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8. Genesis 17 – 25:18 (Abraham -- Part 2)

A Chronological Daily Bible Study of the Old Testament
7-Day Sections
with a Summary-Commentary, Discussion Questions, and a Practical Daily Application

Week 8

Sunday (Genesis 17)

The Sign of the Covenant

17:1 When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the sovereign God. Walk before me and be blameless. 17:2 Then I will confirm my covenant between me and you, and I will give you a multitude of descendants.”

17:3 Abram bowed down with his face to the ground, and God said to him, 17:4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of a multitude of nations. 17:5 No longer will your name be Abram. Instead, your name will be Abraham because I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. 17:6 I will make you extremely fruitful. I will make nations of you, and kings will descend from you. 17:7 I will confirm my covenant as a perpetual covenant between me and you. It will extend to your descendants after you throughout their generations. I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 17:8 I will give the whole land of Canaan – the land where you are now residing – to you and your descendants after you as a permanent possession. I will be their God.”

17:9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep the covenantal requirement I am imposing on you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

17:10 This is my requirement that you and your descendants after you must keep: Every male among you must be circumcised. 17:11 You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskins. This will be a reminder of the covenant between me and you.

17:12 Throughout your generations every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, whether born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not one of your descendants. 17:13 They must indeed be circumcised, whether born in your house or bought with money. The sign of my covenant will be visible in your flesh as a permanent reminder.

17:14 Any uncircumcised male who has not been circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin will be cut off from his people – he has failed to carry out my requirement.”

17:15 Then God said to Abraham, “As for your wife, you must no longer call her Sarai; Sarah will be her name. 17:16 I will bless her and will give you a son through her. I will bless her and she will become a mother of nations. Kings of countries will come from her!”

17:17 Then Abraham bowed down with his face to the ground and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a son be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

17:18 Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live before you!”

17:19 God said, “No, Sarah your wife is going to bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm my covenant with him as a perpetual covenant for his descendants after him.

17:20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will indeed bless him, make him fruitful, and give him a multitude of descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes; I will make him into a great nation.

17:21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year.”

17:22 When he finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

17:23 Abraham took his son Ishmael and every male in his household (whether born in his house or bought with money) and circumcised them on that very same day, just as God had told him to do.

17:24 Now Abraham was 99 years old when he was circumcised; 17:25 his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised. 17:26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised on the very same day.

17:27 All the men of his household, whether born in his household or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

Prayer

Lord, I wish to walk before you blameless and to be a fruitful part of Your perfect plan in this world. While the whole notion of adult circumcision makes us wince, and the nature of such a primitive and legalistic/performance-based relationship contrary to our Christian reality of a grace-based relationship, we do want to be mindful that there is a 'spiritual circumcision' that takes place when we accept Your Lordship of our lives. Lord, may I never be found laughing in doubt at any of Your prophesies, You always keep Your word and nothing You promise is absurd. Lord, find me grateful that rather than occasional moments when You come to be near to me You are always with me through Your Holy Spirit. May I be as faithful in following Your instructions as was Abraham, no matter the cost.

Scripture In Perspective

The Lord God systematically and incrementally communicated the details of His covenant to Abram. He communicated His decision to re-name Abram to Abraham in order to clarify His ‘ownership’ of Abraham and his descendants.

The Lord again affirmed His commitment to make Abraham “fruitful”, to raise up great leaders from his descendants, to give to them a large territory, and to be their God.

God described to Abraham His system to bring the men in Abraham’s extended family and community to an awareness of the high-level of commitment they were making to His covenant – adult circumcision.

He instructed Abraham that newly born boys must also be circumcised.

He extended the circumcision requirements to every male in “the camp”.

He informed Abraham that He was also asserting “lordship/ownership” of Sarai and that He had renamed her, Sarah.

He instructed Abraham to inform Sarah that she would bear a child from Abraham and that child would be the first in a line to include kings of countries (and The King),

Abraham, bowing in submission laughed at the very notion that an elderly couple like he and Sarah could have a child – his laughter was sorrowful rather than derisive.

Abraham plead for God to fulfill His promise through Ishmael.

The Lord corrected Abraham’s error and instructed him to name the son, to be born of Abraham and Sarai - Isaac. He advised Abraham that the birth will be in one year’s time.

He notified Abraham that He would confirm His covenant directly with Isaac.

He also informed Abraham that He has already declared that He would bless Ishmael because of Abraham, making his descendants many and powerful, eventually gathered into a large nation. Interestingly He declares that Ishmael will be the father of twelve princes.

When the Lord God completed His instruction of Abraham He departed.

Abraham immediately obeyed God’s instruction and had every male circumcised.

The circumcision included Abraham (99 years old) and Ishmael (13).

Interact With The Text

Consider

Observe Abram’s response to the presence of God “Abram bowed down with his face to the ground ...” The Holy Spirit of God dwells within us, do we “bow down” before His presence through lives lived in humble submission? Is it not amazing that despite Abram and Sarai’s rebellion, which had just created the tribe of Ishmael, the Lord still comes to Abram to continue the revelation of His covenant?

In the primitive medical conditions this would have been dangerous and debilitating of the men limiting their capacity to defend the community or to work. Abraham still failed to fully appreciate Who God was and therefore doubted His capacity to literally fulfill His prophesy. The Lord did not choose to confront Abraham angrily, despite his rebellion via Hagar, and his doubts about His promise. There were no hospitals as we know them, little in the way of sanitation, and every male was circumcised – creating a military vulnerability while they recovered.

Discuss

Compare the severity of the physical pain and significance of the social impact associated with the Abrahamic covenant to that which we experience for our public declaration of faith in the generally Christian-friendly West, as well as parts of the rest of the world. When have you doubted one of God’s promises could really come to you? When have you known that you deserved God’s anger and Hand of discipline yet He has withheld both. Since He knows your heart was His restraint due to your repentance? Abraham was apparently held in extraordinary high-regard as there is no report of rebellion against this extreme requirement for all of the men.

Reflect

What must it have meant to Abram, now Abraham, to hear the Lord God declare of his descendants “I will be their God.” The instructions of God, detailed later, would specify the 8th week of life for baby boys to be circumcised. Modern research has uncovered the fact that the 8th week is when Vitamin K spikes in the child – Vitamin K is a clotting agent which would have prevented them from excessive bleeding. Abraham is focused on himself, through the eyes of the world seeing himself and Sarah as impossible vessels for God's fulfilled prophesy, and the he places God in a man-sized 'box'. Prior to the coming of the indwelling Holy Spirit those who worshiped God generally only knew His presence occasionally whereas NT believers have His presence continually. Abraham never asked for an exemption based on his age and was circumcised along with Ishmael, humbly submitting as leader and son for all to know that it was the required thing to do and that he was willing to model obedience even in very difficult things.

Share

When has your realization that the Holy Spirit in you is the Lord God present with you caused to you pause in reverent awe – and moved you to live more righteously before Him? What do you know of cultures where a public confession of faith represents a major physical and/or sociological risk and sacrifice? When have you doubted your suitability for God’s promise and, perhaps unintentionally, then doubted God’s capacity to do as He has promised in and through you? When has God had to confront you in some way to correct your wrong thinking? When has God made a sacrificial claim on your life? Did you obey despite the cost?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the covenant God has made with you in Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you mindful of the ‘circumcision of your heart’ which God asks of you, as described by the apostle Paul in the NT as a parallel to that experienced by Abraham and his community. Ask the Holy Spirit to extinguish any smoldering fire of doubt which the enemy has started in you. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you frequently every day of His presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to find you a willing partner in learning to be the first to sacrifice and a positive role model of obedience to God – even in the hard things.

