Pop’s Art: How Abraham got his name, Part 3

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“Moses and the Burning Bush,” oil on canvas by Herbert Mandel

O P I N I O N


About this series: A narrative exploring the stories behind the paintings of late artist Herbert Mandel as explained in the context of the Biblical texts they’re derived from, by his son-in-law, Jim Robidoux. Click here for more of Pop’s Art.


Related posts

⇒ Read Pop’s Art: Abraham, the key figure of the Bible; Father of religions? Not so much, Part 1

Read Pop’s Art: The call of Abraham, Part 2


Before God renamed Abram “Abraham,” he was in the process of remaking him. Yahweh’s first prophet Abram, was chosen to leave his country and his culture along with everything else in his life outside of his wife Sarai, nephew Lot and their possessions. God’s word came to him in a vision as detailed in Genesis Chapter 15.

“Fear not, Abram I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” Abram answered, “Yahweh, what will you give me for I remain childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus? You have given me no offspring.” And the word of Yahweh came back to him, “This man will not be your heir: your very own son will be. Look toward heaven and number the stars if you can.” Then God said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed God and he counted it to him as righteousness.”

Once again God promised Abram and his decedents the land of Canaan. But Abram said, “How am I to Know I shall possess it?” Then Yahweh told Abram to bring him a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. Abram brought God the animals and cut them in half but not the birds. And when the birds of prey came down on the carcasses Abram drove them away.

As the sun was setting a deep sleep fell on Abram. Dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then Yahweh said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and they will be servants there for 400 hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve and they will come out with great possessions.

“Moses Parts the Red Sea,” oil on canvas by Herbert Mandel

When the sun had gone down and it was dark a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between the pieces and consumed them completely. On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram that his decedents would own the land of Canaan.

Genesis chapter 16 begins with Sarai assisting God and his promise of a son to Abram. Sarai gives Abram her servant Hagar to be the surrogate mother.

“Sarai gives Abram her servant Hagar to be the surrogate mother.” Pencil sketch by Herbert Mandel

Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children after living in Canaan 10 years. She said to Abram,” Yahweh has prevented me from having children, take Hagar my servant as a wife, it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” Abram listened to Sarai and took her servant as a wife and she conceived. After Hagar was pregnant she looked with contempt at Sarai. And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you … May God judge between you and me.” But Abram said to Sarai, “Your servant is in your power – do as you please to her.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar and she fled from her mistress.

God found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness heading in the direction of Egypt where she had been born. “Behold you are pregnant and will bear a son. You shall call him Ishmael because I have listened to your affliction,” Hagar said, “You are a God of seeing…truly I have seen him who looks after me.” And Abram was 86 years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. (Genesis Chapter 16)

(Genesis chapter 17) When Abram was 99 years old Yahweh appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between you and me, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “No longer will you be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful… Kings shall come from you… And I will establish my covenant between me and you… for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your offspring.”

“The Circumcision,” by Herbert Mandel

“Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Any uncircumcised male will be cut off from his people for he has broken my covenant.”

“As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. She will be the mother of nations and kings of people will come from her.”

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing.”

Then God said, “Yes , but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.”

“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers… But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When God had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

On that very day, all the men of his household were circumcised along with Ishmael and Abraham. (Genesis Chapter 17)


Abraham Part 4 will continue with God rescuing Lot and destroying Sodom, along with a king that takes Sarah for a wife, the birth of Isaac and more…

“Abraham Prepares to Sacrifice Isaac,” Pen-and-ink by Herbert Mandel

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