Genesis 20:1-21:34 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The LORD Keeps His Promise
Comments for Study 15

Genesis 20:1-21:34
Memory Verse 21:1


I. Abraham's Bad Habit and God's Faithfulness (20:1-18, 21:22-37)

>1. Who was Abimelech and how did Abraham lie to him? Why did Abraham do this? (11-13) When had he done something like this before? What does this reveal about his weakness?

Genesis 20:1 "Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,

* Abraham moved to the edge of Philistine territory, about halfway between Gaza on the Mediterranean coast and Beersheba in the northern Negev.

Genesis 20:2 "and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, "She is my sister." Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

* "She is my sister" -This is the second time Abraham said this. He said it because he feared men and loved self more than the love of God and his wife. He had forgotten of God's promise to curse those who curse him. And he rationalized his sin. He was no better at protecting the women in his household and Lot was. One could say that women were considered almost possession to the husband in those societies, but that does not make it right.

* "Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her" -Our sins influence other people. Because we are Godly people, when we sin, and others people are involved are innocent and ungodly, they suffer greatly. So we should live holy lives, even amongst non-believers.

* Sarah must have been attractive even in her old age for there would be no other reason that he would take her. Yet, it can also be said that God allowed, even wanted this to happen to get Abraham from stop this rationalized sin.

* Was Sarah pregnant with Isaac at the time? The LORD had told Abraham and Sarah that he would return in a year and she would have a son. If from that time until now it was more than three months, then yes. It seems that she was and this is the reason that, as the LORD told the king, "I have kept you from her." Her being pregnant could have been the mechanism that she and the king were kept apart. If she was with child, Isaac, then Abraham's sin here was even greater for he was allowing to let go not only the woman of promise, but also the child of the promise.

>2. How did Abimelech discover the deception? How did he defend himself before God? How did he respond to God's words? In what respect had Abraham misjudge him (11-13)? Why might he think this way about the area?

Genesis 20:3 "But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman."

* "God"-In Hebrew "Elohim".

* "one night" -This seems to imply that Sarah was in his household for a time

* "in a dream" -God will appear to all kinds of people, sinner or forgiven, righteous or unrighteous, those under the covenant or not. God would later appear to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, a ruthless and evil king and to Paul who was persecuting Jesus' congregation (church).

* "You are as good as dead"-God said it this way to plant fear in his heart.

Genesis 20:4 "Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, "Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?"

* "so he said" -when God appears to people in dreams we can respond to him.

* "Lord" -In Hebrew "Adonai".

* Abraham had misjudged Abimelech because he thought he doesn't listen to God. He thought he was a terrible person like those is Sodom. Abraham was wrong. We should realize that even the harden of criminals has the fear of God somewhere in their hearts.

Genesis 20:5 "Did he not say to me, 'She is my sister,' and didn't she also say, 'He is my brother'? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands."

* It can be said that he was correct in his words here, but it would appear that he didn't ask for Abraham's permission to take her for if he did surely Abraham would have said no unless we take into account Abraham's own confession of fear of his own life.

Genesis 20:6 "Then God said to him in the dream, "Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her."

* "clear conscience" -God acknowledged that he had not known and therefore his conscience was clear.

* "that is why" -He did escape immediate judgement. But only as long as he now obeys.

* From this I can learn of God's character: he trains, he corrects, he protects. He gives authority to Abraham (17-18)

Genesis 20:7 "Now return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die."

* "prophet" -Abraham was the first person in the Bible to be given this title. However, this passage implies that the title was given to other people either at the time or before. Elsewhere, the Bible claims that Enoch and Noah were "prophets". A prophet is a person who conveys the LORD's words to others. They act as a go-between.

Genesis 20:8 "Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid."

* "they were very much afraid" -the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; this is true religion. "Fear" here has the sense of reverence and trust in God while committing his will.

Genesis 20:9 "Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, "What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done."

* Abraham should have felt shame at this rebuke from a man who he considered as godless.

* Abimelech fear of God stands in stark contrast to Abraham's twisting of the truth and deception.

Genesis 20:10-13 "And Abimelech asked Abraham, "What was your reason for doing this?" Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.' Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her, 'This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, "He is my brother." '"

* Abraham has stuck to this explanation his whole life of following the covenant promise given by God even tough he knew that God's promise was based on the fact that she would be the mother of the promise. It is very hard for me to understand his thinking and actions until I look at how I have kept to the promises that God has given me though Jesus, the Messiah.

