Sacred Texts  Bible  Index 

Abjects (Psa 35:15), the translation of a Hebrew word meaning smiters; probably, in allusion to the tongue, slanderers. (Compare Jer 18:18.)

Ablution Or washing, was practiced (1.) When a person was initiated into a higher state: e.g., when Aaron and his sons were set apart to the priest's office, they were washed with water previous to their investiture with the priestly robes (Lev 8:6). (2.) Before the priests approached the altar of God, they were required, on pain of death, to wash their hands and their feet to cleanse them from the soil of common life (Exo 30:17). To this practice the Psalmist alludes, Psa 26:6. (3.) There were washings prescribed for the purpose of cleansing from positive defilement contracted by particular acts. Of such washings eleven different species are prescribed in the Levitical law (Lev. 12-15). (4.) A fourth class of ablutions is mentioned, by which a person purified or absolved himself from the guilt of some particular act. For example, the elders of the nearest village where some murder was committed were required, when the murderer was unknown, to wash their hands over the expiatory heifer which was beheaded, and in doing so to say, "Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it" (Deu 21:1). So also Pilate declared himself innocent of the blood of Jesus by washing his hands (Mat 27:24). This act of Pilate may not, however, have been borrowed from the custom of the Jews. The same practice was common among the Greeks and Romans. The Pharisees carried the practice of ablution to great excess, thereby claiming extraordinary purity (Mat 23:25). Mark (Mar 7:1) refers to the ceremonial ablutions. The Pharisees washed their hands "oft," more correctly, "with the fist" (R.V., "diligently"), or as an old father, Theophylact, explains it, "up to the elbow." (Compare also Mar 7:4; Lev 6:28; Lev 11:32; Lev 15:22) (See WASHING.)

Abner Father of light; i.e., "enlightening", the son of Ner and uncle of Saul. He was commander-in-chief of Saul's army (Sa1 14:50; Sa1 17:55; Sa1 20:25). He first introduced David to the court of Saul after the victory over Goliath (Sa1 17:57). After the death of Saul, David was made king over Judah, and reigned in Hebron. Among the other tribes there was a feeling of hostility to Judah; and Abner, at the head of Ephraim, fostered this hostility in the interest of the house of Saul, whose son Ish-bosheth he caused to be proclaimed king (Sa2 2:8). A state of war existed between these two kings. A battle fatal to Abner, who was the leader of Ish-boseth's army, was fought with David's army under Joab at Gibeon (Sa2 2:12). Abner, escaping from the field, was overtaken by Asahel, who was "light of foot as a wild roe," the brother of Joab and Abishai, whom he thrust through with a back stroke of his spear (Sa2 2:18). Being rebuked by Ish-bosheth for the impropriety of taking to wife Rizpah, who had been a concubine of King Saul, he found an excuse for going over to the side of David, whom he now professed to regard as anointed by the Lord to reign over all Israel. David received him favorably, and promised that he would have command of the armies. At this time Joab was absent from Hebron, but on his return he found what had happened. Abner had just left the city; but Joab by a stratagem recalled him, and meeting him at the gate of the city on his return, thrust him through with his sword (Sa2 3:27, Sa2 3:31; Sa2 4:12. Compare Kg1 2:5, Kg1 2:32). David lamented in pathetic words the death of Abner, "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?" (Sa2 3:33.)

Abomination This word is used (1.) To express the idea that the Egyptians considered themselves as defiled when they ate with strangers (Gen 43:32). The Jews subsequently followed the same practice, holding it unlawful to eat or drink with foreigners (Joh 18:28; Act 10:28; Act 11:3). (2.) Every shepherd was "an abomination" unto the Egyptians (Gen 46:34). This aversion to shepherds, such as the Hebrews, arose probably from the fact that Lower and Middle Egypt had formerly been held in oppressive subjection by a tribe of nomad shepherds (the Hyksos), who had only recently been expelled, and partly also perhaps from this other fact that the Egyptians detested the lawless habits of these wandering shepherds. (3.) Pharaoh was so moved by the fourth plague, that while he refused the demand of Moses, he offered a compromise, granting to the Israelites permission to hold their festival and offer their sacrifices in Egypt. This permission could not be accepted, because Moses said they would have to sacrifice "the abomination of the Egyptians" (Exo 8:26); i.e., the cow or ox, which all the Egyptians held as sacred, and which they regarded it as sacrilegious to kill. (4.) Daniel (Dan 11:31), in that section of his prophecies which is generally interpreted as referring to the fearful calamities that were to fall on the Jews in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, says, "And they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate." Antiochus Epiphanes caused an altar to be erected on the altar of burnt-offering, on which sacrifices were offered to Jupiter Olympus. (Compare 1 Macc. 1:57). This was the abomination of the desolation of Jerusalem. The same language is employed in Dan 9:27 (compare Mat 24:15), where the reference is probably to the image-crowned standards which the Romans set up at the east gate of the temple (A.D. 70), and to which they paid idolatrous honors. "Almost the entire religion of the Roman camp consisted in worshipping the ensign, swearing by the ensign, and in preferring the ensign before all other gods." These ensigns were an "abomination" to the Jews, the "abomination of desolation." This word is also used symbolically of sin in general (Isa 66:3); an idol (Isa 44:19); the ceremonies of the apostate Church of Rome (Rev 17:4); a detestable act (Eze 22:11).

