ABRAHAM: THE TRUE STORY
For as many years as any of us cares to remember, we have been told
that God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to go into an
unknown land which would later become known as the Promised Land. That
also is what we find in Stephen's speech given in Acts chapter seven.
Most of us have never bothered to check out his story, for the simple
reason that Stephen, a man approved of God, full of faith, and full of
the power of the Holy Ghost, just couldn't be wrong. But he was. This
is what he said:
"And he said, Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory
appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before
he dwelt in Charran, "And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country,
and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.
Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran:
and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this
land, wherein ye now dwell" (Acts 7:2-4).
Ur of the Chaldees was in Mesopotamia, where Abraham dwelt before he
moved to Charran, a city which in the Old Testament is called Haran.
Stephen apparently wasn't thoroughly familiar with the ancient history
of Israel's beginning, and got some of his facts mixed up. God did not
call Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. The Holy Spirit tells a
different story. But many Bible expositors, for reasons of their own,
accept Stephen's version as the correct account of what happened, even
though they know (or should know) that the book of Genesis tells it
differently. Some expositors believe both versions, and try as best
they can to reconcile the two as, for example, the Wycliffe Bible
commentary: "God's call to Abraham did not come in the Promised Land
but when he was far away in Mesopotamia. Stephen related a divine
visitation while Abraham was still in Mesopotamia, as a result of
which he went first to Haran, where he lived for some time, and then
later journeyed from Haran to Palestine. Genesis 11:31,32 does not
record this earliest divine visitation; but Gen. 15:7 and Neh. 9:7
both indicate that God's call came originally to Abraham in Ur of the
Chaldees in Mesopotamia." (page 1135).
Wrong! The Bible records no divine visitation while Abraham was still
living in Ur of the Chaldees. The visitation came when Abraham was
living in Haran. And the Bible does not say how long Abraham lived in
Haran, but he got the call from God and left many years before his
father died. Neither do Gen.15:7 and Neh. 9.7 indicate that God's call
came originally to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees. We shall see later
what these two verses really indicate.
Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost, as well as many others, concurs with the
accepted Dispensational view that Stephen was right, even though that
makes the narrative in Genesis wrong. He writes, "While Abraham was
living in the home of Terah, an idolator, God spoke to him and
commanded him to leave the land of Ur... Abraham, in partial obedience
inasmuch as he did not separate himself from his kindred, journeyed to
Haran. He did not realize any of the promises there. It was not until
after the death of his father that Abraham begins to realize anything
of the promise God had given to him, for only after his father's death
does God take him into the land" (Things To Come, page 74).
At the risk of offending a famous Bible scholar, none of this is
correct. While Abraham lived in Ur, God did not command him to leave
that particular country, and Abraham was not in "partial disobedience"
when he left his father's land. When God commanded Abraham to leave
for the Promised land, his father would live another 60 years. And
contrary to Dr. Pentecost, Abraham realized virtually all of the
promises while his father was still living.
HERE IS MOSES' ACCOUNT
"And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran"
(Gen. 11:26). "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran
his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife;
and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the
land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. And the
days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in
Haran" (Gen. 11:31,32).
It is important to notice that God didn't call Abraham at this time.
But Terah, for reasons probably unknown to himself, packed up the
family and headed toward Canaan. They got as far as Haran, and settled
there. Terah, head of the clan, was in control. He took Abraham and
the rest of the family. Abraham didn't take him. It is true that the
intended destination was Canaan land, so we may assume that Haran was
to be a stopover in the ultimate plan of God to bring Abraham into the
Promised land. It must be remembered that God did not call Abraham
while he lived in Ur. Nowhere does the Bible say that He did. Study
Gen.15:7 and Neh. 9.7 closely. "And he said unto him, I am the LORD
that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to
inherit it." That's what Genesis 15:7 says. Nehemiah 9:7 says just
about the same thing: "Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose
Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest
him the name of Abraham" (Neh. 9:7); Can you see where the Wycliffe
Bible Commentators made their mistake?
Notice, these verses do not say that God CALLED Abraham out of Ur of
the Chaldees. They say that He BROUGHT him out. How did God do it? Not
on wings of eagles, or a flying carpet, or anything like that. He did
it in the most natural way one might expect, which may be why so many
scholars, who tend to scan the prophetic horizon for anything
spectacular, missed it. God inspired Terah, Abraham's father, to load
up his family, and journey to Canaan land. Terah himself probably
didn't know why he suddenly had the urge to move to Canaan. But he did
just that. Only he traveled more northward, got as far as Haran, and
Terah was an idolater - no doubt an incorrigible idolater. This, we
are sure, is one of the reasons why God did not let him enter the
Promised Land with his family, or even get nearer. The other reason is
obvious. God was going to make a covenant with Abraham. Abraham would
have to leave his father's home, and travel to Canaan land on his own.
