Genesis 21 Commentary

Genesis 21 Commentary

Isaac is born. The promise is fulfilled. Isaac is the seed or is the one whose seed would bring blessings to the nations. Abraham is a passing and fading song. The blessing would fall on Isaac. This is the beginning of a long line from which the Savior of the world would eventually come. Isaac is the second of the three patriarchal figures.

Ishmael mocks Isaac and he is chased together with the mother. Isaac required space for development. The LORD provisioned for it.

But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Genesis 21:12 NIV

Interesting answer to prayer. Just when you are expecting a resolution to some distressing issue the LORD gives you this answer. “Don’t distress”. Just like in the many cases of fear, the LORD simply instructs, “don’t fear.” Abraham was feeling for his son, and probably for the mother also but the LORD was not going to have any of it. But don’t be mistaken. The LORD had a better plan for Ishmael.

Abraham is blessed. We have a story of Abimelek that appears more like a pop-up or just some historic occurrence but in truth it is very much connected. God would bless the nations via Abraham. Now the nations can see the blessing and favor on Abraham’s life and seek to associate with that blessing. The calling of Abraham remains on the church today. Does the world look at us as blessed? Do we ourselves know and feel blessed? Are people lining up to associate with the blessing of God in our lives?

Abimelek spoke prophetically about Abraham descendants. They would be powerful and prosperous.

Genesis 20 Commentary

Genesis 20 Commentary

Another of Abraham’s mess. Fearing for his life he pretends to be Sarah’s brother. Abimelek takes Sarah as his wife. The LORD moves in to protect both Abraham and Abimelek. Abimelek is kept from sexual sin against another man’s wife while silly Abraham is saved from his mess. This story is reported here though it appears this is an earlier story, long before Abraham was a powerful community leader, with king status.

God’s care of Abraham is plain for us to see. There are two important lines for us. When our intentions are pure, the Lord does protect us from sin. When you have an ambition to stay holy, the LORD moves in to ensure that it happens. Intentions are important to the LORD. Secondly even during this time of loose sexual morals Abimelek seem to be aware of godly standards. These are high standards.

And listen to Abraham’s explanation for his mess…. Shocking. But we all understand.

Genesis 19 Commentary

Genesis 19 Commentary

So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
Genesis 19:29 NIV

Key verse. The LORD spares Lot from disaster on account of Abraham. This is what the blessing to Abraham meant. This is the blessing that is fulfilled by the LORD Jesus when, through salvation the LORD remembers us on account of Jesus. Remember that the Bible is a story following a script. In this case the script is written more than two thousand years later by Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. In this genealogy Jesus is the son Joseph, the son of……the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. And it ends there. We know Abraham had a father who in turn had his own father but Matthew ends at Abraham because it is a script about God’s promise of blessing to Abraham.

In this chapter the two angels are referred to as men. They were men enough for the wicked men of Sodom to even think of having sex with them. It helps us to understand the nature of angels. The tradition of the church is that angels are dressed in white with wings and flying. But generally the picture we see in the Bible is that of ordinary men or them having an appearance of ordinary men. Many many believers have encountered them without ever knowing, even in our day. They show up and speak our language (Tumbuka, for example).

Another point is that the two men had been part of the three collectively identified as ‘the LORD’. Abraham identified them as such. Lot never identified them as either angels or as ‘the LORD’. It’s a case of a fallen man that the LORD becomes so remote that any visitation, any visitation regardless of the accompanying glory, is nothing but random events of good fortune.

As we see the wickedness of the men of the city we are reminded of the wickedness of the world today. It’s nothing new because the devil is not new. We look at Lot in disbelief as he offers his own daughters. This is just how far backslidden Lot is. He no longer knows the character of Abraham’s God. As we live in this wicked world the warning is there for us on the wall. It’s easy to fall to this very low level of holiness where we think a less evil act is better than the bigger evil act. Lot is shockingly compromised.

Verse 14 gives us a picture that indeed these two men who had come to destroy the two cities were angels as they described themselves as messengers from the LORD. We want to believe the same LORD who had remained talking with Abraham. On this basis we can also assume that the LORD Jesus is the God who appeared to Abraham but in the company of two angels. I’m just playing with understanding here as I know the LORD could appear in any way and any any form at any time – and in any multiple.

Lot’s wife makes for an interesting reading. She perished for failure to obey instructions. Lot’s testimony was so bad that it completely failed to influence anyone, not even his own family. His own sons in-law thought of him as a joker. Another sad story told in these pages will confirm Lot’s rotten world. His own daughters conspired to have sex with him in order to conceive. These are bad and sinful ideas that were obviously considered as nothing in Sodom and Gomorrah. The entire story stinks to the core. Man is placing himself in a very bad position with the God of holiness.

