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dead were left in the wide solitudes to testify to us the strong specialty of the man whom God took now for his own purposes of infinite blessings to mankind.
We see at once that Abram was a man of striking characteristics, and had a clear, reasoning head, an independent spirit, a good true heart and devout affections: and we are prepared now to hear him called by some supernal intimation-how commenced and afterward continued we know not, but recognized clearly by him as from God: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee”—a command which he made no hesitation in obeying, however surprising it may have seemed to him.
He was then seventy-five years of age. Accompanied by his father and brother, and many other members of the family, whom this strong-minded, firm man induced to attend him, he left “Ur of the Chaldees ;” and we can see him travelling on, whether far up the left bank of the Euphrates, or whatever the direction, musing deeply as he went at those mysterious words from the God whom he acknowledged. He was bound to that God now by a new tie of mysterious personal revelations and communings, as he had been before to him by reason and his heart's fealty. Whither was he to be led ? what was to be the result ? he might naturally ask; and we may well believe that his companions put the queries, if he did not; but as is often the case with strongest, clearest minds, there was also in him a child-like, confiding spirit, and he led the way over those vast plains with unwavering confidence in the divine guidance.
The country was pleasant; it is so at all seasons, but especially in the spring season, when it is thus described by Loftus: “Broad plains of the richest verdure enlivened with flowers of every hue met our delighted gaze on either side of the noble river. The cry of the velvet-breasted francolin and the sand-grouse rushing overhead like the irresistible wind," mingled with the noise of innumerable insects, while also the wild bears tempted to the chase. We know from Layard how cheerful was often the journeying over those vast plains.
1 Acts vii. 3.
In latitude about 35° 55' N. and longitude 39° E. from Greenwich, the Euphrates, there flowing eastwardly, is joined by the river Belik coming from the north; and up this river about fifty miles, situated between the two branches uniting to form it, was Haran, or Padan Aram; and there the travellers paused for a while, in a region beautifully fitted for pastoral life. All this country was indeed so fitted; but it was not to be Abram's resting-place, although he seems to have been well pleased with the spot. He needed another call to induce him to leave.
Here Terah died, and the bond which had united the family around the aged man, then two hundred and five years old, was severed.
Here also was sundered the brotherly tie between Nahor and Abram; for the latter was called to proceed still farther, and Nahor preferred to remain in the attractive region of Haran. The older brother was indeed not yet free from idolatrous tendencies, and it was doubtless best that Abram should be isolated from any such influences exerted upon his household.
The divine call here was clear and full and emphatic, and accompanied with promises of blessing that might well cheer the man destined to be an alien from country and friends.
Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
There have been many conjectures as to the manner of these supernatural communications to Abram. They seem to be resolved into four methods,—voices, apparitions, visions and the powerful agency of the Spirit of God: any curiosity on the subject, however, though it may seem rational, is not gratified. The Scriptures merely speak of these strange, mysterious visitations as they would of common facts; and while we are startled, and wonder, there is no explanation, as if the simple announcement was to be satisfactory to our minds. To Abram, the divine communication, however it might come, was satisfactory, as was proved by his immediate, implicit obedience now and on subsequent occasions, however painful and even terrible that course of obedience at times threatened to be. Manly as he was, and strong in many characteristics, when God's will was manifested to him he showed a ready yielding of his own will, a child-like simplicity of trust like that impressed upon us in our Saviour's teaching, when he put children before his disciples and said, “Of such are the kingdom of heaven.” Abram had weaknesses : he fell into sin both base and shameful, as we shall see by and by : God did not take him as a perfect man; but there is, as the most striking trait in his life, this yielding of will, this simple trust, which make us feel that he was the worthiest of all men for this high honor put upon him by his Maker.
He trusted implicitly in this new call to go: and taking with him his wife and nephew Lot, "and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran,” started on his journey, not knowing whither it would lead, but trusting. How firm and strong he was in that trust!
Thus strangely led, and commanded to journey on, this company of travellers now took their course from Haran toward the unknown West; the land unknown, the purpose of the journey unknown, the end unknown. They only knew that God had spoken and was their guide. Abram was now cut off from all old associates and from kindred, except the little company with him, which quickly began to be a mere speck in the deserts of sand into which their way soon led them. From even these few companions of his journey he was in a great measure isolated by that mysterious companionship which seemed to make him a unit on the earth. As he went on, his strong common sense must have revolved the singular past, the singular promises for the future, the singular uncertainty of location before him; and if puzzling questions were not started in his own mind, they were put to him by others, none of which he was able to answer, except only this one: God had spoken; he was to obey. How far satisfactory such reply might be to those with him, toiling on over the sands and parched with thirst, and how far satisfactory to his wife, as she and all compared the present prospect around them with the rich lands and verdure they had left behind, must have depended on their faith; and in their present condition and surroundings the strongest faith would be apt to droop, and perhaps to change into repining and rebellion.
The desert of Arabia lying westward from Mesopotamia stretches far upward toward the north, and it here interposed its parched, dreary sands on their way. Their route was doubtless by what afterward became the caravan-way from Assyria through Palmyra to Damascus; for only on this way are fountains to be met with, and those but few and at long intervals. Around these fountains vegetation springs up and nature takes a refreshing aspect, but between them are only level stretches of utterly barren sands, or hills equally as bare and forbidding as are the yellow, scorched valleys that lie between their white, rocky sides.
Thus the company of travellers moved on, till, at the end of eight or nine days from Haran, the green plain about Damascus opened before them, and beyond it the great range of Anti-Lebanon stretched its vast length, terminated at its southern part by Hermon lifting its snow-crowned summits eight thousand feet into the sky.
How long they paused in their journey at this place is uncertain : but beautiful as is, and was then, this most fertile region watered by the Abana and Pharpar, it was not to be their home. They turned here doubtless to the southward, through what is now the Haurán, a most fertile region, and then already thickly peopled, as houses apparently built in those days and still standing, almost uninjured by time, now testify. Here again the company came in contact with the worship of the Moon-goddess, and even a city, Ashteroth Karnaim' (the horned or crescented Ashteroth), called by her name. Here were dwelling the Rephaim, races of men famous for their gigantic proportions, with which the descendants of Abram were afterward to come in warlike collision.
Thus they proceeded onward toward the south, among the hills, covered with the “oaks of Bashan,” and along the rich valleys of that region, until presently they struck the river Jabbok; and then turning westwardly they reached the Jordan, crossing which they saw about them their destined home, the land of Canaan.2
1 See Gen. xiv. 5.
2 The route given here is in its first part the one required in order to find water across the desert. The latter part is inferred by their reaching Canaan first at Shechem. It was also the route evidently followed by Jacob on his return from Haran.