Monday, May 12, 2014

10. Genesis 20-22 (Abraham and Isaac)

Today it's Genesis 20-22.
  • Still looking good at 90: Genesis 20:1-18 is the second instance of Abraham asking Sarah to pretend she isn't his wife so that someone will not kill him. In this case, it is the king of a city named Gerar, a man named Abimelech. The previous story was a Yahweh story. This one is an Elohim story. We find out in this story that Sarah was, in truth, Abraham's half-sister.
  • Sin: The sense of sinning here (חָטָא) is one of wronging another. You sin "against" someone by doing them wrong.
  • Isaac, the son of promise, is born.
  • Ishmael expelled: In Genesis 16, a Yahweh passage, Hagar runs away but is told to go back by an angel. In Genesis 21, after the birth of Isaac, an Elohim passage, Sarah expelled Hagar for good. 
  • Paul's use of the story: Paul had no problem with reading the Old Testament allegorically. In Galatians 4. In his allegory, Sarah represents the heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of freedom, while Hagar represents the earthly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of slavery. Of course Jerusalem was not Jerusalem at the time of Moses, let alone Abraham. No first reader of Genesis would have thought anything close to the allegory the Spirit inspired Paul to see in these words.
  • A Covenant: Abraham makes an agreement with "Philistines" (perhaps more a word for where they're from than of their race at this point in time). Again we seem to have a sacred tree, a tamarisk tree. There he calls on El-Olam, "God forever" Is this another name for El-Shaddai and El-Elyon? 
  • Binding of Isaac: Genesis 22 gives the "binding of Isaac." God asks Abraham to sacrifice the very child he gave as a fulfillment of promise. It is a testing. There is a fascinating shift in God language in the story. It is Elohim up until Abraham is ready to kill him, but Yahweh from the moment of salvation on, and the angel of Yahweh calls out to Abraham in the moment. 
  • First-born Sacrifice: It is perhaps relevant to remember that sacrifice of one's firstborn to the gods was a known practice in parts of the ancient world. God merely asks Israel to consecrate its firstborn males, not to sacrifice them. In that sense, Abraham starts to do what might be somewhat normal, but then God steers him in a different direction.
  • Beloved Son: Some of the language God uses of Jesus at his baptism seems to allude to Isaac as Abraham's "son whom you love" (22:2). See Mark 1:11.
  • Blessing: Once again, Yahweh promises to bless the nations through Abraham, which Paul understands ultimately to refer to the possibility of justification by faith for the Gentiles.
Previous notes:
1. Genesis 1:1-2:3 (Creation)
2. Genesis 2:4-3:24 (The Fall)
3. Genesis 4-5 (Cain and Abel)
4. Genesis 6-9 (The Flood)
5. Genesis 10-11 (The Tower of Babel)
6. Genesis 12 (The Call of Abram)
7. Genesis 13-14 (Melchizedek)
8. Genesis 15-17 (Hagar and Ishmael)
9. Genesis 18-19 (Sodom and Gomorrah)

Next post Wednesday on Genesis 23-24.

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