Copyright 1997MWSC/Jeanie C. Crain All rights reserved.

Abraham: God Will Provide

 

Abraham's story "is a zigzag journey of faith and doubt" (Flanders, Jr., Crapps, and Smith, People of the Covenant: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, Oxford, 1996).

These authors provide a thought-provoking series of parallel movements in the unfolding story of Abraham:

"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land I will show you" (12.1)

"Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you" (22.2)

Birth of Isaac (Sarah)

Hebrew people singled out as nation of covenant.

Loss of Ishmael (Hagar): not lost by God--"God was with the lad" (21.20). Rest of humankind not lost.

God's promise to bless Abraham (15): "On that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates'" (15.18).

Ritual of covenant-making: Abram prepares for routine ritual calling for two parties to pass between two parts of sacrificial animal; Abram watches, however, a firepot and a flaming torch pass between, signifying Yahweh's activity and faithfulness in keeping the covenant.

(17)God makes a covenant with Abram and demands obedience to be symbolized by the rite of circumcision, accompanied by the promise of a son.

Curse: childlessness

Promise: to become father of multitude

(17.23) Abraham circumcises all the males of his house.

Promise: great nation

True heir: response is laughter and sarcasm (17.18)

Legitimate heir: to be sacrificed (22)

Promise threatened: famine in Canaan (12.10), Pharaoh's desire for Sarah (12. 11-16), contention between Abraham and Lot (family decreasing rather than increasing, 13.1-12).

Abraham tries to hold things together, work things out: struggles for Lot against raids of foreign kings (14), against the wickedness of Sodom (18.16-18.29); claims a servant as an heir (15.16), has a son, Ishmael, by Hagar (16)

Promise realized: (21.1)

Laughter of derision and doubt turns into joy and thanksgiving. "Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in my old age" (21.6-7)

Abram doubts: "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?" (17.17)

God is steadfast (faith): able to accomplish divine will

Yahweh calls and promises; God will provide (22.8, 14)

Abram responds ambiguously: anxiety, fear, pathos

The theme of God's covenant promise is "dramatically focused, enforced, and illustrated by the subordinate themes, plot structures, symbolisms, and characterizations that make up Genesis 12-50."

Theme: God will keep the covenant with Israel and with humankind.

Plot: centers on questions raised about the childlessness of Abram and Sarai. Plot thickens and suspense mounts (15 and 17) with God's pledge of faithfulness and Abraham's acceptance in faith and responsibility.

Climax: birth of Isaac. Climax follows climax and merges with denouement: narrative is held in suspense and called into question by God's stark command to sacrifice Isaac. Sacrifice repudiates ancient custom of sacrifice of firstborn to the deity and tells the story of testing and miracle of faithfulness.

 

Final analysis: God is faithful.