is in the process of redeeming man. But before we get there let's go through some of our review of the overall structure of the Old Testament. The first five Books we call the Pentateuch or The Law. The Law, torah, is usually translated, probably not the best translation; probably the best translation is "instruction." It is God's 'instruction" to Israel as to how they are to live, how they are to operate, how they are to have a relationship with Him since He has called them out to be His specific people on the earth; His representative, they are to be a kingdom of priests. So The Law is His instruction. Another good word to translate torah is just the word "doctrine." because "doctrine" means teaching, instruction. So this is the first five Books of doctrine you might say, the Books of the Law. Moses wrote those for Israel while they were on the plains of Moab just prior to entering into the land in 1440 BC.
Then we have the Historical Books, the theologized or editorialized Books of Israel's history giving us God's divine perspective on history. See all history is editorialized. Think about that for a minute. I don't care who you read, from Phidippides, by Herodotus, all the way up to some body in the present, Paul Johnson or some other modern historian; all history is the writer's interpretation of the events, even if they just list facts because they cannot list all the facts. So even in the listing of important events; we all see this recently, what is it the BH1 has put out the top 100 of Rock and Roll hits of the century. And it is a great controversy if you've ever watched TV and pay attention to these things. Why wasn't this song included; why was this song included instead of the other. So anytime you make a list that is not just boldface facts, it is going to represent the author's taste and opinion; and something is going to be included and something is going to be excluded.
So even a list of key events in the 20th century, you can't list every event, and they will reflect person's orientation to reality and in some sense reflect their view and their value system. So no history that you read is brut fact. That is one of the great myths, that history is somehow neutral. History is not neutral; history is the historian's perspective; and included in any history, and I had to take a doctrinal course on historiography and had to read about forty different volumes of history ; church history, secular history, and in everyone of them I had to be able to tell what the author's view of history was; what the basic causations were in history; where they saw history going; was it secular; was it linear; or was it random; was it Marxist; was it positive this; was it somehow Christian in one way or another? Every single history is written from somebody's viewpoint.
So, what we have in the Bible is God's view of history. History is the outworking of God's plan and purposes. So, it is on the basis of understanding the Old Testament and digging deep into it that you can understand what a true philosophy of history is suppose to come to. This is one of the things that I like about the first eleven chapters of Genesis; is that it introduces us to so many different concepts in just sort of a seed form. We have the divine institutions, human responsibility; but what are the implications of human responsibility? There are tremendous implications for law, for government, for politics; not only do we have the institution of human volition, but later we'll have the institution of human government and individual nations. So the first divine institution was human volition. The second is marriage. The third is family; this provides tremendous orientation and foundation for developing a biblical view of society and social interactions. So if you don't start with what God says about society and the purpose of man, Genesis 1:26 gives us a basic anthropology that is the starting point.
See modern man and his wisdom thinks deifying his own experience and rationalism goes out and you take a course in college in sociology, anthropology, any of these things; they start where (?); with human experience. They go out and they evaluate everybody or they have a questionnaire and survey everybody to draw all this data and then start drawing conclusions. But they don't have a vantage point of absolute in order to properly evaluate the data. So the Bible gives us that starting point of objectivity so that you can begin to properly evaluate the data; otherwise, you really don't know what is absolute or what is not. For example, let's say you go outside and you like ants; and I remember when I was a kid and it was real popular for everybody to get this ant colony. Then you set those up (and it is probably still popular for kids today); so you are watching the ants and you realize that there is one female ant that is dominate and runs all the males. And there are thousands and thousands of male ants, the drones and the workers, and the rest of it.
And so you can extrapolate from that, that that might be a good model for marriage and society. You could do other things, but the Bible tells you how to look at nature and what to chose and what to not to chose. It says, "Look at the ant see how it labors day in and day out...," Proverbs 6:6. And it uses the ant as an analogy to build a biblical philosophy of work and labor. But it doesn't say that the way that God has designed the ant and the structure of ant society has anything has to do with man's social relationships. See the Bible gives you that framework for understanding how to evaluate the data. You get an outside objective view, from history, from man, from man's relationships. All of these different things, economics, all of this is rooted in (the Bible.)
And this is not something new, when you go back into reformation thought, in the 1500s and 1600s, especially if you read the Old Puritan, this is exactly what they did. And of course you have people like John Locke, who was a philosopher and a political philosopher, and whose writings were extremely influential upon people like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and others who framed the U.S. Constitution. Locke was raised in a Puritan home. The Puritans were self-consciously developing a Biblical view of society, law, government, all these things by going back and digging into Scripture and working out the implications of Scripture. So even though these episodes in Scripture are just there in part of a skeletal form, they do give us a framework for developing tremendous principles in every single area of life.
