Story Notes on Genesis 21-25 – Abraham: Family Struggles
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. 21 – Right. Hagar’s getting thrown out is essentially a death sentence, which would be why she saw the Lord telling her to return in yesterday’s reading as a kindness.
- Ch. 21 – Hagar chooses an Egyptian wife for Ishmael, which makes sense since she herself was Egyptian.
- Ch. 22 – Such a weird chapter. Yes, it’s a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice, except the major player here is Abraham sacrificing his son, whereas the focus with Jesus is that he sacrifices himself. But in a literary level, this reads so much more like one of the crazy Grimm’s Fairy Tales where people throw their children to the forest or trade them to tiny sprites or whatever than it does like literal behavior that we expect to see from a loving God. This seems more like something up Zeus’s alley (except he wouldn’t provide the ram to swap out for Isaac and there would be more sex with impossible creatures involved). Does the answer even matter? If all of Scripture is useful for instruction and encouragement, etc., then clearly the point of the story isn’t the historical accuracy of the event itself but the fact that God provides and hears our pleas, right? That’s what Abraham says, “The Lord will provide.”Hmmm. Now that I think about it, as a historical account, this story would possibly have been comforting to the people it was given to at the time. Human sacrifices weren’t uncommon in surrounding areas at the time, and as we’ve seen with Lot, life in general seemed to have a rather low value. In that case, asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac would have felt familiar, just like how the other gods at the time operated. Certainly neither Abraham nor Isaac seems overly surprised as the request and both take it rather blandly. The surprising thing, then, would have been God providing an alternative and showing that, unlike the other gods of the era, what is important to Him is obedience and human life as opposed to obedience and sacrifices. I bet this story would have made complete sense to the Mayans and, being a culture that practiced human sacrifice, would have shown God’s character to them very well.
- Ch. 23 – Abraham buys a burial ground for Sarah for 400 shekels of silver. That’s the second 400 in Abraham’s story: God told him a few chapters ago that his descendants would be captives for 400 years (that must have been fun news to receive).
- Ch. 24 – Out of Abraham and his two brothers, Haran and Nahor, only Abraham doesn’t live in a place that bears his name. Since this seemee to be a popular naming scheme for place names at the time, I wonder why he doesn’t have his own town called Abraham.
- Ch. 25 – Abraham married again and had six more kids after Sarah died. Pretty busy for a dude who was “well-advanced in years.”
- Ch. 25 – For all the chatter about raising “Future Men” and making sure they are the most manliest, sportsified, rugged whatevers, Esau was the hunterly man’s man while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling tents. Also, Esau was a bit of a meathead.
Today I am Thankful For:
- Quiet mornings
- Eggs Benedict and Anika who makes it for me.
2 comments found
Ok. So I have been thinking a LOT about the Abraham sacrifice thing. And it kind of blows my mind.
If you think about how God had promised Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him, through this son he waited so long for, it makes utterly no sense to Abraham for God to then tell him to kill Isaac. Like, the one good thing God has given him, that he believes will bless not just him but inumerable people after him – and God wants him to give that up? Heartbreaking, he must have felt utterly confused and betrayed and yet Abraham had a Job-like outlook on it – “the Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
God had basically already raised Isaac from the dead – out of the dead womb of Sarah. Abraham must, we assume, have believed that God could do it again – after all, Isaac was a miracle to begin with.
And yeah, totally, the child sacrifice to an angry and vengeful God would have been standard for the nations so it is such a stunning picture of God’s character. Especially as a mirror of the other child raised from a barren (virgin) womb who was ultimately sacrificed and then brought back to life SO THAT all the nations could be blessed (Jesus.)
This story just gets me every time.
Yep to all of that!