The Significance of Genesis: Family Line of Abram, the Family Line of Christians (Genesis 11:10-32)

The Significance of Genesis: Family Line of Abram, the Family Line of Christians (Genesis 11:10-32)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends in Poland, OH on July Sunday, July 31, 2022

Over the last several years we have experienced a lot of moral shifts as a culture. No one can argue that. It is just clear. We look at things and think, wow! Never thought I would see that in my lifetime. Yet, we can trust that God is in control.

Piper writes:

I [Piper] created this story based very loosely on a tale from T. H. White’s The Once and Future King.

Once upon a time there was a very wise old man named Job. In his old age, God gave to him a daughter whom he named Jemima, which means “little dove.” He loved his little girl, and she loved her daddy. One day, Job decided to go on a journey and asked Jemima if she would like to go along. “Oh, yes,” Jemima said. “I would love to go along.” And so they started off on their journey and walked all day. At sundown they saw a little cottage and knocked on the door. A very poor man and his wife and baby lived there. Job asked if he and Jemima could spend the night there before they continued on their journey in the morning. The poor man and his wife were very happy to let them stay. They gave Job and Jemima their own room and made them a simple supper. The special treat was fresh milk from their only cow. This was how the poor couple made a living. Their cow gave good milk, which they sold for enough to live on.

In the morning, when Job and Jemima got up, they heard crying. The cow had died during the night. The poor man’s wife was weeping. “What will we do? What will we do?” she sobbed. The poor man was about to cut the cow into pieces and sell the meat before it spoiled. But Job said, “I think you should not cut the cow in pieces but bury him by your back wall under the olive tree. The meat may not be good to sell. Trust God, and he will take care of you.” So the poor man did as Job suggested.

Then Job and Jemima went on their way. They walked all day again and were very tired when they came to the next town and noticed a fine home. They knocked on the door. A very wealthy man lived in this house, and they hoped that they would not be an inconvenience to one so wealthy.

But the man was very gruff with them and said they could stay in the barn. He gave them water and bread for supper and let them eat it by themselves in the barn. Job was very thankful, and said to the wealthy man, “Thank you very much for the bread and water and for letting us stay in your barn.”

In the morning, Job noticed that one of the walls of the house was crumbling. So he went and bought bricks and mortar and repaired the hole in the wall for the wealthy man. Then Job and Jemima went on their way and came to their destination.

As they sat by the fire that night, Jemima said, “Daddy, I don’t understand the ways of God. It doesn’t seem right that the poor man’s cow should die when he was so good to us, and that you should fix the rich man’s wall when he was so bad to us.”

“Well, Jemima,” Job said, “many things are not the way they seem. Perhaps this once I will tell you why. But after this you will have to trust God, who does not usually explain what he is doing.”

“The poor man’s cow was very sick, but he didn’t know it. I could taste it in the milk that he gave us for supper. Soon he would have sold bad milk, and the people would have gotten sick and died, and they would have stoned him. So I told him not to sell the meat, but to bury the cow under the olive tree by his back wall because the Lord showed me that, if he dug the grave there, he would find a silver cup buried from long ago and sell it for enough money to buy two good cows. And in the end things would be better for him and his wife and child.

“When we spent the night at the rich man’s house, I saw the hole in the wall, and I saw more than that. I saw that hidden in the wall, from generations ago, was a chest full of gold. If the rich man had repaired the wall himself, he would have found it and continued in his pride and cruelty. So I bought brick and mortar, and closed the wall so that the man would never find this treasure.

“Do you see, Jemima?”

“Yes, Daddy. I see.”[1]

Like that father, God works certain things out in ways that we are unaware of. In today’s passage we see the family line of Abram, but I see much more than that. I see God being in control of all of human history. As God orchestrates history from Shem (Noah’s son) to Abram, God is also orchestrating history towards our salvation. Through Abram’s descendants Christ will come.

