Character sketches are a tool to help us understand Bible stories more fully, to identify with the people, and to learn from their lives as they walked with God. I am writing out of reformed, Bible-centric, Holy-Spirit-led world and life view, seeing into these stories out of what could be called “my bias.” And I am a woman, and as such, may have more insights into a woman’s life than a man’s. I have had different experiences in my life than you have, and those who read this represent many different generations. Our emotional reactions, our questions, and what lifts to us will not be the same, but yet God says all of his Scripture is written for His purpose.
Whatever was written beforehand is meant to instruct us in how to live. The Scriptures impart to us encouragement and inspiration so that we can live in hope and endure all things. Romans 15:4, NLT
At this point, there are no “right answers” when it comes to the personalities of Abram and Sarai. We are looking for clues as to what kind of people they were, so focus on discovery. Investigate Scripture; look at the context Biblically, culturally, and historically. And in this process, ask for and listen to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
The ancient world considered barrenness a punishment from the gods. They didn’t understand the physiology, but viewed the woman as an incubator for the man’s seed. They understood that the timing had to do with menstruation, but if the man’s seed was deposited, the trouble must be with the woman, and the problems was never thought to be purely physical. In their eyes, it was the gods who opened or closed the womb, the evidence showed that for some reason the gods’ judged Sarai as unfit. Failure to deliver children to the family was the most common cause of divorce, and infertility brought shame on the woman and her family.
~ Cultural Background Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2016, pg 33
Moving this many people and all their belongings was not a simple task. Not only did they need to carry everything with them, they needed protection and food for people and animals during the trip. At the normal caravan pace of 20 miles per day, the trip from Haran to Canaan (about 500 miles) would have taken approximately a month. Shechem was often used as a rest stop along the route. Located in the hill country of central Canaan. It is protected by mountains, has an abundant water supply, and is blessed with wide, fertile fields to the east and west. There was probably a semi-permanent or permanent encampment, but not a walled city at the time of Abram’s visit.
~Archeological Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, pg 21
Although a married couple generally lived together in the same tent, the wife would typically have a second, separate tent in which to do her work. Abram and his servants would pitch his wife’s work-tent first before setting up their common living tent.
COMING ALIVE: GOD, ABRAM, SARAI
- God takes the initiative. The Lord chose Abram to speak to, to reveal Himself to, and to make a covenant with.
- Interestingly, God didn’t give him the ten commandments or demand a certain code of conduct. Instead, God made an agreement (or covenant). He told Abram, “Do this obediently, and I will do this.” God made promises right away, from the very beginning, as from a King to his people.
- Abram was a loyal and obedient son, one who was groomed as the heir to take over leading the clan or tribe after his father’s death. This was a big responsibility—the whole tribe depended on him to lead them, to protect them, and to provide for them.
- Terah died when he was 205 (Gen 11:32), and Abram was 75 years old (Gen 12:4).
- God gave wonderful promises to Abram: to father a great nation, blessings, protection, and fame.
- Abram was probably elated to receive God’s call; he certainly responded obediently and began the preparation to leave Haran.
- Did he explain this calling and his decision to Sarai, to Lot, or to the men who served as his helpers and advisors? At this point, I don’t think that he felt obliged to explain or answer to anyone else.
- As Abram’s wife, Sarai held the position of “first lady” in the clan. She also had many responsibilities over household, food, servants, and the women of the tribe. Her “failure” to bear children, would mean that she had to work that much harder to earn and hold the respect of the women around her.
- Sarai was labeled as barren, and would have a monthly reminder of her failure as a wife. This must have been a great cause for sorrow, pain, and uncertainty for her.
- Sarai was 65 when they left Haran.
This was the beginning of a life with God for Abram and Sarai. It reminded me of how the goodness of God has been a part of my whole life, even when circumstances we not good. I wanted to close today with this song of praise, “The Goodness of God.”