Bible Discussion: Genesis 19-22

April 4, 2007, 12:30 pm; posted by
Filed under Bible, Chloe, Djere, Job, Josh J, Mike J, Steve  | 8 Comments

This week, Bweinh.com looks at the next four chapters of the Bible, Genesis 19-22.

Read our take on Genesis 1-4, 5-9, 10-14, and 15-18 here!

 
INTRODUCTION:
Capt. Steve:
Hi, my name is Captain Stephen Carroll. I’m the pastor of the Salvation Army church in the Stapleton neighborhood on Staten Island, and I’ll be joining the Bweinh!tributors in today’s Bible discussion.

Mike J:
There are many wildly disparate stories in this passage. Perhaps the one thing that draws them together is that we consistently see God doing disturbing things — things we really would rather he not do. Things like raining down sulfur and fire on people, things like closing fast the wombs of innocent women because of Abraham and Sarah’s trickery, things like telling Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael to the wilderness, things like telling Abraham to sacrifice his son.

Djere:
Overall, this seems to be one of those passages atheists love. Fire, brimstone, a woman miraculously turning into a pillar of salt, and incest — all in the first 30 verses.

 
SOMETHING YOU’D NEVER NOTICED BEFORE:
Steve:
Abraham had an excuse for the whole ‘she’s my sister‘ story this time — maybe she was, in a roundabout sort of way, and maybe she promised she’d go along with it for safety’s sake. Didn’t help Abimelech any.

Also, Lot got paid back for the horrible thing he tried to do to his daughters. It usually seems to work out that way, doesn’t it?

Josh:
Abraham had to buy back his own well. It actually smacks a bit of “protection” money paid to mobsters.

Capt. Steve:
22:16 says, “‘I swear by myself,’ declares the LORD.”

Djere:
Lot whined to the angels destroying Sodom that he couldn’t possibly make it all the way to the mountains, so they let him settle in a small town. What did he do when he got there? Whined and headed to the mountains. Lot, seems like if the High King of Heaven sends you a message, you should shut up, buck up, and climb the mountain the first time.

Mike J:
Hagar and Ishmael are thoroughly sympathetic characters. As opposed to the recipients of the covenant (and other non-recipients of the covenant), who are frequently conniving and spiteful, Hagar and Ishmael do nothing wrong. As before, Hagar’s cries to the Almighty are deep and heartfelt and God responds to her again, this time with a well of water.

Job:
After Abimelech was corrected by God concerning Abraham and Sarah’s true relationship he still referred to Abraham as Sarah’s “brother” — perhaps ingratiating Abraham and garnishing his excuse that, technically, they were siblings.

 
BEST BAND NAME FROM THE PASSAGE:
Steve: Angels in Sodom, Escape For Your Life!
Job: Will Kill
Capt. Steve: Pillar of Salt
Chloe: Tamarisk Tree
Josh J: Alien Judge, Don’t Look Back
Djere: Bowshot
Mike J: Getting Daddy Drunk

 
STORY IT REMINDS YOU OF:
Djere:
The Baldwins. Some are successful, others should be forgotten, and they seem to be as numerous as the sand on the shore. Also, some of them should be gutted and burned with fire.

Josh J:
During my teen years, I was involved in a Bible study on Galatians. Over several weeks, we looked at various passages, including the one that refers to Hagar. My best friend, thinking of Hagar the Horrible, and not paying close attention, got through several lessons before blurting out, “Wait, Hagar was a woman?!?”

Steve:
Well, there’s that story from a few chapters ago where Abraham did the SAME EXACT THING with his wife! It reminds me of THAT story!

Chloe:
When the two angels are telling Lot and his family to flee for the mountains, I couldn’t help but think of the nuns telling the Von Trapp family to head for the hills as Nazis swarmed the convent.

Capt. Steve:
Every Christmas Eve, my dad would take me to a drug and alcohol rehab center, where he would lead a Christmas Eve service; we wouldn’t get home till very late. I always went with my father, and even as young as 5 or 6, I was treated like a part of the ministry. Those memories remind me of how Isaac must have felt when they left the caravan behind to go off together to sacrifice to the Lord.

 
DEEP THEOLOGICAL MEANING:
Djere:
Abe and Isaac provided a shadow of what was to come, yet God could never ask Abraham and Isaac to do what He and His Son would. Isaac could never be the sacrifice needed to undo Adam.

Steve:
Obviously Abraham’s trip up the mountain with Isaac foreshadows the sacrifice of God’s only son a few thousand years later, and many aspects are worth highlighting. The faithfulness of Abraham, the trust and faith of Isaac, the timing of the request, the confidence shown in verse 5 (“we will come back to you“). I wonder how many of us have unknowingly faced a test like Abraham’s, and whether — though it almost certainly concerned something far less valuable than a son — we proved faithful to obey God’s voice.