My theme today is:

The family line of Abram, the family history of Christians.

Notice God’s sovereignty over time.  

  1. The Settlement (11:10–32): A history is given of Shem’s descendants. Shem is the ancestor of Abraham.[2]
    1. We will not read the whole passage, but I will share specific verses.
    2. Genesis 11:10-11: These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.
    3. Jewish people came from one common ancestor
    4. Dr Michael Rydelnik shares now through DNA studies we can tell that the Jewish people in the Israel area came from one common ancestor.
    5. Now, we are back to a genealogical record.
    6. ESV Study Bible: While the periods mentioned are still unusually long, they gradually become somewhat shorter. The length of time during which these men live is much shorter than is recorded for men living before the flood (cf. 5:1–32). This is similar to the pattern found in a clay tablet from the Mesopotamian city of Uruk, called the Sumerian King List. It was inscribed by a scribe during the reign of King Utukhegal, about 2100 b.c. It tells of kings who reigned for extremely long times. A flood then came, and subsequent kings ruled for vastly shorter times.[3]
    7. Shem, son of Noah.
    8. Moody shares: Much like the genealogies in chaps. 4; 5, and 10, so the genealogy here follows immediately after a brief narrative describing the commission of grave sin (4:1–15 [the murder of Cain]; 4:23–26 [unjust capital punishment]; 9:20–29 [sexual perversion]; and 11:1–9 [collective rejection of God]). Thus this “moderates” the negative tone of the previous episode by demonstrating that God’s fundamental blessing of humanity in 1:28 remains intact, and if intact in its physical aspect, then also, potentially, in its spiritual aspect. The present genealogy, moreover, being that of Shem, also serves as an adept literary-theological transition to the next thematic “half” of Genesis. The expectation is thus laid that the present genealogy of Shem will likewise be followed by a narrative episode involving the making of a shem (“name”) for a man. And indeed it is, for in 12:2 God declared to Abraham, “I will … make your name [shem] great.[4]
    9. They are tracing Shem because Shem was the ancestor of Abraham and the Jewish people.
  2. Abram is introduced in Genesis 11:26:
    1. Genesis 11:26: When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
    2. Verse 26: Terah lived 70 years and became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
      1. Now we see three listed
      2. Abram
      3. Nahor
      4. Haran
      5. Joshua 24:2: And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.
      6. Abram was a pagan. God did not choose him because he was special and followed God. God took the initiative.
    3. Genesis 11:27: Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot.
    4. We now see Lot and Abram…CSB: Nahor’s wife … Milcah eventually produced eight sons (22:20–23); her most famous son, Bethuel, became the father-in-law of Abraham’s son Isaac (25:20).In contrast to Milcah, Sarai (later called Sarah) was unable to conceive. This painful fact is emphasized by the biblical writer restating the fact: she did not have a child. God’s provision of an heir for Abraham in spite of Sarah’s barrenness is a major theme in the narratives that follow (15:2–4; 17:15–21;21:10).[5]
    5. Genesis 11:28-30: Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. And Abram and Nahor took 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 Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
    6. Verse 28: Haran died in the presence of his father of Teran…
      1. Now we see the land of Ur mentioned.
      2. Ur of the Chaldeans…
      3. NET: The phrase of the Chaldeans is a later editorial clarification for the readers, designating the location of Ur. From all evidence there would have been no Chaldeans in existence at this early date; they are known in the time of the neo-Babylonian empire in the first millennium b.c.[6]
    7. Verse 29: Abram and Nahor take wives…
      1. Sarai: the NET shares: The name Sarai (a variant spelling of “Sarah”) means “princess” (or “lady”). Sharratu was the name of the wife of the moon god Sin. The original name may reflect the culture out of which the patriarch was called, for the family did worship other gods in Mesopotamia.[7]
      2. Nahor’s wife was Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah and Iscah.
      3. Milcah will come up later: Gen 22:20, 23; 24:15: NET: The name Milcah means “Queen.” But more to the point here is the fact that Malkatu was a title for Ishtar, the daughter of the moon god. If the women were named after such titles (and there is no evidence that this was the motivation for naming the girls “Princess” or “Queen”), that would not necessarily imply anything about the faith of the two women themselves.[8]
    8. Genesis 11:31-32: Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there. The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran.
    9. Verse 30: Sarai was barren, repeated, she had no child.
    10. This shows that it was initially Terah who left Ur.
    11. Terah, Abram, Lot (grandson), Sarai.
    12. They go as far as Haran and settle there.
    13. Moody: Terah, not Abram, is presented as the one taking the lead to set out toward Canaan. This is clear from v. 31a, which portrays Terah as the one who took Abram, Lot, and Sarai. This passive portrayal of Abram is extremely significant, for it disallows the conclusion that the promise was given to Abraham as a result of anything especially meritorious that he did.[9]
    14. ESV Study Bible: By way of completing this short introduction to Terah’s family, the narrative records his death at the age of 205. If Abram was born when Terah was 70 years old (see v. 26), and if Abram was 75 years old when he departed for Canaan (see 12:4), then Terah died 60 years after Abram’s departure (70 + 75 + 60 = 205). In Acts 7:4, however, Stephen says that Abram left Haran after the death of Terah. A simple way to resolve the chronological difficulty is to suppose that Stephen was following an alternative text (represented today in the Samaritan Pentateuch), which says that Terah died at the age of 145.[10]
  3. Applications:
    1. Abram’s father, Terah, was called out of Ur. This happened prior to Abram’s call. This shows that the call of Abram (Genesis 12) was all about God’s grace. Salvation is always from the Lord. We must never boast of our salvation (Jonah 2:9).
    2. God is working in history, we must trust Him. He is in charge of history.
    3. We must trust Him with the present, we must trust Him with the future. God was working His providential plan in the line of Shem knowing His future plan.
    4. We may get fearful of things going on, but this reminds me that God is at work.
    5. Terah left Ur but may not have even realized God’s plan, yet God was at work. Sometimes God is working through us and we do not even know it, praise God!
    6. We must NEVER underestimate God’s providential plan.
    7. This section sets up the rest of Genesis to be about Abram’s family.
    8. This section sets up the rest of the Old Testament to be about Israel.
    9. This section sets up the rest of the Bible to be about Israel.
    10. Through Abram will come Israel, through Israel will come Jesus.
    11. Praise God for His detailed work in history.  
    12. Psalm 22:28: For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.

