Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Genesis 18 – The Visitation in Hebron

This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.

God chose Abraham to give him a son through whom would come innumerable offspring who would be given the land of Canaan as an eternal possession. The wait for the promised son was excruciating. To everyone who had heard about the covenant promises God made to Abraham, it must have seemed as though God had failed. However, Abraham and Sarah continued in faith. They knew that God’s word would not fail, having been assured of the promises many times by God. Though the time had not yet come, the birth of the promised son was drawing near.

1 Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.

This appearance of the LORD to Abraham is unique. He appears as a traveler in the company of two other men who are identified later as angels. It is not stated how Abraham knew that these visitors were not ordinary travelers, but it seems that he understands from the beginning that the LORD has come to visit him.

2 When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, 3 and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 4 Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; 5 and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.”

Abraham rushed to meet the trio in order to bring them in and show them hospitality. This was typical courtesy in the Ancient Near East, however Abraham performed it with vigor due to the exalted status of his guests. He did not call his servants to care for the details while he entertained his guests, but hurried to take care of it himself.

And they said, “So do, as you have said.” 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” 7 Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. 8 He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

Sarah and a servant were tasked with preparations while Abraham served the men. He chose the best and choicest items for food, and after he had served them, he stood at the ready should they need anything else. Here is a picture of humble service unto the LORD. Abraham did not exalt himself by reclining with the LORD and his angels, but stood in attendance as a lowly servant.

After the meal had been eaten, the LORD turned to the reason of His visit.

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”

The birth of a son was the event that Abraham and Sarah had been awaiting for decades. The LORD had called Abraham out of the country of his birth in order to sojourn in the land of Canaan. The LORD had promised that He would give Abraham a kingdom: descendants, land, and kings. This kingdom and its people would be the LORD’s people, and He would be their God. Up to this point, Abraham and Sarah believed, despite their age and Sarah’s barrenness; however they had not yet had even one child. However, now the birth of the promised son was nigh, and the LORD Himself had come to deliver the news.

And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Like Abraham before her, Sarah laughed in astonishment at the thought of having a child after her cycle had stopped. From a human standpoint it was unthinkable. But the LORD is capable of doing the unthinkable.

 13 And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Nothing is hidden from God. He knew Sarah’s reaction before she even heard His words. He wanted them to trust Him that He was able to do what He said. He wanted them to know that He had not forgotten them, even when it may have seemed like it. he wanted them to see that He would never go back on any of His promises. He had made a covenant with Abraham which was dependent only on Himself (not Abraham or his descendants).

There was one other reason that the LORD had visited:

16 Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off.

Hebron was elevated over the valleys to the east. Hebron and Sodom were separated by less than a day’s journey. Sodom was the city where Abraham’s nephew Lot had moved to. “The men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the LORD” (Gen 13:13). The coming judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what happens to a nation when its iniquity is complete (cf. Gen 15:16).

17 The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? 19 For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

The inter-Trinitarian conversation clues the reader in that something drastic is about to happen to Sodom. God determined to tell Abraham what He was going to do to Sodom, because He had chosen Abraham to become a great nation through whom all the nations would be blessed as they walked in righteousness and justice before the LORD according to all that God spoke. This is the first time that God gave direct revelation to Abraham (later it would be to the nation of Israel) about the oncoming judgment of another nation because of their wickedness. This helps us to
understand Israel’s role among the nations of the world.

20 And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. 21 I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

The LORD purposed to go down to Sodom, just as He went down to the people of the earth in Genesis 6 and to the people of Babel in Genesis 11. He knew already their sin. He knew what He was going to do. Yet He went down in a special way to observe the city and its wickedness. But first, He sent the angels away while He allowed Abraham to approach Him and intercede.

22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. 23 Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?

God the just judge of all people must be just. Now Abraham will learn what this looks like:

24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” 26 So the LORD said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.”

The LORD told Abraham that the entire city would be spared if there were fifty righteous people within it. Such is the kindness and mercy of God. In this way, the righteous have stayed the judgment of God despite terrible wickedness. It is only when the light is gone from a place that the LORD sends judgment.

