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THE EMIGRATION OF ABRAM
All Bible references are to the Anglicised New International Version (NIV-UK)
HAVE YOU or your family ever considered leaving your native country to settle in some distant place and start a new life? The uncertainties of the British climate, and the appeal of sun, sea and sand is one of the many factors that make emigrating to Australia such a popular consideration for many people, especially the young.
The early British emigrants were convicts, shipped out in the late 18th century as a penal colony, settling first in Botany Bay in New South Wales. They were followed soon by free men and women who for various reasons wanted a fresh start and hoped for employment in their new country. From those humble beginnings emerged the highly prosperous and important nation we see today.
Emigration is a serious matter, and love of one’s native country is a force that compels many to remain there. But modern communications make such a move less traumatic than it once was, as emigrants can now be in regular touch with those in the home country. Some make the big decision to start a new life, only to return to their roots, finding it too difficult to settle in a strange land. But while it is possible nowadays to make such an experiment, and later to reverse the decision, it was not always so, and in the early years thoughts of home, family and friends far away would bring heartache, and the tears would flow.
An Ancient Emigration
More than four centuries had passed since the great flood of Noah’s day, when a man called Abram received an important instruction from God. Abram’s family had been settled for some time in Ur, the largest city of northern Chaldea, its seaport and the centre of politics and commerce. Prosperous residents lived in comfortable homes, and many worshipped the local deity, the Moon god, Sin.
But though Abram – and probably all his family – had remained faithful to the one true God, it came as a surprise when God spoke to him.
The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ (Genesis 12: 1-3)
Leaving their comfortable lifestyle in the city to become a caravan of travellers to an uncertain destination was a huge undertaking. As well as the various family members there were many servants and their families who would wish to stay with their master. Camels and asses were needed to carry them through desert areas between sources of fresh water. Their shelter by night would be in tents, and they would need livestock, provisions, tools, and everything to aid their survival for an uncertain number of years until they could settle in a new, permanent home. Such a migration must be carefully planned, but Abram trusted God and his obedience would eventually be for the blessing of many, according to the Divine promise.
There is no positive information as to the miles travelled, and the years that passed before the emigrants reached their final destination. The Bible does record that for some time they settled in Haran, a city far to the north of Ur, and it was in Haran that Abram’s father, Terah, died. Possibly in his advancing years Terah had found the rigours of the journey too stressful, and he needed the care and comfort of a more settled life.
The Promised Land
Abram knew that he must again wind up his affairs in the city and continue his journey to the land that God would show him. He was now 75 years old, and together with his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot and his wife, and all the people and possessions they had acquired in Haran, he set out in a south-westerly direction towards the Great Sea (the Mediterranean), the long journey finally completed in the area where the River Jordan joins the Dead Sea. There Abram knew he must settle permanently, and there he erected an altar to the Lord and gave thanks.
Abram had become very wealthy in flocks and herds and in silver and gold. Lot, also, had much livestock and a large staff of herdsmen, and it was apparent that the area where they had settled could not support both groups. When quarrelling broke out between Abram’s herdsmen and those of Lot, they decided to part company, and Abram gave his nephew first choice as to where he would settle. Lot chose the well-watered plain on the east of the Jordan and pitched his tents near the town of Sodom, while Abram and his people moved westward and camped in the land of Canaan.
Through all their travels Abram had in mind the reason for their coming to that particular destination – the Lord God had commanded it. And God now spoke again to Abram:
Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you (Genesis 13: 14-17).
The faith of Abram was still being severely tested. He had obeyed the Lord this far, believing His promises, but there seemed to be one huge, insurmountable difficulty. He had no children. Abram and his wife were very advanced in years, and Sarai was well past the age of childbearing. How could he ever become the father of a great nation, his descendants as numberless as the dust of the earth? They talked of this matter constantly, and as year followed year with no solution, the time came when they decided that they should help the Lord by taking matters unto their own hands in a rather surprising way. And that is another story, which will be told on these pages in coming weeks.
For a map of the area mentioned in this article see the link below:
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