Home > Bible Journal > January 19th, Genesis 16-18: Abraham and the Circumcision Covenant

January 19th, Genesis 16-18: Abraham and the Circumcision Covenant

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Are familiar with the phrase, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it”? It refers to the fact that sometimes the things we want turn out to be things we don’t want, or that if our wish is fulfilled, it’s fulfilled in an unsatisfactory manner.

As the story continues, Sarai had born Abram no children. Surely Abram has told her of God’s promise of many descendants and great nations. So, Sarai tells Abram that the Lord has kept her from having children, so she implores Abram to sleep with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar.

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. [Ed note: Imagine that, a husband agreeing to sleep with another woman at his wife’s request.]

So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai gave Hagar over to Abraham to be his wife. They slept together, and soon Hagar conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress [Ed note: At least we know where soap operas get their script from.]

Then Sarai complained to Abram, so Abram put Hagar in Sarai’s hands. Sarai mistreated Hagar, so she fled from her. [Ed note: Women, they were just as crazy and confusing back then, too.]

An angel of the LORD found Hagar and asked her where she was going. She replied that she was running away from her mistress, but the angel told her to go back and submit. The angel promised that Hagar’s descendants would be too many to count. He also told her to name her son Ishmael, who would be a wild donkey of a man and hostile toward others.

That’s why the well there is called Beer Lahai Roi (well of the Living One who sees me), because Hagar realized there that God saw her there.

Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave him the name Ishmael. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael, i.e. eleven years after he first set out from Haran.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and confirmed the covenant. No longer would he be called Abram, but Abraham would be his name for he would father many nations. As part of the covenant, all the males in Abraham’s household, including those bought from a foreigner, would be circumcised.

God also informed Abraham that Sarai would bear him a child, and that her name would be Sarah. But Abraham fell face down and laughed [Ed note: In Internet speak, we would say that Abraham rolled on the floor laughing, or ROFL.]

If only Ishmael might live under the Lord’s blessing, said Abraham. God replied that he would, but Sarah’s child would be the one to carry Abraham’s inheritance. And that Sarah’s son would be named Isaac, who would be born in the next year.

On that very day, Abraham took Ishmael and all the males of his household and circumcised them as God commanded. Think about that, he didn’t wait until the next day, he gathered everyone that very day.

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre. He looked up and saw three men standing nearby, so he immediately went to greet them and provide great hospitality. Abraham had Sarah make some bread while he selected a choice, tender calf, curd, and milk for his guests.

They asked where Sarah, his wife was. Abraham replied that she was in the tent. It was then that the Lord said he would return around this time next year, and that Sarah would then have a son.

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent [Ed note: Yep, women were nosy back then, too]. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, plus Sarah was beyond the age of childbearing. She laughed at the ridiculousness of an old lady like her experiencing childbirth.

Then the Lord asked Abraham why Sarah laughed and wondered if she would have a child at such an advanced age.

The NIV of Genesis 18:14-15 says:
14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

The NKJV of Genesis 18:14-15 says:
14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”
15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid.
And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”

The CEV of Genesis 18:14-15 says:
14I am the LORD! There is nothing too difficult for me. I’ll come back next year at the time I promised, and Sarah will already have a son.”
15Sarah was so frightened that she lied and said, “I didn’t laugh.”
“Yes, you did!” he answered.

I highlighted these verses because it perfectly encapsulates the foibles of humanity. We struggle to understand the omnipotence of God, then we have the veracity to lie about laughing at God’s promises.

As the men got up to leave, they looked towards Sodom. That was when God told Abraham that he would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their grievous sins. The men left and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Would the Lord destroy both the righteous and wicked? Would the Lord destroy a city for the sake of 50 righteous people? Surely the Judge of All would not callously destroy both the righteous and wicked.

The Lord let Abraham know that he would spare Sodom if there were fifty righteous people in the city.

Then Abraham realized he might have overstepped his boundaries, so he compared himself to nothing but dust and ashes before asking another question. What if there was five less than fifty righteous people, would God destroy Sodom then?

The Lord said he would not destroy Sodom if he found forty five people.

Emboldened by his previous requests, Abraham continues to bargain with God. Forty? The Lord will spare Sodom. Thirty? The Lord will spare Sodom. Twenty? The Lord will spare Sodom. Ten? Yes, the Lord will spare Sodom if he can find ten righteous people in the city.

10/50 is good for twenty percent, or an eighty percent discount on the original offer!

Questions: Has God ever promised you something so ridiculous that you had to laugh? Have you ever lied to someone that you were laughing at something they said or did?

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