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Bible Dictionaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary


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The great father of the faithful, whose history is so dear to the church in all ages, and whose faith so illustrious, as to have procured for him this most honourable title. The memoirs of this friend of God, as he is called, (2 Chronicles 20:7 and James 2:23.) begin at Genesis 11:26, and run through the whole of Scripture, like a golden thread, from end to end. The distinguishing honour put upon this man, in depositing the covenant in his seed; and the change of name thereupon both in him and his wife, are most striking events, and on every account meriting the most particular attention. Concerning the cause of the former, we can form no certain conclusions upon it. There are indeed no grounds to form any data upon. All must be referred unto the eternal purposes of JEHOVAH, "who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will and pleasure." Concerning the latter, we can trace somewhat very sweet and interesting, of the Lord's approbation of his servants, both in the man and his wife, by the change of name. I shall beg to offer a short observation upon it.

The original name of Abram was truly honourable, meaning, in the compound of the word Ab, father, and Ram, exalted; a father of eminency or exaltation. But when the Lord added the Ha to it, and made it Abraham, this became still more honourable; for his name now, in the literal sense of it, was, a father of many nations. And all this became greatly increased in point of honour, on account of the covenant entailed on Abraham's seed, even Christ, (See Galatians 3:16.) from whom, and in whom, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.

But there is yet. another purpose which the Lord accomplished in the display of the riches of his grace, by this change of name: and which, if I mistake not, (the Lord pardon me if I err) seems to have been the Lord's great design, in this act of mercy and favour shewn both to the patriarch and his wife; namely, by this alteration, or rather addition given to each; by one of the letters which form the incommunicable name of JEHOVAH. By this express act of divine grace, Abraham and Sarah, both possessed in their name an everlasting symbol, or token of JEHOVAH'S glorious favour. And I am the more inclined to this belief, because, in the instance of Jeconiah, in an after age of the church, the Lord manifested his displeasure to this man, by taking from his name one of those distinguishing letters of JEHOVAH, and calling him Coniah, a "despised broken idol." (Compare Jeremiah 23:24-30, with 1 Chronicles 3:16.) I beg the reader to observe, that I do not presume to speak decidedly on a point of so high a nature; I only propose the thought, and that with the most profound reverence.

May I not venture to suggest, that perhaps it was on this account, of the honour done to their father Abraham's name, by taking into it a part of JEHOVAH'S, that the children of Abraham, in every age of the church, have been so anxious to call their descendants by names, which either took in some of the letters of JEHOVAH'S name, or had an allusion to the Lord. This is so visible a feature, in almost all the Jewish names of the Old Testament, that we meet with very few among the pious Israelites where this respect is not had, in the choice of their children's names, through the whole Bible.

I cannot dismiss these observations on Abraham's name until that I have requested the reader to connect with the review, the sweet consideration, that all true believers in Jesus take part in the same. They have a new name given them, as well as Abraham their father, when, like him, they are by regeneration made "new creatures in Christ Jesus." They are interested in all the rich promises of God in Christ; and being Christ's children, by adoption and by grace: then are they "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." I pray the reader to turn to the following Scriptures by way of confirmation. Revelation 2:17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:7-29; Romans 4:16.

I know not how to turn away from this subject, concerning our great father Abraham, who in any, and in every view, opens a constant source for improvement, without offering a short observation more, in respect to that circumstance in his life, when compelled by famine to go down into Egypt, he begged Sarah to call herself his sister, and not his wife. We have the account of it in its own beautiful simplicity related to us, Genesis 12:9-20. I beg the reader to turn to the Scripture and peruse it over. And when he hath so done I request him to attend to a short observation which I would offer upon Abraham's conduct, in this particular.

