Theologian Oleg Uryupin
THE HOLY ABRAHAM
(A theological study)
2. CHAPTER ONE "The Search and Discovery of God by Abram"
3. CHAPTER TWO "Travels from the Land of Canaan to Egypt and Back Again"
4. CHAPTER THREE "The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek"
5. CHAPTER FOUR "How Abraham Became Righteous"
6. CHAPTER FIVE "Abram, Sarai, and the Slave Girl Hagar"
7. CHAPTER SIX "God's Covenant with Abram"
8. CHAPTER SEVEN "The Holy Trinity Visits Abraham"
9. CHAPTER EIGHT "Lot's Repentance and Abraham's Preparation of the Cross Tree"
10. CHAPTER NINE "Abraham and King Abimelech"
11. CHAPTER TEN "The Birth of Isaac and the Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael"
12. CHAPTER ELEVEN "The Pinnacle of Abraham's Life - the Binding of Isaac"
A MIRACULOUS ACCOUNT OF ABRAHAM, OR WHY GOD SELECTED ABRAHAM TO BECOME THE FATHER OF ALL THE FAITHFUL
Peace be unto you, dear reader in search of the truth! I would like to offer you an amazing journey into the wonderful biblical world of God's extraordinary friend Abraham in order to learn more about how he was chosen by the Most High God to become the father of all of the faithful. We will not only acquaint ourselves with the famous biblical story of the righteous Abraham, but also reconstruct the events of his life to see Abraham's personality in all of its fullness, as well as delve deeper into his relationship with God. We will do so in order to better and more accurately understand the course of his life. In addition to Abraham, we will get to know his honored wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, the mysterious king and priest Melchizedek, and a number of other biblical characters. To better prepare us for the upcoming journey, we will take not only the biblical text of the Book of Genesis, but also extracts from the works of holy fathers of the Church of Christ, as well as from the Book of Enoch and the Traditions of the Church. In addition to these sources, I had to turn to the divine revelations that our Lord God graciously deigned to offer me for the writing of this book. Allow me to remind you that Abraham was first called Abram, and his wife was known as Sarai.
And so, having prayed to God, let us begin our amazing journey through the life of one of the greatest and most pious people in all of human history - Abraham.
CHAPTER ONE: The Search and Discovery of God by Abram
Why did God choose Abraham to be the father of all believers? This question has been posed by people and is indeed of great relevance to people. We cannot hope to understand God or His side of the decision! It is a blessing that we have such a great, glorious, and incomprehensible God! We can only try to comprehend His choice from our human point of view. Who is Abram and why did God make of him Abraham, the father of many nations? Everything that we know about Abram and Abraham comes to us from the Holy Scriptures. Even the Tradition of the Church adds little to this marvelous image of God's special chosen.
To start, we will learn of Abram's parent and relatives.
"26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.
29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.
30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.
32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran."
We can see from this narrative that the father of Abram was Terah, who begat first him at seventy years of age, then Nahor and Haran. In total, Terah lived for two hundred and five years. Haran was the first of the brothers to give birth to a son (Lot), but he also died first among the brothers despite the fact that he was the youngest of the three. We learned that Abram and Nahor were married men. We know the names of their wives, as well as the fact that Abram's wife Sarai was barren and childless. Sarai's infertility was Abram's first great affliction because both the meaning of life and the blessing of God were closely tied to childbearing in those days. The absence of children was considered a punishment from God. We see that the decision to leave the land of kinship, the Ur of the Chaldees, was made by Terah, most likely at the behest of his son Abram. They had resolved to go to the land of Canaan, but Terah passed away during their travels at the age of two hundred and five in the land of Harran.
God's first visit to Abram took place in the land of Harran, and not in Ur of the Chaldees. Why exactly Abram's father Terah chose to leave his home and travel to the land of Canaan in his old age (seeing as he was two hundred and four years old), the Scripture does not tell us directly. However, if you read the word of God and reconstruct it based on what was glossed over and said indirectly, then we can affirm that it was God who encouraged him to do so. The narrative confirms this indirectly later on. But why did God look after Terah? In order to answer this question, we have to first answer two others: 1) In what environment did Terah and his family live? 2) What prompted the elderly Terah to go to the land of Canaan?
The first question can be answered thus. He and his family lived in a pagan environment among idolaters, and this was not to the liking of either Terah or Abram! They were weary of the vagrancy of the people around them and yearned to discover the true God! In other words, they were God-seekers who sought the truth of God. In all likelihood, Terah became aware of some kind of legend or prophecy regarding the land of Canaan, and he decided to break away from his pagan surroundings in order to start a new life in a new land and hopefully find the true God there. Abram shared the exact views and hopes of his father and fully supported him in this endeavor. Terah was, however, very old and God did not favor him enough to designate him as the further leader of God's work, which concerned not only Abram's family, but the whole of humanity. In this sense, Abram (later Abraham) himself served as a prototype of the true Shepherd of God's sheep, and Sarai (later Sarah) and the family represented the Church of Christ. Indeed, Abraham's family was initially transformed into the first familial church, which consisted of worshipers of the true God, and then later into the patrimonial church. It was only under Moses that the church become a nationwide phenomenon for the chosen Hebrew people.
"1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 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:
3 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.
4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.
5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came."
The true God first revealed himself to Abram and addressed him with His own word. It is not precisely stated that this was a mere appearance of God (as sometimes was the case later in the Scripture), but something else entirely. Abram immediately recognized and accepted the words spoken by God, and had no doubt that the true God was speaking to him. It turns out that Abram was seeking out the true God, and God responded to this search by taking Abram on at the time most right for Him. How did Abram recognize the true God at first glance during his very first conversion with Him? Simply put, any person who seeks the true God is secretly visited by Him and therefore becomes accustomed to His Spirit, even if the person does not know Him, who He is, or what He is like. The manifestation of God is revealed to a person to the extent that their perception of who and what God is allows. After God visits a person, they are defined in relation to God, recognize His name, and can organize a religion to worship Him. Now, after their personal acquaintance, both God and Abram had to work together to form Abram into Abraham, the father of all believers and the earthly pillar of the Church of God, whose deeds would be of great benefit to all humankind. It should be noted that at that time God only appeared to the person chosen by Him when He wanted to do so, and not according to the person's will. This first meeting of God with humankind is quite significant for us! During the meeting, God passed information of the utmost importance to His chosen one Abram regarding Abram's future and the rest of his life. In this case, God immediately demonstrated His favor to Abram and revealed His great promises to both him and, for his sake, his posterity. But God began with a command to Abram: "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee." Why did He start with this? With the death of his father, Abram found himself in a difficult situation. The project his father had begun could not be completed and Abram did not know exactly what to do next, yet it was Abram as the eldest son who was responsible for his entire family and all the people around him. He was preoccupied with this problem, and it was for this reason that God immediately lifted this burden from him, announcing what Abram needed to do next. Thus, Abram was led by the true God from his very first meeting with Him! The number of similar instances throughout the entirety of human history can be counted on one hand! At the same time, God tested Abram by commanding him to go "there without knowing where," or to the land that God would later show him. Abram stood up to the test and did not react at all to his charge to depart into the obscure unknown. After God assuaged Abram's concerns regarding his external life and those of his people, He immediately revealed His purpose and divine plans for Abram, and did so by announcing a promise.
"2 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:
3 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."
The first thing God promises to the seventy-five-year-old Abram is that He will produce a great nation from him. This is a reference to the Hebrew people, but in what does the true greatness of the Hebrew people lie, and what is its merit before all of humanity? It lies in the fact that the Lord God affirmed and nurtured true faith in Him through this people, granted His prophets and Scripture to them, and most importantly, revealed through them Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. God then says that he will bless Abram again, and this seems a little odd. Why would God promise to bless him in the future, and not now during their meeting? To understand this, one must understand why God would bless Abram in the future. I will speak on this in due time. Afterward, God promises to glorify the name of Abraham among the people. Indeed, his name became so famous and beloved among the Hebrew people that every Jew can refer to himself or herself as a son or daughter of Abraham! His name became great and eminent among Christian churches and peoples, as well as among the Islamic peoples that descended from him! The words "and thou shalt be a blessing" tell us that Abraham and his name became so sacred and filled with the power of God that they served as an instrument for blessing people! Nothing of the sort is said in relation to the righteous Noah, nor in relation to the righteous Job the Long-suffering, or any other holy figure of the Old Testament. Before the birth of the John the Forerunner and the Blessed Virgin, whose lives are much more significant in the context of the New Testament, no one in the Old Testament was more significant than Abraham! The Lord God then fulfills His promise to Abram with wondrous words about His grace and the protection He has prepared for Abram. "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."
That is, in order to receive a blessing from the true God, it was enough to bless Abram! At the same time, it was terrifying to curse Abram, for the Lord God himself would curse such a person, and no one could endure God's curse. Finally, the greatness and significance of Abraham would become (and indeed did become!) such that all the tribes of the earth are now blessed in it! It turns out that this blessing reaches even the pagans and the most disconnected tribes, all of whom are indebted to Abraham despite the fact that they know nothing of him!
Who else had such an impact on the human race other than Christ the Son of God? Noah was pious for himself and his family. His task was to save himself and his family from the flood and restore the population of people on the earth. Job was pious for himself. He was a magnificent jewel of God, with God used when boasting before His enemy - Satan! Job serves as an example of endurance and faithfulness in God, and that is all. Abraham, however, influenced the whole human race for the better, every single person from all tribes. Why is that? I will answer this question in due time, as we cannot capture all of the greatness and significance of this exceedingly holy figure by simply reading the story of Abraham in the Book of Genesis. I hope that your reading along with me will help you see Abraham in his true light as well as change any attitude towards him as a dusty old man to that of a glorified soul of the Old Testament. He is the great and holy Church of Christ, the holy Old and New Testament, our father in our common faith!
"6 And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then [living] in the land.
7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him."
Pre-empting God's decision, Abram thought to explore the Canaan land that God had promised to give to his descendants. He walked along the length of this land, thus establishing a foundation for the cross. After that, God appeared to him for the first time. God did not visit Abram - He actually manifested there. The appearance of God (manifestation) is much more significant than God simply addressing or visiting somebody. The appearance of God is an occurrence when He appears to a person in a particular way or form that allows a person to focus specifically on the appearance of God in the manifested image; consider, for example, the Holy Spirit at Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan appeared in the form of a dove. God manifested Himself before Abram on the plains of Moreh. It is interesting to note that God also visited Abraham in a grove on the plains of Mamre much later, announcing the birth of a son, Isaac, from Sarah a year from that time.
Who was Abram before this manifestation of God? He was a religious person living among pagans, idolaters, and cultists, to whom his soul was not disposed. They therefore considered him an atheist. Abram was an atheist not because he rejected the true God, but because he did not know Him, and therefore did not yet have any God! In this respect, he was quite correct! It is better to have no God than to have false gods! Most likely, it was this issue (as well as Abram's influence) that prompted Terah to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go to the very land that, after a time, God would present to the Israeli people as the Promised Land! We can simply say that Terah and his son Abram were weary of paganism and yearning for the true God. That is why they were God-seekers, which in turn forced them to withdraw from their homes and step into the unknown in search of the true God. God valued Abram and his father's search for Him, and after the death of Abram's elderly father, He visited Abram to offer an answer to this search! Addressing Abram then, God spoke of His promises regarding Abram's descendants: "Unto thy seed will I give this land[.]" This is said in reference to the land of Canaan. Why did God speak specifically about the land? He did so because people were in the final stages of resettling the land, and therefore land (the main source of food for people) was becoming scarce! This is why giving people land was a clear blessing from God! The manifestation of God left such a strong mark on Abram's soul that he created an altar to God on that very place as a token of gratitude, doing so without any prompting from God! That is, Abram caught the God who had appeared to him and offered sacrifices. This marked the end of Abram's quest for God, as he had finally found the true God. Rather, it was the true God who had found Abram. In any case, they had found each other! Abram acted as a preacher later on his journey, for he set up altars to the God who had appeared to him all over the earth. "And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD."
How wonderful! Abram, who recognized the "new" God, establishes a "new" religion and a "new" cult of God among the pagans. This religion was made up of two parts: invoking the name of God and sacrifices to Him. The name of God can be invoked only when it is known by those who seek to invoke him. God revealed His name to Abram during their first meeting precisely for the purpose of invocation, and this name was the name of Jesus Christ! That is why the genealogy of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew starts with Abraham, who was a Christian as well as the father of all faithful Christians!
CHAPTER TWO: Travels from the Land of Canaan to Egypt and Back Again
"8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD."
Abram continues his exploration of the land promised to his descendants. Realizing that this land was chosen by God for His people, Abram places altars in certain locations in the name of the true God, which serve as prototypes of Christian temples and altars of the Eucharist, for the consecration of the Promised Land. On another altar, Abram presented a sacrifice to God and called on the name of the Lord. This invocation of the name was not a personal prayer to Jesus, but a ritualistic and sanctifying act. However, God did not react in any way to Abram's ritual.
"9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.
10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had."
This passage tells of the first temptations of Abram and his people, which started in Egypt. Abram's situation was complicated by the famine that had taken hold of the land and the feminine beauty of his wife Sarai. Hunger forced Abram to Egypt, and Sarai's beauty forced him to pass her off as his sister (although this was true, for in a sense she was his sister) in order to save the lives of himself and his people. There are people who condemn Abram for this decision. In any case, he exposed his wife to the threat of Pharaoh making a concubine of her, which Pharaoh indeed tried to do. However, Abram showcased his prudence, foresight, and faith in God here. Of all the solutions available to him, he chose the one that resulted in the smallest possible losses. Sarai was not threatened with death, but rather by her proximity to Pharaoh, while Abram was threatened with death, which would have put all of his people in a dire and dangerous situation. Abram demonstrated his faith in God as well, knowing that He would take care of his wife and not allow Pharaoh to wrong her. After all, he remembered the words of the Lord about the blessing of those who blessed him, as well as those regarding the curse of those who cursed him. God justified Abram's faith and protected his wife, which not only returned Abram to his wife unharmed, but also enriched him and his entire family with Pharaoh's lavish gifts.
"1 And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.
2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
3 And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai;
4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD."
Now that Abram had both become richer and protected his people from famine, he continued his journey through the Promised Land. This time he returned to the altar he had made at the beginning of his journey. There he performed the ministry once again, offering a sacrifice to God and calling on the name of the Lord. Once again, God left Abram's calls unanswered.
"5 And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents.
6 And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together.
7 And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle and the herdmen of Lot's cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land.
8 And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.
9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
10 And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.
11 Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.
12 Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
13 But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly."
This passage tells of Abram's separation from his nephew Lot. This division came about as a result of the increased numbers of people and livestock following both Abram and Lot, and the reason for this division was a conflict between their shepherds. Abram did not want there to be contention between him and Lot or the shepherds, and therefore invited Lot to choose a place to settle. He did not take advantage of his age and standing in this matter, but rather, he humbly yielded to Lot's choice. Lot chose the land of Sodom because water was abundant there, but Abram remained in the land of Canaan. Physically speaking, it was more difficult for Abram to get by than for Lot, for Canaan was not so abundant in water as Sodom. Lot, however, found himself in much more grievous spiritual circumstances, for the inhabitants of Sodom were evil and great in their sin, and it is very dangerous to coexist with such people. Unfortunately, this is the exact circumstance that Lot and his people found themselves in.
"14 And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward:
15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
16 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
17 Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee [and your descendants forevermore].
18 Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto the LORD."
Immediately after Abram parted ways with Lot, the Lord visited Abram and told him once again about his descendants and the Promised Land. God commanded Abram to lift up his gaze and survey the earth in four directions, and then repeated His confirmation that He would give all of this land to Abram's descendants. He then added that Abram's descendants, like the dust of the earth, would be too many to count. God commanded Abram to traverse the whole of the Promised Land in the shape of a cross, that is, to traverse its entire length and breadth. With this command, God confirmed Abram's ingenuity, for Abram had begun to pass through the Promised Land even before being told to do so by God. Abram then chose a place for himself on the plains of Mamre and built an altar there.
