GENESIS ch. 11 – 15

11:1 The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words. 2 While men were migrating in the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, “Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.” They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”


5 The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men had built. 6 Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do. 7 Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says.” 8 Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was calledBabel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.


10 This is the record of the descendants of Shem. When Shem was one hundred years old, he became the father of Arpachshad, two years after the flood. 11 Shem lived five hundred years after the birth of Arpachshad, and he had other sons and daughters. 12 When Arpachshad was thirty-five years old, he became the father of Shelah. 13 Arpachshad lived four hundred and three years after the birth of Shelah, and he had other sons and daughters. 14 When Shelah was thirty years old, he became the father of Eber. 15 Shelah lived four hundred and three years after the birth of Eber, and he had other sons and daughters. 16 When Eber was thirty-four years old, he became the father of Peleg. 17 Eber lived four hundred and thirty years after the birth of Peleg, and he had other sons and daughters. 18 When Peleg was thirty years old, he became the father of Reu. 19 Peleg lived two hundred and nine years after the birth of Reu, and he had other sons and daughters. 20 When Reu was thirty-two years old, he became the father of Serug. 21 Reu lived two hundred and seven years after the birth of Serug, and he had other sons and daughters. 22 When Serug was thirty years old, he became the father of Nahor. 23 Serug lived two hundred years after the birth of Nahor, and he had other sons and daughters. 24 When Nahor was twenty-nine years old, he became the father of Terah. 25 Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years after the birth of Terah, and he had other sons and daughters. 26 When Terah was seventy years old, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. 27 This is the record of the descendants of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran, and Haran became the father of Lot. 28 Haran died before his father Terah, in his native land, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah, daughter ofHaran, the father of Milcah and Iscah.


Abram’s Call and Migration.

12:1 The LORD said to Abram: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.


4 Abram went as the LORD directed him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai, his brother’s son Lot, all the possessions that they had accumulated, and the persons they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,6 Abram passed through the land as far as the sacred place at Shechem, by the oak of Moreh. The Canaanites were then in the land.


7The LORD appeared to Abram and said: To your descendants I will give this land. So Abram built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.8 From there he moved on to the hill country east of Bethel, pitching his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. He built an altar there to the LORD and invoked the LORD by name. 9Then Abram journeyed on by stages to the Negeb.


Abram and Sarai in Egypt.10There was famine in the land; so Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, since the famine in the land was severe.11When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai: “I know that you are a beautiful woman. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘She is his wife’; then they will kill me, but let you live. 13Please say, therefore, that you are my sister, so that I may fare well on your account and my life may be spared for your sake.”14 When Abram arrived in Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15When Pharaoh’s officials saw her they praised her to Pharaoh, and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16Abram fared well on her account, and he acquired sheep, oxen, male and female servants, male and female donkeys, and camels.


17 But the LORD struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 Then Pharaoh summoned Abram and said to him: “How could you do this to me! Why did you not tell me she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now, here is your wife. Take her and leave!”  20Then Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning Abram, and they sent him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.


13:1 Abram and Lot Part. 1From Egypt Abram went up to the Negeb with his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot went with him. 2 Now Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold. 3 From the Negeb he traveled by stages toward Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had formerly stood, 4 the site where he had first built the altar; and there Abram invoked the LORD by name.


5Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6 so that the land could not support them if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not live together. 7 There were quarrels between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At this time the Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land.

8 So Abram said to Lot: “Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herders and my herders, for we are kindred. 9 Is not the whole land available? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.” 10 Lot looked about and saw how abundantly watered the whole Jordan Plain was as far as Zoar, like the LORD’s own garden, or like Egypt. This was before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 11Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain and set out eastward. Thus they separated from each other. 12Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain, pitching his tents near Sodom. 13Now the inhabitants of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.


14After Lot had parted from him, the LORD said to Abram: Look about you, and from where you are, gaze to the north and south, east and west; 15 all the land that you see I will give to you and your descendants forever. 16 I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth; if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted.  17 Get up and walk through the land, across its length and breadth, for I give it to you.18 Abram moved his tents and went on to settle near the oak of Mamre, which is at Hebron. There he built an altar to the LORD.


