He is, on first appearance, an elusive character. We know the name of his father—Terah—and his homeland—Ur. He has two brothers, Nahor and Haran, the Book of Genesis tells us, and a barren wife, Sarai. And we know that at some uncertain time, his father, Terah, gathered the family together, “and they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans for the land of Canaan; but when they had come as far as Haran, they settled there…and Terah died in Haran” (Genesis 11:27–32).
That is all we have learned when, suddenly, in Genesis 12:1, Terah’s eldest son emerges from the shadows. God speaks directly to Abraham (then called Abram), instructing him to leave home, and then blesses him:
The Lord said to Abram,
“Go forth from your native land
and from your father’s house
to the land that I will show you.
I will make of you a great nation,
And I will bless you;
I will make you a name great,
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you
And curse him that curses you;
And all the families of the earth
Shall bless themselves by you.”
Why does God distinguish Abraham—of whom we know so little—above all the people in the world? Why does God call Abraham?