So that is the beginning with the five Books of the torah; the Historical Books, and then in 931 BC the tribes split. There is a civil war. Jeroboam in the north leads the ten tribes in a tax revolt against Rehoboam in the south. And Jeroboam is one of the first historical revisionist in history and he has to rewrite the Old Testament. This is a model for what happened earlier in history. Why do people write God out of the picture? Because if God is in the picture then they no longer have a basis for their existence and the way they want to exist. So the Northern Kingdom wants to exist independently from the Southern Kingdom, but if they still believe in the Old Testament law, then there is only one central place to worship and that is in Jerusalem. How can you maintain political integrity if everybody in your country has to go to the other country in order to worship? So he (Jeroboam) has to rewrite history. He is one of the first historical revisionists.
So, you see how historical revisionist always serves somebody's purposes. So you have the division of tribes into the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In 722 BC the Northern Kingdom goes out under divine discipline, when they are wiped out by the Assyrians. Then in 586 BC Southern Kingdom is wiped out by Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Following that you have the Post-Exilic period covered by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Job is written during the period of The Law; Psalms covers a wide period; the Solomonic Literature written by Solomon in the 10th century BC. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel are the Major Prophets. Then you have the Minor Prophets, the Pre-Exilic Prophets and then the Post-Exilic Prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Mariachi.
The key verse is Exodus 19:5-6a, "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the people, for all the earth is Mine and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." That is the point of the Pentateuch. God is calling out Israel to be a unique nation. We are going to see that call this morning when we get into Genesis 12, in the call of Abram. They are called out to be a kingdom of priests. Israel is designed to be a priest nation among all the nations. It is through Israel that the remaining Gentile nations will be able to come to God and have a relationship with God. So this is our governing theme; and notice it brings in the idea of kingdom. "You will be a kingdom of priests." It is the idea of God's Kingdom and the outworking of God's Kingdom in human history that is the general theme of the Old Testament.
Genesis is divided into four events and four people. The first four events, we have covered already, Creation, Fall, Flood, and we will cover the Tower of Babel a bit this morning; and then four people, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the four patriarchs of the nation Israel. Now the first eleven chapters we see the continuous redemptive work of God to bring about the kingdom. After the Fall Adam and Eve have sinned; they are tempted by Satan to join him in his rebellion against God. So the creature refuses to acknowledge that he is a creature, refuses to bow the knee to God, and decides that he is going to define reality on his own terms and on the basis of his own thinking. So man instead of submitting to an infinite reference point, so to speak, by which he can evaluate all things. He decides that he is intelligent enough to be his own authority. So man seeks to build his own kingdom in contrast to God's Kingdom.
The result, is judgment on man; judgment that also includes judgment on nature, on the animals, on plant life, every facet of nature; every part of the creation is effected by man's decision to sin. But man, most of all, died spiritually. He is separated from God. We see that God begins to do work to recover that situation. Man Falls and man, in terms of male, has the responsibility to till the garden and work the earth and now the earth is cursed and is antagonistic to him. For the woman, who was created to come alongside the man to be his assistant and to be part of the operation of filling the planet, of populating the planet, now her role is cursed so that there is pain associated with childbirth. And she wants to usurp the authority of the male. So there is now resistance in every category of life. But God moves in grace. He shows them the basis for sacrifice; He makes clothes for them to cover up their sin, the consequences of their sin. And all of this, of course, foreshadows the ultimate provision in the salvation work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
So we see God's continued work in grace. Then in Genesis 4 the principle of sin, the sin nature, is passed on genetically form Adam to his descendants, Cain and Abel. We see the episode of Cain's murder of Abel. Yet again we see God's grace; God provides another son in Seth, but God also provides protection for Cain. Capital punishment is not instituted at that stage in the human race; so God protects Cain, who is cast out as a nomad, but God puts a mark on Cain to protect him and God does not want anyone to continue any sort of vendetta or vengeance campaign against Cain. So we see the grace in the midst of Cain's sin and rebellion.
Genesis 5-6 covers continuous rebellion and depravity of the human race. We see the insertion of the demons, the sons of God; take daughters of men to be their wives with two purposes, probably to destroy the genetic purity of the human race; and to block out the ultimate salvation. But also because Satan, and his desire to beat God, wants to dominate this new race, this created order. In the midst of that there is God's grace; Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. We see that God is going to execute judgment on the entire human race through the worldwide cataclysm or worldwide Flood. But God is to deliver a portion of the race and start over. That comes through Noah and his family.
That brings us down to about where we stopped the last time In Genesis chapters 10 and 11. Genesis 10-11 we have the episode of the Tower of Babel. Now, if we are going to understand Genesis 12:1-3, which is where God calls out Abram to make a special nation of Abram, we must understand the context. Why, all of a sudden, is God going to work through a specific individual instead of through the entire race? Up until this time, up until Genesis 11, the human race is homogenous. There are no races; there are no distinctions in language; there is just a homogenous ethnic unity in the human race. It is through the diversification of human languages in Genesis 11 that you cause the human race to divide up into groups and that in turn leads to the development of languages.
