Having A Go At Genesis

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Webers.Home

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Gen 14:15b . . and he pursued them as far as Hobah,

Unfortunately this is the only place in the entire Old Testament where Hobah
is mentioned; and archaeologists have had no luck so far in discovering its
exact location.

Gen 14:15c . .which is north of Damascus.

Many, many years later, in 1918, the Hejaz Arab Army led by T.E. Laurence
(Laurence of Arabia) would fight the Turks in this very region and drive them
out of Damascus.

Ol' Abram sure didn't want those guys to forget Canaan none too soon. It
wasn't enough to beat them at Dan; no, he ran them all the way out of the
country. The survivors of the invading army no doubt straggled back to their
homelands as best they could, amazed at this sudden, unexpected
humiliating end to what had been up till then a mighty wave of victory and
conquest.

No mention of this battle has ever yet been found on any of the Babylonian
or Elamite inscriptions-- which is understandable. Ancient kings were
accustomed to boast only about their victories since defeat usually left them
dead or in slavery.

Gen 14:16 . . He brought back all the possessions; he also brought back
his kinsman Lot and his possessions, and the women and the rest of the
people.

If Abram had left the Federation's people in enemy hands and rescued only
his nephew, no one would have faulted him for it. They were, after all, total
strangers and had nothing in common with either Abram or Abram's religion;
being "very wicked sinners against the Lord." But that would have been a
terribly ignoble show of charity; not to mention downright politically stupid in
a land where you needed all the friends you could get.

It's easy to imagine the tremendous amount of respect this campaign won
for Abram in the eyes of all the Canaanites. He was a great sheik in that
land, no doubt about it now. Abram beat a Babylonian army.

That was an impressive accomplishment; and a testimony to his cunning, his
dependability, and to his courage under fire. Everyone in Canaan knew now
that Abram wasn't a man to be trifled with. He's a perfect example of the old
proverb: Walk softly, and carry a big stick. Abram was no bully, yet didn't
allow others to bully him. Now if only he would quit lying to people about his
relationship to Sarai.

NOTE: US President Theodore Roosevelt is famous for his comment about
walking softly, but the way he went about obtaining the Panama Canal zone
was not what I would call "soft".

Gen 14:17 . .When he returned from defeating Chedorlaomer and the
kings with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of
Shaveh, which is the Valley of the King.

The location of the Shaveh Valley is a total mystery; this being the only
place in the entire Old Testament where it's mentioned. "Shaveh" is a
transliteration of Shaveh (shaw-vay') which means: plain or level or equal.

Some feel that the Shaveh Valley was some sort of neutral zone, like a
Geneva Switzerland; where rival sheiks could meet and talk turkey without
fear of reprisal or assassination. The Valley of the King is thought to be a
special location where kingships were publicly bestowed upon individuals--
which, if true, would imply that Abram may have been offered an
opportunity to rule a portion of Canaan.

It's not unusual for victorious military commanders to be politically popular.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the USA's 34th president, was one of those;
and so was the great Shawnee chieftain Tecumseh. (had the British not
reneged on their commitment to support Tecumseh's hard-won coalition of
eastern tribes, the United States east of the Mississippi river might be half
its size today)
_
 

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Gen 14:18a . . And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and
wine;

Melchizedek's name is Malkiy-Tsedeq (mal-kee-tseh'-dek) which means:
king of right or possibly just simply righteous king; in contrast to the
wickedness which was the stock in trade of Bera, king of Sodom. I tend to
think that King Mel was a widely-accepted circuit judge in that region; a sort
of one-man Supreme Court in his day like Samuel was in his.

Salem is an early name of Jerusalem; translated from the Hebrew word
Shalem (shaw-lame') which means: peaceful.

Some make a big deal out of the bread and wine; relating it to the elements
of the Christian communion service, a.k.a. the Lord's Supper. However, the
Lord's bread was unleavened; keeping with the law of the Passover.

The Hebrew word for unleavened bread is matstsah (mats-tsaw') whereas
the Hebrew word for the bread that Mel brought is lechem (lekh'-em) which
is a nondescript word for all manner of food; it isn't limited to bakery
products.

A good example of the ambiguity of lechem is the feast that Joseph ordered
prepared for his brothers (Gen 43:25-31). It wasn't a basket of Focaccia al
rosmarino; rather, an entire banquet.

There's really nothing especially symbolic about the wine either; it was a
common dinner beverage introduced to the post Flood world by none other
than grampa Noah. (Gen 9:20-21)

Mel's catering service probably brought enough food and drink for Abram's
entire detachment. They certainly deserved to be feted for their efforts, not
just the old boy himself. Mel's feast was a celebration; no doubt instigated
by Mel, but participated in by the whole region as a gesture of deep
gratitude to Abram and his men for ridding Canaan of that awful Ched
person. In other words: I think that what we're looking at here is a fiesta.

The wine that Mel brought to this event was capable of making everybody
quite drunk if they imbibed an amount beyond their tolerance. The word is
yayin (yah'-yin) which means: to effervesce; wine (as fermented); by
implication, intoxication. It's the very same word used of the beverage that
hammered gramps in chapter nine.

Mel was not only a political figure in that region; but a religious figure as
well.

Gen 14:18b . . he was a priest of God Most High.

"Most High" is a brand new superlative for God at this point in Genesis. It's
'elyown (el-yone') which means: an elevation, i.e. lofty. As a title it means:
the Supreme, or the Very Highest.

We might have thought that Abram's camp comprised the only God-fearing
people in all of Canaan. But surprise of surprises. There was another man in
the land who was a God-fearing sheik just like Abram. But Mel went one
better. This man was not just a sheik, but also a priest of the Supreme God;
and he holds the honor of being the very first official priest of God in the
entire Bible; many years before Aaron.

Abram was a prophet, a great sheik, and a great man of God; and although
he did the part of a priest for his clan-- as did Job, Noah, and others-- he
was never really an official priest nor was he ever really a true king. So Mel
easily outranked Abram. (cf. Heb 7:4-7)

True priests are mediators between God and Man; and in that capacity, have
the authority and the wherewithal to effect a reconciliation between the two
whenever there's a breakdown in diplomatic relations. Priests also have a
knowledge of God; which they have a sacred duty to dispense to their
constituents. (Mal 2:7)

The Bible is completely silent about Mel's origin. It doesn't list his genealogy;
no, not even so much as his mother and father; which is very unusual
because Aaronic priests have to prove their lineage before being permitted
to take office. So that, in reality, a priest like Mel doesn't have to be related
to Aaron, nor does he even have to be particularly Jewish; nor any other
specific ethnic for that matter. He just has to be a human being because
high priests are taken from among men rather than from among angels.
(Heb 5:1)

However, humanness doesn't eo ipso qualify someone for the office of
Melchizedekian priest because it's an appointment rather than a career
track. (Ps 110:4, Heb 5:4-6)

Mel was definitely a Gentile because Abram (himself also a Gentile, from the
region of Iraq) had yet to engender Isaac; the father of Jacob, who was to
become the progenitor of the twelve tribes of the people of Israel; viz: the
Jews. So; though Christ was a Jew, a number of his ancestors weren't.

NOTE: The most important thing to note about Mel is that he was a priest
prior to the institution of Israel's covenanted law. Therefore, since Bible law
isn't retroactive-- viz: doesn't have ex post facto jurisdiction (Deut 5:2-4,
Gal 3:17) --then Mel's constituents weren't obligated to comply with the Ten
Commandments; ergo: the Commandments cannot be used to prosecute
them in heaven's court of law (cf. Rom 4:15, Rom 5:13).

This rather outstanding advantage carries over to Christ's constituents too
because his priesthood is patterned after Mel's. (Ps 110:4, Heb 5:4-6)

Another thing to note about Mel's priesthood is that according to the letter to
Hebrews; it's a high-priest priesthood; which means that only one man at a
time can hold the office.

That right there totally invalidates Mormonism's order of Melchizedek. It also
invalidates Mormonism's Aaronic order too because Aaron's is also a high
priest priesthood. In other words: the high priest's priesthood doesn't
consist of a panel of priests like the nine justices comprising the US Supreme
Court. No, the high-priest's priesthood is a one-man show.
_
 

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Gen 14:19-20a . . He blessed him, saying: Blessed be Abram of God Most
High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, Who has
delivered your foes into your hand.

At this point in time, Abram's relationship with God was very satisfactory.
'Elyown had nothing critical for Mel to say of Abram; and Mel verified that
God was the reason behind Abram's success in battle. David's too.

"In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall
(2Sam 22:30)

"He prepares me for battle; he strengthens me to draw a bow of bronze. (2
Sam 22:35)

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers
for battle" (Ps 144:1)

etc.

There are Christians who, allegedly for conscience sake, are totally against
all war and violence. They fail to appreciate that peace, liberty, and human
rights are preserved in an evil world only by force of arms.

Conscientious objectors-- while refusing to put themselves in harm's way
standing guard over their family and their country, and to lend a hand in
keeping the world a relatively safe, stable place to live, sacrificing their own
lives and futures if need be --don't seem to mind taking advantage of the
abundance of benefits purchased by the blood of others whom they despise
as baby killers and war mongers.

Gen 14:20b . . And [Abram] gave him a tenth of everything.

According to Heb 7:1-4, this particular tenth regarded only the recent spoils
of war; not of all Abram's estate in its entirety. So then, tenths should be
reserved for times when you know in your heart that it was God who
engineered your success.

Just exactly how King Mel disposed of Abram's tenth isn't stated; but
typically contributions back then went towards a local priest's support. This
principle would apply of course only if Mel was useful to Abram as a priest;
viz: a source of spiritual counseling and/or a mediator between himself and
God, otherwise Abram would owe him nothing.

But enough of that. A comprehensive dissertation on the Melchizedekian
priesthood is located in the New Testament's open letter to the Hebrew
people.

Gen 14:21 . .Then the king of Sodom said to Abram: Give me the persons,
and take the possessions for yourself.

