ere followeth the Life of Abraham.
The Sunday called Quinquagesima is read in the church the history of the holy patriarch Abraham which was the son of Terah. This Terah was the tenth from Noah in the generation of Shem. Japhet had seven sons and Ham four sons. Out of the generation of Ham Nimrod came, which was a wicked man and cursed in his works, and began to make the tower of Babel which was great and high. And at the making of this tower, God changed the languages, in such wise that no man understood other. For tofore the building of that tower was but one manner speech in all the world, and there were made seventy-two speeches. The tower was great, it was ten miles about and five thousand and eighty-four steps of height. This Nimrod was the first man that found mawmetry and idolatry, which endured long and yet doth. Then I turn again to Terah which had three sons, which was Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Of Nahor came Us, Bus, and Batuel. Of Us came Job, of Bus came Balaam, and of Batuel Rebekah and Laban. Of Haran came Lot and two daughters, Melcha and Sara.
Now I shall speak of Abram of whom our blessed lady came. He wedded Sara, daughter of his brother Haran. Abram was ever faithful and true, he was sixty-five years old when his father died, for whom he mourned till our Lord comforted him, which said to Abram: Abram, make thee ready and go out of thy land and kindred, and also from the house of thy father, and come into the land that I shall show to thee. I shall make thee grow into much people; I shall bless thee and magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed, and I shall bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee, and in thee shall be blessed all the kindreds of the earth.
Abram was seventy years old when he departed from the land of Haran, and he took with him Sara his wife, and Lot the son of his brother, and their meiny, and his cattle and his substance, and came into the land of Canaan, and came into the vale of Sichem, in which were ill people which were the people of Canaan. And our Lord said to Abram: I shall give to thee this land and to thine heirs. Then Abram did raise an altar on which he did sacrifice, and blessed and thanked our Lord. Abram beheld all the land toward the south, and saw the beauty thereof, and found it like as our Lord told him. But he had not been long in the land but that there fell great hunger therein, wherefore he left that country and went into Egypt and took with him Sara his wife. And as they went by the way Abram said to his wife: I fear and dread sore that when we come to this people, which be lawless, that they shall take thee for thy beauty and slay me, because they would use thee. Wherefore say thou art my sister, and I thy brother, and she agreed thereto. And when they were come in to that country the people saw that she was so fair, and anon they told the king, which anon commanded that she should be brought into his presence. And when she was come, God of his good grace so purveyed for her, that no man had power to use any lechery with her ne to do her villainy. Wherefore the king was feared that God would have taken vengeance on him for her, and sent for Abram and said to him that he should take his wife, and that he had evil done to say, that she was his sister, and so delivered her again, and gave him gold and silver, and bade that men should worship him in all his land, and he should freely at his pleasure depart with all his goods. Then after this Abram took his wife Sara and went home again, and came unto Bethel, and set there an altar of stone, and there he adored and worshipped the name of God. His store and beasts began to multiply, and Lot with his meiny was also there. And their beasts began so sore to increase and multiply, that unnethe the country might suffice to their pasture, in so much that rumour and grudging began to sourde and arise between the herdmen of Abram and the herdmen of Lot. Then Abram said to Lot: Lo! this country is great and wide, I pray thee to choose on which hand thou wilt go, and take it for thy meiny and thy beasts. And let no strife be between me and thee, ne between my herdmen ne thy herdmen. Lo! behold all the country is tofore thee, take which thou wilt; if thou go on the right side, I shall go on the left side, and if thou take the left, I will go on the right side. Then Lot beheld the country and saw a fair plain toward flom Jordan, which was pleasant, and the flood ran toward Sodom and Gomorrah, which was like a paradise, and took that part for him. And Abram took towards the west, which was beside the people of Canaan at the foot of mount Mamre. And Lot dwelled in Sodom. The people of Sodom were worst of all people.
