Reading through the Bible: day16

Having completed the Book of Job, we return to Genesis. Perhaps having Job here gives us a better idea of what theology in the time of the patriarchs was like.

Genesis 12 – 15

Some confusion over Abraham leaving Haran

There seems to be some confusion over when Abraham left Haran, in fact this is often held as an obvious contradiction in the Bible and an answer often isn’t forthcoming.

  • In Genesis 11:26 we read that Terah lived to seventy years old and then begat his three sons.
  • In Genesis 11:32 we read that Terah was 205 years old when he died.
  • Today we read that Abraham left Haran after his father’s death (this is explicitly stated in Acts 7:4).
  • Basic maths tells us that if Abraham was born when Terah was 70 years old, then Terah would have to have been 135 when he died and Abraham left Haran, we have a problem here.

I had an issue with this for a while, and chatted to our Sabbath School coordinator about it. She returned with an excerpt from the Seventh Day Adventist commentary (volume 1; page 288). The entry was for Genesis 11:26, but I decided to wait for Genesis 12 so the reading plan arrived at the stage where the apparent contradiction is revealed. Obviously we can’t go back and check, but the explanation is reasonably satisfactory.

The implication in the first point is that Terah’s three sons were triplets, but this isn’t actually stated. It is possible that it was simply at the age of 70 that Terah started having children and that he only had Abraham when he was about 130 years old. Obviously Abraham’s name appears first, and thus the implication is that he was the oldest (which isn’t mentioned in the commentary), which also isn’t stated explicitly. As the main protagonist in the Biblical narrative, Abraham’s name preceding his brothers’ may simply have been a literary device to draw our attention to him as the important person. Thus we can say there is a reasonable explanation that doesn’t produce a contradiction.

Abraham is not Job

From Genesis 12:10-20, we find the story of Abraham lying to the Pharoah thus putting both the Pharoah and Sarah (Sarai) at risk of adultery. This shows us that Abraham, like Job and any other believer, didn’t always have faith in the protection that God promises, and ended up doing wrong. It also shows that Abraham was a fallible individual like all of us, but because of his willingness to obey God, and have faith that God had a plan for him, he left all that he knew to travel to a new land to do God’s bidding. Abraham wasn’t perfect, and this shows that God’s redeeming grace extends to us as fallible, fearful individuals.

What was it like back then

The era of the patriarchs is revealed here as a time when people could live in relative peace, but when peace was broken, often people would align with the enemy of their enemy, even if they didn’t really get along. This can be seen in the disdain Abraham has for the people of Sodom with whom he had a common enemy.

What are your thoughts?

If you aren’t already part of this reading project, join in, go to the reading through the Bible page, where you will find all the relevant links and some comments. If you don’t want to do it alone, share the link with a friend and work through it together. Simply bookmark the page and return to it each day to get your scripture readings and my comments on it. The comments threads will remain open and I will attempt to help with any issues and you can share your insights and experiences of reading the Bible.

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