14:1 The Four Kings. 1 When Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim 2 made war on Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar), 3 all the latter kings joined forces in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). 4 For twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled. 5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings allied with him came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim,6and the Horites in the hill country of Seir, as far as El-paran, close by the wilderness. 7 They then turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and they subdued the whole country of both the Amalekites and the Amorites who lived in Hazazon-tamar.


8 Thereupon the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) marched out, and in the Valley of Siddim they went into battle against them: 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. 10 Now the Valley of Siddim was full of bitumen pits; and as the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah fled, they fell into these, while the rest fled to the mountains.11The victors seized all the possessions and food supplies of Sodom and Gomorrah and then went their way. 12 They took with them Abram’s nephew Lot, who had been living in Sodom, as well as his possessions, and departed.


13 A survivor came and brought the news to Abram the Hebrew, who was camping at the oak of Mamre the Amorite, a kinsman of Eshcol and Aner; these were allies of Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his kinsman had been captured, he mustered three hundred and eighteen of his retainers, born in his house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan.15 He and his servants deployed against them at night, defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He recovered all the possessions. He also recovered his kinsman Lot and his possessions, along with the women and the other people.


17 When Abram returned from his defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were allied with him, the king of Sodom went out to greet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).  18 Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was a priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed Abram with these words:

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

the creator of heaven and earth;

20And blessed be God Most High,

who delivered your foes into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.


21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the captives; the goods you may keep.” 22 But Abram replied to the king of Sodom: “I have sworn to the LORD, God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth, 23that I would not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap from anything that is yours, so that you cannot say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ 24 Nothing for me except what my servants have consumed and the share that is due to the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol and Mamre; let them take their share.”



15:1 The Covenant with Abram. 1 Some time afterward, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: Do not fear, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great.  2 But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what can you give me, if I die childless and have only a servant of my household, Eliezer of Damascus?” 3Abram continued, “Look, you have given me no offspring, so a servant of my household will be my heir.” 4Then the word of the LORD came to him: No, that one will not be your heir; your own offspring will be your heir.  5He took him outside and said: Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so, he added, will your descendants be.  6 Abram put his faith in the LORD, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness.


7He then said to him: I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as a possession.  8“Lord GOD,” he asked, “how will I know that I will possess it?” 9 He answered him: Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.  10 He brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. 11 Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram scared them away. 12As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a great, dark dread descended upon him.


13 Then the LORD said to Abram: Know for certain that your descendants will reside as aliens in a land not their own, where they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14But I will bring judgment on the nation they must serve, and after this they will go out with great wealth. 15You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace; you will be buried at a ripe old age. 16In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the wickedness of the Amorites is not yet complete.


17When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates,  19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites,20the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim,21the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites





2,000 to 1,600 bc (more or less)



Ch.12             Call of Abram

Ch.13             Abram andLot

Ch.14             Abram and the Four Kings

Ch.15             God makes a covenant with Abram


Ch.16             Birth of Ishmael

Ch.17             Circumcision

Ch.18             Visitors / hospitality

Ch.19            SodomandGomorrah

Ch.20             At Gerar


Ch.21             Birth of Isaac

Ch.22             Sacrifice of Isaac

Ch.23             Preparation for burial

Ch.24             Isaac meets Rebekah

Ch.25             Death of Abraham, birth of Esau and Jacob


Ch.26             Isaac and Abimelech

Ch.27             Jacob deceives an old Isaac

Ch.28             Jacob’s dream

Ch.29             Jacob marries Leah and Rachel

Ch.30             Jacob grows prosperous


Ch.31             Jacob and Laban reach an agreement

Ch.32             Jacob returns home

Ch.33             Jacob and Esau meet again

Ch.34             The rape of Dinah, the revenge of Jacob’s sons


Ch.35             Jacob goes toBethel, death of Rachel

Ch.36             Descendants of Esau



Some things to keep in mind:

  • Not every story or saying has the same ‘weight’.
  • A good story opens up things for us – new insights into our God, our ancestors, the nature of humanity, and into our own lives and world.
  • Try to ‘bracket’ our doctrines, traditional interpretations, our need for ‘the point of the story’, etc. as best we can in order to hear the story as if it were the first time.
  • If the stories of the text do their job we should end up with more questions and fewer answers!  We should end up filled with wonder and love for our God, not a dry list of do’s and don’ts or dry bits of meaning wrung out of the stories.




