Monday, February 22, 2010
Abraham: Genesis 12-25:18
Conflicts, casual sex, and co-parenting at it’s finest…oh and something about a covenant too.
*Chapter 12 leaves off right where chapter 11 ended. Abram is in Haran because that’s where he, his wife Sarai, his father Terah, and his nephew Lot had settled on their way to Canaan. One day God tells Abram to leave his country, relatives, and fathers house to some land that eventually will be revealed to him because he is to be the father of a great nation. So Abram departed with his wife, and nephew and all of his wealth (a.k.a. livestock and servants), and started traveling. While in the area of Canaan, God tells Abram that he is going to give this land to Abram’s offspring, so Abram builds an altar to commemorate Gods visit. Then a famine strikes, so Abram and his entourage head for Egypt to wait it out. Before they go to Egypt, Abram tells his wife Sarai to tell everyone in Egypt that she is his sister. Apparently, Sarai is so beautiful that Abram fears the people of Egypt would kill him to get to Sarai if they knew she was his wife, so Sarai agrees. Sure enough when they get to Egypt, everyone spoke of Sarai’s beauty. Eventually Pharaoh gives Sarai’s “brother” many gifts in exchange for her. God sees that Pharaoh had taken another mans wife (unknowingly) and sends a terrible plague upon his household. Pharaoh is mad at Abram (rightfully so) for lying to him and sends all of them out of the country.
*Chapter 13 Abram and crew begin to back track, camping at many of the same places they stopped at on their way to Egypt including the place Abram built an altar in chapter 12. It doesn’t take very long for conflicts to arise among Abram and Lots entourages because the land they were occupying could not support all the livestock (talk about being rich!). Abram gives Lot first choice at any land he wanted to inhabit, so naturally Lot chose the best possible (superficially speaking) land for him and his posse. They settle just outside the city of Sodom even though Sodom was known for it’s wickedness. After Lot was gone, God told Abram to look around and that everything in his sight range was going to be given to his offspring as a permanent possession. So Abram settles in Hebron and builds an altar to God.
*Chapter 14 Next, a war breaks out between a bunch of kings whose names I cannot pronounce or spell. Lot is captured in the midst of the chaos and when Abram hears of this, he gets a bunch of men from his household (318 to be exact, which shows just how rich he was) together and they rescue Lot. Abram is returning from battle when a man named Melchizedek is introduced to us. He is referred to as the king of Salem and the priest of God most high. His character is one of the great mysteries of the bible (for more on him read, “Questions that got answered while doing this Bible study” section). He brings Abram bread and wine and blesses him. Then Abram presents the bibles first mentioned tithe, one tenth of all the goods he recovered from the battle, to Melchizedek. This chapter ends with Abram giving the goods he won from the battle to his allies and Melchizedek is not mentioned again until Psalm 110:4, and Hebrews 5-7.
*Chapter 15 Later on God speaks to Abram in a vision reassuring him that he will have a son eventually. When Abram asks how he can be sure God tells him to make a sacrifice. While Abram is making his sacrifice to God, he suddenly falls into a deep sleep and has a horrible nightmare. Then the Lord tells Abram that one day his descendants will be oppressed slaves in a foreign land but eventually delivered and their enemies will be punished. Then he tells Abram he will die an old man in peace. As the sun went down Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between his animal sacrifices and God goes into more detail about the land that Abrams descendants will eventually inherit.
*Chapter 16 After such a personal encounter with the creator of the universe you would think that Abram would be well behaved , at least for a little while, but instead, he and his wife Sarai decide that they are going to have a child on their terms-not Gods. So Sarai gives Abram her servant, Hagar, to have sex with so that they can have a child before they both get too old. I’m sure Sarai really had to twist Abrams arm to talk him into that one. As you can imagine, that plan back fires because once Hagar gets pregnant, she starts treating Sarai with contempt (can you blame her?!). Then Sarai has the audacity to blame Abram and tell him that God is going to punish him. She then treated Hagar “harshly” which I interpret as abusive. Poor knocked up Hagar runs away to a desert spring (probably not as 4 star as it sounds), and an angel of the Lord comes to Hagar and tells her to return to Sarai and submit to her authority. Then the angel makes a similar promise to her that was made to Abram (she is carrying Abrams child after all), that she will have more descendants than she can imagine. He also tells her that she is to name her baby boy Ishmael. The angel goes on to say that Ishmael is going to be a wild child from the get-go, with a free spirit and he is compared to a donkey saying that he will be against everyone and everyone will be against him….poor Hagar. She doesn’t react anything like I would, she instead gets excited and nick names God, “the God who sees me.” She returns to Abram and gives birth to his son Ishmael when Abram was 86 years old. I am putting on my “Team Hagar” shirt as we speak. What a woman!