"1 And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations;
2 That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar.
3 All these were joined together in the vale of Siddim, which is the salt sea.
4 Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled.
5 And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim,
6 And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness.
7 And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar.
8 And there went out the king of Sodom, and the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, and the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (the same is Zoar;) and they joined battle with them in the vale of Siddim;
9 With Chedorlaomer the king of Elam, and with Tidal king of nations, and Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar; four kings with five.
10 And the vale of Siddim was full of slimepits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and fell there; and they that remained fled to the mountain.
11 And they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their victuals, and went their way.
12 And they took Lot, Abram's brother's son, who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.
13 And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.
14 And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.
15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.
16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people."
This passage describes the war of the nine kings, four against five. The historical background of this war is compelling because it is a reflection of antediluvian events. Surprisingly, Moses accurately lists the names of all the kings of that time and describes the ancient war in meticulous detail as if he had lived in those days and was an eyewitness chronicler. There were no written sources of information at that time. There was still no Scripture. The event itself could be conveyed through Tradition, but even then it would lack richness in details and names. God, however, revealed everything to Moses, who then wrote down it all down in detail.
Why do we need to know the names of these kings and who fought with whom? At this point in the narrative it is enough to point out that the king of Sodom and those with him fought with the king of Elam and those who were with him, Sodom lost, and that the king of Elam seized Lot with all his property and people. Abram proved to be a brilliant military leader in this case by defeating the army of the victorious king Elam, a horde of armed and experienced enemies that far outnumbered Abram's own force of 318 men. This was a momentous event! The rumor about the amazing victory of Abram's shepherds over professional soldiers spread throughout the world, and other kings were careful to not lay so much as a finger on Abram and his people, so much did they fear, respect, and regard him! Abram thus provided his people with security for many years. This war of Abram was a war of liberation and piety, as he freed Lot and his people and returned all of their property. This was also the first biblical war of the ancestors of God's chosen people, who represent the Church of Christ. In this sense, then, this war was a prototype of the war of the militant Church of Christ against the enemies of salvation. As for the previous clashes of the aforementioned kings, it is important for us to see that the king of Elam and the other kings who formed an alliance with him not only enslaved the king of Sodom and his allies (resulting in a rebellion after twelve years of oppression by King Elam), but they "smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim, And the Horites in their mount Seir, unto Elparan, which is by the wilderness. And they returned, and came to Enmishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, that dwelt in Hazezontamar..."
The Rephaims and others listed along with them (who themselves were either intermixed with the Rephaims or aided them) descended from the antediluvian Nephilim. That is, they were not just people, but mutants and hybrids that God designated for destruction by the waters of the global flood. Now the mutants that remained were once again desecrating the land with their presence, terrible sins, and perversions. This is why God prepared an army of Hebrews against them, which was led first by Moses and then Joshua (a prototype of our Savior) in order to cleanse the land of them. When reading about the wars of Joshua for the Promised Land, which the Hebrews liberated from mutants and other sinners, we can observe a difference in how the Hebrews relate to their enemies. This behavior did not come about from personal choice. They acted according to a direct order from God! When facing certain enemies, they kept the women and children, took the men captive, and even allowed themselves to seek brides among the captive women! In other cases, God demanded the total annihilation of all their enemies, including women (including pregnant women) and children (including those still breastfeeding). Such cruelty tempts many Bible readers to turn against God and the Hebrew people. If you take note of several details, however, the Hebrews did not destroy people. They destroyed evil non-humans and corrupted mutants who could never be turned to the side of good, the side of God, who also threatened to destroy all people. It then turns out that the warriors and allies of the wicked king Elam purified the land of these sinister mutants and those that served them through their own selfish motives, all of which were put in place by God's providence. Perhaps this is why God supported the king's victory over the mutants. In encroaching upon Lot and his people, however, the king made the unforgivable mistake of encroaching upon God's friend Abram, God's people, the prototype of God's Church, and therefore the Lord God as well! Abram punished him for this mistake. With this victory in the land of Canaan, which was assured for his future descendants, Abram revealed the destiny of the Hebrew people, who were to enter the Promised Land at a time determined by God to clear it of mutants! We should be grateful to this people for their resolution of this considerably unpleasant matter. Such a savage and brutal cleansing could only be carried out by an inexorably stubborn, stiff-necked people, which the Hebrews basically were. The Hebrew people's tragedy lay in this antinomy between the Divine mercy that is bestowed by true faith and the cruelty necessary for God's purifying work.
But let us return to the triumphant Abram to see what happened after this victory.
"17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him tithes [tenths] of all.
21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.
22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,
23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich:
24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion."
We see that after Abram's victory, both reassurance from God and temptation awaited him. The reassurance from God came in the form of the king of Salem, and temptation came in the form of the king of Sodom.
I will tell you first about the king of Sodom. The Book of Genesis shapes a narrative about Sodomites and the surrounding city-kingdoms, all of whom had mixed and interbred with the Rephaim. This means that they were carrying an evil mutation that originated in antediluvian people, emerging from the marriages of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men." This explains the characteristic that the historian Moses gave them, namely that they were evil and remarkably sinful. The words "remarkably sinful" are only a general description, and are lacking in details. We will explore those eerie details later in the narrative. The Sodomites' defining feature was a particularly sinful depravity in their sexual perversions, among which the primary ones were sodomy (or lesbianism for women), bestiality, and pedophilia. The fact that the Sodomites descended from the Rephaim, who in turn were the descendants and heirs of the sins of the antediluvian Nephilim, explains to us their significant malice, venereal rabidity, and wild passion for sexual perversion. It is clear that they had a cult of demon worship and communed with demons at this time, a practice to which mutants are especially prone. That is why the Lord God executed the inhabitants of Sodom, Gomorrah, and five other surrounding cities by incinerating all of them and their cattle; He put an end to these grave sins and demonstrated His future judgment on the wicked. Every stone building was burned down to ash by heavenly fire! People such as Lot and his wife, his daughters, and his daughters' husbands were also among the inhabitants of these doomed cities. However, every single one of them of them (except for Lot's family) were somehow involved in the sins of mutants, and therefore shared their terrible fate. By incinerating Sodom, the other surrounding cities, and all of the sinners inhabiting them, God demonstrated His attitude regarding the sins of Sodom to us as well as the fact that the last world of sinners with their "earthly homes" will be consumed by Divine fire. The sins of Sodom's people adopted this moniker after God's divine punishment, and the word "sodomites" has now entered standard use. On the site of the burned cities of Sodom, the so-called Dead Sea was formed, for there is nothing living in it. Furthermore, the ruins of the cities that God incinerated gave off smoke for more than a thousand years, right up to the first centuries of Christianity. This is reflected in a famous prayer compiled by the holy martyr Cyprian of Antioch. Abram was well aware of the customs and sins of the Sodomites, and that is why Abram flatly refused to take anything the king of Sodom offered him without any instructions from God regarding this, for he felt the truth of God in his heart. At that moment, he raised his hand to the Lord God the Most High as a sign of his overwhelming determination, calling on Him to become a witness. Abram thus used his brilliant spiritual insight and intuition to establish a number of pious customs, which entered into people's everyday lives. This is how Abram overcame the temptation of mere wealth that the King of Sodom offered him for Abram's involuntary service.. After all, it was Abram who scattered the forces of King Elam, who had claimed victory over the king of Sodom, and Abram did so for the sake of Lot's freedom.
After the king of Sodom, the king of Salem came to meet the victorious Abram. He was a particularly mysterious and enigmatic person, about whom we know next to nothing. The Holy Fathers wrote that Melchizedek, the King of Salem, Melchizedek is a prototype of the Savior Jesus Christ. The connection of this image with Jesus Christ is pointed out clearly in the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament, as well as the Tradition of the Church of Christ. I will not venture too deeply into this topic inasmuch as it merits a separate study, but I will cite the testimonies of the great Apostle Paul, who characterizes Melchizedek and his relationship with Jesus Christ quite well.
"1 For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
2 Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
3 And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.
4 And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
5 So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing."
In this passage, we learn about the Melchizedek priesthood. This is a new order of the priesthood, which did not and could not have existed prior to Christ. Before Christ, there was only one known priesthood established by God - the order of Aaron inherited by the Levites, or the sons of the tribe of Levi. Paul emphasizes that Jesus Christ did not arbitrarily appropriate the glory of being the High Priest, but with the blessing of God the Father, and it was precisely by the heavenly Father that He was named the high priest after the order of Melchizedek! What an amazing turn of events, and what wondrous humility by the Son of God! Melchizedek was not a priest according to the order of Christ, which would be more understandable and acceptable for us, but Christ the Son of God was the High Priest according to the order of the king and priest Melchizedek, who lived alongside Abraham. It turns out that these two great and universally important figures, each of whom participated uniquely in the area of God's providence assigned to them (Abraham organized the Church of God and planted the true faith among people, and Melchizedek established the eternal priesthood and kingdom of Christ), were brought together by God on the day of Abraham's victory. Paul further characterizes Melchizedek for us, as well as the High Priesthood of Christ according to the order of Melchizedek.
"1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him[.]"
Paul reminds us here that Melchizedek was the king of Salem and the priest of the Most High God, and that he met and blessed Abram. And through the figure of the King of Salem, we can interpret a reference to the King who brought peace to the earth through the Nativity, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Melchizedek's priestly ministry to God the Most High (that is, God the Father), we must also see Jesus Christ in His high priestly ministry. Thus, Melchizedek combined the royal authority and priestly dignity of Jesus Christ, forming His complete image! Furthermore, he was a real person who was the actual king of Salem and a priest of the Most High God. By bringing Melchizedek to Abram, God showed Abram that He had more ministers who were higher than him, which helped Abram to retain his humility. Through Melchizedek, God also showed Abram that He has taken care of the future priesthood of His eternal Church organized through Abram's ministry, and also figuratively pointed out the coming Christ, the Son of God, in whom He combined the eternal kingdom and the priesthood of God's world. By bringing Abram to Melchizedek, God demonstrated that He was preparing for the priesthood that He would form through Melchizedek, or the future Church of the faithful. The Church of God is an incredible creation of God, in which God marvelously unites with the people chosen by Him into a single theanthropic organism! It can therefore be said without exaggeration that this epochal meeting carried a deep spiritual significance, for it represented the eternal and saving union of God's Church and high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. That is why Melchizedek himself was chosen to have the eternal priesthood of Christ the Son of God named after him! What kind of man must he have this mysterious figure been to be worthy of such glory and have the standing to bless Abram, receiving through him tithes from Levi and the Levites who made up the Old Testament priesthood. This shows us the great advantage of the New Testament priesthood over that of the Old Testament.
"2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace[.]"
Here Paul is referring to Abraham's offering of a tithe to King Salem. The very meaning of Melchizedek's name is interpreted here as "king of righteousness" and "king of peace."
"3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
5 And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:
6 But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.
7 And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.
9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.
10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him."
In this passage, Paul mentions wonderful things about Melchizedek, namely, that he had no father, mother, or genealogy, and therefore had neither a beginning of days nor an end in his life just as the Son of God; he would remain a priest forever! On the basis of these words, some have contrived the heresy that Melchizedek is the Son of God. However, the apostle Paul clearly writes that this is not the case, for Melchizedek is likened to the Son of God, and not the other way around! All the same, how on earth can a person like that with characteristics like those pointed out by the apostle Paul even exist? Where could such a person come from without a father, mother, or ancestry? There can be only one answer: from the same place where the first man, Adam, came from! Adam also had no father, no mother, and no ancestry. We have now approached the threshold of yet another one of God's great mysteries (and oh how they are many!). Who or what could prevent God, if He so wished, from creating several more sinless people separated from the seed of Adam and his original sin if He were to need such people to carry out some important parts of His providence for the Divine economy and humankind on the whole? Nothing and no one! It was for Himself that God created Melchizedek and the twenty-four heavenly elders sitting around the Throne of God on twenty-four thrones with crowns on their heads! Perhaps there is still someone else that we don't know about. If we accept this claim, then everything falls into place and Paul's characterizations of Melchizedek come to life by becoming the truth. Melchizedek really did not have parents like other people. He was human, but he lived outside the fold of human history. He was the king of heavenly Salem and the eternal priest of the Most High God, and resembled the Son of God. How did God create Melchizedek for His own ends? We will learn about this in the Book of Enoch.
THE WIFE OF NIR
"The wife of Nir was Sopanim. She was sterile and never had at any time given birth to a child by Nir. Sopanim was in her old age and in the last days (time) of her death. She conceived in her womb, but Nir, the priest had not slept with her from the day that the Lord had appointed him to conduct the liturgy in front of the face of the people. When Sopanim saw her pregnancy, she was ashamed and embarrassed, and she hid herself during all the days until she gave birth. Not one of the people knew about it. When 282 days had been completed, and the day of birth had begun to approach, Nir thought about his wife, and he called her to come to him in his house, so that he might converse with her. Sopanim came to Nir, her husband; and, behold, she was pregnant, and the day appointed for giving birth was drawing near. Nir saw her and became very ashamed. He said to her, 'What is this that you have done, O wife? Why have you disgraced me in front of the face of these people? Now, depart from me and go back to where you began this disgrace of your womb, so that I might not defile my hands in front of The Face of The Lord on account of you and sin.' Sopanim spoke to her husband, Nir, saying, 'O my lord! Look at me. It is the time of my old age, the day of my death has arrived. I do not understand how my menopause and the barrenness of my womb have been reversed.' But Nir did not believe his wife, and for the second time he said to her, 'Depart from me, or else I might assault you, and commit a sin in front of the face of The Lord.'
And after Nir had spoken to his wife, Sopanim, she fell down at Nir's feet and died. Nir was extremely distressed and said to himself, 'Could this have happened because of my words? And now, merciful is The Eternal Lord, because my hand was not upon her.' The archangel Gabriel appeared to Nir, and said to him, 'Do not think that your wife Sopanim has died due to your error. This child, which is to be born from her, is a righteous fruit, and one whom I shall receive into paradise so that you will not be the father of a gift of God.'
Nir hurried and shut the door of house. He went to Noah, his brother, and he reported to him everything that had happened in connection with his wife. Noah hurried to the room of his brother. The appearance of his brother's wife was as if she were dead but her womb was at the same time giving birth. Noah said to Nir, 'Don't let yourself be sorrowful, Nir, my brother! Today the Lord has covered up our scandal, because nobody from the people knows this. Now let us go quickly and bury her, and the Lord will cover up the scandal of our shame.' They placed Sopanim on the bed, wrapped her around with black garments, and shut the door. They dug a grave in secret. When they had gone out toward the grave, a child came out from Sopanim's dead body and sat on the bed at her side. Noah and Nir came in to bury Sopanim and they saw the child sitting beside Sopanim's dead body and he was wiping his clothing. Noah and Nir were very terrified with a great fear, because the child was physically fully developed. The child spoke with his lips and blessed the Lord. Noah and Nir looked at him closely, saying, 'This is from the Lord, my brother. The badge of priesthood is on his chest, and it is glorious in appearance.' Noah said to Nir, 'God is renewing the priesthood from blood related to us, just as He pleases.' Noah and Nir hurried and washed the child, they dressed him in the garments of the priesthood, and they gave him bread to eat and he ate it. And they called him Melchizedek. Noah and Nir lifted up the body of Sopanim, and took the black garment off of her and washed her. They clothed her in exceptionally bright garments and built a grave for her. Noah, Nir, and Melchizedek came and they buried her publicly.
Then Noah said to his brother Nir, 'Take care of this child in secret until the proper time comes, because all of the people on earth will become treacherous and they will begin to turn away from God. Having become completely ignorant (of God), when they see him, they will put him to death in some way.'
Then Noah went away to his own place, and there came a great lawlessness that began to become abundant over all the earth in the days of Nir. And Nir began to worry greatly about the child, saying, 'What will I do with him?' And stretching out his hands toward heaven, Nir called out to The Lord, saying, 'It is miserable for me, Eternal Lord, that all of this lawlessness has begun to become abundant over all the earth in my lifetime! I realize how much nearer our end is because of the lawlessness of the people. And now, Lord, what is the vision about this child, and what is his destiny, or what will I do for him, so that he will not be joined along with us in this destruction?' The Lord took notice of Nir and appeared to him in a night vision. And He said to him, 'Nir, the great lawlessness which has come about on the earth I shall not tolerate anymore. I plan to send down a great destruction onto the earth. But do not worry about the child, Nir. In a short while I will send My archangel Gabriel and he will take the child and put him in the paradise of Edem. He will not perish along with those who must perish. As I have revealed it, Melchizedek will be My priest to all holy priests, I will sanctify him and I will establish him so that he will be the head of the priests of the future.'
Then Nir arose from his sleep and blessed the Lord, who had appeared to him saying: 'Blessed be the Lord, The God of my fathers, who has approved of my priesthood and the priesthood of my fathers, because by His Word, He has created a great priest in the womb of Sopanim, my wife. For I have no descendants. So let this child take the place of my descendants and become as my own son. You will count him in the number of your servants. Therefore honor him together with your servants and great priests and me your servant, Nir. And behold, Melchizedek will be the head of priests in another generation. I know that great confusion has come and in confusion this generation will come to an end, and everyone will perish, except that Noah, my brother, will be preserved for procreation. From his tribe, there will arise numerous people, and Melchizedek will become the head of priests reigning over a royal people who will serve you, O Lord.'
It happened when the child had completed 40 days in Nir's tent. The Lord said to the archangel Gabriel, 'Go down to the earth to Nir the priest, and take the child Melchizedek, who is with him. Place him in the paradise of Edem for preservation. For the time is already approaching, and I will pour out all the water onto the earth, and everything that is on the earth will perish. And I will raise it up again, and Melchizedek will be the head of the priests in that generation.' And Gabriel hurried, and came flying down when it was night when Nir was sleeping on his bed that night. Gabriel appeared to him and said to him, 'The Lord says: "Nir! Restore the child to me whom I entrusted to you."' But Nir did not realize who was speaking to him and he was confused. And he said, 'When the people find out about the child, they will seize him and kill him, because the hearts of these people are deceitful before The Lord.' And he answered Gabriel and said, 'The child is not with me, and I don't know who is speaking to me.' Gabriel answered him, 'Nir, do not be afraid. I am the archangel Gabriel. The Lord sent me to take your child today. I will go with him and I will place him in the paradise of Edem.'"
So, we see that Melchizedek was in fact descended from a mother who herself descended from the fallen Adam, which means his genealogy formed in a very miraculous way. He was conceived in his mother's womb without a father or Adam's seed, and it is therefore said that he did not have a father! However, his mother had passed by the time his birth had begun, so he was born from her (dead body), but not of her! That is why it is said that he did not have a mother! It is marvelous and incomprehensible that he was born as a clothed boy who spoke well, even like an adult. His mother was not a virgin, therefore God allowed her to die before childbirth so that he could be born miraculously and so that it could truly be stated that he had no human parents. Since he was born without the participation of a husband and male seed, he did not inherit the original sin of Adam. He was conceived in a way that had been lost by people, namely through the word. However, he could have inherited the appeal of sin from his dead "mother's" flesh. Only the Son of God took human nature from the Holy Spirit, that is, without the seed of Adam or original sin, but through the Pure Virgin Mary, who was genealogically linked to Abraham and Adam. Otherwise, this prodigal son could not have redeemed the sinful human race. Melchizedek and the twenty-four heavenly elders did not need to be redeemed by Christ, and they could therefore be built by God immediately to occupy their places in His universe and abide in His Kingdom, which was closed until the redemption of humankind through Christ's suffering and death for all the sons of Adam. Accepting this mystery allows us to understand why it was Melchizedek who was chosen to establish the eternal priesthood, which was established in honor of his name! After all, Melchizedek and his ministry had their place before the appearance of the Person and ministry of Christ. The priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek could not abide on earth because it was intended to replace the Old Testament priesthood, and only the everlasting Son of God Jesus Christ, who became a priest through His humanity, could do this. Abram did not know about Melchizedek's mysterious origin, but he sensed it without any assistance or prompting from either God or Melchizedek using his brilliant spiritual intuition. Otherwise, we could not possibly understand why Abram would choose to receive a blessing from a stranger he had just met and then give that stranger a tenth of all of his possessions.
"11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?
12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.
14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.
15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,
16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life."
Here Paul elaborates upon the transfer of the priesthood from one order to another, adding that it must be accompanied by a change in the law, or covenant. The crux of the explanation lies in the following words: "Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." The presence of this boundless power is a common feature between Melchizedek and Jesus Christ the Son of God!
"17 For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
18 For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.
19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.
20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:
21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)
22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.
23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:
24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.
25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;
27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.
28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore."
Explaining further, Paul points out two things of great significance - the establishment of the priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek, and the use of an oath by the Lord God in relation to the interminability and immutability of His Son's priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek. He then goes on to characterize Christ's priesthood. Two central characteristics of His priesthood are its everlasting nature and its constant intercession before God the Father on behalf of all sinners. This is the everlasting and perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ. I recommend you all to reread Chapters 8 through 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the Apostle discusses the meaning of Jesus Christ's priesthood in great detail.
CHAPTER THREE: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek
Before moving on with Abram, let us take another close look at this encounter, which was of great importance for all of humanity.
First, let's answer the following question: How did Abraham differ fundamentally from those holy figures who preceded him, such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Job? Abel represents pious sacrifice, Enoch represents repentance, Noah represents the renouncement of material possessions, Job represents endurance. Each of them exemplify the advantage of a certain virtue, but they were all holy men for themselves. We see that Abel's righteousness did not affect his brother in any way, and Noah's righteousness was not passed on to his children; we do not even know the names of Noah's wife or those of his sons' wives. Job was also righteous for his own sake. He was God's diamond in the rough, which is why God singled out Job for a conversation with Satan. Regarding Abraham, it was the confluence of his personal holiness with other such qualities that allowed God to entrust him with a public (social) service: to prepare other believers, to become the father of all people who believe in the true God, and to serve as the father of the many nations that were prepared by God over millennia by His providence for the acceptance of Christ and entry into His Church. This social and providential ministry of Abraham, or his preparation of the Church of Christ through the emergence of the Old Testament Church of Moses, was the hallmark of his holiness. He prepared a community of those who followed God's law. That is why all of the events and phenomena that were central to this community, as well as the Old and New Testaments, began with Abraham. It was Abraham who initiated the mass establishment of altars to the true God, the idea of a life of wandering for the sake of God, the first biblical war, and many other things. It was he who first paved the way from Egypt to the Promised Land. It was he who first received blessings from the priest and Celestial King. It was he who, moved by faith, agreed to sacrifice his son Isaac, who was the heir of promise, up to God. Furthermore, God illustrated the Holy Eucharist as the eternal sacrifice of the Lamb of God through Abram's meeting with Melchizedek. We see this illustration in the priest's presentation of bread and wine to Abram.
There are only four lines about this meeting in the Book of Genesis.
"17 And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale.
18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he [Abram] gave him tithes of all."
Verse 17 describes where this meeting took place, including the fact that the king of Sodom first came out to meet Abram. This was a temptation that prefaced the work of God, then the focus turns to Melchizedek. Firstly, mention is made of his name, which means "king of righteousness" (whereas the king of Sodom represents the king of unrighteousness), followed then by his position and title as the king of Salem, which means "king of peace." Then it is written that he brought out bread and wine. He didn't just bring it, bring it over, or passed it along - he brought it out! This is just like when the Eucharist is brought out during the Cherubic Hymn. You can obviously take the bread and wine out of any place, so where did Melchizedek produce bread and wine from? It is clear that he brought them out of a makeshift temple, or a prototype of Moses' tabernacle! After this, nothing more is mentioned about the bread and the wine. That is, whether Melchizedek gave them to Abram, whether they partook of them, and so on. It then falls to us to reconstruct this event. We know that the meeting took place in the Valley of the Kings, and we know that Abram had at least 318 of his warrior shepherds, as well as the newly liberated Lot and his people, including women and children. What is surprising to us is that the king and the priest are combined into the single person of Melchizedek. At the same time, we learn that he is a priest immediately after we learn that he brought out the bread and wine. Imagine the surprise of Abram and his people once they learned that there was both a priest and a king standing before them united in one man. It is truly astounding that this king had no attendants, servants, or soldiers, and did everything himself! And it doesn't end there! Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, personally brings bread and wine to Abram for some reason. It is clear that one wine skin and a few loaves, that is, the quantity of bread and wine that one person could carry by themselves, did not particularly matter to the more than a thousand people who were with Abram and Lot. These loaves of bread and the wine were not intended to be a snack for all the people present, and they weren't intended to cure them. One could assume, then, that they were just a courteous gift to Abram. However, Melchizedek simply brought out the bread and the wine, and it is not written that he partook of them with Abram or gave them to him. Abram was a rich man and had more than enough bread and wine. As a result, the bread and wine were not a royal gift, especially since Abram had no need for them, particularly in such small quantities. But if they weren't for consumption and they weren't a gift, then what were they for? And here we see a hint has been provided for us, because immediately after the words about the bread and wine being carried out it is written that Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God, and therefore brought out the bread and wine as a priest, and not as a king! We know from the history of the Old Testament priesthood that they accepted various offerings, including bread and wine. In this case, the true priest brought out the bread and wine. But to whom does he bring them out, and for what purpose? He brought them to Abram, because he blesses Abram immediately afterward: "And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth..." For what reason? For his communion! This is the only satisfactory explanation for Melchizedek's actions! Now we know perfectly well that the priests of the New Testament present the faithful with bread and wine. For what reason? In order to commune them with the great holy gifts, or the Body and Blood of Christ, which are based on bread and wine. Here, the priest of the Most High God brings bread and wine to Abram and offers him the Eucharist in front of all the people gathered there. We can then understand that the bread and wine were sacrificial, which means they were also a consecrated sacrament! Thus, the priest of the Most High God displayed the heavenly sacrament of the Eucharist, as well as the future sacrament of the Church of Christ - its Eucharist, thereby also alluding to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ. For it was Christ whom Melchizedek represented, and it was for Christ that Melchizedek established the everlasting priesthood of Christ in himself according to his order. And if this is the case, then he should no longer have been performing religious rites on earth, especially considering the fact that the time of the Old Testament priesthood was approaching. Therefore, we are left with the task of recognizing the truth, namely that he was a messenger from heaven. Only in this interpretation of events do all of his actions acquire power and true meaning. It then follows that Melchizedek singled out Abram, the father of all true believers in God, by offering him the Eucharistic sacrifice of the eternal and heavenly priesthood before presenting him with a heavenly blessing brought down from God Himself: "blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth." Then we understand that the bread and this wine were both of heavenly origin, and were brought down from heaven by Melchizedek. The sacrament of the Eucharist was then carried out, which, to the celestials, represented the future sacrifice of Christ the Lord! This Eucharist administered by Abram's priest in the form of bread and wine and the transmission of blessings from God the Most High to Abram through said priest had a reformative effect on the universe that was no less powerful than when Eve and Adam ate the fruits of the forbidden tree! It was this communion and blessing that made Abraham out of Abram, and the Lord God completed the transformation by making the renaming official later on. This communion transported Abram through the centuries to the New Testament Church of Christ, and therefore he was able to become the father of all the faithful across both the Old and New Testaments! This quality of his was reflected not only in the fact that he (according to the apostle Paul) carried Levi in himself, and therefore the entire Old Testament priesthood, but also the revered father of all of the Hebrews, as well as the source of Christ's genealogy! Finally, this was manifested in the fact that the part of hell (Sheol) where the souls of the righteous were kept began to be called the Bosom of Abraham. For hundreds of years this place had no designation whatsoever, and was waiting for the arrival of Abraham to be named in honor of him! Our Lord told us this in the story of Lazarus the beggar and the rich man.
We can see that when Abram received the heavenly sacrament and blessing through Melchizedek, he suddenly understood who this priest was and where he came from. That is why Abram, containing in himself both Levi and the entire Levitical priesthood, gives Melchizedek a tenth of his entire state, thereby showing everyone the greatness and standing of Melchizedek that the apostle Paul detailed in the New Testament Scripture! During this wondrous meeting of the representative of the heavenly church and the representative of the earthly church, each of them illustrated their understanding through actions, not words! After the meeting, Abram was elevated to a new spiritual level and God appeared to him at once.
"1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.
2 And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?
3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.
4 And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir.
5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness."
We see that the Lord's appearance to Abram is directly tied to Abram's former meeting and victory through the words: "After these things." Abram's spiritual progress is made evident by the words: "The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision." This is Abram's first night vision, which means that he matured spiritually to be able to discern spirits, allowing God to appear to him in a vision. Furthermore, God and Abram share a dialogue for the first time. Abram did not answer when God earlier told Abram of His promises, and therefore we do not know his position on what God said. God spoke more for the Scripture than for Abram. Abram did not interfere in God's words and promises. At this point, however, he had grown spiritually to such an extent that he had obtained the confidence to tell God what he wanted and ask Him questions. At that time, people knew that if an Angel of God, much less God Himself, appeared to a person in a vision, then the person would certainly die! Abram saw God for the first time in a vision and therefore grew afraid. That is why God initiated His speech with the words: "Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield..." With these words, God not only bolstered Abram for a conversation with Him, but also calmed him in regard to all of his everyday troubles, misfortunes, and adversities - God Himself promised to be a shield for him! Who among us would not want God to be their shield?
Next, our Lord encouraged and comforted Abram as His friend: "...and thy exceeding great reward." At the same time, our Lord used these words to display His attitude towards Abram, His favor towards him, as well as His high appreciation of him, promising Abram an exceedingly great reward in the future.
It's doubtful that Abram understood what kind of reward it would be, but he received the favor of God and gathered that his status had changed - he was now a friend of God. For this reason, he dared to ask the Lord about what was troubling him, saying: "Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir..."
The question "what wilt thou give me" is not a question of what he will receive, but rather, a way to prepare for his primary question. In Abram's eyes, the main issue was his childlessness, which had inevitably led to his lack of an heir and the presence of the steward Eliezer of Damascus. Abram's circumstances tormented and pained him to such an extent that he began to accuse God that it was He who had not given Abram an heir, which was the factual truth. God did so out of His own special consideration. He wanted the birth of Sarai's promised son to happen to Abram miraculously and calmly. God knew of Abram's suffering due to his childlessness and therefore hastened to assure Abram that the opposite would come to pass, and that his heir would come out of his loins.
"And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir."
"And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying..." That is, the Lord's word first came to fruition, and then He spoke to Abram. The Lord began by refuting Abram's reality, and only God could do such a thing. God then brought Abram out of the tent so that he could see the starry sky, and said to him: "Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them..."
God humbles Abram with these words, deliberately offering him an obviously impossible task and demonstrating His unlimited power. This comparison of Abram with God humbled Abram greatly. However, God commanded Abram to count the stars not only for the sake of Abram's humility, but also in order to show him how many descendants Abram would come to have. At the same time, our Lord strengthened Abram's faith by comparing his descendants with the number of stars in the sky. Nothing is impossible for the Lord God, but for a person it is clear that increasing the number of people is much easier than hanging stars in the sky and keeping them there. People can give birth on their own, for example, but they cannot create or control a single star, nor can they get close to any of them.
It was at that moment that Abram firmly believed God's promise to him would come to pass, no matter the circumstances! God saw Abram's faith and ascribed it to his righteousness. Through Abraham, God thus established a new kind of righteousness, or righteousness through faith in Him.
From then on faith became the most eminent of all human virtues. It then became possible to please God through faith, but without it, one could never seek His approval!
CHAPTER FOUR: How Abraham Became Righteous
With God's help, we will continue to observe the story of the earthly life and deeds of Abraham, a friend of the Most High God, and study the text of Scripture.
