by Richard W. Coffen  |  19 January 2022  |  

His name was Ibex (a.k.a. Terah), and he lived in Mesopotamia. His occupation involved creating images of deities to sell. When he was 70 years old (Genesis 11:26), Terah became the father of triplets: Sire-of-A-Crowd (a.k.a. Abram; Abraham), Sanctuary (a.k.a. Haran), and Snorting (a.k.a. Nahor).

According to the book of Jubilees, when Abram (hereon “Abraham”) was either 59 or 60 years old (his “sixtieth year”), he “arose by night, and burned the house of the idols.” Haran “hasted to save” the charring idols “but the fire flamed over him, and he was burnt in the fire, and he died in” Light City (a.k.a. Ur), . . . and they buried him in Ur of the Chaldees” (Jubilees 12:12-14).

Both Ur and Haran were centers of moon worship. Perhaps the idols that Terah allegedly constructed and that Abram legendarily destroyed were images of moon god Sin.

God instructed Abram to leave the city of Haran. “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1, NKJV; emphasis mine). So, 75-year-old “Abram departed as” YHWH “had spoken” (verse 4). 

Not alone! Wrapped-Up (a.k.a. Lot) “went with him” (verse 4).

Human mess! Divine cleanup!

Abraham finally arrived in the land YHWH had promised. He first stopped at Bethel and then settled south of there (Genesis 12:8, 9). Oh, you should know that every few years either locusts or drought produced “a famine in the land” (verse 10). 

Therefore, “Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there” (Genesis 12:10). So much for settling in the Promised Land! Note the verb: “to dwell.” The Hebrew denotes changing residence to another country—as a refugee who remains as an alien resident. Abraham planned to take up permanent residence in Egypt rather than live in the Promised Land!

Afraid that the Egyptian king (He was not called pharaoh at this point; the word meant “Great House,” denoting his palace.) would lust after his beautiful wife, Princess (a.k.a. Sarai; hereafter Sarah), and kill him, Abraham advised her to identify herself as his sister—a half-truth (verses 11-13). Sure enough, the locals “saw . . . that she was very beautiful” (12:14). Not just beautiful but exceedingly so! According to rabbinic legend, she was so gorgeous that “all of Egypt was illuminated by the radiance of” her “beauty.”

She also knocked the socks off the princes of the Egyptian king. They sang her praises, urging that he marry her (verse 15). Female “lookers” didn’t come cheap! The Egyptian ruler “treated Abram well for her sake” (verse 16). With the assets that Abraham already had then combined with the bride price the king produced, he ended up with “sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female servants, female donkeys, and camels” (verse 16).

Before they could consummate their intimacy (verse 19), the situation in the Great House turned critical. A severe plague ravaged those living in the Great House (verse 17). Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaqi (A.D. 1040-1105; a.k.a. Rashi, an acronym) reasoned that the plagues involved sterility.

Learning that Sarah, his stunningly gorgeous acquisition, was Abraham’s spouse, the Egyptian ruler concluded that the problematic plague resulted from her arrival. He summoned Abraham and rebuked: “Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife. Now therefore, here is your wife; take her and go [literally ‘go go’]” (verse 19).

Abraham, Sarah, and their abundant possessions trekked back to God’s-House (a.k.a. Bethel; verse 20; Genesis 13:2). Oh, tagalong “Lot [went] with him” (verse 1). Later the two households were so large and so augmented with flocks that the two families parted ways. Lot chose the verdant land along the Jordan River, pitching his tent toward Sodom (Genesis 13:12, KJV).

Human mess! Divine cleanup!

Where was the “multitude” that God had predicted Abraham would sire? He and Sarah were getting on in years and had no offspring. Abraham proposed that his servant My-God-Is-a-Help(er) (a.k.a. Eliezer) become his heir. YHWH didn’t like the idea.

A decade into their residence in the Promised Land, 75-year-old Sarah came up with an idea. Abraham should take Miss Flight (a.k.a. Hagar), her slave, as concubine. Abraham was 85 years old, and Hagar, whom Sarah likely had acquired during their fiasco in Egypt, was perhaps in her 20s. Abraham must have relished those nightly trysts with his curvaceous concubine. Soon both Hagar’s womb and ego grew puffed up, and “her mistress became despised in her eyes” (verse 4).

Hagar delivered God-Hears (a.k.a. Ishmael). Fourteen years later and nearly a quarter century into their residence within the Promised Land, 89-year-old Sarah (after laughing at YHWH’s prediction of her pregnancy) gave birth to a boy named He-Laughs (a.k.a. Isaac).