27 And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the LORD, although I am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” 30 Then he said, “Oh may the LORD not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the LORD; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the LORD not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.”

How gracious of God to allow Abraham such a bold prayer. This is the kind of bold prayer that is needed among God’s people today. What an understanding of God’s righteousness and His patience is granted to us here. Yet we know from the ensuing narrative that there were not ten righteous found among Sodom. Only three would be rescued from that city unscathed.

Note that Abraham did not intercede for the wicked people of Sodom. He knew that God was just in punishing them for their rebellion and transgressions. Instead, he pled for the righteous. In effect, he was asking if God would sweep away even a few righteous with the many wicked. God confirmed that He would not judge the city if there were just ten righteous people out of thousands of wicked people. In this way, we see one way in which God’s people are the salt of the earth, preserving even the wicked from their due punishment until the time that God has ordained.

In Abraham’s prayer, we also have a picture of Jesus interceding for His saints. His prayers are more bold than Abraham’s, for Jesus knows the mind of God in all things. Jesus’ prayers for His people never go unanswered.

33 As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the LORD departed, and Abraham returned to his place.

God departed to go on His way to Sodom to do all that He intended to do.


The LORD chose Abraham to be the father of a nation that He would designate as His own people. Through this people, He would bring about the birth of another promised Son, the Seed of the woman prophesied all the way back in the Garden of Eden. This Son, Jesus Christ, would be born of the royal lineage within the nation, being also the Son of God. He died for the sins of all in the world who believe so that they might have eternal life and entrance into His coming kingdom. He will return to judge the world and establish this kingdom where He will reign forever.

All one must do in order to inherit this kingdom is believe in His name and that He is the Savior of the world. In Him is complete forgiveness of sins so that the one who believes will not be condemned, for He took the condemnation upon Himself of all who believe. He is the great Savior that all the Scriptures point to, the one awaited by all the faithful saints in the Old Testament and believed upon by all the saints in the New Testament church. There is no other savior from sin.

Read Chapter 17

Genesis 17 – The Fullness of the Covenant

This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.

God determined to redeem mankind from sin by sending a Savior born of a woman to deal with the sin problem. The seed-line was narrowed down to the family of Shem, and finally to the family of Abram. Abram was given a covenant, known as the Abrahamic Covenant, where in God promised to give him a nation (descendants, land, and a King) that would bring blessing upon the earth. This covenant would span the rest of history until the end. However, Abram and his wife, Sarai had no children. The birth of a son would be the first step toward the fulfillment of the covenant.

Thus the child that God promised to Abraham was crucial. And Abram and Sarai had been waiting for many years for the LORD to give them this child. In chapter 16, Sarai had given Abram her maid, Hagar, in order to produce the child through their own shrewdness. However, God rejected that child, Ishmael. Now God will confirm once again to Abram that he will have a son through Sarai whom He would multiply into an exceedingly large nation, who would be given the land of Canaan as an everlasting inheritance, who would give rise to kings, and who would have the LORD as their God.

1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him,

   "I am God Almighty;
    Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2 "I will establish My covenant between Me and you,
    And I will multiply you exceedingly."

The LORD revealed Himself to Abram as God Almighty. This is what Genesis has adequately proven about God. He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. He is the judge who must be answered to. He is able to control the elements of nature. He is able to send confusion upon people. His will is never thwarted. He is always victorious. As such, the only proper response to God Almighty is to walk before Him blamelessly. He demands perfection, because He Himself is perfect. However, due to the Fall and the curse of sin, no one can walk perfectly before God. The breaking of the curse and the eradication of sin is the goal that God is working toward in the selection of Abram with whom to make an eternal covenant. Through Abram would come a nation, a people unto the LORD, and through that nation, the promised Seed of the woman, the Messiah, who would take away the sins of the world so that all who believe God and walk in His ways will truly and justly be blameless before God.

So God promised to establish His covenant between Abram and Himself. This covenant had been ratified by the ceremony in chapter 15, but now the time of initial fulfillment is on the horizon. The covenant will be established through the birth of a son who will multiply exceedingly. Though the covenant was established through the birth of the son of promise (who was not the Messiah), the fulfillment of all aspects of the Abrahamic covenant is still awaited today.

