God speaks to Abraham
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Genesis chapters 12-24
Marie Wetherill and Keith Simons
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
We do not know who wrote the Book of Genesis. And we do not know when that person wrote the book. There is an ancient tradition that Moses was the author. Modern Bible students have many other ideas. But we can see that Genesis is a very old book. Even the oldest books in the Bible refer to it (for example, Exodus 3:15; Job 28:25-29).
The author was not merely collecting ancient stories. And he was not merely recording ancient history. In fact, Genesis is a very careful account, which teaches the main principles in the Bible. The author describes the nature of God. The author explains God’s plan for a perfect world. The author describes *sin and *sacrifice. He speaks about God’s promise to forgive. And, he speaks about God’s promise to send Jesus. The Bible teaches that the author was not merely setting out his own ideas. Instead, the author wrote by the Holy Spirit of God.
God had a wonderful plan for Abram and his *descendants. So, God told Abram to leave his home and his father’s family. Abram did not know where he was going. But he trusted God. So, Abram set out on his journey.
God promised that Abram’s *descendants would become a great nation. Abram did not know how this could happen. His wife, Sarai, had no children. But Abram trusted that God could make this happen.
God also promised that Abram, by his *descendant, would *bless everyone in the world. This was a great promise. Again, Abram did not realise how this would happen. But perhaps he knew about God’s promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15. Today, of course, we know about Jesus. He died so that God would forgive our *sin. Because of Jesus, everyone who trusts him becomes a friend of God. But Abram did not know about such things. He just heard God’s promise. He trusted God. So he obeyed God.
But Abram was not a perfect man. He did not always trust God completely. Soon, there would not be enough food. Abram did not stay in the place where God had taken him. Instead, he went elsewhere. And there was trouble for Abram in that other place, because Abram was not completely honest. It seems that he preferred to trust his own clever ideas. Instead, he should have continued to trust God.
Verse 1 The *Hebrew word here for ‘nation’ is the one that the *Jews used for the Gentile nations. (That is, all the nations that were not *Jews.) So, the word meant a large group of people that had a government and a country. It was not just a ‘*tribe’ that spoke the same language.
God chose Abram. And God called Abram to leave his home. Abram did not know where he was going (Hebrews 11:9). But he still trusted God.
Verses 2-3 Only God can make someone’s name great. The men at Babel tried to make themselves great, but they failed. The *Hebrew words here are words that could describe a king. Later, Abram was called a prince. And Sarai was called ‘the mother of kings’. Abram was not really a king or a prince. But he became an important man. And kings would be among his *descendants.
Abram could only give a *blessing to other people if he left Haran. God *blessed him so that he (Abram) could *bless other people.
God’s *blessing is for all. It is not just for the *Israelites. Later, Laban said to Jacob, ‘God has *blessed me because of you’ (Genesis 30:27). God *blessed the *household of Potiphar the *Egyptian because of Joseph (Genesis 39:5). The people in Egypt got food during the *famine because of Joseph. It was not only Jacob and his family that got food.
This promise was not just for Abram. It was also for his *descendants, called the *Israelites. Balaam repeated this promise when he was speaking about the *Israelites in Numbers 24:9. But especially, this promise was about Abram’s greatest *descendant (Galatians 3:16). The Bible has already spoken about this *descendant in Genesis 3:15. This *descendant would destroy the power of *sin and of the devil. This *descendant is Jesus (Matthew 1:1). And, by his death, Jesus frees people so that they become the sons of God (Galatians 4:4-7). And this *blessing, that we receive by means of Jesus, is for people from all nations (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Verses 4-5 Abram left home. God guided him. And Abram arrived at the country called Canaan.
Verse 7 Abram built an *altar for God’s honour. But some *ancestors of Abram had built a city or *tower for their own honour! Abram built the *altar and he prayed to God. His *worship included work as well as words.
Verses 8-9 Abram continued to travel through the land that God was giving to him. And Abram was grateful. He built another *altar.
Verses 10-20 Abram left the country that God had promised to him. Abram went to Egypt because he needed food. God would have taken care of Abram where he was. But Abram could not believe that.
We remember Abram because, especially, he trusted God. But Abram had to learn how to trust God. And Abram made some serious mistakes as he learned.
Verse 10 The country called Canaan did not have regular rain. Often, there was not enough food there. Egypt was flatter and the River Nile provided water.
Later, the *Israelites went to Egypt because there was not enough food in Canaan (Genesis 47:4). So, perhaps people in Canaan often had to go to Egypt in order to buy food.
Verses 11-13 Abram thought that he needed to lie in order to protect himself. We can see that Abram was not trusting God. Abram’s story was partly true. Sarai and Abram had the same father but different mothers. But Abram was pretending that Sarai and Abram were not married. So the story was still a lie.
Verses 14-15 Abram was right. Sarai was attractive. *Pharaoh believed that Sarai was Abram’s sister. So, *Pharaoh took her as a wife (verse 19).
Abram got rich because of this situation, but *Pharaoh suffered from plagues. (Plagues are very bad things that affect very many people. They include diseases and large quantities of insects.) In that way, God showed that he punishes *sinners. They may not know that they are *sinning. But even then, God punishes them. *Pharaoh knew that *adultery was wrong. He saw that God was *blessing Abram.
Abram had travelled with his nephew, called Lot. Like Abram, Lot was a *righteous man (2 Peter 2:7-8). So, Lot wanted to do the right things. But there was a problem with Lot’s character. Wealth tempted Lot. In time, it became too difficult for Abram and Lot to live together. Lot wanted to live in a place where he could become more wealthy. He did not seem to care that he would be living near wicked men. Their deeds would upset Lot greatly. But Lot still chose to live with them.
Lot’s attitudes were like the attitudes of many Christians today. They are glad to be Christians. And the wicked behaviour of other people upsets them. But those Christians allow wealth to tempt them. They may even do things that they should not do, because of money. They themselves are not evil people. But their wrong attitudes cause them many troubles. And they cannot trust God completely because of their wrong ambitions.
Abram was different. He did not care about wealth. He knew that God had led him to Canaan. And he knew that God had given his (Abram’s) wealth to him. So, Abram allowed Lot to choose whatever land he (Lot) wanted. And Abram was confident, because he trusted God. God would give to Abram whatever land Abram needed.
Afterwards, God repeated his promise to Abram. God promised Abram the country in which Abram was now living. Abram was in the right place. This was the country that God had chosen for Abram and his *descendants.
Verse 2 Abram was ‘very’ rich. And the *famine had been ‘very’ bad (Genesis 12:10). In both those cases, the writer uses the same word for ‘very’.
Verse 3 Abram was eager to return to the country that God had promised to him. And he was eager to keep in close friendship with God.
Verse 6 Abram had received more animals from *Pharaoh. All Abram's animals needed grass to eat. So he needed more land for the animals.
Verse 8 Abram said that the men should not quarrel. Close relatives should not quarrel. He said that they should separate. Then they would be friendly again. They must not live near to each other, because that caused them to quarrel.
Verse 9 Abram was generous and he let Lot choose first.
Verse 12 From this verse, we get the idea that Lot was willing to live outside Canaan. Lot was selfish. He chose the place that he liked best. He thought that it was the best place to live. But the reasons for his decision were wrong. People must respect older people and parents. Abram was older than Lot. And Abram cared about Lot. In Sodom, Lot would live near wicked people. But Lot did not worry about that.
Lot put up tents close to Sodom so that his animals could eat grass in that area.
Verse 13 The writer gives us some idea about the trouble that the wicked people in Sodom would cause.
Verses 14-15 God told Abram more about his (God’s) promise. All the land that Abram could see would become his (Abram’s) country. God would give it to Abram himself. God would not give it just to Abram’s *descendants. God said that it would always belong to Abram.
Verses 16-17 Abram’s *descendants would be so many that nobody would be able to count them. God will *bless us when we trust him completely. Abram walked through the country. He was showing that one day he would own the country.
Verse 18 Abram built another *altar for the *Lord’s honour. Abram wanted to thank God for his goodness.
Many *tribes lived in the area. Each *tribe had its own chief man or king. Those kings sometimes came together to help each other. They came together because they wanted to fight against a more powerful *tribe. Or they wanted to defeat a smaller *tribe and then they would have power over that *tribe. Then the smaller *tribe that they had defeated had to pay regular taxes to them. Or that *tribe had to serve them.
At first, Abram did not join in with these battles. But then one side attacked Sodom, where Lot lived. That side overcame the men from Sodom. So, the people from Sodom, including Lot, became prisoners. Lot was Abram’s nephew. So, Abram decided that he would rescue Lot. Abram was not a king and he did not have an army. Abram was a farmer. But he was wealthy. He had many employees and many slaves. These men were strong men and they would fight for Abram. Abram also had three important friends, called Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. They too were willing to fight for Abram.
Abram attacked by night, and he was very successful. He managed to rescue all the people from Sodom, including Lot. And he also took back all their possessions. Abram could have kept these possessions. But he did not want to. These possessions belonged to wicked men. Abram trusted God. So, Abram did not want wicked men to make him rich.
As Abram returned, he met a king called Melchizedek. Like Abram, Melchizedek *worshipped the real God. In fact, Melchizedek was a priest of God. Hebrews chapter 7 explains the importance of this. Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Unlike other priests, Melchizedek did not become a priest because of his family. And Hebrews 7:7 even says that Melchizedek was a greater person than Abram. The Bible only mentions Melchizedek briefly. But we can learn many things about Jesus from the story of Melchizedek.
Verses 1-12 The 4 kings (Chedorlaomer and his friends) set out on their journey, with their armies. Along the way, they defeated several *tribes that lived in Canaan.
Then, those 4 kings defeated the 5 kings from the area round the Salt Sea (also called the Dead Sea). These 5 kings were Bera the king of Sodom, with his friends. Each king had brought an army with him.
(In the end, Abram would come and he would defeat Chedorlaomer.)
Verses 3, 8 and 10 The 4 kings fought against the 5 kings in the valley called Siddim. Later, the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) flooded that valley. So, after that, the valley was under water.
Verse 10 ‘Some men fell into the big holes.’ This has two possible meanings. Maybe the king of Sodom and his men hid in the holes. Or maybe some men fell into them and they died. The king of Sodom escaped.
Verses 11-12 We already know that Lot was Abram’s nephew. But the writer tells us that fact again here. Abram rescued Lot because Lot was Abram’s nephew.
Verse 13 In the Bible, this is the only time when Abram was called the ‘*Hebrew’. Usually, people that called *Israelites ‘*Hebrews’ were not *Israelites themselves.
Verses 14-16 Abram defeated Chedorlaomer and Abram rescued the prisoners. Then they all saw that Abram was very powerful.
Verse 15 Abram attacked the kings at night. So he was able to win, although he had fewer men.
Verse 18 The name Melchizedek comes from the *Hebrew words ‘malki’ and ‘tsedeq’. ‘Malki’ means ‘my king’ and ‘tsedeq’ means ‘*righteous’. So Melchizedek means ‘my king is *righteous’ or ‘king of everything *righteous’ (Hebrews 7:2). ‘Salem’ means peace. It is possible that Salem is the same city as Jerusalem. But usually, when people wanted to make a name shorter, they cut off the end of the name. They did not usually cut off its beginning. Melchizedek is the first priest that the writer mentions in Genesis. Melchizedek *worshipped God, as Abram did. The same person was not usually both a king and a priest. But Melchizedek was both.
Verse 19 Melchizedek *blessed Abram. Melchizedek did not merely pray that God would be kind to Abram. Melchizedek spoke these words as a priest. In other words, he was speaking by God’s Holy Spirit. And Melchizedek’s words reminded Abram about the words that God had spoken to him (Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 13:14-17).
Verse 20 Abram wanted to show honour to Melchizedek. So Abram gave him a special gift.
Verse 21 Abram won the right to take the people and their possessions. The king of Sodom realised this. So he offered the possessions to Abram. The king of Sodom would allow Abram to keep the possessions, if Abram returned the people to Sodom.
Verses 22-24 Abram did not agree to keep the possessions. He remembered that he had a duty to serve God. The possessions from Sodom could make Abram very rich. But now Abram did not want anyone except God to make him (Abram) rich. Abram certainly did not want to accept any gift from the wicked people from Sodom. Later, God could not find any good people in Sodom, except Lot.
However, Abram was fair to the men who fought with him. He allowed them a share of the objects that they had won.
This chapter shows again that God was helping Abram. Abram knew that God made him successful. Abram had only a small group of men. But with them, he was able to defeat large, powerful armies that had defeated many other armies.
Abram trusted God. And this attitude guided the decisions that Abram made.
Abram left his father’s family because Abram trusted God. Abram did not even know where God was sending him. Later, Abram refused any reward from the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:21-24). Abram did not want an evil man to make him rich.
And so, God spoke to Abram again. God himself would be Abram’s reward (verse 1). Or, the same words may mean that God would give a great reward to Abram. And so, Abram prayed for a son. This prayer was not a selfish prayer. God had already promised that Abram’s family would become a great nation (Genesis 12:2). And God would *bless people from all nations by means of Abram’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). So, Abram’s prayer in verses 2-3 was that God’s promise would happen. God repeated his promises in verses 4-5. But Abram still had to trust God. Abram was already old, but he had no children yet.
Then God also promised the country called Canaan (later called Israel) to Abram’s *descendants. Abram was already living there. But Abram’s *descendants would not rule the country soon. They would have to wait for 400 years until the time that God had chosen. And those 400 years would end with an awful time. Abram’s *descendants would become slaves. And the inhabitants of Canaan would become very wicked. But God had a plan. And he would do everything that he promised.
Verse 1 ‘After that’ may mean some time later, rather than immediately. Abram had refused a reward from the King of Sodom. God promised Abram a much greater reward.
Verses 2-3 The *Hebrew text here is difficult. A servant could *inherit goods if his owner had no children. That was a custom. Such a servant was usually young. His master would adopt him as a son.
We do not know anything about Eliezer. But perhaps he is the same man as Abram’s chief servant in chapter 24. If so, Eliezer was very loyal to his master.
Verse 4 It was not God’s plan that Eliezer would *inherit. God wanted to *bless people from every nation by means of Abram. God’s plan was that Jesus would be one of Abram’s *descendants.
Verse 5 God promised that Abram would have his own child, grandchildren, many great-grandchildren and so on.
Verse 6 Abram was not perfect, but he believed God. So God *judged him as not *sinful. We should believe that Jesus died for us. Then God will *judge us as not *sinful (Romans chapter 4).
This is a very important verse. We cannot please God because of our own efforts. We can only please God if we trust him. Paul repeats this verse in Galatians 3:6. And Hebrews 11:8-9 explains how Abram trusted God.
Verse 7 This verse is like Genesis 28:13 and Exodus 3:6. God showed Abram who God himself really is. God is always the only real God. There is no other real God. It was the same God who called Abram. It was the same God who guided Abram to the country called Canaan. And it was the same God who was making these promises to Abram. So, Abram could continue to trust God.
Verses 8-11 This was a special ceremony called the *covenant. Enemies used to make a *covenant at the end of a war. Each side made serious promises. They killed animals. But Abram’s *covenant was different. He did not make this *covenant with another man. Abram’s *covenant was with God.
Verse 12 Abram was a friend of God. So, God told Abram about his plans (Genesis 18:17-19). God’s plans for Abram’s family were good, but there would be many terrible troubles. Abram waited for God to speak.
Verses 13-16 God told Abram that his *descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years. The time that the writer meant was ‘about’ 400 years rather than exactly 400 years.
In the Book of Exodus, you can read about the events that God described. All these events actually happened. In the end, God used Moses to free his people. God led them back to the country called Canaan. And God gave them success in war. (See the Book of Joshua.) So God gave the country to Abram’s *descendants. These things happened as God had said.
Verse 17 When two people made a *covenant, they usually cut an animal into two halves. Then they walked between the halves. Here, only the pot and the burning object went between the halves. Abram did not. God alone made the *covenant. The pot and the burning object (with smoke and fire) showed that God was present. God often showed that he was present by means of smoke and fire.
Verses 18-21 This *covenant is different from later *covenants. In the later ones, someone on each side made promises. But in this one, only God made promises. Abram did not make any promises. Abram just had to trust God. God would do everything else.
In Genesis chapters 12 to 15:
· We can call Abram a *prophet because he had messages from God.
· We can call Abram a priest because he built *altars. And he offered *sacrifices on them.
· We can call Abram a king because he went to war like a king.
God had promised a son to Abram. But Sarai, Abram’s wife, thought that she was too old to have a baby. So, she suggested that Abram should have a baby with Hagar. Hagar was a slave who worked as Sarai’s maid.
Sarai’s idea was a natural solution to Abram’s problem. But it was not God’s solution. God wanted Abram to continue to trust him. God’s plan was that Sarai would be the mother of Abram’s son. And God wanted that son to be born as the result of God’s promise (Galatians 4:23).
There was an important reason for God’s plan. God’s promise was not merely to any son of Abram. It was to Abram’s special *descendant, who is Christ (Galatians 3:16). And, by means of Christ, Christians become the sons of God (Galatians 4:6). But nobody can please God by his or her own natural efforts. So, nobody can become a real Christian by natural methods. We have to trust God to become Christians. Then we shall receive the things that God has promised.
Abram too needed to learn to trust God. Abram made many mistakes. But, when Abram trusted God, Abram pleased God. And then God gave to Abram the things that he (God) had promised.
God still cared about Abram’s first son, although that son was born in the natural way. That son was called Ishmael, and his mother was Hagar. God even made promises about Ishmael. And Abram also cared about Ishmael. But Ishmael’s behaviour would cause trouble for Abram (Genesis 21:8-11). Abram had to send Ishmael away in order to protect Abram’s second son, called Isaac. Isaac was the son whom God had promised to Abram (Galatians 4:29-30).
Verse 1 From this verse, we learn what the chapter is about. At that time, Sarai had no children. But God had promised children to her a long time before. Hagar was a slave. *Pharaoh probably gave her to Abram when Abram and Sarai left Egypt.
Verses 2-6 Sarai gave orders to both Abram and Hagar.
Sometimes when people had no children, it would be a punishment from God. But that was not so here.
People considered that it was very important to have children. So, wives without children thought that they had failed. At that time, it was common for a maid to have children for her female boss. Therefore Sarai suggested that Hagar should have Abram’s child. It may seem as if she was right to do that. However, we think that she was wrong. God had promised a son to Abram and Sarai. So they could have trusted God to carry out his promise. He knew the best time for it, and he would do it then.
Verse 2 Abram listened to his wife. So, Sarai took Hagar and she gave Hagar to Abram, Sarai’s husband. At that time, people did not think that a man should have only one wife.
These events happened 10 years after they came to Canaan. So God had shown that he had carried out his promise to give them a country. But still God had not yet carried out his promise to give *descendants. (Look at Genesis 15:2.)
Verse 4 When Hagar got *pregnant, Sarai’s plan seemed successful. But there was trouble. Sarai became jealous of Hagar. Hagar had become *pregnant, but Sarai had not. And Hagar’s attitudes were also wrong. She should have been grateful for the opportunity that Sarai had given her.
Verse 5 Sarai blamed Abram. And she also blamed Hagar because Hagar had become proud. Sarai almost *cursed Abram. The *Hebrew text has ‘Let the *Lord *judge between you and me.’ We would say ‘It is your fault that I am unhappy.’
Verse 6 Abram did not try to make things right. He did not tell Sarai that her attitude was wrong. Instead, he told Sarai to act as she wanted towards Hagar.
But Abram should have protected Hagar because she was like his wife. And she would soon become the mother of his son.
Sarai was cruel to Hagar. So, Hagar ran away.
Hagar ‘ran away’. The writer used the same *Hebrew word when the *Israelites ran away from Egypt.
Verse 7 The writers in the *Old Testament mention ‘the *angel of the *Lord’ 58 times. And they mention the ‘*angel of God’ 11 times. The *angels appear as men, but people know them later as *angels. Some people think that God himself appeared here. Hagar was on her way to Egypt.
Verse 8 The *angel called Hagar by her name and he also called her Sarai’s maid. God knew where Hagar had come from. Similarly in Genesis 3:9, he knew where Adam was. And in Genesis 4:9, he knew what Cain had done to Abel. Hagar was honest. So she said that she had run away.
Verses 9-10 Three times we read that the *angel of the *Lord spoke to Hagar. It shows that God really cared about Hagar. Everything that he said was really important. God was sending her back to Sarai. That would be difficult for Hagar. She needed to receive confidence from God that it was right. God’s promise about many *descendants would encourage her. This was a wonderful promise for a woman who was just a slave.
Verse 11 The *angel promised a son to Hagar. The son would be called Ishmael. That name means ‘God hears’. God had heard Hagar. God did not promise that Hagar would have relief from difficulties. But Hagar knew that God would be with her in the difficulties.
Verse 12 Ishmael would have a tendency to make war. He would not behave in the way that other people expected him to behave. He would be a wanderer. He would do whatever he wanted.
Verse 13 Hagar recognised that it was an *angel. When she realised that, the *angel disappeared. Hagar said, ‘You are God, who sees me.’ She knew that God cared about her.
Verse 14 The well is always there. Whenever people see it, they can remember God’s care. That was also true when people saw Ishmael.
Verse 15 Hagar had a baby called Ishmael for Abram. Abram named him. Maybe Abram was protecting Hagar in that way. The writer does not mention Sarai here, although Sarai intended Ishmael to be her son.
Verse 16 God can take a very long time to carry out his promises. Abram’s age here makes us remember that.
This chapter shows how God cares about those that are suffering. Hagar was just a slave who was suffering. But God listened to her. And he took care of her. Hagar believed God’s message and she obeyed.
This chapter is very important. In it, Abram’s name becomes Abraham. (See 17:4, 5.) God also changes his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah. (See 17:15.) God told Abraham more about his (God’s) promises. God told Abraham that he (Abraham) would be the father (*ancestor) of many nations. So Abraham would not only be the father of just one nation! Abraham was already living in the country that God promised to him. God added that he had promised ‘the whole country’ to Abraham. God told Abraham that there would be kings in his family. And God told him that Sarah, his old wife, would be the mother of his child. God said that this *covenant will last always.
In two ways, God showed clearly that he had made the *covenant. He gave new names to Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah). And he ordered the male members of their family to receive *circumcision. That would show that they were joining into the *covenant with God.
Verse 1 Ishmael was already 13 years old. Still Sarah had no child. That emphasises how wonderful Isaac’s birth would be. It could not happen in the usual way. Only God could make it happen.
This *Hebrew for ‘God who can do anything’ is El-Shaddai. It appears several times in Genesis. And it appears twice elsewhere. The writer of Genesis uses it often when God promises *descendants to someone.
God told Abraham to walk with him. This means that Abraham should live in the right way. He should do what God wants. So then God would always be with him and Abraham would know it. (And Abraham would do whatever God wanted.)
Verse 3 Abraham *bowed down with his face close to the ground. In that way, he was *worshipping God.
Verses 4-8 First, God said what he would do in the *covenant. God told Abraham more about his (God’s) promises. Abraham would be the father (*ancestor) of many nations rather than just one. God mentioned the words ‘*descendants’, ‘nations’ and ‘father’ several times here. God’s *covenant will last always. God promised always to be the God of Abraham’s family. Several *Hebrew words here are like the name Abraham, which means ‘father of many people’.
Verse 5 The meaning of names was important to people at that time. God would do as he promised. Abraham’s new name showed this. God would give a son to Abraham and Sarah. And they would have many *descendants from that son. So Abraham would really be the ‘father of many people’.
Verse 6 God promised that some *descendants of Abraham will be kings. This was the first time that God made this special promise.
Verse 7 God would be the God of Abraham’s *descendants. They would be his special people.
Verse 8 God repeated his promise about the country called Canaan. The whole country would belong to Abraham’s *descendants.
Verses 9-13 In Canaan, many *tribes already practised that custom. Many that were near Canaan practised it too. Such people usually *circumcised a boy when he was becoming a man. But God tells Abraham to *circumcise babies too. And Abraham must also *circumcise all the men and boys. The *circumcision shows that they are part of God’s family. *Circumcision is evidence to show the *covenant.
Verse 14 God said that every male *Jew should receive *circumcision. Anyone who refused was not obeying the *covenant with God. So that man was not joining in with the *covenant. And he would not continue to belong to God’s people. That man’s family would send him away.
The *Jews continue to follow the tradition of *circumcision, even today. But they did not always follow it. See Joshua 5:2-5.
The first Christians had to think carefully about this tradition. You can read their decision in Acts chapter 15 and the Book of Galatians. Galatians 5:6 explains the attitude of Christians today.
Verses 15-16 God promised that Sarah would have a son. This could not happen in the natural way. Sarah was too old. But God’s promise was clear. Whole nations would be among her *descendants. Sarai means ‘my princess’. Perhaps it showed what her parents thought about her. But Sarah means ‘Princess’ and it shows God’s plans for her. That gave her greater honour.
Verses 17-21 Abraham was joyful. But he did not know how God would carry out his promise. So, Abraham spoke to God about Ishmael. Abraham wanted a *blessing for Ishmael. God knew Abraham’s thoughts and God made promises for Ishmael. But God also made promises about Isaac, who would be Sarah’s son. Isaac would be the son that God had chosen. God had promised that special son, Isaac, to Abraham and Sarah 25 years before.
Verses 23-27 Abraham obeyed God immediately. Abraham received *circumcision. So did Ishmael, and every male who lived with Abraham. This included Abraham’s male slaves.
This chapter is very important. God would do what he promised. Otherwise, Isaac would not have been born. And there would be no nation called Israel. Abraham showed his family how they should live. He obeyed God immediately. Abraham obeyed God even before God gave Isaac to him. God’s *covenant was still there, even when the people in Israel started to oppose God. It was there even when they *sinned.
1. that he would always be Abraham’s God;
2. that Abraham would have very many *descendants;
3. that Abraham’s family would have their own country.
The *New Testament teaches more about God’s *covenant. Because of Jesus, people who are not *Jews can join in with God’s *covenant. God had promised to *bless his people. And Christ made God’s *blessing complete.
In the *Old Testament, there are several passages where the writer mentions ‘*circumcision of the heart (or mind)’. (Look at Leviticus 26:41; Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4.) *Circumcision was physical evidence that people obeyed God. But ‘*circumcision of the heart’ meant that *Israelites had to obey God in every way. That included what they thought. It included what they said. And it included what they did. In the *New Testament, Paul talks about that. He discusses it in his letter to the Romans (chapters 2-4).
Soon after Abraham received *circumcision, three visitors came to see him. Abraham did not know who the visitors were. But he gave them great honour. By means of the visitors, God gave a message to Abraham. Sarah would have her baby, called Isaac, during the next year. But Sarah did not believe God’s message. She laughed at the idea. She thought that she was much too old to have a baby.
Abraham’s visitors were travelling to the city called Sodom. The people in Sodom were very wicked. God had decided to punish them severely. But God did not want to do anything until he had discussed the matter with Abraham. So, God had a conversation with Abraham about Sodom. We can learn many things about Abraham’s relationship with God from that conversation.
Verses 1-2 Abraham had rested during the hottest part of the day. However, he gave a very friendly welcome to the three visitors. It was the custom to be kind to all visitors.
Abraham did not know that one visitor was the *Lord. And he did not know that the other visitors were special too. He looked up and he saw them near him. They ‘appeared’. That shows that they were special. Abraham thought that he was slow to give them a welcome. So he ran to them and he *bowed down. When someone *bowed low, that action showed great honour. People may also *bow down when they *worship God.
Verse 3 Abraham respected his visitors greatly. He did not know that his visitors were special. But he spoke to them as if they were special.
Verse 4 Abraham offered things that would make travellers feel much better on a hot day. He offered water for them to drink. He offered water for them to wash their feet. And he invited them to rest under a tree that gave shade.
Verse 5 Abraham did not say how big a meal he would prepare. Otherwise, the men might have said ‘no’. Abraham was kind to them. But he said rather that their visit was a *blessing for him. That was true, although Abraham did not understand it yet.
Verses 6-8 Abraham asked Sarah to prepare a very large amount of food. He gave the best food that he had. Later, people would give such food as a *sacrifice to God. But Abraham gave it to three strangers.
Verses 9-15 God again promised a son. This time he said that the son would be born to Sarah. She was not actually with the men then. But she heard it and she laughed. Sarah could not believe that, at last, she would have a son. She did not believe that it could be true.
The visitors asked where Sarah was. However, they knew that she had made loaves for them. They knew her name. That showed that they were not ordinary men. Maybe they were showing to Abraham that they were not ordinary visitors.
The most important visitor promised to ‘come back’. Elsewhere in the *Old Testament, this is what it means. It means that the person would come back to *bless someone. And here it may mean this. The son that God had promised would certainly come. It was as certain as if they already had their son. And the *Lord emphasised that it would happen very soon.
Sarah laughed to herself. Sarah thought that the visitor could not see her. But he knew that she laughed. That showed to Abraham and Sarah that the visitor was special. It showed that they could believe his promise.
The writer says again that Sarah was old. In that way, he emphasises that God was doing a miracle. (A miracle is a great thing that only God can do. People would normally think that it was impossible.) The conversation about Sarah’s laughter contained their son’s name, Isaac. Isaac means ‘he or she laughed’.
The writer has already explained how God destroyed the earth by means of the flood (Genesis chapter 7). This story about how God destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah is rather similar. In both stories, God saved one family. Before the flood, God had shut the door of the *ark. And here God’s *angel shut the door of Lot’s house. In the flood, God had sent water down from the sky. He had sent rain down onto the earth. And here, he sent fire and *sulphur down onto Sodom. During the flood, God had remembered Noah. And here he remembered Abraham. Afterwards, in both stories, the family’s father became *drunk and his children *sinned against him. The writer wrote this section in a very careful way.
Verse 16 Abraham went with his visitors to lead them on their journey. They stopped to look at Sodom. And so this story about how God punished Sodom began.
Verses 17-21 This passage shows how important Abraham was in God’s plan. And we also learn what God thought about the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God had thought similar things about the earth before the flood (Genesis chapter 6). And Noah, like Abraham, had been very important in God’s plan.
Verse 19 Here, ‘I have chosen him’ means ‘I have known him.’ God knows each person among us. He was helping Abraham to become his (God’s) friend. God gave a short list of Abraham’s duties. He told Abraham to bring up his family in God’s way. That meant that they should obey God. And they should act fairly. God can only carry out his promises to us completely when we continue to obey him.
To act fairly may mean to do the right things to other people.
Verse 20 The *Lord probably spoke in such a way that Abraham could hear.
Verse 21 The *Lord has to be completely sure that somebody really deserves a certain punishment. He does not punish any group of people before he is sure about that. God ‘went down’ to the earth before the flood. And he ‘went down’ to the *tower at Babel too. And here also, he ‘went down’. In each case, God had heard protests that the people were *sinning very much. So he went to make sure that the people really had *sinned as much as that.
In the original *Hebrew text, the writer mentions ‘the protests that have come to me’. That is a closer translation. It may mean the sufferers’ cries. It may mean that God cannot leave *sin without punishment, because he is *holy. In Genesis 4:10, we read this. ‘Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’ God knows when someone has *sinned. He knows it as certainly as if the sufferer has told him about it. God wants all people to ask him for help. Then he would save them. But if people do not want his help, he has to punish them because of their *sin. He does not want to punish people, but he has to do it.
God thought that Sodom might still have a slight chance to avoid punishment. If they had not *sinned so badly, then he would know it (verse 21).
Abraham understood that. So he asked God to save the city if he (God) could find a few ‘good’ people in it (verses 23-32). Maybe God was testing Abraham. Maybe God wanted to discover whether Abraham would ask that thing. Abraham was not asking just for his own family. He did not mention Lot. Abraham trusted that God would do the right thing.
Verse 22 This verse shows that two visitors were *angels, but one visitor was the *Lord. (The *Lord did not enter Sodom, because it was too wicked. And the *angels did not want to stay there.)
Verses 23-25 This was the first time in the Bible when a person started a conversation with God. God finished the conversation (verse 32).
This conversation was a special type of prayer. Abraham knew that God would use him to *bless all the nations (Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18). So, Abraham spoke on behalf of the wicked people in Sodom. He asked God to be kind, even to the wicked inhabitants of Sodom, because good people lived among them.
The Bible says that, in the end, God will destroy the whole earth by fire (2 Peter 3:10). But this event has not yet happened, because God is kind. First, God will separate good people from evil people (Matthew 13:36-43). But, of course, nobody is really good. We can only become friends of God because Jesus died for us. And we must trust God and invite him into our lives. So now, God is waiting for people to do this. He is patient, because he does not want anyone to suffer (2 Peter 3:8-9). But the time that he has chosen will come.
Verse 26 God listened to Abraham. And God agreed to do the thing that Abraham had requested. God would count the good people in Sodom. If there were more than 50, God would save the whole city because of them.
Verses 27-28 Abraham probably realised that there were less than 50 good people in Sodom. The people there were very wicked. So, Abraham asked God to save the city if there were only 45 good people.
Abraham was very bold to continue his prayer. But he had seen how God listened to his (Abraham’s) previous request. Jesus taught that we should always pray. We should not give up (Luke 18:1).
Verses 29-32 Abraham’s prayer continued. In the end, God agreed to save the city if 10 good people lived there. Abraham knew about Lot and his (Lot’s) family. But Abraham did not know whether any other good people lived there. Lot’s two daughters were engaged to men from the city. Perhaps Abraham hoped that Lot had convinced these families to serve God.
Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Lot wanted to live near Sodom because the land there was better for his animals (chapter 13). But in chapter 19, Lot had moved his home into Sodom itself. Lot was a *righteous man, but the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked. It seems that they made a bad impression on Lot’s family.
God had decided to kill the people in Sodom because of their wicked behaviour. But God does not punish *righteous people. God even promised Abraham that he (God) would first count the *righteous people in Sodom. If there were 10 *righteous people, God would save the whole city because of them. But there were not 10 *righteous people in Sodom. So when the *angels arrived in Sodom, their task was to save Lot and his family.
But even that task was difficult. The men in Sodom were so wicked that they tried to have sex with the *angels. And even Lot’s own family did not want to leave. The men who wanted to marry his daughters refused to leave. Lot’s wife looked behind her as she left. It seems that she still wanted to be in Sodom. So, she died with the people in Sodom.
Lot himself did not want to escape to the mountains. God saved a little town called Zoar so that Lot could go there. And when Lot was safe in Zoar, God destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. This event warns us that, in the end, God will punish evil people. God will only save us from this punishment if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.
Verses 1-2 Lot was sitting at the gate of the city. At the gate, elders met together to make judgements. (Elders were important citizens that the people respected.) Maybe the people respected Lot because he was honest. Or maybe he was sitting there to avoid the people in the city. Perhaps he wanted to avoid them because they were so wicked. Perhaps the citizens did not want him to be with them.
