Monthly Archives: September 2012

09-25-12 Genesis 25 (18)

This is the story of Abraham’s death, and then it goes on to describe Ishmael and Isaac’s family tree. Thus we see how the heritage of Abraham continues through his sons. It also describes that when Sarah died 40 years after having Isaac and seeing her son marry Rebecca, Abraham at hage 140 marries a concubine, Keturah and has 6 sons with her. None of them were part of his heritage, howeveer. Abraham was 175 years old when he died. After his death, Isaac and Ismael buried him in the cave of Machpelah which is near Mamre, in the field of Ephron, the son of Sohar the Hittite. This is the field that Abraham purchased from the sons of Heth.

Then we continue with the story of Esau and Jacob. We see the story of parents favoring one or the other of their children and Jacob cheating his brother out of his birthright for some soup. I am sure that when Jacob said he would give Esau some soup if Esau would give up his birthright to him. Then Jacob had to disguise himself to his father and trick him into giving him Jacob the blessing. If this is the person on whom the Jews and Christians build their heritage, it is a very tricky start. Abraham seemed like a much more honorable man. But yet, we think it is ok for Jacob to do this because he was the one chosen to continue the covenant given to Abraham. Maybe this is also the reason that a person is deemed a Jew if his or her mother was a Jew, because Rebecca favored Jacob.

It was interesting to note that God was involved in the births of both Isaac and Jacob. Both wives were barren until God stepped in and gave them children. God also didn’t seem to be present all the time in this history. Did they have free will? What exactly did Abraham have to do in order to uphold his part of the covenant because the Torah wasn’t around until Moses time. The Jews today believe that Abraham upheld the Torah exactly because it was part of his understanding with God.

09-18-12 Genesis 24 (18)

An interesting note for today, that this is Rosh Hashanah, Jewish new years for the year 5773. This chapter describes how Abraham sends a servant to Nahor in Mesopotamia, near Heran where he had lived before he came to Canaan, and find a wife there among his relatives. Abraham had an interesting way to make the servant to swear that he would not let his son Isaac marry someone from Canaan, namely to put his hand under his thigh. Abraham told him that God would send an angel before him to prepare the way. The servant had a conversation with God and proposed a test to find the young woman who would be Isaac’s wife. The servant would set near the well and ask the young women who came to fill water pots if they would draw water for a drink for him. If they agreed but also said they would draw water for his camels, that would be the right woman for Isaac. Rebecca did just that. Now Rebecca’s mother was Bethuel whose mother was Milcah who was married to Nahor, Abraham’s brother. So Rebecca was Nahor and Milcah’s granddaughter, and that would be Abraham’s grand niece. Rebecca must have been an over achiever to offer not only to draw water for this stranger, but also for his camels, and he had 10 camels along. So it was a big job.

Here is a short note about Nahor from http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2011/11/nahor-and-his-descendants.html “Abraham’s older brother was Nahor. Nahor ascended to the throne of their father Terah in Mesopotamia. Terah’s territory appears to have extended between Haran and Ur, along the Tigris River. Nahor was the progenitor of twelve Aramean tribes through his 11 sons and 1 daughter. Eight were children of Milcah and four were children of Reumah (Gen. 22.20-24). Since the lines of Nahor and Abraham intermarried, it serves us well to learn all that we can about Abraham’s nephews. ” This article also says that Lot was Nahor’s grandson as well.

Well, anyway, Rebecca agreed to go back to Canaan with Abraham’s servant. When she agreed to go with him, the servant inserted a nose ring of gold into Rebecca’s nose and gave her silver bracelets. Laban was Rebecca’s brother and we will find out more about him later. Laban and his mother tried to have Rebecca stay with them for a few more days, but the servant wanted to get back to Abraham before he died, so he insisted that they leave immediately. So, Rebecca accompanied the servant back to Canaan and she met Isaac. When she saw him, she put her veil on and went to meet him. He took her into his mother Sarah’s tent and he took her and she became his wife, and he loved her.

This opened up a whole discussion on the topics of premarital sex and marriage. The point was made that marriage is between a man, a woman, and God but it is also a cultural event governed by our society and the government. We considered the question of whether pastors should assume more of a gate keeper role in their pre marriage counseling. Mark said that he had stopped one couple from getting married in his career. It is very interesting how the servant made a contract with God so that he would know the right woman to bring back to Isaac. We also discussed the topic of arranged marriages, with such questions as are arranged marriages more or less successful than the marriages we see here today, and what is the arranged marriage usually the wife’s responsibility despite the fact that this one was all Abraham’s doing.

9/11/2012 Genesis 23 (21)

Today, we discussed Genesis 23 which is the account of Sarah’s death but even more, the arrangements that Abraham made for her burial. Sarah died at age 127 so that by that time Isaac was an adult. She died in Hebron in the land of Canaan. Then we go on to discuss how Abraham negotiated with the Hittites who controlled Canaan at that time to purchase land for her burial as well as probably his and his family graves. Jason commented that this is the first mention of the Israelites owning land in Canaan, the land of the covenant. [Note on Hittites: In the early 20th century, the Biblical Hittites were identified with a newly discovered Indo-European-speaking empire of Anatolia, a major regional power through most of the 2nd millennium BC, who therefore came to be known as the Hittites. Modern academics propose, based on much onomastic and archaeological evidence, that Anatolian populations moved south into Canaan as part of the waves of Sea Peoples who were migrating along the Mediterranean coastline at the time of the collapse of the Hittite Empire. Many kings of local city-states are shown to have had Hittite and Luwian names in the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age transition period. Indeed, even the name of Mount Zion may be Hittite in origin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Hittites ]

We had a discussion about the negotiations that went on between Abraham and Ephron, the Hittite which controlled the area at that point. Ephron said that Abraham could bury his wife here at Hebron, but Abraham wanted to own the property where she was buried. Up to this time, it appears that Abraham didn’t own any property, he just moved like a nomad from one territory to the next and let his sheep and goats graze there. He might even have supplied mutton and goat meat and cheeses to the Hittites, so they were probably on good terms with each other. Anyway, Abraham finally got Ephram to name a price and Abraham just paid it without further negotiations. This will then turn out to be the burial place for Abraham as well.

Then Mark turned the discussion to funeral plans. He indicated that he and Heide are working on a document on the Zion website about advanced directives. This effort is labeled Honoring Your Wishes which is a community-wide advance Care Planning Iniative that has an event scheduled for Oct. 3, 2012. Look at Zion Announcements under Get Informed for more information. There were a variety of opinions expressed about individual’s ideas about their funeral or burial options. They ranged from almost free burial if you deed your body to the University to cremation or to doing it yourself. Mark urged everyone to make the church aware of your funeral plans so that what you want will not surprise the church staff.

Some people feel they need to see the body to get closure, but many felt that wasn’t necessary. Cemetary plots at St. Johns in Sharon Center are free. Mark would make a funeral service a celebration of the congregation of saints rather than a celebration of an individual’s life, with songs like “Lift High the Cross” and “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

A question that fundamentalists would ask is whether burial is required by the Bible since Abraham clearly chose that mode.

9/4/12 Genesis 21-22  From Istanbul

 I am in Istanbul today, but here is a brief summary of chapter 21. Isaac is born to Sarah and Abraham circumcises him when he is 8 days old. Hagar shows an attitude with Sarah again and Sarah tells Abraham to get rid of her saying that she doesn’t want Isaac sharing the covenant promise with Ishmael. God says she is right and that Abraham should send Hagar on her way. So he gives her a skin of water and sends her into the desert. After a few d as she is convinced she and Ishmael are going Rosie of thirst and then God comes and shows them a well and renews his promise it Ishmael. Ishmael becomes a bowman and marries an Egyptian woman. Remember, Hagar came from Egypt when Abraham was there earlier. Abraham has a discussion with King Abimelech about a well and ends up giving the king some goats and sheep. A commentator says that God visited Sarah and in that way had a personal part in causing her to have Isaac. The commentator says “that the Bible stresses that the Lord causes conception; that children are a gift of the lord. Psalm 127:3.” Does this mean the conception of a child when rape was committed, that conception is caused by God. I don’t believe that!

Chapter 22 is the story of God demanding that Abraham show his obedience to God by being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. There is also a mention of Isaac being his only son. What about Ishmael. This command also seems to contradict the covenant God made with Abraham to give him many descendents through Isaac. One way to see this is to show that God will provide if you have faith in Him. It is a rather strange command, however, to use this as a test of Abraham’s faith. Afterall, Abraham had traveled all his life hither and yon because of God’s commands and God had enriched him in numerous ways even though he didn’t appear to be too good about always trusting in God, like having a son by Hagar, and passing Sarah off as his sister a couple of times. Is a god that demands this kind of obedience one we can believe in?

Many people believe that this is the foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. The ram in the bush is like the coming of Christ with the bush being the crown of thorns. There were two promises God delivered on here, one is the one of words saying that Abraham had lived a righteous life, and secondly, the promise to deliver the sacrifice in the form of a Ram stuck in a bush.