Chapter Three

Parashah 3: Lekh L’kha

(Get yourself out) Chapters 12:1–17:27

The ancient rabbis claim the birth of Avraham signalled a new birth for humans – the first two millennia comprised of Avodah Zarah[1] or the period of idolatry and strange worship, consequent to the fall of Adom and Chava.  According to the Talmud, Avraham was born in the year 1948 BCE,[2] ending the Era of Desolation and beginning the Era of Torah.

Parashah 3, Lekh l’Kha, begins the major Part Four of Genesis.  Every part of the Book of Genesis has a purpose, as does this next part.  In Part Four we read of the Patriarchs, Avraham, Abraham, Yitzchask, Isaac, and Ya’akov, Jacob, their lives and the relationships God created with them.  We also read of the covenants our Heavenly Father created, in His love for our ancestors, for us and for your children after you.  This part then tells the stories of God’s everlasting promises to His children, the Israelites, and those who seek a relationship with Him, the Ruler of the universe.  So, let’s examine how these stories have been unfolded for us.

The Story of Avram

Avram, as this was the name given to him by his father Terah, was the eleventh generation after Noach.  Avram, whose name means exalted father, lived with his family in the settlement known as Haran[3], situated in the eastern part of Turkey.  Archeological excavations have uncovered the remains of a bustling commercial centre in existence some 3,000 years BCE.  There is an ancient legend about Avram and how he found God.

Terah, Avram’s father, was an idol maker, creating stone idols for the locals, who, although they had some knowledge of God from Noah’s children and grandchildren, had created idols to represent God so they would have something physical to worship.

The following story may be found in the Mishna, Midrash B’resheit.  The Mishna is a sacred book to the Jewish People and serves as a commentary on Torah.

Terach was an idol worshipper, and he also sold idols. One day he went somewhere, and left Avraham to sell in his place… A woman arrived, holding a plate of grain. She said to Avraham: “Take this and offer it before them.” Avraham got up, took a stick in his hands and broke all the idols, leaving the stick in the hand of the largest one.

When his father returned, he asked: “Who did this to them?”

Avraham answered, “What have I to hide? A woman came, carrying a plate of grain. She said to me, ‘Take this and offer it before them.’ I offered it before them, and this one here said, ‘I shall eat first.’ Then that one said, ‘I shall eat first.’ The largest idol got up, took the stick, and shattered them!”

Terach said: “What nonsense are you telling me – are they then conscious?”

Avraham answered, “Do your ears not hear what your lips are saying?” Terach then handed him over to Nimrod…The legend continues that Terach then sent Avram away from the family home and abandoned him in a cave, to be cared for by Nimrod, the god-king of the Assyrians.[3]  The following, then, is the continuation of this legend.

Thus, Avram was deserted in the cave, and he began to lament his condition. God sent Gabriel (the angel) down to give him milk to drink, and the angel made it to flow from the little finger of Avram’s right hand, and he sucked at it until he was stronger. Then he arose and walked about, and he left the cave, and went along the edge of the valley. When the sun sank, and the stars came forth, he said, “These are the gods!”   But the dawn came, and the stars could be seen no longer, and then he said, “I will not pay worship to these, for they are no gods.”    Thereupon the sun came forth, and he spoke, “This is my god, him will I extol.  ” But again the sun set, and he said, “He is no god,” and beholding the moon, he called her his god to whom he would pay Divine homage. Then the moon was obscured, and he cried out: “This, too, is no god! There is One who sets them all in motion.”

He was still communing with himself when the angel Gabriel approached him and met him with the greeting, “Shalom, Aleichem, Peace be with thee,” and Avram returned, “Aleichem Shalom, With you be peace,” and asked, “Who are you?” And Gabriel answered, and said, “I am the angel Gabriel, the messenger of God,” and he led Avram to a spring of water nearby, and Avram washed his face and his hands and feet, and he prayed to God, bowing down and prostrating himself. This was how Avram came to know God, or so the legend goes. 

It was at this moment, Adonai sent the man away from Mesopotamia, to the land of Canaan, as we read in Genesis 12 –  The Lord said to Avram: Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12: 1-2)  And he went.  Avram possessed great faith, to leave the only place he knew, even though he was not treated well, moving everything he had to somewhere he did not know on the command of God, whom he could not see or touch.  As I shared with you earlier, this is emunah, trust in action – the highest level of faith existing.  And this was the trust our ancestor carried within him.

Avram was a pagan, before Adonai spoke to him.

However, this wasn’t the greatest of the covenants Adonai made with Avram.  We read of these in Genesis 12, when God told Avram, “I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3)

Before Avram became Jewish, while he was still a Gentile, God blessed him and announced that for all time those who supported the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel, the Jewish people, not just the State of Israel, would be blessed by the Ruler of the universe and those who treated the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel with disrespect or contempt, would be cursed by God.  There is a mystery attached to this declaration by God, and I will be sharing that with you, shortly.

Then, as recorded in Genesis 15, Adonai Tzivaot, Lord of Hosts, declared that Avram, who at this time was quite old, would father a son.  Avram found this astounding, since, at this time he was about 85 and his wife Sarai, was 75, well beyond the age of bearing children. 