When God accepted Abram's faith and attributed it to him as righteousness, Abram's night visions and general communication with God continued. God gave His speech to Abram in a human language that he could understand, revealing to him (and us all for ages to come) the forthcoming plan of action for the entire Hebrew people!
"7 And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it."
We see that God tells Abram that it was He, and not Abram's father Terah, who brought him out of Ur of the Chaldees. God then reveals the reason for this move to Abram: to give thee this land to inherit it.
Oh, how difficult it is for us as earthly and mortal beings to understand God the Most High and Everlasting! God sees and understands everything completely differently than we do. He talks about the gifting of this land to Abram for inheritance, but God understands that He is referencing the distant descendants of Abram's seed, and not Abram himself. There is no way that Abram could have understood such a thing during the course of God's speech. This is what led Abram to a logical question.
"8 And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?"
This was not the work of doubt or disbelief in God, for God had previously stated that Abram believed in Him down to the very depths of his spirit. It was an inquiry about how to recognize the fulfillment of God's promise. After all, Abram was already on the land promised to him by God and did not understand how he could take further possession of it. God answers this question not with words, but with a command, which, considering its content and course, should have answered Abram's question.
"9 And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.
10 And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not.
11 And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away."
In this command, God not only answered Abram's question, but also laid the material foundation of all forthcoming divine ministries and sacrifices. Abram obediently fulfilled all of the commands that God had entrusted to him. Quite a bit of time passed while he did so, and their interaction extended to the end of the day.
We see that the Lord only said that Abram should take the animals and birds, but He did not say what should be done with them. Abram, through his religious genius, intuited (and God loves and appreciates clever and intuitive people) that these animals must be prepared for sacrifice to God. Therefore, he went for them, brought them before God, and then cut the animals in half with the exception of the birds ("be harmless like doves"), which he simply killed. In total, Abram prepared five animals for sacrifice as indicated by God. The meaning of all of this in a prophetic and prototypical sense, however, escaped Abram. In a spiritual sense, this means that each of us who wishes to be with God must first kill all of our five sense organs for sin, and then offer them as a sacrifice to God for processing by Him. The line "And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away" shows us that Abraham had reached such a spiritual height in his faith and humility that he was assigned by God as the defender of the faith and the faithful. Birds of prey trying to snatch the sacrificial flesh here represent the enemies of our salvation who will try to destroy the work of Abraham, that is, his preparation of the true Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The fact that Abraham drove them away shows his great courage before God in his intercessions on behalf of people, as well as his great spiritual strength, which was more than capable of defending the faith and the faithful.
"12 And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him."
God then put Abram in a deep sleep, thereby likening him to Adam when God created a wife for him. Here God did not create Abram's wife, but rather, the Old Testament church.
Despite being in a deep sleep, Abram experienced a horror and great darkness that fell upon him. This happened to Abram for the sake of his humility. Having experienced the creation of the Living God, even under the protection of this unusual dream, Abram felt the indescribable creating power of the Living God to the greatest extent that his mind could comprehend!
Having humbled Abram in this way, God prepared him to accept the plan of events that He had prophesized for the Hebrew people, who were chosen by God through Abram and on behalf of Abram.
"13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."
The Lord no longer tested the faith of Abram, knowing that it lay within him. He therefore used the words "know" when speaking to Abram, as opposed to "believe that." God further revealed that the descendants of Abram (the Hebrew people who would descend from his wife Sarah) would remain as strangers in a foreign land (ancient Egypt), where they would be made slaves and live in oppression for four hundred years!
Particularly for us, a people that has suffered through seventy years of Soviet atheist captivity and communist slavery, it is terrible to imagine what could have happened to us if this slavery had gone on for four centuries! But here we are speaking of the four centuries of slavery endured by the descendants of Abram. It was tortuous for him to learn of such things, for there is great sorrow in great knowledge.
Further, the Lord alleviates Abram's suffering by telling him about His personal involvement in the fate of the Hebrew people, promising him that He will judge the oppressors (that is, the Egyptians) and bring His people out of slavery and from the land of their bondage with great wealth.
We need to understand that divine predetermination is not decided in a few lines of text. God unites a multitude of separate providences in these lines, both for various nations and for each individual person among them. We cannot understand this predetermination because it is incomprehensible to us mortals, but we must know and believe that among those acts of divine providence that have been prophetically revealed to us there is not and cannot be anything accidental, purposeless, or meaningless. The four-hundred-year slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt, the punishments of the ancient Egyptians for enslaving the Hebrews, the collapse of the Russian Empire, the seventy-year godless Soviet oppression, two world wars, and everything that happens to us and this world today is not accidental. Everything is done under the vigilant supervision and custody of God in according to His providence and plans for His economy, with a purpose determined by Him, and with a meaning and outcome for each event and totality of all events known only to Him.
After telling Abram what would happen to his people, God then moved to the fate of Abram himself. This is the first unequivocal personal prophecy about the fate of an individual. Humanity did not have an understanding of such a thing before Abram! God communicated the most important thing to Abram, namely that he would complete his mission on earth to the end and afterward go to his fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. That is, Abram's end would be a good one, and his life after death would know no sorrow. Today, this would be tantamount to God revealing to somebody that they will depart this life in salvation and reside in His heavenly kingdom.
After personally assuring Abram, God moved to the fate of his descendants once again, informing Abram that the fourth generation would return to this land to possess it.
Then he explained to Abram (and all of us) the reason for such a delay, as well as the acquisition of the Promised Land by his descendants. The reason was that the iniquity of the Amorites who were living on the land at that time had not yet reached its fullness in the eyes of God!
It may be terrifying at times, but it is useful to sneak a peek into Divine providence for people! We see that God cares not only for His chosen people, but coordinates His providence for everyone with the providence for other nations. We then uncover an important truth, that the behavior of a nation's people has an impact on the fate of the nation, as well as its residence in a particular land. This explains the reason for the division of people into different nations according to their languages and the resettlement of these peoples in different lands. God showed people a great mercy by doing this. Before the flood, when there was one land, one people, and one language, God had to punish nations if the majority of the people embraced sin, destroying them entirely and restoring the population of humankind from one righteous and immaculate person. After the division into different nations and languages, it became impossible for the people on the earth to have such common sin. Now the community of sin has passed from all of humanity to the separate peoples and nations of which it is composed. This means that national sin has replaced panhuman sin, and many of today's nations can easily fall into this temptation. However, this also implies that only the nation that sins will be punished and annihilated, not the whole of humanity. Thus, our Lord God revealed His providential division of humankind into peoples and nationalities to us through Abraham, and by doing so explained the purpose of their existence. From this we understand that any act directed against the existence of various peoples and nations, for example the current form of globalization being imposed by demons through their servants in human guise, which is designed to sweep aside states and mix all nations into a single whole, is a theomachist and satanic undertaking. Moreover, it runs counter to God's providence for people, which would then expose all of humanity to the threat of destruction!
In this sense, the "Soviet" experiment of "globalization" carried out by the theomachists and the mixing of nations into a beast of a single nation called simply "the Soviet people" (due to the impossibility of stretching such influence across the whole Earth) is the same sort of theomachist atrocity, as well as a grave national sin of the Russian people. This sin weighs heavily on the Russian people and bears on them for their impenitence to this day, plaguing generations of people with either civil war, revolutionary terror, participation in a world war, or self-destruction in conflicts such as the one ongoing in Eastern Ukraine (in the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic).
In addition to the concept of national sin, God revealed the concept of land-centered sin to us, for people live not only as nations, but also on lands designated for said nation. If a grave sin or sins prevail on a certain land, then the entire land may be punished. We see this in God's destruction of the land of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the five surrounding cities. Historically, the lands inhabited by one or more peoples living together were organized into states. Accordingly, not only peoples, but also separate states were punished for sin. When analyzing the history of human habitation on Earth, we find facts supporting the disappearance of entire peoples and states. Now we can understand that these disappearances occurred as a result of the sinful life of certain peoples and states, as they met their destructive ends when their iniquities were fulfilled.
Comparing the more than four hundred years of the Amorites' stay in Canaan and the seventy years of the USSR, we can only imagine how much more sinful Soviet people were in the eyes of God than the ancient sinful Amorites!
"17 And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.
18 In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:
19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,
20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,
21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, [and the Hivites,] and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."
At the end of the meeting with Abram, when the sun had already set and darkness had set in, God shows Abram (and us) smoke as if from a furnace using the example of the animals offered to Him as a sacrifice, as well as a flame that passed between the carcasses there. This meant that God accepted the sacrifice offered by Abram, sealing the covenant between God and Abram (and the Hebrew people of his line). It was for the sake of Abram that God selected the Hebrew people and made the covenant that would come to be known as the Old Testament. The covenant Noah made with God only concerned God's promise to no longer destroy all of humanity in the waters of the global flood. In the covenant with Abram and the Hebrew people that he represented (for Abram was a Hebrew), God gave people a pious religion and the practice of worshiping the One True God, to which the Old Testament priesthood, divine ministry, the tabernacle, the commandments, and the body of the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament would be added under Moses.
The main purpose of the covenant was the fundamental preparation for the Virgin Mary, who would come from the seed of Abraham to bear and give birth to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who took all of humanity into himself save for sin as the promised Messiah and Savior. And this task, thanks to Abraham, our forefather and father by faith, was successfully resolved in the bosom of the Hebrew people, although this people came to be temporarily rejected by God and scattered across the Earth due to their errant choices. However, the merits of Israel are held in great and eternal esteem by God, as can be seen in His promise to turn the remnant of Israel to Himself at the end of times. Israel shall be among His special detachment from this people consisting of 144,000 virgins, as well as in His record of the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on the gates of the eternal heavenly Jerusalem:
"12 And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel:
13 On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates."
This description of heavenly Jerusalem, by indicating that the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel will be forever written on the twelve gates of the city, shows us two things. Firstly, it demonstrates that there will be representatives of each of the twelve tribes among the people saved in eternity, and secondly, that the whole of humanity saved through Christ God indeed entered into eternal life thanks to Saint Abraham and the twelve tribes of Israel that descended from him!
To understand the chosen nature of Abraham, we need to touch on the idea of God's chosen people, as well as the general theme of the called and the chosen. We shall turn to what the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans for help in this matter.
"11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will [wish to harden] he hardeneth.
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"
A very complex passage, one that's difficult to interpret. To come closer to understanding this text, we must first reveal an important truth about our God. This truth was first presented to us by the reverend venerable and God-bearing Father Maximus the Confessor.
"1. First the intellect marvels when it reflects on the absolute infinity of God, that boundless sea for which it longs so much. Then it is amazed at how God has brought things into existence out of nothing. But just as 'His magnificence' is without limit (Psalm 145:3) so 'there is no penetrating His purposes' (Isaiah 40:28).
2. How can the intellect not marvel when it contemplates that immense and more than astonishing sea of goodness? Or how is it not astounded when it reflects on how and from what source there have come into being both nature endowed with intelligence and intellect, and the four elements which compose physical bodies although no matter existed before their generation? ...But all this is not accepted by those who follow the pagan Greek philosophers, ignorant as they are of that all-powerful goodness and its effective wisdom and knowledge, transcending human intellect.
3. God is the Creator from all eternity, and He creates when He wills, in His infinite goodness, through His coessential Logos and Spirit. Do not raise the objection: "Why did He create at a particular moment since He is good from all eternity?" For I reply that the unsearchable wisdom of the infinite essence does not come within the compass of human knowledge.
5. Try to learn why God created; for that is true knowledge. But do not try to learn how He created or why He did so comparatively recently; for that does not come within the compass of your intellect. Of divine realities some may be apprehended by men and others may not. Unbridled speculation, as one of the saints has said, can drive one headlong over the precipice."
Now in possession of this knowledge of God and having accepted the teaching of our father, we shall dare to touch on a sacrosanct subject - the understanding of being chosen. God chooses a person according to one consideration or criterion known only to Him. The mind of God is incomprehensible to us, and therefore His decisions are incomprehensible, including in the matter of His choosing this or that person. We know and see the occurrence of being chosen, for example, as it happened with Abraham. Therefore, Paul rightly says: "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth[.]" That is, God does not call a person for their deeds or merits before Him! Therefore, a person cannot become chosen at will, just as they cannot "purchase" such a designation from God through their actions. We will never understand why God loved and chose Jacob, but hated and rejected Esau. However, we know that God can do no wrong! The later behavior of Jacob and Esau confirmed the correctness of God's choice. We do not know and cannot know why God chooses this person or that person (for example, Abraham), but we can understand that He sees something in His chosen person that moves Him to make this very choice.
For example, just as a potter can make a vase for flowers, a jug for lemonade, or a chamber pot for relieving oneself from the same clay, so can God shape people. "For who hath resisted His will?" So, we now know that God calls many to Himself, and chooses from them but a few. Someone who has been called can do nothing to become chosen! But they must firmly hold on to whichever chosen one they know, so that God may also bless them (who has been called) for the sake of this chosen one. This is the spiritual law!
God can choose a person from their mother's womb (James and John the Forerunner), and he can also call the from the middle of their life (Abraham). Each called and chosen one has their own status, and each should be aware of their own status. The one who has been called and has come to the Church of Christ is higher than the one who remains in the world. The Church of Christ has the following statuses: apostle, prophet, teacher, archpriest, priest, steward, and Christ's flock. Those who are called either join Christ's flock or serve as a steward (leading the flock). To be saved as one of Christ's flock is much easier than for those who carry another title. The sheep are responsible only for themselves and are saved by obeying the voice of the shepherd who is chosen by God.
Abraham is a special chosen one of God, and his status is unique. He stood apart because God not only needed him to implement His providence, but also in order to reveal some of His features that He wished to show us. That is, through Abraham's relationship with God, we can learn something new about God Himself!
CHAPTER FIVE: Abram, Sarai, and the Slave Girl Hagar
"1 Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived[.]"
After confirming Abram's chosen status and revealing the future of his descendants to him, God leaves Abram. Any person living on earth, even one most holy, cannot be in active connection with God for a long time, which means that the departure of God and even being left by Him are inevitable aspects of our earthly life.
At this point, we also take notice of the one big problem that Abram and Sarai have in their lives - Sarai's sterility. This is what the first verse of the 16th chapter of Genesis tells us about. Moreover, this vexatious reality is presented as an accusation to Sarai: "Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children..." This particular emphasis was not done by chance, rather, this was how Sarai felt, and this fact tormented her. After all, she knew about all of God's promises from Abram and understood that her sterility was an obstacle to the fulfillment of these promises, which were vitally important for all of humanity. It would be extremely painful for anyone to feel like an obstacle in such a matter.
We must understand that the timing of God's providence and the lives of human being are incommensurate things. If the realization of God's promise is postponed for an indefinite time by some extant circumstance, then the space in a person's ongoing life must be occupied with something serious so it is easier for them to wait. Bearing all of this in mind, we begin to understand what state Sarai was in and how difficult it was for her to bear the weight of this holding pattern. We must take into account the fact that although Sarai was a righteous and pious person, she was not at all equal to her husband Abram. She was inferior to him in faith, strength, wisdom, and religious genius. That is why her infirmity pushed her to extreme, unbearable levels of tension and pressure. Had the situation developed further, Sarai could have suffered a psychological breakdown or collapse. Abram, who loved his wife dearly, saw and understood all of this. He could have endured such a circumstance for quite a while, for he lived in living faith to the Living God. Sarai, driven to absolute despair by the absence of an heir, tried to change the intolerable situation by any means available to her. She forced Abram to come in to her maid, who had been taken from Egypt, so that she might bare Abram a son. We don't know why Sarai chose Hagar. As subsequent events showed, she was not terribly well versed in people. However, we can understand why she chose a captive woman for this task, specifically a slave under her control. She was afraid that a free woman who could provide Abram with an heir might step in and replace her, and a slave could not do such a thing. Abram did not object to his wife's request and did what she asked, having mercy on her for her weakness and protecting her from an imminent nervous breakdown. He knew that if he refused to fulfill her request, he would plunge her into a powerful and lengthy depression. He understood that this act, while not a sin, was nevertheless not a good one, both because of the demonstrated lack of faith and because of possible bad consequences. But his love and pity for his suffering wife outweighed all of his reasonable arguments. It was a dreadful thing to do, but it was impossible to do otherwise! The Scripture brings us the name of this maid, Hagar, which thereby designates her as an important historical figure. After persuading Abram to enter Hagar's chambers, Sarai then blames God for her troubles: "And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai." This was a fair accusation, for it was true. This was, however, a repudiation of God's will on Sarai's part, as well as blatant opposition to it! Sarai showed her pride and her impatience, and this led to the appearance of the Saracens! In Sarai's remark, we see that she (and the people of that time) correctly understood the influence of God's providence on people. This tells us that the people living close to Abram lived a rather observant life before God. Sarai had, within her limits and power, the freedom to offer Hagar to Abram as a wife: "And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived[.]" That is, Sarai did not consider Hagar's social status to be on a level equal to hers, but by giving her to Abram as a wife, she equalized Hagar in a female sense as well as by marital status. Hagar remained a slave to Sarai, but she was Abram's second wife, as well as the mother of his child! It should be apparent to us that the slave could not help but take advantage of such an opportunity to improve her standing, particularly one that could result in her completely replacing Sarai and being freed from her bondage.
Hagar conceived, and other troubles immediately appeared at that moment in Abram's house: "...and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes." Blinded by her desire to have children, Sarai did not anticipate this course of events. Abram knew that was how the situation would turn out. He loved Sarai and could not punish her himself, but he could leave it up to life to punish Sarai for her lack of faith and impatience. However, the domineering Sarai began to blame Abram for what happened.
"5 And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face."
Abram had no choice but to give the maidservant into Sarai's hands, who began to mistreat her. In the depths of their souls, both Abram and Sarai knew that the child born of Hagar would not be the heir and the promised seed. Through Hagar, their simultaneous understanding and misunderstanding of this boiled over in the form of a human conflict in which Sarai prevailed. Hagar, unable to bear Sarai's animosity, fled from the house of Abram. When a person's circumstances become uncontrollable and unsolvable, however, the heavens come to their aid. The Angel of God finds Hagar and convinces her to return to Abram's house and submit to Sarai.
"7 And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
13 And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?"
The expression "his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him" tells us about the conflict, fearlessness, and martialism of Ishmael and the Ishmaelites. And the expression "and he shall dwell in the presence of all of his brethren" speaks to Ishmael's exceptional leadership capabilities and the brotherly friendship of his descendants.
Why did the Angel of God convince Hagar to return to the house where she would endure mistreatment and dishonor from her mistress? The answer is simple: it was necessary for God's providence. God needed to occupy Abram and Sarai with some important affairs while they were waiting for the birth date of Sarai's promised heir. This important affair, which took thirteen years, would turn out to be the raising of Abram and Hagar's son Ishmael, who was unexpectedly given to them by God's providence.
To comfort Hagar, an angel reveals that her offspring will be countless in number, and also tells her that she will give birth to a son whom she will have to call Ishmael. This name means "God has hearkened." We must take note of the fact that the name of the son of Abram was revealed by an Angel of God! This knowledge should help us in understanding God's attitude towards the modern descendants of Abraham, namely the Arab peoples adhering to the religion of Islam. This religion itself is untrue, like the religion of the Jews who turned away from Christ, but this does not cancel out God's ancient blessing on these lost children of Abraham. Despite the fact that their faith is not true and brings them enmity in their blindness, these lost children have the hope and confidence that the true God will, for the sake of their forefather Abraham and Ishmael, (whose name means "God has hearkened" and not "God shall hearken") be heard by God in due time.
The angel, in using the example of the persecuted Hagar, showed us God's merciful attitude towards people who are suffering and have found humility in their suffering. This was then followed by a characterization of Abram's first son Ishmael. He is described as a sedentary man with regal qualities. All of the Arab peoples known as the Ishmaelites, Hagrites, and Saracens did indeed originate from him because Hagar was spiritually successful in this trial. She referred to the Lord as "Thou God seest me," for it was a revelation to her that God watches over every person.
"15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram."
This is a simple statement that Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him his first son - Ishmael. Abram and Sarai could then concentrate their efforts on caring for their son. And then the story of Abram's life was interrupted for thirteen years. This period was certainly long enough to raise and shape Ishmael. Over the course of all of these years, God did not once visit Abram. Therefore, there was nothing to write about.
Regarding to the descendants of Ishmael, we can make note of the following: They are all the children of Abraham. However, they are children only by blood and flesh, and not by faith. God blessed them and multiplied them for Abraham's sake, but their inclination for insolence and self-glorification among other nations affects all of his descendants, as does the warlike nature (ardor and propensity for conflict) of Ishmael. For the Ishmaelites, the fact that Ishmael's mother was a slave carried great importance. This slave psychology and the bowing to prevailing forces manifested in the religious deviation of the Ishmaelites, forming the religion of Islam (the religion of obedience). Islam is the most suitable religion for the genotype and psychological type of the Ishmaelites, and it is better for them to believe in this way than not to believe at all. After Christ's arrival to earth and His redemptive feat, the conversion of the children of Abraham to Islam was both a mistake and deviation into form of modified apostate Judaism. That is why the Trinity of the one God is closed to the Ishmaelites, as is the Divine essence of Jesus Christ the Son of God. They cannot revere Jesus Christ as God since God in their Judaized perception can only be One Person. It is obvious that the Ishmaelites harbor cultural hang-ups regarding Christians and Japhetites, which often manifests itself in their unfounded aggression against them. We have the true hope that, by praying to the holy Abram, some of his children who have lost their way in Judaism and Islam will turn to Christ as their God and Savior at the end of days.
CHAPTER SIX: God's Covenant with Abram
"1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
At the beginning of Chapter 17, we see that God visited Abram again thirteen years later. This was not a vision, but the real coming of God to Abram, for this meeting was of the utmost importance for all of humankind. In this meeting, God forged his covenant with people as represented by Abram, which then began to be called the Old (or Ancient) Testament, whereas the New Testament was forged with people through Jesus Christ the Son of God.
First of all, God said the following to Abram: "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect..." That is, God introduced himself to Abram as his God, and by doing so, confirmed Abram's status as God's chosen one and one belonging to God! Such standing requires a person to be totally pure and pleasing to God in all of their words and deeds, and this is exactly what God required of Abram. To understand the level of purity required by God, let us turn to the works of Saint Basil the Great:
"We understand 'innocence' in two ways. For we take the designation 'innocent one' to mean either a complete deprivation of [vice], as we cut off the root of vice, as it were, through an extended attention to and exercise of good things, [causing] the estrangement from sin which brings correction to thought. Or innocence means the experience that is not yet in the realm of vice, whether on account of abundant youthfulness or because the kind of life certain people cultivate disposes them to certain vices due to inexperience. <…>
Properly speaking, however, an 'innocent one' is of the sort of David who says 'I will walk in mine integrity' (Psalm 26:1). He who turns away from every evil through the exercise of his own soul in accordance with virtue will indeed be worthy of the inheritance of good things, since 'no good thing will [the Lord] withhold from them that walk uprightly' (Psalm 84:11).
He who has such confidence will say, "Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity," (Psalm 26:1) and again, "judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me" (Psalm 7:8). The simplicity of disposition - genuineness, uncontrived - is the distinguishing mark of one who is innocent." (From Homily 12: On the Beginning of Proverbs)
This characterization of innocence and integrity allows us to see Abraham's personality in a new way. It turns out that all of these requirements - the expulsion of all evil from his soul, the cutting of all the roots of sin, simplicity of disposition, genuineness, being uncontrived (the absence of any pretense, artificiality, or games) - were within Abraham in the necessary amounts, and therefore God could demand innocence from him! Now it becomes clear to us why the holy fathers said that Abraham had no need for repentance, for he had reached a state of pure integrity, which means that he was affirmed in virtue and aversion to sin and evil!
If sin is the mistaken movement of the soul, then evil is the justification of these wrong movements and the establishment of conditions for movement in the wrong direction (i.e. not according to God). This gives us a new spark of understanding of our petition in the Lord's Prayer: "and deliver us from evil."
How great and innocent Abraham must have been to fulfill all of God's requirements at a time when there was still no church, no law, no Scripture, no sacraments, and no people equal to him in virtue! That is why God both chose him to be the representative of humanity and establish a covenant with people, as well as called Himself the God of Abraham!
What, then, helped Abraham to reach this state and remain there? Conscience and spiritual intuition? Without a doubt! However, this was still not enough. Abraham did much more! He realized in himself (and for his own benefit) the bitter taste that led to the death and fall of Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If this tasting was premature for Adam and Eve (and therefore fatal), then Abraham was so spiritually realized that he gained the ability to use the gift of understanding good and evil at no risk to himself! Thus, he restored the likeness of God in humanity, which had been completely lost in the fall, as well as the ability to become deified! People's ability to become venerable started with Abraham!
After voicing His requirements about Abram maintaining this quality, God announces the establishment of His covenant with people: "And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly."
The establishment of the covenant between God and man is such a significant event that it requires the personal presence of representatives from each of the two agreeing parties! This is why God visited Abram personally. Nevertheless, He does not instantly establish a covenant with Abram, but rather announces that it will be established, adding the promise of the multiplication of Abram's descendants, who will enter into this covenant immediately after their birth (on the eighth day). The very formation of the covenant was still impossible, for Abram had not yet met all the conditions for it. Therefore, God tells him about the necessary conditions:
"9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant."
After commanding Abram and his descendants to keep the covenant, the Lord announces its practical essence: "Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you." It is important to note here that God, in forming a covenant with the Hebrew Abraham and his descendants from Sarah, allows non-Hebrews (Gentiles) to enter this covenant if they are connected to the Hebrew people through God's providence. "He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." Here, the word "everlasting" denotes future earthly ages, not the eternal infinite.
After Abram hears God's first words to him, he humbles himself before God: "And Abram fell on his face." God then tells Abram about the purpose of the covenant: "And God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." After explaining the essence of the covenant, God changes Abram's name to Abraham. The very change of Abram's name is essential for understanding the change in the relationship between God and man, as the new name Abraham carries a new and specific meaning - "the father of many nations." When entering into the New Testament through the sacrament of baptism, the person who is baptized also receives a new name.
"5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."
Verse 7 demonstrates the eternal aspect of the covenant with Abraham, for all participants in this covenant will pass into the covenant of the New Testament, but the essence of both covenants is the same: "to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." And everyone who has lived with God shall be saved! God then introduced the earthly aspect of the covenant by mentioning that the land of Canaan will be granted to Abraham's descendants. The violation of this covenant by any of Abraham's descendants would lead to dire consequences: "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant."
After wrapping up his business with Abraham, God moves on to Sarai:
"15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her."
This is an important addition that defines the limits of the female half of God's chosen people. We now understand that God's chosen descendants of Abram will come specifically from Sarai. This is why God changes her name to Sarah! We can observe an amazing providential event in the names of Abram and Sarai. Despite the fact that these names were given to them by their parents, they miraculously mirrored their new names to the extent that it was enough for God to make only very minor changes to each!
"17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him."
This place in the Scripture is tempting for carnally minded people. People with carnal wisdom interpret this as Abraham being weak in his faith and showing little trust and cowardice. Let's see what really happened. First of all, we see that Abraham fell on his face, thereby expressing his deep humility and reverence for God. Then he goes over to the side of all future people who are allured by the idea of an elderly or otherwise incapable wife and husband producing a child, and in doing so asks God on their behalf to resolve this tempting question for many! With his question, he seems to say that he naturally understands everything and believes God Almighty, but other people (without his eminent standing) may have questions, which is why it would be useful to have answers from the very beginning. To that end, he speaks deliberately about his and Sarah's ages: "Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" For Abraham, these were not questions of doubt, but questions of confirmation, which were presented in this way for the sake of other people's weakness. Furthermore, Abraham testified to the fact that he and Sarah, a centenarian husband and his ninety-year-old wife, were no longer capable of bearing children. Therefore, God was waiting for this exact age of theirs, as well as their confession for everyone. After all, Abraham's father Terah lived for two hundred and five years, and Abraham himself conceived his son Ishmael at eighty-five years old. Abraham issued his request with these humble words: "And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!"
In speaking these words to God, Abraham, like any loving father, was in a hurry to take care of his son Ishmael, who was not one of the promised sons. This teaches us that we must take care of not only those who are faithful to God, but also other people close to us. God instantly understood what Abraham meant and answered him thus: "And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him." That is, God, confirmed the superiority of Sarah's descendants by first assuring Abraham of the birth of an heir from Sarah: ""Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed." Only after this did He move on to Ishmael: "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." This was the absolute maximum that God could promise Abraham regarding his son from the slave girl, Ishmael, and Ishmael's descendants. We also see that God emphasized the involvement of Abraham and his prayers about Ishmael's fate, saying that He had heard Abraham's plea. This speaks to Abraham's boldness toward God, as well as to the fact that God yields to His holy chosen, choosing to do that which He would not do by Himself! This is the law of love: "I cannot deny my beloved even that of which I have no need."
After answering Abraham's concerns regarding Ishmael, God returned to the promise of an heir from Sarah: "But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year..." Here God gave a name to Isaac, who had not yet been conceived, but had already been chosen by God. This confirmed that he would undoubtedly be born of Sarah. Moreover, God established the dates for the birth of Isaac - at that very time one year later. This claim puts all doubters in a rather tense waiting pattern. After these words, God departed from Abraham: "And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham." "Left off talking" refers to a disconnection from consciousness, and the phrase "went up from Abraham" fixates of the completion of God's visit, as well as the confirmation that God was at this meeting personally.
Next, the Scripture directs us to Abraham's deeds after the end of the meeting with God:
"23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him.
24 And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.
27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him."
We see that Abraham, driven by faith and obedience, rushed to fulfill God's commands regarding the conditions of the covenant. He was circumcised at ninety-nine years old so that his promised son Isaac (unlike Ishmael) would be born as a participant in the covenant with God. We also see that not only Hebrews from the house of Abraham made up the first ranks of the covenant, but also Gentiles from among Abraham's servants. This indicates that he is the father not only of the faithful Jews, but also of the Gentiles, whom God in due time will call to Himself through Christ the Son of God.
CHAPTER SEVEN: The Holy Trinity Visits Abraham
"1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat."
We see that the Lord soon visited Abraham and Sarah again. This time God took the form of three men and, as it were, did not plan to go to Abraham, but was simply passing by while going about His business. However, God passed by so closely and so noticeably that Abraham had the opportunity to see Him and make his decision.
The virtue of hospitality helped Abraham quickly make the decision to invite the strangers in and host them, and this was during the heat of the day. The Scripture says that the Lord appeared to Abraham at the plains of Mamre, and that Abraham felt the presence of the Lord. But when he stood upright, lifted up his eyes, and looked, he then saw the Lord differently than before, which was unexpected for him. In the place of the One God, there were three men who outwardly looked like ordinary travelers. Such a phenomenon, when God appears in the form of an ordinary person, is one of the most difficult manifestations of God for man to recognize. In these cases, God does not declare His presence or display His divinity in any way or form, but instead simply behaves like a human being. Any person who sees such a phenomenon is always thrust into ambiguity, hesitating while trying to determine whether it is God or not God. We see that Abraham also had this split perception. His innermost feelings told him that the Lord God was before him, and his outermost intuition said the opposite. But Abraham had to do something no matter what, and so he decided to act on the law of love, entertaining the idea that the Lord God had for whatever reason taken the unrecognizable form of three travelers. Therefore, Abraham had to humbly play along with God in this, accepting what he saw (the three people before him) as the basis of his actions while all the time keeping in mind that it could actually be God. Abraham was struggling to connect the unconnectable. He ran up to the three men and bowed to them all the way to the ground, thereby demonstrating the feeling that the Lord God was before him. In calling the three of them by the same name (Lord) at that moment, he performed an incredible act. He acknowledged the One God in three Persons using his brilliant religious intuition! No one has ever addressed three people with the single-person address "My Lord." This form of address was also ambiguous, for it could have been attributed either to God or to a person in power. Abraham verbally manifested his sense that God was standing before him in three Persons, combining reverence for God with an invitation to Him to his home in his speech: "My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant[.]" Moreover, the invitation was issued in the most humble possible way: "[P]ass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant[.]" as opposed to a more formal invitation: "If you would be so kind as to step in."
