Abraham the Disciple-Maker

Genesis 12:5 records an event early in the life of Abraham. It says,

And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

Although the ESV glosses over this unusual text, more literal translations such as the King James version reveal an underlying problem with interpretation. The King James says, “And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran” (emphasis added). The problem is understanding what they had “acquired” or “gotten” in Haran. The Hebrew behind this phrase is וְאֶת־הַנֶּפֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂוּ בְחָרָן — literally, “and the souls they had made in Haran.” This is the same verb used for the construction of the various components of the Tabernacle and its service. For instance, “They shall make an ark of acacia wood” 1 or “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold” 2 or “you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen.” 3 It is the same word found in the prohibition against idol making: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” 4 In light of this particular wording, that Abraham and Sarah “made” souls in Haran, the midrash tells us that these people were actually disciples or proselytes. 5 In other words, Abraham didn’t just purchase slaves or servants in Haran. He made disciples.

Whether these “souls” were full proselytes just whole-hearted followers of Abraham and his God is to be debated. However, the Bible specifically records just two chapters later that Abraham took 318 of these “trained men,” who were “born in his house” into battle against Lot’s captors. The Hebrew word for “trained men” means “follower” coming from the root, חנך (chanak), meaning “dedicated.” It’s the same root from which we get the word “Hanukkah” (Dedication). These “dedicated followers” were “born” into Abraham’s house. With these evidences it is not a stretch to say that because of their relationship with Abraham they experienced a spiritual rebirth which gave them the dedication to follow Abraham even unto death. Abraham invested into others. Abraham was a disciple-maker.

It was for this reason that the Almighty specifically chose Abraham to be called out from among his people. The LORD said, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Genesis 18:19). Please note: not only does is say that Abraham will teach his children, but that he will also teach “his household.” Abraham proved these words to be true not only with Isaac, but with his 318 disciples as well.

  • 1. Exodus 25:10
  • 2. Exodus 25:17
  • 3. Exodus 26:31
  • 4. Exodus 20:4
  • 5. Genesis Rabbah 84:4