This Ancient Land Is Not Your Land

Why did Abraham’s family move so often?

This is the third article in a short “Genesis January” series to help people explore the complexity of the Bible at the start of a new year.

We live in a restless generation. My husband and I have moved 15 times in 24 years of marriage. And while that number is higher than average, we’re not alone. It’s somewhat unusual to stay put in the same community and the same line of work for more than 10 years.

People these days move for job or school opportunities, marriage, or proximity to family. Some of us relocate simply to find a community that better fits our budgets or ideals. Sometimes our migrations are precipitated by conflict or concern—divorce, a health crisis, an age-related decline, or an escape from violence.

We find similar relocation themes in the Old Testament. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob moved their families a lot. If you’re reading through Genesis this month, you’ve probably noticed. Their reasons for moving are different than ours, but they can still teach us something about how to live well.

Unless you’ve fled with your belongings from a war-torn area, it will be difficult to imagine the arduous journey Abraham’s family faced as they traversed ancient Mesopotamia. They couldn’t rent a U-Haul truck. They traveled in tents, carrying everything they owned and leading flocks of sheep and goats. These herds were their key to survival, providing milk to drink, meat to eat, and animal skins to make water-resistant tents. Keeping these flocks alive was a perpetual challenge in a region with little vegetation and few bodies of fresh water—almost entirely dependent on rainfall. I’m already tired just thinking about it.

They couldn’t …

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