Verses 6, 7, and 8 show Abraham and Sarah's concern for the three travelers as human beings. God and His Angels do not want for or require food. Nevertheless, the newcomers accepted the treat and consumed it: "and they did eat." This was not an act of necessity or courtesy, but an act of active love! The Lord had to play along with Abraham and Sarah in this act, pretending that the travelers were eating what was offered to them. Abraham's faith was tested at the subtlest of levels by this experience, and his spiritual intuition grew stronger! Thus, the Lord savored the intrigue of the situation, watching Abraham's behavior closely. Abraham reacted so spectacularly that he surprised and delighted God! His behavior was without even the slightest reproach! He managed to avoid two extremes: worshipping a creation as God (even if it was out of ignorance) and not serving his neighbor out of hospitable love. He managed to keenly combine love for God and for one's neighbor in a single stratagem! In doing so, Abraham felt that he was visited not just by the Most High God, but by the future God-man, who combines both the true and eternal God and the perfect man (who appeared only after some time) in Himself! Only a person of exceptional genius could perceive this without any outside help, and this is exactly what the holy Abraham was and remains to be!
The guests then move on to a matter of great importance to Abraham and Sarah.
"9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh."
This first phrase regarding Sarah was meaningful. Abraham believed that in a year they would have a son, Isaac, but Sarah still doubted this, for she had seen in herself the end of such biological processes. If she had been barren for so many decades, then how could she have believed that she could give birth when her whole nature and body were completely out of order for this business due to her old age? The Lord continues His speech as if nothing had happened and speaks about His next visit, which was to come at the same time a year later. He adds that Sarah will already have born a son by His coming. The Lord said all this for Sarah's sake in order to strengthen her faith, otherwise she would have refused Abraham in his attempts to conceive a child, deigning them senseless and even outrageous. Sarah heard all the words spoken by the guest, and the Lord knew it.
The Scripture then tells us the following, which has nothing to do with Abraham and Sarah: "Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women[.]" This allows us to understand that the birth of Isaac was to be a miracle of God, albeit with the use of human "technology" for the production of children. Sarah knew all this well and understood it was impossible for her to have children. Since she had mistaken these travelers for ordinary people, she did not have faith in their words: "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" This was not simple or hackneyed disbelief. Most likely, this was self-doubt and disbelief that Sarah would be so honored and happy to have such consolation in such loathsome circumstances. That is why she expressed her doubt with an internal laugh, and not a verbal repudiation. She admitted that God could perform such a miracle, but not in her case and not for her. Unfortunately, believers often manifest such disbelief in relation to themselves. People believe that God can do this and that for whom He wants, but not for them. This can also be called being over-humbled, and this is exactly what Sarah was experiencing. It was her human weakness, which God immediately cured with His rebuke:
"13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh."
The Lord first displayed His omniscience, which frightened Sarah. He repeated and voiced her thought exactly! Then He made mention of a well-known truth: "Is any thing too hard for the LORD?" And then he added information about the now set date of His visit to Abraham the following year, and that Sarah would have a son. After that, Sarah was no longer laughing, and became even more frightened. It only then dawned on her precisely who she was dealing with. The fear of God's punishment suppressed her mind (as God could simply choose to deprive her of the miracle of giving birth to Abraham's heir for her unbelief) and she did not confess her guilt even before the Lord God. Instead, she only said: "I laughed not..." God once again rebuked her, but this time for her hiding the truth: "Nay; but thou didst laugh..." This was enough to heal Sarah's weakness. She was then ready to conceive her son, Isaac!
Having completed His mission with Abraham and Sarah, the Lord then moved on. However, He did not hide where He was going or why from His friend Abraham:
"16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.
17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know."
We see that Abraham, demonstrating both love for his neighbor and his hospitality, went to see his guests off. The Lord noted Abraham's new status as a friend of God! God began to speak to his friend Abraham in a very gentle manner. "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do[?]" In this, God not only showed His friendly attitude towards Abraham, but also Abraham's great boldness towards Him, which Abraham had received at that very moment, having successfully passed this most sophisticated of God's tests! The Lord first repeated to Abraham (this time as His friend) that a great and strong people would certainly descend from him, and that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed in him (for the sake of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ). The Lord then began to speak of Sodom and Gomorrah, revealing His mission to Abraham - to personally verify the degree of sin of the inhabitants of these cities and then take appropriate measures. Here the Lord revealed to us that He does not use only His Omniscience in defining sinfulness and the severity of sin, but seeks evidence and facts from people as well! In addition, He showed us that the cry for gravely sinning people ascends to and reaches Him. Nevertheless, God did not rely solely on this cry (lament or plaint). He also descended to people in order to personally double-check the complaint He had received and to make sure that the alleged sin actually existed. That is why extremely severe sins and iniquities are known as "grievous."
"22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place."
We see something marvelous in this passage. Firstly, we see that the Lord departed for Sodom and Abraham's mind and spirit continued to be present before God despite the fact that his body remained in place! He knew about the grave sins of the Sodomites and understood how this inspection would end for them. Therefore, driven by pity, compassion, and charity, he hastened to use his advantageous position in order to alleviate the lot of the sinners. God permits Abraham's boldness, and, in yielding to Abraham's requirements, uses him as a means to demonstrate His mercy to sinners. In doing so, God teaches us a most important truth about the mediation of His friends and chosen ones on behalf of other people, even the most sinful.
This fact and lesson by God completely shatter the attractive but erroneous opinion of the Protestants that there is supposedly only one mediator (Jesus Christ) between God and people, and all the rest of God's saints in this regard are apparently redundant. In fact, they are suffering from a considerable conceptual misunderstanding here. When the Scripture tells us that Christ is the only mediator between people and God, and that He is the only teacher, and that He alone can forgive people of their sins, it brings to us the truth that Christ really is both an essential way and a source of these services. However, this does not at all contradict or refute the truth that He can, at His desire, pass (or delegate) these official functions and powers of His to those people to whom He wants to give them! Thus, He gave His Apostles the power to forgive and allow the sins of people, as well as bind their sins. He gave other people in the church the authority and grace to be prophets, teachers, priests, and prayer mediators between people and Him!
In Abraham, we see God's formation of such a mediator! As a result of Abraham's intercession for sinful people, the bar of divine patience and justice was brought down to the lowest level - ten righteous people per city, even cities such as Sodom (with about ten thousand people). And this was not a one-time lowering of the bar, but an everlasting one, set by God at Abraham's request for the earthly life of all people forever! God did not permit Abraham to persuade Him to spare fewer than ten righteous people, as evidenced by the following line: "And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place."
CHAPTER EIGHT: Lot's Repentance and Abraham's Preparation of the Cross Tree
Chapter 19 of the Book of Genesis discusses Lot and the annihilation of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other five cities. Since there is nothing about Abraham in this chapter, I will not dwell on it for long. I will only speak briefly about what happened after Lot and his two daughters were saved.
"30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
37 And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab [saying 'he is of my father']: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.
38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi [saying 'he is the son of my line']: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day."
The holy Tradition of the Church of Christ brings up what happened next, as well as Abraham's reaction to this involuntary sin. Let's take a look at this fascinating oral tradition, which starts from Abraham's belief in the true God:
"There were seven generations of the family of Eber before the holy forefather Abraham lived in the Chaldeans. But the descendants of Eber lost their faith in the One God, and began to worship idols. Terah, father of Abraham, was one of the first men on earth to make idols. The forefather Abram, later renamed Abraham by God (meaning 'father of all the faithful'), was born and lived in Ur of the Chaldeans." George Kedrenos wrote the following about how Abraham came to believe in God: "Twenty-four years after he was born, he came to know the true God who abides in heaven, who is omnipresent and contains and rules everything, and [he] worshiped Him. He knew the Creator through visible creation, for he was taught by his fathers to consider heavenly movements, the course of the stars, knowledge of the nature of the earth and sea, as well as all the Chaldean wisdom in which his father Terah, grandfather Nahor, and great-grandfather Serug were skillful. However, Abraham's forefathers, despite the fact that they were wise, made a foolish mistake in not comprehending God who created everything and serving that which was made by human hands (i.e. idols)."
By scrutinizing the starry sky, which in those places seemed to hang particularly low, and observing the course of the heavenly bodies, Abraham realized that there could not be many gods, and began to profess monotheism. None of his relatives accepted Abraham's faith except for his wife, Sarah.
"In the sixtieth year of his life, Abraham saw that he could not convert anyone from idolatry, and his zeal for God was kindled. Waking up in the middle of the night, he secretly set fire to the temple of the idols. As the temple was burning down, the brothers woke up and rushed to save the idols from the fire. When Haran, taking most diligent care of the idols, entered the burning temple, he was badly burned and perished thereupon. The Jews say that, in regards to Abraham, the Chaldeans were wildly angry at him for the destruction of their idols and tossed him into the fire, but he simply walked out unharmed, as he was protected by God from the flames. Abraham's father Terah was, upon seeing such a thing, amazed by this miracle, recognized the true God, and rejected all idols. From that moment on, he would also serve the one true God alongside Abraham.
For this great feat in professing his faith, the Lord God appeared to Abraham and issued a command: "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee" (Genesis 12:1). Abraham, Sarah, his father Terah, and his nephew Lot (the son of Abraham's deceased brother Haran) went to the Land of Promise. But for the sin of making idols, Terah did not enter the Land of Promise, and he died in Harran. Abraham settled in the land of Canaan, which was later called Judea and Palestine. "And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land" (Genesis 12:6-7).
At this time, a famine struck in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to Egypt with all his house. After returning from there, he invited Lot to split up so that their numerous herds would not be cramped: "Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelled in the cities of the plain, and pitched his tent toward Sodom" (Genesis 13,12).
Daniel the Traveler exuberantly describes the surroundings of Hebron, the Land of Abraham's Promise: "It is now, in truth, a land blessed by God with all that is good: wheat, and wine, and oil, and every vegetable is abundant, and the cattle and sheep are multiplying, cattle of good quality are born twice in summer, and there are many bees. In the stone, over the red mountains, there are red grapes throughout the hills, and there are too many fruit-bearing trees to count: olive, oleifera, figs, apples, cherries in bunches, and all kinds of vegetables. It is superior to all vegetables grown on the ground, and there is no equal to them anywhere; it is as a heavenly crop."
Hebron, the plains of Mamre ... Even in Old Testament times, the place where Abraham and Sarah settled was steeped in the memory of even more ancient events. According to Tradition, this was the Damascus Valley where the Lord created the first man and brought him into paradise. In this center of earthly and heavenly existence next to the plains of Mamre, the Lord appeared to Abraham and Sarah in the form of three angels.
According to Hebrew tradition, the Canaanites (the inhabitants of these blessed places) disliked the newcomers and sought ways to spite them. Noticing that Abraham demonstrated exceptional hospitality to strangers and did not sit down to a meal without guests, they stopped to chase away all the strangers who were passing through this land. So before being visited by the Holy Trinity, Abraham did not eat anything for about two weeks. Calling on Christians to emulate Abraham's virtue, the holy apostle says: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2).
Even until quite recently, there was a custom in the East to not ask a traveler about their name or occupation before they were fed and rested. So, Abraham and Sarah could only guess who their guests were through their words, full of God's power and wisdom. The Lord did not conceal the fact that he was going to punish Sodom from Abraham: "...Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now [and see]..." (Genesis 18:20-21). Abraham accompanied the travelers from the plain of Mamre to the mountain, from which Sodom was already visible. "And here there is a place," wrote the Abbot Daniel, "on the top of that mountain, red and greatly high, it was on that place that Abraham, falling on his face and bowing to Holy Trinity, and praying for Sodom, uttered: 'Lord! Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?'" This is how Abraham prayed for his nephew Lot. The road went down, and, as Tradition the Monastery of the Cross goes, the travelers left their staves with Abraham.
"And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways" (Genesis 19:1-2). Saint Dimitry of Rostov explains why only two Persons of the Holy Trinity came to Sodom: "The mysteries of God are not to be known, and His fates are untested. However, a prudent mind can arrive to the fact that our Lord God is generous in doing good for people, but more sparing in their punishment. Desiring to endow His servant Abraham with many gifts, to resolve his childlessness, to give him a son in old age, to multiply his tribe like the stars in the heavens, and make him the forefather of the Messiah who was to be born, God came to Abraham in perfect form, in three angels, all ready to pour out blessings... Desiring to also punish the sinful Sodomites, consume their bodies with fire, and condemn their souls to eternal hell, He seemed to belittle Himself, coming only in two Persons to them. It's almost as if He didn't want to come, but was urged to do so by their supernatural sins, crying to Him day and night and demanding vengeance. Perhaps it was for this reason that He came to Sodom in two Persons instead of three, so that a sinner turning to repentance in their mind at the hour of their execution would be able to turn to the one Person of God that had arrived not to condemn, but to extend mercy. Perhaps He did so precisely so that such a sinner would have the ability to turn from a wrathful God to a merciful one."
Knowing the evil ways of his fellow citizens, Lot wanted to host the travelers in his home. But the inhabitants of the city, full of salacious dreams, demanded Lot bring the guests out to them. It was then that the holy travelers blinded the wicked crowd, and they ordered Lot and his wife and daughters to leave the city and flee to the mountain without looking back. "Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt" (Genesis 19:24-26).
The next day, Abraham ascended the mountain, returning to the place to which he had led the travelers. "And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace" (Genesis 19:28). The Dead Sea spilled over the places where these cities formerly stood. "The sea of Sodom is dead," so wrote Daniel the Traveler, "and there is nothing living in it: no fish, no crabs, not a single one; but if the Jordan current brings fish into the sea, they cannot live even for a short while, and will perish quickly. Black pitch emerges from the bottom of the sea, and much of it floats on the surface; and the stench that comes from that sea is unspeakable." Even birds fly not across, but around the Dead Sea, as the air above it is saturated with dangerous fumes. For that reason, Abraham left the plain of Mamre, where he had been honored to see the Holy Trinity, and moved to Gerar.
Lot's daughters were deeply shocked by God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and they came to the conclusion that no one was left on earth except them. "And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father" (Genesis 19:31-32). When Lot woke up and realized his sin, he wept bitterly and, seeking repentance, went to his uncle Abraham, for the Holy Scriptures say that Lot was righteous (2 Peter 2:8).
According to one of the Traditions of the Monastery of the Cross, Abraham gave Lot the following penance: in the place where the monastery now stands, they drove the three staves of cyprus, cedar, and fir that Abraham had from the visiting Holy Trinity into the ground. He commanded Lot to fetch water from the Jordan and water these staves. Lot traveled twenty-five kilometers every day to do this. And, as the Jewish tradition states, a demon appeared to him on the road in the form of a tired woman, then as an over-encumbered donkey, and then as a thirsty traveler, and drank all of Lot's water. The demonic harassment stopped when Lot told Abraham about them and Abraham revealed the meaning of this temptation. Lot watered these staffs for many years to atone for his sin, and they sprouted. Moreover, they grew together into one trunk, and had different branches. Many people came to get a look at this miracle, and this place has been etched into the centuries since.
