Genesis 20:1-18

1 And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar.

2 Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.

3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.”

4 But Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a righteous nation also?

5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and innocence of my hands I have done this.”

6 And God said to him in a dream, “Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

7 Now therefore, restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants, and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very much afraid.

9 And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.”

10 Then Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you have in view, that you have done this thing?”

11 And Abraham said, “Because I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife.

12 But indeed she is truly my sister. She is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

13 And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘This is your kindness that you should do for me: in every place, wherever we go, say of me, “He is my brother.” ’ ”

14 Then Abimelech took sheep, oxen, and male and female servants, and gave them to Abraham; and he restored Sarah his wife to him.

15 And Abimelech said, “See, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.”

16 Then to Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; indeed this vindicates you before all who are with you and before everybody.” Thus she was rebuked.

17 So Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abimelech, his wife, and his female servants. Then they bore children;

18 for the Lord had closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

For some unknown reason, Abraham at this time decided to take a trip down through the Negev and into Gerar, the capital city at that time of the land of the Philistines, near the Egyptian border. This was a prosperous city, as revealed by archaeological excavations there, and it may be that Abraham had some kind of business dealings in mind. The city controlled a lucrative caravan route and Abraham by this time was a wealthy and powerful chieftain.

The Philistines were Hamitic peoples (Genesis 10:14) who apparently settled at various times along the seacoast, coming probably from Crete. The name of Palestine was derived from their name. Though most of them did not arrive until many centuries later, apparently early contingents of them had settled there by the time of Abraham. — Morris, pages 359-360

His [Abraham’s] fall on this occasion was deeper than on the prior one; for he now had the Divine promise that within that very year Sarah should become the mother of a miraculous child. — Williams, page 24

If it be objected that this whole occurrence is incredible, because no heathen prince would desire to marry a woman upwards of 90 years of age, or to conceive such a passion for her that, to secure her, he would murder her husband—the very fate which Abraham feared for himself—it may be replied that, first, this was Satan’s second effort to bring about the birth of the Messiah by the intervention of a heathen father, and that therefore he would, and could, incite Abimelech to this action; and, in the second place, it is not unreasonable to believe, from the fact that Sarah nourished Isaac from his birth until he was between 3 and 5 years of age, that God must have miraculously renewed her youth, so that she became sufficiently youthful in appearance to suitably become the wife of Abimelech. — Williams, page 24.

Possibly Abimelech (evidently a standard name for Philistine kings, like Pharaoh in Egypt) viewed union with [Sarah] as of political value, since Abraham was a powerful and rich chieftain. Abimelech already had a harem and, as considered customary in those days, kings had a right to take any woman they  might choose into their harem, whether for personal or political motives. — Morris, pages 360-361.

Regardless of their mistake, however, God would not allow His promise to Abraham and Sarah to be broken. Before Abimelech had touched Sarah, God struck him with some kind of lethal infirmity (verses 3, 17), evidently of such nature as to prevent his coming in to her (verse 6). Furthermore, He “closed up the wombs” (verse 18) of the others in his harem and household. It may even be that the plague was about to be imposed on the entire nation, or at least Abimelech feared that it might (verse 4). — Morris, page 361.

Before [Abimelech] asked Abraham to pray for him, as God had instructed him, he first delivered Abraham and Sarah a stinging rebuke for their deception, which had almost resulted in such a calamity to his nation. There is no indication that God Himself rebuked Abraham, though certainly He was not pleased with what he had done. …

Abraham gave the excuse that, since the Philistines had no fear of God, they might otherwise have slain him and taken his wife anyway. Abimelech did not deny this, so possibly the fear was well grounded, as far as Abimelech’s own intentions were concerned. — Morris, page 362.