Those who bless Israel will be blessed; those who curse Israel will be cursed.

I tell you, when God wants to make a statement, He makes it a big one.  Here are the promises, the covenants, God made with Avram: “Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” Then He said to him, “Your offspring will be that numerous.” (Genesis 15:5) 

The Abrahamic Covenant

Then, as to seal the promise forever, to the end of days, God cut another covenant with Avram.  We read this in Genesis 15, beginning with verse 7: “I am Yahweh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”

8 But he said, “Lord God, how can I know that I will possess it?”

9 He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old cow, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

10 So he brought all these to Him, split them down the middle, and laid the pieces opposite each other, but he did not cut up the birds. 11 Birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Avram drove them away. 12 As the sun was setting, a deep sleep fell on Avram, and suddenly great terror and darkness descended on him.

13 Then the Lord said to Avram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be foreigners in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. 14 However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterward they will go out with many possessions. 15 But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age. 16 In the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Avram, saying, “I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River: 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:9-21)  This was an enormous portion of land, given the God’s people.  Let’s look at how much land this entailed. Of course, that promise has not yet been fulfilled; but a time will come.  Most of God’s promises to His people have already come to be, so this one will also, in His time.

It was in this covenant God made that He told Avram that the Israelites would be enslaved in Egypt for a period of time but would escape this oppression and return to the land.  The promises made by God at this time, were unilateral, made by God alone, and irrevocable, made to last forever.

The Rescue of Lot

I failed to mention to you, that Avram had a nephew, Lot, who joined him in his journey from Haran to Canaan.  Both Avram and Lot had many servants and relatives accompanying them, with a good amount of livestock.  There were so many goats and sheep that the land could not sustain both families.  Avram offered Lot first choice of the available land and so he chose the entire Jordan Valley, which included the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, close to the Dead Sea, while Avram went further west into Canaan (see map on Pg. 107).  This story may be found in Genesis 13.

Unfortunately, for Lot, war broke out between rival kings and, since Lot lived in the same region, he, his family and his livestock were all captured and taken to Shinar, which at that time was another name for Babylon, part of the Babylonian kingdom.  When Avram heard of his nephew being taken away, he gathered together an army from his own men and, with God’s leading, managed to defeat the Babylonians and set Lot free.

On his way back to Canaan, Avram stopped at Jerusalem, then known as Salem.  He met the King of Salem, Melchezidek, whose name in Hebrew is Malchi Tzedek, Righteous King or priestly king.  Theologians around the world believe this was the pre-incarnate Adonai Yeshua, Messiah or, if you are more familiar, Jesus.  If you are looking for Scriptural proof, look no further than Hebrews 7, where the author describes the relationship between Melchezidek and Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus.  These verses in Hebrews 7 tell us Adonai Yeshua has been named to the order of Melchezidek, because He is recognized as both King and High Priest of Israel and mankind.  In case you did not know, the Book of Hebrews is part of the Apostolic Scriptures or Brit HaDashah (New Covenant), also known as the New Testament.

The Birth of Ishmael

From reading the Book of Genesis, so far, you know Avram had two sons, Ishma’el, whose mother was Hagar, an Egyptian princess, the daughter of Pharaoh – a gift to Sarai, after Pharaoh almost, illegally, took her as his wife, and Isaac, whose mother was Sarai, in her old age.  Each of these boys had a purpose.  Ishmael, whose name in Hebrew means God listens, became the progenitor of the Arab nation; he was the father of twelve tribes.  Should he have been born?  This is an interesting question, since Sarai, when she was told by Adonai she would have a son in her old age, did not trust God to do that and thought she should speed things along and help God out.  So, she told Avram to sleep with Hagar and sire a son, to fulfill God’s promise.  We do that all the time, I’m afraid.  When God tells us that something is going to happen, our natural inclination is to give God a hand; often as not, this usually leads to trouble, as was the case with Hagar and Sarai.  When Avram reached his 99th birthday, Adonai came to him and did two things. First, God changed his name to Avraham, meaning exalted father of many, since He clarified His promise to Avraham that he would be the father of so vast a people he couldn’t count them in his lifetime.  The ‘h’ was added to his name, in order to honour God, through Avraham’s offsprings.  Before this, the name Avraham (more often pronounced Abraham) did not exist.

Ishma’el was the founder of the 12 original tribes of the Arab nations

The second promise God made to Avraham was he would have a son, by Sarai, within one year.  She overheard the comment, as she was in a nearby tent, and laughed.

However, about nine months later, Sarai gave birth to, Yitzchak, Isaac, whose name means ‘he will laugh’, because he brought much joy to Sarai.  Upon Ishmael’s birth, God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means ‘princess’ or a woman of high rank.

This concludes out third reading. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you fully and richly.

[1] Tractate Avodah Zarah 9a, the Babylonian Talmud.

[2] BCE – Before the Common Era, the generally accepted, non-religious term for the time of the Hebrew Scriptures.  The term CE, or Common Era, generally refers to the period during and following the ministry of Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus.

[3] Ginsberg, Louis, Legend of the Jews, 2006. Cosimo Publishers.

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