Our Lord said to Abram: Lift up thine eyes and see directly from the place that thou art now in, from the north to the south, and from the east to the west. All this land that thou seest I shall give thee, and to thy seed for evermore. I shall make thy seed as powder or dust of the earth, who that may number the dust of the earth shall number thy seed. Arise therefore and walk the land in length and in breadth, for I shall give it to thee. Abram moved then his tabernacle and dwelled in the valley of Mamre, which is in Hebron and set there his tabernacle. It happened soon after that there was a war in that land, that four kings warred again other five kings, which were of Sodom, Gomorrah and other. And the four kings overthrew the five and slew them, and spoiled and took all the substance of the country and took also with them Lot and all his goods. And a man gat away from them and came to Abram, and told him how that Lot was taken and led away. And then anon Abram did do gather his people together, the number of three hundred and eighteen. And followed after, and departed his people in two parties because they should not escape. And Abram smote in among them, and slew the kings, and rescued Lot and all his goods, and delivered the men of Sodom that were taken and the women. And they of Sodom came against him, and Melchisedech came and met with him, and offered to him bread and wine. This Melchisedech was king and priest of Jerusalem and all the country, and blessed Abram. And there Abram gave to him the tythes of all he had. And the king of Sodom would that Abram should have had such prey as he took, but he would not have as much as the latchet of a shoe, and thus gat Abram much love of all the people. After this our Lord appeared to Abram in a vision and said: Abram, dread thee nothing, I am thy protector, and thy reward and meed shall be great. Abram answered: Lord God, what wilt thou give me? Thou wottest well I have no children, and sith I have none I will well that Eleazar the son of my bailiff be my heir. Nay, said our Lord, he shall not be thine heir, but he that shall issue and come of thy seed shall be thine heir. Our Lord led him out and bade him behold the heaven, and number the stars if thou mayst, and said to him, so shall thy offspringing and seed be. And Abram believed it and gave faith to our Lord’s words, and it was reputed to him to justice. And our Lord said to him, I am the Lord that led thee out of the land of Ur of the Chaldees for to give to thee this land into thy possession. And Abram said: Lord, how shall I know that I shall possess it? A voice said to Abram: Thy seed shall be exiled into Egypt by the space of four hundred years, and shall be there in servitude, and after, I shall bring them hither again in the fourth generation. Thou shalt abide here unto thy good age, and shalt be buried here, and go with thy fathers in peace. Sara was yet without child, and she had a handmaid named Hagar, an Egyptian, and she on a day said to Abram her husband: Thou seest I may bear no child, wherefore I would thou took Hagar my maid, and lie by her that thou might get a child which I might keep and hold for mine. And ten year after that Abram had dwelled in that land, he took Hagar and get her with child, and anon as she felt herself with child she despised her mistress Then Sara said to Abram: Thou dost evil. I gave thee licence to lie with my servant, and now sith she is conceived by thee, she hath me in despite, God judge this between thee and me. To whom Abram answered: Thine handmaid is in thine hands, chastise her as it pleaseth thee. After this Sara chastised Hagar and put her to so great affliction that she went away; and as she went an angel met with her in the wilderness by a well, and said: Hagar, whence comest and whither goest thou? She answered: I flee away from the face of my lady Sara. To whom the angel said, return again and submit thee by humbleness unto thy lady, and I shall multiply thy seed, and so much people shall come of it that it cannot be numbered for multitude. And he said furthermore: Thou hast conceived and shalt bear a child and shalt call him Ishmael. He shall be a fierce man, he shall be against all men, and all men against him. Then Hagar returned home and served her lady, and soon after this she was delivered of Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Ishmael was born.