*Chapter 17 Fast forward 13 years and God is still consistent. He speaks to Abram again and reminds him of the covenant to give him many descendants. Abram falls face down in the dust which is very interesting to me because God has spoken to him so many times before, but this time he has this kind of reaction? Maybe it was because he hadn’t heard from God in over a decade. Anyways, after God repeats his covenant, he tells Abram that his name is now to be changed to Abraham and then God introduces circumcision as Abrahams part of the covenant. God tells him that all currant males in the household, future male descendants, and male servants need to have their foreskin removed. God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah and tells Abraham that Sarah will bear a son in a year that is to be named Isaac. Abraham responds by laughing to himself and saying, “Ya right!” God continues on by telling Abraham that not only will Isaac enjoy many blessings but so will Ishmael. Abraham wastes no time and takes Ishmael (who is now 13 years old) and every male in his household and circumcises them all….ouch.
*Chapter 18 starts off soon after the circumcision with 3 visitors coming to Abraham’s house. Two of them are angels and one of them is God himself. The three of them are disguised as men and come to visit Abraham and Sarah to reiterate that in a year, Sarah will have son, and that they will be returning during that time. Sarah is eavesdropping nearby and her reaction to her having a child within the year is, “Ya right.” God of course hears this doubt and asked Abraham why Sarah laughed, because nothing is too difficult for God to do. So, when Sarah is confronted, she denies ever laughing….I think I’m becoming less and less of a Sarah fan as I read… The rest of the chapter is God telling Abraham that he is planning on destroying Sodom and Gomorrah because the people that reside there are, “extremely evil, and everything they do is wicked.” Keep in mind that Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family live there because it can help explain what Abraham does next: He spends the next 9 verses bargaining with God. What an ego! But ever patient, God bargains back with him about how many innocent people there would have to be in Sodom and Gomorrah before he would reconsider destroying everything, and they settle (as if God didn’t already know) on 10. If there are 10 innocent people God will not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.
*Chapter 19 Turns out their aren’t 10 innocent people in Sodom and Gomorrah because in this chapter the cities are reduced to rubble. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Chapter 19 starts out with the two angels entering the city of Sodom and going strait to Lot’s house. Lot washes their feet and prepares a feast for them. Just before bedtime, every male in the city (a huge number, I imagine) surround Lot’s house and demand that he send the two men (the angels in disguise) so that they can have sex with them. Lot pleads with them to have sex with his virgin daughters instead, which infuriated the gay men. They attacked Lot but the angels pulled him back inside and blinded the men of Sodom so they could not get in the door of Lot’s house. The angels then tell Lot to get himself and his relatives out of the city because it was going to be destroyed. Lot tries to round up his daughters fiancés but they don’t believe him. At dawn the next morning the angels urge Lot even more to leave. Lot still hesitates and the angels grab his hands and the hands of his wife and daughters and force them to leave the city telling them not to look back. Apparently, bargaining runs in the family because as the angels are leading Lot to the mountains, he asks that they take him and his family to a small village instead, because he is afraid that disaster will catch up with him in the mountains. The angels concede and take the family to a village that is later named Zoar (meaning “little”). Just then a fire storm of sulfur rains down upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s wife makes the mistake of looking back and she is immediately turned into a pillar of salt. A while later Lot becomes afraid of the people of Zoar, so he and his daughters move to the mountains, which I guess are not as scary as he thought they were when the angels were trying to get him to move there. Anyways, brace yourself for the last part of chapter 19. While in the mountains, Lot’s daughters take it upon themselves to preserve their family line by getting their father drunk and having sex with him since there are no other men in the mountains…..eww. Both of them get pregnant by their father (Lot) and give birth to Moab and Ben-ammi double eww. But God still blesses Lot’s children/grandchildren by making them the ancestors of great nations, the Moabites and the Ammonites.