Act

Prayerfully seek a place in your life where you have not experienced a 'circumcision of the heart', that is, a place where your loyalty remains in the world rather than in Christ. Agree to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to walk through the challenging process of surrendering that part of your life to the Lordship of Christ – no matter the cost. Prayerfully seek out a new or stuck believer and share this text and discussion with them, encouraging them to discover anew the awe of the presence of God within. Prayerfully ponder the most challenging or difficult promise God has made to you. [His promises to His children are all in His Word.] Honestly list the doubts you have, both of yourself as fit to be the vessel of His promise, and if you really understood correctly His amazing promise. Ask a fellow believer to pray in-agreement that your faith would be expanded to accept God at His Word. I agree to be intentional about beginning my every day with a conversation with the Holy Spirit of God through prayer, to pause and do so during the day, and to be at least as faithful in this as an adherent to Islam is in his ot her daily pauses for worship.

Be Specific ________________________________________________

Monday (Genesis 18)

Three Special Visitors

18:1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest time of the day. 18:2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing across from him. When he saw them he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

18:3 He said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by and leave your servant. 18:4 Let a little water be brought so that you may all wash your feet and rest under the tree. 18:5 And let me get a bit of food so that you may refresh yourselves since you have passed by your servant’s home. After that you may be on your way.” “All right,” they replied, “you may do as you say.”

18:6 So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, Quick! Take three measures of fine flour, knead it, and make bread. 18:7 Then Abraham ran to the herd and chose a fine, tender calf, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it. 18:8 Abraham then took some curds and milk, along with the calf that had been prepared, and placed the food before them. They ate while he was standing near them under a tree.

18:9 Then they asked him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” He replied, “There, in the tent.” 18:10 One of them said, “I will surely return to you when the season comes round again, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” (Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, not far behind him. 18:11 Abraham and Sarah were old and advancing in years; Sarah had long since passed menopause.) 18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, “After I am worn out will I have pleasure, especially when my husband is old too?”

18:13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child when I am old?’ 18:14 Is anything impossible for the Lord? I will return to you when the season comes round again and Sarah will have a son.” 18:15 Then Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” because she was afraid. But the Lord said, “No! You did laugh.”

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

18:16 When the men got up to leave, they looked out over Sodom. (Now Abraham was walking with them to see them on their way.) 18:17 Then the Lord said, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18:18 After all, Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using his name. 18:19 I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. Then the Lord will give to Abraham what he promised him.”

18:20 So the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so blatant 18:21 that I must go down and see if they are as wicked as the outcry suggests. If not, I want to know.”

18:22 The two men turned and headed toward Sodom, but Abraham was still standing before the Lord.

18:23 Abraham approached and said, “Will you sweep away the godly along with the wicked?

18:24 What if there are fifty godly people in the city? Will you really wipe it out and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty godly people who are in it? 18:25 Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the godly with the wicked, treating the godly and the wicked alike! Far be it from you! Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right?”

18:26 So the Lord replied, “If I find in the city of Sodom fifty godly people, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

18:27 Then Abraham asked, “Since I have undertaken to speak to the Lord (although I am but dust and ashes), 18:28 what if there are five less than the fifty godly people? Will you destroy the whole city because five are lacking?” He replied, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”

18:29 Abraham spoke to him again, “What if forty are found there?” He replied, “I will not do it for the sake of the forty.”

18:30 Then Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry so that I may speak! What if thirty are found there?” He replied, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

18:31 Abraham said, “Since I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.”

18:32 Finally Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry so that I may speak just once more. What if ten are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”

18:33 The Lord went on his way when he had finished speaking to Abraham. Then Abraham returned home.

Prayer

Lord, may I recognize You and rush to worship and to serve You. May I be mature enough so that even when Your promises seem impossible I will trust You, and even when caught doubting I will not lie but will confess and ask that my faith be increased. May I be as sensitive as Abraham for the righteous hidden among the multitudes of the unrighteous.

Scripture In Perspective

The three “men” are clearly “heavenly” in origin:

Abraham ran to them, something unusual for a man, especially of his age.

Abraham addressed at least one as “Lord”.

Abraham bowed in submission.

Abraham pleaded to be permitted to provide foot washing, food, and a shady place for rest.

Abraham had Sarah and his servants prepare “fine” bread and a “fine” calf – the best for his very special guests. He then stood apart from them, as a servant from his master, as they ate.

The heavenly visitors announced again, in the most specific and unambiguous language, the Lord God’s plan for Sarah’s pregnancy.

Sarah was bitter and hopeless as she was post-menopausal. (From the experience- based perspective of the world she was no longer able to become pregnant and to bear a child, so she laughed when they made their announcement.)

The Lord challenged Abraham about Sarah’s doubts, at which moment Sarah – frightened that the Lord was aware of her lack of faith – denied lying. The Lord corrected her with the truth while He steadfastly declared His intention to return when it was time for the child to be born.

As Abraham was “... still standing before the Lord” God announced that He intended to bring a terrible judgment upon Sodom.

Abraham challenged the Lord God to reconsider the destruction of Sodom and He agreed – of course knowing that Abraham’s condition of righteous men could not be met.

Interact With The Text

Consider

Abraham was a powerful and wealthy man in that part of the world, he had only previously shown such deference to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-20). Meanwhile, Sarah’s eyes were on her imperfect flesh and not on her perfect Lord. Later, Abraham was so concerned for the righteous in Sodom that he was willing to challenge the Lord God several times to consider withholding His hand of judgment.

Discuss

Despite the history of the Lord’s faithfulness and power Sarah failed to trust. Why?

Reflect

Abraham had a sense of fatherly responsibility for the people in the region, even Sodom – whom he had previously rescued from an invading army, perhaps even more-so because his nephew Lot lived there.

Share

When have you recognized a special gift in someone and rather than competing with them for attention or distracting them from their task you have humbly served them? When have you struggled to see things through God’s eyes instead of the limited vision of the world? When have you pleaded with God to withhold His hand of judgment upon a parent for the sake of a child or a spouse for the sake of their mate or some other unrighteous person for the sake of a righteous one who might be harmed?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to a small group of people, perhaps students at a college or other school or employees in a workplace, who are surrounded by people immersed in sin and who need support.

Act

Today I agree to communicate a word of encouragement to those whom the Holy Spirit has directed me and to pray for protection for them.

Be Specific _____________________________________________

Tuesday (Genesis 19)

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

19:1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening while Lot was sitting in the city’s gateway. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face toward the ground.

19:2 He said, “Here, my lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house. Stay the night and wash your feet. Then you can be on your way early in the morning.” “No,” they replied, “we’ll spend the night in the town square.”

19:3 But he urged them persistently, so they turned aside with him and entered his house. He prepared a feast for them, including bread baked without yeast, and they ate.

19:4 Before they could lie down to sleep, all the men – both young and old, from every part of the city of Sodom – surrounded the house. 19:5 They shouted to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

19:6 Lot went outside to them, shutting the door behind him. 19:7 He said, “No, my brothers! Don’t act so wickedly! 19:8 Look, I have two daughters who have never had sexual relations with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do to them whatever you please. Only don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

19:9 “Out of our way!” they cried, and “This man came to live here as a foreigner, and now he dares to judge us! We’ll do more harm to you than to them!” They kept pressing in on Lot until they were close enough to break down the door.

19:10 So the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house as they shut the door. 19:11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, from the youngest to the oldest, with blindness. The men outside wore themselves out trying to find the door.

