Genesis 29: Jacob Finds Rachel; Laban Tricks Jacob; Leah Gives Birth to Four Sons 

time-is-broken-2-by-applepo3-320x214Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Jacob chances upon Laban’s daughter Rachel in the eastern desert and immediately shows her affection. Jacob moves in with Laban, who allows him to work seven years to marry Rachel. On the wedding night, Jacob is given Laban’s other daughter Leah and her servant Zilpah instead of Rachel and her servant Bilhah. Jacob agrees to work another seven years for Rachel, and is given Rachel and Bilhah in a week’s time. Although Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah, Rachel is barren but Leah gives birth to Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah.

II. Photo

Time means nothing to Jacob: “So Jacob served [Laban] seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (v. 20)

III. Select Verses

7-12: He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.” While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father.

21-30: Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her maid.) So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. He served Laban for another seven years.

31: When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

34: Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, because I have borne him three sons”; therefore he was named Levi.

IV. Outline

1-12. Jacob meets Rachel

1-3. Jacob encounters a group of shepherds at a well in the eastern desert

4-6. The men come from Haran, and even have Laban’s daughter Rachel with them

7-8. The shepherds could not set out without removing the well’s top stone

9-10. Jacob removes the stone when Rachel arrives and waters her sheep

11-12. Jacob kisses Rachel and explains their relationship

13-30. Laban tricks Jacob, who marries Leah and Rachel

13-14. Laban hears the news and Jacob stays with him for one month

15-19. Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years to marry his daughter Rachel, not her sister Leah

20. Jacob serves seven years, which pass quickly due to his love for Rachel

21-22. Upon Jacob’s request, Laban organizes a wedding meal

23-24. Laban gives Leah, who has a servant named Zilpah, to Jacob at night, and he sleeps with her

25. Jacob confronts Laban the next morning

26-27. Laban explains that the oldest must marry first and offers Rachel for another seven years of work

28-29. After one week’s time, Jacob is given Rachel, who has a servant named Bilhah

30a. Jacob sleeps with Rachel, who he loves more than Leah

30b. Jacob serves Laban another seven years

31-35. Jacob and Leah’s four sons

31. Yahweh opens Leah’s womb because she is not loved; Rachel is barren

32. Leah’s first son is named Reuben because Yahweh has “seen (ra’ah) my affliction (be‘onyi)”

33. Leah’s second son is named Simeon because Yahweh has “heard” (shama‘) that she is “hated” (senuah)

34. Leah’s third son is named Levi because her husband is now “attached” (l-v-y) to her

35a. Leah’s fourth son is named Judah because she can now give thanks (y-[h]-d-h)

35b. Leah ceases to have children [for now]

V. Comment

This chapter has two unexpected, if not comical twists. In the previous chapter, Jacob’s journey began splendidly with a vision of Yahweh in Bethel. The good fortune continued into this chapter when Jacob reached the eastern desert, where he chanced upon Rachel at a well and followed her to her father’s home. Then, after working seven years to marry Rachel, everything goes wrong on his wedding night. Jacob is given Leah, who he does not love, and needs to work another seven years for Rachel. To make matters worse, he is only given children with Leah, not his beloved Rachel. The second twist is that Jacob, who coerced his brother into selling his birthright and tricked his father into giving him a blessing, is the one who is tricked. Although he does not know it, Jacob sleeps with Leah, not Rachel, on his wedding night.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 28: Jacob Leaves for Haran and Encounters Yahweh in a Night Vision at Bethel

c76762b310f1a113a87108f9eb1da5abHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Isaac sends Jacob to Rebekah’s family in Haran to find a non-Canaanite bride. Esau marries a non-Canaanite daughter of Ishmael to please his father. On his journey, Jacob has a night vision of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven with angels on it and Yahweh above it. Yahweh promises to return Jacob to his land and to provide him with abundant offspring. Jacob sets up a pillar in that place, which he names Bethel (“the house of god”), and vows that a temple will be built there.