Sheik Bera was very grateful to Abram, and asked only for the return of his
fellow citizens; but not for the return of their stolen goods. Abram was more
than welcome to keep it all as his reward for rescuing the people of the
Plain. Although Bera and his citizens were very wicked, this is one time I
have to give him some credit for showing excellent propriety.

But Abram refused. There was just no way he was going to get rich by
exploiting his own neighbors' misfortunes. Although he had a perfect right,
within the customs of that day, to all the spoils of war, (a tenth of which he
already gave to Melchizedek) he waived it in favor of looking out for Sheik
Bera's best interests. I tell you, this man Abram was incredibly gracious; and
his manner of life, as a rule, made his religion, and his god, look pretty
good.

Gen 14:22-23 . .But Abram said to the king of Sodom: I swear to the Lord
God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth; I will not take so much as a
thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say: It is I who made
Abram rich

When you get down to it; a person's reputation is all that really matters in
life; because it's really the only thing we take with us when we pass on.
Abram didn't want to be known as someone who got rich through the
misfortunes of others. And that is exactly what would have happened had he
agreed to Bera's suggestion. You can imagine what that would have done to
his influence for God in that region; and how it would have ruined Abram's
own self respect. It would be awful indeed if people round about gossiped
that Abram's only motive for rescuing his nephew was for profit.

Abram didn't need Bera's stuff anyway. What the heck; he had plenty back
home already. Why be greedy? I mean: how much does it really take to
satisfy? Does a man really have to own every skyscraper, every square foot
of real estate, every drop of water, every cow, pig, and chicken, every inch
of agricultural land, every fruit and vegetable seed sold around the world,
every watt of electricity, every telephone system, every share of stock in a
blue chip company, every software program, every car dealership, every oil
well, every refinery, every electric generating plant, every natural gas
supplier, a monopoly on insecticide and weed killer, every utility, and every
hotel and apartment building before he feels he has enough?

When will Walmart's corporate managers finally say "Lets stop expanding.
We have enough market share". They never will because Walmart's greed
and its predatory nature knows no bounds.

As I watched a NetFlix documentary about corn production; the producers
visited a chemical plant that makes high fructose corn syrup. The manager
of the plant was asked how much market share his product had. After
answering, he was then asked how much market share he would like to
have; and he answered "all of it"

The Supreme Almighty God, who had so blessed Abram thus far, would
surely continue to do so. Abram had far more personal honor and self
respect than the predatory ENRON traders who took advantage of forest
fires in California some years ago to raise that State's electric rates.

Gen 14:24 . . For me, nothing but what my servants have used up; as for
the share of the men who went with me-- Aner, Eshkol, and Mamre --let
them take their share.

Abram's only request was replacement of his own provisions that his troops
consumed during the mission. He didn't permit them to take a share of the
spoils; and since they were his slaves; they had no say in it. But his Amorite
allies spoke for themselves. If they wanted anything, it was their own
decisions about it and Abram didn't interfere. I mean, after all; the cities of
the plain owed the Amorite guys at least a little something as compensation
for saving their bacon.
_
 

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Gen 15:1a . . Some time later, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a
vision.

This is the very first record of a vision in the Bible. The Hebrew word is
machazeh (makh-az-eh') and it appears in only four places in the entire Old
Testament; which is pretty amazing considering the volume of prophecy the
Old Testament contains.

Visions aren't always visible scenes, but sometimes contain only audible
words; and this is one of those instances. It wasn't the Lord who came to
Abram in a vision: it was His word; viz: this vision was something heard
rather than seen i.e. a message.

Gen 15:1b . . Fear not, Abram, I am a shield to you;

The vision informed Abram that Yhvh intended to protect him; which was a
good thing because quite possibly Abram at this time was feeling a bit
anxious that a counterattack might be organized up in Shinar and return to
Canaan for revenge with a much larger force than the one recently defeated.

Gen 15:1c . .Your reward shall be very great.

In other words; his reward would be much greater than the one he just
recently forfeited. In those days, it was winner takes all; but Abram had not
exercised that option.

Below is an ancient take on the event.

T. Thereupon was the word of the Lord with Abram in a vision, saying: Fear
not; for if these men should gather together in legions and come against
thee, My Word will be thy shield: and also if these fall before thee in this
world, the reward of thy good works shall be kept, and be prepared before
Me in the world to come, great exceedingly. (Targum Jonathan)

Gen 15:2a . . But Abram said: O Lord God, what can You give me, seeing
that I shall die childless,

Apparently Abram misunderstood God back in Gen 12:2 when He promised
to make of Abram a great nation; even though God restated the promise at
Gen 12:7 and Gen 13:15 and clearly meant Abram would engender
biological progeny. However, I think the man had grown so accustomed to
Sarah's sterility that it just never occurred to him that God's promise might
actually be for real.

Gen 15:2b . . and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?

Eliezer wasn't Abram's blood kin; however, by common law in Canaan, he
was Abram's default heir apparent in the absence of legal progeny.

Gen 15:3 . . Abram said further: Since You have granted me no offspring,
my steward will be my heir.

When a man without children died in that day, common law stipulated that
his chief steward got it all and had a legal right to pass it all on to his own
son. Abram had no real estate, but if he did, then Eliezer would get that too
in the event Abram died with no heir. Sarai? Well, she'd probably stay on as
Eliezer's concubine.

But the real danger at this point wasn't to Abram's gold, silver, slaves,
herds, and women; but to the promises that God made to Abram concerning
his heir. Those would pass to Eliezer too.

Gen 15:4-5 . .The word of The Lord came to him in reply: That one shall
not be your heir; none but your very own issue shall be your heir. He took
him outside and said: Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are
able to count them. And He added: So shall your offspring be.

In Abram's day, prior to the invention of optics, the only stars that people
could see with their own eyes were those in our home galaxy; the Milky
Way; which consists of an estimated 100-400 billion stars. But many of
those estimated billions of stars appear to the naked eye not as stars but as
glowing clouds; viz: they cannot be individually distinguished by the naked
eye so those didn't matter to Abram when it came to actually tallying the
heavens.

The entire global sky contains roughly five or six thousand stars visible to
the naked eye. However, we can't see all those stars at once; only the ones
when the sky is dark. So then; in Abram's day, he could see at most three
thousand discernible stars from dark till dawn. God had said "if you are able
to count them". Well; even at only three thousand, the task would be
difficult.

NOTE: The term "stars" may have been an ancient colloquialism for large
numbers of just about anything. Compare Heb 12:1 where "cloud" is a term
for the same purpose.

Anyway . . it finally sank in that God's promise was for real and that's when
one of the most significant events in history took place.

Gen 15:6 . . And he believed in Yhvh; and He counted it to him for
righteousness.

That is the very first time anything "righteous" was said about Abram in
Genesis; and it resulted not from piety, but rather, from belief.

The Hebrew word for "belief" is horribly ambiguous. 'Aman can mean,
among other things: (1) to build up or support, (2) to foster as a parent or
nurse, (3) figuratively to render (or be) firm or faithful, (4) to trust or
believe, (5) to be permanent or quiet, (6) to be morally true or certain, and
(7) to rely upon.

Any choice I make from that list would be entirely arbitrary; but my money
is upon trust and reliance because at that moment, Abram began seriously
pinning his hopes on God to do something about his childless situation.

The thing to note is that Abram's hope wasn't based upon wishful thinking.
No; he had a testimony from God to justify his confidence.

According to the first chapter of Genesis; the cosmos-- all of its forms of life,
matter, and energy --is the result of intelligent design. Do people gain a
degree of righteousness when they believe that chapter is true? No; I mean,
even demons believe that chapter is true; and fat lot of good it does them
because there are no personal guarantees in that chapter; it's entirely
academic.

But how about this?

"I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the One who
sent me. And this is the will of the One who sent me, that I should not lose
anything of what He gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For
this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in
him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day." (John
6:38-40)

Whether people do or don't rely upon and/or trust that statement will have
no effect upon its outcome; viz: it is going to happen. However, their doubt
will cost them a degree of righteousness because John 3:38-40 isn't
academic; no, it's a personal guarantee and anybody with the moxie to do
so can grab it by merely speaking up like this:

"God, I believe in your son and would like to take advantage of his promise
per John 3:38-40 to be given eternal life and his resurrection. Thank you."
_
 

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Gen 15:7a . .Then He said to him: I am The Lord who brought you out
from Ur of the Chaldeans

God here identifies Himself as Yhvh (a.k.a. Jehovah). That may seem
unimportant but there are those who claim Abram was unaware of that
name because of Ex 6:3. But it just goes to show you that sometimes the
Bible is not all that easy to understand.

One thing we should never overlook about Abram is that, although he was a
Hebrew, he was never a Jew. He and his wife Sarai were both Gentiles whom
God selected to engender the people of Israel. There was nothing
particularly special about Abram. In fact he came from a city, and a family,
of idolaters. (Josh 24:2)

So God began by reminding Abram of his roots. Abram was a Babylonian;
and it was God who took an interest in him, and the one who got him out of
there and gave him a future. It wasn't Abram's idea to re-invent himself;
nor was it Abram's idea to pack up and leave his native country. Actually, if
not for God's interference, Abram would've still been back at Ur, living like a
pagan.

Gen 15:7b . . to assign this land to you as a possession.

God gave this man a future. Abram was a nobody, going nowhere in Ur. Of
His own sovereign volition, God moved into Abram's life and made a
difference. He'll do the very same thing again later on with Jacob.

Some Gentile Christians are way too puffed up with religious pride. It
wouldn't hurt a few of them to consider their own roots once in a while too
because they have absolutely nothing to brag about.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you
used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the
kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are
disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the
cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the
rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

. . . But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us
alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace
you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with
him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his
kindness to us in Christ Jesus." (Eph 2:1-7)

"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called
"uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done
in the body by the hands of men)-- remember that at that time you were
separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to
the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought
near through the blood of Christ." (Eph 2:11-13)

Gen 15:8 . . And he said: O Lord God, how shall I know that I am to
possess it?

When men struck deals in those days, they gave each other a token of their
word. What Abram requested was sort of akin to a notarized signature.
That's interesting because though Abram believed God's promise of a
biological heir; he didn't really have all that much confidence in God's
promise of the heir possessing Canaan. In other words: Abram wanted a
token of God's good faith.

