Abraham Character Bible Study Background and Lessons
Meaning of name: Abram means “exalted father”. Abraham means “father of a great number”.
Ancestry and family life: Abraham was the tenth generation from Noah. He was descended from Shem and his father was Terah. Abram had two brothers and married his half-sister, Sarai. From Joshua 24:2 we know that Abraham’s father and grandfather worshiped false gods. Abraham was quite wealthy and had many servants. Abraham is the ancestor of the Hebrews, Arabs, Edomites, and many other tribes like the Midianites.
When and where he lived: Originally Abraham was from Ur of the Chaldeans. This was where God originally called Abram (Acts 7:2-3). This was a “wealthy, populous, and sophisticated pagan center of southern Mesopotamia (354 km SE of Baghdad). Its most prosperous and literate era was during the time of Abraham. A great ziggurat was built there, and Abraham must have seen it.” On the way to Canaan (also a center of idolatry) Abraham and his family stopped at Haran for a while. Finally they arrived in Canaan, where Abraham sojourned the rest of his life. The route from Ur to Canaan was about 2400 km.
Events surrounding birth: No specific info.
Training and occupation: Some say that Abraham was a merchant. He evidently had great wealth. He was probably familiar with shepherding since he had many flocks and herds (13:2). From his actions, it seems that Abraham is wise and learned.
Place in history: Abraham occupies an extremely important place in history. A large number of the people and people groups in the world are descended directly from him. More importantly, in a very real sense Abraham is the spiritual father (John 8:39-40 see also Romans 4:13-25) of all believers. The world repeatedly showed itself to be rebellious and sinful. God first sent the flood and then scattered the nations and confused their languages, but people still didn’t repent. Therefore God chose one man, one family, and one nation out of the world and from that point on (until Christ’s death) dealt primarily with that nation. God established His covenant with Abraham. What was perhaps the most important aspect and primary reason for this covenant (12:3, also see 18:19 for one purpose of the covenant). Abraham is not only an Old Testament figure. He is mentioned to 67 times in the New Testament. Many of these use Abraham as an example of faith and the fact that God justifies not based on works, but based on faith. Abraham is a type of model for believers.
Special traits: Nothing supernatural or even very out of the ordinary. He was an ordinary man with great faith.
Deceptive (12:12-20, 20)- Abraham was deceptive about his wife Sarah. Two times he said that she was his sister in order to avoid the possibility of being killed. This was a lie. Can you see any other possible character problems shown by this lie. I believe it showed a lack of love for Sarah. He didn’t protect her as he should have and it seemed he valued his own skin more than her own.
Abraham exhibited a lack of trust in God’s promise to give him a son through Sarah, and was easily talked into something that was not God’s will, that is taking Hagar as a wife (16). He wanted to do things his own way and “help God out”. The result was devastating and is lasting even now.
Faith (Hebrews 11:8-12, Gen 12:1-4) – This was Abraham’s most outstanding quality. Although he failed at times, he often showed amazing faith. What are some examples from his life where he showed great faith? He left his home. He took the ugly land and let Lot have the good land even though he was the elder. He was willing to sacrifice Isaac. He believed God (at least most of the time), that God would provide a son for him. What about where he lacked faith? The deceit about his wife, Sarah. When he took Hagar as a wife.
Unselfishness (13:9)- How did Abraham show himself to be unselfish? Although he was older than Lot and probably could have chosen for himself which land to settle in, he gave Lot the first choice. Through this selfless act God’s will was accomplished and Abraham went to Canaan, where God greatly multiplied him. Later Abraham risked his life to save Lot.
Worshiped/depended on God- Abraham continually was building alters to God and giving him the glory and praise. This showed his dependence upon God for everything in his life.
Tithing (14:20, Hebrews 7:4, Mal 3:7-12, 1 John 3:17) – Abraham honored God with his money. He wasn’t greedy and didn’t want to receive spoils or money from the king of Sodom. He instead gave 10% to Melchizedek. Again, God blessed Abraham and multiplied his possessions all the more.
Hospitality (18)- Abraham was very hospitable to strangers. He invited the three men to eat and killed a calf for them.
Perseverance in prayer/mercy (Gen 18, 20:17)- Abraham pleaded earnestly with God for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. He “stood in the gap” so to speak. We should also pray with this kind of boldness and concern for others.
Important acts and events:
1) Left his country and went to Canaan. 2) Let Lot take the first of the land. 3) Saved Lot and the king of Sodom, met Melchizedek. 4) Took Hagar as a wife and had Ishmael. 5) The covenant was reaffirmed with him and received circumcision. 6) Pleaded with God for Sodom and Gomorrah.
How he died: He died after a long and fulfilling life at the old age of 175 (25:7).
Lessons from his life:
We should all be willing to leave our “comfort zone” in order to follow God. Abraham left his country, his friends, and many of his relatives in order to follow God’s call to him. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it was today. The journey was almost 2500 km long. The end was unknown. The land was unknown. It was a more unstable world and far more dangerous. But Abraham was obedient. What was the result of his obedience? God may ask us to leave our comfort zone in order to follow him. This could take many forms. He may ask you to leave your family and country in order to serve Him. He may ask you to quit your job. He may tell you to share the gospel with somebody when it makes you nervous. He may ask you to befriend another believer or unbeliever and therefore spend less time with your own circle of friends. Are you ready to make sacrifices, to go into the unknown, to put complete faith in God and obey His call? It starts with the small things (Luke 16:10). What do you think is an area where God is calling you to have faith in Him and leave your comfort zone?
God isn’t a vengeful God, standing at the ready to destroy us the minute we make a mistake. Even when Abraham failed, God looked out for him and kept His promise to him.
There is a song that says, “only the best for you”. This is the type of attitude we should have. Are we the type of people who always want to pick first, or do we give others the first pick and look out for their interests? Abraham gave Lot the first pick of the land, but we often quarrel and fight and have wrong motives even over simple things. How can you show an unselfish heart towards others? (For example let your family choose the restaurant, the television show. Offer to wash the dishes, take out the trash, do the laundry, etc.) The point is that we should be more concerned with others’ well-being than our own. The best thing about this is that when we are concerned about others, God is concerned about us and multiplies our joy and blessings all the more. Compare the later result of Lot and Abraham.
We need to give tithes an offerings to God. This is commanded in the Bible (Hebrews 7:4, Mal 3:7-12, 1 John 3:17). Our money is not our own. It is God’s. This is another example where we need to have faith and be obedient to God’s command. If we hold back then God will hold back from us and even send the “devourer” to use up all of our money. If we give freely, then God will give even more in return. This is a principle seen in Abraham’s life and throughout the Bible. Right after this event God told him, “I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”
We need to do things God’s way, instead of our way. We do things our way when we don’t have complete trust in God or His promises. When this happens we botch things up and make a mess. The result of Abraham’s sin still lives today. Don’t try to come up with a better plan than what you read in the Bible. Don’t’ try to “help God out”. Do things His way.
We should be hospitable and be free with our home, time, possessions, skills, and money to help others.
We should never doubt God. It would have been easy for Abraham to doubt when God told him to sacrifice Isaac. God will never lead us the wrong way. Even when we don’t know why God wants us to do something and even if we don’t know where it will lead, we should follow in faith.