II. Photo

Jacob can see to the heavens: “And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.” (v. 12)

III. Select Verses

3-5: May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien—land that God gave to Abraham.” Thus Isaac sent Jacob away; and he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother.

8-9: So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please his father Isaac, Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael, and sister of Nebaioth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.

10-15: Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring;  and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16-18: Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

19-22: He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you.”

IV. Outline

1-5. Isaac sends Jacob to Haran [along the upper Euphrates] to find a wife from Laban’s daughters and affirms that Abraham’s blessing belongs to him

6-9. Esau observes and marries the non-Canaanite Mahalath, a daughter of Ishmael, to please Isaac

10. Jacob sets off for Haran

11-22. Jacob encounters Yahweh in heaven at Bethel

11-15. In a dream, Jacob sees Yahweh on a ladder with angels, and Yahweh promises to give him many offspring and to return him to his land

16-17. Jacob awakes, realizing he is at the gate to heaven

18. Jacob sets up the stone he was sleeping on as a pillar and anoints it with oil

19. Jacob renames the site Bethel (the house of god); it was formally named Luz

20-22. Jacob’s vow: if Yahweh sustains him and returns him, the stone will become Yahweh’s temple, and Jacob will offer 1/10 of his possessions to Yahweh

V. Comment

Jacob’s vision at Bethel will become a recurring theme in the ongoing narrative. In Genesis 31:13, Yahweh introduces himself as follows.

  • I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me.

This event is mentioned three times in chapter 35, verses 1, 3, and 7:

  • God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel, and settle there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
  • “Then come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
  • And there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because it was there that God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 27: Rebekah Helps Jacob Steal Esau’s Blessing From Isaac

3Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Isaac, who has become blind in his old age, prepares to give Esau a final blessing over a meal. While Esau is out hunting, Rebekah has Jacob trick his father so that Jacob receives Esau’s blessing of agricultural sustenance and power over his brothers. When Esau returns, Isaac blesses him to be a nomad who will break free of his enslavement. Esau is bitter and prepares to kill Jacob. Rebekah readies Jacob to flee to her brother in Mesopotamia.

II. Photo

Rebekah disguises Jacob: “Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob” (v. 15)

III. Select Verses

5-17: Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game, and prepare for me savory food to eat, that I may bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my word as I command you. Go to the flock, and get me two choice kids, so that I may prepare from them savory food for your father, such as he likes; and you shall take it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.”But Jacob said to his mother Rebekah, “Look, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a man of smooth skin. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him, and bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my word, and go, get them for me.” So he went and got them and brought them to his mother; and his mother prepared savory food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of her elder son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob; and she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. Then she handed the savory food, and the bread that she had prepared, to her son Jacob.

28-29: May God give you of the dew of heaven, and of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”

38-40: Esau said to his father, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. Then his father Isaac answered him: “See, away from the fatness of the earth shall your home be, and away from the dew of heaven on high. By your sword you shall live, and you shall serve your brother; but when you break loose, you shall break his yoke from your neck.”

41: Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

IV. Outline

1-40. Rebekah helps Jacob steal Esau’s blessing    

    1a. Isaac was old and blind

    1b-4. Isaac asks Esau to hunt game so that he can bless him before he dies

    5-10. Rebekah overhears and tells Jacob to prepare a meal as a ruse

    11-12. Jacob points out that Esau is hairy but he is not

    13. Rebekah insists, taking any blame upon herself

    14-17. Rebekah prepares the meal and puts the goat skins on Jacob’s hands and neck

    18-27. Despite his many suspicions, Isaac is convinced that it is Esau who has brought him a meal

    28-29. Isaac blesses his “firstborn” with sustenance and power over his brothers

    30-31. Esau returns and prepares a meal

    32-38. Isaac explains what has transpired, Esau is distraught, and Esau asks for a different blessing

    39-40. Isaac blesses Esau with a nomadic lifestyle, initial servitude, and eventual freedom