There is only one response to such a gracious covenant:

3 Abram fell on his face,

But there’s more!

   and God talked with him, saying,

4  "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
     And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
5  "No longer shall your name be called Abram,
silhouette man looking at the sky     But your name shall be Abraham;
     For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

This section contains God’s part of the covenant with Abraham. He made the covenant with Himself in Genesis 15, so it is completely up to Him to bring it about. Since Abram would become the father of many nations, his name was changed from ‘exalted father’ to ‘father of multitudes.’
Next follows five ‘I will’ statements by God:

6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.

Abraham was not just going to the father of the Jews, as already shown in Genesis 16. He was going to become the father of many nations, and out of these nations would come kings.

7 I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.

God promised to establish His covenant with Abram and with Abram’s descendants throughout time. The descendants that are in view are the descendants through Isaac, as verses 19 and 21 specify. Of significant note is that part of the covenant is that God would be God to Abram and his descendants through Isaac. This becomes a repeated theme in Exodus.

 8 I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."

The promise of the everlasting possession of the land of Canaan is repeated. And when they live in the land, God covenants with them to be their God.

The next section details Abraham’s part in the covenant. Though God made the covenant with Himself, and therefore insured that by His own faithfulness, it would be brought to pass, He still demands covenant faithfulness of Abraham and his descendants. So while the covenant is sure to come to pass, its fulfillment is also tangled up with the obedience of Abraham’s family.

9 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.  11 And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

It is important to note that this sign of the covenant is an identification with the Abrahamic covenant. But this sign of the covenant must be accompanied by faith in the covenant promises of God.

The third section deals with Sarai’s part in the covenant.

15 Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."

God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. He promised to bless her by giving Abraham a son through her. Through Sarai would come nations and kings, even though she would only have one child.

17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" 18 And Abraham said to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before You!"

How astonishing it must have been to an old man with an old wife to hear that he would soon have a son! Yet, in faith, Abraham called his wife by her new name, Sarah, for he believed that God would bring it about. Thus Paul’s words in Romans 4:19-20, “Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was also able to perform.” But despite God’s current and past insistence of the child of promise coming through Sarai, Abraham still proposed making Ishmael the inheritor of the covenant.

19 But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

God rejected Ishmael, and assured Abraham that He would a child to Sarah through Abraham, just as He had said. It would be with Isaac that the everlasting covenant would be established.

But God was also gracious to Abraham concerning Ishmael. The last section concerns Ishmael’s blessing from God:

20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year."

Though Ishmael received similar promises to Isaac concerning numerous descendants, the angel of the LORD’s prophecy in Genesis 16 showed that God had different plans for the two sons.

22 When He finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

Abraham did not waste time. He obeyed the word of God concerning circumcision.

23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him. 24 Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 All the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.

Every male in Abraham’s house was circumcised in one day. That means that hundreds of men were circumcised that day (cf. Gen 14).


Abraham’s faith led him to immediate and unquestioning obedience. He trusted God, knowing that God would not break His covenant, but was able to do far beyond what Abraham could even imagine. So it is with us today. We must believe God about His Son, Jesus Christ, the son of Abraham and Isaac according to the flesh. We must trust that God sent Jesus to take away the sins of those in the world who believe (dealing with the sin problem and providing the initial crushing blow to the head of the serpent while receiving a bite on the heel) and put an end to the curse when He returns to reign in righteousness. And that faith must result in obedience to all that Jesus commanded, for believers are called unto good works, walking in a manner worthy of the calling which they have received, behaving in a way that is in keeping with who they are in Christ.

Chapter 16
Chapter 18

Genesis 16 - The Birth of Ishmael

This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.

Whoever follows the LORD must learn to wait. It has been well said that God’s time is different that ours. It is very much different. Abram and Sarai were learning this lesson in an agonizingly long period of waiting upon the LORD to bring about the promise of a son who would be the heir of the covenant given to Abram by God. In this covenant, God swore to give Abram and his descendants a kingdom, containing land, innumerable descendants, and royalty. Chapter 14 demonstrated that Abram must remain faithful despite dangers threatening to kill him before the promise is fulfilled. Now it becomes evident that Abram and Sarai are fearing their age will hinder the promise. These anxieties led them to stop watching and waiting, and start plotting and scheming instead to bring about the promises according to their own ingenuity and power.