During this dialogue, Abram has been calling God by the title 'Adonay (ad-o
noy') which means Lord, Sovereign, and/or Master (as a proper name for
only God) This is, in point of fact, the very first instance in the Bible of
somebody addressing God by that title. It is precisely what everyone should
call God only when they are serious about living in compliance with His will.

So please don't ever address your maker as Lord, Sovereign, and/or Master
unless you mean it. It is very insulting, and quite meaningless, to refer to
someone as your commander when you have no intention of doing what
they say or if you're going about it in a half-hearted manner.

"And why do you call me Lord and Master and do not what I say?" (Luke
6:46)

"A son honors his father, and a servant his lord. If I am a father, where is
the honor due me? If I am a lord, where is the respect due me?-- protests
the Lord of Hosts." (Mal 1:6)

Gen 15:9-10 . . He answered: Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three
year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young bird. He
brought Him all these and cut them in two, placing each half opposite the
other; but he did not divide the [young] bird.

A full grown "turtledove" is a towr (tore). Young birds are a gowzal (go
zawl'); a nestling, quite possibly still covered in chick down. Of all the
animals that God specified, the gowzal is the only one that wasn't mature.
How Abram knew to cut the mature ones in two pieces is not stated.

The ritual that is about to take place amounted to a notary public. Abram
wanted God's name on the dotted line and this is the way God chose to do
it. This ritual may look silly and barbarous to modern Man, but it was serious
business and may very well have been a common custom for sealing pacts in
the Canaan of that day.
_
 

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Gen 15:11 . . Birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram
drove them away.

The only responsibility that Abram had in this ritual was to set it up. So it
was his job to protect the carcasses from damage and keep the scene clear
of interference from people and critters who had no business there.

Gen 15:12 . . As the sun was about to set, a deep sleep fell upon Abram,
and a great dark dread descended upon him.

At this point, Abram is placed in a condition that is much more powerful than
a trance. It's the sleep of anesthesia-- the very same kind of sleep that God
put Adam into when he amputated material from his side to make the
woman at Gen 2:21-22.

In this condition, Abram is totally powerless to either participate or to
interfere; nor would he want to anyway. It's God who's putting His name on
the dotted line; not Abram. This entire ritual is for Abram's benefit; and his
alone, because Abram didn't have to reciprocate and promise God one single
thing in return. God is the one who voluntarily obligated Himself, and now
He is going to notarize his word per Abram's request; to set Abram's mind at
ease regarding a biological heir, and the heir's possession of Canaan.

This pact, that God made with Abram, is totally unconditional. No matter
what Abram did from now on, nothing would place himself in breach of
contract because God alone is in obligation. There is nothing in the pact for
Abram to live up to; therefore it was impossible for Abram to endanger
either his own, or his posterity's, permanent possession of the land of
Palestine. They may lose their occupation of it from time to time, but never
their possession. And best of all, the contract that Moses' people agreed
upon with God as per Deut 29:9-5 cannot endanger the security of this
covenant because theirs was introduced too late to make a difference.

"And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later,
cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that
it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it
is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham as a promise." (Gal
3:17-18)

Law grants blessings on condition, but promises grant blessings with no
strings attached and nothing asked in return.

"As far as the gospel is concerned, [God's people] are enemies on your
account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of
the patriarchs, for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable." (Rom 11:28-29)

Gen 15:13 . . And He said to Abram: Know well that your offspring shall be
strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four
hundred years;

God predicted three things concerning Abram's offspring (not Abram
himself) that would occur over a 400 year period:

(1) They would be resident aliens, (2) They would be oppressed, and (3)
They would be slaves.

From the time Jacob moved his family down to Egypt, until the day Moses'
people left under Moses' leadership, was only about 210 years. But
according to Ex 12:40-41 the people of Israel were supposed to have
dwelled in Egypt 430 years.

Paul said that Israel's covenanted law, (enacted about a month after the
people of Israel were liberated from Egypt) came 430 years after Abram's
covenant. (Gal 3:16-18)

The data is somewhat sketchy, but from what exists, it appears that an all
inclusive 430-year period began with Abram's covenant scene in Gen 15. But
God didn't say Abram himself would be effected by the prediction. He said
Abram's progeny would be. Ishmael doesn't count as Abram's progeny in
respect to the land. So the holy progeny began with the birth of Isaac; which
occurred about 30 years after Abram's covenant was ratified. So the 400
year period of Gen 15:13 apparently began with Isaac. Even though he
himself was never a slave in Egypt, Isaac was nevertheless an alien in lands
not belonging to him; and later, his son Jacob would be too.

Abram's holy progeny were resident aliens in at least three places-- Canaan,
Egypt, and Babylonia. Jacob lived, not only in Canaan and Egypt, but also on
his uncle Laban's ranch in Haran; which is up in Turkey.

Precisely why the entire 430 year period is reckoned in Ex 12:40-41 as "the
length of time that the Israelites lived in Egypt" is totally unknown; except
that it reflects the Septuagint's version; which is a Greek derivative of
ancient Hebrew texts no longer available.

Gen 15:14a . . but I will execute judgment on the nation they shall serve,

That of course refers to the famous plagues that occurred in Egypt during
Moses' confrontation with one of its Pharaohs; culminating in the death of
the firstborn of man and beast during the Passover.

Gen 15:14b . . and in the end they shall go free.

Actually they didn't "go" free like the English text suggests; but rather, were
set free-- viz: liberated --because on their own, they would never have been
able to do it. It was at that time that the people of Israel learned the true
connotation of the name Yhvh. It's not just another divine moniker. It
identifies God as a savior; which Webster's defines as a rescuer.

"God also said to Moses: I am Yhvh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to
Jacob as 'El Shadday, but by my name Yhvh I did not make myself known to
them." (Ex 6:2-3)

Those three men knew the moniker; but their association with 'El Shadday
was not on the basis of a savior. Their association was on the basis of a
provider; viz: providence; which can be defined (in their case) as God's
kindly patronage.

Gen 15:14c . . with great wealth.

The "great wealth" was in the form of voluntary plunder. (Ex 11:1-3, Ex
12:33-36)
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Gen 15:15a . . As for you,

Abram must have begun to wonder if maybe he too was in danger of
oppression and slavery.

Gen 15:15b . .You shall go to your fathers in peace;

Have you ever wondered how you'll die-- by accident, poison, in a violent
mugging, disease, cancer, car wreck, a fall, hit in the head by a tree limb, or
from a random bullet in a drive-by shooting? People often die suddenly and
totally unexpected. Many people die a very unhappy death-- miserable,
alone, unloved, and unfulfilled.

God promised Abram that he would not die like that. His death would be
tranquil and calm and actually quite satisfactory. He would experience no
fears, no anxiety, and no regrets.

Gen 15:15c . .You shall be buried at a ripe old age.

Death stalks each and every one of us like a hungry predator, waiting for its
chance to do us in. We just never know.

"Jesus told them: The right time for me has not yet come; but for you any
time is right." (John 7:6)

Abram had the envious advantage of knowing he would live a full life before
he died. Everyone should be so lucky!

Gen 15:16 . . And they shall return here in the fourth generation, for the
iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.

God mentioned only one of the nations living in Canaan. Why was He going
to delay transferring possession of the land until the iniquity of the
"Amorites" was brimming-- why them and not the others? Probably because
God promised Abram that He would bless those who blessed him.

Well . . the Amorite men-- Mamre, Eshkol, and Aner --were Abram's friends
and allies during the recent military campaign to rescue Lot; so that the
ultimate destiny of Canaan hinged upon the decadence of just one tribe: the
Amorites. Sometimes it really pays to have God-fearing friends in this world;
for example:

Jacob:

"And Laban said to him: Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I
have learned by experience that Yhvh has blessed me for your sake". (Gen
30:27)

"The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and Yhvh has
blessed you wherever I have been". (Gen 30:30)

and Joseph:

"When Joseph's master saw that Yhvh was with him and that Yhvh gave him
success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his
attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to
his care everything he owned.

. . . From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he
owned, Yhvh blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The
blessing of Yhvh was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in
the field". (Gen 39:3-5)

Gen 15:17 . .When the sun set and it was very dark, there appeared a
smoking oven, and a flaming torch which passed between those pieces.

The Hebrew word for "oven" is tannuwr (tan-noor') which means: a fire pot.
But it's not just a simple bucket of coals. It was actually portable kitchen
equipment, especially for baking fresh bread. There are several passages in
the Bible where ovens are connected with Divine judgment. (e.g. Ps 21:9
10, Mal 3:19-21, Matt 13:40-43)
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Gen 15:18a . . On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram,

This is now the second covenant that God made with His creation. The first
one was with every living creature back in chapter nine. That one is often
called Noah's Covenant. But this covenant, well known as Abraham's
Covenant, is somewhat different. It's not made between God and every
living creature, but between God and one specific human being and his
progeny.

Gen 15:18b . . saying: To your offspring I assign this land,

The word for "offspring" is zera' (zeh'-rah) which means: seed; figuratively,
fruit, plant, sowing-time, and progeny. Zera' is one of those words that is
both plural and singular-- like the words sheep and fish. One sheep is a
sheep, and a flock of them are called sheep too. So the context has to be
taken into consideration; and even then there can still be ambiguity

Here's an instance where the meaning of zera' is obviously one child.

"Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth,
meaning: God has provided me with another offspring in place of Abel. For
Cain had killed him". (Gen 4:25)

Here's an instance where the meaning is clearly more than one child.

"And He said to Abram: Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a
land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed four hundred
years" (Gen 15:13)

Sometimes the context contains both the singular and the plural.

"Abram said further: Since You have granted me no offspring, my steward
will be my heir. The word of the Lord came to him in reply: That one shall
not be your heir; none but your very own issue shall be your heir. Yhvh took
him outside and said: Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are
able to count them. And He added: So shall your progeny be". (Gen 15:3-5)

Gen 15:18c-21 . . from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river
Euphrates: the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the
Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgasites, and
the Jebusites.