Abram Exalted father

Abraham Father of a multitude, son of Terah, named (Gen 11:27) before his older brothers Nahor and Haran, because he was the heir of the promises. Till the age of seventy, Abram sojourned among his kindred in his native country of Chaldea. He then, with his father and his family and household, quitted the city of Ur, in which he had hitherto dwelt, and went some 300 miles north to Haran, where he abode fifteen years. The cause of his migration was a call from God (Act 7:2). There is no mention of this first call in the Old Testament; it is implied, however, in Gen. 12. While they tarried at Haran, Terah died at the age of 205 years. Abram now received a second and more definite call, accompanied by a promise from God (Gen 12:1, Gen 12:2); whereupon he took his departure, taking his nephew Lot with him, "not knowing whither he went" (Heb 11:8). He trusted implicitly to the guidance of Him who had called him. Abram now, with a large household of probably a thousand souls, entered on a migratory life, and dwelt in tents. Passing along the valley of the Jabbok, in the land of Canaan, he formed his first encampment at Sichem (Gen 12:6), in the vale or oak-grove of Moreh, between Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south. Here he received the great promise, "I will make of thee a great nation," etc. (Gen 12:2, Gen 12:3, Gen 12:7). This promise comprehended not only temporal but also spiritual blessings. It implied that he was the chosen ancestor of the great Deliverer whose coming had been long ago predicted (Gen 3:15). Soon after this, for some reason not mentioned, he removed his tent to the mountain district between Bethel, then called Luz, and Ai, towns about two miles apart, where he built an altar to "Jehovah." He again moved into the southern tract of Palestine, called by the Hebrews the Negeb; and was at length, on account of a famine, compelled to go down into Egypt. This took place in the time of the Hyksos, a Semitic race which now held the Egyptians in bondage. Here occurred that case of deception on the part of Abram which exposed him to the rebuke of Pharaoh (Gen 12:18). Sarai was restored to him; and Pharaoh loaded him with presents, recommending him to withdraw from the country. He returned to Canaan richer than when he left it, "in cattle, in silver, and in gold" (Gen 12:8; Gen 13:2. Compare Psa 105:13, Psa 105:14). The whole party then moved northward, and returned to their previous station near Bethel. Here disputes arose between Lot's shepherds and those of Abram about water and pasturage. Abram generously gave Lot his choice of the pasture-ground. (Compare Co1 6:7.) He chose the well-watered plain in which Sodom was situated, and removed thither; and thus the uncle and nephew were separated. Immediately after this Abram was cheered by a repetition of the promises already made to him, and then removed to the plain or "oakgrove" of Mamre, which is in Hebron. He finally settled here, pitching his tent under a famous oak or terebinth tree, called "the oak of Mamre" (Gen 13:18). This was his third resting-place in the land. Some fourteen years before this, while Abram was still in Chaldea, Palestine had been invaded by Chedorlaomer, King of Elam, who brought under tribute to him the five cities in the plain to which Lot had removed. This tribute was felt by the inhabitants of these cities to be a heavy burden, and after twelve years they revolted. This brought upon them the vengeance of Chedorlaomer, who had in league with him four other kings. He ravaged the whole country, plundering the towns, and carrying the inhabitants away as slaves. Among those thus treated was Lot. Hearing of the disaster that had fallen on his nephew, Abram immediately gathered from his own household a band of 318 armed men, and being joined by the Amoritish chiefs Mamre, Aner, and Eshcol, he pursued after Chedorlaomer, and overtook him near the springs of the Jordan. They attacked and routed his army, and pursued it over the range of Anti-Libanus as far as to Hobah, near Damascus, and then returned, bringing back all the spoils that had been carried away. Returning by way of Salem, i.e., Jerusalem, the king of that place, Melchizedek, came forth to meet them with refreshments. To him Abram presented a tenth of the spoils, in recognition of his character as a priest of the most high God (Gen 14:18). In a recently-discovered tablet, dated in the reign of the grandfather of Amraphel (Gen 14:1), one of the witnesses is called "the Amorite, the son of Abiramu," or Abram. Having returned to his home at Mamre, the promises already made to him by God were repeated and enlarged (Gen 13:14). "The word of the Lord" (an expression occurring here for the first time) "came to him" (Gen 15:1). He now understood better the future that lay before the nation that was to spring from him. Sarai, now seventy-five years old, in her impatience, persuaded Abram to take Hagar, her Egyptian maid, as a concubine, intending that whatever child might be born should be reckoned as her own. Ishmael was accordingly thus brought up, and was regarded as the heir of these promises (Gen. 16). When Ishmael was thirteen years old, God again revealed yet more explicitly and fully his gracious purpose; and in token of the sure fulfillment of that purpose the patriarch's name was now changed from Abram to Abraham (Gen 17:4, Gen 17:5), and the rite of circumcision was instituted as a sign of the covenant. It was then announced that the heir to these covenant promises would be the son of Sarai, though she was now ninety years old; and it was directed that his name should be Isaac. At the same time, in commemoration of the promises, Sarai's name was changed to Sarah. On that memorable day of God's thus revealing his design, Abraham and his son Ishmael and all the males of his house were circumcised (Gen. 17). Three months after this, as Abraham sat in his tent door, he saw three men approaching. They accepted his proffered hospitality, and, seated under an oak-tree, partook of the fare which Abraham and Sarah provided. One of the three visitants was none other than the Lord, and the other two were angels in the guise of men. The Lord renewed on this occasion his promise of a son by Sarah, who was rebuked for her unbelief. Abraham accompanied the three as they proceeded on their journey. The two angels went on toward Sodom; while the Lord tarried behind and talked with Abraham, making known to him the destruction that was about to fall on that guilty city. The patriarch interceded earnestly in behalf of the doomed city. But as not even ten righteous persons were found in it, for whose sake the city would have been spared, the threatened destruction fell upon it; and early next morning Abraham saw the smoke of the fire that consumed it as the "smoke of a furnace" (Gen. 19:1-28). After fifteen years' residence at Mamre, Abraham moved southward, and pitched his tent among the Philistines, near to Gerar. Here occurred that sad instance of prevarication on his part in his relation to Abimelech the King (Gen. 20). (See ABIMELECH.) Soon after this event, the patriarch left the vicinity of Gerar, and moved down the fertile valley about 25 miles to Beer-sheba. It was probably here that Isaac was born, Abraham being now an hundred years old. A feeling of jealousy now arose between Sarah and Hagar, whose son, Ishmael, was no longer to be regarded as Abraham's heir. Sarah insisted that both Hagar and her son should be sent away. This was done, although it was a hard trial to Abraham (Gen 21:12). (See HAGAR; ISHMAEL.) At this point there is a blank in the patriarch's history of perhaps twenty-five years. These years of peace and happiness were spent at Beer-sheba. The next time we see him his faith is put to a severe test by the command that suddenly came to him to go and offer up Isaac, the heir of all the promises, as a sacrifice on one of the mountains of Moriah. His faith stood the test (Heb 11:17). He proceeded in a spirit of unhesitating obedience to carry out the command; and when about to slay his son, whom he had laid on the altar, his uplifted hand was arrested by the angel of Jehovah, and a ram, which was entangled in a thicket near at hand, was seized and offered in his stead. From this circumstance that place was called Jehovah-jireh, i.e., "The Lord will provide." The promises made to Abraham were again confirmed (and this was the last recorded word of God to the patriarch); and he descended the mount with his son, and returned to his home at Beer-sheba (Gen 22:19), where he resided for some years, and then moved northward to Hebron. Some years after this Sarah died at Hebron, being 127 years old. Abraham acquired now the needful possession of a burying-place, the cave of Machpelah, by purchase from the owner of it, Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 23); and there he buried Sarah. His next care was to provide a wife for Isaac, and for this purpose he sent his steward, Eliezer, to Haran (or Charran, Act 7:2), where his brother Nahor and his family resided (Gen 11:31). The result was that Rebekah, the daughter of Nahor's son Bethuel, became the wife of Isaac (Gen. 24). Abraham then himself took to wife Keturah, who became the mother of six sons, whose descendants were afterwards known as the "children of the east" (Jdg 6:3), and later as "Saracens." At length all his wanderings came to an end. At the age of 175 years, 100 years after he had first entered the land of Canaan, he died, and was buried in the old family burying-place at Machpelah (Gen 25:7). The history of Abraham made a wide and deep impression on the ancient world, and references to it are interwoven in the religious traditions of almost all Eastern nations. He is called "the friend of God" (Jam 2:23), "faithful Abraham" (Gal 3:9), "the father of us all" (Rom 4:16).

Abraham's Bosom (Luk 16:22, Luk 16:23) refers to the custom of reclining on couches at table, which was prevalent among the Jews, an arrangement which brought the head of one person almost into the bosom of the one who sat or reclined above him. To "be in Abraham's bosom" thus meant to enjoy happiness and rest (Mat 8:11; Luk 16:23) at the banquet in Paradise. (See BANQUET; MEAL.)

Abronah One of Israel's halting-places in the desert (Num 33:34, Num 33:35), just before Ezion-gaber. In A.V., "Ebronah."

Absalom Father of peace; i.e., "peaceful" David's son by Maacah (Sa2 3:3; compare Kg1 1:6). He was noted for his personal beauty and for the extra-ordinary profusion of the hair of his head (Sa2 14:25, Sa2 14:26). The first public act of his life was the blood-revenge he executed against Amnon, David's eldest son, who had basely wronged Absalom's sister Tamar. This revenge was executed at the time of the festivities connected with a great sheep-shearing at Baal-hazor. David's other sons fled from the place in horror, and brought the tidings of the death of Amnon to Jerusalem. Alarmed for the consequences of the act, Absalom fled to his grandfather at Geshur, and there abode for three years (Sa2 3:3; 13:23-38). David mourned his absent son, now branded with the guilt of fratricide. As the result of a stratagem carried out by a woman of Tekoah, Joab received David's sanction to invite Absalom back to Jerusalem. He returned accordingly, but two years elapsed before his father admitted him into his presence (Sa2 14:28). Absalom was now probably the oldest surviving son of David, and as he was of royal descent by his mother as well as by his father, he began to aspire to the throne. His pretensions were favoured by the people. By many arts he gained their affection; and after his return from Geshur (Sa2 15:7; marg., R.V.) he went up to Hebron, the old capital of Judah, along with a great body of the people, and there proclaimed himself king. The revolt was so successful that David found it necessary to quit Jerusalem and flee to Mahanaim, beyond Jordan; where upon Absalom returned to Jerusalem and took possession of the throne without opposition. Ahithophel, who had been David's chief counsellor, deserted him and joined Absalom, whose chief counsellor he now became. Hushai also joined Absalom, but only for the purpose of trying to counteract the counsels of Ahithophel, and so to advantage David's cause. He was so far successful that by his advice, which was preferred to that of Ahithophel, Absalom delayed to march an army against his father, who thus gained time to prepare for the defense. Absalom at length marched out against his father, whose army, under the command of Joab, he encountered on the borders of the forest of Ephraim. Twenty thousand of Absalom's army were slain in that fatal battle, and the rest fled. Absalom fled on a swift mule; but his long flowing hair, or more probably his head, was caught in the bough of an oak, and there he was left suspended till Joab came up and pierced him through with three darts. His body was then taken down and cast into a pit dug in the forest, and a heap of stones was raised over his grave. When the tidings of the result of that battle were brought to David, as he sat impatiently at the gate of Mahanaim, and he was told that Absalom had been slain, he gave way to the bitter lamentation: "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (Sa2 18:33. Compare Exo 32:32; Rom 9:3). Absalom's three sons (Sa2 14:27; compare Sa2 18:18) had all died before him, so that he left only a daughter, Tamar, who became the grandmother of Abijah.

Acacia (Hebrew shittim) Exo 25:5, R.V. probably the Acacia seyal (the gum-arabic tree); called the "shittah" tree (Isa 41:19). Its wood is called shittim wood (Exo 26:15, Exo 26:26; Exo 25:10, Exo 25:13, Exo 25:23, Exo 25:28, etc.). This species (A. seyal) is like the hawthorn, a gnarled and thorny tree. It yields the gum-arabic of commerce. It is found in abundance in the Sinaitic peninsula.