GENESIS ch. 21 – 25

GENESIS 21

Birth of Isaac.

1The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would; the LORD did for her as he had promised.  2Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated3Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him.  4When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded. 5Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.6Sarah then said, “God has given me cause to laugh, and all who hear of it will laugh with me. 7Who would ever have told Abraham,” she added, “that Sarah would nurse children! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”8The child grew and was weaned, and Abraham held a great banquet on the day of the child’s weaning.

9Sarah noticed the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham playing with her son Isaac;10so she demanded of Abraham: “Drive out that slave and her son! No son of that slave is going to share the inheritance with my son Isaac!” 11Abraham was greatly distressed because it concerned a son of his. 12But God said to Abraham: Do not be distressed about the boy or about your slave woman. Obey Sarah, no matter what she asks of you; for it is through Isaac that descendants will bear your name.  13As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, since he too is your offspring.

14Early the next morning Abraham got some bread and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. Then, placing the child on her back, he sent her away. As she roamed aimlessly in the wilderness of Beer-sheba,15the water in the skin was used up. So she put the child down under one of the bushes,16and then went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away; for she said to herself, “I cannot watch the child die.” As she sat opposite him, she wept aloud.17God heard the boy’s voice, and God’s angel called to Hagar from heaven: “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not fear; God has heard the boy’s voice in this plight of his. 18Get up, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand; for I will make of him a great nation.”19Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and then let the boy drink.

20God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert bowman.21He lived in the wilderness of Paran. His mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

The Covenant at Beer-sheba.

22 At that time Abimelech, accompanied by Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham: “God is with you in everything you do.23So now, swear to me by God at this place that you will not deal falsely with me or with my progeny and posterity, but will act as loyally toward me and the land in which you reside as I have acted toward you.”24Abraham replied, “I so swear.”

25Abraham, however, reproached Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had seized by force.26“I have no idea who did that,” Abimelech replied. “In fact, you never told me about it, nor did I ever hear of it until now.”

27Then Abraham took sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech and the two made a covenant.28Abraham also set apart seven ewe lambs of the flock,29and Abimelech asked him, “What is the purpose of these seven ewe lambs that you have set apart?”30Abraham answered, “The seven ewe lambs you shall accept from me that you may be my witness that I dug this well.”31This is why the place is called Beer-sheba; the two of them took an oath there.32When they had thus made the covenant in Beer-sheba, Abimelech, along with Phicol, the commander of his army, left to return to the land of the Philistines.

33Abraham planted a tamarisk at Beer-sheba, and there he invoked by name the LORD, God the Eternal. 34Abraham resided in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

GENESIS 22

The Testing of Abraham.

1Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test and said to him: Abraham! “Here I am!” he replied. 2Then God said: Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There offer him up as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you. 3Early the next morning Abraham saddled his donkey, took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac, and after cutting the wood for the burnt offering, set out for the place of which God had told him.

4On the third day Abraham caught sight of the place from a distance.5Abraham said to his servants: “Stay here with the donkey, while the boy and I go on over there. We will worship and then come back to you.”6So Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two walked on together,7Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. “Father!” he said. “Here I am,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”8“My son,” Abraham answered, “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together.

9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Next he bound his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar. 10Then Abraham reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he answered.12“Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the angel. “Do not do the least thing to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you did not withhold from me your son, your only one.” 3Abraham looked up and saw a single ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14Abraham named that place Yahweh-yireh; hence people today say, “On the mountain the LORD will provide.”

15 A second time the angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven16 and said: “I swear by my very self—oracle of the LORD—that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your son, your only one,17I will bless you and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants will take possession of the gates of their enemies, 18and in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing, because you obeyed my command.”

19Abraham then returned to his servants, and they set out together for Beer-sheba, where Abraham lived.

Nahor’s Descendants.

20Some time afterward, the news came to Abraham: “Milcah too has borne sons to your brother Nahor:21Uz, his firstborn, his brother Buz, Kemuel the father of Aram,22Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel.”23Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. These eight Milcah bore to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.24His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also bore children: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.

GENESIS 23

Purchase of a Burial Plot.

1The span of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.2She died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to mourn and weep for her.3Then he left the side of his deceased wife and addressed the Hittites:  4“Although I am a resident alien* among you, sell me from your holdings a burial place, that I may bury my deceased wife.” 5The Hittites answered Abraham: “Please,6sir, listen to us! You are a mighty leader among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial sites. None of us would deny you his burial ground for the burial of your dead.”7Abraham, however, proceeded to bow low before the people of the land, the Hittites,8and said to them: “If you will allow me room for burial of my dead, listen to me! Intercede for me with Ephron, son of Zohar,9so that he will sell me the cave of Machpelah that he owns; it is at the edge of his field. Let him sell it to me in your presence at its full price for a burial place.”