1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, "Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her."

After sojourning for ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai came to believe that she would not be the mother of the son of the promise. It is possible that menopause had begun, because she stated that God prevented her from bearing children. Otherwise, this could be understood as God had kept her barren. In Genesis 15, God had specifically told Abram that the heir would be Abram’s physical offspring, but He had not mentioned Sarai as the mother.

Abram certainly detailed to Sarai every part of his encounter with God and the ratification of the promise, and Sarai may have even asked if God had specifically mentioned her as being the mother. Having pondered it in her mind, possibly thinking she had found a loophole, she eventually proposed to give her maid to Abram (a legal practice in those days) in order that she would bear the heir.

How difficult it is to wait and be still! Everyone of us knows what it is to let our trust in God and His promises falter due to the longevity of the wait and our fear of failure. We dwell on the possible scenarios based on our own power instead of waiting for God to work everything out according to His plan and His glory. God had told Abram that “one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir” (Gen 15:3). Had Abram only waited! It would have spared him and his descendants through Sarai much grief.

And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife. 4 He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.

Notice that there is no dialogue between Abram and Sarai. The text simply says that Abram listened and did what Sarai told him to do. As noted previously, he was also anxious to see the promise fulfilled. So he allowed Sarai to give Hagar to him as a wife. However, throughout the rest of the chapter, Hagar was never identified again as Abram’s wife, but as Sarai’s maid. The text is emphatic that Sarai was the true wife through whom would come the promised son. However, Hagar conceived (seemingly very quickly) and exalted herself above Sarai. She became arrogant, probably rejoicing that she had supplanted her mistress to become the wife of the covenant. This arrogant and self-exalting attitude would be passed on to her son.

5 And Sarai said to Abram, "May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me." 6 But Abram said to Sarai, "Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight." So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

Sarai was in a vulnerable spot, and was probably frustrated at the circumstances and scared concerning her future. If Abram sided with Hagar on account of the pregnancy, he could put Sarai out. Thus her harsh language toward Abram. Since Hagar was not just her maid, but was also Abram’s wife, Sarai could not dismiss Hagar. She was at the mercy of Abram. But instead of taking control of the situation, Abram, perhaps in a display of solidarity with his first wife, allowed her to treat Hagar as a maid. Sarai drove Hagar out of the household.

With nowhere to turn to, Hagar fled back to Egypt. Before she makes it to Egypt, however, she is approached by a mysterious character who is introduced for the first time in the biblical narrative: 

7 Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. 8 He said, "Hagar, Sarai's maid, where have you come from and where are you going?"

Notice that the angel of the LORD referred to Hagar, not as Abram’s wife, but as Sarai’s maid. Yet how gracious He was to meet this lowly maid and comfort her. Hagar did not lie, but answers the angel of the LORD:

And she said, "I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai." 9 Then the angel of the LORD said to her, "Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority." 10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count."

Here is our first clue concerning the identity of the angel of the LORD: He commanded Hagar to return and submit herself to Sarai’s authority, and then He spoke for God. But He did not just speak for God, as other angels do. He spoke as God. The first person singular is used (“I will”). And what abundant grace is this, that even though Hagar was not the mother of the promised child, she would bear a child to Abram who would also be bless by God to multiply exceedingly.

11 The angel of the LORD said to her further,
"Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael,
Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.

There are many parallels between the announcement of the birth of Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’) and the announcement of the birth of Immanuel, the Messiah (which means ‘God with us’). However, the two are completely dissimilar in their character and destinies:

12 "He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone's hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of all his brothers."

The angel of the LORD prophesied that Ishmael would be an uncontrollable, contentious, and troubled outcast. Instead of being a blessing to all the world as the Abrahamic covenant guaranteed of Abram’s promised descendants, this son would be trouble to all the world. He would also not live in the Promised Land, but would reside to the east. Ishmael, of course, became the father of the Arabic nations who have given the sons of Israel much grief throughout history.

