Category Archives: Genesis 12-25

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.

 

8/28/12 Genesis 20

I am away from our meetings for two weeks, so will rely on comments to describe the discussion that took place. In chapter 29, Abraham decided to move to Gerar which is controlled by King Abimelech. Abraham was afraid, so said that Sarah was his sister, and just like in Egypt, God went to the king and said that the king would be killed as well as his people of he took Sarah as his wife. The king said spare me and gave Abraham lots of cattle and sheep and land. So again God saved Abraham and Abraham added to his wealth. It seems this is a good gambit on the part of Moses and Sarah.

Our reading this morning was the story of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed. These were the two angels that had visited Abraham and who along with God had earlier visited Abraham when Abraham had bargained with God about not destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot met them at the city gate and then took them to his home. Some men from Sodom came and wanted to have carnal relations with these men, and Lot said no, but offered his virgin daughters to them. They refused the offer. Then the angels told Lot he had to leave the city before it was destroyed. He tried to get his sons-in-law to go with him but they thought he was joking. He was told to go into the mountains, but said he only wanted to go a nearby village of Zoar. He and his family were told not to look back, but Lot’s wife did and was turned into a pillar of salt. Abraham again rescues Lot and Lot was afraid of the people left in Sodom and hid in a cave in the mountains. His daughters then felt he should have a male heir, so they got their father drunk and had intercourse with him and became pregnant. They both had sons and one became the father of the Moabites and the other the Ammonites. It is interesting to note that Ruth who is in the line of Jesus was a Moabite.

Rabbi Portman visited our group today and gave us some insights about the Jewish thoughts about what we read in Genesis. His view of the covenant is that God will do his part and the people need to do their part in order to improve the world in which we live. His comments about circumcision is that there is no controversy among the Jewish people, Sons are circumcised. The reason he gave for the sign of the covenant being circumcision is that it was to be something very intimate to an individual. I guess that makes it a personal covenant being God and the individual because only the individual knows for sure that he is part of the covenant. It is interesting that there is no physical sign that women are part of the covenant, but a person is by blood a Jew if the mother is a Jew. Rabbi Portman also said that there is no distinction between those who are born Jewish and those who convert. But he did say that once you are a Jew, there is no turning back, you are always a Jew. One of the issues raised about the middle eastern hospitality that Rabbi Portman raised was how much a family should be put at risk in order to offer hospitality. He said it was clear that Lot’s offering his daughters to have sex to keep the people away from his guests was too much.  Rabbi Portman closed our session this morning with a prayer.

  • Some of the lines of discussion that we followed were as follows: Lot demonstrated the hospitality that the inhabitants of the middle east are known for. Even offering his virgin daughters to the crowd to get them not to take advantage of his visitors. Offering your daughters to appease a crowd request may be going a little too far.
  • A second theme that is carried out is that of the presence of laughter, with Lot’s sons-in-law thinking Lot was joking when he said they had to leave Sodom because it was going to be destroyed.
  • We also discussed the concept of how the stories in the Bible are to be used by us as an inspiration or as a guide in our spiritual life. Rabbi Portman said that we need to look at the Bible as a guide to how we can make the world a better place.
  • People who see the Bible as a proof for their views and who cherry pick the verses that support their viewpoint. It was pointed out that there is a statement in Leviticus that condemns homosexuality and that a number of young people who believe in that have tattooed themselves, but there is also a statement in Leviticus against tattooing oneself as well.
  • We briefly mentioned the evil of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and whether it was more than adultery and homosexuality, but we didn’t really discuss that much other than to point out the futility of cherry picking Bible texts to support one’s views.

I had questions about the descendents of Ishmael and the claims from the Muslims that they are the descendents of Abraham through Ishmael and that because of that, they share the covenant that God made with Abraham. There are several web sites that disagree with that and raise all sorts of issues with that perspective. One of the most strident is the following:  http://www.faithdefenders.com/articles/worldreligions/are_the_Arabs_the_descendants.html This article tries to debunk the claim by Muslims that they are descendents of Abraham through Ishmael and that the covenant God made with Abraham was extended to them through Ishmael not to the Jews through Isaac. Here is another site that discusses this more in a sermon format. http://gracethrufaith.com/ikvot-hamashiach/isaac-and-ishmael-then-and-now/ It presents an interesting perspective about the peoples who are part of both Jewish faith and Muslim faith that very few can claim to descend from Abraham. The Islamic view of Abraham is presented in this article about Ishmael and about how the origin of the Muslim faith was attributed to Abraham and the people who descended from Ishmael.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_view_of_Ishmael

8/14/12 Genesis 18 (21)

In this chapter 3 angels including God appeared to Abraham to discuss the covenant with him. They repeated the promise that Sarah would bear a son who would carry on God’s promise to Abraham of many descendents. Sarah chuckled about this promise, saying both she and Abraham were too old to have a child. God said to Abraham that by the time they returned in the next year, Sarah would have a child. Mark suggested that he would be a little suspicious at such a promise! Abraham directed that the visitors be fed with cakes and a calf, the bedowin courtesy to visitors. Then they started discussing what would be done with Sodom and the 5 other cities there as well. Recall that Abraham had saved these cities from the northern kings a few years ago. Abraham negotiated with God over the number of righteous people it would take to save the city. He got the number down from 50 to 10.

Dirk talked a bit about the issue of circumcision for both men and women in Senegal. The ages for doing this vary significantly, from 8 days for boys to 25-35 for both women and men in some societies to 3-7 years for girls which sort of coincides with the time that Muslim children are expected to begin praying. At one point in time, women were circumcised to show that they belonged to a man, and that they had to be faithful to him. This got into the issue of polygamy as well. There seemed to be no good reason why circumcision, a private kind of marking, should be chosen as a mark of covenant. There is a religious ceremony that accompanies circumcision of women that emphases faithfulness.

Tom said this must be a fake god that came to Abraham, because a real god would have known about the evil doing of the people of Sodom and would not have to go and check it out physically. It also appeared to be a god that could be challenged as witness the negotiating that Abraham did with him. But, on the other hand, this showed god to be have a personal relationship with Abraham. Mark said that this showed a god that is reasonable and one with whom Abraham could interact. An interesting point was made that We believe that God created the heavens and the earth and now Abraham and Sarah are questioning whether he can make Sarah have a baby at her advanced age.

An interesting point was made about the way that words are used in Genesis 17 and 18. In 17, after referring to God in the opening verse in the same way as Genesis 18 begins, all the rest of the references are to God, whereas in chapter 18, after the opening verse, all references are to Lord. Mark indicated that this could be because of the god sources, in other words the different god sources are translated in different ways, namely in this case God and Lord. We are reminded again that this part of Genesis was written somewhere in the range between 900 to 650 BCE and was written after the 10 commandments were available. Again, it was written to uplift and encourage the people at the time of the Babylonian captivity that theirs was a long history and that Abraham who was the patriarch of the people had received the promise of God and they were living in this covenant.

A comment was made as to how this could be uplifting in our daily life when there are so many contradictions and wierd things going on. I think that it can be uplifting because of the broad scope of the covenant and the continuing relationship between God and Abraham. Here was a man who for all his human foibles, such as lying about whether Sarai or Sarah was his wife did what God had asked of him, and he was the one chosen by God to be the vehicle for the continuation of being with God on earth. That covenant goes on today through the belief in God through Jesus as savior.

 

 

8-7-2012 Genesis 17 (16)

Today we read the continuation of God the almighty’s relationship or covenant with Abram. Here we spent time struggling with the sign of the covenant, namely circumcision. But in addition, there were the promises that were made about a people that would be descendents of Abram, so that God changed his name to Abraham which means the father of a multitude of people. He also made a promise to Sarai that she would be the mother of a dynasty, and God changed her name to Sarah which means Princess. Initially, we discussed circumcision and why this was chosen to be the sign of the covenant. Could this be the last test of purity of being part of the people as a woman would be able to see before intercourse if the man was truly one of the people of God? John talked about circumcision and how it had been used by a number of people as a visible sign of belonging previously. It appears that circumcision was begun for unknown reasons int north eastern Africa and the Arabian pennisula and theories suggest that it was a way of purifying individuals and society by reducing sexuality and sexual pleasure. http://www.cirp.org/library/history/ Lots of discussion about it. In Yiddish, discarded foreskin is called schmuck. Greeks and Romans forebade people from doing circumcision. This was not specifically directed at the Jews, but was another way in which Jews could be persecuted by the Romans in particular. Germany currently has a law barring circumcision. There seems to be a very German attitude against Jews. Certainly Hitler with his Aryan emphasis was extremely anti-Jewish. And obviously the holocaust followed. But John read a passage from a Martin Luther document of 1543 when Luther was 60 which was a diatribe against Jews. Calling them all sorts of bad names and including circumcision as one of the bad things they practiced. Hitler used some of Luther’s words in his campaign against the Jews and the modern Lutheran church has been trying to distance itself from these Luther writings.

