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Genesis 20-21: The Sons of Abraham

Previously… Christ overthrew the wicked, remembered the righteous and saved beyond expectation. Lot was offered the opportunity to flee to the mountain for grace but refused and his story ends desperately… His family will one day find redemption, adopted into the line of Judah when Boaz marries Ruth.

Meanwhile for Abraham he faces the indignity that his nephew has four children while he still only has the illegitimate Ishmael. The promise awaits fulfilment. The wandering king-priest finds himself in Gerar, a foolish land where “there is no fear of God at all” (20v11). And so we find a re-run of Abraham’s earlier detour to Egypt (ch12), once more he asks his half-sister to deny that she’s his wife and say only that he is his sister to preserve their lives from the tyrants who would attempt to prevent the Seed from being born.

In the night the Lord speaks to King Abimelech and declares him a dead man. Abimelech is however the one god-fearer in his land and this apparent tyrant is shown to be a repentant man. He has taken but not touched Abraham’s wife and so he needs the prophet to pray for him to turn aside curse. Abraham is a prophet having been taken into the counsel of God over the destruction of Sodom (Amos 3v7). The prophet-king-priest intercedes for Abimelech and the wombs of his household are re-opened. Abimelech can have children, though Abraham waits. Later (21v22-34) we find a dispute between these men, Abimelech is concerned that Abraham will once more deceive him but they come to peace and make a covenant. We leave Abraham by a well calling upon the Lord, the Everlasting God.

In between comes the climax of Abraham’s story. A peculiarly brief account of the birth of the Seed, all that expectation and it happens in a very matter of fact way. As God had promised. As God had said. At the time God had said. And duly circumscised as God had commanded. Finally Abraham’s seed is born.

His half-brother Ishamel laughs and the boy Laughter. He mocks and persecutes him (Galatians 4v21-31) and so Sarah demands that he be cast out, to ensure that he doesn’t inherit. Abraham is distraught but God promises that as a seed of Abraham Ishmael will become a great nation and the boy finds God’s provision as he sits dying in the wilderness.

At the end of these events we find one of Abraham’s sons exiled from his father, denied inheritance, living in the wilderness and married to an Egyptian. The other, is in his father’s house (tent), by a well, by a tree, worshipping God. God’s Son Israel will go one way or the other – it’s undeniable which place anyone should rather be found. Later, Abraham’s true son will pass through the wilderness and bring his people back to dwell with their father, in the green pastures by the tree.


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