19:12 Then the two visitors said to Lot, “Who else do you have here? Do you have any sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or other relatives in the city? Get them out of this place 19:13 because we are about to destroy it. The outcry against this place is so great before the Lord that he has sent us to destroy it.”

19:14 Then Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law who were going to marry his daughters. He said, “Quick, get out of this place because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was ridiculing them.

19:15 At dawn the angels hurried Lot along, saying, “Get going! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or else you will be destroyed when the city is judged!” 19:16 When Lot hesitated, the men grabbed his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters because the Lord had compassion on them. They led them away and placed them outside the city. 19:17 When they had brought them outside, they said, “Run for your lives! Don’t look behind you or stop anywhere in the valley! Escape to the mountains or you will be destroyed!”

19:18 But Lot said to them, “No, please, Lord! 19:19 Your servant has found favor with you, and you have shown me great kindness by sparing my life. But I am not able to escape to the mountains because this disaster will overtake me and I’ll die. 19:20 Look, this town over here is close enough to escape to, and it’s just a little one. Let me go there. It’s just a little place, isn’t it? Then I’ll survive.”

19:21 “Very well,” he replied, “I will grant this request too and will not overthrow the town you mentioned. 19:22 Run there quickly, for I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” (This incident explains why the town was called Zoar.)

19:23 The sun had just risen over the land as Lot reached Zoar. 19:24 Then the Lord rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. It was sent down from the sky by the Lord. 19:25 So he overthrew those cities and all that region, including all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation that grew from the ground. 19:26 But Lot’s wife looked back longingly and was turned into a pillar of salt.

19:27 Abraham got up early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 19:28 He looked out toward Sodom and Gomorrah and all the land of that region. As he did so, he saw the smoke rising up from the land like smoke from a furnace.

19:29 So when God destroyed the cities of the region, God honored Abraham’s request. He removed Lot from the midst of the destruction when he destroyed the cities Lot had lived in.

19:30 Lot went up from Zoar with his two daughters and settled in the mountains because he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.

19:31 Later the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man anywhere nearby to have sexual relations with us, according to the way of all the world. 19:32 Come, let’s make our father drunk with wine so we can have sexual relations with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

19:33 So that night they made their father drunk with wine, and the older daughter came and had sexual relations with her father. But he was not aware that she had sexual relations with him and then got up. 19:34 So in the morning the older daughter said to the younger, “Since I had sexual relations with my father last night, let’s make him drunk again tonight. Then you go and have sexual relations with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 19:35 So they made their father drunk that night as well, and the younger one came and had sexual relations with him. But he was not aware that she had sexual relations with him and then got up.

19:36 In this way both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 19:37 The older daughter gave birth to a son and named him Moab. He is the ancestor of the Moabites of today. 19:38 The younger daughter also gave birth to a son and named him Ben-Ammi. He is the ancestor of the Ammonites of today.

19:30 Lot went up from Zoar with his two daughters and settled in the mountains because he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters.

Prayer

Lord, may I treat fellow believers with the same sacrificial courtesy and bravery as Lot. Lord, when You tell me to “Get going!” may I be as Lot and obey immediately. Lord, please do not find me so impatient that in my desperation I do things my own way instead of trusting You. Lord, teach me to trust in You so that the enemy cannot use fear to manipulate me.

Scripture In Perspective

The two beings mentioned previously arrived in Sodom to destroy the city and they find Lot at the city gates – generally the place of the religious “elders”.

Lot, like Moses, recognized them as of-God and he bowed to them – insisting that they dine and spend the night in the comfort and safety of his home.

The crazed men of Sodom attacked Lot’s home, demanding the visitors for their homosexual pleasures.

Lot realized that if he could not persuade the mob to leave they would break down his door and take his guests – who according to ancient custom he was duty-bound to protect by any means necessary – so he stepped outside of his house to confront them at mortal risk to his own life.

Since the men were crazed with sex and would probably have raped and murdered everyone in Lot’s household he offered his virgin daughters so as to protect the “men” (angels) of-God, his highest responsibility (in his mind).

The men refused as they were so mad with homosexual lust, having long-ago given themselves over to unbridled sin, reject his offer and shoved him aside to attack the door.

The “angels” reached out, pulled Lot to safety, then blinded the men so they were unable to find the door – though they tried throughout the night – exhausting themselves from the effort.

Just as the Lord God had done with Noah, He extended His blessing for the one to his closest relatives by instructing Lot to gather-up his “... sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or other relatives in the city”.

Lot’s “son-in-laws”, men who were engaged to his daughters, refused to take him seriously and refused to leave. [Note: According to Old Testament tradition, when a couple were engaged they were considered all-but-married – with the exception of their wedding night consummation. This remained true even until the time of Joseph and Mary in the New Testament.]

When it was dawn and time to actually leave the angels rushed Lot and his family out of the city; even Lot hesitated as he was leaving everything of worldly value behind, so the angels compassionately took his hand and led him out.

Seeing the distance from the city to the mountains Lot asked to be permitted to take refuge in a nearby village, Zoar, which the angels granted. The members of Lot’s group were warned by the angel to not look back at the city.

As the Lord God obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife looked back at the city with longing in her heart for that sinful place, this was in direct disobedience to the instruction of the angel and thus she was turned to a pillar of salt.

When Abraham awoke he went and stood in the place where the Lord had taken him to show him the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which He intended to obliterate – and Abraham saw their ruins – he was also aware that God had honored his request to spare his nephew Lot.

Lot fled Zoar for a cave in the mountains as he feared that the people may have blamed him for God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Lot and his daughters were isolated from other people as they had for some reason not chosen to seek out Abraham.

Lot’s daughters has lost their husbands-to-be in the destruction of Sodom were desperate to bear children so that the tradition of biological descendants might continue.

Since their father was the only available male they decided to get him so drunk that he would not know that they had sex with him, and they did so.

Their descendants from those two acts of incest were the Ammonites and Moabites.

Interact With The Text

Consider

Lot welcomed the angels into his home, practicing what is in the New Testament described by the Apostle Paul as the gift of hospitality, and accepting responsibility for their well-being – including to the point of everything over which he had authority – even his family and his own life. Lot made a foolish and selfish choice to settle near Sodom and Gomorrah, then Abraham had to rescue him from the raiding armies, and again had to ask God to spare him from His wrath upon those evil cities. Zoar, to which Lot had initially fled Sodom, was the only community spared God’s wrath because God had promised Abraham He would protect Lot; however Lot feared that the people there would blame him for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot never gave a thought to using the wrath of God as a teachable moment to share God with them as his relationship with God was a very shallow one in contrast to that of Abraham. If we are fearful what others may think then we have made of them idols with more power than the God Who created all that exists.

Discuss

Lot knew that these men/angels would not be safe I the city square, where they had said they’d be willing to spend the night, and they – being of-God, knew also the danger into which Lot was placing himself by taking them in for the night. God clearly had a timetable in mind for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah but took the time to offer safety to Lot and his family. In keeping with His provision for free will, the son-in-laws were allowed to decide to stay and Lot’s wife was allowed to be disobedient once outside of the city and suffer the mortal consequences. Fear of being unable to flee to the mountains in time before the destruction of Sodom caused Lot to ask to stop in Zoar instead, fear of persecution in Zoar caused Lot to flee to a cave in the mountains, fear kept Lot and his daughters from leaving the cave in search of Abraham, and fear caused Lot’s daughters to turn to incest in order to have children. What sort of fear-driven caves have you known others to live in?

