Story Notes: Genesis 16-20 – Hagar, Lot, and Sarah
Notes to the Reader: After starting a book called The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight (yes, that is an affiliate link as is everything else I can possibly get one for. Please buy it!!), which talks about how there is a reason that the Bible is a a collection of books written by different authors in different times to different peoples in different places, I began re-reading the Bible straight through specifically to appreciate the story and see what pops out at me when I’m reading it.
I’ve been reading through using the ESV Readers’s Bible, which is designed with no verse notations or section headings or footnotes and which is laid out like an actual hardback book (I highly recommend this! It’s much less distracting to read). I’m reading in five-chapter blocks (for the most part) and writing down what sticks out at me here. Feel free to follow along
- Ch. 16 – Hagar was Egyptian. Presumably she returned with them when they left Egypt? Did Pharaoh give her to them?
Hagar and Sarai quarrel over offspring. Everything was about land and/or heirs.
- Ch. 16 – These days, we would discourage someone from returning to abuse (which Hagar was encountering from Sarai, it seems), but Hagar sees the Lord’s words to her as his looking after her. Presumably at that time and place, returning was safer and afforded her more protection than the exposure she would have had wandering around pregnant, clanless, homeless, and alone.
- Ch. 17 – What a weird thing to pick as a covenant sign. I wonder if marking of the flesh in some way was a common way of dilinieating between people groups or religious groups at that time, sort of like how the Maori have really recognizable tattoo patterns or the blue Celtic woading.
- Ch. 18 – The way of the Lord is righteousness and justice.
- Ch. 18 – The Lord would have spared Sodom if ten righteous people has been found there. How does this comport with the later wiping out of Canaan when the Israelites return? Was this why God waited 400 years until the iniquity of the Amorites was complete like it said in yesterday’s reading? Was *eveeyone* in the entire land heinously barbaric and wicked? Maybe they had all turned into Reavers?
- Ch. 19 – The behavior of the inhabitants of Sodom certainly screams “crazy dangerous neighborhood.” I think middle-class America has trouble identifying with this level of chaos and destruction and do we gloss over a pot of it, but this sounds comparable to the extreme levels of danger and violence that you find in war zones and places where governance has either completely broken down or has been so corrupt that it looks the other way.
- Ch. 19 – After Sodom was destroyed, why did Lot go live in a cave instead of going to Abraham, who surely would have set him and his daughters up?
- Ch. 19 – The daughters’ getting Lot (their dad) drunk so they can have sex with him (again, specifically so they can get offspring) seems super weird until you recall that at the beginning of the chapter Lot the daughters to the men of the down for some rapin’ if they’ll just leave his house guests alone. None of these people seem over-much concerned with each other’s care. Interesting family dynamics. Actually, not inconsistent with family abuse dynamics that we see today, now that I think about it. The purposes are different (the girls want offspring), but the ambivalence about sex and viewing it as a tool is a common outcome. Of course, no one in the entire city of Sodom seems too concerned about anyone else’s welfare. And… that’s why they ended up in cinders.
- Ch. 20 – Does this take place after the events of Chapter 18 & 19 because if so, either Sarah must have been a pretty spectacular-looking woman in her old age or Abimelech just liked grabbing every single woman who wandered by regardless of age. Weird. Also, in the end of the chapter, it sounds like Abraham and Sarah pulled the “She’s my sister” bit everywhere they went. If they all ended the same way they did here and in Egypt, that would account for Abraham’s large and increasing wealth. God specifically goes to Abimelech here and tells him to give Sarah back, which Abimelech does with lots of interest and extra stuff. What an odd way for God to deliver wealth to Abraham.
- Ch. 20 – Sarah is Abraham’s half-sister. I can’t remember if infertility rates are higher for near relations. That could account for their no children together without divine intervention.
Today I am Thankful For: