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Book Of Genesis – Lesson #15

Lesson 15

Read Genesis 20 (opens in new window)

It seems incredible to us that Abraham would again try to pass off Sarah as his sister within twenty years of the same blunder with Pharaoh— incredible, that is, until we remember our own perpetual proneness to sin!  The incident with Abimelech in Gerar is almost a replay of Abraham’s duplicity in Egypt (Gen. 12:10-17). God intervened to work out His purposes in the birth of Isaac, which might otherwise have been frustrated. He threatened Abimelech with death. He is more than just a spectator on the sidelines of history. He can overrule the evil of His people, even through the lives of the unregenerate. The pagan Abimelech acted more righteously in this incident than Abraham, the “friend of God.” (Abimelech is a title, and not a proper name, meaning “My Father Is King”.) It is shameful when a believer has to be justly rebuked by a man of the world! When a half-truth is presented as the whole truth, it is an untruth. Abraham even tried to shift some of the blame onto God for making him wander in the first place. Doesn’t this sound like what Adam and Eve did in the Garden? He would have been wiser to humbly acknowledge his guilt. Nevertheless, he was still God’s man. And so the Lord sent Abimelech to him so that Abraham would pray that his household be healed of its barrenness.

The expression “this vindicates you” (Gen. 20:16) is literally “it is a covering of the eyes,” meaning a gift given for the purpose of appeasing (in that the “guilt” is no longer seen). Thus it might read, “It is given to you as a payment in satisfaction as evidence to all who are with you and to all men that the wrong has been righted.”

Read Chapter 21  (opens in noew window)

When the promised son was born to Abraham and Sarah, the ecstatic parents named him Isaac ( Hebrew “Yihtzak”, meaning “God’s laughter”), as commanded by God (Gen.17:19-21). Isaac was probably from two to five years old when he was weaned. Ishmael would have been between thirteen and seventeen. When Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac at the weaning party, she ordered Abraham to cast out Hagar and her son. Paul interprets this action as evidence that law persecutes grace, that law and grace cannot be mixed, and that spiritual blessings cannot be obtained on the legal principle (Gal. 4:29).

Abraham was grieved to lose Hagar and Ishmael, but God consoled him with the promise that Ishmael would become the father of a great nation. And yet the Lord made it clear that Isaac was the promised son through whom the covenant would be carried out.

When Hagar and the boy almost perished from thirst in the desert south of Canaan, God caused them to find a well, and they were spared. Ishmael was in his teens at this time; therefore, Gen. 21:15 probably means that Hagar pushed him under one of the shrubs in his weakness. Ishmael’s name, “God hears,” is found twice in Gen. 21:17  “God heard” and “God has heard.” Everyone, especially children and young people should be encouraged to pray. God hears and answers!

The Abimelech in verse Gen. 21:22 is not necessarily the same one as in chapter 20 (remember, Abimelech is a title). This chieftain’s servants had taken a well of water from Abraham’s men. When Abimelech and Abraham made a treaty of friendship, the patriarch told Abimelech about the well that had been seized. The result was a covenant granting the well to Abraham. He promptly named it Beersheba (“well of the oath”). The place later became a city, marking the southernmost boundary of the land. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree as a memorial.