OT far from the city of Babylon, where they began to build the tower of Babel, was another city, called Ur of the Chaldees. The Chaldees were the people who lived in the country which was called Chaldea, where the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris come together. Among these people, at Ur, was living a man named Abram. Abram was a good man, for he prayed to the Lord God, and tried always to do God's will.
But the people who lived in Ur, Abram's home, did not pray to God. They prayed to idols, images made of wood and stone. They thought that these images were gods, and that they could hear their prayers and could help them. And as these people who worshipped idols did not call on God, they did not know his will, and they did many wicked things.
The Lord God saw that Abram was good and faithful, though wicked people were living all around him. And God did not wish to have Abram's family grow up in such a place, for then they too might become wicked. So the Lord spoke to Abram, and said:
"Abram, gather together all your family and go out from this place, to a land far away, that I will show you. And in that land I will make your family to become a great people, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that all the world shall give honor to your name. If you will do as I command you, you shall be blessed, and all the families of the earth shall obtain a blessing through you."
Abram did not know just what this blessing meant that God promised to him. But we know that Abram's family grew after many years into the Israelite people, out of whom came Jesus, the Saviour of the world, for Jesus was a descendant of Abram: that is, Jesus came a long time afterward from the family of which Abram was the father; and thus Abram's family became a blessing to all the world by giving to the world a Saviour.
A native of Egypt and his water bottle
Although Abram did not know just what the blessing was to be that God promised to give him, and although he did not know where the land lay, to which God was sending him, he obeyed God's word. He took all his family, and with them his father Terah, who was very old, and his wife, whose name was Sarai; and his brother Nahor and his wife, and another brother's son whose name was Lot; for Lot's father, Haran, who was the younger brother of Abram, had died before this time. And Abram took all that he had, his tents, and his flocks of sheep, and herds of cattle, and went forth on a long journey, to a land of which he did not even know the name.
He journeyed far up the great river Euphrates to the mountain region, until he came to a place called Haran, in a country called Mesopotamia. The word Mesopotamia means "between the rivers"; and this country was between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates. At Haran they all stayed for a time. Perhaps they stopped there because Terah, the father of Abram, was too old to travel further; for they stayed at Haran until Terah died.
After the death of Terah, his father, Abram again went on his journey, and Lot, his brother's son, went with him; but Nahor, Abram's brother, stayed in Haran, and his family, and children, and children's children, whom they call "his descendants," lived at Haran for many years.
From Haran, Abram and Lot turned toward the southwest, and journeyed for a long time, having the mountains on their right hand and the great desert on their left. They crossed over rivers, and climbed the hills, and at last they came into the land of Canaan, which was the land of which God had spoken to Abram.
This land was called Canaan, because the people who were living in it were the descendants, or children's children, of a man who had lived long before, whose name was Canaan. A long time after this it was called "the Land of Israel," from the people who lived in it; and because in that same land the Lord Jesus lived many years afterward; we now call it "The Holy Land."
When Abram came into the land of Canaan, he found in it a few cities and villages of the Canaanites. But Abram and his people did not go into the towns to live. They lived in tents, out in the open fields, where they could find grass for their sheep and cattle. Not far from a city called Shechem, Abram set up his tent under an oak tree on the plain. There the Lord came to Abram, and said:
"I will give this land to your children, and to their children, and this shall be their land forever."
And Abram built there an altar, and made an offering, and worshipped the Lord. Wherever Abram set up his tent, there he built his altar and prayed to God; for Abram loved God, and served God, and believed God's promises.
Abram and Lot moved their tents and their flocks to many places, where they could find grass for their flocks and water to drink. At one time they went down to the land of Egypt, where they saw the great river Nile. Perhaps they saw also the Pyramids, and the Sphinx, and the wonderful temples in that land, for many of them were built before Abram lived.
The Sphinx and Pyramid in Egypt
Abram did not stay long in the land of Egypt. God did not wish him to live in a land where the people worshipped idols; so God sent Abram back again to the land of Canaan, where he could live apart from cities, and bring up his servants and his people to worship the Lord. He came to a place where afterward a city called Bethel stood; and there as before he built an altar and prayed to the Lord.
Now Lot, the son of Abram's younger brother who had died, was with Abram; and Lot, like Abram, had flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, and many tents for his people. Abram's shepherds and Lot's shepherds quarreled, because there was not grass enough in one place for both of them to feed their flocks; and besides these people, the Canaanites were also in the land, so that there was not room for them all.
When Abram heard of the quarrel between his men and the men under Lot, he said to Lot:
"Let there be no quarrel between you and me, nor between your men and my men; for you and I are like brothers to each other. The whole land is before us; let us go apart. You shall have the first choice, too. If you will take the land on the right hand, then I will take the land on the left; or if you choose the left hand, then I will take the right."
This was noble and generous in Abram, for he was the older, and might claim the first choice. Then, too, God had promised all the land to Abram, so that he might have said to Lot, "Go away, for this land is all mine." But Abram showed a kind, good heart in giving to Lot his choice of the land.
And Lot looked over the land from the mountain where they were standing, and saw down in the valley the river Jordan flowing between green fields, where the soil was rich. He saw the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah upon the plain, near the head of the Dead Sea, into which the Jordan flows. And Lot said, "I will go down yonder to the plain."
And he went down the mountain to the plain, with his tents and his men, and his flocks of sheep and his cattle, leaving the land on the mountains, which was not so good, to his uncle Abram. Perhaps Lot did not know that the people in Sodom were the most wicked of all the people in the land; but he went to live near them, and gradually moved his tent closer to Sodom, until after a time he was living in that wicked city.
After Lot had separated from Abram, God said to Abram:
"Lift up your eyes from this place, and look east and west, and north and south. All the land that you can see, mountains and valleys and plains, I will give it to you, and to your children, and their children, and those who come after them. Your descendants shall have all this land, and they shall be as many as the dust of the earth; so that if one could count the dust of the earth, they could as easily count those who shall come from you. Rise up, and walk through the land wherever you please, for it is all yours."
Then Abram moved his tent from Bethel, and went to live near the city of Hebron, in the south, under an oak tree; and there again he built an altar to the Lord.