This would be a test of Abraham's faith and obedience. So God did not
call Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, He BROUGHT him out, and CALLED
him out of Haran. Why did God bring them to Haran? The Bible doesn't
say. Perhaps for reasons of safety. Terah's household was much larger
than Abraham's would be, and large numbers may have been safer when
traveling through that country. Or perhaps they took that route to
avoid the harsh Syrian Desert. But we really don't know.
GOD'S PROMISE TO ABRAHAM - THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
"Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and
from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will
show thee: "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless
thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I
will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and
in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abram departed,
as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was
seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram
took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their
substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten
in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into
the land of Canaan they came" (Gen. 12:1-5).
("All the souls that they had gotten in Haran..." This is only a
guess, but it appears that they lived in Haran for some time before
Abraham got the call, long enough to gather a number of souls -
Now with a little adding and subtracting, we discover that Moses tells
a different story than Stephen. Not to worry, though; this is not a
Terah lives in Ur of the Chaldees. There, at about the age of 70,
three sons are born to him, Abram, Haran, and Nahor. Some years pass,
Abram grows up, and marries Sarai. Afterward Terah takes Abram, Sarai,
and Lot, the orphaned son of Abram's deceased brother, Haran, and they
head in the general direction of the land of Canaan (I say "general
direction" because actually they headed rather northward instead of
directly westward to Canaan land.) They get as far as the city of
Haran, and settle there. We presume that Terah buys land, and
establishes his household there, because that is where he's going to
stay for the rest of his life. While in Haran, God tells Abram to get
out of this country, and go into another that He would show him. Abram
is now 75 years old. Terah is 145. Abraham leaves as he is told. Terah
dies at the age of 205.
Simple arithmetic shows that this story is not the same as Stephen's.
If Terah was 70 years old when Abram was born, and Abram was 75 when
he was called to go into the promised land, then Terah was 145 years
old at the time. But Terah died at the age of 205. Subtract 145 from
205, and you find that Terah lived another 60 years AFTER Abram left.
Here is a "contradiction" in the Bible. Stephen says one thing, Moses
another. Whom should we believe? The answer is simple. Moses writes
what the Holy Spirit inspires him to write, and Luke also writes what
the Holy Spirit inspires him to write. Neither man makes mistakes. But
while Moses is inspired to tell it like it is, Luke is inspired to
tell it like Stephen thought it was. So there is no contradiction in
Scripture, but Stephen was wrong. Abraham was not called out of Ur of
the Chaldees. He was called out of Haran. And Abraham left BEFORE his
father died, not AFTER.
We often hear that Abraham dilly-dallied in Haran, waiting until after
his father died before leaving. Except for Stephen, the Bible nowhere
says that. God called him, and he left just as he was told: "So Abram
departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and
Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran"
(Gen. 12:4). Notice how meticulous the Holy Spirit was in giving the
ages of Terah and Abraham in just the right places. Someone later
wasn't going to get it quite right, and others, later still, were
going to take advantage of that minor slip to help promote an
unbiblical, futuristic agenda.
Stephen's error was only an error in detail, and would have been of no
consequence. After all, he did get his message across to the
unbelieving Jews, and stirred them up so much so that they stoned him.
It is not unusual that a man of God, even one filled with the power of
the Holy Ghost, could now and then be found in error. There was a
point in time when Peter, who himself wrote inspired Scripture, was
not always perfect in his knowledge and actions, and Paul didn't
hesitate to tell him so. "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I
withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed" (Gal. 2:11).
But when the Holy Spirit had him to write Scripture, He made sure this
mortal man could make no error. Being inspired by the Holy Spirit is a
guarantee that a believer will make no mistakes. Being filled with the
Holy Spirit, apparently, is not.
Today, many Bible scholars, even when they know that there is a
difference between the two accounts, prefer Stephen's version over
that of Moses, as though a choice were optional. But the stories are
different, thus only one can be true. And it requires nothing more
than simple common sense, not high level scholarly reasoning, to
determine which one is true, and which one is not.
THE WORD OF GOD IS SIMPLER THAN WE HAVE BEEN LED TO BELIEVE
Bible teachers often tell us that when we study the Bible prayerfully
and diligently, the Holy Spirit will teach us. They get some of that
from Scriptures such as this: "For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in
the same hour what ye ought to say" (Luke 12:12). But the context
clearly shows that this applied to the disciples, and for a specific
purpose: "And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto
magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall
answer, or what ye shall say" (Luke 12:11): It is generally taught
that this applies to every Christian. They say that, but they don't
all believe it. How many of those same Christian teachers, when they
themselves have to face a magistrate for one reason or another, hire
smart lawyers to coach them in what they ought to say?