* "fear for my life" -why had Abraham forgotten the LORD's promise to protect him? Yet another sin of Abraham. Being that this is not a pretty picture of the ancestor of the Israelites, the receivers of this, proves that it is of God. For every other self history only shows good things about those who wrote it and their ancestors.

>3. How was this matter finally resolved (14-18)? What does this event show us about God's character?

Genesis 20:14-15 "Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. And Abimelech said, "My land is before you; live wherever you like."

* "slaves" -Slaves are bought and sold, treated as possession and a clear violation of the will of God for anyone. Slavery is a grave sin and all who practice it will suffer greatly at judgement if not forgiven through the grace found in Jesus, the Messiah.

* God does not say what Abraham did with all of these possession and people.

Genesis 20:16 'To Sarah he said, "I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated."

* Worth a lot.

Genesis 20:17-18 "Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his slave girls so they could have children again, for the LORD had closed up every womb in Abimelech's household because of Abraham's wife Sarah."

* God kept to his promise to answer Abraham's prayer on Abimelech's behalf to show to Abimelech that Abraham was God's man.

* "closed up ever womb" -This seems to indicate that Sarah was in his household for some time, making my statement earlier that Sarah was pregnant with Isaac all the more possible. It is highly possible that Sarah was just barely visibly pregnant when Abimelech took her from Abraham's household and as the weeks went buy it became more and more visible that she was pregnant. This might have worried the king and thus setting him up to receive the LORD in a dream.

II. A Second Encounter With Abimelech (21:22-34)

>4. Why did Abimelech and Phicol come to Abraham a second time? What does this show about them? What complaint did Abraham have toward him? How has Abraham's basic attitude toward powerful worldly men changed? How was the matter resolved?

Genesis 21:22-23 "At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, "God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you."

* The men knew Abraham was a prophet so they acted Godly before him politically.

* "Phicol" -probably not a person but a family name or a title since it is sighted also in 26:26, over sixty years later.

* "God is with you" -The oath was a clever move and should be considered an act of faith on Abimelech's part. The commander was there, it seems, without his forces most likely as a witness to the promise and not a threat to Abraham since Abimelech states by faith that God was protecting Abraham.

Genesis 21:24 "Abraham said, "I swear it."

* Later the nation Israel honored this promise.

Genesis 21:25-26 "Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well of water that Abimelech's servants had seized. But Abimelech said, "I don't know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today."

* At this time Abraham spoke the truth without compromising.

* Abraham didn't act out of fear.

* Abraham was not passive at this time.

* Abraham knew God was on his side.

Genesis 21:27-32 "So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelech, and the two men made a treaty. Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, and Abimelech asked Abraham, "What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?" He replied, "Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well." So that place was called Beersheba, because the two men swore an oath there." After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines."

* Abraham offered the sheep and cattle and Abimelech offered none because Abraham was in Abimelech's land. we might consider this a tax or homage to the original owner of the land.

* "land of the Philistines" -they were not Philistines. The Philistines came later to this land, during the time just before the Israelites left Egypt. History does not record the exact arrival of the Philistines to this area or where they came from. It is believed they left one of the Islands off of Greece when a volcano destroyed their homeland.

>5. What does this event reveal about Abraham's growth in faith? What is the significance of Abraham's planting a tree and calling on the name of the LORD? Where did he stay? Why?

Genesis 21:33 "Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called upon the name of the LORD, the Eternal God."

* "planted a tamarisk tree" -It showed he owned the well.

* "Beersheba" -see map

* "LORD, the Eternal God" -The Hebrew word for "LORD" which is "YHWH" or "Yahweh" was described in Genesis 2:4 where it first appears.

In Hebrew "Eternal God" is "El-olam" where "El" is the base Hebrew word of God (which I mentioned in earlier studies). "Olam" means "Eternal"; together they are "Eternal God" or as translated here or "Everlasting God" as translated in the King James Version. It comes from an original form meaning "the God of eternity". It emphasizes God's unchangeable character (Psalm 100:5; 103:17) and is connected with his inexhaustible strength (Isa. 40:28).

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says this: "prop. concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; gen. time out of mind (past or fut.), i.e. (practically) eternity; freq. adv. (espec. with prep. pref.) always:-alway (-s), ancient (time), any more, continuance, eternal, (for, [n-]) ever (-lasting, -more, of old), lasting, long (time), (of) old (time), perpetual, at any time, (beginning of the) world (+ without end)."

III. Isaac and Ishmael (21:1-21)

>6. What does Isaac's birth teach about God's timing and God's faithfulness? Why did Abraham name his son Isaac and why did he circumcise him on the eighth day? What does this teach us about Abraham?