A divine principle, however, shines for in this sad chapter, and that is, that God in His amazing grace is not ashamed to be called the God of a poor, feeble, imperfect, and stumbling man, if there is, in spite of all the weakness, faith and love in the heart. This principle appears again in the prophecy of Balaam, when Jehovah’s word is “I have not seen perverseness in Israel”: and, again, as to Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3), God answers Satan, not by pointing to any  moral beauty in Joshua, but to what He Himself had done for him in snatching him as a brand from the fire. Similarly, on this occasion, He owns Abraham as His prophet; and if the patriarch by his own faithlessness had deeply degraded himself, so as to be justly rebuked by the heathen prince, yet God, in His faithfulness, clothes him with dignity and honours him in the presence of Abimelech. …

Thus it is emphasized that natural goodness and integrity, as in the case of Abimelech, do not necessarily make a man a child of God, and, on the other hand, a temporary moral lapse through fear does not unmake the believer a member of the household of faith. The apostle Peter’s case is also an illustration o this truth. — Williams, pages, 24-25.

Abimelech was told Abraham was a prophet not that Abraham might predict the future, but so he might pray for him. This is the first occurrence of the word in the Bible, and shows that “prophecy” is not primarily prediction, but rather speaking the words of God, as inspired by Him. — Morris, page 363.

Abimelech also “reproved” Sarah for her part in this deception, saying that Abraham should be “to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other.” It is not completely clear what these words mean, but most likely they were intended to stress to Sarah that, since Abraham was her husband and also God’s prophet, she had no need to fear the lustful attentions of other men. He himself was a sufficient veil over her eyes to prevent other men from looking on her in this way. — Morris, page 363.

In contrast to this previous episode [in Genesis 12:10-20], however, in which the text occupies four verses with consideration of Abraham’s sinful motives (i.e., fear of famine, fear of death), in the present instance we are told simply that “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, ‘She is my sister.'” Though the same lack of faith is undoubtedly motivating Abraham to lie again about his relationship, the text focuses in this instance on the response to Abraham’s sin—and inevitably therefore on the contrast between Abraham’s response and that of Abimelech—which in turn serves to underscore God’s grace and faithfulness in upholding His covenant with Abraham (whereas the explicit focus on Abraham’s depraved motives in chapter 12 serves to underscore God’s grace in establishing His covenant). — Wechsler, pages 204-205.

In marked contrast to Abimelech’s behavior, Abraham refuses to acknowledge his lie, seeking instead to excuse himself for two reasons that are (at best) only “half-truths” themselves—to wit: (1) because he thought that there was no fear of God among the Philistines of Gerar—which Abimelech’s behavior has clearly disproven; and (2) because Sarah actually is Abraham’s sister (i.e., half-sister) by the same father—though this can hardly be claimed as a justifiable interpretation of one’s introducing one’s wife as one’s sister”! To Abimelech’s credit—and as an undoubted example to the reader—he does not press the matter, but rather, having done his part in confronting the sinner with his sin, leaves the hoped-for conviction and repentance of Abraham as something to be worked about between the latter and his God. Indeed, to top it all off Abimelech goes beyond what anyone could justly ask of him and freely gives a thousand pieces of silver to Abraham as a public vindication of Sarah’s purity—and who can blame him for giving vent to a slight bit of sarcasm when he tells Sarah that he gave this money not to her husband but to her brother! — Wechsler, pages 205-206.

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Genesis 19:30-38

30 Then Lot went up out of Zoar and dwelt in the mountains, and his two daughters were with him; for he was afraid to dwell in Zoar. And he and his two daughters dwelt in a cave.

31 Now the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man on the earth to come in to us as is the custom of all the earth.

32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.”

33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

34 It happened on the next day that the firstborn said to the younger, “Indeed I lay with my father last night; let us make him drink wine tonight also, and you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve the lineage of our father.”

35 Then they made their father drink wine that night also. And the younger arose and lay with him, and he did not know when she lay down or when she arose.

36 Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father.

37 The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.

38 And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day.

The angels had told Lot to go out of Sodom up into the mountains (Genesis 19:17), but Lot had negotiated and been allowed to go to Zoar instead. Apparently he didn’t stay there long, but we aren’t told why. He and his two daughters had gone from the luxury of Sodom to the poverty of a cave.