Reflect

Imagine the horror of Lot when he realized that the mob of men would certainly break down his door and do whatever they desired with the occupants and his heartsick decision to sacrifice his virgin daughters to the mob in hopes of saving at least some of the occupants – especially the men/angels he had given his solemn oath to protect at any cost. [Note: Lot was not trying to protect himself, when he went outside he had already made it clear that he was willing to place himself in harm’s way to protect his guests. He quickly discovered that he had no power to protect anyone from the mob.] Lot, knowing that God was about to destroy Sodom still hesitated in leaving. Lot’s wife did worse, she looked back longing for the city of sin, just as we sometimes long for things we have left behind – and should never long to return to. Lot had a long pattern of poor choices because he did not rely upon God, as did Abraham, and now he had passed his poor judgment on to his daughters. Because Lot was motivated by fear he created the circumstances which led to the unfortunate choices of his daughters.

Share

When have you been confronted with a lose-lose proposition when every choice seemed equally unpleasant, your integrity was on the line, and the only best-choice apparent to you was a sacrifice that would surely break your heart? What choice did you make and what happened? When has God led you away from people and places that embodied a culture of sin and you struggled to leave and to not long to return? When has fear caused you to make a choice which upon reflection was clearly not what God would have wanted, and upon reflection one which patience would have made unnecessary as God had already made plans to meet your true needs. When have you been fearful but have overcome and acted and/or spoken boldly about the Lord?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to make you mindful of the Lord God’s call upon your life, and everything in it, as sacrificed at the moment of true salvation to Him in its entirety and to chastise you whenever you long for what He has rescued you from – the way of destruction and pollution that is sin. Ask for confidence and patience in the face of challenges and to remind you that New Testament Christians were not given “a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Act

Today I will prayerfully contemplate the things in my life for which I would sacrifice greatly, I will share with a fellow believer which of them are Biblical-priorities and which are worldly, and then I will ask for prayer in-agreement that my priorities become God’s. I will prayerfully search my heart for one or more people or places from my past for which I sometimes long, they may be bondage to ‘idols’ like possessions or title or wealth, wrong relationships, addictive substances, or irresponsibly chasing after adrenaline rush after adrenaline rush. I will commit to the Holy Spirit to partner in purging the lie that those things have any part of my walk with Christ. I will prayerfully seek out a brother or a sister who is struggling to break free of their fear and I will encourage them with prayer.

Be Specific _________________________________________________

Wednesday (Genesis 20 – 21:8)

Abraham and Abimelech

20:1 Abraham journeyed from there to the Negev region and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he lived as a temporary resident in Gerar, 20:2 Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her.

20:3 But God appeared to Abimelech in a dream at night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken, for she is someone else’s wife.”

20:4 Now Abimelech had not gone near her. He said, “Lord, would you really slaughter an innocent nation? 20:5 Did Abraham not say to me, “She is my sister.” And she herself said, “He is my brother.” I have done this with a clear conscience and with innocent hands!”

20:6 Then in the dream God replied to him, “Yes, I know that you have done this with a clear conscience. That is why I have kept you from sinning against me and why I did not allow you to touch her. 20:7 But now give back the man’s wife. Indeed he is a prophet and he will pray for you; thus you will live. But if you don’t give her back, know that you will surely die along with all who belong to you.”

20:8 Early in the morning Abimelech summoned all his servants. When he told them about all these things, they were terrified. 20:9 Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? What sin did I commit against you that would cause you to bring such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done!” 20:10 Then Abimelech asked Abraham, “What prompted you to do this thing?”

20:11 Abraham replied, “Because I thought, “Surely no one fears God in this place. They will kill me because of my wife.” 20:12 What’s more, she is indeed my sister, my father’s daughter, but not my mother’s daughter. She became my wife. 20:13 When God made me wander from my father’s house, I told her, “This is what you can do to show your loyalty to me: Every place we go, say about me, “He is my brother.”“

20:14 So Abimelech gave sheep, cattle, and male and female servants to Abraham. He also gave his wife Sarah back to him. 20:15 Then Abimelech said, “Look, my land is before you; live wherever you please.”

20:16 To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given a thousand pieces of silver to your “brother.” This is compensation for you so that you will stand vindicated before all who are with you.”

20:17 Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, as well as his wife and female slaves so that they were able to have children. 20:18 For the Lord had caused infertility to strike every woman in the household of Abimelech because he took Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

The Birth of Isaac

21:1 The Lord visited Sarah just as he had said he would and did for Sarah what he had promised. 21:2 So Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the appointed time that God had told him. 21:3 Abraham named his son – whom Sarah bore to him – Isaac.

21:4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded him to do. 21:5 (Now Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.)

21:6 Sarah said, “God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 21:7 She went on to say, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have given birth to a son for him in his old age!”

21:8 The child grew and was weaned. Abraham prepared a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.

Prayer

Lord, even though You often intervene without my awareness to prevent my fear-driven foolishness from harming myself and/or others, I long to be a better witness by being a more trusting child of God. May I never forget Your faithfulness to Abraham and Sarah, despite their repeated lack of faithfulness to You, and be encouraged that Your love overcomes my weaknesses.

Scripture In Perspective

For the second time Abraham causes a foreign leader to fall into trouble with the Lord God because he (Abraham) lied about his relationship with Sarah, again saying that she was his sister (conveniently leaving out that she was his half-sister and his wife).

Abraham’s excuse was fear that “Abimelech, king of Gera” would kill him and take his wife, who even at 90 must have been quite a beautiful woman, instead of trusting the Lord to protect him and his wife.

God intervenes to prevent permanent harm from coming to anyone - but Abraham’s reputation has been harmed in that region. Abimelech rightfully challenges Abraham’s integrity and wisdom.

Once again the Lord God was faithful in protecting Abraham and those close to him despite Abraham’s lack of faith in God’s protection in the first case.

God kept His promise to Abraham despite Abraham’s repeated failure to trust God with his provision of a son and his protection as he traveled.

Abraham was obedient in the naming and circumcision of Isaac.

Sarah celebrated God’s amazing miracle of the promised child despite their age.

Interact With The Text

Consider

Give the history Abraham should never have feared as the Lord God had always protected him and those close to him. When God makes a promise He always keeps it.

Discuss

Setting up others to fail before the Lord is a terrible thing to do. When you read a Bible story like this do you find it encouraging?

Reflect

As beautiful as she may have been at her age she was clearly not of childbearing age, absent a miracle of God, so what would have been Abimelech’s attraction? Her obvious wealth? What sort of testimony do you suppose Abraham and Sarah had of the Lord’s integrity and His power after the birth of Isaac?

Share

When have you made a choice that was wrong before God and that created a situation where someone else was placed at-risk of harm? When has He used you to demonstrate His integrity and power despite your doubts and wandering off of the path He had laid out for you?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a decision you have made which places others at risk, either through your poor role model, or through an action you have taken. (Perhaps a woman dressing provocatively, a single man flirting with a married woman, a student cheating in school and encouraging others to do so as well, someone downloading games, software, or videos illegally and sharing that with others.) Ask Him to more-firmly direct you on God’s path, to chastise you when you doubt, and to remind you of the many ways He has affirmed His integrity and power in your life.

Act

I will prayerfully seek-out something that I do, or perhaps fail to do, that makes me a poor witness – or worse – a co-conspirator with the enemy to set someone else up to fail. I will repent of that and immediately partner with the Holy Spirit to purge that from my life. I will ask a fellow believer who knows me well to assist me in making a short list of the many ways that the Lord has affirmed His integrity and power in my life and we will celebrate together His faithfulness.

