The Story of Abraham

The Father of Faith.

 

Call of Abram.

 

"However that may be, let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned, to which God called you." I. Cor., 7, 17 NRSV. See, NAB and footnote 10.

 

AMONGST the multitude of [people] there was one just and upright man. He was called Abram. The Lord chose him, that, through him and his posterity, the true faith [and knowledge of God might come to] the earth. Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." Gen. 12:1-3 NRSV.

2. The father of Abram had gone to settle in Chaldea, and had taken up his abode at Haran, with his relatives; but... the Lord called Abram forth from amongst his kindred. Abram believed the word of God, and instantly set out for Chanaan, taking with him Sarah, his wife, and Lot, his nephew, and his servants and his herds of cattle. After a long journey he arrived in the land of Chanaan, and came to Sichem. He was then seventy-five years old.

3. Chanaan, on account of its beauty and fertility, was called a land flowing with milk and honey. There the Lord again appeared to Abram, and said to him: "To your seed will I give this land." Abram, wishing to show his gratitude, raised in that place an altar to the Lord. Henceforth Chanaan was also called the Promised Land. [Gratitude to God for past favors is a good way to gain new ones.]

 

Abram's Love of Peace.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Matt. 5, 9 NRSV

 

GOD blessed Abram, and increased his herds and those of Lot in such a manner that the pasture in that country was not sufficient for them. On this account a strife arose between the herdsmen of Abram and those of Lot. And Abram said to Lot: "Let there be no quarrel, I beseech you, between me and you, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. Behold, the whole land is before you: depart from me, I pray you. If you will go to the left hand, I will take the right; if you choose the right hand, I will pass to the left." Gen. 13:8-12.

2. Lot chose the fertile country around the Jordan, and lived in Sodom. Abram lived in Hebron, and built there an altar to the lord. Some time after this, strange kings having come into the land, began to rob and plunder the cities of Sodom and Gormorrha,' took Lot captive, and seized all his substance. As soon as Abram heard that Lot had been taken captive, he, with three hundred and eighteen well-armed men, his servants, pursued the kings, overtook them, rescued Lot from their hands and brought him back with all his possessions.

Melchisedech3. As Abram returned victorious, Melchisedech, king of Salem, and the King of Sodom, went out to meet him. Melchisedech, being a high priest of the Most High, offered to the Lord a sacrifice of bread and wine, as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, for Abram and his servants. He blessed him and said: "Blessed be Abram by the Most High God, who created heaven and earth; and blessed be the Most High God, by whose protection the enemies are in your hands." Abram gave him [10%, a tithe] of the booty. The king of Sodom then said to Abram: "Give me the persons, and the rest take to thyself." But Abram would accept no reward. Melchisedech was a figure of the eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ. His sacrifice was a figure of the sacrifice of the Mass.

 Abraham's Faith and Hospitality -- Circumcision

 

"The just man lives by faith." Rom. 1, 17 [NAB].[Hab. 2:4 and the note to the NAB.]

 

AFTER these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying: "Fear not, I am your protector, and your reward exceeding great." On a certain night, Abram was called by a voice from heaven, which said: "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." Gen. 15:5. Abram believed, and his faith, together with his good works, justified him before God. [Comment: Abraham is called the father of faith not only because he was the first of his people to believe in God and serve him, but because he believed in God's promise even when it seemed impossible.]

2. The Lord again appeared to him, when he was ninety-nine years of age, and said to him: "When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. "Gen. 17:1. Neither shall your name be called any more Abram, but Abraham, father of a multitude, because I have made you a father of many nations. I will establish My covenant between you and me: the male kind of you shall be circumcised. [Gen 17:11.] Sarah, your wife, shall bear you a son, whose name you shall call Isaac.

3. As Abraham was one day, about noon, sitting at the door of his tent, he saw three men approaching. He ran to meet them, bowed down before them, and invited them to rest in his tent and partake of some refreshment. Calling Sarah, his wife, he told her to make some cakes of the finest flour. He caused the best calf of his herds to be killed to feed the unknown visitors. Butter, milk and honey were also placed before them, Abraham himself waiting upon his guests. [Image.]

4. After the meal, when they were about to depart, one of the strangers said to Abraham that after a year he would return, and that Sarah, his wife, would have a son. Then Abraham understood that the Lord God Himself, accompanied by angels, was his guest. Kindness and courtesy to strangers should be praised and encouraged, since God rewarded so richly the hospitality of Abraham.

 

Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. Gen. 18:1-19:29.
"On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur;
a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup." Ps. 11, 6 NRSV, NAB.
 

ABRAHAM went part of the way with the strangers, who were going to Sodom. As they journeyed along together, the Lord said to Abraham: "The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous." He told him that He would destroy the two cities. Abraham was struck with fear; for, although the men amongst whom he lived were wicked, he loved them as neighbors.

2. At last, drawing near to the Lord, he said: "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"[Gen. 18:23-25] The Lord replied: "If I find in Sodom fifty just men within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake." And Abraham said: "Seeing I have once begun, I will speak again to my Lord, whereas I am but dust and ashes. If there be five less than fifty just persons in the city, will you destroy It?"