41-46. Rebekah readies Jacob to flee

    41. Esau plans to kill Jacob after Isaac’s death

    42-45. Rebekah hears and tells Jacob to flee to her brother Laban in Haran [along the upper Euphrates]

    46. Rebekah expresses her dissatisfaction with the Hittite women, thereby suggesting that Jacob leave Canaan

V. Comment

Note: verse 36 has a second etymology for the name Jacob, this time from Esau’s perspective:

Esau said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob (ya‘qov)? For he has supplanted me (ya‘aqveni) these two times. He took away my birthright (bekhorati); and look, now he has taken away my blessing (birkhati).”

The original etymology, based on Jacob holding on to Esau’s heel during their twin birth, appeared in Genesis 25:26.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 23: The Death and Burial of Sarah

silver coins bagHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Sarah dies and Abraham buys the cave of Machpelah from Ephron the Hittite and buries her in it.

II. Photo

Abraham buys the cave of Machpelah: “Abraham paid out to Ephron the money that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites — four hundred shekels of silver at the going merchants’ rate.” (v. 16)

III. Select Verses

1-2: Sarah’s lifetime — the span of Sarah’s life — came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. Sarah died in Kiriath-arba — now Hebron — in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.

17-20: So Ephron’s land in Machpelah, near Mamre — the field with its cave and all the trees anywhere within the confines of that field — passed to Abraham as his possession, in the presence of the Hittites, of all who entered the gate of his town. And then Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave of the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre — now Hebron — in the land of Canaan. Thus the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site.

IV. Outline

1. The years of Sarah’s life

2a. Sarah’s death

2b-4. Abraham mourns and asks the Hittites for a burial plot

5-6. The Hittites grant Abraham his request

7-9. Abraham asks for the Machpelah cave from Ephron at full price

10-16. Abraham and Ephron agree on a 400 sheqel price and make the transaction

17-18. The transaction is made before the Hittites

19. Abraham buries Sarah

20. Summary: Abraham bought the cave from the Hittites for burial

V. Comment

Although Genesis 23 concerns the death and burial of Sarah, only three verses are devoted to that topic (1-2, 19). The rest of the chapter concerns Abraham’s purchase of the cave of Machpelah in order to bury Sarah, not the burial itself. Stephen C. Russell notes a number of peculiarities in this chapter including the impression that Abraham buys the field from Ephron and the Hittites, not just from Ephron. This can be seen from the initial discussion between Abraham and the Hittites that do not involve Ephron (vv. 3-10), the emphasis that the field was sold “in the presence of the Hittites” (v. 18), and the repetition that the “cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham” (v. 20). Another peculiarity is that the purpose of the acquisition, i.e., the burial of Sarah, is mentioned excessively (vss. 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13) whereas the actual burial is only devoted one verse (v. 19). For Russell, these peculiarities can be explained with an understanding ancient and modern tribal economies. In some tribal societies, ownership is not exclusive to one person; many people can have different types of rights to one piece of land. A king might own the rights to choose what a piece of land is used for and who gets to use it, though the king may not have the right to use it himself. Similarly, a citizen might own the rights to use a piece of land for pasture but not agriculture, and the king may be able to grant the land to another family upon his death. This joint ownership is attested in documents from ancient Mari and Ugarit, which mention sales “from so-and-so and the king” and sales “from so-and-so and the tribal elders.” In the case of our chapter, Abraham is buying the cave of Machpelah from two parties. First, he buys the rights to use the land as a burial cave from the Hittite elders, who serve as wardens. Second, he buys the cave from Ephron, who had been using it for another purpose. According to Russell, “Abraham seeks the right to use land in a particular way: as a burial site. As such he requires rights that will be transferable to his heirs. Although Ephron has an estate of production in the land, the Bnei Heth hold an estate of administration in Ephron’s land. Their involvement in the transaction thus guarantees the permanent transfer to Abraham of rights to use the land as a burial site, including the right to bequeath the land to his heirs.” (170)

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Stephen C. Russell, “Abraham’s Purchase of Ephron’s Land in Anthropological Perspective,” Biblical Interpretation 21-2 (2013), 153-170.

