God chooses Imperfect People: Abram and Sarai
Character sketches illustrate the personality, flaws, motives, relationships, and ultimate journey of the people in a story. In order to really know them, we need to learn about their history: family, society, lifestyle, circumstances, and more. To write the stories of people who seem real to us, authors develop character sketches to make persons be recognizable and alive.
But this is not an exercise in writing fiction. We will use character sketches as an additional implement in your Bible-study toolbox. The word of God is alive and powerful, and we are going to enter into a conversation with God about the people he chooses to be a part of his family, from Abram and Sari to you and I. The intent of this study is to “understand the innermost thoughts and desires” of Biblical characters, such as this twosome, in order to help us to emulate the kinds of relationships they had with God. It’s a new way of reading stories, especially those that we may already have read. It requires us to look more deeply into familiar words, and in so doing, we can learn more about ourselves and develop a deeper understanding of God’s words for us.
Pray with me. Lord, as we read through these Old Testament Bible stories, grant us fresh eyes and ears to hear Your specific words for us. May your words be a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. Amen.
Set the Scene
On the left is an artist’s rendering of Abram and Sarai and their household leaving Ur of the Chaldees.
Who was Terah and his son Abram? They are descendents of Shem, the son of Noah who escaped the flood on the ark. The genealogy listed in Genesis 11:10-26 tells the long-lived generations between Shem and Terah, but this is not a comprehensive list of all the people descended from Noah. It concentrates on those related to Israel.
Where was Ur? Of the two ancient cities named Ur, many scholars agree that Abram’s home was the great center of early civilization in southeastern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).
This map by Steve Rudd will help you visualize the journey taken by Terah and his family. They followed the rivers rather than attempting to cross the vast desert, and many scholars believe they acted as traders to finance this journey. They headed toward Canaan, but settled before they were halfway there in an area not too far from where brother Nahor and his household lived. Terah established a settlement at Haran, perhaps named after their dead son or derived from the Akkadian word harranu (highway). The family remained there until Terah’s death at age 205.
27 This is the account of Terah’s family. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 But Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, the land of his birth, while his father, Terah, was still living. 29 Meanwhile, Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah. (Milcah and her sister Iscah were daughters of Nahor’s brother Haran.) 30 But Sarai was unable to become pregnant and had no children. 31 One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. 32 Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran. Genesis 11:27-32, New Living Translation
Chart the Facts
Why should we develop a character sketch of this man and his wife? So that we get to know them as people who are as real as you or I, and, in doing so, to hear what God has to say to us through them. Abram and Sarai will lead us to a deeper understanding of God’s message to us.
Make a list of the facts that we are told in Genesis 11:27-32 (shown above), Genesis 11:27-32, Joshua 24:2-3, and Genesis 20:12. We will have 3 categories named after three characters: Terah, Abram, and Sarai.
Getting to Know You
- According to this passage, it was Terah’s decision to leave Ur at this point. Nahor went off on his own with his household, and Abram and Sarai, plus their nephew Lot, stuck with Terah. Did God influence a man who worshiped idols?
- The men are listed, as is Nahor’s wife and even his wife’s sister. Sarai is only mentioned with two descriptors: she married Abram and was barren. Was Sarai proud of or satisfied with those labels?
- Abram was the eldest son. Does this play a part in his decision to follow his father?
Tune in again tomorrow (Tuesday) for my fact list, plus a little more background information. There’s space for your comments below or email me at KSEvenhouseWWV@gmail.com