When Abram was ninety-nine years, our Lord appeared to him and said: Abram, lo! I am the Lord Almighty, walk thou before me and be perfect, and I shall keep covenant between me and thee and shall multiply thy seed greatly. And Abram fell down lowting low to the earth and thanked him. Then our Lord said I am, and my covenant I shall keep to thee, thou shalt be father of much people. Thou shalt no more be called Abram, but Abraham, for I have ordained thee father of much people. I shall make thee to increase most abundantly; kings and princes shall come of thee, and shall stablish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed in thy generations. I shall give to thee and to thy seed after thee the land of thy pilgrimage, all the land of Canaan, into their possession and I shall be their God. Yet said God to Abraham: And thou shalt keep thy covenant to me, and thine heirs after thee in their generations, and this shall be the covenant that ye shall keep and thine heirs after thee. Every man-child and male shall be circumcised in his privy member, that it be a token between me and you. Every child masculine that shall be born shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, and I will that this sign shall be in your flesh. And see that the men in your generation be circumcised, begin at thyself and thy children. And all that dwell in thy kindred, who of you that shall not be circumcised in his flesh shall be cast and put out for ever from my people, because he obeyeth not my statute and ordinance. And thy wife Sara shall be called no more Sara but she shall be called Sarah, and I shall bless her, and shall give to thee a son of her, whom I shall bless also. I shall him increase into nations, and kings of peoples shall come of him. Abraham fell down on his face toward the earth and laughed in his heart, saying: May it be that a woman of ninety years may conceive and bear a child? I beseech thee, Lord, that Ishmael may live before thee. Our Lord said to Abraham, Sarah shall bring forth a son whom thou shalt name Isaac, and I shall keep my covenant to him for evermore, and to his heirs after him. And I have heard they request for Ishmael also. I shall bless him and increase, and shall multiply his seed into much people, twelve dukes shall come of him. I shall keep my covenant to Isaac, whom Sarah shall bring forth the next year. When these words were finished Abraham took Ishmael his son and all the men, small and great, strangers and other that were in his house, and circumcised them. Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised, and Abraham was ninety-nine years when he himself was circumcised. And thus that same day he and his son Ishmael and all the men in his house, as well as strangers, of what degree they were, received this new law of circumcision, whereby they were known from other people. After this on a time, as Abraham sat beside his house in the vale of Mamre in the heat of the day, and as he lift up his eyes, he saw three young men coming to him, and anon as he saw these three standing by him he ran to them and worshipped one alone; he saw three and worshipped but one. That betokeneth the Trinity, and prayed them to be harboured with him, and took water and washed their feet: and prayed them to tarry under the tree, and he would bring bread to them for to comfort them. And they bade him do as he had said, he went and bade Sarah to make three ashy cakes and sent his child for a tender fat calf, which was sodden and boiled. And he served them with butter and milk, and the calf, and set it tofore them. He stood by them, and when they had eaten they demanded him: Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said: Yonder in the tabernacle. And he said, I shall go and come again, and Sarah thy wife shall have a child. And she stood behind the door and heard it and laughed, and said softly to herself: How may it be that my lord is so old and I also that I should bear Abraham a child? She thought it impossible. Then said our Lord to Abraham: Why laugheth Sarah thy wife, saying in scorn, Shall I bear a child? but as I said to thee before, I shall return and come again, and she shall have a child in that time. And he asked Sarah why she smiled in scorn, and she said she smiled ne laughed not, and our Lord said, It is not so, for thou laughedst. When they had rested Abraham conveyed them on the way. And our Lord said to Abraham: I have not hid from thee what I purpose to do. The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is multiplied and their sin is much grievous. I shall descend and see if the sin be so great, the stench thereof cometh to heaven, I shall take vengeance and destroy them. Then Abraham said: I hope, Lord, thou wilt not destroy the just and righteous man with