Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 1 * PART 4 * BOOK 4
ABRAHAM, LOT AND MELCHIZEDEK
Genesis Chapter 12. We’re going to leave the Abrahamic Covenant for awhile, and move on ahead into the very life and travels of the man. Everything will move ahead now to the bringing about of the fulfillment of this Covenant. The Nation of Israel will have to come on the scene. They will have to get the land. Later they will have the beginning of the kingly line with the appearance of David.
“So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him (remember that Lot was his nephew): and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.”
Haran was in Syria, a few miles northeast of present day Damascus. So Abram, Sarai, Lot and all their flocks came down into Canaan, presently known as the Promised Land, or the Land of Israel.
“And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brothers son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.”
The Canaanite was the offspring of Ham, the second son of Noah, and Canaan was the son of Ham. The curse was placed on that particular individual. So the Canaanites are going to be a wicked, ungodly people from the very time that Abraham comes into their midst, until finally they are more or less destroyed when Joshua and the children of Israel come in some 400 years later. Remember, however, that the Canaanite is in the Promised Land, and Abram is going to have to move in as a nomad.
“And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, `Unto thy seed will I give this land:’ and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el,…”
Look at the map across the page to help you see where the places are. Notice the Mediterranean Sea coast, and locate Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee, the River Jordan, and the Dead Sea.
Abraham has come from Syria (up in Haran) and has made his way down into Canaan, and somewhere around (I’m going to guess) about 20 miles north of Jerusalem, we find Beth-el. If you recall from our study in Genesis 1, `el’ are the first two letters of `Elohim.’ So, they are in reference to God. `Beth’ simply means `house.’ So Beth-el is what Abram called the House of God.
“…and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.” He doesn’t stay there. He’s nomadic.
“And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.”
Time goes by as he goes southward. Many times God used famine in the Old Testament to discipline as well as, I think, a vehicle to force people to go where He wanted them. A famine is in the Land of Canaan and Abram went down into Egypt. Some things help in over-all Bible study. I think we can call that `nomenclature.’ But in Scripture, Egypt is always a picture of the world. That’s why Israel was always instructed to stay in the Land of Promise and not to go to Egypt. These things in the Old Testament are living examples of New Testament doctrine, or teaching.
The same holds true today. As a believer, as a child of God, we are constantly admonished by the Apostle Paul that we are to separate ourselves from the world. Egypt was a picture of the world, so God had implicitly instructed them to stay in the Land of Promise and not to go down into Egypt. But, Abram’s faith probably weakened a little bit, and famine came in. First thing you know, where is he? Down in Egypt. But he gets in trouble. Just like a believer who goes into the world, it isn’t very long until he is in trouble. Had God depicted these great Biblical characters as sinless, the epitome of righteousness without any mistakes, how would that make us feel? We’d be hopeless. But, the Bible doesn’t do that. They were just as human as we are; they failed like we do, and it all shows that a merciful God is always ready to restore. In verse 11, we see this great man of faith, Abram, fail miserably.
“And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt (he’s approaching the border), that he said unto Sarai his wife, `Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.'” Has the human race changed much? No.
“Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.”
Abram wasn’t a total liar because she was a half sister, but the man is certainly anything but honorable here. So he says, “Lest they kill me in order to have you, just simply say you’re my sister and they can take you and I’ll go my way.” Imagine that!
“And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaohs house (becoming part of his harem). And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels. And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.”
In the Old Testament days God dealt more directly than He does today. In fact, I was thinking the other day as I was getting ready for this lesson, there is a good book by Sir Robert Anderson entitled: The Silence of God. It is rather hard to comprehend. It is written in Old English, more or less. It seems like an odd title, but Sir Robert Anderson was a Bible scholar as well as the head of Scotland Yard. He must have been a layman. But, he was a tremendous Bible scholar. In his book, he draws this analogy of God constantly dealing in an intrinsic way with the Old Testament characters. But when we get to our Age of Grace, God is comparatively silent because we have The Book. God doesn’t have to talk to us audibly. God doesn’t have to appear to us in the miraculous. I always have to qualify that. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe God cannot miraculously answer our prayers. Sir Robert Anderson makes a point of the fact that in this Age of Grace it is as if God is silent, compared to His dealing in the Old Testament, .