Now, it is interesting that if we look at the genealogy in Genesis 10 it describes the descendants of the sons of Japheth. The sons o Japheth are primarily western European, northern European, the Russians, all are descendants of Japheth. The sons of Ham would include Africans, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Asians, Indians to some degree probably. It is hard to tell, but, the important thing is that if you look at the Table of Nations in Genesis 10-11, is that it is these historical names that become the ethnic people group names that are used throughout the rest of the Scripture. So when you get into prophecy about the future end times in Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel, they are expressed in terms of the people group names that come out of Genesis 10-11. So if you get into Ezekiel and start reading about Rosh and Gog and Magog and some of the other terms; in order to understand where that comes from you have to go back to the origination in Genesis 10.
The other thing that we see if we look at Genesis 10 is that one of the descendants of Ham was Cush, Genesis 10:8 "Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter" and the word translated "before" should be translated "against." He is antagonistic to the LORD. He is going to lead another revolt against God. This is the background for understanding what happens at Babel. "He was a mighty hunter against the LORD; therefore, it is said "like Nimrod." A mighty hunter against the LORD, so he is antagonistic to God; and of course to understand that antagonism we have to go back to the principles laid out by God in the Noahic covenant. So what I am doing, so you don't seem so confused, is each lesson I am going to take a core passage; like last week we looked at Genesis 6, why did God have anger against the people? We are going to pick a core passage and look at what leads up to it and what develops from it.
Then we had to go back and look at the context, the same thing this time. We are going to pick a core passage, look at what looks up to it, and then what develops from it. So to understand the problem with Nimrod, we have to go back to the ramifications or to the principles in the Noahic Covenant. Now the Noahic Covenant is a restatement of the original covenant God made with Adam, except for a few minor changes. In Genesis 9:1 the covenant begins, they are told to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. That is the key word; they are to "fill" the earth. They are to spread out. They are to scatter. They are to go out and exercise dominion over the earth as God's representatives once again. It goes back to the idea that we studied in the Suzerain-vassal treaty form. Man is the vassal to God and he is given the land, which is the entire earth, and he is to go out and exercise dominion over it.
There are some other changes that take place in the Genesis 9 covenant. Man is now going to be a carnivore instead of a vegetarian; and there is going to be fear between mankind and between the beasts; and there is to be the establishment of capital punishment. This is given in Genesis 9:6-7. "Whoever sheds man's blood by man his blood shall be shed." Why, in order to deter crime? Is that what it says? It does not say that does it? In order to have vengeance upon these individuals who commit capital crime. Does it say that? No it doesn't. Now the reason that I bring that up is because if you have been watching the news this last week, once again we have all the whiney crybaby liberals out there who hate the whole concept of capital punishment. It is usually spearheaded by some defense attorneys. And I just have a problem sometimes with it. I understand they have a vital role in the system; and if you ever get accused of a crime that is the first person you want, a good defense attorney.
But I have a real problem with some of these defense attorneys because they never met a guilty person. And so the last thing they ever want to happen, as far as they are concerned every execution involves an innocent person. They really didn't commit that crime. I mean we shouldn't take their life. But Scripture says that because man is created in the image of God; and if you presuppose the sin nature and understand the dynamics of the sin nature, what is really going on here is that God is saying that a person reaches a certain level of depravity in order to commit murder or in order to commit certain crimes. And at that stage they have forfeited the right to life because their soul is so marred and so fragmented now that they do not deserve to live any longer. And because they have taken the life of someone this provides the basis of law, for respect for human life, that every human being, no matter how physically handicapped or marred they might be, every single human being has the right to life; however, if you take the life of another person in terms of murder. It is not in terms of warfare; it is in terms of murder or homicide. Then you forfeit the right to life. And this is the basis for the establishment of government.
So, when we go back and we look at the divine institutions in Scripture; we see that God established the personal responsibility, human responsibility, back with the mandate, the prohibition in the garden. Then when He created the woman for Adam He establishes marriage. Then when they had children you have the institution of family that is embedded in the command to be fruitful and multiply. You have the institution of marriage. With this covenant, with the Noahic Covenant, you have the establishment of human government. That is the basis for this. For as soon as God delegates governing responsibilities and judicial decision into the human race, then you have to have some administration.
Now because man is fallen, man is a sinner, God is omniscient, you put that together. God always knew that man would be a sinner because man is a sinner he is going to make wrong decisions because man makes wrong decisions he will ultimately will condemn and execute innocent men wrongly for crimes they did not commit. Now we have to accept the fact that is going to happen because man is fallen. That does not mean that we don't continue to improve the system. But the point is that God authorizes and mandates capital punishment. This is not an option; this is mandated by God for the survival of the nation and the health of the nation. And God, if you believe in God, if you believe God is omniscient, you have to realize that God is not surprised by the fact that men make mistakes in the execution of criminals. But God, nevertheless, still authorized and mandated capital punishment even though he knew men would make mistakes in the outworking of that principle. So God establishes human government here, but we still don't have the establishment of nations. That does not come yet. So we start off with human government, capital punishment is established here, and Noah and his children are to go out and populate the earth.
