Abrahams Ancestor Shem outlived him

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RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
The Genealogy of Shem from Genesis 10:10-26 "Abraham was born 292 years after the flood. This would mean that Noah and Abraham were contemporaries as were Shem and Eber with Jacob. Since Shem’s life span was 600 years, and his son Arphaxad was born at 100 years and Abraham was born 290 years after Arphaxad (= 390), given that Abraham died at 175 years (= 565), Shem’s life span would actually exceed the death of Abraham by thirty-five years (Mathews, K. A. (1996))".

This seems to indicate believers living outside the covenant of circumcision. How can Shem be a contemporary of Abraham and not be circumcised?
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
One of the purposes of circumcision was to separate Abraham and his descendants, and later Israel, from the rest of the nations, and confirm the Abrahamic covenant with them. It was a development in the Covenant of Grace, and not the substance of the covenant itself. Shem belonged to the earlier Noahic administration of the covenant, and he and his other descendants were not a participant in the Abrahamic administration. They did not have the Abrahamic blessing of the promised seed descending from them apart from Abraham, or any promise of the inheritance of Canaan, and Shem did not journey with Abraham to Canaan. Likewise we have no record of Lot receiving circumcision, even though he was a "preacher of righteousness", since he came to dwell in Moab, outside of the promised land, and was not a direct descendant of Abraham.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
The part that confuses me is that since the Abrahamic covenant is part of the Covenant of Grace then logically Shem should be circumcised. This is because the administration wasn't initiated until Abraham, but to stay within the confines of Israel then it would make sense.

What would of happened to Shem's grandchildren/children?
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
The part that confuses me is that since the Abrahamic covenant is part of the Covenant of Grace then logically Shem should be circumcised. This is because the administration wasn't initiated until Abraham, but to stay within the confines of Israel then it would make sense.

What would of happened to Shem's grandchildren/children?

Shem was not a descendent of Abraham and was not liable to the terms and conditions of the Covenant of Circumcision.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I don't think those who use the data to make Shem a viable contemporary of Abraham's life (at least, post departure of Ur) have it correct. So, there's the first issue: not everyone agrees that the timeline has been established correctly. Only if Abram is Terah's firstborn (using only Gen.11:26), rather than a later offspring (using Gen.11:32 and Gen.12:4, so being born some 60yrs later to Terah than age 70yrs) and is listed first in 11:26 by way of eminence. This timeline both makes better sense in my view of the data, and makes the question of Seth's inclusion under circumcision further moot.

On a strict interpretation of the Genesis genealogies (another debated point) using the alternative for Terah's age at Abram's birth, Shem would be about 550yrs (of 600yrs) when Abraham was given circumcision (about age 100yrs), in a distant land from wherever he might have been. We have no idea how decrepit Shem might have been at such an age, or if such believers of earlier generations had much converse with the idolaters of Ur (see Jos.24:2) from whom Abram was rescued by divine, sovereign election and effectual calling.

There's no reason to suppose that everyone at the time of Abraham's call and after it, who still believed properly (who had not forgotten God, Ps.9:17)--someone like Melchizedek, or Abimelech (Gen.20:1-11)--had the same duty to join Abraham's house. It's clear to me all did not. But it's equally clear that over time, it became indubitable that the Covenant of Grace only had continuance in the house of blessing that was Abraham's and after him with the seed of promise.
 

RobertPGH1981

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't think those who use the data to make Shem a viable contemporary of Abraham's life (at least, post departure of Ur) have it correct. So, there's the first issue: not everyone agrees that the timeline has been established correctly.

I have read the same in commentaries. However, by stating this isn't a literal genealogy but more of an ellipse wouldn't that cast doubt on the entire Gen narrative being literal?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I have read the same in commentaries. However, by stating this isn't a literal genealogy but more of an ellipse wouldn't that cast doubt on the entire Gen narrative being literal?
Perhaps it was my use of the word, "viable" that made my comment confusing? "Viable" describes abilities or capabilities; it is not a synonym for "living," as in a "living contemporary." American Heritage Dictionary (ed. 1997) explains the term using words such as "favorable conditions" and "success or continuing effectiveness," which thoughts injected into my sentence in place of "viable" render the sense of my expression thus: the mere existence of an overlap of any length in lifespans doesn't necessitate the assumption of favorable conditions for, or success/effectiveness in contemporary interactions between individuals. We can point to numerous other factors (including religion) capable of disrupting real and potential converse.

My post makes the (main) point it does entirely on the basis that what Genesis offers IS a "literal genealogy," even as I acknowledge one treatment of the data has Shem outliving Abraham; and another treatment--which doubts the genealogy is "strict" while granting it is accurate for its purpose--would hardly find the two contemporary at all. I don't agree with either of those alternatives; however, both are "literal," nor does the second subvert the literal narrative in my opinion.

My presentation--which is alternative to either of the above, and to any view that is truly dismissive of the text details--seems to me uses more of the data in Genesis 11 & 12, than the view that only considers Gen.11:26 in the analysis used to establish a true timeline. My presentation assumes the genealogy is unbroken.

In Act.7:4, by the interpretation of the data he accepts, Stephen states that Abraham only left Haran (the place) after his father was dead, and Abram is not more than 75yrs old at the time of his departure from there (Gen.12:4) and Terah died at 205yrs. If Abram was born 60yrs after his elder brother Haran, and Haran died before his father but after having a child, Lot, that would make Lot (Abram's nephew) not that much younger than his uncle, if he was any younger--it's conceivable he was older!

Predicating Haran was the oldest son: that fact made him Terah's primary heir, and with his death Lot now first in line to absorb his grandfather's estate. But once Abram is born to Terah, he becomes the primary heir of his father when Haran is dead, and Lot is once again second in line to the childless Abram to absorb his grandfather's and his uncle's combined estate, assuming he remains in connection with his uncle, and that his uncle never has a son of his own.

It is only in Gen.22:20 (late in the narrative) that any mention is made of Nahor, Terah's third son having children. One could infer that Abram (with Lot in tow) left Haran carrying the bulk of his now-deceased father's estate, before Nahor had any children, however that is very doubtful. This branch of Terah's descendants stayed in that area when Abram left. Bethuel, father of Rebekah and Laban, was certainly not Nahor's firstborn, and may have been his last/least. He might not have been so much older than Isaac. He could have easily been born after Abram left Haran.
 
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