Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bible for Dummies - Genesis 12-25 (Chapter 5, Part 1)

Now we see God choosing who will be his primary family through whom salvation will be given. Abram, soon to be Abraham, is chosen and commissioned in the following chapter.

Abraham was not a perfect man...but here we learn how God can use anyone who will trust him for his promises.  Hope this helps you on your walk with the Lord. - KM

Chapter 5 – The Babylonian Hillbillies: The Adventures of Abraham and His Family

Part 1 - Genesis 12-25:18

Read Genesis 12:1-3 – The Call of Abram

            Note: “Abram” = Exalted Father; “Abraham” = “Father of Many”

** Abram’s name is changed by God as a sign of what God was doing in Abram’s life; the Lord was expanding or clarifying what He was doing.

God’s Promise to Abram (i.e.: a foreshadowing of The Abrahamic Covenant – Genesis 15) is that his descendants will... 

1.     Become a great nation – so numerous that it will be impossible to count them…as it is impossible to count the stars in the sky.

2.     Live in a bountiful land – later called the “Promised Land” that Israel would inherit per God’s sovereign plan.

3.     Be blessed – among all the peoples of the earth, God chooses Abraham’s descendants, specifically through Isaac’s lineage, not Ishmael’s.

4.     Be a blessing to all the families of the earth – keeping the flow of the Adamic covenant alive: that through Eve’s seed the Messiah would come in order to crush the “serpent” and his seed. 

Abraham’s Most Excellent Adventure to Canaan and Egypt
(Genesis 12-14)

** God calls Abram (~1812-1637BC, 11 generations from Noah) to leave his home in Ur, travel northwest along a well-known road through the Fertile Crescent to Haran, finally arriving in Shechem (northeast of Jerusalem, in the land of Canaan – in Old Testament days, Samaria – in New Testament days, West Bank – today).

** Going along with Abram (age 75) is Sarai (age 65, later – Sarah), Lot (Abram’s nephew), their servants and belongings.

** Once they arrive in Shechem, God reveals another piece of the puzzle: this is the land He has promised Abram and his descendants.  (See Genesis 12:6ff)

** Abram builds an altar in honor of God.

Note: Altars were built for two primary purposes: worship and commemoration.

** Soon after arriving in Shechem and settling in Bethel (Hebrew: House of God), a famine strikes the region and Abram and clan are forced to go to Egypt.

·      Abram tells Sarai to lie (half-lie) about her identity… that she is not his wife, but a sister (which she actually is his half-sister)

·      In Egypt, Pharaoh is attracted to Sarai… barters with Abram… Sarai moves under Pharaoh’s roof… Pharaoh gives Abram sheep, donkeys, camels, oxen and slaves – making Abram extremely more wealthy than when he arrived. (Genesis 12:11-16)

·      God afflicts Pharaoh and his household with plagues… Pharaoh realizes it is connected to Abram’s deception… confronts Abram… then, after confessing the half-truth, Abram and his clan are cast out of Egypt by Pharaoh, only to settle in Canaan, with Lot settling near Sodom. 

** Upon returning to Canaan, Abram displays an extraordinary act of generosity to Lot, allowing Lot to choose which portion of the land he wanted.  (See Genesis 13:10-11) Lot chose the region near Sodom and Gomorrah (modern day Jordan Valley). 

·      This was the land richer in soil and water.

·      Yes…the “Dead Sea” was already “Dead”…likely due to the tectonic activities of the area.

** Abram chose (by default) Canaan, specifically Hebron (just south of Jerusalem, in modern day West Bank) –

·      …inhabited primarily by the Hittites and Canaanites – mostly nomadic shepherd’s

·      …whereas Lot’s choice was in the heart of agriculture, Abram’s land was in the heart of shepherd’s land (close to Bethlehem)

** Abram later learned that Lot had been captured, he took 318 warriors, defeated the army holding Lot.

Note: During this time, it was common for tribes to band together to fight against other tribes or groups of tribes.  This is the case here. (See Genesis 14:1-16)

** Upon their return, Abram is greeted and blessed by the King/Priest, Melchizedek.

·      Melchizedek is king of Salem…most believe to be the site of the current Jerusalem.

o   “Salem” (Hebrew: Shalom) means, “Peace”.  “Jerusalem” means “Shoot of Peace”

o   This, of course, would make sense as Jerusalem became both the political capital of Israel/Judah and, because of the Temple built by Solomon, the center of religious practices that God accepted.

·      He was a priest and the king…enabling him to give both a spiritual blessing and a monetary blessing to Abram.

·      Interestingly, Melchizedek became a prototype of the Messianic work of Jesus Christ.

o   See Hebrews 5:1-10

o   What are the Biblical Functions of the Priest/King?

1.     To Offer Gifts and Sacrifices to God on behalf of the people

a.     including offering sacrifices as a sign of repentance for his own sins

2.     To gently correct and/or rebuke those who are astray from God

3.     To faithfully respond to the call of God

4.     To pray for people

5.     To Submit to God

6.     Obedience, even if it means suffering

Cutting a Deal: The Abrahamic Covenant
(Genesis 15-17)

** The next important aspect to the flow of the story is the formal establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Read Genesis 12:2-3; 15:1-6

The First Promise of the Covenant:

Genesis 12:2 (also in 15:5) – “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”

The Second Promise of the Covenant:

Genesis 12:3 – “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

The Issue of Patience while waiting for the fulfillment of the Covenant:

Genesis 15:2-4 – And Abram said, “O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?  You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.” But the word of the LORD came to him, “This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.”

Abram’s Response:

Genesis 15:6 – “And Abram believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Note:  the phrase, “the word of the Lord” (Hebrew: debar Yehovah, Greek: logos theou)…reminiscent of John 1:1-4 or Romans 10:17)

Key Points:

1.     God is now ready to take the next step in the “fulfillment” process. The Covenant is “Cut”.

a.     Genesis 15:9, 10 - God said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”  10 He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.

b.     The “cutting” of the Covenant sealed the agreement in blood and was symbolic of the commitment, “I will suffer the same consequence as these animals if I do not fulfill my part of the agreement.”

                                               i.     Note: It is God who takes the blood oath…who “cuts” the Covenant. Abram simply accepts the “deal.”

2.     The Lord then appears to Abram in a dream to clarify additional particulars of the Covenant… almost to say, “I know it’s been a long time from Promise to Fulfillment – of the heir – but your future family will also need to learn from your current experience.” So…

a.     Land is Promised in spite of oppression (Genesis 15:13-14, 18-21)
                                               i.     Later, during the days of David’s reign, Israel possesses the fullness of the land. See 2 Samuel 8:3 and 2 Chronicles 9:26 as examples or historical “proof”
b.     Longevity of Life for Abram (15:15)

Taking matters into your own hands: Hagar and Ishmael
Genesis 16

**  Never mind the Covenant, Sarai and Abram grow impatient with God, so they take matters into their own hands.

Genesis 16:2, 4a – Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the LORD has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived.”

** But…as is often the case when we don’t trust God, things got complicated.

Genesis 16:4b, 5 – “And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the LORD judge between you and me!”

** Sarai, in her jealousy, treats Hagar with contempt, so a pregnant Hagar flees.  But, an angel of the Lord appears to Hagar with some good news about Ishmael (“God hears”):

Genesis 16:10, 11 - The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” And the angel of the LORD said to her,  “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction.

Interesting Historical Note:  The Bible predicts the tension in the Middle East today:

Genesis 16:12 – “He (Ishmael) shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”

Remembering that Ishmael and Isaac are half-brothers (thus, “kin”), and seeing the conflict within the Arab/Middle East Region, this is the beginning.

Cutting another deal: The Abrahamic Covenant of Circumcision

Read Genesis 17:1-8

·      The time has arrived!  Finally, after 24 years of waiting, it was time for Sarai to conceive…all according to God’s Covenant and plan.

·      To mark this momentous occasion, God does two things:

o   First, he changes Abram’s name (Abram = “exalted father”) to Abraham (= “father of many”). See Genesis 17:5

o   Second, God establishes a physical sign of the Covenant: Circumcision.  See Genesis 17:10-14

o   Sarai’s name is also changed to Sarah, though there does not appear to be any deeper significance to the meaning of her name…both mean “princess”.

** Out of obedience, Abraham fulfills his part of the covenant… he and EVERY male in his household, relative and slave, are circumcised.

** Why Circumcision?  Many speculations:

1.     It was about health and hygiene.

2.     It set apart the descendants of Abraham from other cultures so they would be distinguishable.

3.     It was a constant reminder to the Jews that God had established this covenant with Abraham.

4.     It was both painful and humiliating…requiring obedience to God, first and foremost.  Better to have part of your body “cut off” than to be “cut off” from God.  (See Jesus words in Matthew 5:29-30)

Notice: Of all of the items God has directed Abraham’s way…of all of the things Abraham, by faith, believed and/or did not believe…it’s amazing that he “believed” the circumcision instruction, seemingly without hesitation.  There also is an implication that he circumcised HIMSELF (see Genesis 17:23) at the age of 99 years!

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