Be Specific ________________________________________________

Thursday (Genesis 21:9-34)

21:9 But Sarah noticed the son of Hagar the Egyptian – the son whom Hagar had borne to Abraham – mocking. 21:10 So she said to Abraham, “Banish that slave woman and her son, for the son of that slave woman will not be an heir along with my son Isaac!”

21:11 Sarah’s demand displeased Abraham greatly because Ishmael was his son. 21:12 But God said to Abraham, “Do not be upset about the boy or your slave wife. Do all that Sarah is telling you because through Isaac your descendants will be counted. 21:13 But I will also make the son of the slave wife into a great nation, for he is your descendant too.”

21:14 Early in the morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He put them on her shoulders, gave her the child, and sent her away. So she went wandering aimlessly through the wilderness of Beer Sheba. 21:15 When the water in the skin was gone, she shoved the child under one of the shrubs. 21:16 Then she went and sat down by herself across from him at quite a distance, about a bowshot away; for she thought, “I refuse to watch the child die.” So she sat across from him and wept uncontrollably.

21:17 But God heard the boy’s voice. The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and asked her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s voice right where he is crying. 21:18 Get up! Help the boy up and hold him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 21:19 Then God enabled Hagar to see a well of water. She went over and filled the skin with water, and then gave the boy a drink.

21:20 God was with the boy as he grew. He lived in the wilderness and became an archer. 21:21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran. His mother found a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

21:22 At that time Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 21:23 Now swear to me right here in God’s name that you will not deceive me, my children, or my descendants. Show me, and the land where you are staying, the same loyalty that I have shown you.” 21:24 Abraham said, “I swear to do this.”

21:25 But Abraham lodged a complaint against Abimelech concerning a well that Abimelech’s servants had seized. 21:26 “I do not know who has done this thing,” Abimelech replied. “Moreover, you did not tell me. I did not hear about it until today.”

21:27 Abraham took some sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech. The two of them made a treaty.

21:28 Then Abraham set seven ewe lambs apart from the flock by themselves. 21:29 Abimelech asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?” 21:30 He replied, “You must take these seven ewe lambs from my hand as legal proof that I dug this well.” 21:31 That is why he named that place Beer Sheba, because the two of them swore an oath there.

21:32 So they made a treaty at Beer Sheba. Then Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, returned to the land of the Philistines.

21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer Sheba. There he worshiped the Lord, the eternal God. 21:34 So Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for quite some time.

Prayer

Lord, Sarah was selfish and vindictive like the world. May I look first to You so that I have Your heart toward others rather than the heart of my fallen-flesh.

Scripture In Perspective

Sarah was selfish for her child, not wanting Ishmael to appear to be a co-heir with Isaac, or even worse to appear to be superior as the first-born of Abraham - so she demanded that Abraham banish him.

Abraham was reluctant but the Lord God cared for Ishmael as He had promised.

Hagar did not understand and presumed that Ishmael would die in the wilderness. The Lord God blessed him with talents and a wife.

Abimelech, the local ruler whom Abraham had placed in harms-way by lying about his relationship with Sarah, sought a peaceful agreement that Abraham would not deceive him again.

A dispute about the ownership of a well led Abraham to make a special effort to demonstrate his integrity, given the awkward history, as to his ownership of the well.

After the matter of the well had been resolved Abraham made a point of planting a Tamarisk tree at the site. [The NET translator’s notes explain that this was an evidence of his intent to stay a while and of his expectation that water would continue to be available, as a provision of God.]

Abraham also made a point of worshiping the Lord as he had done previously.

Interact With The Text

Consider

Sarah carried-forward her animosity toward Hagar and took it out on her son. Abraham had earned the distrust of Abimelech; as a result, not only did Abimelech bring the commander of his army but Abraham found it necessary to give seven ewe lambs to enhance his damaged credibility to support his assertion that he had dug the disputed well.

Discuss

Is it unusual to hold on to fear and jealousy, transferring it from one family member to another? Is it not easier to establish and maintain credibility than to restore it once lost?

Reflect

The Lord God remained faithful to Hagar and Ishmael because of His promise to Abraham. He allowed Sarah’s poor choices to exacerbate and to initiate an estrangement of Ishmael’s from the rest of his family as He had prophesied prior to his [Ishmael’s] birth. While Abimelech feared the God of Abraham he appeared to have little respect for, or trust of, Abraham. Abraham’s testimony was harmed.

Share

When have you been the perpetrator or victim of the persecution of multiple family members even though only one member may have done anything to cause conflict with others? How did that work out? When have you made a bad first-impression and later struggled to rebuild your standing?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you to bear-up under injustice, or to refuse to be a party to injustice, but rather to trust the Lord God to handle things. Ask Him to keep you constantly mindful that you belong God and that your every word and deed reflects upon His power in your life.

Act

Prayerfully discern a place where you have been victimized by injustice, or where you have mistreated another improperly, and make a commitment to the Holy Spirit to put God right in the middle to bring peace. Prayerfully consider your day-to-day walk and look for a place where you may be acting in a manner that does not well-represent the ethics of God. It may be a choice you are making in the workplace to enhance sales or to improve your standing for a promotion, it may be related to a hobby or sports, it may be in a romantic relationship (or in the pursuit of one), it may be in political discourse, or in some other area. Repent of the choice that you have identified as unworthy of God and make a new one that is. Share the experience with a fellow believer as an example that they may also choose to follow, or as a testimony to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Be Specific _____________________________________________

Friday (Genesis 22 - 23)

The Sacrifice of Isaac

22:1 Some time after these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am!” Abraham replied. 22:2 God said, “Take your son – your only son, whom you love, Isaac – and go to the land of Moriah! Offer him up there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will indicate to you.”

22:3 Early in the morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took two of his young servants with him, along with his son Isaac. When he had cut the wood for the burnt offering, he started out for the place God had spoken to him about.

22:4 On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place in the distance. 22:5 So he said to his servants, “You two stay here with the donkey while the boy and I go up there. We will worship and then return to you.”

22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. Then he took the fire and the knife in his hand, and the two of them walked on together. 22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father?” “What is it, my son?” he replied. “Here is the fire and the wood,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 22:8 “God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together.

22:9 When they came to the place God had told him about, Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he tied up his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand, took the knife, and prepared to slaughter his son.

22:11 But the Lord’s angel called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. 22:12 “Do not harm the boy!” the angel said. “Do not do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God because you did not withhold your son, your only son, from me.”

22:13 Abraham looked up and saw behind him a ram caught in the bushes by its horns. So he went over and got the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 22:14 And Abraham called the name of that place “The Lord provides.” It is said to this day, “In the mountain of the Lord provision will be made.”

22:15 The Lord’s angel called to Abraham a second time from heaven 22:16 and said, ““I solemnly swear by my own name,” decrees the Lord, “that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 22:17 I will indeed bless you, and I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be as countless as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the strongholds of their enemies. 22:18 Because you have obeyed me, all the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.”“

22:19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set out together for Beer Sheba where Abraham stayed.

22:20 After these things Abraham was told, “Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor – 22:21 Uz the firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22:22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.” 22:23 (Now Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.) These were the eight sons Milcah bore to Abrahamfs brother Nahor. 22:24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore him children – Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

The Death of Sarah

23:1 Sarah lived 127 years. 23:2 Then she died in Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.

23:3 Then Abraham got up from mourning his dead wife and said to the sons of Heth, 23:4 “I am a temporary settler among you. Grant me ownership of a burial site among you so that I may bury my dead.”

23:5 The sons of Heth answered Abraham, 23:6 “Listen, sir, you are a mighty prince among us! You may bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb to prevent you from burying your dead.”