If you have a map handy, it's instantly apparent just how huge a piece of
real estate that God assigned to Abram and his offspring. It's very difficult to
precisely outline the whole area but it seems to encompass a chunk of Africa
east of the Nile, (including the delta), the Sinai Peninsula, Saudi Arabia,
Yemen, Onan, UAE, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

The "river of Egypt" is very likely the Nile since there was no Suez Canal in
that day. The Euphrates is Iraq's eastern border. The distance from Cairo
Egypt to Al Basrah Iraq is about 983 miles as the crow flies.

That's roughly the distance from San Diego to Abilene Tx. The distance from
Aden Yemen to Hilab Syria is about 1,698 miles as the crow flies; which is
just a tad under the crow-distance from Los Angeles to Chicago.

I'm talking about some serious square mileage-- roughly 1,538,370 of
them; which is more than Ireland, United Kingdom, Scotland, Spain, France,
Germany, Sweden, Norway, and Finland combined! Currently, Israel, at its
widest east to west dimension, across the Negev, is less than 70 miles; and
south to north from the Gulf Of Aqaba to Shemona, about 260; comprising a
square mileage of only 8,473: a mere half of 1% of the original land
covenanted to Abram.

God has yet to give Abram's seed complete control over all of his
covenanted land. In point of fact, the boundaries were very early on
temporarily reduced for the time being. (Num 34:1-12)

The temporary boundaries run from the Mediterranean Sea eastward to the
Jordan River; and from the southern tip of the Dead Sea northward to a
geographic location which has not yet really been quite accurately identified.
Ezk 47:15 says the northern border passes along "the way of Hethlon" which
some feel is very likely the valley of the Nahr al Kubbir river which roughly
parallels the northern border of modern day Lebanon, and through which a
railroad track lies between An Naqib on the Mediterranean coast to Hims
Syria.

The next event in Abram's life has repercussions all the way to the World
Trade Center-- September 11, 2001. The son produced by his union with
Hagar went on to become the father of the Arab world; and ultimately,
Muhammad: the inventor of Islam.
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Gen 16:1 . . Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had an
Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar.

It's entirely possible that Abram purchased Ms. Hagar while they were all
down in Egypt during the famine back in chapter 12.

The word for "maidservant" is shiphchah (shif-khaw') which is a female slave
(as a member of the household). So, Hagar wasn't just another skull in the
slave pool. As a member of the household staff, she merited a measure of
respect. Hagar probably seemed like a daughter to ol' Abram in spite of her
slave status.

It's my guess that Hagar was Sarai's personal assistant similar in status to
that of Anna: lady Mary's maid in the popular television series "Downton
Abbey".

The duties of a lady's maid typically include helping her mistress with make
up, hairdressing, clothing, jewelry, shoes, and wardrobe maintenance. I
think all-in-all; Hagar had it pretty good; that is, until this fertility issue
came along to spoil everything.

Gen 16:2a . . And Sarai said to Abram: Look, the Lord has kept me from
bearing.

Sarai's logic, at least from a certain point of view, was reasonable. She was
likely familiar with Gen 1:22 and 1:28, where fertility was stated to be a
blessing; therefore, in her mind at least, infertility was an evidence of God's
disfavor.

There's a rare defect in women that is just astounding. I read about it in the
Vital Signs column of Discover magazine. The defect, though rare, is most
common in otherwise perfectly gorgeous women-- girls like Sarai --and
seems to be somewhat hereditary. Their birth canal is a cul-de-sac; viz: a
blank pouch. There's no ovaries, no fallopian tubes, no uterus, and no
cervix. One of the first clues to the presence of the defect is when girls are
supposed to start menstruating, but don't.

The story I saw was of a young Mexican girl (I'll call her Lupé). Young,
beautiful, and filled out in all the right places; Lupé came to a clinic for an
examination to find out why she wasn't having periods and that's when they
discovered she didn't have any generative plumbing.

Lupé was devastated, not only with the news that she would never have any
children of her own, but to make matters worse; in her home town's culture,
fertile girls are highly valued and respected, while the sterile ones are
treated like expendable grunts-- char-girls and slave labor. Lupé left the
clinic with the full weight upon her heart that in spite of being a ten, and in
spite of her feelings to the contrary, she would have to spend the rest of her
youth solo because no man in her community would want her; and even
among her own kin Lupé would be looked upon as cursed and untouchable.

I'm not insisting Sarai had the same problem as Lupé. It's only one
possibility from any number of fertility problems; e.g. hostile womb,
anovulation, tubal blockage, uterine issues, etc. But unbeknownst to Sarai,
God wanted her biological progeny to be a miracle baby rather than a
natural baby; and why God didn't keep Abram informed about that I can
only speculate: but won't.

Gen 16:2b . . Consort with my maid; perhaps I shall have a son through
her.

This is the very first instance in the Bible of the principle of adoption.
According to the customs of that day, a Lady had the right, and the option,
to keep a female slave's children as her own if the Lady's husband sired
them. No one bothered to ask Ms. Hagar how she might feel about it
because slaves had no say in such arrangements.

Gen 16:2c . . And Abram heeded Sarai's request.

Sarai wasn't specifically named in God's original promise of offspring; so
Abram may have figured that any son he produced could qualify as the
promised seed. This is one time he really should have gone to one of his
altar and inquired of The Lord what to do. But it was an innocent mistake,
and totally blindsided Abram because what he and Sarai did wasn't out of
the ordinary in their own day.

Gen 16:3 . . So Sarai, Abram's wife, took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian--
after Abram had dwelt in the land of Canaan ten years --and gave her to her
husband Abram as concubine.

Hagar no doubt was attracted to any one of a number of fine unattached
young men in Abram's community; but due to circumstances beyond her
control, she was doomed to a lonely limbo of unrequited love. Her lot in life,
though no doubt very comfortable and secure, was, nonetheless, probably
tainted with an unfulfilled longing that robbed her of true peace and
contentment.

Abram was ten years older than Sarai; so he was 85 at this point in time;
which is equivalent to about 43 of our own years of age.

The word translated "concubine" is 'ishshah (ish-shaw') --a nondescript word
for women (cf. Gen 2:22-23) which just simply indicates the opposite side of
the Adam coin.

Concubines in those days weren't adulteresses. They had a much higher
status than that. Webster's defines a concubine as: a woman having a
recognized social status in a household below that of a wife. So they weren't
quite as low on the food chain as a mistress or a girl toy. They at least had
some measure of respectability and social acceptance; and they had a
legitimate place in their man's home too. But, at the same time, they were
not a real wife. They were, in fact, quite expendable. When a man was tired
of a concubine, he could send her away with nothing. They shared no
community property, nor had rights of inheritance.

If Hagar had truly been Abram's wife, then she would have enjoyed equality
with Sarai as a sister-wife. But she didn't. Hagar continued to be a slave,
and there is no record that she and Abram slept together more than the
once. She didn't take up a new life married to Abram; and Abram never once
referred to her as his spouse. He always referred to Hagar as Sarai's slave.
The tenor of the story is that Sarai gave her maidservant to Abram as a
wife, but not to actually marry him. Sarai's intention was that Hagar be a
baby mill; nothing more.
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Gen 16:4 . . He cohabited with Hagar and she conceived; and when she
saw that she had conceived, her mistress became lower in her esteem.

Before this incident, Hagar knew her place and was humble and self effacing
around Sarai, but afterwards she regarded her mistress as somewhat less of
a woman than herself. There's no record of Hagar gloating over Sarai, but
sometimes women communicate just as effectively with "looks" as they do
with words.

Gen 16:5 . . And Sarai said to Abram: The wrong done me is your fault! I
myself put my maid in your bosom; and now that she sees that she is
expecting, I am lowered in her esteem. The Lord decide between you and
me!

Sarai attempted to take the high moral ground by insinuating that had
Abram been a real man, he would've seen that sleeping with Hagar was a
bad idea and refused. Therefore it was his fault for not putting a stop to her
idea before things got out of hand.

People accuse God of the very same thing all the time. In their mind's eye, if
God were really as wise, loving, omniscient, and all-powerful as He's alleged
to be, then He would never have put the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil in the garden to begin with; and when the Serpent tempted Eve, He
would have stepped in and put a stop to it before things got out of hand.
Therefore, they conclude, it's not the human race's fault for being what it is:
it's God's fault for not protecting us from our own stupidity.

Gen 16:6a . . Abram said to Sarai: Your maid is in your hands. Deal with
her as you think right.

Abram should never have given Sarai carte blanche to do as she pleased
with Hagar. In her mood, it would surely get out of hand and go too far. But
he was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Abram had to live with Sarai.
He could get by without Hagar's good will; so hers was sacrificed to keep
peace in the home.

Most men would do the very same thing in his place because it isn't easy for
a man to live with an indignant woman. In point of fact, I would put an
indignant woman even higher on the graph of difficulty than a weeping
woman.

Note that Abram didn't refer to Hagar as "my wife"; nor even as "my
concubine". He referred to her as "your maid". It's sad, but obvious that
Abram was ashamed of himself for sleeping with Hagar just to make his wife
happy; and took care to distance himself from Sarai's maid so she wouldn't
get any ideas that Abram had an attachment for her.

Gen 16:6b-7 . .Then Sarai treated her harshly, and she [Hagar] ran away
from her. An angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the
wilderness, the spring on the road to Shur,

Old Testament angels aren't necessarily celestial beings; seeing as how the
Hebrew word simply indicates a deputy and/or a messenger.

The road to Shur went south from Abram's camp; so possibly Hagar's intent
was to return home to Egypt. At this point, she was a runaway slave and
must have been feeling very lonely, very unimportant, and very unsure of
her future. No one cared for her soul, whether she lived or died-- and,
where was she to go? Maybe her parents would take her back in when she
got home. But how was she to explain the baby?

Genesis doesn't say, but Hagar could have hitch-hiked a ride with a caravan.
It's hard to believe a woman in that day would dare attempt a journey that
far on foot, and all by herself.

