Jewish Heroes and Prophets

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Now, among pagans and idolaters Abram (as he was originally called) lived until he was seventy-five. His father, Terah, was a descendant of Shem, of the eleventh generation, and the original seat of his tribe was among the mountains of Southern Armenia, north of Assyria. From thence Terah migrated to the plains of Mesopotamia, probably with the desire to share the rich pastures of the lowlands, and settled in Ur of the Chaldeans. Ur was one of the most ancient of the Chaldean cities and one of the most splendid, where arts and sciences were cultivated, where astronomers watched the heavens, poets composed hymns, and scribes stamped on clay tablets books which, according to Geikie, have in part come down to our own times. It was in this pagan city that Abram was born, and lived until the "call." His father was a worshipper of the tutelary gods of his tribe, of which he was the head; but his idolatry was not so degrading as that of the Chaldeans, who belonged to a different race from his own, being the descendants of Ham, among whom the arts and sciences had made considerable progress,--as was natural, since what we call civilization arose, it is generally supposed, in the powerful monarchies founded by Assyrian and Egyptian warriors, although it is claimed that both China and India were also great empires at this period. With the growth of cities and the power of kings idolatry increased, and the knowledge of the true God declined. From such influences it was necessary that Abram should be removed if he was to found a nation with a monotheistic belief. So, in obedience to a call from God, he left the city of his birthplace, and went toward the land of Canaan and settled in Haran, where he remained until the death of his father, who it seems had accompanied him in his wanderings, but was probably too infirm to continue the fatiguing journey. Abram, now the head of his tribe and doubtless a powerful chieftain, received another call, and with it the promise that he should be the founder of a great nation, and that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed.

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