Friday, September 28, 2007

Genesis 20:2... What's Up with That?

Another busy week! I'm posting an interaction that's due for my online OT History course next week. We were told to pick an aspect of "belief" or "unbelief" in Genesis, then expound upon it. So, I will post this, probably today, then my classmates will have an opportunity to rip it apart. Well... that's not really fair. Most tend to critique very nicely. But I always hold my breath and count to ten while praying before I hit the "submit" button on class interactions...

Genesis 20:2 "Abraham said about his wife Sarah, "She is my sister."...

Context: Though Abraham exhibits tremendous faith as a "sojourner" for God, there is a curious aspect to his faith presented in Genesis 20:2. History repeats itself here as Abraham's fears drive him to pass off his beautiful wife a second time (ref. Gn 12:13) as his "sister." Abraham is a "temporary resident" of the land of Negev (Southern desert region of Canaan) when he encounters Gerar's King Abimilech, whom he inherently distrusts (20:11). Fearing that Sarah's beauty will spell trouble for himself and his travel companions, he reverts to the tricky tactic he first employed with Pharoah in his trek through Egypt. This would appear to be a rather significant "kink" in his faith, inasmuch as he lived through God's intervention into this scenario once before. God has made a promise that will be fulfilled through Abraham and his wife, and He has previously overseeen their safe departure from Egypt. Yet Abraham defaults again to this human ploy. (Does he fully appreciate that it was God, not a lie, who guided them safely into and out of Egypt?)

Ramifications: Though Abraham exposed Sarah to the sexual exploitation (Gn 12:19) that occurred under Pharoah, she was spared a physical encounter with Abimilech. Yet, the deception caused a curse (infertility) to befall Abimlech's immediate family and household. Though Abmilech leads an ungodly people, he has been "duped" and pursues Sarah without culpability. Still, there's a price to pay for those who get in the way of the promise. Abraham's duplicity stains his state of righteousness, presumably both in the eyes of his wife and God (though we aren't privy to any fall-out from either). On the positive side, God's graciousness and mercy is showcased as he continues to show His favor to Abraham and Sarah. It's also vivid testimony God's commitment to His word (Gn 12:3).

Application for Ancient Audience:

1. The Promise Keeper: Those about to enter the Promised Land have lived in a state of miserable oppression. We know from post-Civil War and Holocaust accounts that there can be overwhelming challenges associated with the transition to freedom. The original audience for this text needs the reassurance of God's promise to Abraham for a land of their own and blessings, but also the comfort in knowing that God will oppose the enemy (Gn 12:2-3). The fulfillment of God's promise with respect to adversaries is dramatically illustrated in Gn 20. Insight into God's dealings with the "bad guys" will come in handy.

2. Human leaders aren't perfect... Abraham's deception illustrates the "humanness" of those to whom He has entrusted much. God's agents on earth are not to be deified... they are "mere mortals."

3. ... But, God has given authority to chosen leaders, despite their shortcomings, and there is divine protection along the path they forge. This will be an important reminder as new leaders rise up (e.g., Moses) and assume the task of bringing unity and common purpose to a newly liberated and struggling group.

4. God is consistent and utterly trustworthy. Repetition of this scenario, with its favorable outcome for God's people (2x for Abraham, 1x for Isaac), is powerful testimony to God's loyalty and loving oversight in the face of considerable risk.

An interesting "aside": Abimilech, who invokes "Adonay," (20:4) (non-literal usage/NASB Key Word Study Guide) has experienced the wrath of God... yet there is no evidence that he converted to faith (his descendant, also named Abimilech, is a future king: ref. Gn 26.) I'm thinking that if I were Abimilech... I'd be moving on down the road with Abraham... or extending a big, old over-sized welcome mat...

Research tools: Bible (NET version), NASB Key Word Study Bible, Moody Atlas, Victor Hamilton's "Handbook to the Pentateuch," Strong's Concordance, DTS OT History course materials (J. Allman).

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