Genesis 18:16-33

16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.

17 And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,

18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,

21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.

23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?

25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.”

27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:

28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.”

29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”

30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”

32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”

33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

After the message had been given concerning Sarah, it became apparent that the three men had another mission to perform as well. They faced south toward Sodom, and two of the men, the two angels, set out in that direction. the Lord, however, remained behind to engage Abraham in another, most remarkable, conversation.

Although the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full, the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and probably also the other three cities of the plain, had become very grievous. The long-suffering of the Lord had been about exhausted in their case, and the time of their judgment was drawing nigh.

Their sin was particularly inexcusable in that they, more than any of the other cities in the land of Canaan, had seen the power of the Lord. They had been wonderfully delivered from a horrible fate at the hands of the kings of the East through Abraham’s divinely empowered rescue, and had heard the testimony of Melchizedek. — Morris, page 341.

The Lord wanted Abraham to know His intentions toward Sodom and Gomorrah. After all, Lot and his family were there. Furthermore, as the “friend of God” (James 2:23), Abraham needed to know the reason for the terrible destruction the cities were about to undergo. … The desolate region of Sodom would, in the centuries to come, be a perpetual warning to Israel that, although God is gracious and merciful and long-suffering, He is also a God of wrath (Jude 1:7), and he will not spare when the time of His judgment comes.

God gives a striking testimony to Abraham’s character: “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” The verb “know” conveys the thought that God knew him as an intimate friend. He could trust him with the information He was to give, and could know that he would use it faithfully as a vehicle of instruction to his descendants. — Morris, page 342.

justice (v. 19) = righteousness

Several important principles become evident from a study of this amazing dialogue. First, God does not want to bring judgment on any city or on any person. … Abraham’s prayer was highly reverent—never presumptuous at all—yet persistent and definite. — Morris, page 344.

Although Sodom is the specific city referred to in the dialogue, and no doubt was the chief city of the five, it should not be forgotten that all five cities of the plain were intended to be the subjects of the imminent destruction. Later, in response to Lot’s request, the small city of Zoar was spared, but otherwise “God destroyed the cities of the plain” (Genesis 19:29; note also Deuteronomy 29:23).

Abraham thought he knew of at least ten righteous people in Sodom. There dwelt Lot and his wife, their two sons (Genesis 19:12), two married daughters and their husbands (Genesis 19:14), and two unmarried daughters (Genesis 19:8), a total of ten. …

There’s no way of knowing whether God would have spared the city for, say, only four people—the number that actually were taken by the angels out of the city before the fire fell. … At any rate, Abraham assuredly did know that the “judge of all the earth would do right,” and let it at this point in His hands. — Morris, pages 344-345.

Abraham rhetorically avers that the Lord will not sweep away the righteous (that is, those who are reckoned, not actually, righteous) of Sodom along with the wicked, and that as Judge of all the earth He is expected to do justly. In his theological naivete, Abraham is in fact merging two distinct expectations: (1) that God acts justly by treating the (reckoned) righteous differently from the wicked, and (2) that He act mercifully by not executing Sodom’s just punishment in consideration of the few righteous within her. In adhering to perfect justice God is not obligated to spare the righteous from the consequences of life in a corrupt and fallen world—and, indeed, both in Scripture and following world history are innumerable examples of individuals suffering because of the sins and crimes of those among whom they live; rather, He is obligated to mete out justice at the point when judgment is to be passed—to wit, at the resurrection of the dead, when some (the reckoned righteous) will be acquitted and experience “everlasting life” and others (the wicked) will be condemned and experience “everlasting contempt” (see Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-15). However, because Abraham at this point is still little more than an “infant” in faith, God condescends to demonstrate His justice (in combination with mercy) prior to the point of proper final judgment so as to visibly instruct Abraham in these essential divine attributes. — Wechsler, pages 199-200.

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Genesis 18:1-15

1 Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.

So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,

and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.

Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.”

And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it.

So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.”

10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.

12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’

14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”

15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”

The context of Genesis 18 and 19 makes it clear that the other two men were angels, who later were sent to Sodom and Gomorrah to bring God’s judgment on those wicked cities. The leader of the three men could have been none other than God Himself and, therefore, Christ in His preincarnate state (John 1:18). — Morris, page 337

There is no indication that [the three men] had been riding or even walking; as Abraham looked up, there they were. … [Abraham’s] whole manner suggests and urgency about his conversation with them and, although it was no doubt the custom of men in the East to be very hospitable toward guests, there is clearly an element of more than normal hospitality here. First, he ran to meet them, and then “bowed himself toward the ground.” The phrase “bowed himself” is actually the Hebrew shachah, the usual word for “worship.” This, in fact, is the first use of this word in Scripture. Although it is often also used to describe bowing down in obeisance before men, the fact that it is used first in connection with worshiping God in human appearance seems significant as setting the standard for its primary meaning throughout Scripture.