Shur is the name of a desert region east of the Suez Canal and extending
down along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Suez. Shur means "wall" and
may refer to the mountain wall of the Tih plateau as visible from the shore
plains. The position of Shur is defined as being "opposite Egypt on the way
to Assyria" (Gen 25:18). After crossing the Red Sea, the people of Israel
entered the desert of Shur (Ex 15:22) which extended southward a distance
of three days' journey. The region is referred as being close, or adjacent, to
Egypt. (1Sam 15:7 and 1Sam 27:8)

Gen 16:8a . . the angel said: Hagar, slave of Sarai,

It should be pointed out that the angel didn't refer to Hagar as Abram's wife;
but as Sarai's slave-- additional clues that Hagar and Abram were never
married otherwise her status would be that of Abram's spouse rather than
Sarai's slave.

This is the very first instance in the Bible record where somebody addressed
Ms. Hagar by name. What I like best is that although her human masters
aren't recorded calling her by name, a messenger of God-- higher in dignity
and rank than either Abram and Sarai --did call out to her by her own name.

Gen 16:8b . . where have you come from, and where are you going?

At first the angel probably impressed Hagar as just another friendly traveler.
But there was something very unusual about this mysterious stranger. He
knew Hagar's name, and he knew she was a slave; and he knew her
mistress' name too. And he also knew Ms. Hagar was preggers. That had to
break the ice quite nicely don't you think?

Gen 16:8c . . And she said: I am running away from my mistress Sarai.

Somehow the angel won Ms. Hagar's confidence, and she was comfortable
talking about herself. There's a very real possibility that the angel was the
first person to take a genuine interest in Hagar's feelings for a long, long
time.

In my 76+ years journeying through this life, I've discovered there are lots
of people out there aching for someone to take them seriously. They don't
like being marginalized; they don't like being made to feel unimportant,
inferior, unnecessary, expendable, mediocre, and stupid-- they want to
count; they want to matter, they want to be noticed and they want to be
heard. I've no doubt that is the very reason behind the success of social
networks.

One of the four common characteristics of seemingly level-headed Muslim
men who become suicide bombers is the wish to devote themselves to a
cause higher than themselves; viz: they desire to make their lives count for
something. Those kinds of personalities are good candidates for martyrdom.

NOTE: An extreme case of what we're talking about here is Ted Kaczynski,
a.k.a. the Unabomber. Ted isn't an especially violent man. He has some
ideas and the only way the friendless, isolated loner could think of to get the
world to listen was blast people to pieces at random.

Ted's frustration kind of reminds me of a friend who, when he was in
grammar school, had a crush on the little girl sitting in front of him. My
friend couldn't think of a way to talk to the girl, so he spit on her hair. It
sure got her attention, and that right quick.
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Gen 16:9 . . And the angel of the Lord said to her: Go back to your
mistress, and submit to her harsh treatment.

That was no doubt the last thing Ms. Hagar would consider doing; even in a
pinch. But the Lord had plans for Hagar's baby about which she was
unaware up to this point.

Gen 16:10-11 . . And the angel of The Lord said to her: I will greatly
increase your offspring, and they shall be too many to count. The angel of
Yhvh said to her further: Behold, you are with child and shall bear a son;
you shall call him Ishmael, for Yhvh has paid heed to your suffering.

I don't think any of us can possibly imagine just how incredulous Hagar must
have been at the stranger's words. He as much as assured her that the
pregnancy would go well and she would deliver safely. He even suggested a
name for her baby; which the angel predicted would be a boy. His name, by
the way, would be Yishma' e'l (yish-maw-ale') which means: God will hear;
or just simply: God hears; or: God is aware. In other words: God had a
sympathetic awareness of Hagar's distress; together with a desire to
alleviate it; which is pretty much the definition of compassion.

What a great day for Hagar! She actually met a divine being who cared
about her state of affairs and was favorably inclined to do something about
it. And every time she called out little Ishmael's name, it would remind her
to pray and share her feelings with the god she met on the road to Shur.
The angel would make it possible for her to endure Sarai's harsh treatment;
so He sent her straight back to it. (cf. Gen 24:40, Gen 48:16, 2Cor 12:7-9)

And besides; though the circumstances weren't perfect, little Ishmael would
fare better under his father Abram's kindly patronage and mentoring than
among the irreverent polytheists down in Egypt. Abram was also very
wealthy, so that Ishmael lacked nothing during the approximately 17 years
of his life in Abram's home.

Gen 16:12a . . He shall be an untamed-burro of a man;

Some people just can't be domesticated-- right fresh out of the womb,
they're mustang-defiant to the bone. Poor Hagar. Her boy was going to be
difficult.

My wife is a kindergarten teacher and every so often she gets kids in her
class-- just little five year olds, and almost always boys --that cannot be
controlled. Their parents fear them, and they frighten the other kids. They're
demon seeds-- stubborn, strong willed, totally self centered, self absorbed
little Czars who see no sense in either doing as they're told or concern for
the feelings of others. They are dangerous, and thank God my wife gets
them while they're small. Heaven help the teachers who cope with them in
the upper grades.

Gen 16:12b . . his hand against everyone, and everyone's hand against
him;

T.E. Laurence (Laurence of Arabia) discovered for himself the truth of that
prediction. After all of Laurence's work to unite the Arabs and lead them in
combat to drive the Turks out of Damascus, the various tribes simply could
not come to terms upon a central government for managing the city. So the
task defaulted to the British; viz: the Arabs won the conflict, but England
won the city.

Anyway, Mr. Ishmael was definitely not a team player by nature. This is the
kind of guy that supervisors dread. They're defensive, assertive,
confrontational; and don't do well in groups-- always generating friction and
discontent. It's either their own way, or the highway; and they do not like to
be told what to do.

That's not always a bad thing if people like that are channeled into
occupations that require rugged individualism. Nowadays these people can
be enrolled in sensitivity classes and taught how to be civil. And there are
seminars available for those who have to work with difficult people.
Unfortunately, most of the problem is hereditary so it's not an easy thing to
make go away. However, it's not impossible for these strong-willed, toxic
types to learn a measure of civility and self discipline when they put their
minds to it.

Ishmael's personality-- which was engendered by one of the most holy men
who ever lived; not by some evil minded career criminal --must have passed
along to his progeny because the Arab world has never been famous for
uniting and getting along amongst themselves. No one would ever dream of
criticizing Abram's parenting skills, but here is a difficult child that came
from the old boy's own genes; thus demonstrating again that otherwise
good parents can produce a demon seed and shouldn't be blamed for the
way the seed ultimately turns out.

Ishmael is well known as the father of the Arab world. But does that mean
each individual Arab is a wild burro? No, of course not. Stereotyping and/or
profiling, is a very bad thing because it's an oversimplified opinion, and fails
to take into account individual qualities. The Arab people as a whole could
safely be characterized as Ishmael-ish, but certainly not each and every one.

Gen 16:12c . . He shall dwell alongside of all his kinsmen.

Ishmael would dwell "alongside" his brethren, but not necessarily amongst
them. This was no doubt a portent of the difficulty of uniting Arabs; which
has been attempted a number of times with The United Arab Republic, The
Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan, the Federation of Arab Republics, the
Arab Islamic Republic, and the United Arab Emirates.

Probably the religion of Islam has done more to unite Arabs than any
political arrangement of the past has managed to do. Unfortunately, Muslims
themselves can't even get along all that well and their regional differences
have become a major impediment to peace in the Mid East.

I can't lay all the blame for the Mid East's troubles at the door of Arabs; but
of one thing I am totally convinced: there is never going to be peace in that
part of the world until (1) the religion of Islam is eradicated; and (2) the
Arabs' wild-burro personality is neutralized.

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall
be full of the knowledge of Yhvh, as the waters cover the sea." (Isa 11:9)
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Gen 16:13a . . And she called Yhvh who spoke to her: You Are El-roi

The author of Genesis was privy to the identity of the mysterious person
speaking with Hagar but she wasn't, and that's why she gave him a name of
her own. But I cannot be certain what it is because there seems no
consensus among translators how best say it in English; neither in Jewish
bibles nor in Christian bibles. In Hebrew; the words are: 'Ataah 'Eel R'iy

The 1985 JPS Tanakh translates it: You are El-roi

The Stone Tanach translates it: You are the God of Vision

Chabad.org translates it: You are the God of seeing

The KJV translates it: Thou God seest me

The NIV Translates it: You are the God who sees me

The 2011 Catholic Bible translates it: You are God who sees me.

Hagar, familiar with many gods in the Egyptian world, was unsure of the
identity of this particular divine being speaking with her so she gave it a pet
name of her own. I like it because her god is a personal god, one that meant
something just to her-- rather than some scary alien way out in space who
doesn't care one whit about individuals. Hagar's god knew about the baby
and gave the little guy a name. That is a very personal thing to do and must
have been very comforting to a girl at the end of her rope.

What took place between these two travelers is very precious. They met as
strangers, but before they parted, one named the other's baby and became
godfather to a runaway slave's child. The other gave her new god a pet
name to remember him by. Hagar's experience was very wonderful.

Gen 16:13b . . by which she meant: Have I not gone on seeing after He
saw me!

The rendering of 16:13b is more or less an educated guess because the
Hebrew in that verse is very difficult. She could have said: Have I here seen
him here who sees me? In other words: The god who knows me is in this
place? I can appreciate her surprise. You might expect to find God in a grand
Italian cathedral, but certainly not along a dusty road in the middle of
nowhere. And you might also expect a divine being to speak with a President
or a Pope, but certainly not to an insignificant nobody who meant very little
to anybody.

Gen 16:14 . .Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it is between
Kadesh and Bered.

Heretofore, this particular source of water had no specific name. Beer-lahai
roi is another Hebraic toughie. It could mean: The well of him who knows
me.

Kadesh is located nearby El Quseima Egypt about 15 miles south of the
border town of Nizzana. Just northeast of there is the wilderness of Shur; a
region adjoining the Mediterranean to the north and the Suez canal to the
west. Shur extends somewhat south along the eastern shore of the Gulf of
Suez.

But the well wasn't there. It was between Kadesh and Bered. The Onkelos
Targum renders Bered as Chaghra', which is the usual equivalent of Shur,
while the Jerusalem Targum renders it Chalutsah, which is also Shur (Ex
15:22). So precisely where Hagar's well was located is totally unknown so
far. It was just somewhere between Kadesh and Shur.