This is how the three-trunk tree grew until King Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem. "The former Church of the Holy of Holies was being constructed in Jerusalem by Solomon, and many large trees were brought in from all over. One hefty tree was cut down and brought to Jerusalem to the site, but by the sight of God it was not used in the building of the church. It stood for a long time in another place, and for a short time in another place still. To this end, the Tree was placed next to a wall in the church passageways, and people who came to the church to rest from their labors sat upon it. When the queen of Sheba, who had the name Nikavel and was of the ancient Sibyl prophetesses, came to Jerusalem to hear Solomon's wisdom, she, looking at this wonderful holy building and beholding this Tree there, was suspended in the horror of her prophetic spirit. She prophesized that God, sheltered in human nature, would die on the Tree."
Fearing such a prophecy, Dimitry of Rostov continues, King Solomon ordered that the tree be buried deep in the ground near the Pool of Bethesda, which was also known as the Sheep Gate because sacrificial animals were washed there before being led to the Lord's temple. As time passed, water eroded the earth away, and only the tree remained in the font. An angel of the Lord went down to the font to wash the silt from it once a year. As the holy Scriptures point out, the Angel of the Lord descends into the baptismal font every summer and stirs the water, and whoever is first to step into that water afterward is cured of whatever ails them (John 5.4). The waters of the font became healing waters, and Bethesda, a house of mercy that consisted of five covered areas, was built. Many sick, blind, lame, withered, and waiting people lay in the waters, waiting for it to be disturbed (John 5:3). Our Lord Jesus Christ came here and healed a paralyzed man.
When the time came for the torment of our Lord Jesus Christ, the cross on which the Lord was crucified for us was fashioned from this wet, heavy, and useless tree. Just as the tree of paradise was the tree of Adam's disobedience, so the Cross Tree became the tree of obedience, which Lot rendered unto Abraham, and our Lord Jesus Christ unto to the Heavenly Father. "The Trinity Cross is a pure Tree, and is of the Trinity as it bears a triune image," the Holy Church of the Cross professes.
From Tradition, we thus see the important participation of Abraham in the preparation of the Cross Tree, on which our Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for the redemption of the human race. The holy forefather Abraham, through his religious genius, intuited that he needed to take the three staves left by the most Holy Trinity on the plains of Mamre and plant them with faith in the expectation that they will take root and sprout. He appointed a penitential task to Lot, and thus tied this repentance to the future Cross Tree. By doing so, Abraham corrected what Adam had wrought with his sin, restoring obedience and repentance and making it the basis for the humankind's salvation. The fruit of Lot's obedience and repentance was the Cross Tree, which served as an altar for our Lord Jesus Christ. After Christ's condemnation to death on the cross, the Pharisees and scribes concocted ways to further aggravate Jesus' suffering. They then remembered that there was a log lying in the Font of Bethesda, so they commanded the log be brought hence and that a cross, specially designed for Jesus' execution, be made from it. Since this tree had been lying in water for several centuries, it had become inundated with water, which means it was much heavier than a dried log. That is why our Lord had to carry the cross, which was five times heavier than usual, to the place of His execution! The evil intent of the Pharisees and scribes was concealed in the punishment of the carrying of the cross. However, our God created from this Tree the pure and life-giving Cross of Christ, making it an instrument of great divine power and a weapon against demons, or the enemies of our salvation!
CHAPTER NINE: Abraham and King Abimelech
"1 And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.
2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: [For he was afraid to say that Sarah was his wife, as the residents of the country may have sought to kill him because of her] and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.
4 But Abimelech had not come near her: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?
5 Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
6 And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.
7 Now therefore restore the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine."
Abraham, after seeing the result of the Sodom and the other cities' punishment, decided to move to another area and therefore stayed in Gerar, the king of which was Abimelech. Since he was not sure of these new peoples' friendliness or hospitality in that new place, he took precautions regarding his wife Sarah. He called her his sister and commanded she do the same. In those days, there was evidently a practice among kings of forcibly taking the women they liked from people who settled or passed through their land. Nevertheless, the union of marriage was revered by all, and a woman who was married could not be taken. However, if a king particularly wanted to take a woman for himself while simultaneously maintaining his formal respect for the marriage, then he simply ordered his servants to kill the husband before taking the wife, who would then become an eligible widow. This is exactly what Abraham feared. As we see, Abraham did not do so in vain, for Abimelech quickly learned of Sarah and ordered that she be brought to him. In this case, which is similar to when Sarah was in Egypt and Pharaoh took her, the Lord God allowed this temptation to happen in order to provide Abraham and his people with a safe place to stay in a new country. Abraham again trusted in God and knew that He would sort everything out in the best possible way. God then justified Abraham's faith. On the first night, God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him that he and his people would die because he had taken a married woman. Abimelech began to correctly justify himself with the fact that Abraham and Sarah had misled him, and that he had taken her believing that she was a free woman. We ought to be surprised by the fact that the Lord God personally intervened in such intimate aspects of the family life of His chosen ones (Abraham and Sarah) and preserved their marriage! This temptation also allowed the Lord God to go to King Abimelech and make him respect and fear Abraham. The stakes in this case - the lives of the king and his people - were decidedly high! Abimelech was indeed afraid of God's threat and tried to defend himself by referring to the fact that Abraham and Sarah had set him up, hiding their status as husband and wife. He told God that he did it in the integrity of his heart and innocency of his hands. Then convinced that Abimelech was afraid and would fulfill His command, the Lord God tells him that he knows that he did it in the integrity of heart, adding that it was for this reason that He stopped Abimelech from touching Abraham's wife. God then commands the king to return Sarah to Abraham, calls Abraham His prophet, and makes the life of the king and his people dependent on Abraham's prayer for them after Sarah's return.
Let us examine what exactly Abimelech did.
"8 Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told all these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.
9 Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.
10 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?
11 And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.
12 And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.
13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother.
14 And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife.
15 And Abimelech said, Behold, my land is before thee: dwell where it pleaseth thee.
16 And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved.
17 So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.
18 For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife."
We see that the greatly frightened Abimelech shared the conditions revealed to him by God with his people, who had also become deeply afraid. Abimelech then summons Abraham to him and reprimands him for concealing the truth about his marriage to Sarah and thereby placing the king and his people in a mortally dangerous position. The king wanted to clarify how he had sinned against Abraham, why Abraham had placed such a terrible sin on him and his kingdom, and what Abraham had in mind when doing so. Abraham answered the king as to why he did so rather simply. He explained to Abimelech that he thought there was no fear of God in this place, and therefore he could have been killed for his wife. Then he added that Sarah was in actuality his sister, but only his half-sister. Abraham's explanation (which reflected the true state of affairs) satisfied the king, who then, in atonement for his oversight and in the joy of deliverance from death, presented Abraham with a thousand pieces of silver, cattle, and servants, as well as allowed Abraham to live on his land wherever he pleased. Thus, the Lord God provided Abraham and his people with a safe and secure stay in a foreign land through this temptation. This should teach us to have faith in our God and completely entrust Him of our earthly existence.
CHAPTER TEN: The Birth of Isaac and the Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael
"1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.
5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.
8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned."
Finally, Abraham and Sarah faced the fulfillment of God's promise of an heir. The miracle they had long awaited had come to pass! The Lord looked upon Sarah and did as He spoke. He made her womb, too barren to conceive or give birth, alive and capable of conceiving and giving birth to a son, Isaac. The greatest sorrow of this holy couple's earthly lives was successfully dissolved! God's promise miraculously came true! Regarding God's promises, this teaches us that they can be a long time coming, often only arriving when there is seemingly no possibility for them to be realized (at least according to external circumstances)! We all need to stock up on patience and unshakeable faith in God. Abraham names his son Isaac, as revealed to him by God, and this is an exceedingly rare case in human history. Even Eve got her name from Adam, and not from God. The name Isaac means "the one who will laugh." God gave this name to Abraham's heir to show that this promised son would bring joy to his parents and hope to all people. The one-hundred-year-old Abraham obeys God and circumcises his son on the eighth day after his birth. This was the first case that God's sacred law for His chosen people was fulfilled in an accurate and timely manner. All prior circumcisions had been performed on people at a later age. It is Abraham who first put the law of God into practice, which made him a trailblazer in this regard.
The birth of her son made Sarah laugh, but it was not the laugh of self-distrust that she showed before the Holy Trinity. Rather, it was a laugh of joy about the miraculous birth of her son! On the day that Isaac stopped breastfeeding, Abraham had a great feast. It was a feast of faith and gratitude to the great God, who always kept His promises. In a spiritual sense, this feast represented God's feast on the occasion of the birth of His Son Jesus Christ on earth, as well as the marriage feast of the Son of God and His Church that will take place after the universe's transition from its current existence to divine prosperity.
"9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking [her son Isaac].
10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son [Ishmael].
12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed."
However, no joy on earth can last long before it is overshadowed by everyday troubles and sorrows. And so, in the family of Abraham, who turned out to have two sons from two different women, discord and conflicts of interests arose. Hagar's son Ishmael, who was fourteen years older than Isaac, grew arrogant and mocked Isaac. Sarah took note of this and began to demand decisive action from Abraham to put a stop to it: "Cast out this bondwoman and her son[,] for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac." Then, regarding the completion of God's promise, she realized the full extent of the mistake she had made earlier through lack of faith when she asked Abraham to conceive with Hagar. Sarah then tried to right this wrong for the sake of her son Isaac. However, the thought of dismissing Ishmael was wholly unpleasant to Abraham, as he very much loved his firstborn son. But God's providence acted through Sarah in this case (pay attention to the miraculous alternation of God's providence influencing the wife through her husband and vice versa), and for that reason God came to the aid of His friend Abraham. He calmed Abraham with the following words: "Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed."
It is fascinating to see this reverse flow in the relationship between husband and wife, the first of its kind since the fall of man. Specifically, regarding the fact that Adam was punished by God because he hearkened unto the voice of his wife, whereas God is directly instructing Abraham to hang on his wife's every single word! What a wonderful metamorphosis! And something very much unheard of at that time, for a wife was to be fully obedient to her husband! It then turns out that God began equalizing the positions of women in families from the very moment of Isaac's birth, starting with Abraham's family. This was necessary so that the standing of women would be raised to the level of performing God's works from the moment that the Holy Virgin Mary, chosen by the Lord to mother the Son of God, appeared among Abraham's descendants. It also shows us that Sarah (thanks to the efforts and influence of Abraham) had made such remarkable spiritual progress that she was able to correct her position as the wife of the family through her humility and obedience to her husband. She not only restored the equality of the wife to her husband, which had been partly lost by Eve, but also entrenched this status of women's equality in the family and society (Church) in a way that was pleasing to God. Her behavior is an example of the best kind of natural, pious feminism. If people could have immediately understood what this holy couple was demonstrating to them, then they would not have to fight for women's equality in families and society for many centuries with the God-adverse and crude methods of historical feminism known to us.
God does not disregard Ishmael, the son of the slave girl. Calling Ishmael the son of a bondwoman [slave girl], God shows Abraham the great providential difference between his two sons - the son of a free woman and the son of a slave. In this, he teaches both Abraham and us to always give preference to God's providence over our personal human feelings, sympathies, and affections. On the basis of this circumstance, the holy apostle Paul issued the following teaching:
"22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free."
God also took care of the biological aspect of his friend Abraham's life as a father: "And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed." That is, God promises that He will make a great nation from the slave girl's purely out of love for Abraham, as well as for the sake of his seed. This illustrates the significance one person can have on the course of human history!
Abraham then humbled himself and obeyed the will of God.
"14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15 And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
16 And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept.
17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.
20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.
21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt."
We see that Abraham gave Hagar and Ishmael bread and water and sent them away, entrusting them to the will of God. For us, this is a lesson in pleasing God, when a person breaks off their relationship with those closest and dearest to them forever for the sake of faith in Him. Later, our Lord Jesus Christ established a similar attitude in people (preference for a faithful person over one's human affections), albeit in a more comprehensive and deep way, through a series of commandments.
Hagar, then cast out by Abraham, got lost in the desert immediately. By allowing this, God both humbled her and showed her what happiness she had enjoyed when she was with Abraham, His chosen one, even if she had lived with Abraham as a slave. Now the only thing she had left from Abraham was a son, and for his sake, God rescues Hagar from mortal danger. Hagar realized on her own that they would not survive. Therefore, she left Ishmael alone and walked the distance of a bow shot away from the child so as not to witness the boy's death, surrendering entirely to her bitter weeping. For Abraham's sake, God looked not at Hagar and her lamentations, but at her son. An angel of God bolstered and encouraged Hagar with a voice from the heavens, emphasizing to her that she had to go and take the boy in her arms for both his sake and the sake of God's promise to make a great nation of him. After these words, she saw a well with living water and gave the boy a drink. This passage teaches us to value and respect those people around us in whom we notice signs of God's chosen status and/or the activity of God's special providence for them. We should literally cling to such people, helping them and serving them diligently and selflessly! By doing so, we are drawn into the sketch of God's special providence, and God will keep us and our loved ones for the sake of our service to His people. This not, however, something He would do if we were to deviate from such service! We would then be helpless before the vicissitudes of common providence and simply perish in any case similar to that of Hagar's.
The Scripture then goes on to say that God was with Ishmael. This was only on account of his father Abraham! How great Abraham must have been for God to spend His time on the son of a slave girl! His mother found him a wife from Egypt, where she was from. Peoples' habits and preferences thus affect the course of their lives, as well as the lives of their children.
"22 And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech [and his friend Ahuzzath] and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:
23 Now therefore swear unto me here by God that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned.
24 And Abraham said, I will swear.
25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away.
26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I of it, but to day.
27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What mean these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
30 And [Abraham] said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.
32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
33 And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.
34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days."
This passage tells about the relationship between Abraham and King Abimelech. Abimelech, fearing a God-protected man such as Abraham, decided to secure a promise from Abraham to not harm him, his children, or his grandchildren. To be sure of this, he turned to Abraham and acknowledged that Abraham was under God's protection. Then he asked Abraham to swear to not carry out the aforementioned harmful acts. Abraham, taking into account the king's condition, swore an oath. After that, Abraham began to reproach the king for the fact that his servants had taken a well of water dug by Abraham away from his people. We should take into account here that a well with water is the most important factor for human survival in a desert. That is, the people could have and should have fought for it. However, Abraham wisely avoided escalating the conflict. Out of his love and care for his people, he took advantage of the opportunity presented to him to solve a vital issue for them, as a wise man would. Abimelech's appeal to Abraham for protection became this opportunity. The king was forced to make excuses in front of Abraham and demonstrate that he was allegedly unaware of this conflict (which in reality was unlikely). Then Abraham, in order to pluck out the very root of this conflict, gives Abimelech several heads of sheep and cattle as payment for his own well. Moreover, he sets seven lambs apart from the sheep. When the king asked him why he had separated the lambs from the sheep, Abraham replied: "For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well." Abraham thus displayed his wisdom in everyday affairs. Through this circumstance, he taught us to take all property matters seriously and strengthen our rights to legal certificates and payments. The place where Abraham and Abimelech made an alliance and took their oaths is called Beersheba. After Abimelech left, Abraham planted a grove in this place and called on the name of the Lord, the eternal God. Having consecrated the area in the land of the Philistines in the name of the Lord God, Abraham lived there as a wanderer for many days.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Pinnacle of Abraham's Life - the Binding of Isaac
"1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham, and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen."
We have come to the very pinnacle of Abraham's life and his greatest deed, which was of immense importance for all of humankind. God had been preparing Abraham for this great deed for a long time, and the day had finally come when Abraham was fully ready for it. Through His providence, the Lord God set the stage for this task to be carried out, establishing all of the necessary circumstances and conditions, and determined how He would initiate this chain of events. To start off this deed, the Lord God chose the temptation of Abraham.
An unprepared reader may get confused here.
After all, the apostle James wrote quite clearly about temptation.
"13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."
On the other hand, in the Lord's prayer, we cry out and say: "And lead us not into temptation." This means that God can indeed lead a person into temptation, and Abraham was tempted directly. This is a typical case of multiple different things being captured by a single word. The apostle James spoke of the temptation of evil. People fall into such temptations on their own through their lust and other sinful passions. In the "Our Father," we ask God to not allow us to be tempted into destruction or beyond our strength. God tested Abraham's faith, faithfulness, and love for God! If Abraham had known the "Our Father," he would have prayed for deliverance from temptations, so that God would not have led him into the temptation that was waiting for him. But God would not have accepted this prayer for a reason that you will learn about a little bit later.
