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 settled there.

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 - probably servants)

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 Bible discrepancy.

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 Holy Spirit?

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, was saved.

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 40, 41).

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 side.

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 obeyed.


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