Genesis – Week 9: Abraham’s faith tested

Abraham’s faith tested: Chapter 22

Literary context

The covenant with Abraham is followed immediately by Abram and Sarai making their own plans for offspring. Sarai offers her servant Hagar to Abram and Ishmael is conceived. However, despite this God confirms his covenant with Abram by introducing circumcision as a sign of the covenant. Abram’s name is also changed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Three visitors come to visit Abram and Sarah. During this visit the Lord promises a child to Sarah. This promise is followed by the story of God’s intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham’s intercession for the cities. Nevertheless, God destroyed the cities, but Lot and his daughters escape. We are then told the origin of the Moabites and Ammonites – the sons of Lot and his two daughters respectively. Abraham then moves to Gerar where he repeats the same deception as with Pharaoh several years earlier, telling King Abimelech that Sarah is his sister. The results were almost the same. The next chapter relates the birth of Isaac as foretold by the Lord. Hagar and Ishmael is sent away and God promises that Ishmael will become a great nation. Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech and we are told that Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

The next story again starts with the phrase “some time later …” – Abraham’s faith that is tested. God calls on Abraham and tell him to sacrifice his son. Without question, Abraham obeys, packs his donkey and sets off to mount Moriah. There the Lord intervened and provided an alternative sacrifice. The promises to Abraham are renewed, but this time it is more than a promise, but rather a sure guarantee. After this incident Abraham returned to Beersheba.

The storyline is interrupted by a brief account of the descendants of Abraham’s brother Nahor. This is followed by the account of Sarah’s death and the purchase of a small field near Mamre so that Abraham could bury her.

Historical context

Abraham, and Israel after him, lived in a time and culture where human sacrifice was practiced (refer the many references to child sacrifice later in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets). At this time, God has not yet made the prohibition of child sacrifice explicit, and therefore Abraham obeyed.

We can see already in v8 that he had a confidence that God will provide, and this is also spelt out in the name of the mountain – Moriah – Place of Provision of Yahweh. The Mountain is associated with Jerusalem, and specifically the place where Solomon’s temple was built (cp. 2 Chron 3:1). However, further specific reference is scant and there can be no absolute certainty regarding its location.

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Analysing narrative

The first question to ask is what kind of narrative this is: a drama, a speech or a report. This is probably one of the best known drama’s in Biblical History and can certainly be analysed along the lines of a classical drama.

(a)       Setting the stage

The setting establishes the mood of the story and tells us where it took place in space and time.

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(b)      Understand the characters

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(c)       Conflict

The conflict arises shortly after the characters have been introduced. The conflict often has phases as it becomes more complex. The conflict usually has one of three types of focal points: a test, a quest, or a choice.

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(d)      Crisis or climax

The climax is the moment of greatest tension – there where you hold your breath and wonder what will happen next.

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(e)      Resolution

Here is where we find out what happened. When you find the crisis and resolution of a drama, you usually find the main point as well.

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(f)       Following action

The action following the resolution of the drama often interprets the story. It may indicate the main lesson or show how the story fits into the meta-narrative of redemptive history (Tip: Look at Hebrews 6:14-18).

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Reflection

What is this story about? And what does it say about this topic?

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Application

The applications are to relate to the main theme of the passage identified above. How can you apply the main theme/lesson to your life?

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Christian business principles, based on Biblical Truth