Character Traits of Abraham

Abraham is depicted as a righteous man with a wholehearted commitment to God; a man of peace (in resolving a boundary dispute with his nephew Lot), compassionate, hospitable, a quick-acting warrior and an unscrupulous liar to save (he passes off Sarah as his sister and lets her be picked by the Egyptian pharaoh for his harem). He looks to be a character of enormous spiritual depth and power, as well as a person with normal human flaws and needs.

The Difference Between an Acquaintance and a Friend Is Character

Throughout the Bible, Abraham is portrayed as a model of trust and fidelity to YHWH. Aside from Yeshua, I don't believe there is a higher role model for a believer in Abraham's God than Abraham himself.

We know that God values both faith and obedience, and many people throughout history have demonstrated both. I've previously discussed Moses and Elijah, but don't forget about Enoch, Noah, Joseph, David, Elisha, and Daniel. All of them were guys of profound faith and obedience.

Everyone admires certain people and considers others to be friends, yet these two groups of people are rarely the same. The distinction between them is not just related to proximity or convenience. You can respect someone's accomplishments and value his commitment without genuinely like him or considering him a friend.

In certain circumstances, the distinction between an acquaintance and a friend is most likely due to the person's personality. Something in Abraham's character distinguished him from all other upright men and women in God's eyes, but what was that something? Abraham in the bible is our sole solid source of knowledge about his life, and I believe the tale in Genesis 18 about him entertaining three visitors perfectly highlights some of his exceptional traits.

Abraham and the Three Visitors

And YHWH came to him beside the trees of Mamre, as he sat in the heat of the day at the entrance of his tent. He raised his eyes and glanced up to see three men standing in front of him. When he saw them, he raced from the tent entrance to welcome them, bowed on the ground, and pleaded, "O Lord, if I have gained your favor, please do not pass by your servant." Allow for a small amount of water to be delivered, wash your feet, and sit beneath the tree while I bring you a slice of bread to refresh you before proceeding—since you have come to your servant." "Do as you have said," they said. And Abraham rushed inside Sarah's tent, saying, "Quick! Fine flour in three seahs! Knead it and bake some cakes." And Abraham dashed to the herd, grabbed a tender and excellent calf, and handed it to a young man, who swiftly cooked it. Then he took curds and milk, as well as the calf he had cooked, and placed it in front of them. And as they ate, he stood beside them beneath the tree.

Genesis 18:1-8

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, yet Genesis does an excellent job at painting complex scenes with little words. These eight verses reveal a great deal about Abraham's character.

Abraham Is Hospitable

At the time, Abraham was 99 years old and resided near the Dead Sea in what is now Jordan. Although the scripture in chapters 18 and 19 suggests that this occurrence occurred in the spring, it was clearly an exceptionally hot day, since Abraham was resting from the noon heat in the coolest area possible, right outside the entrance of his tent. Out of the sun, yet still swaying in the breeze.

There were no servants, guards, or any retinue with the three guys who approached on the road. They didn't have any mounts or luggage. Although the scripture clearly states that this was YHWH himself on his way to Sodom, it is equally apparent that Abraham was unaware of this until they departed his camp. Nothing indicates that they seemed to be anything other than regular men. I'm sure Abraham had seen many itinerant laborers who traveled similarly to these individuals.

Despite his difficulty, he sprang to his feet, raced to meet three guys arriving in the distance, and asked them to stop at his tent to eat and rest. He couldn't have anticipated to establish any trade transactions or obtain payment for anything he offered them because they had nothing to trade. He was minding his own business as he waited for them to approach him. Abraham was just overjoyed to provide his riches for their refreshment. It was an honor for him to host and entertain strangers.

Abraham Is Generous

Despite the fact that most sources say a seah is a dry measure equaling roughly two gallons, Abraham instructed Sarah to make bread for his visitors using three seahs of flour. That is way more bread than any human being could possible consume! I believe Abraham was either preparing a feast for his entire household with his visitors as honored guests, or he was sending them on their way with bags full of bread for their journey. In either case, he provided considerably more than they would have asked for if he had waited until they asked.

This wasn't yesterday's bread or breakfast leftovers, but both were probably present. This wasn't barley or course-grained flour; it was fine ground wheat flour, which most people would presumably save for special occasions if they could buy it at all.

Abraham then chose a young calf from his herd and instructed one of his slaves to kill and prepare it right away. Before sending a calf to the butcher, ranchers usually wait at least nine months or, more commonly, twelve to eighteen months. This age range indicates the perfect weight-to-consistency ratio, optimizing each animal's profitability. A younger calf's flesh may be more tender, but there is less of it, making it far more expensive... However, there was substantially more than three men could consume.

In summary, Abraham was unusually kind to three individuals he most likely thought he'd never see again.

Abraham Is Impartial

When Joseph dined with his brothers in Egypt, he lavished more on Benjamin than on the others. He was implying to the others that he knew more about them than they did about him, but he was also favoring his own full brother. They would have expected a wealthy guy in the desert to donate a higher amount to their leader if he entertained a group of tourists.

When Abraham encountered the three gentlemen on the road, he didn't try to figure out who was superior. He didn't inquire who was the leader or show any respect for one over the other; instead, he bowed to all three at the same time. He directed Sarah to use three measures of flour when he sent her to make bread. One seah would have sufficed for all three men, but Abraham intended to cook bread with one measure for each, symbolically not favoring any of them. He could send each man with an equal number of leftovers if he sent them out with the leftovers.

His actions were compatible with a fundamental concept in God's Law of treating all people with basic respect, regardless of their resources or station in life.

Abraham Is Humble

When Abraham saw the three men, he sprang to his feet and ran to meet them–he didn't wait for them to come to him–and when he reached them, he bowed to the ground as if they were royalty and addressed them as "lord." Perhaps he was aware that he was experiencing God himself, as evidenced by his usage of the singular "lord," although it does not appear that he was aware of it.

Abraham was a very wealthy and powerful man. Lot was a peer of the region's monarchs, as evidenced by the narrative of his abduction in Genesis 14. Anyone entering his tent would have expected to bow to him and address him as Lord, but Abraham did not greet his visitors in this manner. He was humbled the instant he saw them. He bowed, praised, pleaded, and served them before standing by, replenishing their drinks and plates while they ate and relaxed. He escorted them on the way as they left his tent.

Similarly, like Messiah Yeshua, despite having riches and authority comparable to monarchs, Abraham humbled himself to be a servant for the benefit of strangers.

Abraham Is a Leader in His House

Although Abraham served his visitors, he would have been negligent as a host if he had left them alone for more than a few moments. Instead, he told Sarah to make bread and a servant to make meat. Neither of them inquired as to why three guys need so much. I'm sure they used their wealth to lavishly treat visitors, but they didn't complain. They, like Noah's family, obeyed his orders, no matter how strange they seemed.

This was far from Abraham's first display of great leadership qualities–recall the occasion when he saved Lot–but commanding servants and leading warriors in combat are two very different things. It's one thing to encourage your wife to total devotion, even if it means calling him "lord" in front of others, as Peter wrote.

To the extent that you believe this quality is limited to men, consider what Paul said about women in the congregations he planted throughout the Roman Empire in 1 Timothy 5:14: " So I'd have younger widows marry, have children, manage their houses, and leave no opportunity for slander to the enemy." Women are to be the heads of their houses as wives and mothers, under the authority of their own husbands, while men are to be the heads of their families as husbands and fathers.

Abraham Is an Example for All Believers

Each of these characteristics–hospitality, charity, humility, impartiality, and patriarchal leadership–sets a good example for all Abrahamic worshipers. Peter urged, "Be courteous to one another without grumbling." "Because everyone of you has been given a gift, put it to good use by helping one another." "God prefers a cheerful donor," Paul explained, "and showing partiality is sin." How many times did Yeshua tell us that we should follow in his footsteps and serve everyone? "The first will be the last, and the last will be the first," says the narrator. Finally, Paul told Timothy and Titus that no one can shepherd God's people if he couldn't even keep his own house in order. First and foremost, a congregational elder must be a patriarch in his own family.

These five characteristics are more than just admirable. They are deep within God's heart. This is part of what Paul meant when he said in Romans 12:2 to "be changed by the renewing of your mind." "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling," as Paul and Abraham did by following Yeshua's example.

Of course, none of these things will get you into God's Kingdom, whether in this life or the next. That requires trust, a total dependence on God's grace to pardon unavoidable sins. Fortunately, I believe Abraham's obedience holds the key to developing both faith and behavior. You may develop your faith by exercising it through obedience, just as you do with everything else. Decide to keep one more of God's commands than you did yesterday–or one better–by faith, trusting that all of his instructions are for our good. Your trust will be strengthened when your obedience demonstrates the wisdom of God's message throughout time.