Do NOT fear, God is in control.

Again from Piper:

Providence is the purposeful sovereignty that carries those plans into action, guides all things toward God’s ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation. Job’s prayer is true: “You can do all things, and . . . no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Or as God himself states it positively, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isa. 46:10).

God’s eternal plan includes everything from the most insignificant bird fall (Matt. 10:29), to the movement of stars (Isa. 40:26), to the murder of his Son (Acts 4:27–28). It includes the moral acts of every soul—its preferences, choices, and deeds. Neither Satan at his hellish worst nor human beings at their redeemed best ever act in a way that causes a revision in God’s all-wise plan. Whether God planned to permit something or planned to be more directly involved, nothing comes to pass but what God planned as part of the process of pursuing his ultimate goal. Therefore, the extent of his providence is total. Nothing is independent of it. Nothing happens but by “the counsel of his will”—the infinite wisdom of his plan.[11]


[1] Piper, John. Providence (pp. 659-661). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[2] H. L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), Ge 11:1–32.

[3] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 70.

chaps. chapters

[4] Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds., “Genesis,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 67.

[5] Robert D. Bergen, “Genesis,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 26.

[6] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 11:16–28.

[7] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 11:29.

[8] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 11:29.

v. verse

[9] Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds., “Genesis,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 68.

[10] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 70–71.

[11] Piper, John. Providence (pp. 650-651). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

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