13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?" 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

Hagar expressed astonishment that she had seen God, giving us another clue to the identity of the angel of the LORD. She conferred a name upon God, which is not said of anybody else in the Scriptures. She called Him ‘God who sees,’ and named a well in His honor as ‘the one that lives and sees me.’

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

When Hagar returned to Abram, she must have recounted everything that was told her by the angel of the LORD. Abram believed her, and named the boy Ishmael like Hagar had been commanded.

As for Sarai, she still had another thirteen years of waiting. She was not even halfway through the waiting and watching period. But she would yet grow into a woman of faith. We are never too old to grow in our faith toward God.


This is not the last appearance of the angel of the LORD. He will appear several more times, each time being equated with the LORD in the text. When he appears, he speaks for the LORD as the LORD. The text also interchanges the name of God, the LORD (Yahweh), with the title ‘angel of the LORD.’ So this mysterious character will be fleshed out, so to speak, to be a theophany (appearance of God) that is distinct from the LORD yet the same as the LORD. For this reason, many Bible scholars believe that the angel of the LORD is a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In His incarnation, Jesus became a man born from the line of Abraham through Isaac, the promised son (not through Ishmael). He walked the earth in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet He Himself was without sin. He died for the salvation of souls from sin. God did not leave Him in the grave, but raised Him from the dead. Thus those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ can be assured that their sins are forgiven and that they will be raised again to eternal life just as Christ was. Believe in Him and know Him as the great Savior.

Read Chapter 15
Read Chapter 17

Genesis 15 - The Abrahamic Covenant

This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.

Abram left everything to obey the LORD’s command in order obtain the promises of God. He had left his home and family to go to a foreign land. Many years later, he was still waiting on the promises to be fulfilled, trusting that God would indeed fulfill His Word in His own time. However, recent events must have shaken Abram, causing him to wonder if he would live to see the promises. If he died, then how could the promises come true? For the promise included many descendants and pertained to their ownership and rule of the land of Canaan.

Abram had just returned from battle, where he and his allies defeated a large army in battle in order to rescue his nephew, Lot, who had been abducted because he was living in Sodom when it was defeated and raided. He must have been reflecting upon the possibility that he may have been killed in the process of rescuing Lot. If he had died in battle, he would never see the promises. God Almighty would have failed, and would have proven Himself not to be Almighty or All-Knowing. But at this crucial moment, God spoke to Abram, and assured him that everything He spoke to him would come to pass, and nothing can prevent it. It is an unalterable and an irrevocable promise to Abram and to his descendants.

1 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying,
“Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you;
Your reward shall be very great.”

God assured Abram that He would not allow him to be harmed before His promise to give him a son was fulfilled. All of God’s promises are certainly true, and believers need only trust that God will bring them to pass. Thus, God promised that Abram’s reward would be very great, for he would surely see the fulfillment.

2 Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir.”

After so many years, Abram thought that God had waited too long to give him a child of his own. So he wondered what the replacement reward would be. He had expected a child, but now wondered if God’s promise had changed. If he had died in battle, Abram’s household would have passed on to the eldest servant in his household.

 4 Then behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” 5 And He took him outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”

God reassured Abram that the promise of a son still stood. In fact, this son would become countless children. Nothing had changed. Even though Abram may have supposed it to be beyond the ability of the LORD, he was learning that God was capable of bringing such a thing about. After decades of marriage, Abram knew that he and Sarai could not produce a child by natural means, especially since age was also quickly becoming a factor.

6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

This is an Old Testament verse that every Christian should know by heart. Abram believed in Yahweh. He trusted what God promised. He was assured by the words that were spoken to Him. He believed that the LORD was able to do what He said that He would do. Based on this faith, Abram was justified by God. He was counted righteous in God’s eyes, not because of any good work, but simply because he believed the word of God.

7 And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” 8 He said, “O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess it?” 9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds. 11 The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away.

