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Genesis 15 & 16

Categories: GenesisTags: 3.3 min read

Despite the rather wild weather, we had a good turn-out for our first Bible reading session of 2016 and were keen to pursue the story of Abram.

Chapter 15 starts with a reiteration of God’s promise to bless Abram. We are told that God appeared to Abram in a vision and told him “I am they shield and thy exceeding great reward”. This raised a big question in Abram’s mind because of the associated promise, given in chapter 12 v.2 where God told him that He would make of him “a great nation”.

Abram was confused because despite having been married for some time, he had no children of his own. In chapter 15 v 4 God promises him categorically that “a son coming from your own body will be your heir”. Despite his confusion, we are told that Abram believed God and that this belief God counted as righteousness. This is the first time that belief in God is clearly stated to be an act of righteousness and lays down the principle that what God really wants from us is faith in Him.

The next section of the chapter explains how God confirmed his promises to Abram by making a covenant with him. Abram was told to offer animal sacrifices, some of which were divided in half and laid out with a space between them. When it got dark, we are told, a smoking brazier and blazing torch passed between the pieces of the sacrifice. This appears to represent the presence of God sealing the covenant with Abram.

That night, whilst Abram slept, we are told “a thick and dreadful darkness came over him”. We wondered what this meant; did he experience a sort of death like oblivion perhaps? Then Abram heard God speaking to him and giving him more information about his promised descendants. God said that they would become strangers in a foreign land and would be enslaved for four hundred years but that they would eventually come out of slavery bringing riches with them. We could not help thinking ahead to the well documented history of Israel in Egypt! God then enlarged on His promise of land to Abram; describing the bounds of it as stretching from “the river of Egypt to the Euphrates”. Whilst the Euphrates is still identifiable, we were less sure about whether the ‘River of Egypt’ refers to the Nile or another, possibly intermittent, watercourse or ‘wadi’.

In Chapter 16 we find Sarai, Abram’s apparently barren wife, taking matters regarding the promise of descendants into her own hands. She persuaded Abram to have a child by her Egyptian maidservant Hagar who subsequently became pregnant. Sarai soon regretted her actions as she felt that Hagar was now lording it over her. We noted that this is the first time in Scripture that the taking of a second ‘wife’ is recorded and that the outcome is not happy. Sarai reproached Abram for having taken her at her word and she also began to be very harsh towards Hagar, so much so that in the end Hagar ran away into the desert.

Whilst she was hiding in the desert, an angel appeared to Hagar and told her that God heard her in her distress and that she would have a son who would be called ‘Ishmael’ which means ‘God hears’. She was told that Ismael’s descendants would be too numerous to count” but also that he would “be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand will be against him, and he will live in hostility towards all his brothers”.

We thought that the unhappy outcome of Sarai’s attempt to fulfil God’s promise in a human way has lessons for us and also that the repercussions of this can still be seen in the bitter conflict between many of the descendants of Ishmael and of his half-brother (Isaac).

ADDITIONAL READING

FURTHER THOUGHTS

Mark 8

Categories: Mark|Tags: |

Read Online: AV NIV The Bible reading group continues to be enjoyable and thought provoking. The setting for chapter 8

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