It is interesting to think about circumcision from the perspective of when this story was written. Supposedly it was written centuries after the events described here happened. So there must have been a group of people whose men were circumcised that had some sort of common heritage that the writer(s) here have formed into a people led by God the Almighty.

The main focus of this chapter as well as this section of Genesis has to be, however, about the covenant that God established with this people. The promise of this covenant was that the people would be a great people and would last on the earth forever. It seems that the covenant is different from common real estate subdivision covenants which seem to be rules by which the affected homeowners have a common sense of how to govern the properties so that property values will be maintained and that questionable practices will not be allowed. In the case of God’s promises, the main request by God of Abraham was that he obey the commands of God. In exchange for that, God will see that Abraham is the Father of a great multitude of peoples who will likewise be expected to follow God.  One part of this covenant was that Abraham would be given the land of Canaan. This must have been a problem for the people who currently occupied Canaan. It continues to this day in that most of the Palestinians are descendents of Ishmael, and are Muslim. The Israelites are decendents of Isaac and are the people to whom Canaan was supposedly given. But where were all the people that God promised to Ishmael supposed to live? In the desert? This was the beginning of the problem!!!

Bill raised a good point about how one of the great sticking points of religions is how man things that he has to decide what God wants to happen and then man has to make it happen. For example, Abraham suggested that God look with favor on Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Hagar the servant girl. God said “No, I want the continue the covenant with your son with Sarai, who has come with you all the way from Ur and is also from the line of people coming from Noah and Adam.” God straightened out Abraham from deciding what is the best way, but today, too many of us are deciding what God really wants and then proceeding to do it in the way of man. We need to let God do the work of God and then carry out what He wants to do in the way He wants it done.

We will continue to read and discuss the covenant God made with Abraham and the promise contained in that covenant as we read more about it in future chapters.

 

7-31-12 Genesis 16 (16)

The story today is about the way in which Abram and Sarai took into their own hands God’s promise that their descendents would be countless. Sarai suggested to Abram that he take her servent/slave Hagar and have intercourse with her and try to create a son which then Sarai could claim as her own. However, after Abram got Hagar pregnant, Harar started to lord it over Sarai that she, Hagar, was going to be the one who would fulfill God’s promise for Abram not Sarai. Sarai was very distressed with this and went to Abram and said “What should I do?” Abram in a very man type of response said, “She is your servent, take care of her the way you want.” So Sarai made life miserable for Hagar and Hagar ran away. She went into the desert and there God’s angel came to her and said, “You have to go back to Sarai and Abram.” and as an incentive, the angel said that Hagar’s descendents would be innumerable. (This is somewhat of an empty promise because it would be easy to say this because most people have chidren and although a family may die out, it could be continued just as likely. However, it is unlikely that such a family would be around for centuries as is Judaism, Islam, and Christianity which all claim Abram as the father of their peoples.)The angel also told Hagar that her son would be a wild jackass of a man. Just think of how thatwould make a young woman feel. Maybe she thought that he would avenge Sarai’s treatment of her.  So Hagar went back and had a son who was named Ishmael. Ishmael had 12 sons and they are thought to be the people that we think of as Arabians today. It is also thought by Muslims that Ibraham (Abram) took Ishmael to Mecca and established the holy place for all Islam there.

Genesis is a peptalk to the Jewish people who were in captivity in Egypt and the writers wanted to show the people that they needed to remain faithful to God because of God’s promises to Abraham. This would counter the pressure that the people faced to worship the gods of the Pharohs in Egypt.  This then becomes a way to instill hope among the people that they would get away from Egypt and get back to the promised land which was promised to Abraham and in which Abraham lived most of his life.

We also discussed the scholarship about the source of the stories about Abram. A scholar by the name of Blankinsopp from the University of Notre Dame suggests that Abraham is not clearly and unambiguously attested to in the Bible earlier than the Babylonian exile and that in the Persion period, a model for those who would return from Babylon to Judah. This is interesting because the original story of Abram’s origin had him coming from Ur which is not far from Babylon to Canaan which is where the people in captivity in Babylon wanted to return. It is also thought by a number of people that this narrative originated in the 5th or 6th centure BCE. Many scholars thought that the Abraham story served a theological purpose following the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Davidic kingship despite the loss of these things. It described Jahweh’s dealings with the ancesters provided a historical foundation on which the hope for the future could be built. Here is a link to this info. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham It is also likely that a lot of the Abraham story was made up which in Bill’s view doesn’t make it not true.

Paul in Galations 4:22-23 states that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave women, and one by a free women. The son of the slave was born according to the flesh but the son of the free woman was born through promise. Then he says that this can be interpreted allegorically namely that Hagar corresponds to present Jerusalem which is in slavery with her children whild the Jerusalem above is free, and the chidren of this tradition are free and have the promise of God for their future.

It is interesting to discuss how men and women interact in their relationships. A lot can be learned about these relationships by reading this chapter. There is jealousy and lording it over another and it illustrates how these feelings get in the way of a relationship with God. It also suggests the difficulty of having multiple wives because of the natural jealousies that can be generated. It also suggests the reasons for trusting and depending on God for our future.

When did monogamy become part of our teachings? was it the Ten Commandments?  An article in the Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that monogamy was a desired relationship all the way from the time of Adam and Eve as well as Noah and his wife. But polygamy was never outlawed until probably the 14th century AD or so. Much of the wisdom literature in the Old Testament extols the benefits of monogamy.

There is an interesting discussion of Ishmael in Wikipedia and here is te link to it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael  Here is a reference to Ishmael in the Jewish Encyclopedia: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8251-ishmael  Here is a link from the Jewish Encyclopedia which also contains the Arabian or Muslim references to Ibraham, Ishmael and Hagar: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7021-hagar

7-24-12 Genesis 15 (17)

This is the story of how God came to Abram in a vision and told him that he was to be the beginning of a long line of people that would be his descendants and this people would be the specal people of God. Abram had a vision of God telling him that he was establishing a covenant with Abram and promising that his descendants would be a special people and would follow God. This is the important part for us is the living covenant that continues between God through Jesus and us to this day.

The question always comes up as to why doesn’t God speak to us today as clearly as he spoke to Abram. Bill commented about how his dreams can usually be interpreted in terms of recent events rather than what will happen in the future. Maybe we need a few gypsies to explain how our dreams might be the future. But do we not get visions. For example, Mark’s experience coming back from a Zion interview with the thought that this was the place he would continue his ministry. We have the word with all that it contains as a guide to our future and what God expects of us and this all merges into our intuition as well as the way we proceed into the future trying to carry out the directions in which God wants us to go. We ask God to help us as we develop ways to further the mission of God and it is formulated sometimes in the strategic plans we prepare. In other times, it may be the vision of a skilled leader. Abram must have been just such a charismatic leader because the people followed where he led them. After all, why would you sacrifice a grown cow, goat, and ram as well as a turtle dove and a young pigeon to be burned. What an interesting sight it must have been to see the fire consuming them. But this story of the giving of the covenant sustained the people through the whole sojourn in Egypt say nothing about the captivity in Babylon later on.

Al raised a question about why the animals were split in half for the sacrifice. That is all animals were split in half but not the birds. The Lutheran study bible has a note that says that the animals were split in half because the recipient of a promise or covenant was reminded by this of what would happen to him if he welshed on his promise. In this God through the flame pot walked between the halves and thus assumed the guarantee of the covenant. This can be seen as a precursor of Jesus coming to continue the covenant and dying to save us from our sins. Thus God again became the guarantee of the promise or covenant to us.