3. And the Lord said to Abraham: "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five." Abraham continued to plead In this manner, until at last the Lord said to him: "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten." Then the Lord disappeared, and Abraham returned to his tent.

4. The ten just men were not found in Sodam, and the two angels were sent to destroy it. They reached Sodom in the evening, and found Lot sitting at the gate of the city. Lot invited them into his house, and the angels said to him: "Arise, get out of this place, for the Lord will destroy it." Lot went that night to two young men who were to marry his daughters, and told them to arise and go forth, for the Lord would destroy the city.

5. But they thought that he was joking. At the first dawn of day the angels pressed Lot to depart, saying: "Take your wife and your two daughters, lest you also perish with the wicked city." And, as Lot still lingered, they took him by the hand, and, as it were against his will, led him and his family out of the city, warning them all not to look back under pain of death.

6. Lot's wife, however, looked back, and was instantly changed into a pillar of salt. The sun had just risen when Lot entered a neighboring city. Then the Lord rained down from heaven fire and brimstone, and utterly destroyed those two wicked cities, with all their inhabitants.

7. On the site where these cities once stood is now the Dead Sea. [For more concerning the wrongdoing that provoked this story of destruction see The Sin of Sodom.]

Birth of Isaac, and Abraham's Sacrifice. [Gen. 22:1-18.]

 

"The mind of the just studies obedience." Prov. 15:28.
[This text is from the 1609 Douay version of Proverbs 15, compare the NAB,. and the NIV.]
 

SARAH gave birth to a son, as the Lord had promised. He was named Isaac, and circumcised on the eighth day. Abraham loved this son very [very much], and the Lord wished to see whether he loved his son more than God. When the boy had grown up, the Lord said to Abraham: "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you." Gen. 22:2 NRSV, NAB.

2. Abraham instantly arose, and by night saddled his ass, taking with him two young men and Isaac his son. And when he had cut the wood for the holocaust, he went to the place which God had shown him. On the third day he came in sight of [the place] where he was to sacrifice his son; and he said to his servants: "Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you." Gen. 22:5 NIV, NAB.

3. Then he took the wood for the holocaust and laid it upon the shoulders of Isaac. He himself carried in his hands fire and a sword. As they went along Isaac said: "Father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." He said, "The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went on together. Gen. 22:7-8.

The Sacrifice of Abraham's Son.4. When they reached the top of the mountain, Abraham erected an altar, placed the wood upon it, bound his son and laid him on the altar. Then he put forth his hand and took the sword to sacrifice his son. But behold! an angel from heaven cried out to him, saying: "Abraham, Abraham." And he answered: "Here I am." And the angel said:

"Lay not your hand upon the boy, neither do anything to him. Now I know that fear God, and have not spared your only-begotten son for My sake." Gen. 22:12.

5. Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw behind him a ram sticking fast by his horns in the bushes; him he took and offered, instead of his son. The angel of the Lord spoke again to Abraham, saying: "By myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." Gen. 22:16-18 NIV. Then Abraham returned home with his son.

6. The...person in whom all nations shall be blest, is the same that was promised in Paradise; it is the Savior who was descended from Abraham, and who redeemed mankind from sin and hell. Isaac, carrying the wood on which he himself was to be sacrificed, is a true figure of Christ carrying His cross. Abraham is a grand model, which parents ought to imitate. They should love their children much, but not so much as to transgress,' for their sake, the laws of God."


Ignatius Schuster, DD, Bible History, B. Herder Book Co., St. Louis (1943) pp. 18-27. The text has an imprimatur dated 1922. [Some editing of the text has occurred to enhance readability. Scriptural quotes were from the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible, but this text is generally outdated so editing and substitution has occurred as needed.] Although this material is drawn from one of the original school books, Tan Books has republished the Schuster text.

The first image is a detail of Abraham by Gustave Dore', originally published in 1866. Reprinted by Dover Publications in 1974.

This material is presented for non-commercial religious and educational purposes only. No other use is intended or permitted. See the Fair Use Doctrine, 17 USC 107.


Comment: This story about Abraham being willing to kill his son as a sacrifice to God seems horrifying to modern people but it may not have been unusual in the ancient world. For ancient people, sacrifice was the primary form of worship. Even in Palestine, human sacrifice was practiced in service to the god Molech, to whom children were sacrificed. The story stands for the principal that God does not want people to sacrifice their children. However, to make this point, and to test the faith of Abraham God asked him to do it. Abraham is honored not only for his willingness to give up to God what he loved the most in this world, his son, but to also continue to trust God, who had promised to make him a great nation, according to Gen. 17:1-8, before Isaac was born (Gen 21:2-3). How could he have had descendants if his son was sacrificed? Abraham didn't know but he still trusted God would fulfill his promise anyway.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church Abraham is called the "father of all who believe". See sections 145-46.

You should examine the entries in the Catholic Encyclopedia for sacrifice, Moloch.

The Old Testament sacrifices are replaced by the unique sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ, on the Cross which is recalled and re-presented by the sacrifice of the mass. See the catechism sections 606-623 on Christ's redemptive sacrifice and see the following on the sacrifice of the mass.

"1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed," [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.
 
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different." "In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner." Cathechism of the Catholic Church.
 
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