*Chapter 20 sure made me feel better about my own spiritual short comings, because for the second time Abraham pretends that Sarah is his sister when they move to a town called Gerar. Just like chapter 12, the king takes Sarah to live with him in the palace This time, God intercedes and makes it so King Abimelech never touches Sarah and warns him that she is married. Abimelech argues that he had no idea he was about to sin with a married woman (I think he kind of has a point here). God makes all the women in the kingdom infertile until Sarah is returned to Abraham. Of course Abimelech is furious with Abraham for making him sin. Abraham cops out with the whole, “It wasn’t a total lie, she is my half sister” excuse and then the king gives Abraham livestock, silver, and his choice of where he wants to live in the kingdom. God removes the infertility curse and everything goes back to normal.
*Chapter 21 This is when God finally fulfills his promise to Abraham and his wife Sarah by giving them a son. He names the boy Isaac and he circumcises him on the eighth day of life, just as he was told to by God. When Isaac grows up and is weaned, Abraham throws him a party. At the party, Sarah notices that Ishmael is making fun of Isaac and then promptly comes to the conclusion that this little blended family-co-parenting-situation is not working for her anymore. She kicks Hagar out and when Abraham gets upset God tells him to get over it, and to do what his wife says. Hagar and Ishmael wander around the wilderness until they are almost dehydrated to death. Hagar cries as she leaves Ishmael 100 yards away because she can’t bear to watch him suffer. She is visited by an angel who tells her that the Lord has heard her prayers and for her to go back to Ishmael because God was going to give him many descendants. As God opens Hagar’s eyes there is a well in front of her and her and Ishmael drink. Then there is a brief epilogue stating that Ishmael became and expert archer and his mother arranged a marriage for him with an Egyptian girl. Go team Hagar! The last part of this chapter comes out of left field for me. It is about King Abimelech (from chapter 20, the one Abraham deceived) finding Abraham and making sure that he will never deceive him or his offspring. Then they talk over a fight that broke out between their servants, exchange some livestock and go on about their business.
*Chapter 22 The most famous part of the Abraham story. The almost sacrifice of his beloved son, Isaac. God tells Abraham to go to the land of Moriah (about a 50 mile journey), and to sacrifice Isaac. Just as Abraham lifts a knife to Isaac, an angel stops him and tells him that God was just making sure that Abraham was still faithful. So, Abraham sacrifices a ram instead and God speaks to Abraham from heaven telling him yet again that he would have many descendants. Soon after this, Abraham gets word that his brother Nahor has eight sons, and that one of his sons Bethuel , has a daughter named Rebekah (remember her, she is very important). Then it mentions the kids Nahor has from his concubine.
*Chapter 23 (don’t worry there are only 3 chapters to go until the end of Abrahams story) Sarah dies at the ripe old age of 127. Abraham was devastated. She dies while they were in Hebron and the people of this city agreed to give Abraham any place he wanted to have to bury Sarah. Even though Abraham offered them money the wanted to give him the burial plot for free. Abraham ends up insisting on paying him something, and Sarah was burried in the cave of Machpelah.
*Chapter 24 Abraham is getting very old by this point in the story, and he gets to thinking about how Isaac is going to survive without him. He wants Isaac to have a wife, so he sends his servant Eliezer to find someone suitable for Isaac. Abraham has a few stipulations though. First, she must be from his homeland, second, Isaac was not to accompany him, third, the bride-to-be was to come back with Eliezer immediately. Abraham tells Eliezer that God has sent an angel ahead of him to make sure there was a good wife there for Isaac. Eliezer takes off on the journey and when he reaches a spring to take a water break, he prays to God for a sign. He wants a girl to offer him and his camels water, as a sign that she is the one God wants for Isaac. Sure enough, while he is in mid-prayer, Rebekah (from chapter 22) comes to the spring and gives Eliezer and his camels water. He praises the Lord and asks Rebekah to take him to her parents. After meeting her parents they all decide that Rebekah is meant to go with Eliezer and is to be married to Isaac. And now for one of the great, “How I met your mother stories” of the bible. As they approach the city where Isaac is, Rebekah sees her husband-to-be and it is love at first sight. She dismounts from her horse, and covers her face with a veil. Isaac is staring at her mesmerized while Eliezer tells him the whole story. They immediately go into a tent and get married….and probably consummate their union as well…at least this is how it happens in my imagination.