Abraham then urged the men to rest themselves while he fetched water to wash their feet and had a meal prepared for them. He addressed the spokesman as “my Lord” (Hebrew Adonai), which is one of the divine names. … 

This is the first time we read of the fine meal of fine flour in the Bible. The word is used approximately one hundred times and is the standing type of the fine, lovely, smooth, white, pure, nourishing life of Christ in whom there was no foreign substance but only grace, purity, love, holiness, and perfect smoothness. All roughness and rudeness was far from Him. Often the fine flour was mingled with oil, Leviticus 2:7; 7:12; Numbers 6:15; and in Numbers 7 we find this ordered twelve times. The oil typified the Holy Spirit as the find flour foreshadowed the human nature of Christ. he was filled with the Spirit if anyone ever was. The soleth or fine flour, may have given rise to the word “solemnity” which we received from the Latins and which originally meant to sacrifice with soleth, or an offering of fine flour. When we speak of a solemn occasion, we have forgotten the origin of this word, just as when we speak of an ovation, we do not think of the fact that this word originated in the sacrifice of a sheep at some minor triumph. — Bultema, page 50

[The Lord] said, literally, “I will surely return unto thee when the season lives.” This might refer either to the return of the same season of the year in the following year, or to the reviving of Sarah’s bodily functions when the Lord returned. “It had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” She had passed her “change of life,” but her “season” for child-bearing was to be revived, all the more miraculously since her womb had been barren even when she was young.

When Sarah heard this promise, she “laughed within herself,” not a laugh of joy, but a cynical laugh, knowing that it was impossible for her and her husband any longer to enjoy the pleasures of sexual relations or of child-bearing. … Abraham must have told her earlier about God’s great promise (17:19), even if she had not been present at the theophany. She must have found it difficult to believe, even coming from God. Without a doubt, her faith needed to be strengthened, if indeed she was ever going to “receive strength to conceive seed, and be delivered of a child when she was past age” (Hebrews 11:11). 

On thing that helped strengthen her faith was the Lord’s question: “Wherefore did Sarah laugh?” The man could neither see her behind the tent flap nor hear her laugh, since only laughed within herself. She must quickly have realized that this indeed was either an angel or God Himself, in order for Him to know these things. 

In embarrassment, she called out, denying that she had laughed. The Lord insisted, correctly that she had, even though Abraham had no heart her. The Lord also repeated the promise.

Verse 14 is one of the mountain-peak verses of the Bible. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” To ask the question is to answer it. “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). He who created all things surely controls all things. He who enacted the laws of nature can change them if He wills. The adjective “hard” is the same as “wonderful,” the same word describing the coming Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. — Morris, pages 340-341

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Genesis 17:15-27

15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name.

16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!”

19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.

21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

22 When he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son and all those born in his house or bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins that very day, as God had said to him.

24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

26 That very day Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised.

27 And all the men of his house, those born in the house and those bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

Romans 4 makes it clear that Abraham’s laughter in v. 17 was the laughter of faith and not of unbelief. It was the joyful laughter of a worshiper when Abraham fell upon his face. His words in effect were, “Oh what joy, Sarah and I, though so aged, are to have a child!” The Lord in John 8:56 no doubt pointed to this occasion when He said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day and was glad. The exclamation, “Oh that Ishmael might live before thee” was not the cry of unbelief—as is plain from v.20—nor was it a prayer that Ishmael should be the child of promise, but it was a cry of faith that Ishmael might receive some measure of Divine blessing, though he was to be set aside in favor of the unseen child now promised.— Williams, pages 21-22.

Sarah (v.15) = princess

Abraham was so elated at God’s promise that he laughed with joy and surprise. That it was not a laugh of doubt is evident from the fact that God gave him no rebuke, as He later did Sarah when she laughed (Genesis 18:13). The questions which Abraham asked likewise were not in doubt, but in wonder and happy amazement.

Then he remembered Ishmael, and it seemed as though God’s new promise would cut Ishmael altogether out of His favor. He therefore interceded for Ismael, desiring God to bless him as well.

Yes, God assuredly would bless Ishmael too; but first He emphasized again to Abraham that His covenant was with Isaac alone, and with his seed. In recognition of Abraham’s joy, God told him to name his son Isaac (meaning “laughter”). He also gave him the glad news that Isaac would be born in only one year. …

Even though Ishmael was not to inherit the promises with Isaac, Abraham rightly desired to have him included among those receiving the spiritual blessings that would stem from the fulfillment of those promises. All this was done on the same day God had spoken to him. This required a particular act of faith on Abraham’s part, since it no doubt incapacitated all the males in his community for several days, thus leaving his home and possessions with no protection at all (save God!). — Morris, pages 335-336.

Wechsler takes a different view.

After establishing the rite of circumcision God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, just as He earlier changed Abram’s to Abraham (v.5), further underscoring His active role as the Covenant Maker versus the “passive” role of His chosen covenantee(s). Following this he once again affirms His promise to give Abraham a son by her, in response to which Abraham fell on his face and—rather then worshiping God, as He does in v.3—laughed, asking instead that Ishmael be confirmed as his heir and inheritor of the Promise. To this God responds—as we’ve now come to expect—with gentle patient unflappable grace (a perfect Father!), declaring that it will not be Ishmael with whom He will maintain (which is preferable here to “establish,”) His covenant, but rather the son whom Sarah will bear to Abraham the following year. God also tells Abraham to name that son Isaac—meaning “he laughs”—thus serving as a continual reminder to the parents, from the moment of Isaac’s birth, of their faithless response (Sarah laughs also in Genesis 18:13) to the promise that God nonetheless faithfully fulfilled (the negative nuance of the laughter is also given a positive twist per Genesis 21:6). —Wechsler, page 196.

