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.

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.

Genesis Week 2 – Humanity’s Purpose and Failure

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

Genesis 2:4 – 3:24
□ 2:4-17□ 2:18-25□ 3:1-13□ 3:14-19□ 3:20-24

Main Topic – Humanity’s Purpose and Failure
Last week we considered Genesis chapter 1, which is the creation account and serves as an introduction to God and to the whole of the Bible. In chapter 2 the creation account is reiterated and expanded as the emphasis moves from God’s overall creative activity, to God’s specific creation of man and woman. In chapter 2 humankind becomes central to the storyline and there is much to learn about the creation and purpose of humanity, its relationship with the creator, and the relationship between man and woman. As we move into Genesis 3 we find humanity failing in its calling, sin is introduced to the storyline, and the consequences are significant and enduring.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1.    Recall that God outlined the purpose for humanity in Genesis 1:26-28. What was their purpose?

2.    In Genesis 2:18-25 how does God provide help for Adam to fulfill his calling? What do you know about this word “helper” (Hebrew ‘ezer’)? What do we know about the relationship between man and woman and God prior to entry of sin into the world?

3.    The temptation – Compare carefully God’s original instructions in Genesis 2:16-17 with their recollection in Genesis 3:1-5. What changes do you see? How does this interaction with the serpent present a distorted picture of God? What doubts has the serpent introduced?

4.    The consequences of sin – Look carefully at the consequences of sin in Genesis 3:7-13. How does sin break down the vertical relationship between God and humankind? How does it break down the horizontal relationship between Adam and Eve? Describe the punishment for each character – the serpent, Adam, and Eve. For the humans, relate this back to their original purpose and explain the significance.

5.    The consequences for sin were immediate and enduring, yet there are signs of God’s grace even in punishment. What signs of God’s grace do you see in chapter 3?

Genesis – Week 1, Creation

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

Genesis 1:1-2:3
□ 1:1-5□ 1:6-13□ 1:14-23□ 1:24-31□ 2:1-3

Main Topic – Creation
As you reflect on the creation narrative in chapter 1, think about this: How would you respond if your young child asked, “Where did I come from?” You might answer “New Jersey,” or maybe you would say “Your dad and I got married and had you as a baby.” Perhaps you would give a biologically detailed explanation of how conception works (though we tend to dodge this topic!) Or maybe you could give an account of labor and delivery complete with city and date and time marker. If you are more relational, you might draw a family tree with all the important characters mentioned.

I ask this question because it is important for us to consider what the author of Genesis was trying to communicate when he wrote chapter 1. Chapter 1 is not a biology textbook or a detailed timeline, and it certainly does not answer every question we might have about creation. Dr. Sandy Richter writes in The Epic of Eden, “Genesis 1 was written to answer the questions: Who is God and what is His relationship to us? What was God’s original intent?”

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

1. Repeated words and phrases indicate importance. What do you see repeated in this section, and why might it be important?

2.     The seven days mentioned organize the details of creation. God creates ecosystems and then fills them. Fill in the chart below regarding what happened each day of creation:
What was created? (God forms)
Day 1:
Day 2:
Day 3:
What was created? (God fills)
Day 4:
Day 5:
Day 6:
And on Day 7:

3.     What do we learn about God in this section? How is the repeated phrase “And God said…” significant? And the phrase “It was good…”? What other details did you note about God in this section?

4.     Chapter 1 ends with the creation of humanity. What do we learn about humankind in this section? How is this final creative act of God different from previous creative acts? What is the purpose of humanity in God’s creation? (hint: look at the verbs). What does it mean to be the image bearer of God?

5. This section ends with Day 7 and God is resting. Why is He resting? Surely not because He is tired… What is your understanding of sabbath rest and its purpose?