10Now Ephron was sitting with the Hittites. So Ephron the Hittite replied to Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, all who entered the gate of his city:11“Please, sir, listen to me! I give you both the field and the cave in it; in the presence of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead!”12But Abraham, after bowing low before the people of the land,13addressed Ephron in the hearing of these men: “If only you would please listen to me! I will pay you the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.”14Ephron replied to Abraham, “Please,15sir, listen to me! A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver—what is that between you and me? Bury your dead!”16 Abraham accepted Ephron’s terms; he weighed out to him the silver that Ephron had stipulated in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver at the current market value.

17 Thus Ephron’s field in Machpelah, facing Mamre, together with its cave and all the trees anywhere within its limits, was conveyed18to Abraham by purchase in the presence of the Hittites, all who entered the gate of Ephron’s city.19After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan.20Thus the field with its cave was transferred from the Hittites to Abraham as a burial place.

GENESIS 24

Isaac and Rebekah.

1Abraham was old, having seen many days, and the LORD had blessed him in every way.2 Abraham said to the senior servant of his household, who had charge of all his possessions: “Put your hand under my thigh, 3and I will make you swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites among whom I live 4but that you will go to my own land and to my relatives to get a wife for my son Isaac.”5The servant asked him: “What if the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land? Should I then take your son back to the land from which you came?”6Abraham told him, “Never take my son back there for any reason!7The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and the land of my relatives, and who confirmed by oath the promise he made to me, ‘I will give this land to your descendants’—he will send his angel before you, and you will get a wife for my son there. 8If the woman is unwilling to follow you, you will be released from this oath to me. But never take my son back there!”9So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore to him concerning this matter.

10The servant then took ten of his master’s camels, and bearing all kinds of gifts from his master, he made his way to the city of Nahor in Aram Naharaim.11Near evening, at the time when women go out to draw water, he made the camels kneel by the well outside the city.12Then he said: “LORD, God of my master Abraham, let it turn out favorably for me today and thus deal graciously with my master Abraham.13While I stand here at the spring and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water,14if I say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jug, that I may drink,’ and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too,’ then she is the one whom you have decided upon for your servant Isaac. In this way I will know that you have dealt graciously with my master.”

15d He had scarcely finished speaking when Rebekah—who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor—came out with a jug on her shoulder.16The young woman was very beautiful, a virgin, untouched by man. She went down to the spring and filled her jug. As she came up,17the servant ran toward her and said, “Please give me a sip of water from your jug.”18“Drink, sir,” she replied, and quickly lowering the jug into her hand, she gave him a drink.19When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels, too, until they have finished drinking.”20With that, she quickly emptied her jug into the drinking trough and ran back to the well to draw more water, until she had drawn enough for all the camels.21The man watched her the whole time, silently waiting to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful.22When the camels had finished drinking, the man took out a gold nose-ring weighing half a shekel, and two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels for her wrists.23Then he asked her: “Whose daughter are you? Tell me, please. And is there a place in your father’s house for us to spend the night?”24She answered: “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.25We have plenty of straw and fodder,” she added, “and also a place to spend the night.”26The man then knelt and bowed down to the LORD,27saying: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not let his kindness and fidelity toward my master fail. As for me, the LORD has led me straight to the house of my master’s brother.”

28Then the young woman ran off and told her mother’s household what had happened.29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban. Laban rushed outside to the man at the spring.30 When he saw the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s arms and when he heard Rebekah repeating what the man had said to her, he went to him while he was standing by the camels at the spring.31He said: “Come, blessed of the LORD! Why are you standing outside when I have made the house ready, as well as a place for the camels?”32The man then went inside; and while the camels were being unloaded and provided with straw and fodder, water was brought to bathe his feet and the feet of the men who were with him.33But when food was set before him, he said, “I will not eat until I have told my story.” “Go ahead,” they replied.

