Denison Journal of Religion


Swensson claims not only that Abraham is the first prophet to appear in the Hebrew Bible, but also that his intimate, friendly relationship with God is the perfect model for the relationship between humanity and divinity. Swensson identifies four markers that differentiate Abraham's relationship with God from all other human-divine relationships previously available in the text: 1) a reciprocal call between the human and the divine, 2) the gradual revelation of God's will, 3) Abraham's direct and honest communication with God, 4) an "anomic, deviant existence" that shows Abraham's complete devotion to the will of God. The reciprocal call between Abraham and Yahweh can be seen in Genesis 12 when Yahweh calls to Abraham with a command and a promise. Abraham, however, is also frequently described as "invoking" God. These two call upon and respond to each other. Additionally, God's call to Abraham is not immediately clear, but is revealed over time. This is significant because it means that God does not call Abraham and abandon him, rather they walk together, and so the call of God is constantly changing, calling humanity forward to a better future. This begins to show a more intimate relationship between Abraham and God than had previously existed in the text. Finally, Abraham's prophetic role, and the relationship with God that it implies, is solidified in that he is required to live outside of the normal bounds of society. This is made most obviously clear when he is asked to sacrifice his son. God must know that Abraham is willing to abandon the order proclaimed by society and do away with his own ego to trust wholly in God. Finally, Abraham's role is solidified, Swensson argues, because he is the "father of all the nations," and all the future prophets and believers are his descendants.