Chloe:
These passages deal with several vastly different stories — the salvation of Lot, the exchanges between Abraham and Abimelech, the continuation of Ishmael’s life, and the sacrifice of Isaac (yes, Abraham did sacrifice Isaac by giving him completely over to God with his willingness to bodily sacrifice him). What ties them all together is something that makes the Old Testament so remarkable — God’s unfailing faithfulness.

God does not forget his people, which encompasses Abraham and Isaac, Lot and his family, Hagar and her son, and even Abimelech and all the women who couldn’t have children in his kingdom. Even when we forget how the Lord has come through in the past, as Hagar did, or when we think He is cruel to us, as Abraham must have felt as he lifted the dagger above his son’s body, God does not fail us. He will hear our cries and bring us out of the desert.

Josh J:
What was so appealing about Sodom that Lot would hesitate to flee, and his wife would look back, even though they knew it would be completely destroyed, that nothing would remain? Sin can have a strange hold on us, even when we know in our hearts and minds the destruction it brings.

Mike J:
I think the most important point of this passage is that it raises important questions about God that we don’t have easy answers for. How do we reconcile this picture of God — the total destruction of Sodom, making the women of Abimelech’s household temporarily barren, the “sacrifice” of Isaac — with the God revealed in Jesus Christ? While I believe it can be done (unlike some theological liberals), I also think it’s important to give these questions time to simmer and admit their honesty and difficulty.

I think the answer lies in the overwhelming primacy given to the covenant throughout Abraham’s life. A whole lot seemed to rest on God’s creation of a covenant people that existed to bless the world until, one day, that covenant people would produce a Messiah who blessed the world ultimately. Thus, God does things that are unseemly and unexplainable to us, in order to create and preserve this all-important covenant. So trying Abraham by fire, by making him think he was sacrificing Isaac, was not just a divine God manipulating a hapless human; it was God burnishing and purifying that person to bear the covenant.

 
RANDOM THOUGHT:
Mike J:
God says to Abraham, “By your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.” It’s interesting that for bearers of the covenant, our ability to be a blessing to other people is intrinsically tied to our obedience to God in secret. We cannot expect to neglect personal holiness and then go out and actually be able to bless others.

Job:
Isaac was the only patriarch not to have his name changed. Perhaps, because like “Father of a Multitude” (Abraham) and “Prince of God” (Israel), calling the boy “Laughter” subtly expressed the might of God to accomplish the most remote and zany of things — an adequate, constant and soft reminder.

Chloe:
As could be seen in the garden of Eden, everything in the world is affected by our sin. When Sodom and Gomorrah fell, even the vegetation surrounding it was destroyed. We have to remember how our actions — our sins — affect the world around us, because we are responsible for it.

Steve:
The other day someone arrived at our site after searching for “ishmael hagar abraham,” and proceeded to leave a long, tortuous comment (like the one here) about how Ishmael was really the chosen son, so Islam is the true religion. I deleted the comment, but one problem with its premise is that the rest of the Old Testament wouldn’t make any sense; another is that the passage works just fine with a 17-year-old Ishmael. With the water all gone, Hagar probably laid her son under the shrubs after he had passed out from heatstroke.

Djere:
All the trouble in the Middle East? Ishmael’s fault — he’s the father of the Muslim Arabs. Somebody should do something about evangelizing them. Have we made that a priority yet? Also, a note to Isaac: if your father says he’s going to sacrifice something, arranges the sticks, lays you on top of the sticks, then walks over to you with a knife and fire, don’t ask stupid questions, my friend.

Capt. Steve:
How old was Sarah when Abimelech was checking her out?

 
WHERE IS JESUS IN THIS PASSAGE:
Josh J:
We’ve mentioned it before, but Jesus was the final fulfillment of 22:18.

Steve, Djere:
Like the ram caught in the thicket, sacrificed in place of Isaac, so too did Jesus lay down His life for the world.

Capt. Steve:
Lot’s determination to care for and protect the foreigners in his home! He was showing love to his neighbor.

Chloe:
22:28 — “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Job:
When Lot hesitated, the angels grabbed his hands, and the hands of his family, to lead them safely out of the city. I can’t tell you how many times in my walk I’ve hesitated — only to have that same God grab hold and Lassie this Timmy out of the mine shaft.

 
VERSE TO REMEMBER:
Chloe:
19:29 — “So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”

Capt. Steve, Job:
22:8 — “And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering. So the two of them went together.”

Mike J:
21:19a — “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” I love how God cares for Hagar even in the wilderness, and I love how it’s phrased. God doesn’t create a well in response to Hagar; he simply opens her eyes to a well she was incapable of seeing before.