34“I am Abraham’s servant,” he began.35“The LORD has blessed my master so abundantly that he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, and camels and donkeys.36My master’s wife Sarah bore a son to my master in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns.37My master put me under oath, saying: ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites in whose land I live;38instead, you must go to my father’s house, to my own family, to get a wife for my son.’39When I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not follow me?’40he replied: ‘The LORD, in whose presence I have always walked, will send his angel with you and make your journey successful, and so you will get a wife for my son from my own family and my father’s house.f41Then you will be freed from my curse. If you go to my family and they refuse you, then, too, you will be free from my curse.’*

42“When I came to the spring today, I said: ‘LORD, God of my master Abraham, please make successful the journey I am on.43While I stand here at the spring, if I say to a young woman who comes out to draw water, ‘Please give me a little water from your jug,’44and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will draw water for your camels, too—then she is the woman whom the LORD has decided upon for my master’s son.’

45“I had scarcely finished saying this to myself when Rebekah came out with a jug on her shoulder. After she went down to the spring and drew water, I said to her, ‘Please let me have a drink.’46She quickly lowered the jug she was carrying and said, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too.’ So I drank, and she watered the camels also.47When I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ she answered, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, son of Nahor, borne to Nahor by Milcah.’ So I put the ring on her nose and the bracelets on her wrists.48Then I knelt and bowed down to the LORD, blessing the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.49Now, if you will act with kindness and fidelity toward my master, let me know; but if not, let me know that too. I can then proceed accordingly.”

50g Laban and Bethuel said in reply: “This thing comes from the LORD; we can say nothing to you either for or against it.51Here is Rebekah, right in front of you; take her and go, that she may become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has said.”52When Abraham’s servant heard their answer, he bowed to the ground before the LORD.53Then he brought out objects of silver and gold and clothing and presented them to Rebekah; he also gave costly presents to her brother and mother.54After he and the men with him had eaten and drunk, they spent the night there.

When they got up the next morning, he said, “Allow me to return to my master.”h55Her brother and mother replied, “Let the young woman stay with us a short while, say ten days; after that she may go.”56But he said to them, “Do not detain me, now that the LORD has made my journey successful; let me go back to my master.”57They answered, “Let us call the young woman and see what she herself has to say about it.”58So they called Rebekah and asked her, “Will you go with this man?” She answered, “I will.”*59At this they sent off their sister Rebekah and her nurse with Abraham’s servant and his men.60They blessed Rebekah and said:

 

“Sister, may you grow

into thousands of myriads;

And may your descendants gain possession

of the gates of their enemies!”i

 

GENESIS 25: 1-18

Abraham’s Sons by Keturah.

1 Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah.2She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3Jokshan became the father of Sheba and Dedan. The descendants of Dedan were the Asshurim, the Letushim, and the Leummim. 4The descendants of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida, and Eldaah. All of these were descendants of Keturah.

5Abraham gave everything that he owned to his son Isaac. 6To the sons of his concubines, however, he gave gifts while he was still living, as he sent them away eastward, to the land of Kedem, away from his son Isaac.

Death of Abraham.

7The whole span of Abraham’s life was one hundred and seventy-five years.8Then he breathed his last, dying at a ripe old age, grown old after a full life; and he was gathered to his people.9His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, son of Zohar the Hittite, which faces Mamre,10the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites; there he was buried next to his wife Sarah.11After the death of Abraham, God blessed his son Isaac, who lived near Beer-lahai-roi.

Descendants of Ishmael.12 These are the descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s slave, bore to Abraham.13d These are the names of Ishmael’s sons, listed in the order of their birth: Ishmael’s firstborn Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam,e14Mishma, Dumah, Massa,15Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.16These are the sons of Ishmael, their names by their villages and encampments; twelve chieftains of as many tribal groups.

17The span of Ishmael’s life was one hundred and thirty-seven years. After he had breathed his last and died, he was gathered to his people.18The Ishmaelites ranged from Havilah, by Shur, which is on the border of Egypt, all the way to Asshur; and they pitched camp* alongside their various kindred.

 

VIDEO NOTES

This talk is by Karen Wenzel.

Miracle babies – giving up.  “Isaac” = laughter

Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Followed by story of Sacrifice of Isaac.  The promise.  “The birth of Isaac stands as the principal model in the Bible of God’s faithfulness.  Through his implausible birth the fortunes of Israel are inverted.”  Walter Brueggemann.

If you were the D.A. – and if Abraham went through with it – would you charge Abraham with murder?

In Jewish tradition, using ages and genealogies, at the time of the sacrifice story Isaac was not a youthful boy but more of a middle-aged man.