Lot gave a big welcome to the visitors and he respected them greatly. Lot knew how wicked the people in Sodom were. And so he did not want the visitors to be in the street at night. We do not know why the visitors did not want to stay with Lot. Maybe the visitors were just testing Lot. Maybe they were testing whether he wanted to do the right thing.
Verse 3 Lot almost pushed the visitors into his house! He fed them well.
Verses 4-5 Lot was kind to his visitors. But the men in Sodom were very cruel. They tried to force Lot’s visitors to have sex with them.
Verses 6-9 Lot went outside (verse 6). That shows how wicked all the people in Sodom were. Lot showed great courage. He was trying to protect his visitors. So, Lot went outside alone and he shut the door behind him. Lot offered to bring out his daughters. Then the men in Sodom could do whatever they wanted to them. That was an awful thing to offer. But Lot was desperate to protect his guests. And God protected Lot. God did not punish good people as well as wicked people.
Verses 10-11 In Hebrews 13:2 we read, ‘Always give a welcome to strangers because in that way some people have given a welcome to *angels. And those people did not know it!’ Here in Genesis chapters 18 and 19, we can see something similar. Lot did not know that the strangers were *angels. But he gave a welcome to them. In the end, Lot’s guests (the *angels) saved him. They shut the door. And they made the men blind.
The crowd still tried to get into Lot’s house, even when they were blind! They were completely evil. The *angels protected the house, so that nobody found the door.
Verses 12-14 Lot listened to the *angels’ message. He had just seen how completely evil his neighbours were. He was not responsible for his daughters’ future husbands. God was giving a last chance for them to escape from the city. Lot was brave enough to go out again. He went out to warn those men. But they laughed at him.
In Genesis 17:19, the name ‘Isaac’ meant ‘he laughed’. The name especially made people think about God’s *blessing. But here, when the husbands laughed at God, that was dangerous.
Verses 15-16 The *angels warned Lot that he should get out of Sodom quickly. Lot and his family needed to go immediately when daylight came. Lot probably had other married daughters in Sodom. Lot did not obey God immediately like Noah and Abraham did. Lot was in great danger. That shows again how evil the people in Sodom were. God showed great *mercy towards Lot. But the people in Sodom were so wicked that God had to punish them. That was because God is holy.
Verses 17-20 Lot appealed to God. He asked God to save Zoar.
Abraham had also appealed to God. He loved the people in Sodom and he cared about them. So he had asked God to save Sodom. Lot, however, was selfish when he asked God to save Zoar. Lot asked it because he needed a place to live. And Zoar was a city. He thought that it would be a better place to live than the mountains. Although the people there were not *righteous, it was only a small city. So maybe God would be willing to save it. But Lot still did not hurry. He still wanted to do things in his own way. He was not willing to trust that God knew best.
Verse 21 God answered Lot’s prayer for Zoar, although it was a selfish prayer. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah very quickly. The valley had been a very good place where food plants grew well. But now nothing would grow there. And one can still smell *sulphur there.
Verse 26 Lot’s wife did not obey the *Lord, and so the *Lord did not save her. She liked to live in Sodom and she did not want to leave. Maybe when she brought up her daughters, she did not teach them to trust God. Maybe she did not teach them to do the right things in their lives.
‘She became a column of salt.’ When we first read that, it may seem very strange! But when God destroyed the cities and the valley, he sent fire and *sulphur. And he used such great force that it pushed many substances from the ground into the air. Many substances mixed together. So, the air became full of some kind of salt. When Lot’s wife turned round, the wind blew the salt into her face. So, suddenly she could not breathe and she died. The salt was so thick that it quickly covered her body. So then, her dead body was just standing there like a column of salt.
Verses 27-29 God thought about Abraham, and God saved Lot because of Abraham’s prayer. God can save other people when we pray.
Verses 30-38 Lot soon left Zoar. God had promised to keep him safe there. But Lot did not trust God. Lot went to live in a cave with his daughters. He had been very rich. And he had lived in an area where crops grew easily. But now he lived in a cave. He owned just a few things and most people in his family were dead.
Like Noah, Lot drank too much. But Noah had first *worshipped God. And he did not get as deeply *drunk as Lot did. Lot’s daughters acted in a worse way towards their father than Noah’s son acted towards his father. Lot’s older daughter made things seem worse for her than they really were. There were young men not far away, whom she could marry. And neither girl suggested that they could go to Abraham for help. Lot got *drunk on the second night too. He did not know what his daughter had done on the first night. Even so, he was foolish. The daughters made their father *drunk. They knew that their actions were wrong. People realised that sex between close members in a family was wrong. However, God did not punish Lot’s *descendants because of that. In fact, the *descendants of both sons became important nations.
We do not know why Abraham went to live somewhere else. Maybe he felt too close to the place where the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah had been. God had destroyed those cities. The ash and other substances that came from there probably affected a large area. Maybe those substances spoilt the land where Abraham’s animals ate grass. He went south to live just outside Canaan.
Abraham was again afraid. So he said that Sarah was his sister. Abraham had done that in Egypt too (Genesis chapter 12). He did not think about the trouble that it might cause to other people. The punishment for *adultery was death. Abimelech did not belong to the nation that God had specially chosen. But God showed his *mercy to Abimelech. God spoke to him in a dream. God warned him in that way. Abimelech did not *sin, because God prevented him. Therefore God did not make him die.
Abimelech acted very well. He said that he was innocent. He said that his people were innocent. He did not get angry and he did not blame Abraham too severely. Abimelech respected Abraham because Abraham was a *prophet.
Verses 1-2 The writer has already told us that Sarah was a very beautiful woman (Genesis 12:14). Although Sarah was now old, she was still beautiful. Abraham was afraid that someone might kill him in order to marry Sarah. So, Abraham and Sarah pretended that they were not married.
Verse 3 For ‘a married woman’, the *Hebrew text could mean ‘a woman that an owner owns’. By means of Adam and Eve, God showed that a wife was her husband’s most precious possession. She was also a close companion, whom he loved very much. And she helped her husband much. Anyone that took a married woman away from her husband was *sinning greatly.
Verse 4 Abimelech did not touch Sarah, because God prevented him. We do not know how God prevented him. Maybe Abimelech was ill. He worried about his people. Abraham had worried similarly about the people in Sodom. Here, Abraham did not seem to be worried about Sarah. Maybe he thought, ‘It is very important that I should stay alive.’ Then he could have a son, as God had promised. So if Abraham stayed alive, he would be ‘helping’ God to carry out that promise. But God is able to carry out his promises. God does not need our help. We just need to trust him. God could take care of Abraham in any circumstance. Abraham should have known that. God considered *adultery as a *sin. But he kept Sarah safe. There was no possibility that Abimelech might be Isaac’s father.
Verse 7 Abimelech did not argue with God. He gave Sarah back to Abraham. God showed that Abraham was ‘special’. God told Abimelech that Abraham was a *prophet. Abraham would pray to God on behalf of Abimelech.
Verse 8-11 Abimelech respected Abraham’s God. Abimelech believed that God knew the truth about the situation. So Abimelech listened to God. Abraham had said that people in Gerar did not respect God. But Abimelech showed that Abraham had been wrong about that.
Abimelech acted better than *Pharaoh had acted earlier, in Egypt. Abimelech gave Abraham the opportunity to explain.
Abraham had acted badly. He had not told all the truth. He had not acted as a guest should act. That was very important. He had really believed that the people in Gerar did not respect God. But Abraham still went to live there.
Verse 12 Sarah was Abraham’s half-sister. That is, they had only one parent in common. Later, God did not allow men to marry their half-sisters. But here God probably did allow Abraham to do that.
Verse 13 Abraham had already prepared for a situation where some other man might want to take Sarah. Abraham had already told her to say everywhere that Abraham was her brother. So they were saying something that was only partly true. And they had even said it before they needed to do so. Abraham was not ready to trust God. Abraham took many years to learn that he should trust God in every situation.
Verses 14-16 Abimelech was very kind to Abraham. He gave Sarah back to Abraham. Abimelech also gave very great wealth to Abraham. He even invited Abraham to live in Gerar. 1000 *shekels was an enormous amount of money. A bridegroom usually gave a gift to his bride’s family so that he could marry the bride. But 50 *shekels was the biggest amount of money that a man would give for that. In Babylonia, an ordinary workman earned half a *shekel a month. Abimelech gave the money in order to settle the matter. He was showing that he was sorry about his actions. He was still sorry, although he had not acted on purpose. He repaid Sarah because she had suffered. Abraham took the money and the animals. He showed that he did not blame Abimelech.
Verse 17-18 It had become clear that the women in Gerar could not have children. So we think that Sarah was in Abimelech’s *household for several weeks or several months.
