Since we have two readings about Abraham, let’s take a look at him. He came along nineteen hundred years before Christ, but oddly, we can’t know him until we know who his people were six hundred years earlier.
At 2500 B.C. what is now Iraq was home to the Sumerians, a cultured people who had mastered writing, mathematics and irrigation.
To the south of them, inhabiting semi-fertile pockets here-and- there around the rim of the great Arabian peninsula, were illiterate, mutually hostile tribes, who would later come to be known as the Acadians, Canaanites, Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians.
Since the Bible introduced all those peoples as the descendants of Noah’s son Shem, we came to designate all of them as Semitic peoples. Over the centuries, as one Semitic people after another was hit by drought, it would hire itself out to the Sumerians in fertile Mesopotamia.
In 2100 B.C. Sumerians down by the Persian Gulf built a temple to the Moon god at a place called Ur, and a Semitic people called the Hebrews migrated up to shepherd flocks for the Sumerians. By the time Abraham came along two hundred years later, he and his brothers had flocks of their own; and they had become worshippers of the Moon god. Abram was named for the god, and his woman Sarai was named for the Moon god’s wife.
He became ancestor to us as well as to the Jews when God changed his name from Abram to Abraham, meaning Father of Many Nations.
He became the Bible’s symbol for faith, the way Samson would be its symbol for strength. The Bible showed him exhibiting faith in three crucial ways. He was obedient, heading to a fearful land at God’s command. He was believing in accepting that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age. He was trusting in taking his son to be sacrificed.
His dependability in going to rescue his nephew Lot is something all of us his descendants are meant to imitate, as was his hospitality to the visitors passing by his tent.