Video Notes

This talk is by David LeSieur.


Chapters 1-11 – Primeval History.  How things got to the way they are – neither perfect nor fully evil.


Ch. 11 – Tower of Babel.


Genesis teaches that:

God is good.

God is holy.

God is different from the Canaanite gods.


Human beings are good

Created in the divine image

Stewards of creation

Prone to misuse their freedom

People are the origin of sin


Gives hope in the face of sin

God is just but merciful in reaction

God has the final word, full of promise


The tower of the Tower of Babel story is probably what is known in archeology as a ziggurat.


The Story of the Tower of Babel has several levels:

Origin of the name Babylon

How human language become diversified.  “Gen 11:1: the whole world had the

same language and the same words.”

We learn also that the people were able to build tall structures

Brueggemann: people being scattered.  “The breaking of language at Babel is

deep.  There will not be a restoration of genuine speech and listening until

the Spirit is given at Pentecost like the first wind that blew to give life.”


Dark side of the story is that it leaves this part of history on a disturbing note.  Positive side of the story is that the Pentecost events is the exact opposite of the Babel story.


The key to Gen. 1-11 is the beginning of Chapter 12.

The LORD said to Abram: Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.


With Chapter 12 sacredhistorybegins.  Previous – what is wrong with the world.  Is there a limit to God’s patience with us?


1,850 years before Jesus.

Abraham: Son of Terah born in Ur in Mesopotamia.  Then went to Haran in the north.  Before – semi-nomads.  “Hebrew” MAY refer to nomadic elements of the population that moved from city to city.  Sometimes served as mercenaries – see ch. 14.


“In times past your ancestors, down to Terah, father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and served other gods.”  Josh 24:2


When God called to him, Abram responded.  What may have looked to others as weakness was in reality his trust and faith in God.


The covenant between God and Abraham is in chapter 15
Genesis 14:19-20

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,

the creator of heaven and earth;

20And blessed be God Most High,

who delivered your foes into your hand.”


“Abram put his faith in the LORD, who attributed it to him as an act of righteousness.”  Gen 15:6


Paul in Romans 4:19-22     “Abraham did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body as already dead .. and the dead womb of Sarah…  He was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what he had promised he was also able to do.  That is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.”

In spite of all odds he became father of Isaac, the “father of the people” Israel, father of us all.






Chapter 11

We have a need to scatter and a need to come together.


Brueggamann p. 99:

“It is conventional to read this text as a simple either/or proposition: the disobedient unity of the peoples based in pride or the scattering done by God as punishment.  But our exposition requires not a two-sided tension but a three-factored possibility:  (a) the unity desired by the peoples in resistance against God, (b) the scattering feared by the peoples and carried out by God as punishment, but also (c) a unity willed by God based only on loyalty to him.  T=Here that unity is expressed as a dispersion over all the earth.  The purpose of God is neither self securing homogeneity as though God is not Lord, nor a scattering of autonomous parts as though the elements of humanity did not belong to each other.”

(remember Acts – take the gospel to the ends of the earth)



Chapter 12

Fretheim p. 423:  four promises by God:

  1. make Abraham a great nation
  2. bless him
  3. make his name great
  4. bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him

Abraham (Abram) responds with trust in God, worships by building altars

The wife / sister story is repeated three times  Chapter 12 here, Chapter 20 with Abram and Sarah, and then in Chapter 26 with Isaac and Rebekah.  May be one story at the center with two being variants inserted over time.  Fretheim says p. 427: “Stories of this sort were common in the ancient world, however, and these may reflect such a convention.  Theses stories now serve three distinctive, but not unrelated, functions within the narrative.”

Fretheim p. 427.  Technically Abraham is not lying – Sarah is his half sister according to Gen. 20:12.  He is speaking less than the whole truth and asks Sarah to do the same.



Exodus 20:10-13

What did you have in mind,” Abimelech asked him, “that you would do such a thing?” Abraham answered, “I thought there would be no fear of God* in this place, and so they would kill me on account of my wife. Besides, she really is my sister, but only my father’s daughter, not my mother’s; and so she became my wife. When God sent me wandering from my father’s house, I asked her: ‘Would you do me this favor? In whatever place we come to, say: He is my brother.


