The Secret in Abraham and Sarah’s Heir
1. Abraham and Sarah
2. Heir of Abraham’s Family and Heir of Heaven
– Eliezer, the First Candidate
– Ishmael, the Firstborn son, the Second Candidate
– Sarah’s Son Isaac, the Third Candidate
3. The Condition of the Heir of Abraham’s Family, “Mother”
Abraham and Sarah
Abraham and Sarah are important figures who take up a large portion of the Bible. In the Old Testament, Genesis, while introducing the genealogy of Noah’s son, Shem, following the Tower of Babel incident, it mentions Abraham, Shem’s tenth-generation descendant, and his wife Sarah. Their original names were Abram and Sarai.
Abraham left Ur of the Chaldeans with his father Terah, his wife Sarah, and his nephew Lot. This was in absolute obedience to God’s words (Genesis 11:31, Acts 7:2–4). Although he did not know where he was going, Abraham, who was called by God and went, settled and lived in Haran (Hebrews 11:8–9). Haran, located on the border of what is now Syria and Turkey, is one of the oldest cities in the world. After Terah’s death, Abraham took Sarah and Lot, left Haran and moved to Canaan (Genesis 12:1–4).
Abraham and Sarah’s possessions such as livestock, silver, and gold increased, and even his nephew Lot’s livestock and tents increased. Finally, they decided to separate because there was not enough pasture for their livestock to graze. Lot moved from village to village in the plains of Jordan and settled in Sodom, and Abraham moved his residence to Hebron. Later, when Lot was taken prisoner in the war of the neighboring countries of Sodom, Abraham rescued Lot and on his way back he met Melchizedek, the king of Salem. Melchizedek blessed Abraham with bread and wine, and Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils (Genesis 14:17–20).
Abraham was originally named Abram, which means, ’noble father,’ but through God’s blessing he received a name that means “father of many nations” (Genesis 17:4). In fact, Abraham is called the father of the Jews and the ‘father of faith’ for many Christians around the world (Luke 1:73, Romans 4:18). Sarah also received the name ‘Mother of nations’ from God (Genesis 17:15–16). This contains God’s important secrets and providence of salvation.
From Abraham and Sarah starting a family, to having a child, and passing on an inheritance, their life story is recorded in detail within several chapters of the book of Genesis. The Bible is not a book that just tells us about an individual’s private life or family history. Still, why did God devote so much space in the Bible to record Abraham’s family history? Aside from the title of ‘father of faith, ‘what message did God want to convey to all humankind through Abraham?
Heir of Abraham’s Family and Heir of Heaven
“There was a rich man ··· At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, ··· “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died ··· In hell, where he was in torment ··· he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me ··· because I am in agony in this fire.’(Luke 16:19–24)
This is the ‘parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus’ taught by Jesus. However, there is something puzzling. It is the part where, after his death, the beggar was carried to “Abraham’s side,” and where the rich man called God “Father Abraham.” The only being who can be called ’Father’ in the afterlife is God (Matthew 6:9, 23:9). In other words, Abraham, who is called ‘Father’ in the parable, represents God.
The history of Abraham’s family is not simply an individual’s family history, but a sample and a guide for those who look forward to and hope for the kingdom of Heaven. The most important part of Abraham’s family history is the story about the heir. In particular, it is necessary to take a closer look at who inherited the estate and under what circumstances. This is because the qualifications for the heir who inherits the estate of Abraham are the qualifications for the heavenly heir who will inherit the kingdom of God.
Eliezer, the First Candidate
Abraham and Sarah had no son. When Abraham was living in Canaan, he was over 75 years old, and his wife Sarah was well past her childbearing years.
Abraham had chosen his servant Eliezer of Damascus to be his heir. Before he established him as an heir, he first asked God.
··· “O Sovereign LORD ··· I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus ··· You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”(Genesis 15:2–3)
Although Abraham wanted to make Eliezer his heir, God’s thought was different. The heir had to be a ‘descendant of Abraham.’
Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”(Genesis 15:4)
Ishmael, the Firstborn son, the Second Candidate
God said that Eliezer was not the heir and that an heir coming from Abraham’s body would be his heir. Sarah had a son who was given birth through her maidservant Hagar (Genesis 16:1-2). The son Abraham had at the age of 86 was Ishmael. Abraham asked God to make Ishmael his heir.
And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”(Genesis 17:18)
However, God’s will was different.
··· God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.(Genesis 17:19)
God also did not allow Ishmael to be Abraham’s heir. He said it had to be Sarah’s son. This made Sarah laugh because, according to common sense it was impossible for her to have children (Genesis 18:11–15).
Sarah’s Son Isaac, the Third Candidate
God’s words, “a son coming from your own body will be your heir,” were ultimately spoken for Sarah. God made the one born through Sarah the heir of Abraham. Sarah was 90 years old, an age that would make it impossible for her to have children. However, God carried out His will.
··· and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age ··· Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son ···(Genesis 21:1–3)
Fourteen years after the birth of Ishmael, the firstborn, Abraham and Sarah had a son, as God promised. This was Isaac. God approved of Sarah’s son, Isaac, as Abraham’s heir. The condition for inheritance for Abraham’s family was not sufficient to just be a child of ‘Abraham’. The child had to be a child of Sarah as well.
The Condition of the Heir of Abraham’s Family, “Mother”
Primogeniture was common in ancient Israel. Ishmael, who was born first, had to be the heir. However, the absolute condition for inheritance in Abraham’s family was ‘mother.’ Only Isaac, who was the child of Sarah, who was free and not a slave, could become the heir.
Abraham is someone who represents the Heavenly Father, that is, God the Father. In other words God revealed who can be the heir of Heaven through the story of the heir of Abraham’s family.
But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother ··· And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac ··· So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.(NLT Galatians 4:26, 28, 31)
Here, the word ‘we’ refers to God’s people who will receive salvation. It means the children of God who will inherit Heaven. The Bible refers to them as ‘children like Isaac.’ Even though Isaac was not the firstborn, he was able to inherit Abraham’s estate because he was the child of mother, the free woman. We too, who are represented as children like Isaac, can receive the inheritance of Heaven in the same way.
So, dear brothers and sisters ··· we are children of the free woman.(NLT Galatians 4:31)
The ‘free woman’ is ‘our Mother.’ Why did God call Abraham and Sarah, the father of many nations and the mother of nations? By revealing that Abraham represents God the Father and Sarah represents God the Mother, God wanted to remind us that in order to receive the inheritance of Heaven, we must not only receive God the Father, who is the spiritual Abraham, but also God the Mother, who is the spiritual Sarah.
- Harran, Every Moment Harran, Kalkinma Development Agency
- The Abraham Path (Masar Ibrahim Al-Khalil), Routledge International Handbook of Walking, C. Michael Hall, Routledge, 2018