So which is it? Did Abraham respond to God in doubt or in faith. On my first reading of the passage, my view was that of Wechsler, but I also think Williams and Morris make some good points. So … I’m not sure. I think I’m still inclined toward Wechsler’s view based on a straightforward reading of the passage and since the Bible explains how Sarah was later rebuked for laughing and no explanation is given regarding how her response was different.

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Genesis 17:9-14

And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised;

11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you.

12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.

13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.

14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”

God here established a visible seal and sign of His covenant relation with Abraham’s physical seed. Those males who would participate in the covenant not only must be descended from Abraham in the line of promise through Isaac (v. 19), but also must be circumcised. This requirement was to apply not only to all male children born into the family, but also to those coming into the household as servants, along with any children born to them. This aspect of the covenant also was to be “everlasting” (v. 13). 

At first, this requirement of circumcision seems very strange. To some extent, no doubt, sanitary and health reasons were involved. If the nation so formed was indeed to endure and to be a witness for God through all generations to come, then it must by physically strong and clean.

However, if this is a factor, it can be only incidental. God does not imply such a purpose; rather, circumcision was commanded strictly as a sign of the covenant. It thus must symbolize in some distinct way the purpose and results of the Abraham covenant. 

The emphasis of the covenant, of course, was on the promised seed, and on the abundance of progeny which would accrue to Abraham. The male sexual organ is the remarkable, divinely created vehicle for the transmission of this seed from one generation to another. The circumcision (“cutting round”) of this channel would thus picture its complete enclosure within God’s protective and productive will.

Furthermore, it was primarily a sign only to the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. It was not a sign to be shown to people in general, but was uniquely personal. To his parents it would confirm that they had been faithful in transmitting the seed to the son with whom God had blessed their union, and that they were trying to follow God’s will in training him. To his wife, it would give assurance that he indeed was a descendant of Abraham, to whom she could joyfully submit in the marriage relation, in faith that God would bless their home and their children. To the man himself, it would be a daily testimony that he and his family were consecrated to the God of Abraham and that they shared in his calling and ministry to the world. 

The “cutting” of the foreskin spoke of a surgical removal, a complete separation, from the sins of the flesh so widely prevalent in the world around them, such sins largely centered in the misuse of the male organ in sin. As it directly, therefore, symbolized to the Jewish man that he was a member of an elect nation, a peculiar people, distinctly holy before God, in relation to sexual conduct, so it came indirectly to speak of holiness in every phase of life (note Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6, etc.).

To one who refused to submit to circumcision, there was no other concession to be shown. His refusal would demonstrate his overt unwillingness to follow God, and he must therefore “be cut off from his people.” — Morris, pages 333-334.

We are taught, in Romans 4:11, that circumcision was “a seal of the righteousness of faith.” “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Being thus counted righteous, God set His “seal” upon him. The seal with which the believer is now sealed is not a mark in the flesh, but “that Holy Spirit of promise, whereby he is sealed unto the day of redemption. This is founded upon his everlasting connection with Christ, and his perfect identification with Him, in death and resurrection.  as we read in Colossians, And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. (Colossians 2:10-13). This is a most glorious passage, unfolding to us the true idea of what circumcision was meant to typify. Every believer belongs to “the circumcision” in virtue of his living association with Him who, by His cross, has forever abolished everything that stood in the way of His Church’s perfect justification. There was not a speck of sin on the conscience, nor a principle of sin in the nature of His people, for which Christ was not judged on the cross; and they are now looked upon as having died with Christ, lain in the grave with Christ, been raised with Christ, perfectly accepted in Him,—their sins, their iniquities, their transgressions, their enmity, their uncircumcision, having been entirely put away by the cross. The sentence of death has been written on the flesh; but the believer is in possession of a new life, in union with his risen Head in glory. — Mackintosh, pages 190-192.

Circumcision [was] given by God as a rite or, as He otherwise designates it in v. 11, a “sign” of the Promise (i.e., “covenant” in the larger sense) that already exists between Him and His people Israel. — Wechsler, page 196.

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Genesis 17:1-8

1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.”

Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying:

“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations.

No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.

I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.

And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.

Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”

“Almighty God—Shaddai—is the name of God characteristically used by the patriarchs prior to the giving of the law at Sinai. It’s most frequent occurrence is in the book of Job, where Shaddai occurs thirty-one times. The name Jehovah largely replaces it from Exodus 6 onward, where attention is centered more particularly on Israel as God’s covenant people.

(1) El Shaddai is the name of God which sets Him forth primarily as the strengthener and satisfier of His people. It is to be regretted that Shaddai was translated “Almighty.” The primary name, El or Elohim, sufficiently signifies almightiness. “All-sufficient” would far better express the characteristic use of the name in Scripture.

(2) El Shaddai not only enriches but makes fruitful. This is nowhere better illustrated than in the first occurrence of the name. To a man ninety-nine years of age, and “as good as dead” (Hebrews 11:12), He said, I am the Almighty God … I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” To the same purport is the use of the name in Genesis 28:3-4.

