Have Faith Like That of Abraham!
“Those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham.”—GALATIANS 3:7.
1. How did Abram cope with a new trial in Canaan?
ABRAM had left a life of comfort in Ur in obedience to Jehovah’s command. The inconveniences he experienced in the following years were merely a prelude to the trial of faith that he faced in Egypt. The Bible account says: “Now a famine arose in the land.” How easy it would have been for Abram to feel bitter about his situation! Rather, he took practical steps to provide for his family. “Abram made his way down toward Egypt to reside there as an alien, because the famine was severe in the land.” Abram’s large household would hardly go unnoticed in Egypt. Would Jehovah prove true to his promises and protect Abram from harm?—Genesis 12:10; Exodus 16:2, 3.
2, 3. (a) Why did Abram conceal his wife’s true identity? (b) In responding to the situation, how did Abram deal with his wife?
2 We read at Genesis 12:11-13: “It came about that as soon as he got near to entering Egypt, then he said to Sarai his wife: ‘Please, now! I well know you are a woman beautiful in appearance. So it is bound to happen that the Egyptians will see you and will say, “This is his wife.” And they will certainly kill me, but you they will preserve alive. Please say you are my sister, in order that it may go well with me on your account, and my soul will be certain to live due to you.’” Although Sarai was over 65 years old, she was still strikingly beautiful. That put Abram’s life at risk.* (Genesis 12:4, 5; 17:17) More important, Jehovah’s interests were at stake, for he had said that through Abram’s seed all the nations of the earth would bless themselves. (Genesis 12:2, 3, 7) Since Abram was still childless, it was critical that he remain alive.
3 Abram spoke to his wife about using a ploy they had earlier agreed upon, namely, to say that she was his sister. Note that although he had patriarchal authority, he did not abuse his position but elicited her cooperation and support. (Genesis 12:11-13; 20:13) In this, Abram set a fine example for husbands to exercise loving headship, and Sarai, by demonstrating her subjection, is an example for wives today.—Ephesians 5:23-28; Colossians 4:6.
4. How should faithful servants of God today conduct themselves when the lives of their brothers are at stake?
4 Sarai could say that she was Abram’s sister because she really was his half sister. (Genesis 20:12) Furthermore, he was not under obligation to divulge information to people who were not entitled to it. (Matthew 7:6) Faithful servants of God in modern times heed the Bible’s command to be honest. (Hebrews 13:18) They would never, for instance, lie under oath in a court of law. When the physical or spiritual lives of their brothers are at stake, such as in times of persecution or civil distress, however, they heed Jesus’ counsel to be “cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves.”—Matthew 10:16; see The Watchtower, November 1, 1996, page 18, paragraph 19.
5. Why was Sarai willing to obey Abram’s request?
5 How did Sarai respond to Abram’s request? The apostle Peter describes women like her as “hoping in God.” Sarai could therefore appreciate the spiritual issues involved. Besides, she loved and respected her husband. Sarai thus chose to ‘subject herself to her husband’ and conceal her married status. (1 Peter 3:5) Of course, doing so exposed her to risks. “As soon as Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians got to see the woman, that she was very beautiful. And the princes of Pharaoh also got to see her and they began praising her to Pharaoh, so that the woman was taken to the house of Pharaoh.”—Genesis 12:14, 15.
6, 7. In what distressing circumstance did Abram and Sarai find themselves, and how did Jehovah deliver Sarai?
6 How distressing this must have been for Abram and Sarai! It appeared that Sarai was in line to be violated. Moreover, Pharaoh, unaware of Sarai’s true marital status, lavished gifts upon Abram, so that “he came to have sheep and cattle and asses and menservants and maidservants and she-asses and camels.”* (Genesis 12:16) What contempt Abram must have felt for these gifts! As bad as things may have looked, Jehovah had not abandoned Abram.
7 “Then Jehovah touched Pharaoh and his household with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.” (Genesis 12:17) In some undisclosed way, the true cause of these “plagues” was revealed to Pharaoh. He responded immediately: “With that Pharaoh called Abram and said: ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, “She is my sister,” so that I was about to take her as my wife? And now here is your wife. Take her and go!’ And Pharaoh issued commands to men concerning him, and they went escorting him and his wife and all that he had.”—Genesis 12:18-20; Psalm 105:14, 15.
