Genesis Chapters 15, 16, & 17

Chapter 15

God tells Abram that he is there for him and will be his shield and give him a great reward. All Abram can do is complain about not having kids. Abram’s only heir is a slave born in his house named Eliezer of Damascus. God tells him that he will have his own child who will be his heir. That means that Abram will definitely have a son because women can’t inherit anything (although, they can be inherited). God tells him that he will have descendants as countless as the stars. He really doesn’t because the number of people that have ever lived is still quite countable at about 115 billion people.

When Abram asks God how he knows that he will possess the lands before him, God simply tells him to bring a three year old cow, goat, and ram, along a couple of birds. He cut them in two and chased the birds away to them from eating the carcasses. Then God comes to Abram in a dream and tells him, I assume, of the Israelites who will be aliens and slaves in the land that they serve for four hundred years.

If God knows that this is going to happen, then why not prevent it from happening? Why let the people be enslaved for so long and then free them? Then God promised Abram the lands east of Egypt. But there were people living there already, but now they were to be subjects of this new guy. Of course, he still didn’t have any heirs.

Chapter 16

Abram is given permission to “go into Sarai’s slave-girl, Hagar,” so that they can have kids of their own. They get it on, she conceives, gives Sarai a smug look, and earns her wrath. Of course, when there’s another woman thrown into the mix, drama occurs. Sarai “deals harshly” with Hagar which causes her to run away, but an angel of God tells her to go back because she is carrying Abram’s son.

Naturally, because Hagar is not a man, only an angel of the Lord can come to her, not the big man himself. She will have a son and I will try not make the completely obvious Moby Dick joke when I tell you that she will call him Ishmael.

11 And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Now you have conceived and shall bear a son; you shall call him Ishmael, for the LORD has given heed to your affliction. 12 He shall be a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 52). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Accord to the Oxford Commentary, the practice of a slave-girl acting as a surrogate for a barren wife was common throughout this area. So Hagar is going to have a boy and he will be “a wild ass of a man”. SPOILER ALERT: He will not be Abram’s heir. We’ll see soon enough. Another point in the Commentary is that God is not present in the messenger, but in the message. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth and, as foretold, we can call him Ishmael.

Chapter 17

Finally, God reiterates his covenant and then renames Abram (exalted ancestor) to the more familiar, Abraham (ancestor of multitudes), because God can just do that. He continues reiterating his covenant; lots of land, lots of descendants, kings will come from him. In exchange, all Abraham and his heir have to do is remember God and get circumcised because cutting off the foreskin will be a sign of the covenant.

I mean, really? Couldn’t God have given Abraham and his descendants a cool birthmark or a special card or something else to mark the covenant? Nope, God wants foreskins. Every male currently living among them including slaves, and every male born thereafter. That also includes any slaves purchased from elsewhere. As if slavery wasn’t bad enough already, now they have to be mutilated. I think I’ve spent enough (read: way too much time) on this subject.

God also renames Sarai, Sarah, and blesses her with the ability to bear a son at the ripe, old age of ninety-nine, as Abraham states. God tells him that he will name him Isaac. Ishmael will still be pretty successful and will father twelve princes and will be made a great nation, but the covenant will be with Isaac. We end this chapter with one-hundred year-old Abraham doing a little snip-snip on the men of his house. That wouldn’t be at all awkward.

Genesis Chapters 12, 13, & 14

Chapter 12

Abram, his wife, Sarai, and his nephew Lot set off for land that God will show him. This is so that God could make Abram a great nation. They end up in the land of Shechem, which God says that he will give to Abram’s offspring, despite the fact that people are living in this land right now. So, Abram did what you do when land is promised to your offspring, he built and altar. Then he moved on and built another altar where he slept for the night.

Abram and Sarai go into Egypt because of a famine in the land. Because she is very beautiful, Pharaoh will want her for himself, so he will have Abram killed. They tell a little, white lie that Sarai is his sister so that Abram will live. Pharaoh, it seems, buys Sarai off of Abram for slaves and livestock.

God takes exception to this despite the fact that Abram came up with the scheme to save his own skin. Pharaoh has plagues visited upon him for taking Sarai as his wife. So he gives her back and lets them leave with everything Abram was given for Sarai.

Wait. Where was Lot this whole time?

Chapter 13

Oh, here’s Lot. Where have you been? We get no explanation, but it seems he’s got some property now. Abram also has a lot of sheep and shekels, so the land wasn’t big enough for the two of them. So they decide to part ways and Lot goes to the cities of the Plain and settles in Sodom. There’s a spoiler right before this, “…this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.” It goes on to states, “The people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Obviously we will be returning there in a few chapters.

Meanwhile, Abram settles in the land of Canaan and God tells him to look around him and then reiterates his promise that he will give all of the land he sees to Abram and his offspring. Abram is commanded by God to walk all around his newly gained land and then, once again, he builds an altar to God (he builds a lot of altars).

10 Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen 13: 10, p. 48). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Spoilers! Yes, this story was written down after the event of a few chapters from now when Lot and his wife flee the cities stated at the end of the verse above. Lot moved as far as Sodom…and we know/will know how that turns out.

Chapter 14

This is the story of Lot’s capture and rescue, except that a majority of this short chapter is spent talking about the kings of the Dead Sea valley, including those of Sodom and Gomorrah, than it is about the capture and rescue of Lot. When we finally do get to the capture of Lot, it’s almost stated as an afterthought.

11 So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 12 they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen 14:11-12, p. 49). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Somebody escapes and tells Abram what happened. Finally, the author simply refers to Lot as Abram’s nephew instead of, “the son of Abram’s brother.” OK, I’m nitpicking, but I feel like this book could be a third shorter if the authors had written in simpler language, but I digress.

So after finding out about Lot’s kidnapping, he gathered together an army of three hundred eighteen and attacked at night and drove the rivals north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the stuff that was taken…oh, and his nephew, Lot. It seems like Lot is chopped liver here.

Abram received the blessing of Melchizedek and Abram gave him ten percent of everything. The King of Sodom offered Abram all the goods, but not the people. But Abram took only the men he brought with him because he did not want people to think that the king made him rich.

This story is the origin of tithing in the Jewish tradition as Abram gave ten percent of the spoils of war to the king. Also, twice in this chapter there is mention of Bela which is followed parenthetically by it’s other name. All I could think is, “There is no Bela, only Zoar.” (That’s a Ghostbusters reference. It’s okay if you didn’t find it funny.)