*Chapter 25:1-18 Okay, this is the last official part of the story of Abraham. It concludes like any good blockbuster, with death. But before that, he does what any God fearing man does after their wife dies…. He gets himself another wife (named Keturah), and a couple of concubines and starts having babies with them. He lives another 175 years and when he dies, Isaac and Ishmael burry him next to Sarah. Then there is a list of Ishmael’s descendants noting that he had twelve sons that have 12 tribes named after them. Ishmael died at the age of 137 and it says he joined his ancestors in death which I think means that he went to “the place of comfort” section in Hades to wait for Jesus to take him to heaven (refer to the “questions…..”section in my Adam and Eve blog for more on where people in the Old Testament went when they died.).
Things I loved
*14:17 Melchizedek…..I love a great mystery.
*16:9 God tells Hagar to return to her abusive master (Sarai). This seems very unfair on first read, but it teaches a great lesson in submission. God calls on us to submit to our earthly masters (our husband, boss, parents, etc.), even when they are not being kind to us. Keep in mind that when we obey our earthly masters no matter what the cost, we are actually showing respect to God (Ephesians 5:12), because God has put them in charge of us for a reason.
*16:12 God knows our personality before we are born. When Hagar is prego with Ishmael, she runs away and is visited by an angel who tells her among other things, what to expect from her son. The angel goes into great detail of the type of personality Ishmael is going to have. I love that God knows our personality and our destination in life before we are even born.
*17:20 When Abraham asks for God to bless Ishmael, he does, even though Isaac was the son that God intended to bless.
*18: 22 Abraham begs for mercy and God is very patient. This is the part where Abraham bargains with God to spare the innocent in Sodom presumably because Lot and his family reside there. God doesn’t yell at him and say, “how dare you question me?!!!” Instead he is patient and humors Abraham by engaging in his bargaining.
*21:12 God insists on a peaceful home. When Hagar and Sarah are having yet another fight (I’m sure their little co-habitation scenario was like MTV’s the Real World) Sarah kicks Hagar and Ishmael out of the house. Even though Abraham is upset at this, God tells him to let them go. I translate this as God showing how much he values a peaceful home.
*25:9 The brothers reunite to burry their Dad. I’m not sure how much actual animosity was present between Ishmael and Isaac. I think the conflict was more with the grown-ups. But naturally there might have been some tension between the boys. If I were Ishmael, I would be most upset over the fact that I had to get circumcised when I was 13 verses being circumcised as a baby like Isaac. Whatever issues there might have been, they made peace long enough to have a funeral for Abraham.
Things I did not love:
*Abraham has always been so glorified. Yes, he did do many great things. He was obedient at times and faithful to God. But when I think of that song about him I sang as a kid at vacation bible school, I feel like I have been deceived! You know the one I’m talking about:
Father Abraham had many sons,
many sons had father Abraham,
For I am one of them.
And so are you,
So lets just praise the Lord….
Why didn’t that song tell the whole story? I guess the words adultery, and concubines were a mouthful for school-aged children, but up until I became an adult and read his story myself, I had no clue that he ever sinned because all we ever hear about him is how great he was!
Questions to ask God when I get to Heaven:
*17:9 Why circumcision? As the mother of a little boy, I can tell you the circumcision ritual seems kind of barbaric, couldn’t God have chosen something else for Abraham to do to hold up his end of the deal?
*16:16 When did 86 become old? This verse is the end of chapter 16 when Hagar gives Abraham a son. It was decided that Abraham would have a baby with Hagar because he and Sarah were getting too old. It was just a few chapters ago when Noah and everyone else on earth was popping out kids when they were over half a century old…what the heck?
*19:2 Did Lot know that the two men were angels before he invited them to his house?
*19:8 Why would Lot rather protect his guests (the angels) from being gang raped than his daughters virginity? Was hospitality that important? If Lot knew that they were angels he would have known that God would not have allowed them to be raped.
*19:18 Why did God punish Abimelech and his family even though they were innocent?
*22:10 How old was Isaac when his dad tried to sacrifice him? Did he know what was going on when his Dad tied him up?
