Lesson 6: God’s Promise to Abraham (Genesis 12-22)

Chapters 1- 11 could be regarded as the introduction to Genesis. The plot begins with Abraham in chapter 12. In fact, if you looked at the story that runs through the Bible, these chapters could serve as the setting for it as well. God begins saving his creation with Father Abraham.

One of the best sermons I ever heard was by a rabbi asking the question, “Who is a Jew?” He spoke of Adam as a naive man, an innocent, and observed he was not a Jew. He then referred to Noah as a moral man, a good man, and maintained he was not a Jew either. Finally, he talked of Abraham who received God’s promise that his family would be blessed and become the means for blessing all the other families of the world. Now that is a Jew he said, a person to whom God made this world-changing promise.

The question is then, Why? Why would God choose Abraham? He certainly was not an innocent. He was downright shrewd in finding ways to gain wealth and mighty practical in finding ways to live peacefully with his powerful brother. He was not moral. At first, he reminded me of Clinton and Trump in the way he used women. Then, I thought his actions were more like Epstein as he sexually trafficked his wife.

I guess you could say he was the best God had to work with at the time. The Bible maintains that in spite of all that, he does have faith in God. He trusts God’s promises.

His story, that runs from chapter 12 through 22, is a rather incoherent collection of ancient traditions. The promise that is the basis of the biblical covenant appears in five separate stories that note Sarah’s barrenness, their age, the promise of children, the founding of a nation, the sign of circumcision, and the responsibility for blessing other families.

The most intriguing story is found in chapters 18 and 19, when three angels visit Abraham and Sarah. He extends hospitality, they make the promise, she laughs at the incredibility of it all, he believes. The three are on the way to destroy Sodom and a beautiful conversation takes place when Abraham requests God to have mercy. The divine and the human are conversing again, each taking into consideration the ideas of the other.

We certainly are invited to probe the mystery of it all when the story speaks of the visitors as three men, three angels, and the Lord God in the same chapter. We also receive indications of God’s unconditional love as it becomes apparent God intends to overcome evil with love. We still have a long way to go until Jesus, but it is definitely a start.

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  1. Fritz Foltz says:

    I have been surprised that so many of you have reported these Genesis lessons have been helpful. A number have talked about new insights. Because of my present circumstances I have pretty much just dashed off thoughts accumulated over many years.

    I think these stories are fundamental for understanding our faith. However, you have to look at them in their historical context and then translate them into something that makes sense in our day. Not everybody appreciates that as I shall report next week.

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