CHAPTER 1 : ABRAHAM

4,000 years ago a journey began that still challenges us today. It began on the green fields of an ancient city called Haran. The morning air rang with excited voices. Dogs ran about, barking aimlessly. Sheep bleated and pattered after their shepherds. Strong young women called instructions as they folded the tents and lashed them to the donkeys' backs. Mothers put toddlers in baskets on donkeys. Here and there a child rushed after a pet lamb.

In the dismantled camp, people paused for a last long look at the houses. They were mud-brick, domed houses that huddled under the shadow of the ziggurat. This ziggurat was a temple of the moon god, Nannar. Family ties and friendships were torn apart that morning. The colorful caravan finally poured forward onto the rocky road to the Euphrates River. They were bound for the far-off land of Canaan. Their great chieftain Abram rode before them.

Who was Abram? He was a wealthy sheep-breeder and caravan leader. We know him as Abraham: religious leader, prophet, traveler, merchant, soldier, devoted father, friend of God and man. He was an incomparable pioneer. He is still revered by Jews, Christians and Moslems. His life and steadfast faith brought hope to a fear-ridden people and direction to the history of the world.

Who was Abram among his contemporaries? "A wandering Aramaean was my father" ran the Hebrew saying of generations later. Padan-Aram, the "field of Aram," was in the upper part of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. It is now crossed by the boundary between Syria and Turkey. Though legend may have covered details, Abraham's roots lie deep in history.