We might take a look at Abraham and where he came from. Between 4000 and 2000 B. C. the great Arabian Peninsula was home to pockets of peoples, who although they had similar languages and gods, still thought of themselves as enemies. People raised on the Bible chose to identify all those Arabian clans as descendents of Noah’s son Shem. That led to their calling them Semites, or Semitic peoples.
To the north of the Arabian Peninsula between 4000 and 2000 B.C. there was a quite different race of people of whose origins we have no solid theory. Those people, called Sumerians, had built dikes in Mesopotamia for taming the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Along with flourishing agriculture they had cuneiform writing, mathematics and brick and pottery making.
Between 3000 and 2000 B.C. droughts in the Arabian Peninsula drove one group after another up into Mesopotamia where they worked as field hands for the Sumerians. These groups became known to us as Akadians, Babylonians, Hebrews, Canaanites, Assyrians.
In 2300 B.C. one of those Semites, Sargon I, established a Semitic kingdom around Babylon. He established his daughter as high priestess to the god of the moon at a temple at Ur in what is now southwestern Iraq.
The story of Abraham opens three hundred years later. We find it at the end of Chapter 11 of Genesis. A man named Terah had a large family. Its members had names that came from the family of their moon god. Abram was the moon god’s father, Sarai his wife, and Milcah their girl child.Abram’s father Terah decided on looking for grazing land two hundred miles north on the Euphrates. It was there that Abram received a message from God, telling him to take his wife, family and herds to the land of Canaan. Arrived there, in today’s reading, Abram was told to dissociate himself from worship of the moon god by changing his name from Abram to Abraham (meaning the father of many peoples) He was told to change Sarai’s name to Sarah.