“One Jewish tradition suggests that God, having been rebuffed in the attempt to forge a relationship with the nations, decided to concentrate on one nation in the hope that it would eventually bring in all the nations.  The migration of Abraham’s family is part of the general movement of the human race to take possession of their lands.  Abraham, however, must come into possession of his land in a manner different from the nations, for he will not immediately possess it, nor will he have descendants in the manner of the nations, for he is old and his wife is childless.  Abraham and Sarah have to live with their God in trust and obedience until at last Isaac is born to them and they manage to buy a sliver of the land (the burial cave at Machpelah).  Abraham’s humanity and faith offer a wonderful example to the exilic generation.

NABRE Introduction to Genesis

The stories of Genesis, many quite old, were written down during the Babylonian exile.  In the 500’s and 400’s.

Obedience based on faith and patience.  They are promised Land and Heirs.  After waiting 25 long years – Isaac is born to Sarah.

The place of sacrifice is Mt. Moriah.  In Jerusalem.  Muslim tradition says that on the rock in the center of their mosque on the Temple Mount is the spot of this moment, as well as the place that Mohammed traveled to when he ascended to heaven.

Nothing good came of Sarah’s meddling in God’s plans.  Ishmael born of Hagar and Abraham but he is not the one who will inherit the promises.

Ishmael may have mocked Isaac as they played.  (14 year age difference.)  This may have spurred Sarah’s efforts to drive Ishmael away.

A story of “the saving nature of God.  The stranger (Hagar) and her plight are central.  God frees those without freedom (Hagar) and gives a home to …the homeless.  David Cotter, O.S.B.

The stories of the banishment and return of Ishmael and the story of the binding of Isaac have many things in common.  Vocabulary, God will provide.

“The enormity of this command (request) can hardly be overstressed.  Abraham is asked not only to Kill his son but also to commit a real sort of suicide, since his hope of blessings and of the promises would die with Isaac.  Abraham’s utter obedience was, until this test, more potential than actual”.  David Cotter, O.S.B.

God did not know how Abraham would react under pressure.  God tests and provides.

“The basis “for his entire understanding of providence, the doctrine of God’s full provision of what is needed for his creatures. … A substitute (for Isaac) is not brought by Abraham but given by God in his inscrutable graciousness.”  Karl Barth

My son, God himself will proved the sacrifice

“Why did God make you?”  “God made me to know, love and serve Him, and to be happy with Him in heaven.”   Baltimore Catechism

Abraham was imperfect – as are all the people of the Bible and today.  God uses each one as they were.

God tested then and does still today.  Would we pass the test?

“Although I am a resident alien* among you, sell me from your holdings a burial place, that I may bury my deceased wife.”  Gen 23:4

An ancient legal procedure in the purchase of the cave.

The first of the “woman at the well” stories of the bible.  Later Jacob / Rachel; Zipporah / Moses;

6 elements common to well stories:

  1. A stranger travels to a foreign land
  2. He encounters the future bride
  3. Water is drawn
  4. The future bride hurries to bring news of the stranger’s arrival
  5. A feast is held.
  6. During the feast the betrothal agreement is concluded.

“This story “is a profound statement of faithfulness to God, not only as we expect it from Abraham, but also in the words and actions of Abraham’s servant and Laban.”  It “reflects the conviction that all events are under the LORD’s providential care… The faith of this narrative is one in which things occur seeminly as they will and yet are credited to God.”

Walter Brueggemann

9His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, son of Zohar the Hittite, which faces Mamre,   Gen 25:9

 

“Here I am.  I am ready to do your will.”

 

 

 

 

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

Chapter 21

Isaac = Hebrew Yitsak , verb ytsr = to laugh.  The text has her naming him thus because now she can laugh, we might emphasize more the laughing that both Abraham and Sarah did when they each were told that they would bear a son in their old age.

Psalm 126: 1-3

When the LORD restored the captives of Zion,

we thought we were dreaming.

Then our mouths were filled with laughter;

our tongues sang for joy.

Then it was said among the nations,

“The LORD had done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us;

Oh, how happy we were!

 

Ishmael gets almost as much attention and as much blessing as does Isaac in this chapter.

****  If Hagar and Sarah are both wives then this story is another in which a younger son supplants the older son for primacy in God’s plan.

Fretheim p. 489: “Here again, God chooses to work through complex situations and imperfect human beings on behalf of the divine purposes.  God works with individuals on the scene; God does not perfect people before deciding to work through them.  God may see Sarah’s strategy, however inadequate, as the best possible way into the future for this particular moment in the life of this family.”