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Genesis 22: The Test of Abraham with Isaac; The Genealogy of Nahor

tied hands ropeHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and Abraham lifts the knife in readiness. Yahweh stops Abraham and blesses him with powerful and numerous offspring. The descendants of Abraham’s brother Nahor are listed.

II. Photo

Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his son: “He bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.” (vv. 9-10)

III. Select Verses

1-2:  Some time afterward, God put Abraham to the test. He said to him, “Abraham,” and he answered, “Here I am.” And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”

6-8: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and put it on his son Isaac. He himself took the firestone and the knife; and the two walked off together. Then Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he answered, “Yes, my son.” And he said, “Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will see to the sheep for His burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.

9-13: They arrived at the place of which God had told him. Abraham built an altar there; he laid out the wood; he bound his son Isaac; he laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to slay his son.  Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.”  And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.” When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.

15-18: The angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I swear, the LORD declares: Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your favored one, I will bestow My blessing upon you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sands on the seashore; and your descendants shall seize the gates of their foes. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed My command.”

IV. Outline

1-19. The test of Abraham

    1a. Introduction to Abraham’s test

    1b-2. Yahweh tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in Moriah

    3. Abraham prepares for the sacrifice and journey

    4-6. On the third day of the journey, Abraham and Isaac arrive

    7-8. Isaac asks where the sheep is, Abraham replies that Yahweh will provide

    9-10. Abraham binds Isaac to an altar and prepares to slaughter him

    11-12. A messenger of Yahweh tells Abraham to stop; it is now known Abraham fears Yahweh

    13. Abraham sacrifices a ram that appears in the thicket

    14. Abraham names the site “Yahweh appears”

    15-18. Yahweh blesses Abraham via a messenger with numerous, powerful, and blessed descendants

    19. Abraham returns to Beersheba

20-24. The genealogy of Nahor, Abraham’s brother

    20-23. The children of Nahor and Milcah

    24. The children of Nahor and his concubine Reumah

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 21: The Birth of Isaac; The Expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael; The Pact at Beer Sheba

well water bucket desertHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abraham and Sarah have a son in their old age and the boy, who is circumcised on the eighth day, is named Isaac (yitzhaq) because people will laugh (yitzhaq) at the age of his parents. Upon Sarah’s request and Yahweh’s blessing, Abraham sends his slave Hagar and their mutual son Ishmael into the desert, where Yahweh takes care of the two. Abraham and Abimelech make a pact demonstrating Abraham’s ownership of Beer Sheba (“the well of seven”) with seven ewes.

II. Photo

Yahweh saves Hagar and Ishmael: “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink.” (v. 19)

III. Select Verses

4: And when his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God had commanded him.

6-7: Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham That Sarah would suckle children! Yet I have borne a son in his old age.”

10-13: She said to Abraham, “Cast out that slave-woman and her son, for the son of that slave shall not share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly, for it concerned a son of his. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed over the boy or your slave; whatever Sarah tells you, do as she says, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be continued for you.  As for the son of the slave-woman, I will make a nation of him, too, for he is your seed.”

14-19: Early next morning Abraham took some bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar. He placed them over her shoulder, together with the child, and sent her away. And she wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.” And sitting thus afar, she burst into tears. God heard the cry of the boy, and an angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heeded the cry of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went and filled the skin with water, and let the boy drink.

30-31: He replied, “You are to accept these seven ewes from me as proof that I dug this well.”  Hence that place was called Beer-sheba, for there the two of them swore an oath.

