The Promised Nations

Today is from Genesis 16-20

As we started talking about last time in, Are You Crazy?, Sarai or Sarah brought her handmaid Hagar to Abram so he could have a child with her. Hagar did get pregnant which made her despise Sarai. Of course Sarai wasn’t happy about these events so she went to Abram to solve the problem. He wasn’t helpful and told her that it was up to her what she did with Hagar. She started to abuse Hagar so Hagar fled from her into the desert. Later in the desert God comes to Hagar and makes her the promise that she will have a son who, “will live in hostility to all his brothers”, because of Hagar’s misery. She is to call this wild son, Ishmael. (vs. 16:11-12) Hagar then returns to Sarai. Abram is 86 when Ishmael is born.

Thirteen years later God comes to Abram again. It is time for the first part of His promise to start coming true. He reaffirms His commitment to this promise by changing Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah, because from their line will come many nations. He also tells Abraham that by the time He comes back to see him in a year Sarah will have had their son. To show again that God is going to keep His word in making Abraham’s children into great nations He gives them the symbol of circumcision for all the males of his household to follow. This is a promise in blood and flesh between Abraham’s House and God. Any male from that household who isn’t circumcised has not held up his end of the promise and is excluded from his nation and the promise.

Chapter 18 is a little strange

God visits Abraham again but it’s in the form of three visitors/angels sent to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When they arrive Abraham is very excited about it and makes sure that all the best preparations are made so they can rest while eating a meal with him. These visitors tell Abraham again that by that time next year Sarah will have a son. Sarah overhears this and laughs. Abraham too laughed just a chapter ago when God told him this the first time. So God tells Abraham to name their son Isaac. Honestly, I would have laughed too if God told me that I was going to have a baby at age 99. Yet, who are we to question God?

“Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” – Gen. 18:13-14 (NIV emphasis added)

Again, who are we to question God? Abraham now negotiates with God for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of his nephew Lot living there. God for some reason known only to Him decides to share His plans with Abraham in the first place. Then Abraham asks God if He will destroy the city if 50 righteous people can be found there, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20 and finally 10. God agrees even as the number keeps going down, that if He can find that number of righteous people there He won’t destroy it. The entire passage makes my hair stand on end. Why would Abraham try to negotiate with God? Why would God accept His negotiation? This is especially confusing when you grow up being taught in church that anything God says is simply how it is, there isn’t any negotiating or questioning about it.

God does go on to the city of Sodom where He meets Lot in the city gate. Clearly Lot knows what kind of city he lives in, because, he insists that these three visitors come stay with him in his house instead of sleeping in the village square like they had intended to do. That night the men of the town both young and old come and surround Lot’s house demanding he hand over the visitors to them so they can have sex with them. They are made blind by the visitors so that they cannot find the door to Lot’s house where they are trying to force their way in. Hold up! You mean the Bible mentions sex between men and other men as early as Genesis! This is actually right where the word sodomy comes from. They don’t discuss the implications of this in Sunday School other than the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were so filled with evil that God had no choice but to wipe them off the face of the earth. However, God is still merciful. He brings out Lot and his family to safety because of the conversation He just had with Abraham. Only Lot and his daughters are saved, because they are commanded not to look but wife does and is turned into a pillar of salt. Now the Bible mentions several times right here that these cities are so full of evil they must be destroyed, but the only wrongs that the writer of Genesis tells us about are in this one scene so we can take from that what we will. Another strange thing about this though, is that Lot even offers his virgin daughters to the men to do with as they want as a replacement for the men but the crowd won’t have it. As soon as Lot and his daughters are clear of the city, God destroys the place by fire and hail from heaven.

The Bible now presents another scene of crazy incest. You would think we were reading a Greek tragedy. Lot and his daughters have fled from the small town they went to for refuge when Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed to live in the mountains. Here they are living in a cave in the mountains when the oldest daughter comes up with this horrible idea. They are going to get their father drunk and each sleep with him so they can have children by him and preserve their family lines. Lot is so drunk on both nights that they do this, he doesn’t know when the have come in or gone out of his tent. Word to the wise, getting drunk has consequences beyond just a hangover. Both daughters have sons who become the nations of the Moabites and the Ammonites (they will be really important later on).

Besides this weirdness, Abraham has now traveled to another kingdom where Sarah is claiming to be his sister again and he is calling himself her brother. Again she is taken into the king’s household, but God keeps the king, Abimelech, from touching her. Instead He sends the king dreams of how much trouble he is in for taking Sarah, another man’s wife. The king responds to God that he did this without knowing she was married, why should he be punished for it? God demands he return Sarah to Abraham. The king does this. However, he’s got a few questions for Abraham about why he would lie about being married to Sarah. Abraham gives the same lame excuse of wanting to save his own life and the king pays a lot to redeem her. This makes Abraham even richer. The interesting difference between this king and Egypt is that: Egypt threw them out of the country and Ablimelech offers that they live anywhere in his country that they want to. Abraham prays for the kings household and they are healed from the curse God placed on them because of Sarah.

  • image is from here
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