God sometimes caused women not to have children. And at other times he gave children to women. Both those facts are clear. For a long time, God caused Sarah not to have children. When, at last, a child was born, people would thank God very much for that. Because of that, they would know how very wonderful God is. Similarly in John 9:3, Jesus says this. ‘This man was blind when he was born, for this reason. God wants to show his power to people when I cure the man.’ God called Abraham a *prophet. God answered Abraham’s prayers for Abimelech. God did not expect Abraham to be ‘perfect’ before God answered his prayers.
At last, the son that God had promised was born to Sarah and Abraham. Both parents were very joyful at the birth of their child. Everybody had thought that Sarah was too old to have a baby. So they were especially happy when her son was born. Abraham named his son Isaac. Isaac means ‘laughter’. But Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, was not glad. Until Isaac was born, Ishmael was Abraham’s only son. Ishmael had become a young man. And Ishmael thought that, after Abraham’s death, he (Ishmael) would lead Abraham’s family.
The birth of Isaac changed everything for Ishmael. Ishmael was merely the son of a slave. He knew that he would never be as important as Isaac. So, Ishmael was cruel to Isaac. Abraham had to send Ishmael away. God told Abraham that he (God) would make Ishmael successful. But Abraham must look after Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s special son. Isaac was the son that God promised to Abraham.
Abraham made another *covenant (agreement) at this time. This was a peace agreement with the leaders of the people called *Philistines. Abraham lived in their country for a long time. He made his home there. And in that place, he prayed to God.
Verses 1-7 At last, when Abraham was very old, his special son was born. Abraham had to wait for a long time until this son was born. But God always does the things that he promises to do. We can always trust God.
Verse 1 Sarah probably did not see God. The writer means that God allowed her to become *pregnant. Isaac’s birth happened when Abraham and Sarah were very old. So it was a very wonderful thing, because it would have been impossible without God’s action. The writer emphasises how wonderful it was. (Look also at verses 2, 5 and 7.)
Verse 2 In Genesis 18:14, God told Abraham when the son would be born. So, Isaac’s birth happened at the time that God promised.
Verse 3 The father usually named a new baby. In that way, he showed that he accepted the baby into his family.
Verses 4-5 Abraham obeyed God’s command in Genesis 17:12.
Verse 6 The name ‘Isaac’ means ‘laughter’.
Verse 8 Isaac may have been nearly three years old at that time.
Verse 9 Ishmael was not still the most important son. He insulted Isaac because he (Ishmael) was jealous of Isaac’s importance in the family.
Verse 10 Sarah did not want trouble between Ishmael and Isaac. She realised that these troubles might become more serious. Isaac would become the head (leader) of the family when Abraham died. Sarah did not want Ishmael to oppose Isaac’s right to lead the family. Paul discusses this situation in Galatians 4:30. He explains that Isaac was born because of God’s promise. So, Isaac was born by the power of the Holy Spirit. But Ishmael was born in the natural way. Christians too should live by the power of the Holy Spirit. But other people live in an ordinary way. So, Christians should not be surprised if other people oppose them. And Christians should not copy the behaviour of people who are not Christians.
Verses 11-13 We can see that Abraham loved Ishmael. Ishmael was a son of Abraham. But Ishmael was not the son that God had chosen. However, God looked after Hagar and Ishmael.
Verse 14 Even when Abraham was sad, he was always willing to obey God immediately. And Abraham was confident about Ishmael because of God’s promise in verse 13.
Abraham tried to provide for Hagar and Ishmael. He gave them food and water. But Abraham was living near Beersheba. And Beersheba is near to the desert. Hagar and Ishmael were not used to life in the desert.
Verses 15-16 The desert is hot, and very dry. Hagar had a similar experience in Genesis 16:6-10. Ishmael had not yet been born then. Ishmael was now a youth. But he still became weak before Hagar did. Hagar was sure that he would die. She thought that the situation was hopeless.
Verses 17-18 Hagar did not need to feel hopeless. God had already made a promise about Ishmael’s future (Genesis 16:10; 17:20 and 21:13). But God heard Ishmael’s cry for help. And the *angel repeated God’s promise to Hagar.
Verse 19 For the second time, God provided water in the desert for Hagar.
Verses 20-21 Ishmael continued to live in the desert. It seems that he learned to live there. Ishmael married and he had 12 sons. Like Ishmael himself, Ishmael’s *descendants also lived in the desert. And they became a great nation, as God had promised (Genesis 25:13-18).
Verses 22-24 People knew very well that God was *blessing Abraham. Abraham had become a very wealthy man. He had many servants, and they looked after many animals. Abimelech and Phicol did not want to fight Abraham and his servants. So they asked for a peace agreement. And Abraham was pleased to agree with them. He also wanted peace.
Verses 25-26 Wells are very important in hot countries, where there is not much rain. Abraham and Abimelech wanted to deal with this matter. They did not want any arguments to damage their agreement.
Verses 27-28 Abraham gave gifts to Abimelech because Abimelech was the king. He was the king of that country where Abraham was living. Abraham could not prove that he dug the well. So he gave Abimelech a special gift for the well. This was a type of legal agreement in ancient times.
Abraham needed to make clear that he owned the well. So then he could get the water that he needed.
Verse 31 In the *Hebrew name ‘Beersheba’, the word ‘sheba’ means both ‘seven’ and ‘*oath’. ‘Beer’ means ‘well’.
Verse 32 This was a *covenant between two people. Usually, when two people made a *covenant, they often used the same words. For example, they promised to be ‘kind and loyal’. (Look at verse 23.)
Verse 33 Abraham planted a tree. He intended to live there. Then he would be able to see the tree and he could look after it. He chose that place as a place for prayer. As he prayed, he trusted God more. In chapter 22 we shall see how much Abraham had learned to trust God.
During his whole life, Abraham was learning to trust God more and more. In this chapter, it is clear that Abraham trusted God completely.
Abraham did not know why God was testing him. But Abraham could recognise God’s voice. Christians too should be able to recognise when God is guiding them to do something (John 10:2-5). But God has also provided other methods to guide Christians today. We can read the Bible. God never wants us to do anything that is against his instructions in the Bible. And God has also provided church leaders to help us. They are not always right. But we should listen carefully to their advice.
We might ask why God wanted Abraham to offer Isaac as a *sacrifice. The Bible clearly teaches that murder is wicked (Deuteronomy 5:17). The answer is that God never wanted Abraham to kill Isaac. God stopped Abraham before Abraham could hurt Isaac. So God had a different plan. God was not really asking Abraham to kill Isaac. In fact, God was asking Abraham to prove that he (Abraham) would always trust God.
Abraham did not know about God’s plan to save Isaac. But Abraham realised that God had such a plan. He told his servants that he would bring Isaac back to them (verse 5). He told Isaac that God would provide the *lamb for the *sacrifice (verse 8). Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He knew that God could even make dead people live again. And Abraham knew the promises that God made about Isaac. So, Abraham was confident that he could trust God. And Abraham was right. Abraham soon discovered that God’s plan was to save Isaac.
We can only really understand this event if we think about Jesus. If God had not stopped Abraham, Isaac would have died. But God had a plan to save Isaac. God provided that a sheep would die instead of Isaac. In the same way, we all deserve God’s punishment because of our evil deeds (Romans 6:23). But God sent his son, Jesus, to die in our place. And God will forgive us if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.
Verse 1 God does not tempt anyone to do an evil deed (James 1:13). God was testing Abraham. God wanted to see whether Abraham would trust him.
Verse 2 God said ‘your precious child’. The *Hebrew word for ‘precious’ may mean ‘only’. Abraham did have an older son, Ishmael. But Isaac was the only son that Sarah had given birth to. Isaac was the son that God had chosen especially.
The writer wrote this story very simply. Abraham did not argue with God. Abraham obeyed God immediately. God’s command here was very difficult for Abraham to obey. Abraham did not know how God would save Isaac. And God does not want anyone to *sacrifice people. He had promised that Abraham would have many *descendants by means of Isaac. Abraham had already lost Ishmael, whom he loved. (He had to send Ishmael away.) It would be terrible if Abraham lost Isaac too. Isaac could have refused to be a *sacrifice. He was strong enough to refuse. However, Abraham still trusted God. Abraham himself did everything that was necessary.
We do not know why God tested Abraham in that way. In other religions, people did *sacrifice children to their gods. But the Bible clearly teaches that it is wrong to *sacrifice children. Maybe God needed to show that fact to Abraham. Abraham would never forget what happened here. Nor would Isaac forget. Isaac was very special. His birth was a miracle (a very wonderful thing that cannot happen in a natural way). And in this chapter, God would save him from death. This story shows how God would later *sacrifice his own son, Jesus. So then, by means of Jesus, God would *bless all nations. (See Genesis 12:3.)
Verse 4 The journey to Moriah took three days.