Genesis 21:1-2 "Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him."

* "Now" -some time had passed since the former incident.

* The Load kept the set time for Isaac's birth.

* Abraham waited 25 years for this.

Genesis 21:3 "Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him."

* God told him to call him Isaac.

* By naming Isaac according to God's will Abraham blessed Isaac.

Genesis 21:4 "When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him."

* "Abraham circumcised" -In this way Abraham remembered and would remember God granted him Isaac.

* "as God commanded him" -Abraham remembered God's words to him and kept them.

Genesis 21:5-7 "Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me." And she added, "Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

* "Sarah said" -She accredited God and Abraham.

* "has brought me laughter" -God's blessing brought joy in a way that I have a hard time imagining because I did not go though the many years of marriage without a child in a society the sees children as a great blessing of God.

* They remembered God in the time of blessings. When God blesses us it is easy to forget him and just simply in joy the blessing instead of the giver of the blessing.

* "in his old age" -God is faithful but sometimes it takes time for an answer to his promises, his blessings, and our prayers. That is why faith, hope, and love is so prized by God.

7. What was Sarah's words at this time? What does this show us about God's blessing and their faith? What can you learn here?

Genesis 21:8-10 "The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac."

* "weaned" -not needing the mother's milk. Usually the age of two or three years old in the ancient New East.

* Abraham's sin caught up with him again.

* Ishmael was either fourteen or fifteen years old at this time.

* "mocking" -shows Ishmael's character and why he would be against all his brothers his whole life.

* Driving Hagar and Ishmael out of the household would be disinheriting them.

8. What was the occasion and what was the reason for Sarah's asking Abraham to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael? Describe Abraham's distress? How did God council him in his distress?

Genesis 21:11 "The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son."

* "son" -not Isaac. Abraham's son Ishmael.

* "distressed" -being his son would have been distress enough, but local custom and laws prohibited the arbitrary expulsion of a servant girl's son.

Genesis 21:12-13 "But God said to him, "Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring."

* "God said to him" -the text gives no hint on how God told Abraham. However, it was most likely a dream during the night since the next verse starts with, "early the next morning".

* God set the direction.

* Romans 9:6-9 "It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."

* Hebrews 11:17-19 "By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death."

9. How did Abraham deal with Hagar and Ishmael? What can we learn here about living a life of faith?

Genesis 21:14 "Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba."

* Abraham had faith that God would keep him promise about Ishmael and bless them.

* "Early the next morning" -even though Abraham was troubled by sending them off he obeyed God without hesitation.

* "in the desert of Beersheba" -South to south-west of where Abraham was; in between the Canaan and Egypt. She would have to go through this desert to go to Egypt, nearly a one hundred and fifty mile trip.

Genesis 21:15-16 "When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes." Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob."

* "when the water was gone" -The amount of water was only what she could carry, perhaps three gallons. This would last her a day or two at most. They wouldn't have gone more than twenty miles.

* "then she went off and sat down nearby" -out of selfish need and comfort she did not help he boy who was probably weak and in need of his mother more now than ever before.

Genesis 21:17-18 "God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.""

* "God heard the boy crying" -God seems to take note only of the boys crying and not the mother. Why? John Calvin says that the text (by Moses) does not say that either the Hagar or Ishmael called to God in prayer. Therefore, Calvin states that God only did this because of his promise to Abraham and that is why he heard the boy's cry and not the mother's.

* "the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven" -The angel did not step on the earth. Angel is Hebrew "malak" used many times and is translated either angel or messenger. According to Strong's Concordance "melak" means "to despatch as a deputy".

Genesis 21:19 "Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."

* God opened her eyes" -often our grief brought on by a lack of faith and hope blinds us from helps, "outs", and wells that we would have seen otherwise.

10. How did God promise to bless Ishmael and how did he help them? What does the event teach us about the God of Abraham?

Genesis 21:20-21 "God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt."

* "God was with the boy" -God is with different people in different ways. In Ishmael's case it means that God blessed him so that his promise to Abraham that Ishmael would be a great nation would be fulfilled.

* "the Desert of Paran" -north central Sinai. Hagar and Ishmael never continued their journey to Egypt. This land was either just outside of or most likely just inside of the land God promised Israel (Jacob).

* "got a wife" -arranged marriages were common in those days. In fact, until recent times did children choose their own spouses.

* Paul uses Hagar as an example of the slavery of law and Sarah as the example of the life of grace in Gal 4:21-23. He states, "Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise."