Genesis Week 6 – Promises from Abraham to Isaac

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Readings this week:
Genesis 23:1-26:33
□ 23 – Death of Sarah
□ 24 – Isaac and Rebekah
□ 25:1-18 – Death of Abraham
□ 25:19-34 – Jacob and Esau
□ 26:1-33 – Isaac and King Abimelech

Main Topic – Promises from Abraham to Isaac
In this transitional section of Genesis, God’s covenant promises are passed from Abraham to Isaac. Sarah passes away, and Abraham focuses his attention on finding a wife for his son Isaac. The story of Abraham’s family continues in the account of Isaac, and the birth of his sons Esau and Jacob. Isaac not only receives the promises of God given to Abraham, he also inherits some of Abraham’s weaknesses. In this section, we want to focus on how the promises to Abraham are passed on to the next generation.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. The Death of Sarah (Gen 23) – Sarah is buried near Hebron/Mamre. What is the significance of this location? Consider Abraham’s history here (Gen 13:18, 18:1). How is Abraham regarded in the community? How is God fulfilling His promises?

2. A Wife for Isaac (Gen 24) – Abraham is very insistent that Isaac not marry a local Canaanite girl. Why is this such a matter of grave concern for him, what is the issue here? (see Ex 34:16, Deut 7:3-4) How do we see faith in the actions of Abraham, his servant, Isaac, and in Rebekah?

3. Conflict in the Household (Gen 25) – Isaac shares in Abraham’s faith and promises, and also his household drama. How many parallels can you identify between the two households? (ie. barren wife, long wait for children, children who fight, division in the household, famine, lying, etc.)

4. God’s Faithfulness Even When… (Gen 26) – What covenant promises are confirmed to Isaac? (26:3-4) Then what does Isaac do? (26:7-11) Nevertheless, God blesses Isaac abundantly! (26:12-16) Why are these two stories set next to each other? What does this suggest about God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises? 

Genesis – Covenants and a Map

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! This week I’m sending an extra email with study resources and a map. Genesis begins in the garden of Eden, takes us to Babel (ie. Babylon), and then with Abram we journey from Haran to Canaan to Egypt and back again. It’s time for a map!

Rassmussen, Carl. Atlas of the Bible. Zondervan, 2010.

We also have recently encountered the Old Testament concept of a “covenant”. God makes a covenant agreement with Noah after the flood (Genesis 9) and then with Abram (Genesis 15). In our modern world we do not use the word covenant the way it was used back then – we generally use it only for home owner’s association documents that specify what you can and cannot do (and then people promptly ignore most of it and continue parking boats or campers in their driveways, etc.)

A covenant in the era of the Bible could be made at an individual, tribal, or national level. The example that is most useful to us is that of an international treaty, an alliance between nations. Every covenant treaty-alliance was structured like a legal document with a title, a historical prologue, the obligations of each party, the list of witnesses, and the curses and blessings that were to fall on each party as they upheld (or broke) their agreement. The whole act of treaty-making was sealed in a ratification ceremony involving the taking of oaths and sacrifices. Keep this in mind as you read Genesis 15 (and 17), and even as you later read Exodus 20-24 and the covenant God made with Moses and the people of Israel when the law was given, and the New Covenant made by the blood of Christ.

For more on covenants, read Sandra Richter’s Epic of Eden, chapter 3 and check out this Bible Project video on covenants:

Genesis Week 5 – Promises Fulfilled

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 17:1 – 22:24
□ 17 – Covenant and Circumcision
□ 18-19 – Sodom & Gomorrah
□ 20 – Abraham and King Abimelech
□ 21 – Birth of Isaac
□ 22 – Abraham Tested

Main Topic – Promises Fulfilled
This section of Genesis opens with God reaffirming His promises to Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and marking this special covenant with a new sign. God’s intention to bless the nations through Abraham is evident in all the readings this week – as Abraham intercedes for Sodom and Gomorrah and later brings blessings on the Philistine King Abimelech. We see the miraculous birth of Isaac and later Abraham’s offering of Isaac. Throughout, God’s faithfulness is clear, He keeps His promises and hears the prayers of His people.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. The Covenant (Gen. 17) – What are the covenant promises God restates here? How do Abraham and Sarah respond to the promise? God’s promise demands a response from Abraham. What is the requirement? Why do you think this sign is chosen or uniquely appropriate?