IV. Outline

1-8. The birth of Isaac

    1-2. Yahweh grants Sarah a son

    3. Abraham names the boy Isaac

    4. Circumcision on the 8th day

    5. Abraham’s age: 100

    6-7. Sarah’s etymology for Isaac (yitzhaq): people will laugh (yitzchaq) at the parents’ age

    8. Abraham held a feast on Isaac’s weaning day

9-21. The expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael

    9-10. Sarah tells Abraham to cast off Hagar the slave and her son Ishmael born to Abraham

    11-13. Yahweh agrees with the plan; Isaac will inherit Abraham and Ishmael will become a nation

    14. Abraham sends Hagar and Ishamel off with some bread and water

    15-16. Dying of thirst, Hagar distances herself from Ishmael and cries

    17-18. Yahweh hears Ishmael’s cries and informs Hagar that Ishmael will become a nation

    19. A well appears to Hagar and she drinks with Ishmael

    20-21. Ishmael becomes a bowman in the desert and marries an Egyptian

22-34. Abraham and Abimelech’s pact

    22-24. Abraham swears to be honest to Abimelech and his general Phicol

    25. Abraham reproaches Abimelech for the loss of a well

    26. Abimelech denies knowledge

    27-31. Abraham and Abimelech make a pact with seven ewes, hence the place was named Beer Sheba (“the well of seven”)

    32. Abimelech and Phicol return to Philistia

33. Abraham plants a tamarisk tree and calls in the name of Yahweh at Beer Sheba

34. Abraham dwells in Philistia for many days

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

Note: There is some confusion as to who is acting in verse 33, Abraham or Abimelech. As pointed out by the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the Samaritan, Greek, Syriac, and Vulgate versions all include the name Abraham, which makes sense because Abraham was the one dwelling in Beer Sheba.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 20: Abraham and Sarah Trick Abimelech

pregnant women belliesHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Abimelech king of Gerar takes Sarah when Abraham tells him she is his sister. Yahweh appears to Abimelech and tells him not to touch Sarah, lest he and the members of his household die. Abimelech returns Sarah to Abraham along with land, silver, and cattle, and Yahweh allows the women of Gerar to give birth again.

II. Photo

The women of Gerar are no longer barren: “Abraham then prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his slave girls, so that they bore children.” (v. 17)

III. Select Verses

1-2: Abraham journeyed from there to the region of the Negeb and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he was sojourning in Gerar, Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So King Abimelech of Gerar had Sarah brought to him.

6-7: And God said to him in the dream, “I knew that you did this with a blameless heart, and so I kept you from sinning against Me. That was why I did not let you touch her. Therefore, restore the man’s wife — since he is a prophet, he will intercede for you — to save your life. If you fail to restore her, know that you shall die, you and all that are yours.”

11-12: “I thought,” said Abraham, “surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. And besides, she is in truth my sister, my father’s daughter though not my mother’s; and she became my wife.

14-16: Abimelech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham; and he restored his wife Sarah to him. And Abimelech said, “Here, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.” And to Sarah he said, “I herewith give your brother a thousand pieces of silver; this will serve you as vindication before all who are with you, and you are cleared before everyone.”

17-18: Abraham then prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his slave girls, so that they bore children;  for the LORD had closed fast every womb of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.

IV. Outline

1. Abraham’s group travels to Gerar

2. Abraham introduces Sarah as his sister, and king Abimelech takes her

3-7. God warns Abimelech to release Sarah, lest he and his people die

8. Abimelech informs his servants, who are terrified

9-10. Abimelech confronts Abraham about his lie

11-13. Abraham reveals his distrust of Abimelech and his own paternal kinship to Sarah

14-16. Abimelech gives Abraham Sarah, cattle, silver, and land

17. Abraham prays and Abimelech’s women are able to give birth

18. Note: Yahweh had closed the wombs of Abimelech’s women on account of Sarah


V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

Note: a number of commentators suggest that v. 18, which provides the context for v. 17, is either a gloss or that it originally had another place in the narrative.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 19: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; The Birth of Moab and Ammon

hqdefaultHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

The townspeople of Sodom attempt to rape the two travelers, who are staying with Lot. Yahweh destroys Sodom and Gomorrah but saves Lot and his daughters, though Lot’s wife is turned to salt. Lot’s daughters cohabit with their father and give birth to the nations of Moab and Ammon .