the wicked sinner. I beseech thee, Lord, to spare them. Our Lord said: If there be fifty good and righteous men among them, I shall spare them. And Abraham said: Good Lord, if there be found forty, I pray thee to spare them. Our Lord said: If there be forty, I shall spare them, and so from forty to thirty and from thirty to twenty and from twenty to ten, and our Lord said: If there be found ten good men among them, I shall not destroy them. And then our Lord went from Abraham, and he returned home again. That same eventide came two angels into Sodom, and Lot sat at his gate, and when he saw them he went and worshipped them and prayed them to come and rest in his house, and abide there and wash their feet. And they said: Nay, we shall abide here in the street, and Lot constrained them and brought them into his house and made a feast to them. But ere they should go to bed, the sinful and cursed people of the town, young and old, beset and environed Lot’s house, and called Lot, and said: Where be the men that thou tookest into thy house this night? Bring them forth that we may know and use them. And Lot anon shut the door, and stood behind and said to them: O ye my brethren, I beseech you that ye will not do ne commit this wicked sin on them. I have two daughters, virgins, which yet never knew man. I shall bring them out to you, and use ye them, but these men I pray you to spare, they be entered under the shadow of my protection. They said again to him: Go forth and fetch them; thou art entered among us as a stranger, shalt thou rule and judge us? We shall put thee to more affliction than them. Lot withstood them mightily; they had almost broken up the doors, but the men set hand to, and did help Lot, and brought him in and did shut fast the door: and smote them that were without with blindness that they might not see, ne find the door. Then said the angels to Lot: If thou have here of thy kindred, sons or daughters, all them that long to thee, lead out of this city, we shall destroy this place, for the cry thereof is come to our Lord, which hath sent us for to destroy them. Lot went unto his kinsmen and said: Arise and take your children, and go out of this city, for our Lord shall destroy it. And they supposed that he had raved or japed. And as soon as it was day the angels said to Lot: Arise, and take thy wife and thy two daughters, and go out of this town lest ye perish with them. Yet he dissimuling, they took him by the hand and his wife and two daughters, because that God should spare them, and led them out of the city. And there they said to him: Save thy soul and look not behind thee lest thou perish also, but save thee in the mountain. Lot said to them: I beseech thee, my Lord, forasmuch as thy servant hath found grace before thee, and that thou hast showed thy mercy to me, and that peradventure I might take harm on the hill, that I may go into the little city hereby and may be saved there. He said to Lot: I have heard thy prayers, and for thy sake I shall not subvert this town for which thou hast prayed, hie thee and save thyself there, for I may do nothing till thou be therein. Therefore that town is called Zoar. So Lot went in to Zoar; and the sun arose, and our Lord rained from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulphur and fire, and subverted the cities and all the dwellers of the towns about that region, and all that was there growing and burgeoning. Lot’s wife turned her and looked towards the cities, and anon she was turned into a statue or image of salt, which abideth so unto this day. Abraham arose in the morning early, and looked towards the cities, and saw the smoke ascending from the places, like as it had been the light of a furnace. What time our Lord subverted these cities he remembered Abraham, and delivered Lot from the vengeance of the cities in which he dwelled. Then Lot ascended from Zoar and dwelled in the mountain, and his two daughters with him. He dreaded to abide any longer in the town, but dwelled in a cave, he and his two daughters with him.
Then the elder daughter said to the younger: Our father is old, and there is no man left on the earth living that may do have ado with us after the manner of the world, come and let us make him drunk and let us sleep with him, that we may have some seed of him. They gave their father wine to drink that night and made him drunk. And the elder daughter went to him, and conceived of him, he not knowing of it. And the second night in like wise conceived the younger daughter, and Lot was not knowing thereof. They conceived both of their father. The more had a son and called him Moab; he is father of the Moabites unto this day. The younger brought forth another son and called him Ammon; he is father of the Ammonites unto this day.