Now Nimrod comes along and he is a descendant of Ham. Remember it was the Noahic curse on Canaan the son of Ham; Ham violated Noah's privacy. There is certainly the suggestion of sexual immorality. Somebody asked me, there is always somebody who comes along and they will ask a question. They will say, 'Well, I have hear somebody teach that when Ham came into the tent and saw the nakedness of his father; that that implies some kind of homosexual encounter and incestuous encounter, something like that. And I have heard that too, but that is not in the Text. If we are honest and we deal consistently with what the Text of Scripture says, there is something to be said about the naked body. Seeing the naked body is being a temptation to lust. And so there is this emphasis in the Mosaic Law about keeping the body covered, modesty, all of this is important.
So all we see here, all it suggest, because you have the same terminology in other passages, is that when Ham looks upon his father's naked body it is improper. He treats it lightly; he is showing disrespect for his father. There is a hint of some sort of sexual impropriety but at the most it is mental; it is not overt. But what it does reveal is the tendency that will be worked out in his descendants through the Canaanites and their incredible devotion to fertility religions and the phallic cult and the sexual orgies and everything else that went along with it. So it is just a foreshadowing of that event. There is nothing specific that happens like that in the episode with Ham. But it is one of Ham's descendants, Cush, who is the father of Nimrod and Nimrod leads this revolt against the LORD.
In Genesis 10:9-10 we read, "He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord." 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar, "The beginning of his kingdom." So he is establishing a kingdom. And throughout the Scriptures now you are going to see the conflict between the kingdom of Babel, the kingdom of Babylon; it always represents human viewpoint thinking and man's rebellion against God. And you have the war of the two cities. Dickens made it popular in Paris and London in The Tale of Two Cities, but in the Bible the tale of two cities is the antagonism between the Jerusalem, the city of God, and Babel or Babylon, the city of man. This extends all the way through ancient history, all the way into Revelation. What do you have in Revelation but the kingdom of the antichrist is Babylon, the Mother of all Harlots. So to understand what is happening in Revelation you have to go back to Genesis 10-11 where you see the beginning of that. So this whole theme develops and you see the unity of the theme throughout Scripture.
So he (Nimrod) starts the kingdom of Babel and this is developed more fully in the next chapter. This is the stylistic device I mentioned earlier of 'pearling;' that you have one chapter that summarizes everything and then in the next chapter they pick one episode up out of that first chapter and then they develop it fully in the next chapter. So you have foreshadowing in Genesis 10 and the development in Genesis 11.
Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. So there is a unity of language because there is unity of language man can get together and he can do more. He can unite against God. Genesis 11:1-4 "Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Man is out to establish himself in antagonism against God "less we be scattered." What did God say to do? God said to scatter over the earth. So it is an episode of rebellion and because of that, man continues to do this throughout history and the latest manifestation is the United Nations and all of the moves and attempts toward globalization that is going on today in all of the treaties and alliances that are taking place. And we move more and more toward internationalism; and with the earth being as populous as it is and with the move toward computers, which give us another universal language now, through the medium of computers. You can communicate using computer language and you don't even have to think the same language. All these things work together to unify the human race again.
But it is man's attempt to solve man's problems man's way. And God will always judge that and the results of that are always going to be catastrophe. It will never work and it has never worked. And because of this God curses man and He scatters their language. Genesis 11:6 "The LORD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them'. " This is what they begin to do. Genesis 11:7 "Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech'." Now who led this? This is an interesting observation. The person who led this revolt was Ham, was a descendant of Ham. It was Nimrod. Now among the Hamitic languages on the earth, from the various dialects and languages in Africa to Asia to the Sub-Continent of Asia, India, all of this; there is more diversification, more distinction in the Hamitic languages than in Japhetic languages. In Japhetic languages you have a lot of similarities between your various romance languages and then you have your Anglo-Germanic languages. There are a lot of similarities there.
Then when you come to your Semitic languages, the descendents of Shem, the Arabs, the Hebrews, the Acadians, and the Ugaritic, all these basic languages are very similar. In fact, when you study Semitic languages they all show a common source. There is less division among your Semitic languages then the other languages. So that just shows something about how it substantiated the Babel episode. And its outworking. So man is scattered by language and because of language diversification men are isolated. There is genetic isolation and then the races develop. In the last part of Genesis 11 we see God's grace in calling out a special person. Man continues to rebel against God; man continues to assert his right to rule. He refuses to bow the knee and God works in a very special way.
Now I think that in the context of Genesis 11 that polytheism first begins to originate. Polytheism starts to elevate man to a position of god and he imputes to all the gods all the foibles and problems of man. You see that in the gods of the Canaanites, the gods of the Greeks, the Romans; they all have the same problem that men have. They are lustful; they have anger; they are vengeful; they have no morals; they are just like men. So if you develop a religion and the gods are like that; what do you think the people are going to be like? And so it just deteriorates and just goes from bad to worse in each of these particular circumstances.