Brueggemann p. 180: “Twin temptations always face the church in the practice of its faith.  On the one hand, there is the temptation to cling to the word of God in an excessively spiritual way and to minimize the fleshly concreteness of the birth.  On the other hand, there is the inclination to cling singularly to the reality of the birth in an excessively secular way and regard the word of promise as of no importance.”  Same with Jesus, and today?

This story also helps to set up the angst of the next story – the sacrifice of Isaac.  Having sent away his older son by way of Hagar he is now asked to sacrifice the only remaining son Isaac.

Hagar and her story of rejection after faithful service, being sent away resonates for women of all times.  “The Help”.  other examples?

Brueggemann p. 183: God cares for this outsider whom the tradition wants to abandon.  There is no stigma attached to this ‘other’ son.  All are agreed on the preciousness of Ishmael – Yahweh, angel, Hagar, Abraham – all but Sarah. She has a vested interest which closes that reality to her.”

Chapter 22

Fretheim p. 494:

“Exilic Israel may have seen itself in both Abraham and Isaac: God has put Israel to a test in which many children died, has called forth its continuing faith, has delivered it through the fires of judgment and renewed the promises.

Israelite ritual regarding the firstborn informs this text.  Israel knew that God could require the firstborn, but that God had provided for their redemption.  Here, God does just this: God asks that Isaac be sacrificed and provides an animal “instead of” Isaac.  This issue belongs indisputably to the story, but with a metaphorical understanding of Israel as God’s firstborn.  The text bears no mark of an etiology of sacrifice or a polemic against child sacrifice, clearly abhorrent to Israel, though it was sometimes a problem.”

Exodus 22:28,29:  “You shall not delay the offering of your harvest and your press. You shall give me the firstborn of your sons. You must do the same with your oxen and your sheep; for seven days the firstling may stay with its mother, but on the eighth day you must give it to me.”

Exodus 13: 11-13:  “When the LORD, your God, has brought you into the land of the Canaanites, just as he swore to you and your ancestors, and gives it to you, you will dedicate to the LORD every newborn that opens the womb; and every firstborn male of your animals will belong to the LORD. Every firstborn of a donkey you will ransom with a sheep. If you do not ransom it, you will break its neck. Every human firstborn of your sons you must ransom.

Leviticus 20: 2-5: “Tell the Israelites: Anyone, whether an Israelite or an alien residing in Israel, who gives offspring to Molech shall be put to death.  The people of the land shall stone that person. I myself will turn against and cut off that individual from among the people; for in the giving of offspring to Molech, my sanctuary was defiled and my holy name was profaned. If the people of the land condone the giving of offspring to Molech, by failing to put the wrongdoer to death, I myself will turn against that individual and his or her family, and I will cut off from their people both the wrongdoer and all who follow this person by prostituting themselves with Molech.

Moriah is not known today specifically.  May possibly refer to Zion.

A key line in the whole story – “God will provide”.

Testing for Adam and Eve, for Cain and Abel, for Noah, and again for Abraham.  God wants to know how faithful we can be in these formative chapters and at this stage in God’s relationship with His chosen people.

Fretheim p. 497: “While God knew what was likely to happen, God does not have absolute certainty as to how Abraham would respond.  god has in view the larger divine purpose, not just divine curiosity or an internal divine need.  The story addresses a future that encompasses all the families of the earth:  Is Abraham the faithful one who can carry that purpose along?  Or does God need to take some other course of action, perhaps even look for another?”

Chapter 23

This chapter provides an example of middle-Eastern bargaining par excellence!

Fretheim p. 503 says that the Hittites were a non-Semitic people in Anatolia (central Turkey) but may have had a presence in parts of Canaan.  Machpelah is in the south of Canaan, near Mamre.  They wanted to be buried in the Promised Land.

Brueggemann p. 196 argues that this is a text that dates to the post-Exilic period and perhaps reflects the desire of the exiles to at least be buried in their homeland.

Brueggemann p. 195: “In any case, beyond the actual securing of the grave, one may note the almost humorous style of negotiations, governed by the verb ‘give’ which is only a euphemism for buying and selling.  If there is one thing neither party intends to do, it is to ‘give’ anything away.  This tone is culminated by the speech of Ephron.  He finally, reluctantly, names an amount, probably a high amount and in effect says, “What is 400 shekels among friends?’  The answer is, “A lot.”  But that is the basis of the settlement.  (The maneuvering for a suitable settlement is reminiscent of intense bargaining between Abraham and God in chapter 18).’