FYI: I don't think those of us living in modern industrialized countries like
the U.S.A. appreciate the importance of water in Hagar's part of the world.
Those of us in the Pacific Northwest and/or Hawaii sure don't. But without
water; people die, plants wither, birds fall out of the sky, and livestock
eventually drops dead.

Water, in the form of humidity, fog, and/or liquid is literally life itself in some
parts of the world; ergo: to have that celestial being meet with Hagar at a
source of water in the Mideast is very significant; and only one of many such
meetings people in the Bible experienced with God and/or His designated
messengers.

Gen 16:15 . . Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram gave the son that
Hagar bore him the name Ishmael.

Hagar must have told her master about the experience and darned if the old
man didn't believe her story and comply with God's choice of name for the
boy. Taking part in naming a boy was serious business in those days. In
doing so, Abram officially and publicly accepted Ishmael as his legal son. The
boy was supposed to be Sarai's son too, but there's no record she ever
really accepted the lad.

Gen 16:16 . . Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to
Abram.

That was about eleven years after Abram entered Canaan (Gen 12:4) and 14
years before Isaac's birth (Gen 21:5). Both of Ishmael's parents were
Gentiles. Hagar was an Egyptian and Abram was a Babylonian.
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Thirteen years go by since Ishmael's birth; enough time for Abram to easily
forget God's covenanted promises. Abram was prospering materially,
Ishmael was growing into young manhood, the land was at peace, and quite
possibly Abram and Sarai had by now given up all hope of ever having any
children of their own because Sarai, at 89, is past the age of bearing
children.

Abram had no way of knowing, but God was just insuring that Sarai couldn't
possibly have children of her own except by a miracle, rather than via
natural reproduction. In other words; it appears to me that it was God's wish
that He be the paterfamilias of Sarai's one and only son; and therefore the
paterfamilias of the special line that descends from the son; viz: Jacob.

Till now, God spoke of a covenant with Abram only one time (Gen 15:18). In
this chapter God will use that word no less than thirteen-- nine times it will
be called "My" covenant, three times it will be called an "everlasting"
covenant and once it will be called "the covenant between Me and you"

Gen 17:1a . .When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to
Abram and said to him: I am El Shaddai.

"Shaddai" is from Shadday (shad-dah'-ee) which means: almighty. The word
"El" is not actually in the original Hebrew text but was penciled in by
translators. God's declaration could just as well be worded: I am all-mighty.

Webster's defines almighty as: having absolute control over everything;
which of course includes power over not just money and politics; but also
power over all that there is; e.g. magnetism, electricity, gravity, inertia,
wind, thermodynamics, pressure, fusion, radiation, light, and of course the
power of life; which is a power that nobody yet as of this date has been able
to figure out. Humanity knows even less about the power of life than it
knows about the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

Anyway; this is the very first occurrence of the word Shadday in the Bible;
and from here on in, from Genesis to Malachi, without exception, it will
always refer to the supreme being; and used to identify no other person.
Almighty became a name of God (cf. Rev 1:8) and was God's special
revelation of Himself to Abram.

Although Abram was aware of God's other name Yhvh it was not by that
name that Abram became familiar with his divine benefactor. Abram's
progeny would get to know God better by the name Yhvh because it's a
name of God with special emphasis upon the aspect of rescue; whereas
Shadday has special emphasis upon providence.

Gen 17:1b . .Walk in My ways and be blameless.

The Hebrew word translated blameless is somewhat ambiguous. A common
meaning is "without blemish". Abram of course wasn't free of blemishes; but
according to Gen 26:5, God was satisfied with his performance.

Walking with God was introduced back at Gen 5:22-24. Enoch had it down
pat; but apparently Abram had a ways to go. Very few qualify as the kind of
people with whom God prefers to associate. He's picky that way.

A principle woven throughout both the Old Testament and the New is that
worship is meaningless when it's unaccompanied by pious conduct. Take for
example the first 23 verses in the first chapter of the book Isaiah.

Moses' people were attending Temple services on a regular basis. They were
bringing sacrifices and offering. They observed all the feasts, and all the holy
days of obligation. They prayed up a storm; and they kept the Sabbath. But
Yhvh rejected every bit of their covenanted worship because their personal
conduct was unbecoming. In other words: their conduct didn't compliment
their worship. Yhvh was disgusted with their hypocrisy: they made Him
angry and gave Him a headache; so to speak.

Another way then, that we might translate Gen 17:1b, is like this:

"Walk in My ways and be consistent."
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Gen 17:2-3a . . I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I
will make you exceedingly numerous. Abram threw himself on his face;

The Hebrew word for "threw" is naphal (naw-fal') and first appeared in Gen
14:10. It doesn't mean Abram dropped like a sack of ready-mix concrete. It
just means he lowered himself face down into a prone position.

This is the very first time it's recorded that Abram (or anyone else) got into
a face-down prone position in the presence of God. But why would Abram do
that? In what way did God appear to him that motivated that reaction? The
institution of the covenant of circumcision is, in point of fact, the only other
instance where it's recorded that Abram met with God in the (deliberate)
prone.

When Moses met God at the burning bush (Ex 3:2) he only turned away so
he wouldn't look at God; but didn't lie down. He stayed on his feet; but was
told to remove his sandals: a requirement which is seen only twice in the
entire Old Testament: once at Ex 3:5 and the other at Josh 5:15; the reason
being that Moses and Joshua met with God on holy ground.

The Hebrew word for "holy" is qodesh (ko'-desh) and it has no reference
whatsoever to sanitation. It simply means consecrated; viz: a sacred place
or thing dedicated to God for His own personal uses.

In many homes in the Orient; it's the custom to remove your shoes before
entering people's domiciles because shoes track in filth from the outside that
hosts want neither in their homes nor on their floors and rugs. True, holy
ground is dirt; but it's God's dirt, and apparently He doesn't want somebody
else's dirt soiling His: thank you very much.

Abram may have ordinarily met with God via voice only; but this instance
may have been a close encounter of a third kind. Some have suggested God
appeared to Abram as the Shekinah of 1Kgs 8:10-11; which, even that can
be quite disturbing for some.

I don't think Abram learned the prone posture in church, Sunday school,
yeshiva, or synagogue. It was a spontaneous, voluntary reaction on his part.
Apparently God was okay with it because He didn't scold Abram nor order
him back up on his feet.

People react differently to the Bible's God. Some, like Abram, Daniel, and
Jesus sometimes get down prone on their faces. We needn't worry too much
about it though. Most of us will never have a close encounter with The
Almighty. But if it ever happens, I don't think you'll need someone to tell
you what to do. Unfortunately though, there are people inclined to stare at
God like a curiosity. That is not wise.

"Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke, for the Lord had come down upon it in
fire; the smoke rose like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain
trembled violently. The blare of the horn grew louder and louder. As Moses
spoke, God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down upon Mount
Sinai, on the top of the mountain, and the Lord called Moses to the top of
the mountain and Moses went up. The Lord said to Moses: Go down, warn
the people not to break through to the Lord to gaze, lest many of them
perish." (Ex 19:18-21)

Word to the wise: If God appears? Don't look . . . unless invited to.

Gen 17:3b-4 . . and God spoke to him further: As for Me, this is My
covenant with you: You shall be the father of a multitude of nations.

That announcement regards nations rather than individuals. Abram is well
known as the father of the Jews, but he is also father of more than just
them. The majority of Abram's progeny is Gentile and a very large number
of those are Arabs.

Besides Ishmael and Isaac, Abraham also engendered Zimran, Jokshan,
Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. Over the years millions of people have
descended from those eight men who are all Abram's blood kin; both Jew
and Gentile.

Gen 17:5 . . And you shall no longer be called Abram, but your name shall
be Abraham, for I make you the father of a multitude of nations.

Abraham's original name was 'Abram (ab-rawm') which means: high, or
exalted father. In other words: a daddy; as the respectable head of a single
family unit. Abram's new name 'Abraham (ab-raw-hawm') means: father of
a multitude of family units. In other words: not just the paterfamilias of a
single family unit; but the rootstock of entire communities.

Abraham is a father on two fronts. He's a biological father to the people of
Israel due to their natural association with Jacob; and he's a non-biological
father to Christians due to their supernatural association with Christ.

"If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according
to the promise." (Gal 3:29)

Some people try to construe Gal 3:29 to mean that Gentile Christians are
somehow spiritual Jews. But according to Eph 2:11-22 and Gal 3:26-28 that
just isn't true. And besides: Abraham was a Gentile.
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Gen 17:6 . . I will make you exceedingly fertile, and make nations of you;
and kings shall come forth from you.

The only king who really matters is Messiah.

"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of
Abraham." (Matt 1:1)

Gen 17:7a . . I will maintain My covenant between me and you, and your
offspring to come,

The word for "maintain" is quwm (koom) which means: to rise (in various
applications, literal, figurative, intensive and causative). The very first
instance of that word is Gen 4:8.

"Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him."

That's kind of negative. Here's a passage that really says what God meant.

"Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water,
and filled the troughs to water their father's flock; but shepherds came and
drove them off. Moses rose to their defense, and he watered their flock.
When they returned to their father Reuel, he said: How is it that you have
come back so soon today? They answered: An Egyptian protected us from
the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock." (Ex 2:16
19)

The "offspring to come" was Isaac's and Jacob's rather than every last one
of Abraham's posterity.

Gen 17:7b . . as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages,

Abraham's covenant is permanent; has never been annulled, deleted, made
obsolete, abrogated, set aside, given to another people, nor replaced by
another covenant. In point of fact, even Christians benefit from Abraham's
covenant. (Eph 2:11-22 and Gal 3:26-28)

God promised Abraham He would guard the safety of this particular
covenant Himself personally. The covenant God made with Moses' people as
per Deut 29:9-15 neither supersedes, amends, nor replaces the covenant
God made with Abraham in this chapter (Gal 3:17). Attempts been made to
package all the covenants into a single security like a Wall Street derivative
similar to a collateralized debt obligation (CDO). But that just creates a
bubble and is really asking for trouble.

