Count the Stars

After Abram’s victory over Chedarlaomer G‑d appeared to Abram and promised him further protection and great reward. Abram exclaimed, “Of what avail is all my wealth if I go childless, and there be no one to carry on my work after me?”

The answer full of comfort came forthwith, that no stranger should be his heir, but his own child. To enhance the force of these words, G‑d called Abram from his tent and told him to look upwards to the heavens. The next moment Abram was standing at the door of his tent, gazing upwards and listening to the Divine words: "Please look heavenward and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So will be your seed."

Although Abram was already an old man and his wife could hardly be expected to have children, now after she had been childless for so many years, Abram believed this promise, and G‑d gave him much credit for his great faith. Again G‑d appeared to him in a vision, this time not altogether of a comforting nature. And He said to Abram, “You shall surely know that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will enslave them and oppress them, for four hundred years. And also the nation that they will serve will I judge, and afterwards they will go forth with great possessions. But you will come to your forefathers in peace; you will be buried in a good old age. And the fourth generation will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites will not be complete until then.” As the voice of G‑d ceased in the midst of the dense darkness, a flame descended upon the sacrifice Abram had offered up; and while the animals were consumed, G‑d reappeared: “To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt until the great river, the Euphrates river.”

Takes Hagar as Wife

The fame of Abram’s victory and his noble character spread far and wide, and he gained the respect and admiration of everyone. Abram would have been happy indeed, but for the fact that G‑d had not blessed him with a heir. He and Sarai were growing old and longed for a child. When Abram reached his eighty-fifth birthday, Sarai asked him to marry her maid Hagar. Hagar, prior to becoming Sarai’s maid was a princess in Pharaoh’s house, she preferred to be a maid in Abraham’s household.

Abram accepted Sarai’s advice and took Hagar as wife. She bore him a son, who he called Ishmael, “G‑d will hear.”

The Covenant

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, G‑d appeared unto him again and changed his name from Abram to Abraham, meaning “the father of a multitude of nations.” Sarai also received the direct blessing of G‑d; before she had been called Sarai, but now she should be known by the noble and proud name of Sarah, “Queen”: “I shall bless her,” said G‑d, “and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be of her.”

G‑d then made a covenant with Abraham. According to this covenant Abraham and his future generations must follow in the path of G‑d, and G‑d promised them the land of Canaan and His protection and care. The command for circumcision (Brit) was then given as a symbol of this covenant. Every newly born Jewish boy should be circumcised at the age of eight days. Abraham himself, despite his ripe age, and all the male members of his household, underwent that operation, and the covenant was established for all generations to come.

Abraham’s Guests

Abraham was recovering from his operation when G‑d visited him in his tent in the groves of Mamre. The day was hot and Abraham was in pain.

It was not so much the discomfort of the heat that troubled Abraham, as the thought that the blazing sun was keeping all wayfarers off the road. G‑d decided that He would not deprive Abraham of the pleasure of welcoming guests and visitors. G‑d sent three angels disguised as wandering Arabs to walk past the grove. Abraham saw the wandering Arabs and ran forth to meet and greet them, forgetting all his pain.

He urged them not to pass by but to rest beneath the shade of the trees, whilst he fetched water to wash their feet, and bread for refreshment. No servant was to assist in preparing the strangers’ meal, but Sarah herself baked the cakes of fine flour, while Abraham hastened to the herd, choosing a young and tender calf, which was made ready without delay. Only later, when the angels announced that a year from that day Sarah would give birth to a son, did Abraham realize who his guests were; and happiness filled his heart. Sarah too, heard the message, and could hardly believe that at the age of ninety she was yet to be blessed with a child!