Abraham departed from thence and went southward and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and went a pilgrimage to Gerar. He said that his wife was his sister. Abimelech the king of Gerar sent for her and took her. God came to Abimelech in his sleep and said: Thou shalt be dead for the woman that thou hast taken, she hath an husband. Abimelech touched her not and said: Lord, wilt thou slay a man ignorant and rightful? She said that she was his sister, in the simpleness of my heart and cleanness of my hands I did this. And God said to him: I know well that with a simple heart thou didst it, and therefore I have kept thee from having to do with her, now yield the woman to her husband, and he shall pray for thee, he is a prophet and thou shalt live. And if thou deliver her not, thou shalt die, and all they that be in thy house. Abimelech arose up the same night and called all his servants, and told them all these words. All they dreaded sore. Also Abimelech called Abraham and said to him: What hast thou done to us, that we have trespassed to thee? Thou hast caused me and my realm to sin greatly. Thou hast done that thou shouldst not have done. What sawest thou for to do so? Abraham said: I thought that the dread of God was not in this place, and that ye would slay me for my wife; and certainly otherwise she is also my sister, the daughter of my father but not of my mother, and I have wedded her. And after that I went from the house of my father, I said to her: Wheresomever we go say thou art my sister. Then Abimelech took sheep and oxen and servants and maidens, and gave to Abraham, and delivered to him Sarah his wife, and said: Lo! the land is here tofore thee, wheresoever thou wilt, dwell and abide. And he said to Sarah: Lo ! I have given to thy brother a thousand pieces of silver, this shall be to thee a veil of shine eyes, and wheresomever thou go, remember that thou wert taken. Abraham prayed for Abimelech and his meiny and God healed him, his wife and all his servants, and they conceived. Our Lord had closed the place of engendering of all the house of Abimelech for Sarah the wife of Abraham. Our Lord then visited Sarah, and she conceived and brought forth a son in her old age, than same time that God had promised. Abraham called his son that she had borne, Isaac, and when he was eight days old he circumcised him as God had commanded, and Abraham was then an hundred years old. Then said Sarah: Who would have supposed that I should give suck to my child, being so old? I laughed when I heard our Lord say so, and all they that shall hear of it may well laugh. The child grew and was weaned from the pap, and Abraham made a great feast at the day of his weaning. After this, on a day when Sarah saw the son of Hagar her handmaid play with her son Isaac, she said to Abraham: Cast out this handmaid with her son, the son of the handmaid shall not be heir with my son Isaac. Abraham took this word hard and grievously for his son. Then said God to him: Let it not be hard to thee for thy son and handmaid, whatsomever Sarah say to thee hear her voice, for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Yet shall I make the son of the handmaid grow into great people, for he is of thy seed. Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a bottle of water, and laid it on her shoulder, and gave to her the child and let her go, which, when she was departed, erred in the wilderness of Beersheba. And when the water was consumed that was in the bottle, she left the child under a tree that was there and went thence as far as a bow shot and sat her down, and said: I shall not see my son die, and there she wept. Our Lord heard the voice of the child, and an anger called Hagar saying, What doest thou, Hagar? Be not afeard, our Lord hath heard the voice of the child from the place which he is now in. Arise and take the child and hold him by the hand, for I shall make him to increase into much people. God opened her eyes and she saw a pit of water, and anon she went and filled the bottle, and gave the child to drink, and abode with him, which grew and dwelled in the wilderness, and became there a young man and an archer, and dwelled also in the desert of Paran. And his mother took to him a wife of the land of Egypt.
That same time said Abimelech, and Phicol the prince of his host, unto Abraham: Our Lord is with thee in all things that thou doest. Swear thou by the Lord that thou grieve not me, ne them that shall come after me, ne my kindred, but after the mercy that I have showed to thee, so do to me and to my land in which thou hast dwelled as a stranger. And Abraham said, I shall swear. And he blamed Abimelech for the pit of water which his servants had taken away by strength. Abimelech answered: I know not who hath done this thing, and thou toldest me not thereof, and I never heard thereof till this day. And then after this they made covenant together, and promised each to other to be friends together.