Reno p. 211 “Instead of following a ritual pattern that expels the polluting power of death from the city of the living, the common Christian practice of burying the dead in church crypts and graveyards places their bodies in a place consecrated to the power of life.”  Romans – outside the city.  Part of the logic of buying this land, part of the Promised Land, to bury her there – she becomes part of the future and of life and of the promise of God.

Chapter 24

a long story, which is almost retold within the chapter.  A meeting at the well by a man and a woman – something which occurs a number of times in the OT and NT.  Each additional story becomes part of a complex background of them.  (Genesis 29: 1-14, Exodus 2:15-21 are two stories like this one where eventual mates meet.)  Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well.

Reno p. 212, 213 meditates on how far we have come now from the opening verses of the creation story.  There – highly elevated, spiritual, and transcendent.  Here – an intimately human Abraham and servant and Rebekah.  God and grace are found in this space as well, but in subtle ways.

Hebrew word for “thigh” is the same for “loins”  Hamilton p. 139: “Abraham instructs his servant: Put your hand under my thigh, a prelude to the servant’s act of swearing, thigh is undoubtedly a euphemism for genitalia, in the light of passages such as Genesis 46:26 and Exodus 1:5, where a man’s children are said to come from his thigh.  Holding Abraham’s membrum in his hand, the servant promises to carry out Abraham’s wishes.  The significance of this procedure is uncertain.  It is unlikely that this act should be read as a self-imprecation by the servant, calling down sterility on himself or extirpation for his children.  R. D. Freedman has suggested that taking the membrum – now circumcised as a covenant sign – into the hand is a way of invoking the presence of God at this moment between master and servant.  Or it may simply be a way in which the servant reassures Abraham that he will honestly and truthfully carry out his master’s wish.”

Fox notes on p. 100: “A symbol used in taking an oath.  The use of ‘thigh’ might allude to a curse of childlessness as the punishment for not keeping the oath.”

Genesis 46:26: (NAB) Jacob’s people who came to Egypt—his direct descendants, not counting the wives of Jacob’s sons—numbered sixty-six persons in all.

Fox translation p. 219: “All the persons who came with Yaakov to Egypt, those going out from his loins, aside from the wives of Yaakov’s sons: all the persons were sixty-six.”

Exodus 1:5: (NAB) “The total number of the direct descendants of Jacob was seventy.”

Fox translation p. 257 : “So all the persons, those issuing from Yaakov’s loins, were seventy persons.”

Hamilton – oath / under thigh only occurs 1 other place: Genesis 47:29.  Abraham and Jacob, both elderly, both related to family issues (descendants / burial).

one footnote in Hamilton p. 140 references an Akkadian example of touching the sexual organs in giving an oath.  Nonetheless – this is not a well attested and clearly understood phrase  / practice / idea

Rebecca is very hospitable – as was Abraham with the three strangers.  She offers the servant water from her jug (as much as he could drink) and then offers water to all ten of the camels (using the same jug?)

Chapter 25

Notice how Isaac gets overshadowed by Abraham on one hand and by Jacob / Esau on the other.  We end up not really getting to know him.  Isaac gets chapter 26.

Hamilton p. 167 notes that the sons of Abraham’s concubines (Hagar, Keturah) are all sent away (with provisions) – ostensibly to provide Isaac with an ideal and unfettered situation.

Reno p. 218: “Now, however, the element of arbitrariness in the divine project comes full into view, one that pushes us back to Gen. 12 and redoubles the scandal of God’s  unexpected investment in the sheer particularity of a single clan as the instrument for fulfilling his plan.  The circumstances of Jacob and Esau in the womb allow us to see that questions of character and personality have no purchase.  Both children are from the same mother and same father, coequal in so many ways.  The question necessarily arises: why Jacob instead of Esau?”

Not by merit for both have weaknesses and strengths.

Predestination issue arises again – by God’s grace alone are any chosen or saved.  Does God decide arbitrarily then???  Reno p. 220: “Love becomes fuller as it appears more and more inscrutable.  Such a love is neither indifferent nor fickle.  Quite the contrary, love without motive or reason invests everything in the particularity of the beloved, and this makes love invincible.  Nothing can speak against a love that has no reasons.”

Hamilton p. 177 notes these other cases in the OT where the younger supplants the older:  Isaac and Ishmael; Zerah and Perez (twins); Joseph and Benjamin; David and his older brothers, Solomon and Adonijah.  Does this trend shape the story of the Prodigal Son?

Hamilton p. 178 – it takes a 1,000 years but finally, under David, the Israelites (younger) subdue the Edomites (older)

 

 

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