February 29, 2024

Abraham’s Great Name

I will . . . make your name great

Clifford Goldstein

For (surely) deep and sophisticated reasons, the über-intellectuals in Bibledom make a great hermeneutical division in Scripture where none exists. Genesis 1:1-11:26 is something called “mytho-history” or the like. The six-day creation, the Fall, the global flood, the Tower of Babel. Bah! Myths written by primitive Bronze Agers who never read The Descent of Man. Then, from Genesis 11:27 onward, with the arrival of Abram, et al., the Bible suddenly and mysteriously becomes historical, telling us (among other things) that God said to Abram, “I will . . . make your name great” (Gen. 12:2). When was this prophecy in Genesis written? Internal biblical evidence points to Moses (as does Ellen G. White, who said that he wrote it in Midian),1 which means that these words, “I will . . . make your name great,” were written in the fifteenth century B.C., about 3,500 years ago.

Popular science talks about “The Butterfly Effect,” the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings could, ultimately, lead to a tornado two weeks later on another continent. This concept, found in “Chaos Theory,” teaches that very small, even imperceptible (to us) initial conditions can later lead to major changes that are exceedingly difficult, if not impossible (at least for us), to predict. As Alan Turing, the father of the computer, said in 1950: “The displacement of a single electron by a billionth of a centimeter at one moment might make the difference between a man being killed by an avalanche a year later, or escaping.”2 How, possibly, even with our fastest computers, could we track a reality like this?

So here’s Moses, in Midian, recording God’s words to Abram that “I will . . . make your name great.” In an obscure desert, and on some parchment, Moses writes down this prophecy. Did Moses carry the writings with him afterward? Or did he leave the parchment with Jethro, his father-in-law, as he went to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness? He certainly didn’t upload the words to the cloud, words first handwritten in a desert that, 3,500 years later, you have read three times in this column alone.

Moses, a fugitive and a shepherd, was writing about a distant relative, Abram, already dead hundreds of years, and saying that one day this Abram (Abraham)—a nomad wandering the ancient world—will have a great name. What were the odds of that happening?

Whatever the odds, it happened. The three Abrahamic (Abrahamic?) religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, compose about half the world’s population. Jews refer to him as Avraham Avinu, “Abraham, our Father.” His name appears all through the New Testament, with Paul writing, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). Ibrahim is a towering figure in Islam, too.

In a world so complicated that a butterfly flapping its wings, or an electron displaced by a billionth of a centimeter, can change the future in ways that we can’t grasp—the fulfillment of these words, “ I will . . . make your name great,” penned three and a half millennia ago by a fugitive shepherd in the desert, provides astonishing evidence that, however hard it is for us to know the future—God’s got it all down.

1 The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1954, 1977), vol. 3, p. 1140.

2 A. M. Turing, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind 59, no. 236 (October 1950): 433-460, https://doi.org/10.1093/mind/LIX.236.433.