All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

A Call to Calamity?

Confusing the languages did not stop the wickedness of the tower builders of Babel. They built many cities in Mesopotamia, including the city of Ur.

When Abram was born, Ur was already famous for its advanced knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and its wealthy kings. Along with the northern city of Haran, it was also known for its worship of the moon god. But among these wealthy, idolatrous people, Abram stands out.

A Huge Test

Acts 7:2–3 makes clear that God first appears to Abram while he’s still living in Ur. “Get out of your country and from your relatives,” He says, “and come to a land that I will show you.”

The enormity of this command is lost on us today. We can write, call, or even Skype those we love, and a few hundred dollars plus a day of air travel can usually take us to our family. However, this was not so for the ancients. They placed the utmost importance on family and land, and now God asks Abram to leave both behind.

Family was important because parents needed children to sustain them in their old age and keep the family name alive, since the greatest of calamities to the ancients was to have their genealogical line die out. Land ownership was also extremely important because it meant inheritance—land should forever remain in the family.

The second reason God’s command seems overwhelming is because He doesn’t tell Abram where he’s going. Instead, He commands him to move away from everything he knows, loves, and values—away from everything that offers him security, “to a land that I will show you.”

God might take him through lands where his flocks and family might be attacked; He might take him to a land that is rocky and poor. However, Abram’s faith overrides his fear and he strikes out with his father’s family on a journey that surely seems like a call to calamity!


Although God’s command is directed to Abram, the Bible says that his father, Terah, leads the move. In ancient times it would certainly be disrespectful of Abram to not allow his father to take charge.

As they set out, they travel northwest to Haran, a city some say was over 700 miles away. While the Bible doesn’t tell us why, the reason they pause in this city most likely has to do with Abram’s respect for his father’s age, and his attempt to make Terah’s last days more comfortable.


Terah dies in Haran some time later, and after he is buried, the Lord calls Abram again. “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1–3.

land where God guides him is Canaan—a place inhabited by many different peoples who are all trying to claim it for themselves. Historical sources reveal that travel through this unfamiliar frontier land must be terrifying, since encounters with wild animals and the locals may happen at any time.

Abram has now literally gives up his earthly security, his identity, his inheritance, and his future—placing them all in God’s hands. Now God has him in a land belonging to the descendants of Canaan, on whom He had placed a curse several generations before! And even as Abram passes this test of his faith, he must wonder how God would fulfill His promise, since he is over 75 years old and still childless.

Next time we’ll examine the divine covenant God made with Abram and his descendants—through the eyes of the ancients.

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