Genesis 12:11-27- 12:9 First: The Tower of Babel was most probably located in Ur, Mesopotamian, which was one of the cultural centres of the world. The country was ruled by Sumerian kings. The most famous of them must be Hammurabi. In Mesopotamian people did not worship Abram and Noah’s God but for example moon god Sin which demanded human sacrifices. We do not know if Abram’s forefathers were also building the Tower together with the Hamites. Anyway, in Joshua 24:2 it is told that they, including Terah, worshipped other gods. Terah’s family were pastoral nomads; they had a house in a town, but they grazed their cattle outside it.
Questions to start with:
• Why didn’t Terah’s family live together with the other Semitic people but had moved to Mesopotamian among the Hamites?
• How is life different as a pastoral nomad compared to a traditional nomad way of life?
• What was it like to live in a country where human sacrifices were offered to gods?
Verses 11: 26-30. Abram (later called Abraham) married his half-sister Sarah (20:12 and 22:20), and his brother Nahor married his niece. At that time a sisterhood marriage was not forbidden by law.
• What could be a reason for marrying someone within the family?
• How did childlessness affect the life of a married couple at that time? (Why was it especially hard for Sarah, why for Abraham?)
• What does it tell that Abraham did not take a second wife or participate in fertility rites in a false god’s temple even though it was usual at that time?
• According to the Bible Sarah was stunningly beautiful. How, in general, does a woman's stunning looks affect her life?
Verses 11: 31-32. See Ur and Haran on the map. There is about 1000 km between them along the river. (Note that Abraham’s brother is also called Haran.) Chaldea means Babylonia.
• Why did Terah want to leave Ur in Chaldea and its easy and comfortable life and go to look for a new habitation? What options could you find for that?
• What is it like to leave a place of birth and many relatives behind for good?
• A camel walks about 30 km a day, but suckling animals no more than 10 km. How long did it take for Terah to move from Ur to Haran?
• What does it tell about Lot that he left with his uncle Abraham to Haran and did not stay in Ur with his other uncle and his sisters (27-28, 31)?
• What did Lot mean to this childless couple?
Verse 12:1. According to Hebrews Abraham “went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). At that time a family was the only protector in one’s life and it was the source of one’s identity as well. Without a family people were unprotected against bandits and robbers.
• After Noah’s time (during the next ten generations) people did not hear God’s voice. How did Abraham realise who was talking to him?
• What had Abraham and Sarah’s relationship with living God been like by now? (What does it prove that they had kept their marriage monogamous?)
• What would you say or do if God asked you to go somewhere you don’t know anything about?
Verses 12:2-3. Remember that the Tower of Babel was built to save “the name of man” in history.
• What did God actually promise to Abraham?
• What does God’s blessing include according to these verses?
• What does “a great name” mean?
• How does God curse those who curse Abraham?
• How would all peoples on earth become blessed through Abraham? (Answer outside the Text.)
• What was Abraham’s faith like when he agreed to leave for an unknown destination?
• Terah died at the age of 205. He was 145 years old when Abraham left Haran (11:26, 32, 12:4). One son was already dead, one was in Ur, and now even the third one was about to leave. Why didn’t Terah go along with his son to Canaan, even though he had come from Ur to Haran?
• What was perhaps the hardest thing for Abraham in leaving his father in a situation like that?
• What was Sarah probably thinking about it? Terah was her father as well.
Verses 12:5-6. See Abraham’s route on the map and calculate its length. In Hebrews Abraham’s life in Canaan was described like this:” By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents (11:9).
• What did Abraham and Sarah perhaps think when they realised that the promised land was already inhabited?
• Compare the everyday life and standard of living in the promised land to living in the cities of Ur and Haran.
• What was it like to live in the promised land as living in a foreign country?
• In what sense do we Christians also live as strangers and foreigners in our home countries?
Verses 7-9. In verse 8 Abraham called again on the name of the Lord which is a communal worship.
• As we remember offerings were burned on the altar to be forgiven of sins. Why did Abraham want to build altars everywhere in the promised land?
• What does it tell that Abraham started communal worships only after arriving in the promised land?
• What did the Gentiles perhaps think about worshipping the invisible God? Finally: the Lord promised Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3b). So, the blessing was not only meant for Abraham and his offspring, Jews, but the whole world. If you are baptised into Christ and you have faith in Jesus, the same Abraham’s blessing belongs to you as well (Gal. 3:27-29).