Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Genesis, Abraham, and the Origins of Israel's Enemies

As you read through Genesis, remember that the story (stories) is about people, specifically Abraham. In a larger context, the book of Genesis is about the origins of Israel, and Israel's enemies. The Hebrew people were meticulous in their geneaological records. You already read several geneaological records in the first eleven chapters. In one sense, Genesis 12-50 is a short geneological record with lots of stories attached to some of the characters. For example: the story of chapter 19 - what is the main point? Is it about Sodom and Gomorrah? No. Is it about Lot? No. Why even have Lot involved in the story, he doesn't even figure favorably in any of the situations. The story of Lot is included because of the two sons he fathered incestously via his daughters: Moab and Ammon. The end of chapter 19 is the clue to the point of the story: the future enemies of Israel- the Moabites and Ammonites came from an incestous relationship, from a dirty old man who lived in a dirty old city that God judged and punished in a most spectacular way. You can only imagine how much little Jewish boys loved telling that story, especially when they played on the recess playground with little Moabite and Ammonite boys. Or how about the story of Ishmael, what does it reveal historically? From him came twelve sons that would in the future be enemies to Israel. What's the story of Abimelech about? He is a Philistine, and the story shows that Abraham has more power then the king of the Philistines (future enemies of Israel). Again, a favorite story for little Jewish boys to recount when the Philistine bullies come down the alley.

The stories have many layers of value. We have just explored one layer of meaning - these chapters of Genesis 19-22 give the origins (genesis) of Israel's relationships with their future enemies. But within those stories are complex character themes regarding Abraham, Sarah, Lot, and others involved in their lives. For example, note the deceptiveness of Abraham's heart in chapter 20 as he deals with Abimelech. And then note the faith of Abraham's heart in chapter 22 as he deals with the sacrifice of his one and only Isaac. Maybe chapter 20 provides the background to why God needed to see what was in Abraham's heart, as unveiled in chapter 22.

One last note, did you have fun reading the barter story in chapter 23? Notice how Abraham and Ephron broker the deal - it is classic Middle Eastern deal-making.

So if you are willing, mark out the different character traits of Abraham that you discovered in reading about him in chapters 19-23. Abraham had the marks of a real human being - prone to goodness and wickedness, capable of greatness and of pettiness. A man alot like you and I. God is the God of Abraham...what does your study of Abraham reveal to you about God?

Let me know your thoughts...

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