Answer by John Mackay
The first clue in this situation is the common and generous use of the word “godly” that many of us apply to Abraham (originally Abram). It is really eye opening to discover the when, where and by whom Abraham was raised. He was a descendant of righteous Noah via Shem across 10 generations through his father Terah, but he was a neither Israelite nor Jew, but a Gentile.
Secondly somewhere through those 10 generations, Godly Noah’s descendants had not only abandoned Noah’s God, but produced an Abraham who was raised by an idol-worshiping father Terah in a pagan city. Abraham’s descendants via Jacob (renamed Israel by God), were reminded about these pagan roots many centuries later, by Joshua’s well-known ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ speech. In Joshua 24:15 we read: “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” As they were on the edge of the promised land Joshua challenged all the Israelites to decide between the idolatrous gods their Gentile ancestors had worshiped back in Ur and the One True Lord who had rescued the now Israelites from Egypt.
We are never told how Abraham came to faith out of this idolatrous background, but it would seem he had little background teaching and just did what was normal in his culture, which accepted original marriage, polygamy, concubines and more. Remember, his father Terah chose Abraham’s first wife Sarai. His wife gave him her hand maid Hagar as a concubine to have a child by. After Sarah died Abraham took a second wife Keturah.
Our third clue is to remember that God did not give the law until Moses day, way after Abraham, and the Apostle Paul reminds us: “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.” (Romans 5:13) He goes on to say “I had not known sin, but by the law.” (Romans 7:7) The Apostle John also reminds us “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (1 John 3:4)
Fourthly, the Holy Spirit who is God’s person and power in righteousness within us, was not given till after Jesus’ resurrection. It is hard for us to imagine how different it was for believers prior to Christ’s coming and before Pentecost.
Whilst Jesus reminded his Jewish hearers of Adam and Eve and the importance of one man for one woman for life (Matt 19), Abraham’s family had none of this. Certainly, they had vague oral traditions of creation and the flood that had been mythologised via Babel, but no Bible or church or preachers of righteous we know of. Later after Abraham became a believer by faith he would encounter the mysterious and righteous priest of God we know as Melchizedek (Gen 14:18) in Canaan, so there was still a link to Noah’s pre-flood knowledge and Godliness around. It therefore shouldn’t come as a surprise that Abraham ‘the Gentile’ is the one whose faith is held up to us moderns as the key to faith-ful salvation, rather than the Jewish burden of law keeping that killed even Paul’s spirit. (read Hebrews 11 several times to see this)
Lastly, it should be obvious that all the great marriage teaching in the New Testament, such as in Ephesians, I Timothy and Titus, were not available to Abraham. No wonder God accepted Abraham’s trust, his faith, and his ‘I will pack up and leave town to wherever God sends me’ acceptance, as righteousness, because Abraham certainly wouldn’t have made it scoring brownie points in godliness by keeping the laws of marriage as we know them from Genesis or from Ephesians.
This question is not just of historical interest. It is a significant issue for Christians living in modern western cultures, where homosexual activists have persuaded governments that marriage should be re-defined to suit their desires. This means the definition of marriage is now considered to be a cultural construct invented within human society, rather than being given by the Creator God who made man and woman for marriage. Whenever marriage can be re-defined to suit one subgroup, there is no consistent reason why it cannot be re-defined to suit any other subgroup. Now that the homosexuals have succeeded in getting their way, it is interesting to see an increase in public presentation of “polyamory” as being normal and even desirable. It is polyamory, rather than polygamy or polyandry, because in these days of equal rights, the women want to have the same right to multiple partners as men and the partners can be of either sex. Keep watching for the next steps, for whenever morality has the brakes removed, there is no limit to which women and men, and trannies and bisex will sink – multiple partners living with multiple partners, animal marriage, child sex, etc. all will be approved by our foolish politicians who have put the On true God just as far out of the picture as the people of ancient Ur.
Illustration: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing CC BY-SA 3.0
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