Gen 17:7c . . to be a god to you and to your offspring to come.

This part of the covenant is somewhat conditional. It will only include those
among male Hebrews that undergo the circumcision coming up in the next
few passages.

Gen 17:8a . . I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to
come,

Ownership of the land is realized not only in Abraham's progeny alone. God
said He assigned the land not only to his offspring, but to "you" too.
Abraham didn't get to take possession of his promised holdings while he was
here, but in the future, he will.

"You will keep faith with Jacob, loyalty to Abraham, as You promised on oath
to our fathers in days gone by." (Mic 7:20)

"And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and
shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of
heaven." (Matt 8:11)

"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his
inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was
going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a
foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs
with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with
foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (Heb 11:8-10)

Gen 17:8b . . all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding.

Abraham's progeny may not always occupy the land, and they may not
always be in control of it; but it remains deeded to them forever.

Gen 17:8c . . I will be their god.

The wording of the covenant thus far hasn't been specific regarding the
identity of Abraham's offspring for whom El Shaddai will be their god. Later
on it will become clear that only the line through Isaac is effected. Neither
Ishmael nor any of the other brothers were granted rights to the land.

Gen 17:9a . . God further said to Abraham: As for you,

The next covenant is totally a guy thing; and incorporated into Israel's
covenanted law (Lev 12:2-3, John 7:22). The ladies are not a part of this
one because Abraham's progeny isn't engendered by the ladies; it's
engendered by the guys. The ladies are just baby mills. In the Bible, children
inherit their tribal affiliation and their family names from the fathers rather
than the mothers.

This creates an interesting legality in Christ's case since there was no
immediate male involved in his conception. So then, the closest male in his
biological family tree defaults to Eli, his mother's father; which is how the
Lord obtained his biological position in the line of David and the tribe of
Judah. (The Lord's connection to the line of Solomon was via adoption rather
than genetics. I'll elaborate that issue when we get to Jacob's precedent in
chapter 48)

All other considerations aside, the men of Abraham's line don't even have to
mate with women who are biologically related to Abraham because the
ladies don't perpetuate Abraham's line; the guys do. A Hebrew woman who
bears the children of a Gentile perpetuates Gentiles. Kids born in that
situation are not Abraham's offspring. Those are a Gentile man's offspring.

"That when an idolater or a slave cohabits with an Israelitish woman; their
child is illegitimate." (Yevamoth 99a, v36)

In other words, the child of a foreign man is not Abraham's biological
progeny. That fact alone should be very sobering for any Hebrew woman
intent upon marrying a Gentile. Her children won't be identified with
Abraham. They will be non Hebrews with no Divine connection to either
Abraham, or to Abraham's covenant. Her grandchildren will be Gentiles too;
and on and on.

Every Hebrew woman who willingly, and willfully, bears the children of a
Gentile is nothing in the world but a traitor to Abraham's community, and
spits upon the sacred covenant that God made with her ancestor. She is no
better than Esau who valued his birthright on a par with a lousy bowl of
soup.
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Gen 17:9b . . you and your offspring to come throughout the ages shall
keep My covenant.

The word "keep" is from shamar (shaw-mar') which means, properly: to
hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard, to protect, attend to. The general
meaning in this particular instance is: to preserve.

Gen 17:10 . . Such shall be the covenant between Me and you and your
offspring to follow which you shall keep: every male among you shall be
circumcised.

Circumcision didn't begin with Abraham. It was practiced in Egypt as early
as 2400 BC.

Circumcision doesn't serve to improve a man's physical appearance. Men
were created whole; and after God finished the six days of creation, He
inspected everything and graded it all very good. So circumcision doesn't
correct design errors; but actually mars a man's natural appearance. It
renders him somewhat disfigured so that he no longer bears a precise
resemblance to his ancestor Adam-- nor will he ever again. A circumcised
man is still a human being; just altered somewhat.

The surgery doesn't impair sexual function so we can rule out the possibility
that God imposed circumcision on Abraham and his male progeny for the
purpose of discouraging romance. After all if a man's genital nerves were to
be disabled, it would be very difficult for men to procreate-- and that would
conflict with God's promise to Abraham that he would be fruitful and become
very numerous.

Gen 17:11 . .You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall
be the sign of the covenant between Me and you.

The word for "sign" is from 'owth (oth). It's the very same word for the mark
upon Cain, and the rainbow of Noah's covenant. An 'owth not only labels
things, but also serves as a memory preserver; like the Viet Nam war
memorial. Abraham's circumcision, like rainbows and war memorials, is one
of those "lest we forget" reminders of important events.

NOTE: The "covenant between Me and you" isn't the covenant between God
and the Jews as per Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. That's
an important distinction.

Gen 17:12-13a . . And throughout the generations, every male among you
shall be circumcised at the age of eight days. As for the home-born slave
and the one bought from an outsider who is not of your offspring, they must
be circumcised, home-born, and purchased alike.

Home-born slaves were those born while Abraham owned its parents. The
classification was reckoned Abraham's offspring; viz: his sons; thus
indicating that the Hebrew word zera' is ambiguous and doesn't always
identify one's biological progeny.

The Bible doesn't call ritual circumcision a baptism but it sure looks like a
species of baptism to me. Take for example the crossing of the Red Sea. The
New Testament calls it a baptism (1Cor 10:2) yet none of the people under
Moses' command got wet; they never even got damp. So baptisms come in
a variety of modes, and for a variety of purposes.

The implication is obvious: all males in Abraham's community (viz: his
kingdom) have to resemble Abraham in order to be bona fide registered
members; which means that a male Jew's genetics alone are not an eo ipso
connection to Abraham. He has to undergo the surgery too.

Gen 17:13b-14 . .Thus shall My covenant be marked in your flesh as an
everlasting pact. And if any male who is uncircumcised fails to circumcise the
flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his kin; he has broken
My covenant.

The "kin" in this regard is primarily Abraham but in later years came to
include one's tribal identity. Say a man's biological father was a biological
member of the tribe of Issachar, and for one reason or another never got
around to circumcising his son.

Well; until the son submits to the ritual, he cannot be counted among
Issachar's progeny. In point of fact, he cannot be counted as anybody's
progeny; not even Abraham's though Abraham is his biological ancestor.

This may seem a petty issue but in matters of inheritance, can have very
serious repercussions for the un-circumcised man. He's not only cut off from
his kin, but also from Abraham's covenant guaranteeing his posterity
ownership of Palestine and points beyond to the north, the south, the east,
and the west. The little piece of turf now occupied by the State of Israel is
but a parking lot in comparison to what God promised Abraham back in Gen
13:14-15.

Also included in the "covenant between Me and You" is the promise to
always be the god of Abraham's posterity. Well; until the uncircumcised son
undergoes circumcision, Yhvh is not his god.

To give an idea of just how serious God is about this ritual: After Moses was
commissioned to represent God in the Exodus; Yhvh rendezvoused with him
and came within an inch of taking his life over this very issue.

"Now it came about at an inn on the way that Yhvh met him and sought to
put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son's foreskin
and threw it at Moses' feet, and she said: You are indeed a bloody
bridegroom to me. So He let him alone." (Ex 4:24-26)

That should be a sobering warning that anyone representing God is
supposed to set the example in all things. It's not do as I say, nor even do
as I do; but do as I have done.

Anyway, non-circumcised Jewish males aren't counted among Abraham's
community; and that was a law way before it was incorporated into the
Jews' covenanted law as per Ex 12:48-49 and Lev 12:2-3.
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Gen 17:15 . . And God said to Abraham: As for your wife Sarai, you shall
not call her Sarai, but her name shall be Sarah.

Sarah's original name was Saray (saw-rah'-ee) which means: dominative.

Webster's defines "dominative" as: to exert the supreme determining or
guiding influence on-- in other words: bossy. Dominative isn't a desirable
female personality; assertive and controlling isn't something for a truly
spiritual woman to be proud of.

Sarah (saw-raw') means: a female noble; such as a Lady, a Princess, or a
Queen. It's much preferable for a woman to be known as a lady or a
princess than as a dominatrix.

Changing Sarai's name didn't actually change her personality; but it
certainly reflected her new God-given purpose. It was like a promotion to
knighthood. The child she would produce for Abraham became a very
important, world-renowned human being out of whom came kings and
statesmen; and ultimately the savior of the world.

If I were required to pick just one woman in the Bible to venerate, it
wouldn't be Christ's mom; no, it would be Isaac's mom. Sarah is the
supreme matriarch over every one of the Messianic mothers who came after
her.

Gen 17:16 . . I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will
bless her so that she shall give rise to nations; rulers of peoples shall issue
from her.

Sarah now had a calling from God just like her slavette Hagar; who herself
was given a calling from God on the road to Shur. Sarah's calling was not
much of a calling. She wasn't called to go off to some foreign country as a
missionary, nor to open and operate hostels and orphanages in
impoverished lands, nor head up a local chapter of the March Of Dimes, nor
muster an army like a Joan of Arc. All in the world Sarah had to do for God
was just be Isaac's mom.

I once heard a story about a lady who summarily announced to her pastor
that God called her to preach. The pastor thought for a second and then
inquired: Do you have any children? She answered: Yes. So he said: My;
isn't that wonderful? God called you to preach and already gave you a
congregation.

Motherhood isn't a marginal calling. It is a serious calling that carries
tremendous responsibility, because the hands that rock the cradles quite
literally do rule the world. A mother can either ruin a child's potential or
enhance it; she can raise a decent human being, or raise a sociopathic
monster.

The media typically focuses on physical child abuse while usually overlooking
the kind caused by mental cruelty. There are children out there whose self
esteem and sense of worth are in the toilet just by being in the home of a
thoughtless mother.

One child can enrich the lives of millions of people, and it's the moms who
bring them into the world, pick their boogers, change their dydees, teach
them how to brush their teeth and say their prayers, stay up late with their
fevers, get them in for their shots, pack them off to school, take them to the
park, drive them to ToysRus a thousand times, and cry at their weddings.