Questions that got answered while doing this Bible study:
*14:17, and Hebrews 5-7 Melchizedek. No, I did not get all of my questions answered about him. But in researching him I have learned a lot. Here is what I know for sure: Mel was of a higher spiritual standings than Abraham because Abraham tithed 10% of all the goods he recovered from battle. Mel recognized God as the “Most High.” Mel did not have parents…some interpret this as him being and angel or a pre- incarnate Christ, but he could have just been an orphan. He was considered a king and referred to as, the King of Salem which means the king of peace. Here are the main theories about him: 1. He was a respected King in the region, 2. He was a type of Christ, 3. He was an angel…What do you think?
*19:26 Lot’s wife turns to a pillar of salt, literally? Or was that just an expression? At first I was sure this was some sort of expression. I mean, I know God is capable of doing this, but why would he choose to turn her into a salt lick? I think if this was a metaphor, it would be a metaphor for death because we know that Lot’s wife is not around anymore after this. So, why then is this “metaphor” not used anywhere else in the bible to describe death? If this was a common phrase used during this time, we would have heard this phrase throughout the bible which we do not. So yes, in my opinion literally she was turned to a pillar of salt…..what a way to die!
*Are Ishmael and Isaac to blame for the currant wars in the middle East? It has been said that there can be no “peace in the middle East” because of the whole Ishmael/Isaac thing. In my opinion, this is NOT true. I have not found any evidence that Ishmael and Isaac were enemies. The only thing close, was Ishmael making fun of Isaac when Isaac was a baby, but that just sounds to me like good old fashioned brotherhood to me. I think the animosity that did exist was between Hagar, Sarah, and Abraham. In verse 25:9, it states that the two brothers reunited to bury their father Abraham, so their couldn’t have been too much hatred between them. I think that the continuing battles between Jews and Arabs in the middle east today are because of religious and geographical misunderstandings and differences. I still believe that there is hope for , “peace in the Middle East.”
God wants to (and does) bless us in spite of our sins. When I think of Abraham, I know I should reflect upon his faithfulness, but instead, I can‘t help but think of how many mistakes he made. I don’t want this to minimize the miraculous amount of faith it took for him to leave his homeland without so much as a name of the destination, or how obedient it was of him to almost sacrifice Isaac, but for some reason all I could focus on while reading his story was his mistakes. He lied, he had affairs, he was impatient, he was a human. Regardless, God chose him, blessed him, and never turned his back on him.
On a personal note, this is a very powerful lesson to me because since the birth of my daughter, I have been waiting for God to pull the plug on my blessings. I used to think that Isabelle was the result of three solid years of direct and deliberate sin on my part. Now I know she is the direct, deliberate result of Gods grace and mercy. She was born into chaos but healthy nonetheless. So from the time she was born I have been waiting to reap the consequences of all the things that lead to her birth. I waited, and she only grew stronger and more beautiful every day…..5 months later we were both saved from the clutches of an abusive man through a series of miracles. Once we were safe, I waited for my well deserved punishment….a year later I met my husband, the one God made just for me that I should have waited for in the first place, but didn’t…..so I waited for him to leave,…….one year later he gave me a ring, and gave Isabelle a father…..still I waited. I waited for the catch, it was too good to be true….…then we got married…….okay, now God will finally punish me, my husband is going to leave me…..a year later we had our son, perfect and healthy, I have been waiting for the bottom to fall out ever since. For some reason God chose me to bless. Yes, I chose him too…eventually. But how many mistakes have I made along the way? And How many times has God blessed me before I even thought to ask for his forgiveness? Countless.
Grace. God does not bless us because of our good deeds. God blesses us in spite of our bad ones, with infinite patience, mercy and love. From my earthly perception there is no rhyme or reason to who or why God blesses, all I know is that he does.
*The earthly author of Genesis was probably Moses. He wrote Genesis between 1450-1410 B.C. which is the time period from when Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt to when he died. The oldest biblical manuscripts of Genesis were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (a collection of about 900 documents discovered between 1947-1956 in 11 caves in and around the northeast shore of the Dead Sea) , while all the newer copies of Genesis are found among the Codex Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, The Masoretic Text, and the Samaritan and Syriac texts.
*All of my research as been through prayer, the Life Application Study Bible: The New Living Translation, Wikipedia.com, gotquestions.org, discussions with fellow believers, discussions with pastors, and one of the blogs I follow: http://zoesbibleblog.blogspot.com/