Bible in a Year – Day 4: Family Feud
There is a lot of ground covered in these four chapters. Any discussion of Abram would be incomplete without mentioning the covenant that God initiated with Abram (and, ultimately, with his ancestors). We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to take a moment to consider the theme that we’ve been exploring thus far in the book of Genesis – namely that the choices made by human beings continue to lead to a loss of innocence, which then leads to more severe consequences.
Now, at first glance, you may wonder where I’m coming from on this one, but consider this: the land that Abram initially moves his family to is called Canaan. It is a land that is inhabited by people who are potentially hostile toward Abram and his family. That is why Abram didn’t stop there, but moved on. Eventually, because of a famine, he and his family ended up in Egypt, a place where Abram felt so threatened that he had his wife pretend to be his sister so that the Pharaoh wouldn’t have him killed. The question is, where did these ruthless people come from?
For the answer, we only need to back up a couple of chapters to Genesis 10:6:
The sons of Ham:
Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.
That’s right! The ruthless, bloodthirsty heathens inhabiting these two lands – Canaan and Egypt – were the extended families of Ham’s sons. Egypt and Canaan were grandsons of Noah! Abram, you’ll recall was a descendent of Shem, one of Noah’s sons and the brother of Ham. And so, when God started over with 8 humans and a boat full of animals, it took less than 10 generations for this righteous group to splinter into multiple factions and to begin to be hostile toward each other.
So what in the world sparked this animosity? Well, if you recall in yesterday’s reading, we read how Noah got drunk and naked and how his son Ham essentially made a spectacle of him, while Shem and Japheth covered him up. Noah, in his anger, cursed Ham’s son Canaan (and ostensibly all of Ham’s offspring) saying “May Canaan be the slave of Shem.” What we see in these passages today, then, is the direct result of this family feud and curse. It’s another incredible reminder that our choices have lasting consequences even after we’re dead and gone!
Now, for a brief word about God’s covenant with Abram. While I may only write a few sentences here, this was one of the most important acts recorded in the Bible. Without going into great detail, you should first understand that the splitting of animal carcasses was a common way of sealing a contract or covenant in those days. They would split the animals in half and each party would walk between the halves to symbolize their commitment to keeping their agreement.
This is the initiation of the nation of Israel (which would later be formed by Abram’s descendents) as God’s chosen people. This covenant would last at least until Jesus came and established a new covenant. Some argue that the old covenant is still in place and that the people of Israel (Jews) are still God’s chosen people. Others argue that the new covenant established by Jesus abolished the old covenant and that all who follow Jesus are the “new people of Israel.” Whatever the nuances of your beliefs, most agree that God’s establishment of the initial covenant is one of the most important acts contained within the pages of the Bible.
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