Chapter 7: Secure Your Identity
In the last post, Janet solidified her identity as a people-first person (as opposed to a company-first person) only after she was laid off from her job. The company culture was difficult, and put a high premium on putting the company first. The story of Abraham in the Bible also starts with a journey. Abraham leaves a society of idol worshippers, starting a journey into the wilderness. Abraham leaves at God’s command, which on the surface seems like very different circumstances than a layoff. Hold that thought while we return to Abraham’s backstory, which is captured in the Talmud, a collection of stories and commentary that fills in the gaps in the Torah (aka the Five Books of Moses in the Old Testament.)
I shared the Talmud story of Abraham smashing the idols in his father’s shop at the start of Chapter 2. These clay statues played a central role in Sumarian life. To challenge idolatry was to challenge a foundational element of the culture, and by extension the power of King Nimrod. When Abraham was brought to court to explain, he did not back away from his central message. “If you are so wise, King Nimrod, why do you worship gods made by human hands, and why do you call yourself a god when one day you will die like all men made of flesh and blood?”[i] (You can read the whole story here.)
Nimrod proceeds to jail Abraham for a year without food and water, and then to throw him into a fiery furnace, both of which Abraham survived through divine intervention. Let’s for the sake of argument, say that this is an allegory and not literally true. How then, did Abraham survive, in an era thousands of years ago when the rule of the king was absolute, and “dead bodies floated along the Euphrates.?”[ii] In my opinion, it is because Abraham was teaching a set of values that gained a following. Rather than create a martyr, maybe Nimrod sent Abraham and his followers into exile. It was only later reported that Abraham left of his own accord, to ”spend more time with his family.”
What does this say about Abraham’s identity?