[Lot’s] daughters, on successive nights, encourage him to drink himself into a stupor and then to have sexual intercourse with them. In partial defense of their actions, we may note that they were not motivated simply by physical lust, although certainly their surroundings in Sodom had been most conductive to its full expression. They were, nevertheless, still virgins (Genesis 19:8), so at least their father’s moral standards had influenced them to some degree. They had kept themselves pure for their future husbands, but now it suddenly seemed that they would never have husbands at all. The worst of it was that, now that their brothers, their sisters, and their mother had perished, neither they nor their father would leave any descendants. In view of both God’s primeval command to be fruitful and the universal belief that barrenness therefore was a disgrace, situation seemed intolerable to them. It perhaps was further aggravated by their fear that, with neither husbands nor sons, there would be no one to provide for them as they grew older. Unaccustomed to walking by faith in God to meet their needs, they reasoned that the only possible way out of the intolerable situation was that of incest with their father.

They knew that their father would no willingly consent to such a thing, however. As far as their own moral scruples were concerned, they perhaps reasoned that this would not be as bad as the proposal that their father had made concerning them to the Sodomites. Also, as noted before, there were as yet no actual Scriptural ordinances against incest, and close marriages were not uncommon (e.g., Abram and his half-sister Sarai); so this could not have seemed as serious a crime to them as it would to us today. Evidently they decided it was the only thing to do under the circumstances (except to trust God, and idea which apparently never occurred to them at all), and so proceeded to get their father drunk and to go through with it. — Morris, page 358.

The son of the older daughter was named Moab (meaning “from the father”), and was the progenitor of the Moabites. The younger daughter’s son was named Benammi (meaning “son of my people”), and from him were descended the Ammonites. The Moabites and the Ammonites were frequently at war with Israel in later years. They lived mostly in the mountainous regions east of the Dead Sea. Although they were generally idolaters, not all of them were evil. Ruth, for example, was a Moabite woman and, as the wife of Boaz, became one of the ancestors of Jesus. Naamah, an Ammonite woman, was one of Solomon’s wives and the mother of King Rehoboam, who also was in the ancestral line leading to Jesus. Although God in later years judged the Moabites and Ammonites severely, there is some indication that they may be revived in the last days (Jeremiah 48:47; 49:6). These people, along with the Edomites and others, have today long since been essentially amalgamated with the Arabs, descendants of Ishmael. Whether they will ever again be identified as distinct nations or (as seems more likely) will simply share in the future destiny of the Arabic peoples, only the future will reveal. — Morris, pages 358-359.

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Genesis 19:12-29

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place!

13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.

15 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.”

16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.

17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that [b]he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

18 Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords!

19 Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.

20 See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”

21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken.

22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar.

24 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.

25 So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.

26 But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord.

28 Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace.

29 And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.

The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah are probably hidden beneath the waters of the shallow southern end of the Dead Sea, which has risen greatly in recent years and now coves a much larger area than formerly. Ruins of a festival center on a neighboring plateau, where inhabitants of these cities may have gathered, have been discovered. Archaeological examination proves that the center was used for centuries but abandoned after Abraham’s time. — Scofield, page 29.

On the other hand, archaeological explorations within the past decade have shown that, at the time of Abraham, there were five large cities on the eastern side of this southern portion of the Dead Sea … If these are indeed the cities of Lot’s time … Each city was located along one of the fresh-water streams coming down from the eastern hills into the Vale of Siddim and on into the sea. Each was situated on a high outspur overlooking its “wadi,” so that it could control the river and the water below. The five cities were apparently very prosperous and supported a very large population (the tombs that have been uncovered indicate probably over a million individuals had been buried in them). The word “Siddim” seems to mean “cultivated fields,” indicative of the extensive agricultural system developed on them by the five-nation confederacy. — Morris, page 352.

In an atmosphere of emergency, the angels offered to spare Lot and his family, including even the men of Sodom that had married some of his daughters. The angels told him plainly, however, that his family would have to leave the city altogether, because it was about to be destroyed.

Lot then went out again to find his daughters and their husbands, to carry them the warning. … However, he had long since lost any influence with them, and they simply ridiculed him, completely refusing to take his warning seriously. So far as the record goes, he didn’t even bother to warn his own sons, presumably because they were so deeply involved in the … wickedness by this time that he knew it would be useless. —Morris, page 350.