Verse 5 We do not really know what Abraham was thinking. Maybe he really believed that he would come back to his servants with Isaac. Abraham did consider that God could bring Isaac back from death. (Look at Hebrews 11:19.)
Verses 6-8 Again, we do not really know what Abraham was thinking. Maybe he thought that God would provide a *lamb. And then Abraham would be able to *sacrifice the *lamb instead of Isaac.
Verse 9 Isaac was willing to obey Abraham. Isaac could have refused to obey.
Verses 10-11 God did not allow Abraham to hurt Isaac.
Verse 12 Abraham was willing to trust God for everything. God mattered more to Abraham than anything else.
Verses 13-14 The sheep died instead of Isaac. This event teaches us about God’s kindness. God does not want us to die because of our evil deeds. God provided Jesus to die as a *sacrifice. And if we invite Jesus into our lives, God will forgive us.
Verses 15-18 God was not making these great promises to Abraham as a prize. He did not make them just because Abraham was good. It was not just because Abraham offered Isaac. God is always good and *merciful to all kinds of people. He owes nothing to anyone. But some people do love God and they obey him. And he is pleased to *bless those people.
In verse 17, God promised Abraham that his (Abraham’s) *descendants would overcome their enemies. The gates of cities were very important places to defend.
Verses 20-24 The writer did not tell about everyone’s families here. He mentioned Nahor’s family because Isaac would marry Rebekah. And Rebekah was Nahor’s granddaughter.
When Sarah died, it was Abraham’s duty to bury her body. It was the custom to bury bodies soon after death. So, these events may have happened on the day when Sarah died, or the day after.
Abraham was living in the country that belonged to the family of Heth. He did not own any land there to use as Sarah’s grave. So he asked to buy some land. He wanted to bury Sarah near Mamre, where Abraham used to live (Genesis 18:1).
The members of Heth’s family respected Abraham and Sarah greatly. They offered to give the land to Abraham. But Abraham insisted that he would buy it. So, for the first time, Abraham bought land in the country called Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to Abraham’s *descendants (Genesis 17:8). Abraham knew that his *descendants would live away from Canaan for 400 years (Genesis 15:13). But Abraham trusted God’s promises. So, Abraham bought the land. He was confident that his *descendants would return there.
Verses 1-2 The writer mentions Sarah’s age when she died. Usually, the writer only mentioned the ages of men when they died. But he wanted to remind us that Sarah was very important.
Verses 3-5 Abraham was very polite to the members of Heth’s family. They said that they would give a grave to him. It was important for Abraham to pay for it. So then it was really his own property. He might have had to serve them in some way if he had not given money. That land was in the country that God had promised to Abraham. It was the first land that Abraham owned in that country. Abraham was showing that his *descendants would belong there.
Verse 6 In *Hebrew, ‘great prince’ might also mean ‘God’s prince’.
Verses 7-9 Abraham chose the land that he wanted to buy. He was happy to pay the proper price for it. He wanted the best grave for Sarah, whom he loved.
Verse 10 At the gate, people decided about important things. The important people met there. Abraham made sure that he did things properly. And the members of Heth’s family realised this.
Verse 11 Ephron’s words may mean that he wanted to give the land to Abraham. But perhaps Ephron was just being polite.
Verses 12-15 Abraham would not accept a gift. He wanted to pay.
Verse 16 It seems that Abraham probably paid a lot of money to Ephron. But we do not know how big the field was. Abraham did not argue about the price. He urgently wanted to have a place where he could bury Sarah.
Verses 17-20 Abraham became the legal owner of the field and the cave. They would always belong to his *descendants.
Abraham was a ‘foreigner’ and he had no rights among those people (verse 4). However, they called him ‘a great prince’ or ‘God’s prince’ (verse 6). We too are strangers on the earth, but God has chosen us.
Abraham believed that he would soon die. So he made sure that there would be a good wife for Isaac. The *Hebrews always told their sons not to marry *Canaanite women. Abraham cared very much about that. But he did not want Isaac to leave the country that God had promised. So, Abraham sent his chief servant to arrange Isaac’s marriage. Abraham wanted Isaac to marry one of Abraham’s own relatives. This was the custom, but Abraham also had a more important reason. He wanted Isaac’s wife to be a woman who would help Isaac to serve God.
The account in this chapter is very long. The writer gives many details in it. We learn a lot about Abraham from it. We learn how Abraham’s servants trusted him and his God. And the servants respected Abraham and his God.
Verse 1 God had *blessed Abraham in every way. But Isaac was still unmarried. Abraham knew that it was important for Isaac to marry. God had promised that Abraham would have many *descendants by Isaac.
Verses 2-4 To put one’s hand under a person’s *thigh meant to make a very serious *oath with that person. But we do not know exactly what it meant. The servant was very loyal to Abraham. The servant was very wise and careful in all his actions. And he was very wise and careful about everything that he said.
Abraham did not want Isaac to marry a woman from Canaan. Many people in Canaan were very wicked. And in Genesis 15:16, God had said that their evil deeds would become even worse in the future. Later, Esau would marry women from Canaan. And these women upset his family greatly (Genesis 26:34-35; 27:46; and 28:8).
Verses 5-9 The servant realised the importance of his task. So, he was careful to check that he understood everything properly.
Especially, the servant needed to know whether he could take Isaac back with him. Abraham was sure that he did not want Isaac to leave Canaan. God himself had led Abraham to Canaan. And God promised to give Canaan to Abraham’s *descendants. Abraham lived in Canaan because he trusted God’s promises. So, Abraham wanted Isaac to trust God’s promises too. This mattered more than even the choice of Isaac’s wife.
But Abraham was confident that the servant would succeed. He told the servant that God would send an *angel ahead of him. So, the servant would be able to bring back a good wife for Isaac.
Verse 10 Maybe the city was called Nahor. Or maybe Nahor lived there. It is not clear which the writer meant.
Verse 11 The servant was sensible. The women usually went to the well in the evening. So the servant went there at that time. He also trusted that God would lead him to the right wife for Isaac.
Verses 12-13 Abraham’s belief in God had impressed the servant greatly. In fact, Abraham’s belief probably affected every decision that he (Abraham) made. So, the servant called God, the ‘God of my master Abraham’.
Verse 14 The servant was very clever to make this test. It would show whether the woman was kind to strangers and animals. And it would show whether she was willing to work. Camels need a lot of water!
Verses 15-20 God answered the servant’s prayer very quickly. The servant was still praying when Rebekah came out. She was a very suitable young woman. She was kind. She was willing to work hard. She belonged to the family of Abraham’s relatives. And she was also very beautiful.
Verse 21 The servant was wondering whether God had made his journey successful. In other words, he was wondering whether God had chosen Rebekah as Isaac’s wife.
Verse 22 This was a very expensive present. It showed clearly to Rebekah that the servant’s intention was to arrange a marriage.
Verses 23-25 The servant asked to stay at Rebekah’s family’s home. In that way, he could discover whether her family were kind to strangers. And he could make sure that they served God. Neither the servant nor Rebekah hesitated.
Verses 26-27 The servant had seen how quickly God answered his prayer. Everything seemed right. So, the servant did not hesitate to thank God. The servant felt sure that God had led him to Rebekah.
Verses 28-30 Rebekah was very excited. She went to tell her family. Laban realised the importance of these events. So, he went out quickly in order to invite Abraham’s servant to their home.
Verse 31 Laban’s words show us that this family also knew about God. And his words show that he, like Abraham, was very kind to strangers. But Laban had a special reason to be kind to the servant. He wanted to find a good husband for Rebekah.
Verse 32 This was a major task. The servant had not travelled alone. He brought 10 camels. So, perhaps there were 9 other servants with him.
Verse 33 The servant refused to eat until he had explained the reason for his visit. He wanted to show that his task was very important to him.
Verses 34-38 Firstly, the servant explained about his master, Abraham. Rebekah’s family needed to know about Isaac’s family.
Verses 39-41 Then, the servant explained why Rebekah would have to leave her family. Abraham left his own family for a very real reason. He wanted to follow God. God was Abraham’s only guide when he (Abraham) went into Canaan. If Rebekah wanted to marry Isaac, she too would have to go to Canaan.
Verse 42-48 The servant carefully explained all the events that happened at the well earlier. He wanted to show that God had answered his prayer. In other words, God led the servant to Rebekah.
Verse 49 The servant told all the facts to Rebekah’s family. But he did not force them to allow the marriage. Here we read, ‘I will continue to search.’ The *Hebrew text means ‘I will know which way to turn.’ In other words, the servant would know then that he had to continue his journey. He would know that he could not go home yet. He would not have found the right woman to become Isaac’s wife.
Verses 50-52 Rebekah’s family realised that God wanted Rebekah to marry Isaac. So, they agreed to the marriage.
Verse 53 There were more presents for Rebekah. And the servant also gave presents to her family. It was the custom for the bridegroom to pay a price for his bride.