2. Abraham Intercedes (Gen 18) – God’s judgement against Sodom and Gomorrah is sure, but Abraham intercedes six times asking the Lord to spare the righteous. What lessons can we learn about the nature of prayer from this?


3. Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed (Gen 19) – Lot has been living in Sodom for more than 20 years (since Gen 13). How has he been influenced? Why might he have stayed? What happens to his wife? Why do you think this story is included in the story of Abraham?


4. Isaac is Born (Gen 21) – After waiting 25 years, Abraham is given a son. With Isaac’s birth comes rejoicing, but also conflict with Hagar’s son Ishmael. What happens to Hagar as she is sent away? What promises does God make regarding Ishmael?


5. Abraham is Tested (Gen 22) – God wants complete faith from His people, regardless of the odds. God tests Abraham again, and this time Abraham is determined to obey. What deliberate steps of obedience does he take here? How does God intervene? What promises are repeated at the end of the chapter?

Genesis week 4 – Abram and the Nations

Thank you for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 11:27-16:16
o  11:27-12:20 – Call of Abram
o  13 – Separation from Lot
o  14 – The Rescue of Lot
o  15 – The Covenant
o  16 – Abram and Hagar

Main Topic – Abram and the Nations

If Genesis 1-11 is the cosmic story of God and humankind, then Genesis 12 marks a turning point and the story narrows in focus to the story of God in relationship with one man, Abram. Abram will eventually become a family and then a nation, whose mission it is to be a blessing to all the nations and peoples of the earth. Our story this week opens with God calling Abram, giving him instructions, and making big promises. Sometimes Abram has great faith. Sometimes he struggles and makes poor decisions. As we watch Abram’s life unfold, consider how our personal faith journeys often have similar highs and lows.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Calling and Promises, Time in Egypt (Gen 12) – How does God promise to bless Abram? What does God ask of Abram? How does Abram respond? What challenges, costs, emotions might have been involved for Abram? What decisions does Abram make in Egypt? What does this reveal about his faith? How does God intervene to ensure His promises are fulfilled?

2.    Abram and Lot (Gen 13-14) – What decisions does Abram make regarding Lot? What does this reveal about his faith? How does the Lord affirm Abram’s faith and His promises again?

3.    Abram and Covenant (Gen 15) – How is Abram’s faith as chapter 15 opens? How does the Lord affirm his promises? Consider how Abram’s response of faith in 15:6 is celebrated in Romans 4:1-25 and Galatians 3:1-9. Finally, what do you know about this strange covenant ceremony?

4.    Abram and Hagar (Gen 16) – Abram’s remarkable encounter with God has not cured his faith struggles. What happens with Hagar, and what are the consequences?

5. Personal Reflection – Look back over Genesis 12-16. How does Abram’s unstable faith remind you of your own journey? How do these chapters show God’s commitment to His promises in spite of human failures?

Also, check out The Bible Project video on Genesis 12-50 below.

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

This book is required reading for students at Asbury Seminary in a class titled “Biblical Narrative”. It is excellent and challenges the way we approach scripture. After explaining his Bible-as-a-story approach (not a systematic theology prooftext), McKnight applies his approach to issues of slavery, justice, and atonement theory. The latter third of the book is a balanced and thoughtful discussion of the Biblical text regarding women in ministry. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, it is a welcome addition to the discussion on how we determine which parts of scripture apply everywhere and in all times versus those parts that are limited in application to a particular time and place. Very much worth reading. (As is another McKnight book I loved The King Jesus Gospel.)

Genesis Week 3 – The Downward Spiral of Sin

Thanks for reading Genesis with us! Here are the readings for this week:

Genesis 4:1-11:26
o  4 – Cain and Abel
o  5:1-6:7 – Generations
o  6:8-8:19 – Noah
o  8:20-10:32 – Noah and Covenant
o  11:1-26 – Babel

Main Topic – The Downward Spiral of Sin
Sometimes sin has immediate consequences, as we saw in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve. In the next major section of Genesis, we see the longer-term consequences of sin. The fall of Adam and Eve initiates a downward spiral of sin, beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel, the days of Noah, and finally the Tower of Babel. Genesis chapters 4-11 is an overview of how sin spreads among the peoples of earth. As we look at the stories in this section, our questions focus on how sin spreads, the ensuing punishment, and signs of God’s grace.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Cain and Abel (Gen 4) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sin of Cain? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

2. Noah (Gen 6) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sins described? Why is Noah unique? How does he respond to God? How do you see God’s grace in this passage (also chapter 8)?