Djere:
22:5 — “And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” Worship is not always a pleasant thing. A & I were going to worship the LORD on the mountaintop, but you can bet they weren’t singing, “I am a friend of God.”

Josh:
21:1 — “And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had spoken.”

Steve:
22:13 — “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.” The Lord provides.

 
PORTION YOU WOULD MOST LIKE EXPLAINED IN HEAVEN:
Josh:
Would God have held it against Abraham if he’d refused to sacrifice Isaac? The request is completely against God’s very nature. Abraham had faith, and recognized God’s sovereignty, but would it really have been a problem if he balked on this one?

Capt. Steve:
If God was trying to teach Abraham to be a righteous man, why would he encourage him to send Hagar and Ishmael away without enough supplies to live?

Chloe:
Why didn’t Isaac run away when his father started tying him up? Abraham wasn’t exactly agile at that point!

Djere:
Anything involving Lot being considered righteous, his wife turning into salt, or why the passage ends with a listing of Abraham’s nephews, the 12 tribes of Aramea.

Mike J:
Why does Lot get off the hook for offering his young daughters to a group of lustful men and saying, “Do to them as you please”? Maybe I’m approaching this text too much as a modern person, but that text always upsets me.

 
LESSON TO TAKE AWAY:
Job:
I think the greatest blessing God gives is a passion for simplicity. So many of the pitfalls the foils in Genesis encounter come from their drive for status and possessions. Be it a pretty wife that trips you up or material comfort that tethers you to destruction, God desires us instead to seek a heritage of obedience that, in turn, give us good health and long life. I think these four chapters cleanly engage the umbrella of sexual, material and spiritual greed that so much of humanity lives under, while also showcasing the brilliant joy of SIMPLY living out God’s commands.

Djere:
Even though God knew he’d become nothing but trouble, God still tells Abraham he’ll bless the crap out of Ishmael, making him into a nation. God says it? He means it.

Josh J:
Many times in my life when I feel God challenging me, in the back of my mind I hope I’ll get to be kind of like Abraham with Isaac — that God will only check to see if I’m willing to give something up and then give it back to me. But thinking this shows I’m not really willing to surrender, which is what God seeks.

Capt. Steve:
Love your neighbor!

 
GENERAL RESPONSE TO THE PASSAGE:
Capt. Steve:
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is an important text to study. It is often misunderstood — God did not destroy the cities because they were full of homosexuals. The homosexuality described in the passage is just an extreme example of the root sin — selfishness and a callous disregard of one’s neighbor. Ezekiel 16:49 tells us, “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.'”

Now that sin hits pretty close to home.

Josh:
There’s not a lot of chivalry in these chapters:
“You think this woman’s beautiful? She’s not my wife, I swear. Go ahead and take her.”
“Looking for someone to take advantage of? Here, try my daughters.”
“What’s that, old baby momma? You can’t get along with new baby momma? Good luck in the desert.”

Steve:
Lot really is described as a despicable person, and so it’s not surprising that his sons (whose mothers were their sisters) grew up into two of the nations that caused Israel some of the most trouble down the road.

Djere:
I’m generally led to be hostile toward Lot and even Ishmael. Does it show through? Also, much of the OT (this passage included) reads like gossip about the guest register at a dysfunctional family reunion. “Oh, did you hear Nahor was here? He had 8 little ones by Milcah with him, but she made the slave girl Reumah stay at home, back in Ur, with her four:”

 
CONCLUSION:
Mike J:
I thoroughly understand why some theological liberals look at passages like this, find them thoroughly unpalatable, and explain them away by saying that they didn’t really happen. My view of Scripture doesn’t allow me to do that, and I think the task for us as evangelicals is to acknowledge the difficulty of those questions, wrestle with this God, and humbly seek a working theory about how this is the same God we know in Jesus, who “is willing that none should perish.”

Josh:
The Lord will provide.


Comments

8 Comments to “Bible Discussion: Genesis 19-22”

  1. Job on April 5th, 2007 8:45 am

    I would like to thank the Captain for his participation in this week’s Bible discussion; for the unique and edifying aspect of it.

    And I would like to thank him for the ministry he lovlingly tires his hands at.
    It’s good to call you a brother, brother…

  2. MIke on April 5th, 2007 10:22 am

    Agreed, Job! Thanks for bringing attention to this and thank you Steve for your contribution and ministry.

    And Job–thank you for using the phrase “tethers you to destruction.”

  3. Steve Carroll on April 6th, 2007 10:37 am

    Gee thanks guys.

    Hey Keep me in mind for Judges 19 (A Levite and his Concubine)

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