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Recap: (For Genesis chapters 1-18 see Genesis 18 recap).

So far in the second section of Genesis, we have looked at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham’s move to the area between Gerar and Beersheba, the birth of Isaac and the driving out of Ishmael.


Read Genesis 22 1-24


1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’

‘Here I am,’ he replied.

2 Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’


Why was it important that Abraham should offer Isaac on Mount Moriah?

(2 Chronicles 3:1

1 Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.)

 

Note how verse 2 builds the tension –

- Take your son

- Your only son

- Whom you love

- Isaac

- Sacrifice him

- As a burnt offering

What thoughts would have entered Abraham’s mind?


Verse 2 emphasizes the fact that this is now Abraham’s only son, the only one through whom the promises would be fulfilled, and also this is the son who he loves.


To offer your son to God for his service was one thing, to offer him as a sacrifice was something else altogether. And a burnt offering meant that there would even be no body to bury – it would be a complete handing over to God.


But it was also handing back all his hopes and dreams, handing back the promises that God had given him concerning his future:

Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Genesis 15:5


3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.


Abraham did not hesitate to obey. He had learnt that God can be trusted even when his instructions are confusing. He knew that the God who had already worked a miracle in his life, could do so again.


4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.

Again we read ‘Abraham looked up – and saw’. Does this phrase indicate more than a physical sight? Rather that God opened his spiritual eyes, not only confirming that this was to be the place, but also that he had been right to obey God’s command? (See appendix to the Genesis 18 study)


5 He said to his servants, ‘Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.’

So far Abraham has not shared God’s instructions with anyone else. Why was that?

(Sarah and other members of his household might not have been understanding, and would have attempted to stop him.)

 

6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, ‘Father?’

‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied.

‘The fire and wood are here,’ Isaac said, ‘but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’


We don’t know how old Isaac was, but obviously old enough to carry the wood; and he knew enough about sacrifices to realise that the lamb was missing.  


8 Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.’ And the two of them went on together.


At this point, Abraham knew only that he had been commanded to sacrifice Isaac: he was to be the lamb provided by God. But he couldn’t bring himself to tell the boy, and as they continued walking together, Isaac trusted his father completely. He was happy in the knowledge that the all-powerful God of his father would provide his own sacrifice.

In what way is that a comfort to us today? (Nothing we could offer would be an acceptable atonement for our sins. Only Jesus, the sinless son of God can be sufficient.)


9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Here I am,’ he replied.


The faith of Abraham was so strong he would complete the test the Lord had set him. We can only imagine the trauma Isaac suffered, and the intensity of the sadness Abraham felt in being obedient. Yet he would still obey.


The Lord knew he would carry out the deed so he calls urgently – twice: ‘Abraham! Abraham!’


12 ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’

13 Abraham looked up

Again, the phrase which seems to indicate more an opening of the eyes to be able to see God’s provision.


and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.’


Does the Lord test his people in a similar way today? Can anyone remember an experience where the Lord provided at just the right time – but not before?


15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, ‘I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.’


There is no greater witness to God’s promise than he himself. Again he emphasises that Abraham’s descendants would be innumerable. The Lord had chosen Abraham for this role, not because he was perfect (he wasn’t!) but because he would be obedient, putting his faith and trust in God.


What do you make of the phrase: ‘through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed’? (Probably not referring to the Jewish nation, but rather Jesus – the saviour of the world).


19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.


It seems that in early days no-one considered that they ‘owned’ the land. Important features, a hilltop, a stand of trees, a cleared field, a spring, or a well – all of these had value and could be sold, but the actual land was free for all to use as they wished. Of course a local Chief might not be happy if you just turned up with a herd of goats and started grazing in his territory, and he may demand payment.


It seems that Abraham, having paid for the well at Beersheba, was happy to settle for a long time in that area.


For this next session of study it may be helpful to provide a map, and the chart of Terah’s family tree (Chart 002)


20 Some time later Abraham was told, ‘Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.’ 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.


 In a previous study (Genesis 10b) we saw how Terah left Ur with his son Abram and travelled to Haran. Podssibly leaving his other son Nahor with his wife Milcah (daughter of Haran, Terah’s other son who had died) in Ur, although later he also is living in the area near Haran.


Map 004 http://www.biblenews1.com/maps/BibleAbrahamL.gif


But communication links were quite good, and Abraham learnt that his brother was now a father too. Two of his sons will become important; the rest will not be mentioned in the Bible again.


21 Uz the firstborn,

Job was to come from the land of Uz

Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram),

But not to be confused with Aram, son of Shem who became father of the Arameans


22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.’

Again, the first four of these are not mentioned again, but they need to be here in order to be able to include Bethuel.


What was so special about him?

23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. (Who would become Isaac’s wife)


Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.


For convenience, we are now going to look at Genesis 23


1 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.

Kiriath Arba was the original name for Hebron and was about 25 miles north-east of Beersheba. Mamre, where they had settled first, was a short distance away and maybe Sarah still had old friends there. It is possible that whole area was used by Abraham for grazing and he may have had several permanent campsites.


All we know is that that was where Sarah died, we are not told specifically if Abraham was living there or not.

 

3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, 4 ‘I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so that I can bury my dead.’


(These Hittites were descendants of Heth, son of Canaan, son of Ham, son of Noah)


There was a recognised meeting place for the Elders to assemble and do business at the city gate (v10, 18). Abraham now enters into a normal bargaining process:


a) First open the discussion: Sell me some property

b) Standard reply: We’ll give it to you. (No they won’t – it’s just courtesy)
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 ‘Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.’


c) Specific request: sell me the cave of Machpelah
7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites.8 He said to them, ‘If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so that he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.’

d) Standard reply: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it.
10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 ‘No, my lord,’ he said. ‘Listen to me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. I give it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.’

Again, he doesn’t intend to give it – it’s just courtesy, but actually here he is explaining that if Abraham wants the cave he’ll have to buy the field as well.

e) Acceptance of the conditions, but what will it cost?
12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, ‘Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so that I can bury my dead there.’

f) Opening offer.
14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 ‘Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.’

Normally this would be met with a veiled suggestion that the price was a bit high and a counter-offer would be made. Here though we have:


g) Acceptance and payment of the full price.
16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.


17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre – both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field – was legally made over 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city.


As explained earlier, this wasn’t so much a sale of so many acres of land, but a sale of the valuable items on the land: the field (cleared of stones and maybe walled using those stones, or perhaps planted with a crop), the cave, and the trees.  


19 Afterwards Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were legally made over to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.


Note specifically ‘as a burial site.’  This was how it would be known by future generations too.



Genesis 24Genesis 21








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Genesis 22:1-24  Isaac offered,
Genesis 23:1-20  covenant repeated