3. Noah and his sons (Gen 9) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sins described? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

4. The Tower of Babel (Gen 11) – How does sin spread? What is God’s punishment for the sin of building Babel? How do you see God’s grace in this passage?

5. Personal Application – How have you seen the progress of sin in and around your own life? How also have you seen God’s grace at work in your life?

Woman as an Ezer – What does this mean?

One of the questions asked in studying Genesis 2 is what does it mean that woman was created to be the “helper” for man? In the Hebrew text the word is “ezer” which is traditionally translated in English as “helper”. But what does ezer mean and how was this word used elsewhere in the Old Testament?

Many opinions of women have been shaped by the word in Genesis 2:18, “helper.” Was the woman to be merely a helpful assistant to the man? In our day we use the word “helper” in the sense of an assistant, helping the boss do his job. Yet the meaning of the Hebrew word is rather different.

The word ezer occurs twenty-one times in the Old Testament: Twice in Genesis for the woman (Genesis 2:1820), three times for nations to whom Israel appealed for military aid (Isaiah 30:5Ezekiel 12:14Daniel 11:34), and here’s the interesting part — sixteen times for God as Israel’s helper (Exodus 18:4Deuteronomy 33:72629Psalms 20:233:2070:589:19 [translated “strength” in the NIV]; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1 – 2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9). God is the one who comes alongside us in our helplessness. That’s the meaning of ezer – it does not suggest ‘helper’ as in ‘servant’ – but help, savior, rescuer, protector as in ‘God is our help.’ It is a term often used in a military context.

Descriptions of the woman as dependent, needy, vulnerable, deferential, helpless, leaderless, or weak are — to put it simply — wrong. The ezer is a warrior.

John Walton writes about the word “helper” (ezer) in the Old Testament in his commentary on Genesis (NIV Application, Zondervan, 2001):

The word “helper” is common enough as a description of someone who comes to the aid of or provides a service for someone. It carries no implications regarding the relationship or relative status of the individuals involved. In fact, the noun form of the word found in this verse as used elsewhere refers almost exclusively to God as the One who helps his people. If we expand our investigation to verbal forms, we find a continuing predominance of God as the subject, though there are a handful of occurrences where people help people. In this latter category we find people helping their neighbors or relatives (Isa. 41:6), people helping in a political alliance or coalition (Ezra 10:15), and military reinforcements (Josh. 10:42 Sam. 8:5). Nothing suggests a subservient status of the one helping; in fact, the opposite is more likely. Certainly “helper” cannot be understood as the opposite of “leader.”

It is also interesting that Ezer as a male name appears elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Exodus 18:4 it says that Moses named one of his sons Eliezer, which in Hebrew means “My God is my helper” (Eli = “my God”; ezer = “helper”). This verse goes on to explain why Moses named his son Eliezer, because God had powerfully delivered Moses from Pharaoh’s sword.

Even in recent history, evidence is strong that the name Ezer still carries a lot of weight. Ezer Weizman (1924-2005) was an Israeli military hero. He built an international reputation as a fighter pilot, commander of the Israeli Air Force, the Minister of Defense, a world leader involved in Middle East peace negotiations, and Israel’s seventh president.

The woman was not created to serve the man, but to serve with the man as his partner. Without the woman, the man was only half the story. She was not an afterthought or a last-minute addition to help out an independent, self-sufficient man. God said in Genesis 2:18 that without her, the man’s condition was “not good.” God’s intention in creating the woman for the man was for the two to be partners in the many tasks involved in stewarding God’s creation.

Women, know that God values you and intended you to be a strong helper and defender. Men, be grateful the Lord has given you a strong ally and warrior. Every time we chose to partner and work together, we demonstrate that by God’s grace we can overcome the division between us that was a consequence of the fall in Genesis 3.