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!
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:
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?