God had Abram prepare a covenant ceremony that was typical of the day. The cow, goat, and ram were split in two and laid opposite each other. The two birds were laid opposite each other as well. This formed a morbid walkway for the two covenant parties to walk through in order to establish the covenant. The picturesque message was that if either of the parties violated the covenant, the other would come and split the violator in half just like the animals they were walking through. After Abram prepared the ceremony, he waited for some time for the LORD to come and make the covenant, for he was driving the birds of prey away from the carcasses until the sun was going down.

12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him. 13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. 14 But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you will be buried at a good old age. 16 Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”

God told Abram that He would indeed become a great nation of descendants, but they would be enslaved in a foreign land for four hundred years before God judged that land and brought the descendants of Abram out. This is a prophecy, of course, about the people of Israel being enslaved in the land of Egypt after fleeing there by the command and providential working of God to survive a famine. God promised that Abram’s descendants would leave Egypt very prosperous, just as Abram had left Egypt. But Abram would not see any of this. This was several generations after Abram.

By saying this, God showed Abram that His plan would unfold over many generations and not all at once. This also served as a reminder to Israel when they read this, that God had had a purpose in their slavery, and had brought them out just as He said that He would. Finally, this is a reminder to us today that we must look at the overall picture of what God is doing and realize that He requires faithfulness and obedience even when we face affliction and persecution.

Lastly, God told Abram that his descendants would return to the land of Canaan in conquest. It would not happen beforehand, because the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet completed. There is a limit to the transgression of a nation. When that limit is reached, God judges that nation. This had already happened to the whole earth in the Flood, and we will see this again at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in chapter 19.

torch with fire17 It came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 the Kenite and the Kenizzite and the Kadmonite 20 and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Rephaim 21 and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Girgashite and the Jebusite.”

During the darkness, God appeared as a smoking oven and flaming torch to pass between the pieces by Himself and with Himself. Abram was not a part of the covenant, for Abram had no ability in himself to fulfill the covenant. God promised Abram that He Himself would give the land of Canaan to his descendants. This is even yet future, for the nation of Israel never extended their borders from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates. But one day, the Messiah will come, all Israel will be saved, and the Kingdom of Israel will be prominent upon the earth.


The Abrahamic Covenant is very important for the understanding of the Scriptures. It affects every area of theology, being especially important when studying eschatology (the study of the end). It affirms and fills in previous information pertaining to the covenant. God promised to give Abram and his descendants all the land of Canaan (something even yet future), innumerable descendants, and kings (fulfilled especially by Jesus Christ who will return to rule). The kingdom will be a source of divine blessing for those who bless them, and God curses those who curse it.

Through Abram’s descendants came the Messiah, Jesus, who died to take away the sins of the world; and whoever blesses Jesus is blessed with eternal life, but whoever curses Jesus and rejects Him is cursed with everlasting destruction. God will surely bring the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant to pass, ushering in the Kingdom of the Messiah. But before the Kingdom, there will be a tribulation unlike any other that will come upon those who reject God, turn their backs on the nation of Israel, and refuse the gracious offer of salvation from sins through faith in the Messiah.

Read Chapter 14
Read Chapter 16

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Genesis 14 – Abram Goes to War

This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.

The study of history is often the study of wars and battles. This chapter contains the first battle recorded in Scripture. However, the battle is not the primary focus. It is only mentioned, because of Abram’s involvement on account of his nephew, Lot. In the last chapter, Lot moved toward Sodom and Gomorrah, an exceedingly wicked place. He seemed to be drawn toward Sodom, moving toward the city in chapter 13, living in the city in this chapter, and sitting at the gates of the city in chapter 19. In this chapter, his life became endangered by his association with Sodom, due to an ongoing drama with a coalition of kings from the east.

1 And it came about in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of Goiim, 2 that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). 3 All these came as allies to the valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea).

Four kings from the east made war with five kings from the region of Canaan. The kings from the east conquered the kings from the region of Canaan, and made them subservient to them, paying taxes to Chedorlaomer, king of Elam.