8. What kind of protection does Jehovah promise Christians today?
8 Today, Jehovah does not guarantee us protection from the ravages of death, crime, famine, or natural disaster. We are promised that Jehovah will always make available protection from things that can endanger our spirituality. (Psalm 91:1-4) He does so primarily by providing us timely warnings through his Word and “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) What about the threat of death from persecution? While individuals may be allowed to die, God will never allow the extermination of his people as a whole. (Psalm 116:15) And if death claims some faithful ones, we can be confident of their resurrection.—John 5:28, 29.
Sacrificing to Keep Peace
9. What indicates that Abram stayed on the move in Canaan?
9 With the famine in Canaan evidently over, “Abram went up out of Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the Negeb [the semiarid area south of the mountains of Judah]. And Abram was heavily stocked with herds and silver and gold.” (Genesis 13:1, 2) Local residents would thus see him as a man of power and influence, a mighty chieftain. (Genesis 23:6) Abram had no desire to settle down and become involved with Canaanite politics. Instead, “he made his way from encampment to encampment out of the Negeb and to Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at first between Bethel and Ai.” As always, Abram gave priority to Jehovah’s worship wherever he went.—Genesis 13:3, 4.
10. What problem developed between the herders of Abram and Lot, and why was it important that it be resolved quickly?
10 “Now Lot, who was going along with Abram, also owned sheep and cattle and tents. So the land did not allow for them to dwell all together, because their goods had become many and they were not able to dwell all together. And a quarrel arose between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock; and at that time the Canaanite and the Perizzite were dwelling in the land.” (Genesis 13:5-7) The land did not provide enough water and pasturage to sustain both Abram’s and Lot’s flocks. Tensions and hard feelings thus developed between the herders. Such bickering was unbecoming to worshipers of the true God. If the squabbling continued, a permanent breach might result. So how would Abram handle this situation? He had adopted Lot after the death of Lot’s father, perhaps raising him as his own. As the older one of the two, was not Abram entitled to take the best for himself?
11, 12. What generous offer did Abram make Lot, and why was Lot’s choice unwise?
11 But “Abram said to Lot: ‘Please, do not let any quarreling continue between me and you and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we men are brothers. Is not the whole land available to you? Please, separate from me. If you go to the left, then I will go to the right; but if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.’” Near Bethel there exists what has been called “one of the great view-points of Palestine.” Perhaps from there “Lot raised his eyes and saw the whole District of the Jordan, that all of it was a well-watered region before Jehovah brought Sodom and Gomorrah to ruin, like the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt as far as Zoar.”—Genesis 13:8-10.
12 Although the Bible describes Lot as “righteous,” for some reason he did not defer to Abram in this matter, nor does it seem that he sought the older man’s counsel. (2 Peter 2:7) “Lot chose for himself the whole District of the Jordan, and Lot moved his camp to the east. So they separated the one from the other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, but Lot dwelt among the cities of the District. Finally he pitched tent near Sodom.” (Genesis 13:11, 12) Sodom was prosperous and offered many material benefits. (Ezekiel 16:49, 50) While Lot’s choice may have seemed wise from a material point of view, it was a poor choice spiritually. Why? Because “the men of Sodom were bad and were gross sinners against Jehovah,” says Genesis 13:13. Lot’s decision to move there would eventually cause his family much grief.
13. How is Abram’s example helpful to Christians who might become involved in a financial dispute?
13 Abram, though, displayed faith in Jehovah’s promise that his seed would eventually own the entire land; he did not quibble over a small section of it. Generously, he acted in harmony with the principle later stated at 1 Corinthians 10:24: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” This is a good reminder for those who might get involved in a financial dispute with a fellow believer. Instead of following the counsel at Matthew 18:15-17, some have taken their brothers to court. (1 Corinthians 6:1, 7) Abram’s example shows that it is better to suffer financial loss than to bring reproach upon Jehovah’s name or to damage the peace of the Christian congregation.—James 3:18.
14. How was Abram to be blessed for his generosity?
14 Abram was to be blessed for his generosity. God declared: “I will constitute your seed like the dust particles of the earth, so that, if a man could be able to count the dust particles of the earth, then your seed could be numbered.” How encouraging this revelation must have been for childless Abram! Next, God commanded: “Get up, go about in the land through its length and through its breadth, because to you I am going to give it.” (Genesis 13:16, 17) No, Abram would not be permitted to settle in the comfort of a city. He was to remain separate from the Canaanites. Christians today must likewise stay separate from the world. They do not consider themselves superior to others, but they do not closely associate with any who might lure them to engage in unscriptural conduct.—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
15. (a) What significance may there have been to Abram’s travels? (b) What example did Abram set for Christian families today?
