Lesson 7: Abraham 1:1-4, 2:1-11; Genesis 12:1-8, 17:1-9
Verse 1: Why did Abraham think he needed to “find another place of residence”? (Compare Genesis 12:1 as well as Abraham 1:5-12 and 2:1-4) What do you make of the dispassionate character of Abraham’s language in this verse and in his account of the Chaldean attempt to sacrifice him? Is that an artefact of translation, perhaps, or does it show us something about Abraham? In the ancient Near East, gods were associated with a particular place: the gods of Assyria, the gods of Egypt, etc. How was Abraham’s understanding of God important to his time? Is there anything comparable to the local gods in our own understanding?
Verse 2: What does Abraham mean by “the blessings of the fathers”? Who were the fathers? How does possessing the High Priesthood make Abraham “one who possessed great knowledge”? How would it make him “a greater follower of righteousness”? How would he have seen it as relevant to him becoming the father of many nations? Did he receive that blessing (Genesis 12:2) when he received the priesthood?
Verses 3-4: What do these verses tell us about the priesthood? Why is that important to our understanding?
Verse 19 (my addition to the reading for this lesson): What does the Lord mean when he says “As it was with Noah so shall it be with thee”?
Verses 1-2: Does the account here agree with Genesis 11:31-32? If so, how? If not, how do you explain that difference?
Verses 3-5: Why do you think Abraham felt it necessary to include these kinds of details in his record? What have they to do with us?
Verse 6: How do you think we should understand the word “minister” here? What does it mean to give something as “an everlasting possession” to someone “when they hearken to my voice”? How do you explain the contrast between this promise and Abraham’s prostration before the Canaanites in, among other places, Genesis 23:8-9? If God has given Canaan to Abraham, why doesn’t he just take the cave, the well, whatever he legitimately needs?
Verses 7-8: Is the Lord using the attributes he describes in verse 7 for particular reasons? Explain. Why is it important that Abraham know that the Lord knows the end from the beginning (verse 8 )? Why does the Lord use that wording, “the end from the beginning”? How does the word “from” function in this sentence? For example, does it indicate a difference, like knowing chocolate from vanilla ice cream? Does it entail temporality: the Lord knows how things will end from the very beginning? What does the imagery of “my hand shall be over thee” suggest?
Verse 9: How will the Lord make Abraham into a great nation? Why is that a great blessing? The Lord says, “thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations.” Does this mean “You will be a blessing to your seed so that they can take the ministry and priesthood to everyone,” or does it mean “you will be a blessing to your seed in that they will take the ministry and priesthood to everyone”? In other words, explain how Abraham is a blessing to his posterity and what that has to do with them preaching the Gospel.
Verses 10-11: Who are Abrahamâ€™s children? Who will bless Abraham? Why does verse 11 say that both Abraham and his seed are his priesthood? What is Abrahamâ€™s priesthood? Do John 8:39 or Romans 9:7-8 add to our understanding of this promise?
Verse 1: It is often assumed that the word “Hebrew” comes from the root ivri meaning “someone from the other side.” The most straightforward way to understand that name is that it designates someone who comes from Mesopotamia, on the other side of the river. However, are there other ways to understand that Abraham and those who descend from him are from “the other side”? What do you make of the fact that the Lord seems to speak of things in reverse order: first he says “leave your country,” then he says “leave your kinfolk,” and finally he says “leave your father’s house”? The temporal order in which he will have to leave is father’s house then kinfolk then country. After all, to leave the country is to leave everything contained in it, such as kinfolk and immediate family.
Verses 2-3: What does it mean to say that Abram will not only be blessed, but will “be a blessing” to others? Why is that part of the covenant? Do those who inherit Abram’s blessing inherit that obligation to be blessing? What does that mean to us? Is verse three a repetition of the meaning of verse 2, or does it say something new? If it is a repetition of verse 2, why does the Lord bother with that repetition? Notice that the revelation of verse placed Abram outside, putting a barrier between him and all those to whom he had been related. (Is this another repetition of the “expulsion from the Garden” theme? If so, why does scripture repeat that theme?) In these verses, however, Abram becomes universal, a blessing to all. The movement is from particularism in verse 1 to universalism in verse 3. What do you make of that? What does it mean to us? Does it perhaps help us understand our individual relation to the Church or the world, the relation of the Church to the world, . . . ?
Verses 4-5: What does “all their substance that they had gathered” (verse 5) imply? What does “all [. . .] the souls that they had gotten in Haran” imply? In this verse, the wording suggests that Lot and his family are part of Abram’s family: “Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son.” However, the wording in Genesis 13:1 suggests a difference: “Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him.” If something has changed, what is it?
Verses 6-8: If you can, locate on a map where Abraham settled. What is the significance of Abram building an altar? Is there anything comparable in our lives? If so, what? If not, why not? Where are our altars to the Lord that express our gratitude for his blessings to us and from which we make our petitions to him?
Verse 1: When the Lord commands Abram to be perfect, what is he commanding him to do? The Hebrew word translated “perfect” is the same word we saw used to describe Noah (Moses 8:27; Genesis 6:9): tamim. (For more discussion, see the notes for lesson 7.) How is this like or unlike the commandment that the Savior gave in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:48â€”the Greek word there is teleios, “having attained its purpose or end”)? How is what the Lord commands here like or unlike the commandment with which the Lord begins the Mosaic law (Leviticus 19:2)? Do these help us understand what the Lord is commanding when he commands us to be perfect? What kinds of misunderstandings might we have of that commandment? Do the scriptures undo those misunderstandings?
Verse 2: What is a covenant? We often compare it to a contract, but how does it differ from a contract? In the ancient Near East, society was created and maintained by covenants rather than by laws. (There were laws, such as Hammurabiâ€™s Code, in some societies, but those societies were the exception rather than the rule.) Looking at those ancient covenants between peoples and nations can help us understand better what a covenant was in that world and it may help us better understand what a covenant is for us. In those ancient covenants we see several things: (1) They usually occur in response to some important historical event, such as a battle. (2) The parties making the covenant are not usually equals. (3) They involve appeals to God. (4) They describe the norms for expected future behavior. (5) A ritual act of some kind, often a sacrifice or the eating of a sacrificed animal, is part of ratifying the covenant. How does the covenant that the Lord makes here with Abraham fit that model? We see the Lord covenant with Abraham at least three times, in Genesis 12 (Abraham 1), Genesis 15, and here. Are these three different covenants or a repetition of the same covenant?
Verse 3: Why did Abraham fall on his face? What does that act imply?
Verses 4-9: Why might the Lord have changed Abramâ€™s name to Abraham? (Verse 5) “Abram” means “exalted or lofty father.” Given Hebrew naming conventions, most scholars believe that means “the Father is exalted” rather than “Abram is an exalted father.” The name “Abraham” means “father of many.”