Later on we shall meet the Ammonites and Moabites. They lived in constant tension with God’s people. Later on the LORD commanded Israel to completely destroy the Ammonites because their sins had reached a dangerous level. Moabite women would cause Israel to fall as they engaged in sexual relations with God’s children – encouraged by Balaam. Sin is very much a product of inheritance. You know where it’s coming from.

Genesis 18 Commentary

Genesis 18 Commentary

Chapter 18 is very interesting. The LORD appears to Abraham in person. And they are three, collectively called the LORD. The tone is divine and so is the language. Human beings don’t just have this style. I also note that the LORD accepted a meal. The LORD also accepted worship. As we shall see later on, angels often didn’t eat and never accept worship and pointedly refused when an attempt to worship them was made.

The LORD takes time to repeat Himself over the promise of Isaac. Sarah would conceive and have a son. Like Abraham earlier on, Sarah laughs and the LORD isn’t impressed. But who wouldn’t laugh at jokes like that? The woman is too old to conceive. Science says no. But we are talking about El-Shaddai here!

After this the LORD invites Abraham to a conversation on Sodom and Gomorrah. This conversation is very important for a couple of reasons. It’s a father-son talk. It gives us insight into God’s mind concerning sinful man. Secondly Abraham is seen as pleading for mercy (for his nephew Lot) but in truth the picture is that of the LORD trying to save Lot via Abraham. Abraham had been called to be a blessing to the nations. The picture of Abraham’s son pleading on half of the entire world at Calvary comes to mind.

And more on Lot. Earlier we observed Lot’s poor choices. He settled near Sodom, a sinful city. By the time of Sodom’s punishment Lot was right inside the city. Getting to sin is a slow process but you eventually get there as long as you remain on that path. The fact that the LORD needs reminding about Lot’s presence in the city explains just how little Lot’s life affected Heaven. When prayer or even good works are constantly knocking on Heaven’s door, it’s impossible to remain hidden. Humanly speaking if Lot had prayed that morning, he (Lot) was going to be in the LORD’S mind.

The LORD appeared to Abraham in form of men. I believe it’s the LORD Jesus talking to Abraham, hence “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” John 8:58 KJV

The same God who appeared to Abraham and enjoyed a meal at Abraham’s house would, much much much later sit down to prepare a meal of fish and enjoy it with Peter and his friends by the lake. Indeed before Abraham was, IAM.

Here is something interesting. The human author identifies the three men as the LORD. But to Abraham these are just men. Three men. In fact, he addresses them as lord (with ‘l’ in lower case) as a matter of normal courtesy. As the conversation develops, Abraham’s view of the men changes and the lower case is changed to upper case ‘L’.

At some point the LORD remains talking to Abraham while the other two men now identified as angels continue their trip into Sodom. It is safe to just say…..the LORD and forget the complications of Abraham’s view of the ‘men’, or even Lot’s view, or even the author’s subjective usage. It’s like you calling your cousin as Uncle Ben, to reflect your children’s view of your cousin. You really don’t want this confusion. So is easier to just say, the LORD visited Abraham.

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Genesis 17 Commentary

Genesis 17 Commentary

This chapter is highlighted by a renewed promise, now packaged in covenant or contract. It’s like the LORD is telling Abram that he (Abram) didn’t take the LORD seriously last time hence need to put things on paper. So the promise is repeated but more strongly this time. – No more petty plans with your wife this time. Here is the contract.

The LORD introduces Himself as El-Shaddai meaning God Almighty. Abram’s part in the contract is faithfulness and righteousness (blameless). But who exactly is signing the contract. We know one signatory, the LORD, El-Shaddai. The other part is signed by Abraham. The name change is important. It reflects terms of the contract. Name change projects the character and nature of the contract. Abram is now Abraham. The need for us to change our language based on the word is very important. The LORD had introduced Himself as El-Shaddai. He would move mightily in this Contract. El-Shaddai means God Almighty. Abraham would be fruitful as a consequence.

The ritual of circumcision is very difficult to understand. If by circumcision the LORD meant to draw man’s attention to physical purity and need to physically stay away from sinful peoples, then the image is truly strong. Regardless of purpose (and God knows) this ritual did work as an important initiation act into God’s physical family. It pointed to a much deeper separation from the world that is deep within a transformed heart. But even then it remained a sign or a symbol representing the contract.

Circumcision involves the shedding of blood. That could be important.

The contract is for Abraham and his descendants. This contract would be passed on from one generation to the other. But on a downer we notice that here only Canaan is mentioned as Abraham’s land but previously a very large piece of land was mentioned. Is Abraham’s failure over Ishmael the reason? Is Abraham’s reluctance to seize possession of the land he conquered the reason (remember the defeat of the 4 powerful kings). Is the LORD reducing the blessing because of Abraham’s capacity?

Abraham thinks of Ishmael but the LORD has Isaac in mind. How we want Ishmael to be blessed instead of Isaac. Isaac is the LORD’S idea while Ishmael is man’s idea. Abraham pleads for Ishmael but I think the LORD had already decided to bless Ishmael long before the boy was born – while still in Hagar’s womb. But we are aware that the LORD is having a conversation with a man, at man’s level.

Genesis 16 Commentary

Genesis 16 Commentary

The story of Hagar and Sarai is interesting. We have seen previously how the Bible began to narrow down its focus on to one family. Adam had other sons and daughters but Cain was singled out for mention while actual focus was on Seth. Seth had other sons and daughters but the focus was on Enosh. With Abram we know he had other sons and daughters but the focus was on Ishmael and later on Isaac. Isaac was a product of a promise while Ishmael was a human product – chapter 16 wants to show us this picture.

The point seem to be that God’s promise was never a consequence of human effort. Abram and Sarai planned to ensure they had an offspring. True enough a child came but was never going to be God’s chosen line. The application is that God’s way was never going to be a question of descent or inheritance or indeed human effort. And God’s sympathetic approach to Hagar’s problem, and the fact that the LORD puts a blessing on Ishmael seem to suggest that the LORD treated Ishmael’s birth independent of Abram’s poor and sinful plan.

From the scripture we can speculate on certain key points based on the LORD’S response to events
(1)The LORD didn’t approve of Hagar’s disrespectful conduct towards Sarai
(2)The LORD didn’t approve of Abram’s poor plan
(3)The LORD didn’t approve of Hagar’s mistreatment
(4)The LORD did approve of Ishmael’s birth but not as planned.
(5)The LORD did think of Ishmael as Hagar’s child not as Sarai’s child. Abram’s poor plan failed heaven’s high standards and was outright stupid.

We learn from the passage here that other people cannot be used as tools for reproduction. You cannot have children on behalf of another. It’s not a shared blessing.

You would think like Hagar’s insolence would normally justify the treatment she got. No. God’s standards are uniform and just. Wrong is wrong whether with or without justification. She is told to go back and submit. And the fact that God heard her and saw her misery means the LORD had moved to help her case. In this CHAPTER we see God as El Roi – the God who sees me. Hagar is able to say this because God had been around and saw her misery. JEHOVAH El Roi is a name we should use often when we are tempted to feel like all is lost, including God’s presence. Amen

Genesis 15 Commentary

Chapter 15 Commentary

The chapter begins with ‘after this‘. After what, some might ask. It’s after the defeat of the kings. The LORD talks to Abram again and confirms the blessing. But the blessing is missing something important, the blessing of increase. Abram doesn’t have a child. In chapter 13 the LORD had already promised Abram increase in terms of descendants. In chapter 14 the LORD has just fulfilled the blessing of prosperity. Now there remains, as a missing piece – the blessing of increase. Children are important. But Abram had none (Sara was experiencing difficulties in child-bearing – the pain in child-bearing of chapter 3). The LORD reassures him of His promise and Abram simply believes the LORD.

Then the LORD spoke about the enslavement and subsequent exodus. There is a hint here that the disposed nations had their own role in their own decline and decimation. The LORD had all these pieces arranged and right on top of it all. Yes Abraham has defeated the kings and can easily assert control over the conquered land. But not now, the LORD seem to be saying. The time will come for that. Is the victory a dress-rehearsal for the eventual conquest of Canaan by Israel?

Take note of the land that the LORD gave to Abram. Compare the territories of the given land with the list we found in chapter 14 of the defeated kings. The land was vast and went as far as Euphrates where Shinar was located. Shinar is equal to Babylonia. Check your Bible foot notes.

We read this history with open eyes and see that the LORD had charge and in control of events. The battles of the kings in chapter 14 are not at all random events. The capture of lot isn’t at all meaningless. You would probably think like the LORD was making a case for Abram to get involved and defeat the kings. I’m just thinking that at times the LORD allows battles our way for our enlargement and not exactly for our destruction.

Genesis 14 Commentary

Chapter 14 Commentary

The main lines in this chapter center around two themes: God has made Abram great and secondly the events after the victory.