At this time Sarah is a great beauty and also 65 years old!  There is hope for us all !!!!

note the parallels with the later stories of Israel in Genesis and Exodus:  there is a famine in the land where Abraham is, he goes down to Egypt to get relief, gets close to the Pharaoh through his wife, there is a plague, he is sent away by Pharaoh and leaves, he settles in the Promised Land. And a covenant is involved.  The rabbis (Schermann p. 25) say that “Whatever happened to the Patriarchs is a portent for the children” meaning that Abraham and Sarah’s journey foreshadowed that of Israel’s.


Chapter 13

Abraham went “up” to Israel from Egypt.  True in geographic terms (northeast and higher terrain geographically) but the rabbinic interpretation is that Abraham ascended spiritually – leaving a spiritually empty place in Egypt for the spiritually full place of Israel.  (Schermann p. 27)


Fretheim p. 433: “Abram’s resolution creates family separation, with each group occupying different territories.  Historically, quarrelling among nomads over pastures and wells for their cattle was commonplace in that era (see chapters 21; 26), and it was common for families to separate.  Hence, one ought not to think of either Lot or Abram as especially quarrelsome, as if different temperaments would have enabled them to live together.  The text does not blame either person, or even regard separation as unfortunate; it works as a responsible way of responding to crowded conditions.”


Schermann p. 26: (Rabbinic interpretation) “Wealth and the lust for more of it brings out the worst in people.  Abraham resisted it completely, but Lot allowed it to warp his judgment until, as the succeeding passages indicate, it destroyed nearly all of his family.”

in looking over and walking about the land Abram effectively takes possession of the gift from the LORD.  Watch for the contrasts to come between Abram and Lot as both respond to God and the situation.


Chapter 14

many of the names / places cannot be confidently identified.  Abram goes from being a wealthy nomadic shepherd to a warrior hero – perhaps he has been inserted into another pre-existing story.


These “kings” ruled small towns and small parts of the local countryside.  We are not dealing with kings of nations as we know them.

God Most High = El Elyon   another name for God in the Hebrew bible, though it occurs infrequently.


Fretheim p. 439: “Melchizedek is a mysterious figure, mentioned elsewhere only in Psalm 110:4 (a royal psalm) and Hebrews 5 – 7, where the author interprets him in messianic terms.  His name, similar to the Canaanite king Adonizedek, probably means “my king is salvation (righteousness)”.  His priest/king status may mean that the Canaanite kingship was understood as a sacral/political office, an understanding not foreign among Israel’s kings.”

Psalm 110:1-4

A psalm of David.

The LORD says to my lord:

“Sit at my right hand,

while I make your enemies your footstool.”*

The scepter of your might:

the LORD extends your strong scepter from Zion.

Have dominion over your enemies!

Yours is princely power from the day of your birth.

In holy splendor before the daystar,

like dew I begot you.

The LORD has sworn and will not waver:

“You are a priest forever in the manner of Melchizedek.”


As the spoils are divided after the victory Abram could have taken all of Lot’s goods.  He graciously chooses not to do so.


Fretheim p. 442: “Hebrews 5-7 depends more heavily on Psalm 110:4 than on Genesis 14.  Basically the argument runs like this:  Abram (hence his descendant Aaron, father of the Levitical priesthood) acknowledged the primacy of Melchizedek and his priesthood through the giving of a tithe.  Hence, Jesus Christ, who belongs to the priestly order of Melchizedek, reaches back beyond Aaron’s priesthood in typological (not historical) fashion.  This establishes ancient, pre-Abrahamic, pre-Israelite priesthood roots for the Christly priesthood, thereby declaring its preeminence, and so Hebrews uses Melchizedek not unlike David and Solomon did.”   (all of this explaining the Christian claim of Jesus as Priest, Prophet, and King.)


Chapter 15

God tells Abram again of His promise, then makes good on it.

Fretheim p. 446: “We do not know why the birds were the only animals not divided, why the animals had to be three years old, or the meaning of v. 11 (birds of prey came down).  It does evoke some basic themes of the rite, involving a life-and-death matter.  At the least it stresses Abram’s vigilance and care in the preparation.”  Birds of prey may represent hostile nations but Fretheim does not think so.


covenant = not a contract but a sworn promise.  A covenant is “cut” hence the cutting of animals in half. Generally the thought may be that “if I break my part of this covenant let me be cut in half like these animals”


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