(3) As bestower of fruitfulness, El Shaddai chastenes His people. For the moral connection of chastening with fruit-bearing, see John 15:2; cp, Ruth 1:20; Hebrews 12:10. Hence, Almighty is the characteristic name of God in Job. The hand of Shaddai falls upon Job, the best man of his time, not in judgment but in purifying unto greater fruitfulness (Job 5:17-25). —Scofield, page 25.

Fourteen years of silence on the part of God follow upon Abraham’s folly in the matter of Ismael; but man’s foolish plannings cannot undo God’s eternal counsels. The time is fulfilled and the child of promise must be born. But faith must be energized if Isaac is to be begotten; and accordingly there is a new and abrupt revelation made of Jehovah to Abraham’s soul as “El-Shaddai.” This is the first occurence of this great Divine title. It assured Abraham that what God had promised, He was almighty to perform. … Throughout the chapter, man is dead and God is the actor; and it is not so much what God was for Abraham, but what He was Himself—not “I am thy shield,” but “I am El-Shaddai.” Hence, the third verse in contrast with Genesis 15:2-3, pictures the patriarch as a silent worshiper listening to Elohim who talks with him.

In the first verse God, as El-Shaddai, says, “Walk before me and be thou perfect.” “Perfect” here means “guileless”; that is, God says, be simple, leave all to me, let me plan for  you. I am Almighty. No longer scheme to began an Ismael, but trust me to give you an Isaac. This is the meaning of “perfect” in this passage. It does not mean that Abraham could be sinlessly perfect, for he could not. This word “perfect” occurs four times in the New Testament: Matthew 5:48; Matthew 19:21; Philippians 3:12; and Hebrews 10:1. These four passages treat of benevolence, self-denial, glory and assurance of salvation. None of them teach sinless perfection. — Williams, page 21.

First, [God] admonished Abram to be careful to walk in fellowship with Him (as occasionally in the past he had forgotten to do), and to be wholly dedicated to performing the will of God (the word is translated “perfect,” but means, simply, “whole”). These admonitions were not stated as conditions of the covenant, however, but simply as commands.

God again promised to make Abram a father of many nations, and then changed his name to Abraham (“father of a multitude”) instead of Abram (“exalted father”) in token thereof.  God stressed also that His covenant was not only with Abraham, but with “thy seed after thee,” as an everlasting covenant. Specifically He said that Canaan would be an everlasting possession; so it it clear no action on the part of Abraham’s descendants can ever permanently sever the land from them. — Morris, page 332.

God’s statement in verses 2 and 7 should properly be rendered: “I am upholding my covenant …”—and hence His previous command to “walk before me and be blameless” is intended not as a condition to ensure that the covenant will be made, but rather as a response to the fact that the covenant has been made.—Wechsler, page 194.

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Genesis 16:7-16

Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.

And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”

The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”

10 Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.”

11 And the Angel of the Lord said to her: “Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction.

12 He shall be a wild man; his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”

14 Therefore the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; observe, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael.

16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.

Hagar had started home to Egypt, but the journey through the wilderness was bound to be too much for her. Consequently, the “Angel of the Lord” met her and constrained her to return to Abram. This is the first occurrence of this phrase in the Bible, and the context indicates (v. 13) that this “angel” was indeed God Himself, that is, another preincarnate appearance of the Messiah. 

Ishmael (meaning “God hears” ) would, by his name, always remind his mother how the God of Abram (not her old gods in Egypt, to which she had started to return) had met her need. She even named the well where the Angel of Jehovah had spoken to her “the well of the Living One who seeith me” (Beer-lahai-roi), and called God by the name El Roi (“the God who sees”).

God also foretold the nature of her son, that he would be, literally, “a wild ass of a man,” one who would be perpetually in conflict with others, dwelling “against the face of his brethren.” — Morris, pages 330-331.

The consequence …—since it concerns sexual sin and hence the issue of patrimony—is … centered in the son of the union, Ishmael, and his descendants—specifically, that he/they would be like a wild donkey (i.e. uncontrollable and fractious), with especial animosity (such being the sense of “to the east”—i.e., in rebellion/enmity) towards his brothers in the line of Promise, Israel. Throughout the Bible, accordingly, the Ishmaelites—i.e., the Arabs—are represented as being in continual opposition to Israel and their assertion of ownership and dominion of the land of Israel (cf. Psalm 83:6; Nehemiah 6:1)—as is also the case in post-biblical history up to the present day. Thus, for example, the great rabbinic authority Maimonides writes in his famous Letter to Yemen, concerning the state of affairs between Jews and Arabs in the twelfth century: “We prefer peace with them [i.e., the Ishmaelites], yet they prefer strife and warfare with us, as David said, (Woe is me … for I dwell among the tents of Kedar [and Ismaelite/Arab tribe; cf. Genesis 25:13] …;) I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war (Psalm 120:5-7).” It is essential to note, as it bears upon the present Jewish-Arab “conflict,” that this enmity is declaratively established by God in verse 12, the implication being that only God Himself (and not diplomacy) can remove it—as he does, exclusively and completely, in Christ. Wechsler, pages 192-193.

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Genesis 16:1-6

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.