II. Photo

Lot’s wife is no more: “Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.” (v. 26)

III. Select Verses

4-11: They had not yet lain down, when the townspeople, the men of Sodom, young and old — all the people to the last man — gathered about the house. And they shouted to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may be intimate with them.” So Lot went out to them to the entrance, shut the door behind him, and said, “I beg you, my friends, do not commit such a wrong. Look, I have two daughters who have not known a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you please; but do not do anything to these men, since they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back! The fellow,” they said, “came here as an alien, and already he acts the ruler! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” And they pressed hard against the person of Lot, and moved forward to break the door. But the men stretched out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And the people who were at the entrance of the house, young and old, they struck with blinding light, so that they were helpless to find the entrance.

15-16: As dawn broke, the angels urged Lot on, saying, “Up, take your wife and your two remaining daughters, lest you be swept away because of the iniquity of the city.” Still he delayed. So the men seized his hand, and the hands of his wife and his two daughters — in the LORD’s mercy on him — and brought him out and left him outside the city.

23-26: As the sun rose upon the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah sulfurous fire from the LORD out of heaven. He annihilated those cities and the entire Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation of the ground. Lot’s wife looked back, and she thereupon turned into a pillar of salt.

29: Thus it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the Plain and annihilated the cities where Lot dwelt, God was mindful of Abraham and removed Lot from the midst of the upheaval.

36-38: Thus the two daughters of Lot came to be with child by their father. The older one bore a son and named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. And the younger also bore a son, and she called him Ben-ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.

IV. Outline

1-29. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

    1-3. Lot convinces the two visitors to lodge by him 

    4-5. The townspeople demand the men for sex

    6-8. Lot offers his daughters instead

    9. The townspeople attempt to break in

    10-11. The visitors shield Lot and blind the townspeople at the door

    12-13. The visitors tell Lot to gather his family before they destroy the city

    14. Lot’s sons-in-law do not believe the warning

    15-17. The visitors drag Lot and his family out of Sodom as a kindness

    18-22. The visitors allow Lot to flee to Zoar, understood to mean “insignificance”

    23-25. Yahweh destroys the people and vegetation of Sodom and Gomorrah with sulfurous fire

    26. Lot’s wife looked back and turned to a pillar of salt

    27-28. Abraham views the destruction

    29. Lot was saved on account of Abraham

30-38. The creation of Moab and Ammon

    30. Lot and his daughters flee to a cave in the highlands

    31-36. The daughters, who think the world is destroyed, give Lot wine and cohabitate with him 

    37. The older daughter bears Moab, meaning “from the father”

    38. The youger daughter bears Ammon, meaning “the son of my people”

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 18: The Three Visitors; Abraham Pleads on Behalf of Sodom

54f64899e6298_-_lazy-meatball-kebabs-ms1013-xlargeHebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh visits Abraham in the guise of three travelers and promises a child for Sarah, who is menopausal. Yahweh tells Abraham about the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom if it contains ten righteous men.

II. Photo

Abraham feeds his visitors: “He took curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared and set these before them; and he waited on them under the tree as they ate.” (v. 8)

III. Select Verses

1-2a. The LORD appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. Looking up, he saw three men standing near him.

9-15. They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he replied, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will return to you next year, and your wife Sarah shall have a son!” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years; Sarah had stopped having the periods of women. And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “Now that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment — with my husband so old?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, old as I am?’ Is anything too wondrous for the LORD? I will return to you at the time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Sarah lied, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was frightened. But He replied, “You did laugh.”

23-26. Abraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty? What if there should be fifty innocent within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the innocent as well as the guilty, so that innocent and guilty fare alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” And the LORD answered, “If I find within the city of Sodom fifty innocent ones, I will forgive the whole place for their sake.”