Why were the people in Canaan so evil? I read a source saying that this whole description of Abram was part of the break with the tradition of having multiple gods to having one true god, the whole concept of monotheism. When Abram started from Ur, at the command of God, he probably believed in multiple gods, but then as he moved north to Haran and then south to Canaan, he developed or through communications with God developed the concept of One God who had created the universe and was the Most High God. This was a remarkable turn of events. Although Adam, and then Noah were also part of this tradition of one god, not many. But it seems to have been cemented in the story of Abram. I think that God always said that the people of Canaan were so evil because they continued to worship many gods as opposed to the one true god. I think it was this aspect, because there seem to be many times in the Bible where God strikes out against the worship of multiple idols and gods, and the people keep wanting to do it. We certainly see it in the time of Moses. The indigenous people in Canaan all believed in multiple gods and the descendents of Abram I am sure thought they should cover all the bases and pray to any god that could help, rather than trust in the God of Abram.

This covenant was a long term commitment of God to the people of Abram and it even foretold the long sojourn of Abram’s descendants in the land of Egypt where they went during the time of Joseph. The other aspect of this long term commitment is that David and then Jesus are both continuations of this covenant made way back in the time of Abram. It is quite amazing that this word and covenant were part of the tradition that stayed with the descendants of Abram for all these years even to today.

There is a complicated description of why Eliezar from Damascus was the heir to Abram’s kingship. In Genesis, Abram is not really called a king, but was one. Eliezar was the firstborn of Masek, one of Abraham’s concubines, and was Abram’s only heir at the time. The fact that he was listed as being from Damascus may or may not mean much. It could have been that Abram sired him while he was in Haran or on his way down to Canaan and hence he might have chosen to settle in the Damascus area which is nearer to Haran than to the area that Abram settled in Canaan. Here is a reference to this whole complicated discussion about what determined the heirs to a King. It included both wives as well as possibly concubines. It seems similar to the discussion of an heir to Lord Grantham in the Masterpiece Theatre series Downton Abbey where the heir is a third cousin once removed. Here is the link: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2009/06/who-was-eliezar-of-damascus.html Look at the comments made by Alice Lindsey at the end of the article.

Eldon read a note from the Lutheran Study Bible in which the reference to Malchizadek in Genesis 14 was priest of a higher God than the God of Abram. Possibly the god El-Elyon who through Malchizadek blessed YWVH the god of Abram. There is some reference to this in a Wikipedia reference to the interaction between Abram and Melchizadek. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melchizedek

Questions were asked about the Islam teachings about Abram. Note that the Muslims call him Ibraham. There is a piece in Wikipedia about this. Here is link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_views_on_Abraham

and here is an excerpt.

“The Qur’an makes it clear that the people of Abraham were idolaters. When Abraham had become older, he decided to finally teach his community a lesson. He told his people that he had a plan for their idols, whilst they would be gone away.[17] The Qur’an goes on to narrate that Abraham subsequently broke the idols, all except the largest, which he kept intact.[18] When the people returned, they began questioning each other over the wreckage, until some of the people remembered that the youth, Abraham, had spoken of the idols earlier.[19] When Abraham arrived, the people immediately began to question him, asking him whether he had anything to do with the broken idols. Abraham then, in a clever taunt, asked the people as to why they don’t ask the largest of the idols, which, they believed, could indeed hear and speak.[20] The people of Abraham were then confounded with shame, and admitted that the idols were incapable of anything.[21] Although Abraham’s people admitted their fault, they are said to have ignored Abraham’s warning and instead retaliated by throwing him into a fire and exclaiming “protect your gods”.[22] Although the natural nature of fire is one of intense heat, God commanded the flame to be cool and peaceful for Abraham.[23] Abraham, as a result, remained unhurt both physically and spiritually, having survived the fire of persecution. The people continued to taunt and persecute him, but to no result, as the Qur’an says that it was they “that lost most”.[24]”

“After the idol wrecking incident, Abraham had an argument with an unjust ruler, who claimed lordship for himself.[25] Abraham, guided by God, showed the King the falsehood of his argument, but he continued to disbelieve and refused to accept Abraham’s message. Abraham then left his people for good, with his believing nephew Lot and his wife, and all were directed towards the blessed land.[26] As Sarah was barren, Abraham had a second wife, Hagar, as a result, bore Ishmael, who was Abraham’s first son. Lot had also subsequently been made a prophet by God, but he was ordered to leave Abraham’s household and was sent to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, to preach against the sins of the people there.”