Now the interesting thing is, if you go to school; I am always fascinated by the amount of information we are not told in public education in America. You go to school and you study sociology, you study the history of religions, what you are not told is that everything you are taught is based upon a presupposition of Darwinian evolution. And because Darwinian evolution says that everything goes from a primitive state to a more advanced state, then obviously polytheism is more primitive than monotheism, so this same principle must apply in the history of religion. And so we are all taught that you are more primitive societies all are polytheistic and the more advanced societies become monotheistic. And it is not until you get someone like Akhenaton who was a Pharaoh of Egypt about the 1300s, 11th or 12th century BC that you get the development of monotheism. Of course, Moses predates all that.
Now what they do, typical modus operandi of modern academicians, they are just ignoring things that disagrees with their position no matter how much data there is, don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up. They will just ignore it. There was a French Jesuit anthropologist at the turn of the century who did a mammoth work. I have seen the original in French; it is six volumes. I have a copy at home of the English translation, which gets it down in to one volume. He did a study of primitive monotheism. In these studies every single culture on the earth can trace their religions back to an ultimate origin. What he discovered was every single religious system known in the history of mankind originated with 'one' god. You will not be taught that anywhere in school.
And the best way, of course, for the evolutionist to handle it is that they ignore it. And so it is not in print, you cannot find it anywhere unless you dig around in a library; but it has never been refuted because it can't. It is just ignored. But you can pick it somewhere. You read Greek mythology or Roman mythology and the high god that we think of is Zeus or Jupiter. So the Zeus-Jupiter character is a subsidiary secondary god. In the original mythology there was Uranus or Saturn, who was the high god. Then this secondary god comes along, who is usually the god of war, thunder, flood, water. Notice the residual effect of the Flood. You have the storm god; the Canaanite religion who is Baal, who overthrows the original god El. El, Elohim, God. So you see the residual effects of the storm god comes along, Baal, and overthrows the high god, it is Jupiter in the Roman and Zeus in Greek religions. It is the same thing when you see this remnant of early monotheism. This take place during this Genesis 11 period, when man begins to develop alternate gods to substantiate his rebellion against God. He rejects God.
In the midst of all this depravity God has to start His program to establish his Kingdom on the Earth one more time. He does that by calling out Abram. Now we need to put Abram in some kind of context. Let's just read the verses Genesis 12:1-3 "Now the LORD said to Abram, 'Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed'." Now this becomes the outline for the Abrahamic Covenant. This isn't the covenant per say. The Covenant is not established until Genesis 15. But this is the basic outline and summary of the covenant that God is going to give to Abraham and it is basically a summary of the rest of the Old Testament and God's plan for bringing salvation to all of the ethnic groups. He is going to do this by working through one man and his descendants, the Jews, and through them God will provide grace to the rest of the nations.
Now the covenant that is given here is in the form of what is called a Royal Land Grant. We have discovered various secular treaties and it is interesting to see how the covenant in the Old Testament is built on, modeled after, the secular treaties. The secular treaty form here is one called the Royal Land Grant where the king would unconditionally bestow land upon a subject for no particular reason whatsoever. It may be for loyalty of service; it may be just because the king wanted to, but the king or superior just provides a gift or bestows a gift upon a subordinate for whatever reason. It is not necessarily based on prior performance and it is always unconditional in nature. Now that is important because all of the provisions, the blessings, the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant have not been fulfilled. If God made those promises unconditionally to Abraham and they haven't been fulfilled then the implication is that there is yet a future plan for Israel in which God will fulfill those covenant promises made to Abraham originally.
Now what we see here, let's just isolate ourselves, go back establish ourselves time wise. What we know in terms of time (draw out our timeline.) When you get into ancient chronology you must understand, despite the fact that some people are very dogmatic about certain dates, that once we get past about the 9th or 10th century BC it is pretty tenuous. In fact, if you read some older works, and I am just talking about things written in the 40s and 50s, you will notice that the dates for the Northern Kingdom, going out in 722 BC instead of 721 BC and Babylonian Exile is 587 BC instead of 586 BC. The return to the land is 445 BC instead of 444 BC. So there is a one year difference when you get into older dates.
I remember reading, before I went to seminary, a book by Merrill Unger, back in the early 70s. I think it was printed in the 40s, and in that Unger states that the Exodus is 1441 BC. Well now the respected date among conservatives is 1446 BC because archeology is continuously coming up with new information and having to redefine our dates. So anything that goes back beyond about 900 BC is a little bit tenuous and may be off. That is just a little caveat because you will here different dates sometimes off a year or two from different people and it just has to do with how current their scholarship is or who they are reading at the moment. Now if the dates are off by two or three hundred years, then other issues come to play. Remember that. Because liberals don't take the Bible verbatim and they don't believe in the numbers of the Bible. They late date everything. But that is a subject we will get into later.