“The Lord being merciful unto him,” the angels insisted that they leave, actually pulling them by the hand! … Again, however, Lot tries to compromise. … He beseeches them to allow him to move into one of the smaller cities, Zoar, and to spare that one city. … It is pitiful the way Lot begs for the opportunity to continue to be at least somewhat comfortable in the world, stressing that Zoar was such a small city (the name itself means “small place”) that it couldn’t hurt too much to spare it. — Morris, page 351.

It seems possible … that God triggered an earthquake along [a] great fault [the “Great Rift”] at this time, which released and exposed to the atmosphere vast quantities of combustible hydrocarbons and sulphur. At the same time, God sent “fire from heaven,” which ignited the mixture in a great explosion and devastating fire. … The “fire and brimstone” that fell from heaven possibly refers to the burning gas and sulphur that were blown into the air in the explosion and then fell back to the earth throughout the region. The most likely naturalistic explanation for the ignition of these materials probably would be that of a simultaneous electrical storm, in which case the lightning itself could also be described as “fire from heaven.” …

Since natural physical phenomena, divinely timed, so seem adequate to explain the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps we should interpret the story in this way. The personal connection of God and the two angelic messengers with Sodom’s destruction in itself tends to suggest that the “rain of brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven” was actually supernatural. — Morris, pages 354-355.

[Regarding Lot’s wife] It seems probable that this brief statement [She looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt] (not referring to either God or angels, but containing only a matter-of-fact summary of an event), simply records a natural calamity that over took this woman as she very reluctantly followed her husband and daughters out of Sodom.

When the Lord Jesus Christ, talking of the events to occur near the time of His second coming, referred by way of illustration to the event, He said: “Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:32-33). The implication is that Lot’s wife was seeking to hang on to her life in Sodom and that, consequently, she lost her life in its destruction. The word “looked back” has the connotation of “looking intently.” It might possibly be rendered “lagged back,” or maybe even “returned back.” In any case, she was not with her husband and daughters, so that only she perished. One possibility is that the explosions in the region threw great quantities of its salt deposits into the air, and that some of these fell on her and buried her under an great pile of salt. Another is that she was buried by volcanic ash or other materials and that, gradually, over the following years, her body became petrified, “becoming salt” in a fashion similar to that experienced by the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaneum when they were buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. — Morris, pages 355-356.

God could destroy the whole of Sodom with all its wealth and all its men, women, babes, and cattle, but one filthy man he could not destroy with Sodom. He could not even destroy Sodom as long as [Lot] lingered in it. That Lot had become besmirched with Sodom’s slime the last part of this chapter clearly shows, but God calls him three times in 2 Peter just in the sense of justified, and God reverently speaking, cannot destroy a justified man. He cannot go back upon His own justification, nor can He first exact pay from the Surety and Substitute, and then from the person covered by the Surety. The just Judge of all the earth cannot do this. What a volume of comfort lies here in regard to the eternal security of the believer; and what a volume of teaching in regard to the pre-tribulation rapture of the believers. We can bank upon it that it is a rule of God’s blessed Book and in all His actions that in all judgments He thinks first of the safety of the justified, and He cannot destroy the justified with the wicked. — Bultema, page 52. 

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Genesis 19:1-11

19 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.

And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”

But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house.

And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”

So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly!

See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.

10 But the men reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door.

11 And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.

[Lot] first “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Genesis 13:12), then “dwelt in Sodom” (Genesis 14:12), and finally “sat in the gate of Sodom.” The “gate” of the city was the place where the business and commercial activities centered, and also where the judicial councils took place. Evidently Lot himself was now some kind of magistrate of the place, for this seems to be the meaning of the term “sitting in the gate.” It is possible, however, that it refers simply to the apparent fact that he liked to sit at the city gate, where he could participate easily in the trade and conversation that thrived there.

He was well aware of its wickedness, even before he went there. The New Testament tells us, in fact, that “that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” (2 Peter 2:8). — Morris, page 345.

