Notes: Genesis 16-17

English Language Bible Study Guide for January 28, 2008

Genesis 16

"Call me Ishmael." Was Herman Melville thinking about Abram, Sarai and Hagar when he penned these opening words to his now famous Moby Dick?

1-3: After 10 years in the land of Canaan without a child and with no visible prospects of having God’s covenant promises fulfilled, Sarai conceives a solution to her barrenness. Abram agrees.

4-6: Hagar, Sarai’s personal servant, does become pregnant; and the relationship between her and Sarai becomes strained.

7-12: The angel of the Lord speaks to the outcast and expecting Hagar; and he tells her to return to Sarai’s employ with the assurance the child to be born will be the first of a long line of descendants, but with the sad news that he shall be a social outcast.

13-14: Hagar has special names for the one who spoke to her and for the place where they met.

15-16: She returns to Abram and Sarai; and Ishmael is born (and named) as the angel had instructed.


Meditation Points:

  1. Employer-employee relations
  2. Foreign workers
  3. Mistreating domestics
  4. The extremes to which some go in their desire to be a parent
  5. Trying to fulfill prophecy on our own
  6. Blaming others for our sins
  7. Listening to the bad advice of those we love
  8. Continuing the pregnancy when we know that the child will be born with problems


Genesis 17

Thirteen years later, God speaks again of His covenant to Abram.

1-3: God introduces Himself as God Almighty, El-Shaddai. Abram, now age 99, is told to walk before God and be perfect.

4-6: God changes Abram’s name to Abraham to signify that he will be the father of many nations and kings.

7-14: God instructs Abraham concerning circumcision, which is to be a token of God’s covenant.

15-22: God clearly states that the covenant child will be the son of Abraham and Sarah (her new name from God); Ishmael will be blessed, but Sarah’s child, to be born within a year and named Isaac, will be the child of the promise.

23-27: Abraham obeys and sees that all the males of his house over 8 days old, whether born into Abraham’s household or bought, are circumcised.


Meditation Points:

  1. God works in and with older people, too
  2. Omnipotence, found only in God
  3. God’s one-sided covenant
  4. Falling/bowing/humbling ourselves before God
  5. God’s name for His chosen ones
  6. The significance of names–what do names mean?
  7. Circumcision–for whom and why?
  8. The consequences of disobedience: what is it to be cut off from God’s people?
  9. When God rejects our efforts to help His cause
  10. Believers who laugh at God’s promises
  11. Obeying God, even when it hurts



Notes: Genesis 11:27-13:18

English Language Bible Study Guide for January 26, 2008

After a brief interlude looking at the trials and patience of Job, we return to the Book of Genesis and pick up the account of Abram, soon to be Abraham.

Genesis 11

27: Abram’s father: Terah; Abram’s brothers: Nahor and Haran; Abram’s nephew: Lot

28: Haran was born and died in Ur of the Chaldees. (Remember this place)

29-30: Marriage and families are a natural part of life. But Abram’s wife was barren. (Remember this comment)

31-32: Terah’s plan was to move to Canaan; but he died along the way in Haran.

Genesis 12

1: After the death of Abram’s father, the Lord spoke to Abram and bid him to leave his country, his people and his father’s relatives. Further, Abram was to go to a land as yet not known to him.

Hebrews 11:8  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

 From UR to Canaan to Egypt

1. Ur to Haran via Ninevah;  2. Haran to Bethel; 3 Bethel to Egypt

2-3: The Abrahamic Covenant. Covenants are agreements; sometimes they require both parties to perform previously agreed upon tasks before the covenant becomes complete. But this covenant does not make any requirements of Abram; instead this is God’s one-sided promise to bless Abram.

I will make of you a great nation

I will bless you

I will make your name great

You will be a blessing

I will bless those who bless you

I will curse him that curses you

In you shall all families of the earth be blessed

Like the Creation of the early chapters of Genesis and Flood that followed, this Covenant is a significant moment that will be mentioned quite often in subsequent scriptures.

  • Galatians 3:7  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
  • Galatians 3:14  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
  • I Peter 2:9  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
    10  Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

Do not fail to see the spiritual significance of God’s covenant with Abram. The Pharisees rejected Jesus the Messiah because they expected only gold and silver and political freedom; what God promised Abram was all spiritual blessings in heavenly places–to be with God!  If you would not be satisfied with God’s presence you would not be satisfied with any amount of earthly prosperity.

4-6: Abram was 75 years old and wealthy when he began this adventure with God into a land inhabited by Canaanites, a people not known for their civility.

7: When God speaks of His covenant again, Abram builds an altar unto the Lord who had appeared to him.

What have you ever built or done to worship God?

8: Abram traveled farther, to Bethel, and built another altar and called upon the name of the Lord.

  • Romans 10:13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Have you ever called upon the name of the Lord?

10-13: Hardship leads Abram away from the promised land and toward Egypt. He foresees evil ahead; but rather than return to the land of God’s promise and presence, Abram makes provision for his flesh a priority and enlists his wife’s help in a subterfuge that he hopes will keep himself alive.

14-20: As Abram expected, the Egyptians are taken aback by Sarai’s beauty (at the age of 65!), and the Egyptian Pharaoh made plans to take her as his own. The Pharaoh, it seems, even bestowed great wealth upon Abram for Sarai’s sake.

But the Lord plagued Pharaoh (not the last time that the Lord plagues a Pharaoh), and (somehow) Pharaoh discovered Abram’s ruse. Pharaoh is upset that he might have committed adultery with another man’s wife (when was the last time your heard anyone, not to mention a political leader, who feared to commit adultery?).

Abram is dismissed (shall we read: had his visa revoked?).

You cannot justify the lie. Notice how the lie brought trouble to others.

Genesis 13

1: Abram left Egypt. He never should have gone there in the first place without God’s direction.

2-4: He returned to Bethel, and he called on the name of the Lord there. Sometimes we have to get into a place where we aren’t comfortable calling on the name of the Lord before we realize the blessing of being able to speak with God; then we long to return to the place where we once worshiped the Lord.

5-13: Lot and Abram part ways. We read that "they could not dwell together." Sad, isn’t it, when men can’t live together in peace. Abram sees that his people and Lot’s people have been fighting, and he seeks to make peace, for "we be brethren."

Graciously, Abram allows Lot to choose first; and Lot, of his own will, chooses by sight the well-watered plains near the wicked sinners of Sodom.

14-17: Abram meanwhile sees as God directs him, and hears the Lord expand upon the covenant:

  • I will give all that you see to you
  • I will give it to your seed
  • I will make your seed as the dust of the earth–innumerable
  • I will give you all that land that you walk through

18: So Abram moved again, to Hebron; and he built an altar to the Lord.

Should we not worship the Lord as He directs our paths and opens our way?