After all these things God tempted Abraham, and said to him: Abraham, Abraham. He answered and said: I am here, and he said to him: Take thou thine only son that thou lovest, Isaac, and go into the land of Vision and offer him in sacrifice to me upon one of the hills that I shall show to thee. Then Abraham arose in the night, and made ready his ass, and took with him two young men and Isaac his son. And when they had hewn and gathered the wood together to make sacrifice, they went to the place that God commanded him. The third day after, he lift up his eyes and saw from afar the place, and he said to his children: Abide ye here with the ass, I and my son shall go to yonder place, and when we have worshipped there we shall return to you. Then he took the wood of the sacrifice and laid it on his son Isaac, and he bare in his hands fire and the sword. And as they went both together, Isaac said to his father: Father mine. What wilt thou, my son? said Abraham, and he said: Lo! here is fire and wood, where is the sacrifice that shall be offered? Abraham answered: My son, God shall provide for him a sacrifice well enough. They went forth and came to the place that God had ordained, and there made an altar, and laid the wood thereon, and took Isaac and set him on the wood on the altar, and took his sword and would have offered him up to God. And lo! the angel of God cried to him from heaven saying: Abraham, Abraham, which answered: I am here, and he said to him. Extend not thy hand upon thy child, and do nothing to him, now I know that thou dreadest God, and hast not spared thine only son for me. Abraham looked behind him, and saw among the briars a ram fast by the horns, which he took, and offered him in sacrifice for his son. He called that place: The Lord seeth. The angel called Abraham the second time saying: I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thine only son for me, I shall bless thee and shall multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and like the gravel that is on the seaside, thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies, and in thy seed shall be blessed all the people of the earth, for thou obeyedst to me. Abraham then returned to his servants, and went into Beersheba and dwelled there. Sarah lived an hundred and twenty-seven years and died in the city of Arba, which is Hebron in the land of Canaan; for whom Abraham made sorrow and wept, and bought of the children of Heth a field, and buried her worshipfully in a double spelunke.
Abraham was an old man, and God blessed him in all his things. He said to the eldest and upperest servant in all his house: I charge and conjure thee by the name of God of heaven and of earth that thou suffer not my son Isaac to take no wife of the daughters of Canaan amongst whom I dwell, but go into the country where my kindred is, and take of them a wife to my son. And the servant answered: If no woman there will come with me into this country, shall I bring thy son into that country from whence thou camest? Abraham said: Beware that thou lead not my son thither. The Lord of heaven and of earth, that took me from the house of my father and from the place of my nativity, hath said and sworn to me, saying: To thy seed I shall give this land. He shall send his angel tofore thee, and thou shalt take there a wife for my son. If no woman will come with thee thou shalt not be bounden by thine oath, but in no wise lead my son thither. His servant then swore and promised to him that he would so do. He took ten camels of the flock of his lord, and of all his goods bare with him, and went in to Mesopotamia unto the town of Nahor. And he made the camels to tarry without the town by a pit side at such time as the women be wont to come out for to draw water. And there he prayed our Lord, saying: Lord God of my lord Abraham, I beseech thee to help me this day, and do mercy unto my lord Abraham. Lo! I stand here nigh by the well of water, and the daughters of the dwellers of this town come hither for to draw water, therefore the maid to whom I say: Set down thy pot that I may drink, and then she set down her pot and say: I will give to thee drink, and to the camels, that I may understand thereby that she be the maid that thou hast ordained to thy servant Isaac, and thou showest thy mercy to my lord Abraham. He had not fully finished these words with himself, but that Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, son of Milcah wife of Nahor, brother of Abraham, came out of the town, having a pot on her shoulder, which was a right fair maid, and much beauteous and unknown to the man. She went down to the well and filled her pot with water and returned. The servant of Abraham ran to her and said: I pray thee to give me a little of the water in thy pot for to drink. Which said: Drink, my lord, and lightly took t that man, she said: Yea, I shall go with him. Then they let her go, and her nurse with her, and so she departed, and they said to her: Thou art our sister, we pray God that thou mayst increase into a thousand thousand, and that thy seed may possess the gates of their enemies. Then Rebekah and her maidens ascended upon the camels, and followed the servant of Abraham which hastily returned unto his lord.
That same time, when they were come, Isaac walked by the way without forth and looked up and saw the camels coming from far. Rebekah espied him and demanded of the servant who that he was that came in the field against them. He answered and said: That is my lord Isaac, and anon she took her pall or mantle and covered her. The servant anon told unto his lord Isaac all that he had done; which received her and led her into the tabernacle of Sarah his mother and wedded her, and took her in to his wife, and so much loved her, that the love attempered the sorrow that he had for his mother. Abraham after this wedded another wife, by whom he had divers children. Abraham gave to Isaac all his possessions, and to his other children he gave movable goods, and departed the sons of his concubines from his son Isaac whilst he yet lived. And all the days of the life of Abraham were one hundred and seventy-five years, and then died in good mind and age, and Isaac and Ishmael buried him by his wife Sarah in a double spelunke.