Human mess! Divine cleanup!

Somewhere along the line, Abraham insisted that Lot and he move apart because of the stress among the shepherds of the two families. Therefore, Lot and family moved near Sodom. Eventually they left their tents behind and took up residence in “real” houses—within the city itself. He even became the chief judge of the city and sat in the gate of the city (19:1), where municipal leaders conducted business.

Man-of-God (a.k.a. Gabriel) and God-Has-Healed (a.k.a. Raphael) but not Who-Is-Like-God (a.ka. Michael), according to rabbinic lore arrived at Flaming City (a.k.a. Sodom). Lot invited them to spend the night at his house, where Mrs. Lot, Idit, and their two unmarried daughters lived. The guests explained that they had come to rescue Lot and family before they set ablaze the city.

In the morning, the supernatural guests had to take all four by the hand so that they could drag them not only out of the house but also out of Sodom itself (19:16). The foursome was commanded to “escape to the mountains” (19:17). Lot whimpered, asking permission to flee to nearby Littleton (a.k.a. Zoar) instead of the mountains (verses 19 and 20).

Idit, turning to gaze at the conflagration, was doused with molten salt. After an undetermined time in Zoar, Lot and his two virginal daughters ended up in a cave in the mountains. According to rabbinic lore, this particular cave served as a wine “cellar” for the people of Zoar. The wine produced in the valley would have spoiled quickly in the hot climate of the valley. So, the vintners carted it up to this cave, where they stored it in the coolness produced by both that elevation and the cave itself.

From the girls’ sons descended the Moabites and Ammonites, people groups often hostile toward YHWH’s people. However, Moabitess Friendship (a.k.a. Ruth), was an ancestress of Jesus.

Human mess! Divine cleanup!

Rebekah, Isaac’s cousin-wife, was pregnant and ready to deliver. A hirsute baby emerged, whom they named Hairy (a.k.a. Esau). Grasping his heel was the tiny hand of twin Trickster (a.k.a. Jacob).

Years later a “starving” Esau sold his birthright to his swindler brother for a bowl of “pottage” (Hebrew nāzîd = a stew containing lentils and vegetables in a broth.) There went Esau’s double inheritance! If that were not enough, later Rebekah connived with trickster Jacob to steal Father Isaac’s blessing intended for Esau. Duped again!

None of Esau’s weeping and wailing could undo the second blessing stolen from him by the trickery of his twin brother. God was regarded as duty-bound to abide by aged Isaac’s blessing (performative speech) that he had pronounced blindly over Jacob. Now trickster Jacob rather than Esau would be the progenitor of God’s chosen people, who would dwell in the Promised Land.

Human mess! Divine cleanup!

Because of his trickery, Jacob fled from home and became a refugee. A migrant where? To the very city, Highway (a.k.a. Haran), that Grandfather Abraham had left under divine leading to the Promised Land! Back to square one! Here he remained for approximately two decades, groveling before Uncle White (a.k.a. Laban).

While there, Jacob fell in love with knock-your-socks-off Cousin Ewe (a.k.a. Rachel). At the marriage celebration, he thought he was marrying Rachel, although she was heavily veiled. However, the trickster-in-chief was tricked by Uncle Laban into marrying Cow (a.k.a. Leah). He didn’t discover the ruse until morning light diffused through the tent, revealing the identity of his bride. Tricked into another bride price of seven more years of servitude, Jacob was able to marry Rachel once the present celebrations had ended.

His “rags” having turned into “riches,” Jacob, his growing family, and Uncle Laban’s idols surreptitiously headed back to the Promised Land. Surprises beset the journey—a wrestling match with God and an encounter with Brother Esau marching toward them with an army of 400!

Human mess! Divine cleanup!

You get the picture. The pattern continued to be repeated throughout the centuries. For example, there was Added (a.k.a. Joseph), who had been sold into slavery in Egypt, ended up in prison, and finally helped to save hundreds of thousands from famine. Oh, we must not overlook Drawn-Out-One (a.k.a. Moses), who had been groomed to be the next pharaoh, who could have freed the Hebrew slaves without bloodshed, but who took matters into his own violent hands, prolonging the cruel hardship for another four decades.

Happily, God draws straight with the crooked lines drawn by his people.

Richard W. Coffen is a retired vice president of editorial services at Review and Herald Publishing Association. He writes from Green Valley, Arizona.

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