PATRIARCHS AND MATRIARCHS
Session One - Abraham and Sarah - April 3rd, 2022
I. Abraham and Sarah - Introduction
Ancient man’s world was multiplicity. The last thing he could conceive was unity.
Yet, one man, Abraham, stretched beyond his senses to conceive something radically new – absolute, uncompromised unity, the unity that is God. He was the only beacon of faith in the one God in his world, a person who subordinated his wishes and wisdom to those of that one God.
All of his life after going forth for God (chapter 12, the first of his ten tests of faith) involved the unity of attitude and action, all Divine. He chose to bring God’s unity to a world of multiplicity -
1. Greeting visitors hospitably out of the pain of circumcision (a ritual in which there’s a commitment to family perpetuation of covenant) (chapter 17), exemplifying his singular trait of chesed (note in 18:3 that Abraham asked God to wait until he had greeted the visitors (showing the signal virtue of hospitality over even being in God’s presence) (chapter 18).
2. Pressing for righteousness for people in Sodom and Gomorrah, and mercy, and a generation-generation commitment to carry of values (18:19) (chapter 18)
3. Dreamed of having a family, even a community, living in community with the one God. He was kind, ethical, and faithful (even when His will seemed unjust). Abraham propelled the spirit that founded the Jewish people.
a) After God’s promise of a child and numerous children (chapter 15), Abraham confronts the test of the binding of his son, Isaac, as God’s at God’s call (chapter 22). Children are the greatest gift of God, but they are mostly for God, not us. (Note Elohim-Hashem shift.)
Blessing is different than embrace. The child is separate, holy, and has a place with God, as would sacrifice, that is, until Hashem changes the order. Elohim wanted to be sure in the old order that Abraham understood.
b) Finding and procuring burial space for Sarah on honorable and generous terms – as a stranger AND a neighbor.
He eulogized and wept over Sarah’s death. NOTE order – relates again to principal mission in life – their service to God, which Sarah performed with distinction. Then he could privately mourn. Spiritual tribute for her role comes first.
Model for marriage – covenant sharing. Continuity. And then love. Love is necessary, but it’s marriage that is founded on principles and covenant and purpose. To four corners of earth, they carry their faith.
c) Finding a wife for his son, Isaac. NOTE details of priority, purpose, organization, emissary’s criteria (including loving-kindness), execution of plan, and foundation for similar values and mission in lives of Isaac and Rebecca. Sarah lives!
B. Read Genesis 18:17-33.
17 And the LORD had thought, “Shall I conceal from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 For Abraham will surely be a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have embraced him so that he will charge his sons and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring upon Abraham all that He spoke concerning him.” 20 And the LORD said,
“The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah, how great! Their offense is very grave."
21 Let Me go down and see whether as the outcry that has come to Me they have dealt destruction, and if not, I shall know.” 22 And the men turned from there and went on toward Sodom while the LORD was still standing before Abraham. 23 And Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really wipe out the innocent with the guilty? 24 Perhaps there may be fifty innocent within the city. Will You really really wipe out the place and not spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent within it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to put to death the innocent with the guilty, making innocent and guilty the same. Far be it from You! Will not the Judge of all the earth do justice?” 26 And the LORD said, “Should I find in Sodom fifty innocent within the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.” 27 And Abraham spoke up and said, “ Here, pray, I have presumed to speak to my Lord when I am but dust and ashes. 28 Perhaps the fifty innocent will lack five. Would you destroy the whole city for the five?” And He said, “I will not destroy if I find there forty-five.” 29 And he spoke to Him still again and he said, “Perhaps there will be found forty.” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 And he said, “Please, let not my Lord be incensed and let me speak, perhaps there will be found thirty.” And He said, “I will not do it if I find there thirty.” 31 And he said, “Here, pray, I have presumed to speak to my Lord. Perhaps there will be found twenty.” And He said, “I will not destroy for the sake of the twenty.” 32 And he said, “Please, let not my Lord be incensed and let me speak just this time. Perhaps there will be found ten.” And He said, “I will not destroy for the sake of the ten.” 33 And the LORD went off when He finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
1. How is this a test of Abraham?
2. What does it test for? And why is it important?
3. In what way is Abraham “arguing” with God, and how is it that he really is not?
C. Read Genesis 22:1-19
1 And it happened after these things that God tested Abraham. And He said to him, “Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” 2 And He said, “Take, pray, your son, your only one, whom you love, Isaac, and go forth to the land of Moriah and offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I shall say to you.” 3 And Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took his two lads with him, and Isaac his son, and he split wood for the offering, and rose and went to the place that God had said to him. 4 On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 And Abraham said to his lads, “Sit you here with the donkey and let me and the lad walk ahead and let us worship and return to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood for the offering and put it on Isaac his son and he took in his hand the fire and the cleaver, and the two of them went together. 7 And Isaac said to Abraham his father , “Father!” and he said, “ Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sheep for the offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “ God will see to the sheep for the offering, my son.” And the two of them went together. 9 And they came to the place that God had said to him, and Abraham built there an altar and laid out the wood and bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham reached out his hand and took the cleaver to slaughter his son. 11 And the LORD ’s messenger called out to him from the heavens and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” and he said, “Here I am.” 12 And he said, “Do not reach out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him, for now I know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me.”
13 And Abraham raised his eyes and saw and, look, a ram was caught in the thicket by its horns, and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place YHWH-Yireh, as is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD there is sight.” 15 And the LORD ’s messenger called out to Abraham once again from the heavens, 16 and He said, “By My own Self I swear, declares the LORD , that because you have done this thing and have not held back your son, your only one, 17 I will greatly bless you and will greatly multiply your seed, as the stars in the heavens and as the sand on the shore of the sea, and your seed shall take hold of its enemies’ gate. 18 And all the nations of the earth will be blessed through your seed because you have listened to my voice.” 19 And Abraham returned to his lads, and they rose and went together to Beersheba, and Abraham dwelled in Beersheba.
1. How is this a test of Abraham?
2. If we applauded Abraham for “arguing” with God in chapter 18, why wouldn’t we criticize him for not doing so here?
3. Does the fact that the manifestation of God that approached Abraham in chapter 18 is Hashem (Adonai) but it was Elohim at the beginning of chapter 22 make a difference. What is it?
Is your answer confirmed by the fact that the angel who stayed Abraham’s hand was the angel of Hashem? What difference does that make to the import and direction of the story?
C. Read Genesis 24:12-21
12 And he said, “LORD , God of my master Abraham, pray, grant me good speed this day and do kindness with my master, Abraham. 13 Here, I am poised by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 Let it be that the young woman to whom I say, ‘Pray, tip down your jug that I may drink,’ if she says, ‘Drink, and your camels, too, I shall water,’ she it is whom You have marked for Your servant, for Isaac, and by this I shall know that You have done kindness with my master.” 15 He had barely finished speaking when, look, Rebekah was coming out, who was born to Bethuel son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her jug on her shoulder. 16 And the young woman was very comely to look at, a virgin, no man had known her. And she came down to the spring and filled her jug and came back up. 17 And the servant ran toward her and said, “ Pray, let me sip a bit of water from your jug.” 18 And she said, “ Drink, my lord,” and she hurried and lowered her jug onto her hand and let him drink. 19 And she let him drink his fill and said, “For your camels, too, I shall draw water until they drink their fill.” 20 And she hurried and emptied her jug into the trough and she ran again to the well to draw water and drew water for all his camels. 21 And the man was staring at her, keeping silent, to know whether the LORD had granted success to his journey.
This is a very long chapter, and we’re looking only at a few verses. Why do these few verses tell us all we need to know to confirm that Abraham’s servant has succeeded in his mission to find Isaac the right wife?
A. Background and Set-up
I want to spend just a few moments talking about Sarah.
She was a noble and really extraordinary woman with the greatest of virtues. But there was one moment in the whole Biblical account of her in which she (and Abraham) misjudged and actually sinned.