IV. Outline

1-15. Yahweh visits Abraham in the guise of three men

    1. Introduction: A hot day at the terebinths of Mamre

    2-5. Abraham invites three men over to eat

    6-8a. Abraham, Sarah, and a servant prepare the meal

    8b. The men eat

    9-10. The men promise a child to Sarah by the next year

    11. Note: Sarah was old and menopausal

    12. Sarah laughs (Hebrew “tizḥak,” similar to Isaac/”yitzḥak”)

    13-14. Yahweh criticizes Sarah and promises Abraham a child

    15. Sarah denies her laughter but Abraham does not believe her

16-33. Abraham pleads on behalf of Sodom

    16. The men are prepared to travel to Sodom

    17-21. Yahweh decides to tell Abraham about Sodom’s and Gomorrah’s sins

    22. The men head out for Sodom

    23-26. Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom on account of 50 righteous men

    27-28. Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom on account of 45 righteous men

    29. Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom on account of 40 righteous men

    30. Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom on account of 30 righteous men

    31. Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom on account of 20 righteous men

    32. Abraham convinces Yahweh to spare Sodom on account of 10 righteous men

    33. Yahweh and Abraham depart from one another


V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

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Genesis 17: A Covenant of Circumcision; Name Changes

shutterstock_168520190-2-800x430Hebrew-English Text

I. Summary

Yahweh promises Abram great offspring through Ishmael and Isaac, who is yet to be born. Isaac’s children, who will be the only members of the covenant, must be circumsized on the eighth day. Yahweh changes Abram’s name to Abraham, Sarai’s name to Sarah, and Abraham circumsizes the male members of his household.

II. Photo

Abraham’s loyalty to Yahweh is evident: “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he circumcised the flesh of his foreskin.” (v. 24)

III. Select Verses

3-8: Abram threw himself on his face; 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. 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. I will make you exceedingly fertile, and make nations of you; and kings shall come forth from you. I will maintain My covenant between Me and you, and your offspring to come, as an everlasting covenant throughout the ages, to be God to you and to your offspring to come. I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting holding. I will be their God.”

11-14: You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days. As for the homeborn slave and the one bought from an outsider who is not of your offspring,  they must be circumcised, homeborn, and purchased alike. 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.

15-19: And God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you shall not call her Sarai, but her name shall be Sarah. 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.” 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?”  And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live by Your favor!”  God said, “Nevertheless, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac; and I will maintain My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring to come.

23-27: Then Abraham took his son Ishmael, and all his homeborn 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. 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 homeborn slaves and those that had been bought from outsiders, were circumcised with him.

IV. Outline

1-22. Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham

    1-2. Yahweh introduces his covenant to Abram, who is 99 years old

    3. Abram prostrates himself

    4-16. The covenant

        4. Abram will be father of many nations

        5. Abram shall be called Abraham

        6. Fertility

        7. An eternal covenant

        8. Canaan belongs to Abram

        9-10a. Future generations must observe the covenant

        10b-14. All boys must be circumsized on the eighth day

        15-16. Sarai is to be called Sarah and will be fertile

    17. Abraham laughs (“yitzhak”) at the idea of having a child with Sarah

    18. Abraham prays for Ishmael

    19. Yahweh will make Sarah fertile; Abraham is to name his son Isaac (“yitzhak”)

    20. Ishmael will father twelve chiefs

    21. The covenant is for Isaac

    22. Yahweh departs from Abraham

23-27. Circumcision

    23. Introduction: Abraham circumcizes his household

    24. Abraham was 99 at his circumcision

    25. Ishmael was 13 at his circumcision    

    26-27. Summary: Abraham, Ishmael, and the males were circumcised

V. Comment

No comment today. Stay tuned.

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)

Photo copied from http:// http://www.rawstory .com/2014/02/nc-officer-shoots-70-year-old-man-in-the-chest-as-he-reaches-for-his-walking-cane/