Review from Last Week and how it connects to this week
Last week Noah was the central character of the text. Genesis Chapter 5 listed the genealogy from Adam all the way up to Noah and chapter 5 ended by telling us that Noah was five hundred years old when he had Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Chapter 6 described the situation before the flood after men and women had multiplied greatly upon the earth. We talked about the Nephilim or the giants who were the product of the sons of God and the daughters of men. And also, how the wickedness of humans was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually. This grieved God’s heart and the text indicates THAT’S WHY THE EARTH WAS DESTROYED.
We also discussed how one man in particular could make a difference. The REASON Noah could restore what was right and the reason God did not completely wipe all of humanity off the face of the earth is because Noah was righteous.
All of that ties into this week’s lesson as we now consider the genealogies of the people of Israel leading up to another man that God chose to make a difference for the world. God gave Abram a promise. Perhaps there are ways, we can make a difference and perhaps there are promises for us also.
This lesson is taken from Genesis 10:1, 11:10, 27, 31, 32; 12:1-4. Standard Commentary Titles the lesson “The Call of Abram” Boyd’s and Townsend title it God is Always Working”.
These books of Genesis help explain the relationships between the nations that came to exist after the descendants of Noah repopulated the earth. The genealogies in chapter 10 and 11 describe who the people were and from whom they came. But the point is – at this time in history, all of the various nations – the Canaanites, the Moabites, the Ishmaelite’s, the Philistines; (If the great flood happened like it says it did) they all descended from Noah and Noah’s children. So the question is – HOW DO THEY END UP FIGHTING! The simple answer is because they are human – just like you and me. Sometimes, even brothers and sisters have a hard enough time getting along. And the farther we grow apart the easier it is for disagreements, misunderstandings, mistakes, and problems to occur. The New Interpreters Study Bible tells us “the Ishmaelites, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Aramaeans were all descendants of Abraham or his father, Terah. Through chapters ten and eleven, seventy nations are listed. Townsend commentary tells us “this is typological, that is, it can be used for rhetorical effect to evoke the idea of totality”. In other words the number seven represents completion and 70 nations represents God’s completion of restoring the population.
Chapter 11 begins with the Tower of Babel. “The whole earth had one language and the same words”. Then chapter 11 concludes with the descendants of Shem – one of Noah’s three sons. Abram is descended from Shem. And then chapter 12 begins with the call of Abram. God selects, chooses, picks, Abram one of the sons of Terah and gives Abram some life changing instructions.
Now, let’s put these three chapters in context. One of the central points of today’s lesson is who these people are, and from whom they came. These genealogies are drawing a line all the way down to Abraham. The New Interpreters Study Bible (NISB) says “the ancestral stories in Genesis, together with the theme of promise that unites them, were actually put into the form in which they now exist during the later monarchic period”. In other words, what we are reading today was formed during the time of Saul, David and Solomon – that’s the Monarchic period. They were formed this way and told this way to help the people who were living right then, to understand how they got to where they were. So the writer is telling the nation of Israel – The REASON we are so blessed is BECAUSE God promised this to Abraham, God promised this to Isaac, and God promised this to Jacob. So in other words, this text “must be read as being directed to a particular HISTORICAL context.
Now listen, The NISB says, “We have to be cautious about removing these promises from the historical setting for which they were intended and relating them to the contemporary (or modern day) political context in the Middle East”. So let me say this as plainly as I can. I have a problem with Christians who worship Israel. Genesis 12:3 says And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. This is what is quoted so often in Christian circles. People who believe that anything modern day Israel does is blessed by God. Now listen, I read the Bible from a Christological perspective. Everything I read, I’m trying to see Christ in it. But this verse wasn’t written with Jesus Christ in mind. It is compiled for the Hebrew people to help them understand where they came from, and how they got to where they are. So I have a problem with people who bow down and worship Israel. People who accept anything and everything this current Israeli government does without question. And since this quarter is focused on God creating and re-creating – let me just say, I’ll be glad when God re-creates peace and justice in the Holy Land.
What takes place in the passages:
After listing the genealogies of Noah and his sons down to Terah who is the father of Abram, the text tells us how Terah took Abram and Lot his grandson and Sari his daughter-in-law to Haran and dwelt there. When Terah was two hundred five years old, he died in Haran. Then Genesis 12 shows us how God spoke to Abram. God gave Abram specific instructions to leave his country, leave his kindred and to go to a land that God would show him.
God promises Abram – if you do what I tell you to do, if you leave everybody I tell you to leave, all of your culture, everything that you’re familiar with, all of your kinfolk, friends and neighbors, all of your cookouts, all of your family reunions, all of your favorite places to hang out and favorite people to hang out with. Everything that’s familiar to you and go where I tell you to go – I’ll make you a great nation and I’ll bless you and make your name great in the earth. In fact Abram, if you do what I tell you to do – I’ll bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you and in YOU all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
So at 75 years old, Abram packs his bags, and he does what God tells him to do.
Key Characters in the text:
Abram – He is the first great patriarch. Christians, Muslims, and Jews regard him as the epitome of human faith in the will of God. His name means father of a multitude.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
- Call: When God summons someone to salvation or to a particular work of service, implying Devine selection.
- Legacy: something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.
Themes in this Lesson:
- Just as God called Abram with a specific task, God can call each of us with specific tasks.
- Noah left a legacy of righteousness, Abram left a legacy of faith, what will your legacy be. Keep in mind, only what you do for Christ, will last.
Promise – Some Biblical promises are for those to whom they were written. Others are for all of us.
- Genesis 10 and 11 tell the Hebrew people from whom they came. If it is important for the Hebrew people, is it also important for African Americans. (In the last few months, I’ve noticed a movement to classify African Americans as “American – Descendants of Slaves”).
- Abraham’s blessing was conditional. What has God promised us that is conditional / unconditional?
God called Abram and Abram responded with complete trust and faith in God. Pray that we may do the same when God calls us.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
In next week’s lesson we see 3 visitors who appear to Abram. Abram demonstrates genuine hospitality by preparing a feast and you get the idea that he treats them with the very best he has to offer. And then one of them tells him “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son”. 90 year old Sarah gives birth to Isaac and eight days later Abraham circumcises him.