So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.

Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan.

So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her [b]eyes.

Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between you and me.”

So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her presence.

The Epistle to the Galatians declares that Sarah and Hagar represent the two principles of law and grace. Hagar represents salvation by works; Sarah, salvation by faith. These principles are opposed to one another. Ismael is born as the result of man’s planning and energy. Isaac is born as the result of God’s planning and energy. In the birth of Ishmael, God had nothing to do, and as regards the birth of Isaac man was dead. So is it today, salvation by works entirely depends on man’s capacity to produce them; salvation by faith upon God’s ability to perform them. Under a covenant of works, God stands still in order to see what man can do. Under the covenant of grace, man stands still to see what God has done. The two covenants are opposed; it must be either Hagar or Sarah. If Hagar, God has nothing to do with it; if Sarah, man has nothing to do with it. — Williams, pages 20-21.

By this time, Abram was eighty-five years old, and Sarai was seventy-five (note Genesis 16:16). Her maid, Hagar (an Egyptian girl, perhaps acquired during their stay in Egypt), was, in effect, her own personal property. thus any children that she might bear to Abram would legally belong to Sarai, in accordance with the customs of the day. Abram “hearkened to the voice of Sarai,” and this turned out to be a serious mistake, just as it had for Adam long ago (Genesis 3:17). He had still not fully learned that we must “through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). Scripture enjoins us: “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:35-36). Morris, page 329.

When Hagar saw that she had conceive while Sarai couldn’t, Hagar despised Sarai.

How can we reconcile this statement of Romans 4:20 that Abraham staggered not in unbelief, when we see him in the story of Genesis repeatedly in unbelief? This question is often asked. Many preachers can be very harsh on Abraham’s slips. They have not fully taken God’s attitude to him and they do not seem to know what grace means. Grace means that God fully forgives and forgets. In the Old Testament He uses the sins of the saints as warning beacons, but He does not even do this in the New Testament. he there has buried their sins, blotted them out and forgotten them, and He only exalts their faith. What is said here of Abraham is also true of David and of all the ancient worthies where the sins of even a Samson and Gideon are not mentioned but their faith is shining on the page of Holy Writ. The, the Lord does not forget what we so often forget that Satan uses all his trickery and chicanery against God’s men. It is true that Abraham went down to Egypt and the Philistines and that he lied twice about his wife and that he used Hagar his maid. All this proves not only that he was a man of like movement as we are, but also that he was the special object of Satan’s onslaughts and designs to prevent the birth of the promised holy seed of the woman. — Bultema, page 48.

Abraham exhibits faith in chapter 15, and yet he fails in patience in chapter 16. hence the force and beauty of the apostle’s word in Hebrews 6:12: “Followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” God makes a promise; faith believes it, hope anticipates it, patience waits quietly for it.

There is such a thing, in the commercial world, as “the present worth” of a bill or promissory note; for if men are called upon to wait for their money, they must be paid for waiting. Now, in faith’s world there is such a thing as the present worth of God’s promise; and the scale by which that worth is regulated, is the hearth’s experimental knowledge of God; for according to my estimate of God, will be my estimate of His promise; and, moreover, the subdued and patient spirit finds its rich and full reward in waiting upon Him for the accomplishment of all that He has promised. — Mackintosh, page 175.

The specific pattern surrounding the temptation, sin, consequences, and divine response to Abram’s sin is clearly parallel to that surrounding Adam’s sin in chapter 3, thus vividly reinforcing the two-sided point that (1) God’s ideal purpose for man is refocused on Abram, and (2) God will sovereignly ensure the success of this purpose despite the fact that Abram, like Adam before him, and all men in between, is fundamentally tainted by the problem of depravity. — Wechsler, page 190.

Abram, like Adam was the leader of his family: it was to him that God had directly and clearly communicated His word, and it was he who was therefore responsible for properly communicating this word to his family and leading them in obedience to it. And in this instance, as in chapter 3, the temptation to doubt and disobey God’s word is subtly set before the husband through the mediation of his wife—to whom Abram, like Adam, gives in and does what he knows to be wrong. Indeed, the sinfulness of Abram’s action is underscored for the reader by use in verse 2b of the same expression (“to listen to the voice of…”) as that used by God to preface His chastisement of Adam in Genesis 3:17 (“Because you listened to the voice of your wife” ). — Wechsler, page 191.

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Genesis 15:7-21

Then He said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”

And he said, “Lord God, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”

So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.

11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.

13 Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years.

14 And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

15 Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.

16 But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.

18 On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates—

19 the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites,

20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,

21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.”

One each of the five acceptable sacrificial animals (cow, sheep, goat, pigeon, dove) was to be slain by Abram and laid on the altar. The slain animals were placed in two rows, one bird in each, along with a half-portion of each of the other animals. This arrangement was evidently intended to conform to the custom of the day, when a covenant was made between two parties; each would pass between the two rows, as a sign that he was bound by the terms of the contract. The intimation perhaps was that, if he broke it, the substitutionary death of the animals would no longer be efficacious and he himself (or possibly his cattle) would be subject to death. …

After Abram made the preparations, however, nothing happened during the rest of the day, and finally the sun went down. The delay possibly symbolized the fact that, although God’s covenant would be sure, its accomplishment would take a long time. In the first place, Abram himself would have to wait many years for the promised seed. Even then, it would still be many long centuries before the seed would become a great nation and possess the promised land, and many millennia before the ultimate fulfillment would take place, with all nations being blessed through the nation of Abram’s seed. 

During the wait, as could be expected, Abram had to drive off the birds of prey that dried to devour the carcasses. This experience, no doubt symbolized the attempts of Satan to thwart the plans of God. — Morris, page 326

Up to this day in Abraham’s life, God was wont to say to him, “I will give thee this land,” but from the hour of this blood-sealed covenant, He says, “I have given thee this land;” for promises based upon the precious blood of Christ are so absolutely sure that faith can claim them as already possessed. — Williams, page 20.

The reason for the delay, God said, was that “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” Just as God delayed the judgment of the Flood for 120 years, so here He waited four hundred years. “God is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9).

then, when it was dark, a smoking firepot and a flaming torch, representing God’s presence in the covenantal relation with Abram, passed between the two parts of the sacrifice. Only God passed through, not Abram, denoting an unconditional promise on God’s part, not dependent on Abram’s fulfilling his part of the contract, since he had no such part. It was all of God, in response to Abram’s believing faith. In order for God to keep His covenant, there must first be suffering, with glory then to follow. This is suggested by the furnace and the lamp.

The covenant, already made, is now expounded. The land which God will give Abram is from the Nile to the Euphrates, the land then occupied by Canaanites, represented by the ten tribes named. For a very brief time, under Solomon (1 Kings 8:65) and possibly again under Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25), the children of Israel ruled all this territory, as a token of the final and permanent possession they will have in the future. — Morris, page 328.

Having affirmed—and hence, for the moment, assuaged Abram’s doubt about—the promise of an heir, God next affirms the covenant promise of Abram possessing “this land” (i.e., Canaan). Not unexpectedly, this prompts a new expression of doubt on the part of Abram, who responds to God’s affirmation by asking, “How may I know that I shall possess it?”—to which, again, God responds with patience and grace. I this instance, however, since the provision in view is abstract (i.e., the right of possession/ownership) rather than material (such as an heir and descendants), God affirms His promise and assuages Abram’s doubts by condescending to participate in the accepted human convention of covenant “ratification” (i.e., establishing a “binding” agreement), which was for the covenantee to be “bound” to the conditions of the agreement by the blood of a sacrifice—either by walking between the bloody parts, as here, or being sprinkled by the blood, as in Exodus 24:6-8, where both Israel and God (represented by the altar) are sprinkled with the sacrificial blood, both sides having certain conditions to fulfill. In this instance, though God adopts the generally accepted form of ratification, He “tweaks” it to conform to the unconditional nature of His promise to Abram. Thus, while Abram is waiting for God, as the superior party, to pass between the pieces, he falls into a deep sleep (induced by God), during which God passes between the pieces in the form of a smoking oven and a flaming torch—thereby ensuring that the pieces were completely burned up in the process (as in 1 Kings 18:38). Consequently, when Abram awoke, he would have perceived that (1) God had passed between the pieces, and (2) that He had done so in such a way as to prevent Abram from doing so afterward, the point thus being clearly driven home that the only one to whom the covenant is “bound” for its fulfillment is God—i.e., it is unconditional. This is likewise Paul’s point in his comment on this event in Galatians 3:17, in which he clearly states that the Abrahamic covenant was “ratified by God” alone, hence justifying his designation of it as a “promise” (= unconditional covenant) rather than “law” (= conditional covenant). — Wechsler, pages 189-190.

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Genesis 15:1-6

1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”

Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.”

Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

Lord God (v.2) = Adonai (Master) Jehovah (G0d)

Not only does this remarkable verse [verse 1] contain the first mention of “word,” but it also introduces for the first time in Scripture the words “vision,” “shield,” and “reward.” Even more significantly, this is the first of the great “I am’s” of Scripture. — Morris, page 323

Now [verse 6], once again we have a first mention, this time of the word “believe.” Abram “believed God and He counted [or ‘imputed’] it to him for righteousness.” Here is the great principle of true salvation, set forth for the first time in the Bible. Not by works do men attain or manifest righteousness, but by faith. Because they believe in the Word of God, He credits them with perfect righteousness and therefore enables sinful man to be made fit for the fellowship of a holy God. In this verse is also the first occurrence of “imputed” and the first occurrence of “righteousness” (except in the name “Melchizedek’; also, a similar word, though not the same, was applied to Noah, in Genesis 6:9, translated “just”). … This wonderful verse is quoted in three epistles of the New Testament (Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23). — Morris, page 325

The imputation of righteousness to Abraham is here founded upon his believing in the Lord as the Quickener of the dead. It is in this character that He reveals Himself in a world where death reigns; and when a soul believes in Him as such, it is counted righteous in His sight. This necessarily shuts man out, as regards his cooperation, for what can he do in the midst of a scene of death? Can he raise the dead? Can he open the gates of the grave? Can he deliver himself from the power of death, and walk forth, in life and liberty, beyond the limits of its dreary domain? Assuredly not. Well, then, if he cannot do so, he cannot work out righteousness, nor establish himself in the relation of sonship. “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” and therefore, so long as a man is under the power of death, and under the dominion of sin, he can neither know the position of a son, nor the condition of righteousness. Thus, God alone can bestow the adoption of sons, and He alone can impute righteousness, and both are connected with faith in Him as the One who raised up Christ from the dead.

It is in this way that the apostle handles the question of Abraham’s faith, in Romans 4, where he says, “It was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed onto him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” Here, the God of resurrection is presented “to us also” as the object of faith, and our faith in Him as the alone ground of our righteousness. If Abraham had looked up into heaven’s vault, spangled with innumerable stars, and then looked at “his own body now dead,” how could he ever grasp the idea of a seed as numerous as those stars? Impossible. But he did not look at his own body, but at the resurrection-power of God; and inasmuch as that was the power which was to produce the seed, we can easily see that the stars of heaven and the sand on the sea-shore are but feeble figures indeed; for what natural object could possible illustrate the effect of that power which can raise the dead? 

So also, when a sinner hearkens to the glad tidings of the gospel, were he to look up to the unsullied light of the divine presence, and then look down into the unexplored depths of his own evil nature, he might well exclaim, How can I ever get thither?—how can I ever be fit to dwell in that light? Where is the answer? In himself? Nay, blessed be God, but in that blessed One who traveled from the bosom to the cross and the grave, and from thence to the throne, thus filling up, in His Person and work, all the space between those extreme points. There can be nothing higher than the bosom of God—the eternal dwelling-place of the Son, and there can be nothing lower than the cross and the grave; but, amazing truth! I find Christ in both. I find Him in the bosom, and I find Him in the grave. He went down into death in order that he might leave behind Him, in the dust thereof, the full weight of His people’s sins and iniquities. Christ in the grave exhibits the end of everything human—the end of sin—the full limit of Satan’s power. The grave of Jesus forms the grand terminus of all. But resurrection takes us beyond this terminus, and constitutes the imperishable basis on which God’s glory and man’s blessing repose forever. The moment the eye of faith rests on a risen Christ, there is a triumphant answer to every question as to sin, judgment, death, and the grave. the One who divinely met all these is alive from the dead, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; and not only so, but the Spirit of that risen and glorified One, in the believer, constitutes him a son. he is quickened out of the grave of Christ: as we read “And you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).

Hence, therefore, sonship, being founded on resurrection, stands connected with perfect justification—perfect righteousness—perfect freedom from everything which could in anywise be against us. God could not have us in His presence with sin upon us. He could not suffer a single speck or stain of sin upon His sons and daughters. The father could not have the prodigal at his table with the rags of the far country upon him. He could go forth to meet him in those rags, he could fall upon his neck and kiss him in those rags,—it was worthy and beautifully characteristic of his grace so to do; but then to seat him at his table in the rags would never do. The grace that brought the father out to the prodigal, reigns through the righteousness which brought the prodigal in to the father. It would not have been grace had the father waited for the son to deck himself in robes of his own providing, and it would not have been righteous to bring him in in his rags,  but both grace and righteousness shone forth in all their respective brightness and beauty when the father went out and fell on the prodigal’s neck, but yet did not give him a seat at his table until he was clad and decked in a manner suited to that elevated and happy position. God, in Christ, has stooped to the very lowest point of man’s moral condition, that, by stopping, He might raise man to the very highest point of blessedness, in fellowship with Himself. From all this, it follows that our sonship, with all its consequent dignities and privileges, is entirely independent of us. We have just as little to do with it as Abraham’s dead body and Sarah’s dead womb had to do with a seed as numerous as the stars which garnish the heavens, or as the sand on the sea-shore. It is all of God. — Mackintosh, pages 163-166

In ratifying the promise (i.e., the “Abrahamic Covenant”), therefore, God is not “activating” it, but rather establishing the certainty of its fulfillment in the mind of Abraham—i.e., here, as continually throughout the history of redemption, God condescends to “meet” man in his lack of faith by doing more (or less, depending on one’s perspective) than required by the ideal since the depraved man that He interacts with are so far from that ideal. — Wechsler, page 186. 

As in the initial expression of God’s promise in Genesis 12, so too here the scene commences immediately with God’s active expression of what He will do for Abram (and his descendants in the line of Promise). And so too here, as in the latter part of Genesis 12, God’s declaration of promise is followed by a clear expression of doubt on the part of Abram. In the present instance this doubt is represented by Abram’s questioning response, “O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” By this question, in other words, Abram is, at best, seeking to “force” God’s “hand” into specifying and fulfilling His previous statement, “I will make you into a great nation” (Genesis 12:2); at worst he is rhetorically denying that God can in fact give him the son that he so desires, Sarai being barren (see Genesis 11:30) and postmenopausal to boot (see Genesis 18:13), in which latter case Abram’s statement in verse 2 should be understood as the despondent statement of an old man of little faith anticipating his death (as is perfectly consistent with the Hebrew grammar). As in chapter 12, however, God responds not with judgment, but with patience and grace, thus emphasizing the unconditional nature of His promise. — Wechsler, page 187.