23:7 Abraham got up and bowed down to the local people, the sons of Heth. 23:8 Then he said to them, “If you agree that I may bury my dead, then hear me out. Ask Ephron the son of Zohar 23:9 if he will sell me the cave of Machpelah that belongs to him; it is at the end of his field. Let him sell it to me publicly for the full price, so that I may own it as a burial site.”

23:10 (Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth.) Ephron the Hethite replied to Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth – before all who entered the gate of his city – 23:11 “No, my lord! Hear me out. I sell you both the field and the cave that is in it. In the presence of my people I sell it to you. Bury your dead.”

23:12 Abraham bowed before the local people 23:13 and said to Ephron in their hearing, “Hear me, if you will. I pay to you the price of the field. Take it from me so that I may bury my dead there.”

23:14 Ephron answered Abraham, saying to him, 23:15 “Hear me, my lord. The land is worth 400 pieces of silver, but what is that between me and you? So bury your dead.”

23:16 So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price and weighed out for him the price that Ephron had quoted in the hearing of the sons of Heth – 400 pieces of silver, according to the standard measurement at the time.

23:17 So Abraham secured Ephron’s field in Machpelah, next to Mamre, including the field, the cave that was in it, and all the trees that were in the field and all around its border, 23:18 as his property in the presence of the sons of Heth before all who entered the gate of Ephron’s city.

23:19 After this Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah next to Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 23:20 So Abraham secured the field and the cave that was in it as a burial site from the sons of Heth.

Prayer

Lord, may I be found as obedient as Abraham where I know Your clear direction, not arguing with You but acting from trust knowing that You never change and Your promises are always kept. May I be always-grateful that You provided the sacrifice for my salvation. May we mourn briefly, bury our dead, and move on with our lives like Abraham rather than allow this evidence of the Fall to be used by the enemy to neutralize us.

Scripture In Perspective

The Lord God came to Abraham with a test of his obedience.

Abraham had strong feelings of protectiveness about Ishmael and even stronger ones about Isaac, those feelings could have drifted into a form of idolatry.

The Lord instructed Abraham to offer Isaac to Him as a sacrifice, a “burnt offering”

Abraham followed the Lord God’s instructions obediently, offering no recorded objections.

When Abraham was questioned by Isaac as to the missing sacrificial animal Abraham explained that the Lord would provide one.

Abraham faithfully prepared to sacrifice his son and an angel from the Lord God stopped him.

The Lord provided a “ram in the thicket” as the necessary sacrifice and Issac was spared.

The Lord God explained that Abraham’s obedience demonstrated his “fear of God” and therefore justified countless descendants and blessings.

Sarah lived to be 127 years of age and then died.

Abraham mourned then arranged her burial.

Abraham negotiated a purchase (paying 30 pieces of silver, the same as Judas would later be paid to betray Jesus) with local landowners who demonstrated a great deal of respect for him, using the term “prince” to describe his status among men.

The text then listed the next generations descended from Abraham.

Interact With The Text

Consider

The Lord God came to Abraham with a test. It was not a temptation, but Abraham could have turned it into one had he doubted God and tried to go his own way, as he had with Hagar and twice lying about Sarah. Although Abraham had been told by God that Isaac would be the next generation which would lead to countless descendants he still obeyed God’s instructions. God never contradicts Himself, even though there are times from out human perspective we think He has. Despite all of the travel, being twice kidnapped, the stress of Hagar and Ishmael, and the travails of carrying and birthing Isaac as an elderly woman, Sarah lived to be 127 years of age.

Discuss

Sometimes God asks us to prove our willingness to place that which we value most in this world at His feet, He does not necessarily intend to take it from us, but He needs us to be genuine in our willingness to let go if He asks. Is it not difficult to walk in faith when sometimes the future is not only uncertain but terrifying? There is no mention of an extremely lengthy time of mourning nor of an excessively lavish funeral - despite his significant wealth Abraham appears to have remained a man of simple lifestyle.

Reflect

Abraham had acted based on the fear of man instead of trust in God on several prior occasions, God herein tests him at an extremely difficult level to clarify that Abraham had finally matured to where God was first in all things. Just as God provided the sacrifice to save Isaac He provided Jesus as the sacrifice to save us. Abraham seems to have earned the respect of his neighbors after a rough beginning.

Share

When has God led you to a place where He has asked you to let go of something you valued greatly? Did you say yes to Him in word and deed? What did you learn from that experience? When have you been confronted with a test of your faith and God has provided in an unexpected way? When have you started out on the wrong foot yet though a consistent effort to demonstrate caring for and integrity in dealing with others earned their respect and trust?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any place where you are placing someone or some thing in the world ahead of God. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you that God is always faithful and He never asks you to do anything unless He has already gone on ahead and provided what you need. Ask the Holy Spirit to find you teachable as He leads you along the way to earning the right to be heard for Christ.

Act

I will prayerfully seek out someone or some thing in this world that I exclude from God’s Lordship. Perhaps it is a relationship that He seeks to end or to modify, a position or title that is distorting my priorities, something I own or of which I am envious which belongs to another but that absorbs too much of my time and attention – taken away from God and/or family, etc. I will repent (turn away from) that by offering to surrender it entirely to God. If He gives it back or if He takes it that must be OK with me.

Be Specific _____________________________________________

Saturday (Genesis 24 - 25)

The Wife for Isaac

24:1 Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and the Lord had blessed him in everything. 24:2 Abraham said to his servant, the senior one in his household who was in charge of everything he had, “Put your hand under my thigh 24:3 so that I may make you solemnly promise by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth: You must not acquire a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living. 24:4 You must go instead to my country and to my relatives to find a wife for my son Isaac.”

24:5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is not willing to come back with me to this land? Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?”

24:6 “Be careful never to take my son back there!” Abraham told him. 24:7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives, promised me with a solemn oath, ‘To your descendants I will give this land.’ He will send his angel before you so that you may find a wife for my son from there. 24:8 But if the woman is not willing to come back with you, you will be free from this oath of mine. But you must not take my son back there!” 24:9 So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and gave his solemn promise he would carry out his wishes.

24:10 Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed with all kinds of gifts from his master at his disposal. He journeyed to the region of Aram Naharaim and the city of Nahor. 24:11 He made the camels kneel down by the well outside the city. It was evening, the time when the women would go out to draw water. 24:12 He prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, guide me today. Be faithful to my master Abraham. 24:13 Here I am, standing by the spring, and the daughters of the people who live in the town are coming out to draw water. 24:14 I will say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jar so I may drink.’ May the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac reply, ‘Drink, and I’ll give your camels water too.’ In this way I will know that you have been faithful to my master.”

24:15 Before he had finished praying, there came Rebekah with her water jug on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milcah (Milcah was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor). 24:16 Now the young woman was very beautiful. She was a virgin; no man had ever had sexual relations with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came back up. 24:17 Abraham’s servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug.” 24:18 “Drink, my lord,” she replied, and quickly lowering her jug to her hands, she gave him a drink. 24:19 When she had done so, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have drunk as much as they want.” 24:20 She quickly emptied her jug into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw more water until she had drawn enough for all his camels. 24:21 Silently the man watched her with interest to determine if the Lord had made his journey successful or not.

24:22 After the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose ring weighing a beka and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels and gave them to her. 24:23 “Whose daughter are you?” he asked. “Tell me, is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”

24:24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom Milcah bore to Nahor. 24:25 We have plenty of straw and feed,” she added, “and room for you to spend the night.”

