|Exploring Ancient History - The First 2500 Years
PART 3: ABRAHAM'S IMPACT ON HISTORY
Concluding the Story of Abraham Abraham made valuable contributions to the culture of his day. In fact, the culture he originated became dominant in Palestine. Archaeology provides the evidence. What archaeologists designate as the Ghassulian Culture of Palestine is actually the remains of the society of Abraham's day. When archaeology is synchronized with properly reconstructed history, this is the inevitable conclusion.
The Culture of Abraham The Bible tells us that Beersheba was the place where Abraham established his headquarters in southern Canaan (Gen. 22:19). Apparently Beersheba is the point from which the Ghassulian originated and spread out. In other terms, this means that Abraham established a culture which influenced and dominated the entire Palestinian area. Abraham was the cultural leader of his day in that part of the world. But this should come as no surprise, realizing his greatness as illustrated in the entire story thus far.
Here is the most fascinating feature of the Ghassulian: Before this period horses are not found as a part of human civilization! Horses, of course, existed prior to this time, but only as wild animals and not in connection with society. The earliest skeleton of a horse in society was found at Beersheba as a part of the Ghassulian Culture. This was regarded as a spectacular find because the archaeologists never thought of horses being domesticated in this early a culture. The implication of this is that Abraham was the first man, this side of the Flood, to domesticate the horse.
This is substantiated when we realize that every one of the great horse cultures has come, in one way or another, from the Turkish people, the descendants of Esau. And Esau was the descendant of Abraham and Isaac. It appears, then, that after the time of Abraham the use and breeding of horses was further developed by the families of Ishmael and Esau. Seemingly, there was no end to the skills, talents, abilities, and interests of Abraham the great prince and patriarch.
A Perspective on Genesis Now it is time to present an important point which will provide a valuable perspective on the book of Genesis as a whole. Up through chapter 14 Genesis gives a "world view." The account recorded is concerned with affairs of many nations and peoples, not just Israel. The Flood was universal. After it Noah was concerned with the entire human family, as was Shem. Then the life of Abraham was influential in the histories of Austria, Egypt, and Assyria.
But after Genesis 14, up to chapter 39, the story is limited to Israel. The account narrows down to the affairs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with Esau down in Palestine. God, in His records concerns himself with what the world overlooks. The Bible, for two centuries, does not concern itself with the world as a whole. And the rulers of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, and elsewhere, were not concerned with the activities of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In other words, soon after Abraham is called by God to serve him, the Bible centers on his life. Not until Joseph arrives in powerful Egypt prior to 1734 does the Bible again begin to discuss the affairs of outside nations. With the life of Joseph the people of God again begin to have a world-wide influence.
Summarizing Abraham's Later Life With this in mind we will simply summarize, in chronological order, the remainder of the important events in the life of Abraham. Recall that the victory over the four Assyrian rulers took place in 1938. Seven years later, in 1931, Ishmael was born to Hagar when Abraham was 86 (Gen. 16). Then, in the year 1918-17 when Abraham is in his 100th year, God repeated and expanded his promise and agreement. In this same year Abraham and Ishmael were circumcised (Gen. 17)
The next five chapters of Genesis, 17 through 21, tell the events of the years 1918 through 1914: Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, and the incident with Abimelech, king of Gerar, takes place. Then Isaac is born in 1916. Two years later, when Isaac was weaned, Abraham sent Hagar away, and also Susannah as Gen. 25:6 proves. The significance of the date 1914 in relation to the history of Austria has already been discussed.
In 1891, when Isaac was 25 (Antiquities I, XIII, 2), God put Abraham to the ultimate test of his faith, as recorded in Genesis 22. When God had proved that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son he made the great dual promises of race and grace to him unconditional (verses 15-18). The death of Sarah at the age of 127 is recorded in Genesis 23. Genesis 24 describes how the marriage of Isaac to Rebekah took place in 1876 when Isaac was 40 years old (Gen. 25:20). After the death of Sarah, Abraham married Keturah and from this union came important families of the Bible (Genesis 28:1-4). Abraham died, then, at age 175 in the year 1842 and was buried by Isaac and Ishmael (verses 7-10).
More information about Abraham is available in these publications: "The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy" explains the far-reaching significance of the dual promises of race and grace made to Abraham by God. Reprint article, "What is the Reward of the Saved - Heaven?" Explains how Christians are heirs to same things promised to Abraham. Then the article, "Here's the Plain Truth About Old Testament Polygamy" ("Plain Truth", October 1963, page 13) explains the fact that Abraham never had many wives as many have mistakenly assumed. A study of these articles will lend added meaning to the life of Abraham from a doctrinal point of view. The emphasis on these pages is, of course historical.
The Four Hundred Year Prophecy God not only made promises to Abraham. He also gave him prophecies! An important prophecy is recorded in Genesis 15:13-16. In it God reveals to Abraham what would happen to his descendants over the period of four centuries! It is important to understand this prophecy.
God told Abraham. "know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them FOUR HUNDRED YEARS; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward they shall come out with great substance" (verses 13-14).
Yes, God foretold of the Exodus out of Egypt!
But notice that this prophecy refers to more than just Egypt. The sons of Jacob did not come to Egypt with their father to join Joseph until late in 1726. The Exodus was in 1487. Thus the Israelites were actually in Egypt only a period of 239 years. Therefore the 400 years also takes in the time when Isaac, and Jacob and their families lived in Canaan (Gen. 37:1), a land which was "not theirs" yet — they would have to wait till the coming of Christ and the kingdom of God (Heb. 11:8-10). Not until verse 14 is Egypt specifically spoken of in this prophecy.
What are the precise dates for the 400 years? They actually extend from the year of the death of Abraham to the year when the Children of Israel ended the conquest of Palestine. It is the period from 1842 to 1442. The next year they divided the land of Palestine among-the 12 tribes (Joshua 18 and 19). God not only promised Abraham that he would become a great nation. He also told him, at least to some extent, what would happen to them in the future.
The REAL Abraham Who was Abraham? He certainly was not a myth; and he certainly was not a leader of donkey caravans who lived in a moth-eaten tent.
No, Abraham was a man of greatness and distinction. This is why God called him to be his servant. The true Abraham of history was a man of great wealth and property. He was a scientist, astronomers and mathematician. He was an extremely intelligent and balanced personality with amazingly wide interests and activities. He was a fine public speaker, a teacher of the truth, an originator of culture. He was a prince, a ruler, and a military leader when necessary. He was also a founder of nations and princely lines of rulers.
But most important of all, Abraham was a true PATRIARCH who instructed his family and household in God's way. Notice what the Eternal said of him in Gen. 18:19: "For I know him, that he will COMMAND his children and his household after him, and they shall KEEP THE WAY OF THE ETERNAL, to do justice and judgment; that the Eternal may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him (or, promised to him)."
How did God use Abraham in history? Let's review. God used Abraham in Europe in founding the ruling family of Austrian a factor which has influenced Europe to this day. He used Abraham in Egypt to influence Egyptian culture and education so that nation could become a world leader in preparation for the arrival of the Children of Israel. Then he used Abraham to fracture Assyria's rise to greatness so that empire could not dominate the world and stand in the way of the rise of God's nation, Israel.
In the fifth century after the Flood, when the peoples of the earth were just beginning to grow in population, God used his servant Abraham to markedly alter the history of the world. This is the true historical significance of the life of Abraham. But best of all, the life of Abraham is not over. In a few short years, in the resurrection, Abraham will live again, this time forever. That is when the experiences of his physical life in ancient times, will really bear fruit. Abraham has qualified to be a world ruler. (Romans 4:13).