[Genesis 15:6] is referring to the fact that Abraham, who is already a believer, believed even more so (but still far from perfectly; see Genesis 17:17) in God’s specific promise of an heir, and this inner “act” of expressing greater faith was therefore credited to Abraham as a specific act of righteousness (thus yielding an added “notch” to his reward in the hereafter). … This is absolutely consistent with Paul’s citation of this verse in Romans 4, the point of which chapter is, simply, that righteousness is based first and foremost on faith (i.e., the inner “acts” or affirmations, of one’s heart)—whether that be one’s initial faith in Christ as the resurrected Lord, resulting in the overall righteousness of justification, or (as in the present instance) the believer’s subsequent and growing faith in the specific promises and commands of God’s Word, as reflected in the righteous acts that he performs in obedience to those promises and commands. — Wechsler, pages 188-189.

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Genesis 14:18-24

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

19 And he blessed him and said:  “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;

20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.

21 Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”

22 But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth,

23 that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—

24 except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.”

[Melchizedek] is referred to nine hundred years later by King David (Psalm 110:4) and one thousand years later than that by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1-21), where he is mentioned by name no less than nine times!

His name means “King of Righteousness” (Hebrews 7:2), and his title “King of Salem” means also “King of Peace.” For an individual to have such a name in such a place as Canaan, filled with wickedness and demonism as it was is sufficiently remarkable in itself. All indications, however, show that his name was appropriate. He is the first priest mentioned in the Bible (and this is also the first mention of “peace”), and he obviously had a unique relation to the true God. He used the name El Elyon (the “most high God”) to stress the absolute superiority of God to the multitude of gods and goddesses worshiped in Canaan. He also identified God as “the possessor of heaven and earth,” thus referring back to Genesis 1. Abram gladly recognized Melchizedek as representing the same God, who had called him to Canaan, and he “gave him tithes of all.” Melchizedek had brought bread and wine and, assuming this was meant for the refreshment of the weary fighters and travelers, it would have required a very large amount. — Morris, page 318

Abram gave a tenth of “all” to Melchizedek. This is the first mention of tithing in the Bible. It is normally assumed that this refers to a tithe of the spoils of the battle, but Scripture does not actually say so. It is possible that Abram, overwhelmed by the presence and blessing of Melchizedek, really did give him a tenth of all that he had.

As far as the actual spoils of battle were concerned, the king of Sodom (who had in the meantime reappeared from the slimepits where he had fled from the armies of the four kings) recognized that their recover was due entirely to Abram, and told him to take all the goods, returning only the people who were captives back to their homes. Abram, however, knew that the victory was not due to him, but to God, and would not take any of the goods. — Morris, pages 321-322

Two of my commentaries state that Melchizedek appeared at this moment to remind Abram that he had been blessed by God and, therefore, did not need the material things offered to him by the king of Sodom, the taking of which would have made him indebted to the evil king. The text doesn’t say this. I don’t know if that was part of the purpose of Melchizedek’s appearance, but it did certainly have that effect.

It is indispensable to a full appreciation of of the canonical significance of Melchizedek that one bear in mind the consistent principle that, in the general priestly economy of God, the nature of the priest inevitably and commensurately determines the nature of his priestly work (cf. Hebrews 7:26-28). It is for this reason, we believe, that the discussion of Melchizedek in Hebrews 7 commences with an explicit discussion of the titles/names (there being no semantic distinction between names and titles in biblical Hebrew) by which he is here introduced—namely, Melchizedek, meaning “King of Righteousness,” and King of Salem, meaning “King of Peace.” In other words, insofar as “righteousness” and “peace,” as biblically defined, are qualities centered in and administered by God, the implication right at the outset is that Melchizedek is none other than God Himself—yet another example of the many theophanies in the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, reflective of their divine connotation, these two titles/names are not employed for any other individual—king, priest, or otherwise—in Israel, and the two names employed within an Israelite context that come semantically closest to these are, not surprisingly, prophetically applied to the Messiah in His eschatological role of eternal priest-king—to wit, “the Lord our righteousness” in Jeremiah 23:6 and “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6.

This identification of Melchizedek with God thus explains why Abram immediately recognized and submitted to Melchizedek’s superiority—not simply out of social respect, but as an expression of faith and worship, allowing himself to be blessed (which typically proceeds from “greater”; cf. Hebrews 7:7) and responding by giving Melchizedek a tithe, which is portrayed throughout the Hebrew Bible as a specific act of worship. The implication of Melchizedek’s deity is further explicated in Hebrews 7 by (1) the contrast in verse 8 between the receiving of tithes by the Levites, who are “mortal men,” and the receiving of tithes by Melchizedek, who “lives on” (i.e., who is immortal); and (2) the statement in verse 3 that he—that is, per the context, Melchizedek in Genesis 14—”abides a priest perpetually.” This begs the question: if Jesus , as the writer of Hebrews goes on to state, “abides forever” (Hebrews 7:24) in the role of high priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 7:17)—and there can only be one high priest—then how can the Melchizedek of Genesis 14, whom we are told “abides [present tense!] a priest perpetually” (Hebrews 7:3), be anyone other than Christ, the believer’s great high priest?— Wechsler, pages 184-185

For the record, I agree with Wechsler. Melchizedek was Jesus Christ in a pre-incarnate appearance.

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