So, when tempting Abraham, God did not appear to him or come to him, but simply spoke to him. How this occurred is impossible for us to understand. To put it figuratively, it was likely a kind of phone call from heaven. A boss does not have to personally appear before a subordinate in order to issue a command to them. Sending the order by letter or phone is more than enough. The important thing is that the subordinate be sure that the order did indeed come from their boss. In this case, Abraham was sure that he was speaking with the Lord God. He had already reached perfection by this time and had the gift of discerning spirits, so he therefore knew and felt His Lord God all too well. God was also sure that Abraham was sure that he was being addressed by God. What does God command Abraham to do? Something absolutely insane, unnatural, and inhuman - sacrificing his son to God by killing him with his own two hands! Anyone who has children can imagine God's command being applied to themselves and see its horrific monstrosity and complete unfeasibility! If God had commanded something like that to some of us (and we were sure that it was God who had done so), then none of us would have been able to fulfill God's command! We would lie at God's feet, begging Him not to demand the impossible from us. We would ask him to just kill ourselves, or in an extreme case, for Him to kill our child either Himself or through someone else, but not ask us to do such a thing! But God offers Abraham something even worse! What Abraham needs to do is not the only important point here - how God presents the task is also critical! Just take a moment to think about the words that God spoke: "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."
What is God doing here? He is making Abraham's task as difficult as possible! He is reminding him that Isaac is his only son, but in what sense is Isaac Abraham's only son? In the sense of God's promise! God had promised that the Hebrew people would multiply to countless numbers, and other nations and kings would arise from Isaac! And then all of a sudden, God supposedly proposed that Abraham use his own two hands to destroy the very possibility of fulfilling His promise! God further intensifies the temptation by telling Abraham that He knows he loves his son Isaac: "Isaac, whom thou lovest"!
It is essential for us to know and remember this in order to process this passage further.
If we didn't already know what Abraham was going to do next, what could we dream up here? We would assume that he would plead with God to not force him to do such a thing, that he would rather offer himself, Sarah, and all of his people as a sacrifice, but not Isaac. However, we see that Abraham did not utter a single word to God! In the morning, he just gathered his things for a trip with Isaac and their servants. He informed neither Sarah nor the two servants accompanying him of the trip's purpose. Having prepared some wood (for it was difficult to gather firewood on the mountain), Abraham went to the place that God had shown him. At the same time, he did not engage in any hysterics and there was no gloom or grief in his face, otherwise those who were with him would have noticed it. Abraham could not reveal the truth even to his beloved son when asked about the sacrifice:
"7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together."
Abraham left his servants at the foot of the mountain and began to climb with Isaac. It could not have possibly occurred to him then that he was serving as a prototype of God the Father, and his son was doing the same for the Son of God Jesus Christ! We have the good fortune to know and understand this! After arriving at the site, Abraham built an altar. This did not evoke any questions from Isaac, for his father had erected many altars during his life. When asked about a lamb, Isaac received the answer that God would provide one.
The time then came when Abraham had to reveal everything to his son, and he did so not in words, but in deed: "And bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood." What was in Abraham's heart at that time, only the Lord God knows! We see that Abraham was in all seriousness preparing to kill Isaac and offer his body as a burnt offering, not realizing that God was only tempting him and would not let him do so: "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son." The test of Abraham had already been completed, and there was no longer any point in really killing Isaac. That is why the angel of God, at God's command, stops Abraham at the moment when he raised his hand to slay Isaac:
"11 And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham, and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."
The Angel of the Lord stops the sacrificial slaughter of Isaac with his heavenly command. Abraham, who had acquired the skill of obedience by this point in time, could not repudiate this command, but it is important for us to see what else the Angel said to Abraham besides the command that Isaac should not be slain. The key words here are the following: "thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." We see that the angel spoke from Person of God. First, God emphasized Abraham's fear of Him, which drove him in this unbearable feat, and then added words that are critical for us to remember: "thou has not withheld thy son, thine only son from me." Why is it so vital for us to remember, and most importantly, to understand these words? Because they reveal to us the essence of the temptation of Abraham that God permitted. They explain to us why God tempted Abraham so cruelly. God was preparing the sacrifice of His Only Son for the redemption and salvation of fallen people! Since salvation is a bilateral affair, humankind is also required to participate in it. God sought out a person like Abraham in order to obtain the support of mankind, for He did not wish to voluntarily offer the sacrifice of His Son. He did this so that Abraham, by voluntarily sacrificing his only beloved and promised son, would give God a reason to offer the sacrifice of His only beloved Son in return on behalf of the salvation of all people! Thus, Abraham not only achieved personal perfection through his faith and obedience to God, but also provided a lawful basis for God to not remain a debtor by responding to Abraham's sacrifice with the sacrifice of His beloved Son! If Abraham had not chosen to sacrifice Isaac (and this could have been the case), then God would have had to look for another person who could have done such a thing. This is said to encourage understanding, and not to clarify reality, for God was sure that His chosen Abraham would not let Him down. It is clear that God did not leave Abraham ineffectual in this circumstance, but sent him a real lamb, which Abraham then sacrificed to Him.
Now why God chose Abraham as the father of all people who believe in Him should be completely clear to us all. In addition to Abraham's brilliant religiosity and personal qualities, God chose him because he foresaw that Abraham would be able to sacrifice his only promised and beloved son, and this was absolutely necessary for God for the redemption and salvation of all people!
The further narrative could be omitted, but we retain the inertia we have to wrap things up.
"15 And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,
16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:
17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
19 So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;
21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,
22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.
23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham's brother.
24 And his concubine, whose name was Reumah, she bare also Tebah, and Gaham, and Thahash, and Maachah."
After Abraham passed God's trial, the Angel of God turned to Abraham once again. This time the Lord confirmed His earlier promises to Abraham with His oath! This meant that these promises would certainly come true no matter what, even if the earth and the sky had suddenly disappeared! God then declared the reason for His favor for Abraham: "thou...hast not withheld thy son, thine only son." Further, the Lord tells of His promise to Abraham and his descendants:
"17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice."
It is important for us to see that all of the peoples of the earth will be blessed in the seed of Abraham. When did this come to pass? It is clear that this happened in Jesus Christ's arrival to earth, in His incarnation, in His redemptive sacrifice on the cross, in His resurrection, in His ascension to heaven, and in His Church!
Abraham then returned to his servants and earthly affairs. He learned that his brother Nahor had grown up and had several children. Now Abraham himself would have to work on having children in order to be obedient to God such that He could fulfill His promises!
Sarah fulfilled her mission and left this life in anticipation of an eternal one. Thanks to Abraham, she fell into what was known as the Bosom of Abraham, which, although it was located in the infernal dungeon, was separated from its torments by an impassable abyss. The righteous who were in this bosom were waiting for the fulfillment of God's promises and the Son of God's arrival to earth. God's angels came to this bosom from time to time, bringing new souls of the departed righteous and bolstering all the righteous ones patiently waiting for Christ to liberate them.
Abraham found a bride for Isaac, and tried to fulfill God's promise as best he could.
"1 Then again Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah.
2 And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah.
3 And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim.
4 And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher, and Hanoch, and Abida, and Eldaah. All these were the children of Keturah.
5 And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac.
6 But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts, and sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, unto the east country.
7 And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years.
8 Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.
9 And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
10 The field which Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth: there was Abraham buried, and Sarah his wife.
11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahairoi."
Abraham lived to be 175 years old. He was buried in the same cave where his faithful friend and wife Sarah had been previously buried.
This cave was located not far from the place where the Holy Trinity had visited Abraham and Sarah. The oak tree known as Mamre, under which Abraham received the Holy Trinity, still exists. True, only a small branch remains of it, propped up by various braces. There is a Tradition about this oak tree that the end of the world will come when it finally dries out, along with the resurrection of the dead, the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory to judge all people and demons, as well as blessed and endless life with the Lord God in His Kingdom!
This concludes our wondrous journey through the life of our wondrous forefather Abraham! May God accept this humble work for His glory, and for the glory of Abraham!
Glory and thanksgiving to the Lord God forever and ever, amen!
God enlightens all those who come into the world. In every person, God places his law and the guardian of the law, also known as a conscience. This law is known as internal law. Those people who heed this inner law are the best part of all people who turn to God. They rely on what is godly in them and go to God because of His divine love in them. That is, they find love in themselves and direct it back to its source. This is the most correct, wisest, most godly decision, and therefore a blessed one.
But alas, as life, experience, and history have shown us, people like this are always few and far between. Their number is extremely small. At any time, in any generation, there are only a few of them. Of course, different time periods yielded different results in this respect. Sometimes there were dozens or hundreds of such people, and sometimes a mere handful, but there scarcity was always a constant, and therefore their price in the eyes of God was incredibly high! Abraham was a unique person in this regard.
Saint Anthony the Great wrote on the distinguishing feature of such people in the following way: "When the word of the Lord touches their souls, they follow it, devoid of any doubts..." They can commune from a single word from God, as the word is enough for them to respond to the enlightenment and internal law imbued therein without hesitation or doubt, and go to their God with happiness and zeal. The holy father gives us an example of such a person: "... Such as Abraham the patriarch." That is, the great father proffers the example of the holy and righteous Abraham, who, in response to God's call, left everything he knew and went wherever God told him - that is, into complete uncertainty and who knows which land - without reservation.
"For when the Lord saw that he did not know of divine love from the teachings of men, but from the divine law within him, only then did He appear to him and say: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee' (Genesis 12:1).
Logically following, the distinctive feature of these people is not based in human learning or the influence of sorrows and difficult circumstances on them (which often force people to seek God), but rather, they have root in the divine law laid within them to respond to God and go where He tells them. God tests this inner feeling of theirs so that they can discover it in themselves and understand how substantial it is, after which He can easily guide these people. Why? For they are extraordinarily God-fearing, reverent, and fulfill every one of God's commands without a single doubt. When they receive a command, they simply go and carry it out. If we cannot make sense of this, then we will never understand how Abraham could have simply stepped out to fulfill a command such as "Take now thy son...and offer him there for a burnt offering." Abraham did not argue with God, saying something like "Oh, how can this be, Lord? You blessed me with the miracle of Isaac's birth, and even visited me in the form of the Trinity, and rebuked Sarah because she laughed inwardly, seeing herself incapable of motherhood due to her old age. When she gave birth to the child that You promised by means of an indescribable miracle, You suddenly tell me something entirely incomprehensible and incompatible with that. Forgive me, but I cannot bear it! O Lord, please explain to me what this matter is all about and why should I make such a sacrifice to You!" He could have asked for all sorts of other explanations, or even demand them from God, but Abraham had the exact state of mind and such faith in God that he did not demand anything of the kind, or even think of doing so. He believed in God so piously and unshakably that he could not even entertain the idea that God could present any disagreements, contradictions, inanity, mistakes, or anything else like that! He exhibited no bewilderment, hesitation, or doubt! He had the brightest, purest faith in God's peerless superiority over him or any other of His creations. He knew that God is so great and glorious that He will always remain above all of our understanding. Moreover, He is not subject to any of our judgments! One can approach God only with fear and quivering, with the greatest reverence, with the deepest humility to this fear and without any ridiculous questioning such as "Wait, but what about this? Where was that? How? What for?" Pure faith does not allow itself to be muddled with such questions, or any answers that stand in the place of God. Abraham revealed this faith, which was based on the divine law embedded in us. He lived according to this inner law! He had no Scripture, for there was no Scripture then! Moses had yet to be born and write the Book of Genesis, where Abraham's story is recorded. There was nothing to rely on at all in the pursuit of a pious life. A man was simply born among lost people who did not know the true God, and he lived and did not know anything about God or about the divine. But he listened to his heart, and found the divine law inside of it. By relying on it, he not only pleased God, but became the father of all believers. Abraham is a great and wondrous example of tremendous faith. He actively testified to this faith when he offered the promised son of God, in whom all of God's future blessings to all people and humankind were concentrated, and was set on physically destroying his son's body with his own hands, thereby cutting off these promises without deliberation or hesitation. But as the apostle Paul says, he believed that God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:19), and so his faith was all-encompassing, lacking even the slightest doubt or criticism. He did not go hunting for any inconsistencies from God, nor was he tempted by God and His seemingly contradictory commands. Temptation is a great spiritual affliction based on pride and envy, and many people are tempted by many things. They were tempted by Christ, by His miracles, by His healing, by His living, authoritative, mighty word, by His turning of the tables and zeal for the house of God, by His words about partaking of His Body and Blood. People were tempted by the Apostles of Christ and by the saints. They are tempted today, and they will be tempted by the truly righteous and holy servants of God until the end of ages because these figures expose the extent to which we've gone astray, as well as many other things: our hypocrisy, lack of commitment, negligence, carelessness, ignorance, pride, apostasy, delusion, darkness, heresy, and other destructive things. Therefore, how can these people who are filled with temptations dispose of those righteous among them, who denounce them and their sin by their very presence, if not by sowing slander and temptations against them? There is no way you can eliminate them except by means of seduction. In order to do this, they go on the prowl for any apparent inconsistency in the deeds and miracles of the righteous so they can then say "well, this was done by the power of Beelzebub, and therefore does not count." If someone turns many people to repentance, those would tempt them could say that "it does not count, for it was the demon in him who called everyone to repentance." If someone would then ask them why they would say such a thing, they would then respond "And his sock has a hole in it! Well, a man with threadbare socks cannot be a saint." These people look not at the essence, nor at the fruits, nor at the actions of the Holy Spirit, but at something small and entirely insignificant to God that the righteous person could have simply overlooked through their own folly in order to conceal the grace inside of them. Maybe the righteous person put on a torn sock and stuck their leg out for display specifically for this purpose, and the others are glad in their temptation, having seized on this detail, and seek to ruin the image of the righteous man in the eyes of people. In this way, these unfortunate people separate themselves from those who are being saved and doom themselves to eternal torment. May the Lord deliver us from such spiritual infirmity! But, alas, this is extremely common among people, especially in our apostate age. Therefore, watch yourself carefully so as not to be tempted away from the truth and the true God. For our Lord Himself said: "And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me" (Matthew 11.6; Luke 7.23). And further: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh" (Matthew 18:6-7). Abraham turned out to be a friend of God and the Lord God called Himself the God of Abraham. This was the first instance of such a reference in the entirety of human history, and it happened with Abraham. God said that He would bless all of the nations on earth on behalf of Abraham, and He did this by manifesting the Savior of people, Jesus Christ, on earth, who, according to His humanity, descended from the holy Abraham. God promised Abraham that the seed that came from him would be blessed, but Abraham did not know who exactly this would be, even if he expected this blessing to start with Isaac. By commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, God demonstrated to him and all of us that the promise of a savior would not be fulfilled in Isaac. Therefore, God did not allow Abraham to slay Isaac, but accepted his determination and intention to do it at God's command, indicating that another seed from Abraham would become the blessed savior of people, which did indeed happen in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus, it was Abraham who became the father of humanity's salvation. This was a decisive turn in human history. Abraham's influence also affected the inhabitants of hell, for the waiting place of the righteous, which was technically located in hell before Christ's redemptive deed, began to be called the Bosom of Abraham. This is why the entire world knows about Holy Abraham, as the three Abrahamic denominations (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) continue to exist to this day. But in the eternal Kingdom of Christ God, his glory will be incomparable higher than that which he had on earth. We should be grateful to God for the gift of Holy Abraham, and to Abraham himself for his wonderful deeds and invaluable contribution to our salvation! This book is dedicated to restoring the proper level of veneration for Holy Abraham, his glorification, as well as offering thanks to those people who understand his mission on earth.
Abraham, our holy father, pray for us, for all who honor your memory, and for all who are grateful to you!