4 Twelve years they had served Chedorlaomer, but the thirteenth year they rebelled.

They payed the tax for twelve years, but decided not to pay it on the thirteenth. They probably assessed their strength to be sufficient to defeat Chedorlaomer and his allies in battle.

man holding composite bow5 In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him, came and defeated the Rephaim in Ashteroth-karnaim and the Zuzim in Ham and the Emim in Shaveh-kiriathaim, 6 and the Horites in their Mount Seir, as far as El-paran, which is by the wilderness. 7 Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar. 8 And the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah and the king of Admah and the king of Zeboiim and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) came out; and they arrayed for battle against them in the valley of Siddim, 9 against Chedorlaomer king of Elam and Tidal king of Goiim and Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five.

After a long campaign throughout the territory, the four kings from the east again faced the five from the region of Canaan. The battle did not go so well:

10 Now the valley of Siddim was full of tar pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and they fell into them. But those who survived fled to the hill country. 11 Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah and all their food supply, and departed. 12 They also took Lot, Abram’s nephew, and his possessions and departed, for he was living in Sodom.

Ironically, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fell into the tar pits as they fled in their own land. The survivors fled west to the hill country. The kings from the east plundered Sodom and Gomorrah for all their goods and food, and they took captives. Among the captives was Lot, Abram’s nephew. He was captured, because he was living in Sodom.

13 Then a fugitive came and told Abram the Hebrew. Now he was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner, and these were allies with Abram. 14 When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. 15 He divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them, and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. 16 He brought back all the goods, and also brought back his relative Lot with his possessions, and also the women, and the people.

Abram led an army of more than three hundred people more than one hundred fifty miles in pursuit of the kings of the east in order to rescue Lot.

17 Then after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley). 18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.

The king of Sodom, whose name was not recorded, went out to meet Abram when he returned. Another king, who was not one of the five who went to war, went out to meet Abram as well. The king of Sodom deferred to this king, who was also a priest of God. Melchizedek means ‘king of righteousness,’ and he was king-priest of Salem (Jerusalem), which means ‘peace.’ This king-priest of righteousness and peace blessed Abram:

19 He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;

20 And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

How surprised Abram must have been to hear Melchizedek invoke God’s name. Melchizedek blessed Abram and God, and identified Abram as being a man of God.

He gave him a tenth of all.

Abram tithed a tenth of all the spoil of war to Melchizedek.

21 The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” 22 Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, 23 that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ 24 I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their share.”

As the victor, all of the spoil belonged to Abram, but the king of Sodom tried to make a deal with Abram. Abram did not take the demands of the king of Sodom, but took nothing for himself from the spoils except for the shares rightly due to his partners. He gave everything to the king of Sodom.

Five kings and their armies were unsuccessful in battle against the coalition of kings from the east. Though they had judged themselves to be powerful enough to successfully revolt against the kings, they found themselves defeated and retreating from battle. However, Abram, an old man with seemingly little battle experience, was able to overtake the eastern kings and defeat them. Already, we see that God is with Abram in an extraordinary way. This is confirmed by Melchizedek’s blessing of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth. Melchizedek blessed God for delivering Abram’s enemies into his hand.

Melchizedek was the King-Priest of Salem (which means peace), who is revealed to be a type of the anticipated Messiah (Psa 110; Heb 5; 7). Melchizedek appeared out of nowhere with no credentials listed, and then disappeared just as quickly from the biblical narrative. He led Abram in worship of the Almighty God, imparting to Abram a robust theology of God as the creator and possessor of heaven and earth. Abram tithed a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, demonstrating that Melchizedek was greater than Abram.

The Messiah is also a king-priest of peace who is greater than Abraham. Jesus Christ, the Messiah and anticipated seed (Gen 3:15), came to earth as a man, God in the flesh. He died to enact a New Covenant wherein sin is taken away by the atonement He provided in His death. All who believe in Him are given everlasting life and a share in the inheritance of the saints. Christ ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. Then He will rule from Zion over the earth, and His people will be by His side forever.

All who believe in Jesus have no need to fear, for their sins are forgiven on the basis of the propitiation that He Himself provided. God will never condemn them, but has promised them a kingdom wherein Christ will rule as the King/Priest forever. And His kingdom will be one of peace.

Read Chapter 13
Read Chapter 15