Verse 55 We do not know exactly for how long a time they wanted Rebekah to stay.
Verse 56 The servant did not want to stay. God had helped the servant to succeed in his task. So, the servant wanted to return, so that he could introduce Isaac to Rebekah.
Verses 57-58 Nobody forced Rebekah to marry Isaac. Her family asked her whether she wanted to go.
Verse 60 Rebekah’s family would probably never see her again. So, they *blessed her as she left. They hoped that she would have many children and grandchildren. And they hoped that her *descendants would overcome their enemies.
The gates were the important places of a city. Whoever owned the gates, owned the city. The elders discussed all the important things at the gates. (Elders were important citizens that the people respected.)
Verse 62 Isaac may have gone to live in the Negev when his father married Keturah. (See Genesis 25:1.)
Verse 63 We are not sure what Isaac was doing in the field that evening. Perhaps he was thinking about things. Perhaps he was praying.
Verse 64 At last, Rebekah saw Isaac for the first time.
Verse 65 The servant now considered Isaac his master instead of Abraham. He called Isaac ‘my master’.
Rebekah covered her face to show that she was modest. A bride usually covered her face when the bridegroom was present. She would only uncover her face after their first night together.
Verse 66 The servant reported to Isaac everything that had happened. He did not go to tell Abraham.
Verse 67 So, Isaac married Rebekah. Although they had not met before their marriage, they loved each other deeply. It seems that Sarah, Isaac’s mother, had died recently. Rebekah comforted Isaac.
adultery ~ when a married person has sex with someone that is not the person’s husband or wife.
altar ~ a table that people made out of stone or metal. People burned gifts to God (*sacrifices) on it.
Amorites ~ a group of people that lived in the country called Canaan.
ancestor ~ a relative that lived a long time ago. A person’s parents are *descendants of such a relative.
angels ~ God’s servants from *heaven, who sometimes bring God’s messages to people.
ark ~ the big boat that Noah built; or a box that someone has made out of wood.
arrow ~ a stick with a point on it. People shoot it from a bow.
bless ~ to give someone a *blessing; or to be kind to someone; or to do good things for someone; or to promise good things to someone.
blessing ~ a good thing that God does for us; or when we ask God to help a person; or when we ask God to do something good in that person. In the Book of Genesis, blessings were often a type of *prophecy.
bow ~ to bend one’s body over to respect someone else. To bow one’s head means to bend one’s head forward.
bracelets ~ large rings that women put round their arms to make them beautiful.
burnt offering ~ something that someone burns as a gift in order to please God.
Canaanites ~ people that were living in Canaan, the country that God had promised to the *Israelites. The Canaanites were already living in that country before the *Israelites went there.
cattle ~ animals that people look after in order to get milk or meat from them. They include cows.
circumcise ~ to cut off the loose skin from the end of a boy’s or man’s sex part.
circumcision ~ when someone cuts off the loose skin from the end of the male sex part; something that specially reminds people about God’s agreement with Israel. For *Israelites, it was a proof that a man agreed to obey God’s laws. Or it might show that a person had a good, innocent spirit.
concubine ~ a woman that lives with a man but she is not his wife; or people do not know her as his wife.
confirm ~ say something again so that people will certainly believe it.
covenant ~ an agreement between two or more people, in which they all have responsibilities; such an agreement between God and a person (or people).
curse ~ say that something bad will happen to a person or thing by God’s (or a false god’s) power; when someone curses a person or thing; what someone says when they curse a person or thing. In the Book of Genesis, the word ‘curse’ often means a *prophecy about future troubles.
descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.
donkey ~ an animal like a small horse. It carries things or people.
dove ~ a kind of bird. People consider it a gentle bird.
drunk ~ a description of a person who has had too much alcohol. Such a person cannot think clearly. And that person does not behave in a sensible manner.
Egyptian ~ a person from the country called Egypt; when someone or something is from Egypt.
faithful ~ loyal; when someone does what they promise.
famine ~ a time when plants for food do not grow, so people cannot eat food from them.
feast ~ a very big, special meal; a special time when people eat a lot and they drink a lot. People usually have a feast for a certain special reason.
flesh ~ the soft material that covers a person’s bones.
flock ~ a large group of such animals as sheep.
foreskin ~ the loose skin at the end of a boy’s or man’s sex part.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke; someone from the nation that spoke the Hebrew language. The writer wrote Genesis in the Hebrew language.
herd ~ a large group of such animals as cows.
herdsman ~ a man that keeps cows and other animals safe.
holy ~ what God is like; completely good, with nothing bad in it; separate from *sin; perfect and clean; when something belongs to God.
horn ~ a hard bony thing that grows on top of some animals’ heads, such as cows and some sheep. It is often like a stick that has a point on its end. Usually such an animal has two horns. The horns show that the animal is strong.
household ~ your household means everyone that lives with you. They do not have to be your family.
inherit ~ to receive something from someone that has died. That thing is a gift. God too gives gifts to us, but he has not died!
Israelite ~ a person from the nation called Israel; a *descendant of Jacob, who was also called Israel.
Jew ~ a person that was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children. People also use it to mean a person from the nation called Israel.
judge ~ to decide whether someone has done wrong things or right things; to punish people for wrong things that they have done.
heaven ~ the place that is God’s home.
kingdom ~ a place or country that a king rules over. (God is the greatest king. He is over all other kings. We are expecting his kingdom to come.)
lamb ~ a very young sheep.
lord ~ a man that has complete authority over someone or something.
Lord ~ a special name for God. Sometimes it is the *Hebrew word YHWH. YHWH means that God is always God. Elsewhere, it is the *Hebrew word ADONAI, which means ‘my master’. People used these words to give honour to God.
merciful ~ when someone has *mercy or he or she shows *mercy.
mercy ~ help to those that have lack or difficulty; the love that God shows when he forgives people; God’s love and goodness; God’s pity towards all that he has made; when someone is kind to bad people.
New Testament ~ the second part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after Jesus went back to *heaven.
oak ~ a kind of tree whose leaves fall off in winter. People often considered an oak tree a *holy tree.
oath ~ a serious appeal to God; when a person makes a serious statement that he or she will carry out a certain promise; a serious statement that something is true.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before Jesus came; the *holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
ox ~ a big cow.
oxen ~ the plural of *ox.
Pharaoh ~ the king of Egypt.
Philistines ~ a nation of people that lived in Canaan or near Canaan.
pigeon ~ a kind of bird. Sometimes people have used it to carry messages to other people.
praise ~ to say how great somebody is; words to express how great someone is.
pregnant ~ when a lady is expecting to have a baby.
prophecy ~ messages that God wants to tell or teach to people, often about future events.
prophet ~ a person that hears God’s messages. Then that person tells God’s messages to other people. Some prophets wrote books in the Bible.
ram ~ a male sheep.
righteous ~ very good (only God is really righteous). God says that the people that love him are righteous. And those people obey him. Such people do whatever God wants them to do.
sacrifice ~ when someone puts an animal on an *altar in order to offer the animal to God; to give something valuable for someone or for God; to die for someone or for God.
shekel ~ a way that people measured weight, equal to 0.4 ounces (11 grams). People also measured silver or gold in shekels for payment.
sin ~ to do bad things against God or other people; a bad thing that a person does against God or other people; when a person does a bad thing.
sinful ~ evil and wrong.
sinner ~ someone that *sins.
sulphur ~ a yellow material that burns things.
thigh ~ the upper part of a leg.
thread ~ a long, thin piece of material like cotton or wool. People use it to make cloth. And they use it to sew with.
tower ~ a tall, narrow building.
tribe ~ a family (and *descendants) from the same father; the whole family (and *descendants) from one of Jacob’s 12 sons.
trough ~ a long narrow container from which animals can drink water (or they can eat food from it).
veil ~ a piece of material that covers a woman’s face.
vision ~ a dream; sometimes a dream that comes to a person that is awake.
worship ~ to show very great honour to God; to show that we respect him very much; to *praise God and to serve him; to tell God that we love him very much.
yeast ~ a substance that makes bread rise. People include the yeast in the mixture for the bread. The yeast makes the mixture rise before people bake the bread. Then the bread continues to rise while people are baking it.
John Calvin ~ Commentary on Genesis ~ Eerdmans
Rev. Stephen Dray ~ Genesis – Lecture notes (unpublished)
Victor P. Hamilton ~ The Book of Genesis (2 volumes) ~ New International Commentary on the Old Testament ~ Eerdmans
Matthew Henry ~ Commentary on the Whole Bible ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Rev. Derek Kidner ~ Genesis ~ Tyndale
C. H. Spurgeon ~ Treasury of the Old Testament ~ Marshall Morgan and Scott
Gordon J. Wenham ~ Genesis (2 volumes) ~ Word Biblical Commentary ~ Word
Bibles ~ RSV, NIV, International Children’s Bible, Bible for the Deaf
© 2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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