For now we will just look at this basic timeline. Here is the Cross, so all of this time is BC (Before Christ). Now there is 1000 BC to give us a benchmark. What we do know with a fair amount of certainty is that Solomon dedicated the temple in 966 BC. That is the middle late half of the 10th century BC. In 966 BC Solomon dedicated the temple. At that time Solomon stated that it had been 480 years since the Exodus. So from that we can come up with a fairly sure date that the Exodus occurred at least in the 1440s. It may be off a year or two, but at least at this time the date that is accepted by conservatives is 1440s. Now liberals take the date of the 12th century, 1270s-1280s. That is because they disbelieve the Biblical numbers. They think Ramses is the most powerful Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. So he must of course have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus. So the next time you watch the (movie) 10 Commandments remember that is based upon a liberal chronology.
Ramses the 2nd was probably not the Pharaoh of the Exodus. I believe that most Egyptian chronology today is standard is off by as much as three or four hundred years. There is a great book by a guy named David Rohl written for Popular Consumption called Pharaohs and Kings A Biblical Quest; we saw some of the videos. We tried to show them last year. They were done for the Discovery Channel. But he demonstrates that there are some tremendous gaps in Egyptian chronology and overlaps that should be there that aren't there. So there is some real mistakes. And that is the other problem, if you accept what secular Egyptology comes up with as absolute then you are going to try to identify the Pharaoh of Egypt with Amenhotep the 4th or Tuthmosis the 3rd; that the mother of Moses was Hatshepsut; we will get into that later when we get to the Exodus event.
This is just a little foreshadowing, but probably not truth. We cannot identify that because Egyptian chronology is based upon about three assumptions, two of which are fallacious I think. So many conservatives now and we have some guys among the doctrinal churches, Dr. Glen Carnegie, down in Texas now. He had a little seminary in Tulsa for a while; his son got his PhD in archeology from the University of Chicago, which is the premiere archeological school in the country. I talked to Glen extensively, about these things and he thinks that David Rohl got an excellent case for revising Egyptian chronology. But of course most Egyptologist don't go alone with it. But the Bible clearly states; one thing about Rohl's thesis is that he accepts the Biblical date of 1446 BC for the Exodus. Most Egyptologist don't accept the biblical base of numbers at all. Their presupposition is therefore at its core anti-biblical.
So the Exodus occurs in 1446 BC. The Book of Exodus tells us that the deliverance takes place 430 years after the entrance into the land. So that places the entrance of Jacob into the land around 1876 BC. That means that Isaac was born in 2066 BC and Abram was 100 years old when Isaac was born. So this places the birth of Abram about 2166 BC. I think that we can be fairly sure an within plus or minus 50-100 years that this is a fairly accurate time. Now the big thing there is that sometimes older archeologists, biblical conservatives, people like Merrill Unger and others who were at Dallas Seminary; some other conservatives who buy into that, were placing Abram in the 3rd Dynasty of Ur. But now it is pretty clear that Abram was born in 2166 BC, which a standard accepted date by conservatives now. Then that is before the 3rd Dynasty of Ur.
Abram was born in a time of unrest in Ur of the Chaldees. They had been overrun by Gudean Empire and this is probably why Terah, his father decided to move his family away from Ur. It is very possible that his father was part of some kind of aristocracy because Abram's name 'Ab' from the Hebrew 'father' and 'ram' indicates 'mighty.' It was referred to as "mighty father." That would indicate something about Abram being a member of aristocracy. And of course later on, when we look at what is going on in the Scriptures later on, he is an incredibly wealthy man; probably one of the wealthiest men in the ancient world. He had enough wealth to amass his own army; and when the five kings of the east invade the land it is Abram and his servant who amass an army of over 300. So he has over 300 employees working for him and they go out and defeat the army of the five kings of the east. So that is just some interesting background to put Abram into his historical context.
Now in Genesis 12:1 we see the separation of one man. "Now, the LORD says to Abram, lech lecha "Go forth," leave, from your country, and from your relatives and from your father's house…"; he is to leave all of the influences upon him, his social background, we know form Joshua that Abram came out of a family that were polytheistic. They worshiped the gods of the moon and the gods of the stars; yet Abram seems to have had some sedition (against polytheism) to the worship of the One True God and so God calls him out to leave all of these worldly influences around him. God is going to start a new plan with Abram. He has to separate him from all of these other influences. So he moves him out to a new land in Canaan where he will live as a Bedouin; he will move about; he will not have a permanent home for the rest of his life. He will spend approximately the next 90 years living in a tent moving from place to place.
1. So the first thing that God does is to call him out to separate him and God is going to begin a new program through one individual.
2. Then in Genesis 12:2 we see the second phase of the promise. After separating one man out God promises that through him He is going to make a great nation. "And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great." Notice the contrast; what happened in Genesis 11 at the Tower of Babel? We are going to go out and make a great name of ourselves through unification and rebellion against God. And what does God do in contrast to man's attempt to build his own kingdom? God is going to call out and begin to establish His kingdom through one man. A new nation and it is Abram's name that will be great throughout human history and not the name of Nimrod and the rebels at the Tower of Babel. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great." And then at the end, He says, "and so you shall be a blessing.
Now, if we look at that in the English it sounds like it is going to be a result; because I make your name great, as a result of that you will be a blessing. But that is not what it means in the Hebrew. In the Hebrew it is an imperative verb, "You will" be a blessing, Abram. This is a command. Because I will bless you and because I will make your name great, your responsibility is to bless others. And Abram of course fulfills that because when the kings of the east invade the land, and they are conquering the cities of the plains, Sodom, Gomorrah and the other cities. It is Abram, Abram, who gathers together an army of his own servants and he goes out and defeats the kings of the east and all of the booty, all of the plunder that they took, he returns to its rightful owners. So he is a blessing to the Gentiles around him. And that is the beginning.
3. Genesis 12:3 God says, "And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse." Now this very interesting in the Hebrew because in English it looks like that we use the same words both times in that phrase, "curse" and "cursed". But in the Hebrew you have two different words. The first word should be translated "The one who curses you" should be the one who treats you lightly; the one who treats you indifferently. It is not an active person it is just simply ignoring or treating lightly. Of course this has its ultimate fulfillment in the person who rejects Christ, who ignores Christ and treats the death of Christ lightly. The one who curses you the one who treats you lightly I will curse, arar, I will bring a curse upon them and discipline them. And then He says, "And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
Well what we have seen in Genesis 12:1-3 is the outline of three great provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant. Whenever we think of the Abrahamic Covenant you should think of three things:
God is going to give him a land. He is going to make his name great through his descendants, his seed, which ultimately refers to Jesus Christ. And He will make him a blessing to all the Gentile nations. The Covenant is with Abram; it is not with the Gentiles, but it is through Abram that all the Gentiles will be blessed, and, of course, that comes through the spiritual blessing of the Cross. It is through the Cross that all are brought to salvation, Gentiles and Jews alike are brought into the Family of God.
So, we have the separation of one man; he leaves Ur, which (map of the area) is near the Persian Gulf. Abram leaves Babylon and goes up to Haran. He doesn't follow God's command totally. He takes his father and his nephew with him. He doesn't leave his family completely. He has to spend some time in Haran until his father dies and then he eventually obeys God and ends up in Canaan where he travels and lives in a tent for the remainder of his life. For God calls out one man and these are the travels of Abraham. That is how we see that there is a separation where God is going to build a nation, the nation of Israel, in the midst of a nation, the Canaanite's nations.
Let's look at the line of the "seed." We'll put that off for a few minutes; I want to cover a few things. The synopsis, what you get from the Abrahamic Covenant is the synopsis of the rest of the Old Testament. This lays the groundwork for the founding of the nation; the formation of the nation, the preparation of the nation, and then the ultimate portion of the nation. The outline of the whole Old Testament is right here in Genesis 12:1-3, that God will make Abram's descendants a blessing to all of the other nations. That works itself out historically. We saw in the timeframe that this is about 2166 BC when Abram is born, so just use as a round figurer around 2000 BC, the timeframe of Abraham and the Patriarchs. Let's get a little historical background so we know who the major players are at that time. What was it like for Abraham to be alive in 2000 BC, four millennia ago; as he was on the verge of going from the 3rd millennia BC into the 2nd millennia BC? This is what archeologist call Middle Bronze One. Most people did not have iron or steel yet. They were still in the Bronze Age. And there are three great civilizations:
1. Babylonians civilization
2. Egyptian civilization
3. Canaanite civilization
There has been an ebb and flow. Babylon is located around Ninevah. You had the Sumerian Empire. You have the Akkadian Empire under Sargon I. You have the Egyptian Empire; and then you have a Canaanite Empire developing. There is an ebb and flow in all these civilizations. But the technology and the art is very sophisticated in these civilizations. These are not primitive groups. In fact, there are aspects of their technology that we cannot duplicate today. We do not know how the Egyptians were able to build the pyramids with the tools that they had available to them. So they had a very different technology. I think that it is very possible, especially if you take the genealogical records. Shem is still alive when Abram is called out. Noah dies just a few years before Abram's birth.
So you have the sons of Noah and his grandsons are still alive. Now the sons of Noah would have brought with them, from the antediluvian world, an antediluvian technology; not only that, they were still living three or four hundred years. So they had all that time to amass tremendous amount of experience. So they were able to build the pyramids; they were able to do these great works of civilization at that time. But their descendants did not live as long. They got caught up in more and more idolatry, which bring with it demonism. And you saw the perversion and the decline and the decadence as well as the dispersion of the nation at the Tower of Babel. So the technology that Noah and his sons brought with them from the antediluvian world is quickly lost. But yet, there is a remnant in these civilizations.
In Babylon they are very advanced in their art. They have representational art at this time. It is very advanced, especially if you look at some of the things that are in the British museums. I've seen some other things down at the Museum of Fine Arts in New York at the Metropolitan Museum. There is just some fantastic artwork that the ancient Akkadian civilization was able to develop. So you have this advanced Babylonian civilization and they have a vast amount of literature; in fact, in an area of an area north of there, you had the discovery in the early 70s of Ebla. The civilization of Ebla and the major library there that had over 5,000-10,000 pieces of literature written on cumuliform and clay tablets. It does not specifically establish any of the events of Scripture, but there are indications of a lot of biblical names. Not at they were from biblical characters, but just substantiates the fact that these are common names of that period. Names like Abram, Isaac, Jacob; these were common names at that time. And this was in that area.
These civilizations were quite sophisticated and quite advanced. The Egyptian civilization is advanced technologically. I have mentioned already that when Abram went down to Egypt the pyramids were already there; the Sphinx was there; all of that was already there and in place and built. The Egyptians had discovered and mapped out the entire circulatory system in the human body. Something that wasn't even rediscovered until Harley rediscovered it in 19th century. But along with all that they were steeped in polytheism; they deified the Pharaoh; they worshiped the dung beetle, the frog, the lice, the flies. They had a view of reality that did not separate matter from the immaterial or spirit. So all matter had a divine spirit within it. So they deified creation. This is what Romans 1 is talking about when it talks about how man went through this progressive decline that ended up worshiping the creature rather than the Creator. It is talking historically about the decline and deterioration that took place after the Flood.
So this is why they worshiped stars; they worshiped plants; they worshiped the elements because they deified all of the elements. In Egyptian mythology there is a flood epic; in Babylonian mythology there is a flood epic; and what you see is that the gods are just like people. In fact, in the Babylonian flood epic the reason for the flood is because the people had grown too many. They were too noisy. They were partying all the time; we can't sleep; we need to get some rest; let's go kill them all. So you see this very decadent view of the gods. If the gods are lazy adulterous dudes then what do you think the people are going to be like? So it just gets worse and worse. The Canaanite religion is the worst of all of them. They had given themselves over completely to the phallic cult, to fertility worship, and the most depraved forms of sexual perversion possible. So it is out of this context that God calls out Abram and He makes a covenant with Abram and He is going to establish a new plan through his descendants.
So we come to the line of the seed. I just want to give you an overview. We will come back and look at this in more detail next time. Abram is called out; Abraham is the Covenant name that God gives him, "father of the multitudes." He marries Sarah but because she does not give birth right away; they get impatient; they seek man's solution for man's problems and they have a son. Abraham and Hagar have a son, Ishmael. And he is the Edomites, who become part of the Arabs. That ultimately ends up in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The seed goes through the promised son, Isaac, who marries Rebekah. They have twins, Esau and Jacob. Isaac is a believer. Ishmael is not a believer. Esau is not a believer. Jacob is a believer.
So it is through the line of regeneration, not all Israel is Israel. It is through the line of regeneration that the true nation develops. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Jacob goes back to Mesopotamia to find a wife among his relatives. He is deceived by his father-in-law and he gets Leah hidden behind the veil instead of the woman he loved, Rachel, but he marries Leah. Leah gives him four sons, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel gets jealous; it is like watching some soap opera. Rachel gets jealous of Leah because Leah has had children. She tells Jacob to take her handmaiden. It is a repetition of the same problem with Sara and Hagar. You take my handmaiden and you have children with her in my name. So Jacob has relations with Bilhah, she has two sons, Dan and Naphtali; and then Leah comes along and says, well if you are going to use your handmaiden I will use mine. So Jacob you go with Zilpha; and from Zilpha he had two more sons, Gad and Asher. Then Leah had two more, Issachar and Zebulun; and finally God blessed Rachel and she had Joseph and Benjamin. These become the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph is supplanted by his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Levi is taken out of the equation as the priest tribe. And that is where you end up with your twelve tribes of Israel.
This is the outline of the rest of Genesis. From Genesis 12 down through Genesis 50 you have the story of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob. This is how you see that God is going to work out His plan to establish His Kingdom on the Earth, a Kingdom of Priests, who will be the solution to the problem of sin in the human race and through which God will ultimately reestablish His Kingdom on the Earth. We will come back and look at this next time.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed; Father, we thank You for the way we look at history through Your eyes and we see how You are continuously intervening in history to bring about Your plan and Your purposes. Father, that You have from eternity past understood man's problem of sin and provided a perfect solution, and You have worked that out in human history culminating in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,. Father, we thank You that we have salvation in Jesus Christ. There is no other Name under heaven given among men whereby we might be saved. So Father, we just commit this time to You and ask that You will help us understand these things that we might better understand Your Word. In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen.