From Genesis 25-26
The LORD reiterates his covenant promises to Isaac. He gives a glowingly positive account of Abraham’s obedience. For this reason the covenant promises were maintained. Do you value God’s promises as Abraham did?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
In the last chapter (Gen 25) Isaac and Rebekah have two sons Esau and Jacob. These boys are contending with one another from birth. In the end of the chapter Jacob demands that Esau sell him his birthright. Esau out of hunger and stupidity sells his birthright for some red stew (Gen 25.29-34).
In today’s passage God reiterates the covenant promises he made with Abraham. Now passing them on directly to Isaac.
26 Now there was a famine in the land, besides the former famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Gerar to Abimelech king of the Philistines. (Gen 26:1)
‘Famine’. There are several prominent famines in Genesis that have tended to force God’s people to move for better land and a chance at surviving. The first as the text indicates was in Abrahams time (Gen 12.10). This forced Abraham to temporarily move to Egypt. Todays passage describes the second famine. The third is in Joseph’s time (Gen 41.54-57f).
Famines involve prolonged and extreme lack of food. Famine along with other disasters (such as war and disease) have always been part of the human experience. Sometimes there was enough rainfall, properly timed, but occasionally rainfall was too early or late or insufficient (Lv 26:19; Am 4:7, 8). The Hebrews and other people in the Near East viewed famine as a judgment of God. God as Creator and Sustainer had power over the natural world. He could use his created order as he chose; it was no accident when there was famine. Whether a famine occurred through lack of rainfall, hailstorms, or any other event, God was the agent. (Elwell, W.A. & Beitzel, B.J., 1988. Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, p.773.)
Famines also seem to be the time when we see God working more clearly.
2 And the LORD appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. 4 I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, (Gen 26:2-4)
‘Do not go down to Egypt’. Before Abraham died he instructed Isaac to remain in the land (Gen 24.6). Likewise so does the LORD. The LORD especially does not want him to go down to Egypt. This would take a bit of trust because of the famine.
‘Sojourn in this land’. Instead the LORD wants his to stay and become familiar with the land the LORD will give him and his offspring.
The LORD promises to be with him. He will not be alone.
‘I will establish the oath’. The promise is the one he gave Abraham. The LORD reaffirms his covenant oaths to Isaac as he did his father Abraham before him. Land, offspring and blessing for all the nations.
The LORD provides an amazing reason why he will do this.
5 because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Gen 26:5)
‘Because Abraham obeyed’. Echoing Gen 22.18, the LORD gives a very positive appraisal of Abraham’s obedience as the reason why he will fulfill his promises.
Its not immediately clear however what are the commands, statutes and laws the LORD is referring to. So far their is nothing like the law of Moses. However through the Genesis account the LORD has commanded Abraham. Abraham was asked to leave his fathers land and house. He was told to sacrifice Isaac his son. He was commanded to circumcise himself and his household. Abraham obeyed the LORD in all these.
He obeyed because he valued God’s promises.
The reiteration of the covenant promises in 26:3–5 concludes on the aspect that was first introduced to the covenant clauses in 22:18, the obedience of Abraham. This emphasis on obedience to God’s commands stands in stark contrast to the questionable conduct of Jacob that ended chapter 25.
The narrator thereby places Jacob’s character flaws and Yahweh’s covenant expectations in juxtaposition to one another.
This reiteration also reminds us of another birthright. Esau’s despising of the birthright of his material inheritance argues that he would be just as likely to devalue the birthright of covenant promises. (Walton, J.H., 2001. Genesis, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)
Abraham valued the covenant promises God gave him. That is why he obeyed and received the praise God gave him in this passage. Jacob has a long way to go yet. But he will mature and earnestly seek God’s blessing.
The passage does not find many ready equivalents in the gospel. However we can see that Jesus offers us so much in this life and in the life to come. And that he also asks much of us in return.
25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14.25-27)
Are we willing like Abraham to listen and obey? To seek what he offers?
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