"These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But
the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in
my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your
remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:25,26). Whether
this applies to Christians today as they study the Bible is
questionable. If one had never been a Christian before he began to
study his Bible, then he didn't know anything, and there is nothing
that could be brought to his remembrance. But these apostles had been
taught. Jesus taught them for a space of about three and a half years,
and then ascended into heaven. It is reasonable to expect that the
apostles, being human, would forget much of what they had learned in
those three years. So the Holy Spirit would help the apostles remember
all the things that Christ taught them, especially when the time came
to write those things down on paper.
Does the Holy Spirit teach us as we study the Bible? I personally
don't think so. But if He does, that fact is something everyone should
keep to himself. I believe that there is a good, sound reason why we
shouldn't boast about it; that would be a false act of reverence. No
matter who claims to get whatever from the Bible, in whatever way, we
are not obligated to believe him unless we ourselves can prove it by
the Bible. So, if a man claims that the Holy Spirit gave him this
truth, or that truth, which we cannot prove for ourselves in the
Bible, he could be lying, or halucinating. How could we verify it
unless the Holy Spirit personally gave us the same truth? And if He
did that, He would have to do it for everyone, all the time. What,
then, would be the point in writing the Bible in the first place?
Now, from observation, we know that many good, godly, and very sincere
men study the Bible, but not all men understand the Bible in the same
way. If they did, we would all have one mind, and there would be no
divisions among us. But there are more denominations in the nation and
the world than anyone would care to admit, each with its own pet
doctrines, and every member believing, at least to some extent, that
his denomination is "the true Church" - except Liberals who, after
their own self-observation, don't believe anything is true. But the
Holy Spirit is not confused, or divided. So how could He have taught
all these men as they studied? And if He didn't teach all, then which
ones did He teach? Which ones were holy enough to qualify for that
special attention by the Holy Spirit? Which one was greater than
Stephen? Which one was more full of faith, and of the power of the
It stands to reason that no one can claim revelation by the Holy
Spirit on the basis of greater spirituality, for who can claim greater
spirituality than Stephen? And if the Holy Spirit did not teach
Stephen, even at the critical time when his words would find their way
into Scriptures, are we so much greater than Stephen that we should
expect the Holy Spirit to do more for us?
But in His own way, I think the Holy spirit DID teach us. He gave us
the written Word, and gave us all the natural ability to think in a
simple, rational way. He warned us against subtle deception which was
sure to come. He went even further, He gave us written instructions in
how to understand the written Word:
"Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand
doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the
breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line
upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: But the
word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon
precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a
little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and
snared, and taken" (Isa. 28:9-10,13).
Although Isaiah was here prophesying specifically of the time when
Jesus would speak of the kingdom of heaven to the Jews in parables, I
believe that it can well apply to all Bible study. Sometimes we have
to do a little searching here and there in the Scriptures to find the
whole truth; it isn't always handed to us in the first verse or two we
happen to read.
ABRAHAM WAS NOT IN "PARTIAL DISOBEDIENCE"
Some believe that by taking Lot with him, Abraham did not fully obey
the command to leave his kin. But let us not misunderstand the purpose
of the command. God wanted Abram to get out of the idolatrous
environment of his father's dominion. There was no disobedience on
Abram's part to take the young son of his brother with him. When
Abraham left his father's house, he was now the head of his own clan,
and ruled, even in matters of worship. The Lord God knew he would be a
godly leader of his household. Speaking of Abraham, the Lord said,
"For I know him, that he will command his children and his household
after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and
judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath
spoken of him" (Gen. 18:19). Since he didn't worship idols, neither
would anyone else in his household, including Lot. Things actually
turned out quite well, because later the Bible refers to Lot as a
"just man." So Abram snatched the youngster out of the hands of the
idolaters, and Lot, in spite of some of the flaws in his character,
Abram was an obedient servant of God. He too, may have strayed from
the will of God at other times (who hasn't?) but when he was ordered
to leave, he left, just as the Lord had spoken to him, thus he had
kept his part of the covenant. After that, God would fulfill the
promises, even if He had to raise up stones as children of Abraham.
Nowhere does the Bible say that Abraham was in "partial disobedience"
to the commandment to leave his kin and his father's country.
Scripture after Scripture tells us that Abraham obeyed, and none say
that he only "partially obeyed." "Abram departed as the Lord had
spoken unto him..." (Gen 12:4). "By faith Abraham, when he was called
to go out into a place which he should after receive for an
inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went"
(Heb. 11:8). "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham
believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he
was called the Friend of God" (James 2:23).