24:26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord, 24:27 saying “Praised be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his faithful love for my master! The Lord has led me to the house of my master’s relatives!”

24:28 The young woman ran and told her mother’s household all about these things. 24:29 (Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban.) Laban rushed out to meet the man at the spring. 24:30 When he saw the bracelets on his sister’s wrists and the nose ring and heard his sister Rebekah say, “This is what the man said to me,” he went out to meet the man. There he was, standing by the camels near the spring. 24:31 Laban said to him, “Come, you who are blessed by the Lord! Why are you standing out here when I have prepared the house and a place for the camels?”

24:32 So Abraham’s servant went to the house and unloaded the camels. Straw and feed were given to the camels, and water was provided so that he and the men who were with him could wash their feet. 24:33 When food was served, he said, “I will not eat until I have said what I want to say.” “Tell us,” Laban said.

24:34 “I am the servant of Abraham,” he began. 24:35 “The Lord has richly blessed my master and he has become very wealthy. The Lord has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. 24:36 My master’s wife Sarah bore a son to him when she was old, and my master has given him everything he owns. 24:37 My master made me swear an oath. He said, ‘You must not acquire a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 24:38 but you must go to the family of my father and to my relatives to find a wife for my son.’ 24:39 But I said to my master, ‘What if the woman does not want to go with me?’ 24:40 He answered, ‘The Lord, before whom I have walked, will send his angel with you. He will make your journey a success and you will find a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father’s family. 24:41 You will be free from your oath if you go to my relatives and they will not give her to you. Then you will be free from your oath.’ 24:42 When I came to the spring today, I prayed, ‘O Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you have decided to make my journey successful, may events unfold as follows: 24:43 Here I am, standing by the spring. When the young woman goes out to draw water, I’ll say, “Give me a little water to drink from your jug.” 24:44 Then she will reply to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too.” May that woman be the one whom the Lord has chosen for my master’s son.’

24:45 “Before I finished praying in my heart, along came Rebekah with her water jug on her shoulder! She went down to the spring and drew water. So I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ 24:46 She quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I’ll give your camels water too.’ So I drank, and she also gave the camels water. 24:47 Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied, ‘The daughter of Bethuel the son of Nahor, whom Milcah bore to Nahor.’ I put the ring in her nose and the bracelets on her wrists. 24:48 Then I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right path to find the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. 24:49 Now, if you will show faithful love to my master, tell me. But if not, tell me as well, so that I may go on my way.”

24:50 Then Laban and Bethuel replied, “This is the Lord’s doing. Our wishes are of no concern. 24:51 Rebekah stands here before you. Take her and go so that she may become the wife of your master’s son, just as the Lord has decided.”

24:52 When Abraham’s servant heard their words, he bowed down to the ground before the Lord. 24:53 Then he brought out gold, silver jewelry, and clothing and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave valuable gifts to her brother and to her mother. 24:54 After this, he and the men who were with him ate a meal and stayed there overnight.

When they got up in the morning, he said, “Let me leave now so I can return to my master.” 24:55 But Rebekah’s brother and her mother replied, “Let the girl stay with us a few more days, perhaps ten. Then she can go.” 24:56 But he said to them, “Don’t detain me – the Lord has granted me success on my journey. Let me leave now so I may return to my master.” 24:57 Then they said, “We’ll call the girl and find out what she wants to do.” 24:58 So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Do you want to go with this man?” She replied, “I want to go.”

24:59 So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, accompanied by her female attendant, with Abraham’s servant and his men. 24:60 They blessed Rebekah with these words:

“Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands!

May your descendants possess the strongholds of their enemies.”

24:61 Then Rebekah and her female servants mounted the camels and rode away with the man. So Abraham’s servant took Rebekah and left.

24:62 Now Isaac came from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 24:63 He went out to relax in the field in the early evening. Then he looked up and saw that there were camels approaching. 24:64 Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 24:65 and asked Abraham’s servant, “Who is that man walking in the field toward us?” “That is my master,” the servant replied. So she took her veil and covered herself.

24:66 The servant told Isaac everything that had happened. 24:67 Then Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took her as his wife and loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

The Death of Abraham

25:1 Abraham had taken another wife, named Keturah. 25:2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 25:3 Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. The descendants of Dedan were the Asshurites, Letushites, and Leummites. 25:4 The sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All these were descendants of Keturah.

25:5 Everything he owned Abraham left to his son Isaac. 25:6 But while he was still alive, Abraham gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them off to the east, away from his son Isaac.

25:7 Abraham lived a total of 175 years. 25:8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man who had lived a full life. He joined his ancestors. 25:9 His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar, the Hethite. 25:10 This was the field Abraham had purchased from the sons of Heth. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. 25:11 After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac. Isaac lived near Beer Lahai Roi.

The Sons of Ishmael

25:12 This is the account of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s servant, bore to Abraham.

25:13 These are the names of Ishmael’s sons, by their names according to their records: Nebaioth (Ishmael’s firstborn), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 25:14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 25:15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. 25:16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their settlements and their camps – twelve princes according to their clans.

25:17 Ishmael lived a total of 137 years. He breathed his last and died; then he joined his ancestors. 25:18 His descendants settled from Havilah to Shur, which runs next to Egypt all the way to Asshur. They settled away from all their relatives.

Jacob and Esau

25:19 This is the account of Isaac, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac. 25:20 When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean.

25:21 Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 25:22 But the children struggled inside her, and she said, “If it is going to be like this, I’m not so sure I want to be pregnant!” So she asked the Lord, 25:23 and the Lord said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples will be separated from within you.

One people will be stronger than the other,

and the older will serve the younger.”

25:24 When the time came for Rebekah to give birth, there were twins in her womb. 25:25 The first came out reddish all over, like a hairy garment, so they named him Esau. 25:26 When his brother came out with his hand clutching Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when they were born.

25:27 When the boys grew up, Esau became a skilled hunter, a man of the open fields, but Jacob was an even-tempered man, living in tents. 25:28 Isaac loved Esau because he had a taste for fresh game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

25:29 Now Jacob cooked some stew, and when Esau came in from the open fields, he was famished. 25:30 So Esau said to Jacob, “Feed me some of the red stuff – yes, this red stuff – because I’m starving!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

25:31 But Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 25:32 “Look,” said Esau, “I’m about to die! What use is the birthright to me?” 25:33 But Jacob said, “Swear an oath to me now.” So Esau swore an oath to him and sold his birthright to Jacob.

25:34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew; Esau ate and drank, then got up and went out. So Esau despised his birthright.

Prayer

Lord, may I be moved to stop in amazement and to praise You for the way that You go on ahead, preparing the way for those who seek Your will. Lord, may I be found sensitive enough to Your working in my life, and as obedient as well, that like Laban and Bethuel I may confidently and humbly declare “This is the Lord’s doing. Our wishes are of no concern.” Lord, may I have the commitment of Rebekah to follow where You lead, to trust You, and not to procrastinate. Lord, may You grant long life to those who serve You faithfully, to fulfill Your loving plan that more may know and grow in You. Lord, may Your faithfulness lead us to greater trust in You. Lord, we often fail to understand Your workings in this world, when You allow things to happen as a result of the Fall and when You have intervened. But we always trust You. Lord, I long to never despise the new birthright You gave to me when I joined Your eternal family through Jesus.

Scripture In Perspective

Hagar, a single-parent following her banishment, found Ishmael a wife.

Abraham then sought a wife for Isaac prior to his death.

The NET translator’s notes explain that instructing the servant to “Put your hand under my thigh ...” was known as a “patriarchal oath” related to the continuation of the family.