It certainly doth, in the first view of things, appear strange, that the great father of the faithful should have had upon this occasion his faith so slender, that he became alarmed for the safety of his wife's chastity, when he had before this, at the call of God, come out from his father's house, "not knowing whither he went." (Hebrews 11:8.) He had strength of faith to trust God for every thing respecting himself; yea afterwards, even to the offering up his only son: and yet he could not, when driven by famine into Egypt, trust to God's watchful care over Sarah. But we shall discover, that in this instance of danger respecting his beloved Sarah, humanly speaking, there was no possibility of her escaping with her chastity, unless the Lord accomplished her deliverance by a miracle. Sarah was exceedingly fair, we are told, and her beauty would soon be known (as we find it was) to the prince of the country, on their arrival at Egypt. Instantly she would be seized upon for Pharaoh's haram. And this was literally the case. In vain would be Abraham's remonstrances, or the humblest petitions. If he had said, She is my wife, his death would have immediately followed. But if he said, She is my sister, his life would be spared. And in this case, even then nothing short of the Lord's interposition could restore to him his beloved Sarah again. This therefore he hoped. And here Abraham's faith became as illustrious as before. The patriarch had grounds to hope it. Necessity, and not choice, had driven him down into Egypt, that he might not perish by the famine. And being in the path of duty, and no doubt, constantly in the path of faith and prayer; the whole terminated at length to the divine glory, and to his faithful servant's happiness. And when Sarah was taken, and separated from him: when no possibility of communication between Sarah and her husband was found: locked up in the haram of Pharaoh, from whence there could be no escape, (according to the custom of those Eastern courts, during the life of the prince, the women of the haram being confined there never to get out,) here was a season for the exercise of faith, and for the display of the Lord's favour to his servants. And the way the Lord wrought on the occasion, is as remarkable, in proof of his interposition, as the patriarch's faith in exercise. "The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues, because of Sarah Abraham's wife." (Genesis 12:17.) And so the Lord overruled the visitation, as to give a voice to the rod, and cause the prince very gladly to give up Sarah, unviolated, to her husband. So that when the whole subject is properly considered and taken into one complete view, so far was the faith of the patriarch from being lessened by the exercise, as in the first blush of the history it seemed to appear, that by the means Abraham adopted, he still threw himself with confidence on the Lord, to save his beloved Sarah from ruin, and his life from danger; and without this trust in the Lord, and dependence on the Lord's interposition, Abraham could not but well know, that whether he had called Sarah, sister, or wife, the peril was the same.

If it be said, (as it has been said) but wherefore did the great father of the faithful make use of a falsehood in this instance? might he not have told the truth, and with more confidence still looked up to God for the issue? To which I answer. Certainly, truth at all times, and upon all occasions, is most closely and faithfully to be followed up, leaving it with the Lord to make all things minister to his own glory, and to his people's welfare. But it should be observed, that though upon this occasion, the patriarch did not tell the whole truth, he told no falsehood. Sarah was his sister, as well as his wife. If the reader will turn to the twentieth chapter of Genesis, and peruse a similar situation, into which Abraham and Sarah were afterwards brought at Gerar, he will there behold the patriarch's modest apology for calling his beloved Sarah his sister, rather than his wife. When Abimelech, the king of Gerar, remonstrated with Abraham for calling Sarah sister, and not wife, and said, "What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?" Abraham answered, "Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake. 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." (Genesis 20:10-12.)

But what I am more particularly earnest to impress upon the reader's mind, respecting this history of Abraham, (and indeed the sole purpose for which I have introduced the subject in this place) is, that the act itself was founded in faith and reliance upon the Lord. The patriarch had not recourse to mere human policy, without first throwing himself on divine aid. Abraham was well aware of his critical situation. He knew the danger to which both himself and Sarah would be exposed. He therefore used what he thought the best human means: but he certainly was all the while relying by ardent faith on the Lord. And let it be remembered, that in those journies the patriarch was prosecuting, they were by the Lord's command, and not Abraham's pleasure. So that the same faith which first prompted him, at the call of God, to leave his own country, and his father's house, and, as the Holy Ghost testifies of him, "by faith he went out, not knowing whither he went;" (Hebrews 11:8.) the same perfect reliance upon the Lord went with him all the way. How beautifully the patriarch accounts for this, as well as his whole conduct in calling Sarah his sister, and she calling him brother, in the close of his apology to Abimelech! "It came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is the kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; At every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother." (Genesis 20:13.) What a sweet and interesting tale the whole forms! I beg the reader's pardon, for the length I have made of it; and shall now leave it to his own judgment, under the hope of divine teaching concerning it, from the Lord.

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Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Abram'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. London. 1828.

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