B. Read Genesis 16
1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian slavegirl named Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Look, pray, the LORD has kept me from bearing children. Pray, come to bed with my slavegirl. Perhaps I shall be built up through her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. 3 And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar the Egyptian her slavegirl after Abram had dwelled ten years in the land of Canaan, and she gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he came to bed with Hagar and she conceived and she saw that she had conceived and her mistress seemed slight in her eyes. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “This outrage against me is because of you! I myself put my slavegirl in your embrace and when she saw she had conceived, I became slight in her eyes. Let the LORD judge between you and me!” 6 And Abram said to Sarai, “Look, your slavegirl is in your hands. Do to her whatever you think right.” And Sarai harassed her and she fled from her. 7 And the LORD ’s messenger found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slavegirl of Sarai! Where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “From Sarai my mistress I am fleeing.” 9 And the LORD ’s messenger said to her, “Return to your mistress and suffer abuse at her hand.” 10 And the LORD ’s messenger said to her, “I will surely multiply your seed and it will be beyond all counting.”11 And the LORD ’s messenger said to her:
“ Look, you have conceived and will bear a son and you will call his name Ishmael. for the LORD has heeded your suffering. 12 And he will be a wild ass of a man - his hand against all, the hand of all against him, he will encamp in despite of all his kin.”
13 And she called the name of the LORD who had addressed her, “ El-Roi,” for she said, “Did not I go on seeing here after He saw me?” 14 Therefore is the well called Beer-Lahai-Roi, which is between Kadesh and Bered. 15 And Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram called his son whom Hagar had born Ishmael. 16 And Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
1. What do you make of Sarai’s decision to offer up her maidservant to Abram to bear his child?
2. What do you make of Hagar’s treatment of Sarai once she got pregnant and Sarai’s treatment then of her? Pay close attention to the words in the text.
3. What should Sarai have done to Hagar instead?
4. What do you make of God’s reaction to Hagar in the desert? What does this teach us of Divine ethics?
IV. Finally, you might note that soon after this story God renames Sarai and Abram as Sarah and Abraham. (Chapter 17) Do you have a thought of why?
1 And Abram was ninety-nine years old, and the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai. Walk in My presence and be blameless, 2 and I will grant My covenant between Me and you and I will multiply you very greatly.” 3 And Abram flung himself on his face, and God spoke to him, saying, 4 “As for Me, this is My covenant with you: you shall be father to a multitude of nations. 5 And no longer shall your name be called Abram but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you father to a multitude of nations. 6 And I will make you most abundantly fruitful and turn you into nations, and kings shall come forth from you. 7 And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you through their generations as an everlasting covenant to be God to you and to your seed after you. 8 And I will give unto you and your seed after you the land in which you sojourn, the whole land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding, and I will be their God.”
9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep My commandment, you and your seed after you through their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your seed after you: every male among you must be circumcised. 11 You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 Eight days old every male among you shall be circumcised through your generations, even slaves born in the household and those purchased with silver from any foreigner who is not of your seed. 13 Those born in your household and those purchased with silver must be circumcised, and My covenant in your flesh shall be an everlasting covenant. 14 And a male with a foreskin, who has not circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his folk. My covenant he has broken.” 15 And God said to Abraham, “Sarai your wife shall no longer call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name. 16 And I will bless her and I will also give you from her a son and I will bless him, and she shall become nations, kings of peoples shall issue from her.” 17 And Abraham flung himself on his face and he laughed, saying to himself, “ To a hundred-year-old will a child be born, will ninety-year-old Sarah give birth?”
18 And Abraham said to God, “Would that Ishmael might live in Your favor!” 19 And God said, “Yet Sarah your wife is to bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac and I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant, for his seed after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. Look, I will bless him and make him fruitful and will multiply him most abundantly, twelve chieftains he shall beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac whom Sarah will bear you by this season next year.” 22 And He finished speaking with him, and God ascended from Abraham.
23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son and all the slaves born in his household and those purchased with silver, every male among the people of Abraham’s household, and he circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day as God had spoken to him. 24 And Abraham was ninety-nine years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when the flesh of his foreskin was circumcised. 26 On that very day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son, 27 and all the men of his household, those born in the household and those purchased with silver from the foreigners, were circumcised with him.
V. Conclusion – What are the takeaways of our study today?