The dads have it easy. It's the moms who really pay the price for a child's
future. But a mom can just as easily destroy her child's future by abuse and
neglect. There are moms who have about as much love for their children as
a dirty sock or a broken dish; and regard them just as expendable.

But Sarah won't be like that. When she gets done with Isaac, he will be a
well adjusted grown-up having a genuine bond of love and trust with his
mom and zero gender issues with women. Isaac will see in Sarah the very
kind of girl he would like to marry; and when that one does come along, he
won't let her get away.

Gen 17:17 . . Abraham threw himself on his face and laughed, as he said
to himself: Can a child be born to a man a hundred years old, or can Sarah
bear a child at ninety?

God had previously promised Abraham an heir but this is the first time He
actually specified who the biological mother would be. Was Abraham
skeptical? Not this time. No; he just thought it was hilarious for two old sag
bottomed, bloated cod-fish gasbags like he and Sarah to have children. In
other words: You've gotta be kidding!

"Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good
as dead-- since he was about a hundred years old --and that Sarah's womb
was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise
of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully
persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." (Rom 4:19-21)

Mark Twain once commented that faith is believin' what you know ain't so.
Well; that probably doesn't apply to Abraham because the Bible says he was
"persuaded" which is quite a bit different than faith in something for which
you have no good reason to believe is true.
_
 

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Gen 17:18 . . And Abraham said to God: O that Ishmael might live by Your
favor!

Ishmael is sometimes thought of as a sort of red-headed step child, but I
tend to think that Abraham really did love the boy. I can see that love at
work here when Abraham requested God's providence for him lest he
become marginalized and forgotten.

Gen 17:19a . . God said: Nevertheless, Sarah your wife shall bear you a
son,

God had nothing personal against Ishmael; but he was not quite what The
Lord had in mind for the covenant's future. The one to perpetuate it had to
be special; viz: he couldn't be a "wild-burro of a man" nor "his hand against
every man's hand". In other words: God much preferred a peaceable man.

Gen 17:19b . . and you shall name him Isaac;

Isaac's name is Yitschaq (yits-khawk') which means: laughter or mirth;
sometimes in a bad way such as mockery. In other places in the Old
Testament, he goes by the name of Yischaq (yis-khawk') which means: he
will laugh, or, he thinks it's funny. (perhaps as a memorial to Abraham's
mirth at hearing the news of Sarah's imminent pregnancy.)

Gen 17:19c . . and I will maintain My covenant with him as an everlasting
covenant for his offspring to come.

Much of the covenant is of little interest to the average Gentile; but one
portion of it is very significant. It's this:

"And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen 22:18)

The blessing is generally related to the people of Israel.

"Salvation is of the Jews." (John 4:22)

And specifically related to Christ.

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for
the sins of the whole world." (1John 2:2)

Gen 17:20 . . As for Ishmael, I have heeded you. I hereby bless him. I will
make him fertile and exceedingly numerous. He shall be the father of twelve
chieftains, and I will make of him a great nation.

That quite literally came true. Ishmael really did engender twelve chieftains.
(Gen 25:12-16)

I don't know why so many people seem to think that Ishmael was only so
much trash to throw out and discard, like as if he were second-hand dish
water or something. No one should ever forget that he was Abraham's flesh
and blood; his first son and Abraham really loved that boy. God blessed him
too; and took care of him. He was circumcised in Abraham's home, which
made him a permanent member of Abraham's community; so modern Arabs
do have a legitimate claim to Abraham as their patriarch; but of course they
have no such claim upon Isaac, or upon Isaac's blessings.

Gen 17:21a . . But My covenant I will maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah
shall bear to you at this season next year.

Looks like the Abrahams will be going shopping for a crib, a stroller, and a
car seat. Nothing like news of a baby to make the daddies start looking at
their budgets.

Gen 17:22 . . And when He was done speaking with him, God was gone
from Abraham.

Don't you just hate it when a supervisor lays down the law and then turns
on their heel and leaves the room? It immediately tells everyone that their
boss's agenda is not open to discussion.

Gen 17:23 . .Then Abraham took his son Ishmael, and all his home-born
slaves and all those he had bought, every male in Abraham's household, and
he circumcised the flesh of their foreskins on that very day, as God had
spoken to him.

That was well over 300 grown men; not counting boys. (Gen 14:14)

Gen 17:24-27 . . Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he circumcised
the flesh of his foreskin, and his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he
was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. Thus Abraham and his son
Ishmael were circumcised on that very day; and all his household, his home
born slaves and those that had been bought from outsiders, were
circumcised with him.

Abraham was typically very prompt and did things in a timely manner.
Trouble is; every male in camp was disabled all at once. Thank goodness
nobody attacked right then or the PowerPuff Girls would have been forced to
man the guns.

NOTE: Ishmael was thirteen when he was circumcised. It would be another
year before Isaac was born, and possibly three after that before Isaac was
weaned; making Ishmael at least seventeen or eighteen when Abraham
emancipated his mom.
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Gen 18:1a . .The Lord appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre;

The Hebrew word for "appeared" is ra'ah (raw-aw') which doesn't necessarily
indicate a visible apparition. The word is really ambiguous. It has several
meanings; one of which simply indicates a meeting. It's certain that Jehovah
was present during this meeting but uncertain whether He was physically
present; though not impossible. (cf. Ex 24:9-11)

The three men upon whom we are about to eavesdrop are said by some to
be angels; but the Hebrew word for angel is nowhere in the entire narrative.

This visit occurred very shortly after the last one because Isaac wasn't born
yet and his birth had been predicted in 17:21 to be little more than a year
away.

Mamre's terebinths were a grove of oak trees situated near modern day
Hebron about 20 miles south of Jerusalem at an elevation of 3,050 feet
above sea level.

Gen 18:1b-2a . . he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew
hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him.

It wouldn't be accurate to think of Abraham's tent as something akin to a
hiker/camper's basic portable shelter. Bedouin sheiks lived in pavilions, since
they served as the family's home.

The entrance of the tent likely had a large canopy over it like a roofed porch
so that Abraham wasn't sitting out in the sun, but rather in the shade. Poor
guy's heart must have stopped when he looked up at these three guys just
standing there saying nothing. I'm not sure if Abraham was aware at this
point that one of those men was Yhvh. So his next reactions are very
interesting. They reveal just how hospitable this rich and famous sheik was
to total strangers.

Gen 18:2b-3a . . As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the
tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground, he said: My lords,

Abraham was 99 so I don't think he actually sprinted. The word ruwts
(roots) can mean either to run or just simply to hurry.

The word for "lords" is from 'adown (aw-done') and/or the shortened 'adon
(aw-done') which mean: sovereign (human or divine. 'Adown is a versatile
word often used as a courteous title of respect for elders and or superiors;
for example Sarah spoke the very same word of her husband at Gen 18:12,
Rachel addressed her dad by it at Gen 31:5, and Jacob addressed his
brother Esau by 'adown at Gen 33:8.

Gen 18:3b-5a . . if it please you, do not go on past your servant. Let a
little water be brought; bathe your feet and recline under the tree. And let
me fetch a morsel of bread that you may refresh yourselves; then go on--
seeing that you have come your servant's way.

There was a custom in the Olde American West that when travelers came by
your spread, it was considered neighborly to offer them a meal and some
tobacco, along with water and provender for their horses. This sometimes
was the only means of support for off-season, unemployed cowboys known
as drifters and saddle bums; but what the hey, you took the good with the
bad; no questions asked.

Traveling was neither a tourist's vacation nor a Sunday drive in Abraham's
day. No cushy motels, no gas stations or convenience stores. It was very far
in between communities and few people along the way so a camp like
Abraham's was a welcome sight in that day.

You can imagine how refreshing it would be on a hot day to soak your feet in
a tub of cool water and recline in the shade of a big oak tree. In an era
without refrigeration, electric fans, and/or air conditioning, that was just
about the best there was to offer. Anyway it all just goes to show that
Abraham was a very hospitable man, and really knew how to make people
feel at home.
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Gen 18:5b . .They replied: Do as you have said.

There is something here important to note. Although the text says "they"
replied, it doesn't mean all three men spoke at once, nor spoke in turn. If
only one in a group speaks, and the others are silent, it's understood to
mean the others are consensual; and that the one speaks for all if no one
objects or has anything to add.

Gen 18:6-8a . . Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said:
Quickly, three seahs of choice flour! Knead and make cakes! Then Abraham
hurried to the herd, took a calf, tender and choice, and gave it to a servant
boy, who hastened to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf that
had been prepared and set these before them;

The word for "calf" is from baqar (baw-kawr') which means: beef cattle or an
animal of the ox family; of either gender.

It's interesting that Abraham served beef. In the early days of olde
California; the Spanish Franciscans raised cows primarily for their hides and
tallow; and found a ready market for those products in the east. Tallow of
course was used for candles, soap, and lubricants; and the hides for leather
goods like shoes, gloves, saddles, reins, and hats. In those days, pork and
fowl were the preferred table meats. It was actually the change-over from
pork to relatively cheap Texas longhorn beef that fueled the cattle baron era
of the 1800's.

The word for "curds" is from chem'ah (khem-aw') which means: curdled
milk, or cheese. Later to come Kosher laws would forbid serving dairy and
meat together; but in Abraham's day it didn't matter.

The only ingredient listed for the cakes (which probably resembled English
muffins) is choice flour, suggesting that Sarah made them with fresh dough
rather than from a batch of dough that's been sitting around for a while.

With a little imagination, one could confect a pretty decent deli sandwich
from what Abraham put on their plates. Anyway, all this took an appreciable
amount of time; like preparing a thanksgiving dinner from scratch; including
butchering the turkey. Plus, they cooked in those days by means of open
flame and/or wood-fired ovens so it's not like Abraham served the men
packaged meals warmed up in a microwave oven.

Poor Sarah; she must have been stressed due to the unexpected guests
messing up her daily routine. She probably hadn't planned to do any serious
cooking that day till later on towards evening when it was cooler.

NOTE: Abraham employed quite a few servants. It's quite possible that
Sarah's role in the cooking was supervision rather than the actual labor.
_