In Genesis we read that, after Abraham and Lot separated, Lot chose
all the plain of Jordan, in the direction of Sodom, and Abraham
dwelled in the land of Canaan. Later we find that Abram was a wealthy
man. "And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Gen.
13:2). "And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds,
and tents" (Gen. 13:5). The two men had so much livestock that the
land couldn't bear them, so they had to split up. Lot moved to the
plains of Jordan, Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan. After they had
separated, God offered Abram all the land that he could see. "For all
the land that thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed
forever" (Gen. 13:15). Futuristic scholars make much of the fact that
God didn't give this land to Abram until after he and Lot had
separated. I don't think that this was because of any "disobedience"
on Abram's part. The covenant was between God and Abram; Lot had no
part in it. God gave the land to Abram, not to Lot. So it made good
sense that God did this after Lot had gone his own way. Again, we must
repeat, that Lot was not the bad influence from which Abram was
commanded to separate himself. In the Scriptures Lot is called "just."
It is important to notice that this happened even before Isaac was
born to Abram, and years before Abram's father died.
Later, when Abraham was 100 years old, Isaac was born. That was 25
years after he left Haran. After 25 years, he was fully settled in the
land of Canaan. He was rich; all the promises of land that God had
made to him were fulfilled. Now he also had an heir which God had
promised. And his father would live for another 35 years! So the fact
is, Terah was alive when Abraham received virtually all of the
promises God made to him. Bible scholars simply did not read their
Bibles closely enough (it appears that some didn't want to).
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FLOOD
Some Bible scholars mistakenly believe that at some point in time
Abraham and Terah both recognized the true God, and worshiped Him. Dr.
John F. Walvoord, a respected prophecy expert, makes this statement:
"The fact that Abraham and his father started out for the Promised
Land is evidence that though they may have participated in the worship
of pagan deities of the time, at this important juncture in their life
they recognized the true God and henceforth obeyed and worshiped Him.
Their path of obedience, however, was not perfect." This is one of the
standard battle cries of the Futurist: Abraham's obedience was only
"partial," or "not exactly perfect." Notice the skillful way in which
Dr. Walvoord blends the two men together into a team of almost
innocent, but yet disobedient, ne'er-do-wells. Dr. Walvoord continues:
Abraham had been told to leave not only his country but also his
people and his father's household. Circumstances combined to make this
a difficult command, because Abraham recognized the leadership of his
father, and his father took the initiative to involve Abraham as well
as his great-nephew Lot on the journey." (Major Bible Prophecies pp
By reading Dr. Walvoord's comment, it would appear that he understands
an obvious fact, that Terah was in charge, he was head of household.
And since the Bible NEVER says that God spoke to Abram while in Ur of
the Chaldees, we find it strange that a scholar of such stature would
weave a tale of Abraham's imagined malfeasance. Leaving Ur as an
entire clan was Terah's doing, not Abraham's, and we may assume it was
at the Lord's prompting; the Bible does not indicate that Abraham had
any idea at that time what was going on. Terah probably didn't either,
he only did the Lord's bidding. He only knew he was supposed to go to
Canaan. "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his
son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and
they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land
of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there" (Gen. 11:31).
Terah worshiped false gods, and never worshiped the true God. Abraham
worshiped the true God, and never worshiped false gods. The Bible
nowhere says that Terah recognized and worshiped and obeyed the true
God at any juncture of his life. Dr. Walvoord must have imagined that.
He didn't get it from the Bible, which only says that Terah worshipped
false gods. "And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD
God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in
old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor:
and they served other gods" (Josh 24:2). Joshua never says that Terah
gave up his false gods. The "other side of the flood," by the way,
means that they lived across the Euphrates River from Canaan land.
Haran was across, on the far side of the river, Ur was on the near
WHY THE EFFORT TO MAKE ABRAHAM A "PARTIAL" VILLAIN?
Because, for some reason, Dispensationalists force a bright future
upon the nation of Israel, even after she had rebelled for the last
time (Matt. 21:37). They entertain the mistaken idea that the promises
God made to the nation were without any condition whatsoever and so
her disobedience did not nullify the covenants. They believe that to
this day Israel is only in "partial disobedience," and that the day
will come when God will change her heart, and she will return to the
Lord, and receive the promises. Such a cause would be greatly helped
if Christians could be led to believe that Abraham in like manner was
rebellious to begin with, and in "partial disobedience," but did
receive the promises of God when he became fully obedient.
But that would be a forced interpretation. Scriptures show beyond any
doubt that Abraham obeyed the commandment to leave his father's estate
immediately and fully, and that he received the promise because he