Abraham instructed his servant to get Isaac a wife from a distant relative, not from a foreign tribe, and to not bring Isaac to their lands.

The servant prayed a type of fleece to be certain that it was the Lord God Who had identified the woman He had prepared to be the wife of Isaac – his fleece was immediately answered.

Rebekah ran to tell her family of the visiting servant then her brother Laban returned with her to greet him and to encourage him to come to their home.

The servant refused their request to dine with them until he shares the story of the purpose of his visit and what had transpired between he and Rebekah.

Rebekah’s father Bethuel and her brother Laban immediately recognize God’s hand in the story and immediately acknowledge that His will must be done.

Abraham’s servant first worshiped the Lord God, then presented the gifts Abraham had sent, dined and slept, and then in the morning made known his plan to return to Abraham and Isaac with Rebekah.

Rebekah’s family expressed their desire for a little more time with her but Abraham’s servant implored them to not delay his return. They consulted with Rebekah who agreed to leave immediately.

It was apparently acceptable for Rebekah to travel without her veil but when meeting her betrothed, Isaac, f or the first time she felt it necessary to veil her face from him.

Isaac received the report of the servant, married Rebekah, and she filled an empty place in his life that had been left by his mother Sarah’s death.

After the death of Sarah Abraham remarried, and somewhere along the way he also inexplicably acquired several concubines, with whom he had several children.

Before he died Abraham provided for the children he fathered with his concubines then sent them away, presumably to not become a distraction to Isaac.

Abraham left everything to Isaac and given Isaac’s maturity it may be presumed that he was expected to provide for the children his second wife Keturah bore Abraham.

Abraham lived to be 175 years old and was buried with Sarah.

Isaac received the blessing of God via Abraham and took his place in the divinely established lineage of Jesus through Mary.

Ishmael lived to be 137 years old and fathered twelve sons who then multiplied into twelve “clans”. [The text notes that they “settled away from all their relatives.” which was the practice beginning with Ishmael.]

Isaac, like his father Abraham, suffered with infertility. The Bible does not tell us if the weakness was in Isaac or Rebekah or both.

Isaac asks God to given them a child and God answers his prayer.

Twenty years after Isaac married Rebekah, when he was 60, they had twin children.

The children struggled in the womb and came out looking very different, first Esau, then Jacob.

God’s prophesy unfolded as Esau and Jacob grew and the parents chose favorites, Issac favored Esau because he enjoyed fresh game and Rebekah favored Jacob for his more-even temperament and more-settled lifestyle.

Esau’s tendency was to live from the flesh, and moment-to-moment, he arrived home hungry and demanded some of the fresh stew that Jacob had just made. Jacob, seeing an opportunity, challenged the impetuous Esau to sell him his first-born birthright in exchange for the stew. Esau thoughtlessly agreed.

The result of this seemingly childish interaction was that the second-born now could claim the unique rights of the first-born as Esau had rejected that gift of God, one that would have placed him in the line of succession to Jesus.

Interact With The Text

Consider

Abraham was concerned that Isaac not be confused by other faiths, thus he insisted that his wife come from a relative, just as the New Testament teaches that a believer must never marry a non-believer. Rebekah was a strong young woman as she pumped many containers of water for multiple camels, she also was confident, generous, and hospitable. Ware mostly unfamiliar with the ancient cultural tradition of parents finding spouses for their children; however, notice that Rebekah was granted a great deal of input to the decision, even in ancient times. The lifespan of man had decreased rapidly from the early times of hundreds of years so that Abraham’s 175 years of life, without any reports of frailty or sickness. God was faithful but Abraham and Sarah were not, the result – via Hagar – was a child from Abraham whom God in keeping His word was integrity-bound to bless. Since there is a lot of common genetic material between Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah it is difficult to discern if any specific individual carried the reproductive weakness, nor does the text tell us that. What the text does share is that God once again made an infertile couple fertile. It is unlikely that Esau was truly “starving”; more likely he was hungry and carelessly lived in that moment without regard to the long-term consequences of his choices.

Discuss

The servant was careful to make God the definer of truth by asking Him to make known how he might fulfill his mission. How may we be as careful about our decisions? Abraham’s servant placed his mission first, even before eating after a long journey. Are we as God-first in our daily walk? How difficult must it have been for Rebekah to agree to leave all that she knew to travel a great distance to marry a man she had never met, even with the assurance that it was God’s will? Isaac became the patriarch of a significant tribe. What are the positive and negative elements of the role model he saw in Abraham? God allows the consequences of Abraham and Sarah’s foolishness to be experienced by the entirety of mankind as a testament to the importance of obedience and trust. Have you experienced, or been close to a pregnant woman who experienced, a difficult pregnancy with twins during which it seemed that they were struggling with one-another? Have you ever heard of such a thing? The birthright of a Christian comes through Jesus the Christ, although we cannot really “sell” our birthright, in what ways do we “despise” it in the choices we sometimes make?

Reflect

The Lord God had attended, in advance, to every detail in order to answer Abraham’s prayer. Abraham’s distant family had been well-taught as they were all sensitive to the working of the Lord and ready to humbly submit to His will. Perhaps Abraham’s was anxious to return quickly due to concerns as to Abraham’s health, or perhaps because the longer the delay the more opportunity the enemy might have to create trouble, the text is silent on those details. God’s prophesy for Isaac was an impressive one, the prayer of blessing of Abraham upon Isaac must have been a powerful moment. When we take the promises of God and distort them the consequences can be dire. The infertility, the nature of Esau and Jacob’s relationship as one of conflict – beginning in the womb, and the radical difference in appearance at birth all may be the consequence of sin which God allows to play itself out. Or might one of more of them may be the result of God’s intervention. The text is silent. Perhaps Jacob had been looking for an opportunity to trick his brother and saw an opening, or perhaps it was merely quick – though devious – thinking. While Genesis 25:23 prophesied that “... the older would serve the younger” it did not specify how that would come to be. The text does not tell us if either boy had been informed of that prophesy.

Share

When have you known what God wanted in general but were uncertain of the details? What was your conversation with God as you proceeded step by step? When has God asked you to sacrifice the comfortable and familiar to follow His lead? What did you decide and what was the result? When have you wondered if God had intervened or if circumstances were merely the result of “the world” and God was watching and waiting to see how you reacted, including if you invited Him into those circumstances? When have you been tempted by a desire of your flesh to “despise” your standing as a child of God in favor of momentary gain or pleasure?

Faith In Action

Pray

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how He is leading you right now. Ask Him to enhance your sensitivity to God’s working, to give you the courage and discernment of Rebekah. Ask Him to make you sensitive to the way that even small acts of disobedience or rebellion demonstrate a type of “despising” of your birthright as born-again in Christ.

Act

I will pause in my busyness to pray. I agree to be prayerfully-alert to God moving around me and when I discern His activity I commit to partner with the Holy Spirit in whatever He asks of me. I now commit to pray for the leader, or leadership team, of the fellowship where I serve and worship and to do whatever I can to support them as they serve the fellowship that God has called them to. I will pray especially that they will be faithful to God in all of their duties. I will prayerfully review my life for evidence of a place where I am living from my own wisdom and I will consider what potential trouble that could lead to. I will prayerfully review the past week of my life, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and identify at least one place where I diminish the value of my identity in Christ in order to be at peace with the world or to please my flesh. I agree to repent of that and to make a special effort to honor my birthright rather than to despise it.

Be Specific _________________________________________________

All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org

Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.

Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.

Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.

Copyright © 2012 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study. Prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in August of 2012. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.