In line with God’s blessing Abram is a force to reckon with. He faces 4 strong kings. These kings were a strong group as they had defeated a much bigger group of 5 kings who included the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. With only a relatively small army Abram defeats these kings. God’s promise to Abram is bearing fruit. I think the highlight here is on God’s blessing bearing fruit rather than a mere rescue operation. The size of the defeated army points to a miracle. At first sight it appears like the Bible is troubling us with unnecessary historical facts of kings we hardly have interest in. The foundation being laid here is that 4 kings defeat 5 kings. They should be powerful indeed! It is these 4 powerful kings that Abram defeats. The picture of God’s blessing shines even brighter in these lines.

Note also that the Bible mentions that the 4 kings defeated other peoples around them before turning on the 5 give kings. The areas are also mentioned. In a way by defeating these four kings Abram takes over the territories of the four kings, together with territories of the five defeated kings and the other defeated kings. Again the picture of the blessing to Abram is getting bigger in a physical sense. “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.
Genesis 13:14-15 NIV

After the defeat Abram is treated with respect by the rescued kings. His status is very high. Individuals line up to congratulate him and among them is one identified as Priest of the Most High called Melchizedek. What he says confirms Abram’s status. Melchizedek’s encounter with Abram is very brief but the extended coverage in the book of Hebrews tells as that there is much more going on here. Again Melchizedek’s blessing of Abram seem to line up with God’s promise that others would bless Abram and the LORD would bless them in return. This may be seen in Abram giving a tenth to Melchizedek. He is blessed as a consequence of blessing Abram. We shall keep on referring to him as Abram because at this stage the LORD hasn’t yet changed his name to Abraham.

I also note that Abram has a king status at this moment.

There is mention of Dan (just like Bethel in previous chapters). Fact is that Dan didn’t exist as Dan until the time of the Judges. The city being referred to may be another city by that name or indeed the same city being called by its later name.

that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’
Genesis 14:23 NIV This self-boast may be again a reference to the LORD’S blessing on Abram. He is saying that the LORD has blessed me or the LORD blesses me and not you or any other. We should not sit down reading these pages and thinking that Abram got wealthy because of plunder from the wars he fought. Abram is careful to preserve the name of the LORD as the only source of his blessing. This is important in view of the blessing. Just like we have identified the victory in battle as a miracle (God given) we need to identify Abram’s wealth as God-given.

Looking at the lands that the defeated kings occupied, again. Is this the point at which God gives Abraham this land in the physical? How should Abraham respond? Form a dynasty and start ruling? Is the LORD giving us a picture of strength that HE, the LORD, can easily do this? But we know that in between the times, Canaanites would occupy the land until the right time.

Genesis 13 Commentary

Genesis 13 Commentary

The main lines come in verse 14, 15, and 16. The LORD repeats the blessing but this time more details are added. Abram would increase in number and his descendants would be many. Remember the blessing of 1/28? We also note that Abram is very rich man in terms of physical possessions. The promise to make his name great included physical prosperity.

We have a picture of a man moving from place to place. By the way, the term Hebrew derives its meaning from the wandering that was associated with Abram and his sons. We also note Lot’s poor choices. He pitches a tent near a wicked city. Later on this decision would cost him.

Another important line concerns the altars that Abram was constantly building for his God. He was a man of prayer. We can guess the LORD spoke to him while in a position of prayer. We can look at these altars as evidence of his love for God. He always wanted to connect to Him.  

Genesis 12 Commentary

Chapter 12 Commentary

God calls Abraham (now just Abram)

We are reminded of where we are coming from. Abram is based at Ur of the Chaldeans. This place is same as Babel. It’s an important point to note that God is always calling us out of a sinful situation or place. Later on in scripture the term Chaldean and Babylon are used interchangeably. Therefore God is calling Abram from sinful Babel and wants to start with him.

Verse twelve begins with God blessing Abram. This blessing is repeated over and over in scripture. Look carefully at it and you see the Lord trying to do Genesis Chapter 1:28 again. You will notice that each time God wants to start with man, He begins by blessing man. We saw it with Adam in verse 1/28 and saw it in chapter 9/1 with Noah and now we see it with Abram in chapter 12.

Chapter 12 is important because here we see another mention of seed. We saw it earlier when the Lord talked of the seed of the woman. The purpose is stated clearly here. Through Abram the LORD word bless the nations. The purpose is to bless the nations. The purpose is to get back to 1/28 – the original mandate.

To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’
Acts 7:2-3 NIV

Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin does mention that Abram (not yet Abraham) was called from Mesopotamia. Chapter 11 has those details. The location is the Fertile Crescent – between Tigris and Euphrates. Here is Babel or Shinar. Here the LORD scattered man. Abraham was ‘scattered’ from here to Canaan.

After these lines Abram makes a trip to Egypt to escape famine. Israel and these trips to Egypt…the first of the many trips. The trip is a downer as fearful Abram lies.

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