Think about that. We just don’t expect angels to appear. I told someone at a class one night, “If all of a sudden on my way home at 11:00 at night I’d see a bunch of angels on the highway, do you think I could take it? I know I couldn’t. I don’t think you could either!” What if all of a sudden God would just appear as He did back in the Old Testament? It would crack us up. We’re not prepared for that. And God doesn’t expect us to be. Indeed, God is silent today compared to the days we are reading about. Here, God even appeared to pagan Pharaoh and revealed to him that, “This lady out there is not what you think she is. She is a man’s wife.”
“And Pharaoh called Abram and said, `What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife (God told him, but Abram had not)? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.'”
You know what we call that today? Deportation! Abram was deported. He was just simply sent out of Egypt. He should have been embarrassed. He should have felt like two cents and maybe he did. What is the lesson? Well, God had told the man to stay in the Land of Promise and He would bless him. But you see, things got tough, he got a little hungry and he goes down to the world. I want you to remember who is with Abram besides Sarai: the young man, Lot. There was an old World War I song (not that I lived that long ago, but I remember the music from it). It was called, “How’re Ya Gonna Keep `Em Down On The Farm After They’ve Seen Paris?” Keep that in mind when we look at the life of Lot. We smile, but really it was a sad commentary. This also was Abraham’s fault. He should have never exposed Lot to the world of Egypt and he is going to reap the consequences in short order. Let’s move on:
“AND Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.”
To the south of Canaan, almost due east and still in the land of Canaan, is the desert city of Beersheba which is still there. Today, it is a thriving university city. When we were there in `75, it was a city of 300,000. Beersheba is probably a half million people by now. Beersheba of the Bible is the same Beersheba that is there today, at least in the same environment. It’s down in the Negev part of the desert. Abraham’s household goes from Beersheba up north and back, sojourning up and down that land of Canaan.
“And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.”
My closing comment of three or four chapters ago was that Israel is the earthly people with earthly promises; the Church a heavenly people with heavenly promises. Nowhere in our Church Age doctrine are we promised that simply because we are obedient to God and faithful in all the things He expects, that God will reward us financially and materially. That is not part of our New Testament teaching. Now if God sees fit, that’s fine. I can show you two references of Paul where it is absolutely apropos to establish an estate, and have something for the children. There is nothing wrong with that. Paul also says that a person who doesn’t provide for his family, and probably help the kids along, is worse than an infidel.
Don’t think that when I say there are no material promises connected with the Church Age, it doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful and you can’t work hard to get ahead. But, there is no promise in the New Testament that God will reward us materially for our spiritual effort. But, in the Old Testament that was part and parcel of it. The more obedient they were, the more God blessed them with physical and material things. Abram was one. He was immensely wealthy. God rewarded him. We’ll soon look at Jacob and how he came out of Syria after 20 years with Laban with flocks and herds to no end. And what did Job have? – flocks and herds by the thousands. All of this is intrinsic to understanding the Old Testament economy. If they were obedient, God blessed them materially. They had no concept of a heavenly connection other than that was where God was. They were an earthly people with earthly promises.
“And he went on his journeys from the south even to Beth-el, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai; Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.”
I think that there is also an interesting parallel. Abram, weak in faith, ends up down in the world. After he is embarrassed in that worldly environment he finds his way back to the place of his beginning, insofar as his walk and his worship are concerned. What’s the parallel? Well, for a believer, the same thing. We may get down and be enticed by the world, but there is only one way back into fellowship and where is it? Where we began, at the foot of the Cross. I’m not maintaining you have to have Salvation over again, but the Cross is always the place of a new beginning. So Abram comes back to Beth-el and gets straightened out, getting right with The Lord.
“And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.”
There was a lot of strife … arguments. “Are you going to get that pasture or am I?” Human nature has not changed one iota. So finally Abraham, the more godly of the two, said to Lot:
“And Abram said unto Lot, `Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 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.'”
