10. The Couple From Ur

THE PLOT

The great Jewish journey begins. Abram and Sarai move from Ur in Sumeria to the land of Canaan to begin the line of people who would become the Jews. They travel to Egypt, where Sarai is made the mistress of Pharaoh. Back in Canaan, Abram and Lot settle on a division of land — Abram gets what is today a chunk of modern Israel. 

Abram fathers a son, Ishmael, from Hagar, his wife Sarai’s maidservant. In her jealousy Sarai forces Abram to kick them both out into the wilderness. God makes a covenant with Abram that he will father a great nation, changing his name to Abraham and requiring circumcision as a sign of the agreement.

MAIN CHARACTERS

  • Abram (later Abraham) and Sarai (later Sarah): the first Jews.
  • Lot: Abraham’s nephew who travels with him to Canaan
  • Hagar: Sarah’s maidservant
  • Ishmael: son of Abraham and Hagar, considered the father of Islam

KEY THEMES

  • Lech lecha: “Go forth.” God tells Abram “lech lecha” from his native land to a land that God will show him. Represents that first big leap of faith for the Jewish People in following — and trusting in — that voice inside of us (or God) which impels us forward.
  • The eternal covenant between God and people. God promises Abram three things: land in Canaan, numerous offspring to form a great nation, and blessings. This is the covenant that God will seal with the three forefathers of Judaism: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  • Why would the Jews have a story of their origin that doesn’t have them start in the lands they claim as their own territory? At the time this story was written down into the Bible (around the 6th century BCE), the Jews realized that they hadn’t been in Canaan from time immemorial, so they couldn’t write a story in which they were. Instead, this story served to explain why Abraham went to Canaan — because of the covenant with God. It justifies the Jewish presence in Canaan. This story is for the Jews of the time to better understand our story and our relationship with God

FUN FACTS

  • First mention of Egypt and Pharaoh in the Hebrew Bible, and foreshadows the events of Moses and Exodus.
  • Abraham referred to as a “Hebrew”, which probably translates to “of the other side”. Seems to be marking him as part of a distinct ethnic group within the many other groups in this area.
  • First and only mention of Jerusalem in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), suggesting that it was a central place of worship even before the Israelites made it their capital in about 1000 BCE.

 

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© 2017 Jason Harris