As Lot was sitting in the gate, the two angels that had left Abraham neared the city at dusk. Lot immediately greeted them and invited them to his home. Probably … since he was aware of the treatment generally received by strangers in this vile city, he would try to shield them from such abuse by taking them quickly into his own home. … when the men entered his home, Lot prepared them a feast. it is significant, however, that the only ingredient of this feast which is specifically mentioned is “unleavened bread.” … This is the first mention of leaven in the Bible, and is in accord with all of its later usages.  In Scripture, leaven is generally symbolic of evil doctrine or practice corrupting God’s people. The next time it is mentioned is in connection with the institution of the Passover feast, when God’s people were told to observe the feast without leaven, and in fact to put away all leaven out of their houses (Exodus 12:15). It is noteworthy that, when it is first mentioned, its absence is symbolically associated with the spiritual fellowship between a remnant of believers and their god, in the midst of an utterly corrupt society. Leaven, of course, being involved with the fermentation process, is a perfect symbol of decay and corruption, and it is important that spiritual fellowship not be contaminated with it. — Morris, pages 346-347

Here we have a case in which all “the men of the city … both old and young, all the people, from every quarter” surrounded Lot’s house with the intention to commit crime against his guests. … This descent into degeneracy, both ancient and modern, is caused first of all by a rejection of God as Creator and Sovereign, equating ultimate reality and responsibility with the natural world (Romans 1:21-25). In whatever specific form this type of philosophy may appear in a given generation, it is fundamentally nothing but evolutionary naturalism and humanism. — Morris, page 348

It is hard to understand, even with all allowance for the exaggerated customs of hospitality which presumably were practiced at the time, how Lot could offer to sacrifice his daughters … There is a possibility that Lot had come to recognize, or at least to suspect, the real identity of his visitors. This is intimated perhaps by his preparation of unleavened bread. If he did suspect, perhaps this might explain why he felt he must go to any lengths to protect them, even the sacrifice of his own children. … Lot had for some time thought he was at home among the people of the city, even “sitting in the gate.” Now, however, he quickly learned that they had never really accepted him. He had no influence over them whatever under these present conditions, and they resented even the very fact that he had judged their intended action to be morally wrong. This is almost inevitably the ultimate outcome of a compromising relation between carnal Christians and the world.

As it finally became apparent that no possible stratagem would solve the problem for Lot, the angels themselves intervened. … Then they struck the men outside with blindness—a particular type of blindness mentioned elsewhere in the Bible only in 2 Kings 6:18, when God smote the vast Syrian army with blindness in order to save Elisha. Evidently, this blindness did not leave its victims sightless, but rather was a blindness of confusion, so that they could see but could not identify where they were. Somehow they were unable to find the door to break it in. — Morris, page 349

How different is all this from the scene with which the preceding chapter opens! But, ah! my reader, the reason is obvious. “By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in [tents].” We have no such statement in reference to Lot. It could not be said, By faith Lot sat in the gate of Sodom.

There was a most material difference between these two men, who, though they started together on their course, reached a very different goal, so far as their public testimony was concerned. No doubt Lot was saved, yet it was “so as by fire,” for, truly, “his work was burned up.” …

The Lord remained to commune with Abraham, and merely sent His angels to Sodom; and these angels could with difficulty be induced to enter Lot’s house, or partake of his hospitality: “they said, ‘nay, but we will abide in the street all night.'” What a rebuke! How different from the willing acceptance of Abraham’s invitation, as expressed in the words, “So do as thou hast said.” … Indeed, their only object in coming to Sodom seems to have been to deliver Lot, and that, too, because of Abraham; as we read,— “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot dwelt.” — Mackintosh, page 203.

All the more astonishing in light of [Lot’s offer of his daughters to the mob] is Peter’s reference in 2 Peter 2:7-8 to “righteous Lot … who felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their [i.e., the Sodomites’] lawless deeds.” Nonetheless, when one considers the Abrahamic context of this episode and the manner in which righteousness has been previously presented within that context, the reason for this seemingly paradoxical description emerges—to wit: as with Abraham in Genesis 15:6, the emphasis is on Lot’s reckoned righteousness—that is, the righteousness that God credited to him by virtue of his faith, imperfect though that faith and his consequent behavior may have been. In this respect it should also be borne in mind that Abraham’s “reckoned”—or, as theologians also refer to it, “imputed”—righteousness is both preceded (in Genesis 12) and followed (in Genesis 20) by his own intentional “handing over” of a female family member (i.e., his wife Sarai/Sarah) for what will inevitably result in the commission of sexual sin. — Wechsler, page 201.

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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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