15 In Bible times, before a person obtained possession of land, he was entitled to inspect it. Traveling about may thus have served as a continuous reminder that one day this land would belong to Abram’s offspring. Obediently, “Abram continued to live in tents. Later on he came and dwelt among the big trees of Mamre, which are in Hebron; and there he proceeded to build an altar to Jehovah.” (Genesis 13:18) Abram once again demonstrated the high priority he assigned to worship. Are family study, family prayer, and meeting attendance given high priority in your family?
The Enemy Attacks
16. (a) Why are the opening words of Genesis 14:1 ominous in tone? (b) What was the reason for the invasion of the four eastern kings?
16 “Now it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam,* and Tidal king of Goiim, that these made war.” In the original Hebrew, the opening words (“Now it came about in the days of . . . ”) have an ominous tone, pointing “to a period of trial ending in blessing.” (Genesis 14:1, 2, footnote) The trial began as these four eastern kings and their armies made their devastating invasion of Canaan. Their objective? To squelch the rebellion of the five cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Bela. Sweeping aside all resistance, they “marched as allies to the Low Plain of Siddim, that is, the Salt Sea.” Lot and his family lived nearby.—Genesis 14:3-7.
17. Why was Lot’s being taken captive a test of faith for Abram?
17 The Canaanite kings fiercely resisted the invaders, but they suffered a humiliating defeat. “Then the victors took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food and went on their way. They also took Lot the son of Abram’s brother and his goods and continued on their way. He was then dwelling in Sodom.” News of these devastating events soon reached Abram: “After that a man who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew. He was then tabernacling among the big trees of Mamre the Amorite, the brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were confederates of Abram. Thus Abram got to hear that his brother had been taken captive.” (Genesis 14:8-14) What a test of faith! Would Abram nurture hard feelings toward his nephew for taking the best of the land? Remember, too, that these invaders came from his homeland, Shinar. To go up against them would be to destroy any possibility of ever returning home. Besides, what could Abram do against an army that the combined forces of Canaan had been unable to defeat?
18, 19. (a) How was Abram able to rescue Lot? (b) Who received credit for this victory?
18 Abram again put his unquestioning trust in Jehovah. “With that he mustered his trained men, three hundred and eighteen slaves born in his household, and went in pursuit up to Dan. And by night he resorted to dividing his forces, he and his slaves, against them, and thus he defeated them and kept in pursuit of them up to Hobah, which is north of Damascus. And he proceeded to recover all the goods, and he recovered also Lot his brother and his goods and also the women and the people.” (Genesis 14:14-16) In a display of strong faith in Jehovah, Abram led his vastly outnumbered troops to victory, rescuing Lot and his family. Abram now encountered Melchizedek, the king-priest of Salem. “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine, and he was priest of the Most High God. Then he blessed him and said: ‘Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Producer of heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, who has delivered your oppressors into your hand!’ At that Abram gave him a tenth of everything.”—Genesis 14:18-20.
19 Yes, to Jehovah belonged the victory. Because of his faith, Abram once again got to experience Jehovah’s deliverance. God’s people today do not engage in carnal warfare, but they do face many tests and challenges. Our next article will show how Abram’s example can help us to deal with them successfully.
According to Insight on the Scriptures (published by Jehovah’s Witnesses), “an ancient papyrus tells of a Pharaoh who commissioned armed men to seize an attractive woman and kill her husband.” So Abram’s fears were not exaggerated.
Hagar, who later became Abram’s concubine, may have been among the servants given to Abram at this time.—Genesis 16:1.
Critics once claimed that Elam had never had such an influence in Shinar and that the account of Chedorlaomer’s attack was a fabrication. For a discussion of archaeological evidence supporting the Bible’s account, see The Watchtower, July 1, 1989, pages 4-7.
Did You Note?
• How did the famine in the land of Canaan prove to be a test of faith for Abram?
• How did both Abram and Sarai set a good example for husbands and wives today?
• What lessons can we learn from Abram’s handling of the dispute between his servants and those of Lot?
[Picture on page 22]
Abram did not assert his rights but put the interests of Lot ahead of his own
[Picture on page 24]
Abram showed reliance on Jehovah in rescuing his nephew Lot