Now the monkey’s on Lot’s back. Abram says, “It’s up to you.” Lot had been to Egypt, and had seen all the things of a material Egypt.
“And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan,..”
Before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, this beautiful Jordan Valley and all the way down to the environs of what is now the Dead Sea, was a beautiful valley. It wasn’t the barren rock and desert that it is now as a result of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But it was beautiful and what does it say?
“…that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.”
In other words, if ever there was an area on earth that was close to the Garden of Eden, it was this Jordan valley. Lot looked at it and said, “That’s for me. So he tells uncle Abram, “I’ll take the valley,” and Abram said, `Then I’ll stay in the mountains.” So they parted.
“Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan (amongst these ungodly, immoral Canaanites), and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent (what’s the nest word?) toward Sodom.”
Note that he doesn’t jump into Sodom with both feet all at once. It is just like sin in the life of every one of us. It doesn’t just all of a sudden engulf us. What happens? Oh, we play with it, we toy with it, it toys with us. Then we just start slipping and slipping, and the first thing we know it has got us. So it did with Lot. Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. He didn’t just go there immediately, but where did he end up? In Sodom. He wasn’t just a resident of Sodom, but he was one of the city fathers. He was one of the `big wheels.’
“And 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:'” We want to remember that down the center of the land of Canaan are mountains. From this mountain view, God could literally tell Abram, “Look in all four directions, I’m going to give it all to you.”
“For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.”
The word `forever’ in Scripture means time without end. Again, if only our world leaders would believe the Word of God. The land of Israel belongs to the Jew. I always stress I am not a Jew. I’ve only really known one, I guess, in all my life. The reason I have this feeling toward the Jew is because of what The Book says. This land was given to the Jew and it is theirs forever. Now God again promises:
“And I will make thy seed (offspring)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. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the Lord.”
Let’s look at the illustration on page 30 again. Hebron is about five or six miles south of Jerusalem. Israel is small and everything is so close. Beth-el is only about twenty miles north of Jerusalem, and now Hebron is about six miles. Off to the southwest about five miles is Bethlehem. Then on down to Beersheba is probably only another forty miles. Then up to Samaria and Nazareth. They’re all packed in there close together. There isn’t that mileage that we are accustomed to here in America. In Chapter 14 word comes to Abram that some kings from the north and the east have come down, defeated the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and have taken all the people captive. Abram got interested because that involved Lot and his family, so he put together a small army out of his hired servants, and pursued this conquering king from the north who had overrun Sodom and Gomorrah, and who had Lot and his family with him. Go down to verse 14:
“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive (we know it wasn’t a brother, but a nephew), he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan (which is up in northern Canaan).”
That number gives you a picture of how big Abram’s estate really was. He had that many hired servants who were fit to be men of war. If you want to figure the number of Israelites coming out of Egypt, you just sit down with pen and paper some evening and figure out how many people totally it takes to end up with 600,000 unmarried young men, who are between the ages of 21 and 26. You’ll very easily come up with anything from 3 to 7 million people who came out of Egypt. That figure shocks a lot of people, but we’ll repeat it again when we get to Exodus. Anyway, Abram had enough hired servants to come up with 318 of military age; in other words, they were able to handle the sword.
“And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them (utterly defeated them), and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus (see how far north he has gone). And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.” He brings them all safely back. He utterly defeats the invading kings.
Now, I want to give you just a little bit of a tidbit for our next study. That comes in at verse 17. This will be the next thing we are going to cover. That tremendous individual who has aroused so much discussion, if not controversy, Melchizedek. You have all heard of him.
“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him, after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the kings dale. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.“
Look at the word `Salem.’ What is the word today? Jerusalem! Salem means `peace.’ This Melchizedek was the King of the little village then known as Salem, which is Jerusalem in our reckoning. We’re going to pick up that verse in the next chapter, but I’d like for you to be thinking about a few things. The bread and wine leap all the way to Paul’s writing when he gives instructions for The Lord’s Supper. How God has everything in mind! The other thing which is brought out here is that the Hebrew term for `the most high God’ is `the God of the Gentiles’; not that He is a separate God, but the name `El Elyon.’