Father Abraham

Father Abraham

DAY 7 OF 10

Abraham’s Later Contact with Others: Genesis 18:1–21:34

Now we come to the fourth step of Abraham’s life: his later interactions with others in 18:1–21:34. In these chapters Abraham encountered various people who were associated with people living in Moses’ day. Abraham interacted with the Canaanite inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, Abimelech, and Ishmael. In general terms, Abraham’s interactions with these people taught Israel how they would interact with the Canaanites, the Moabites and Ammonites, and the Philistines and Ishmaelites of their day. 

The first story of this portion of the patriarch’s life is the account of Sodom and Gomorrah in 18:1–19:38. This well-known narrative tells of the threat of divine judgment against the evil Canaanite cities. It tells about Abraham’s concern for the righteous in the cities, and the destruction of these cities as well as Lot’s rescue. These events spoke directly to the situation facing Moses’ original audience. They helped them understand what was happening with people living in their day: God’s threat against the Canaanites, the concern they were to have for the righteous among the Canaanites (like Rahab whom they would encounter in Jericho), the destruction that was sure to come against the Canaanite cities, and their relationship with Lot’s descendants, the Moabites and Ammonites.

The second portion of Abraham’s later interactions with others appears in 20:1-18. In this story Abraham once again interceded for an inhabitant of the land, namely for Abimelech the Philistine. You will recall that Abimelech threatened Abraham’s future by taking Sarah from Abraham, not knowing she was his wife. Then, God brought judgment against Abimelech, and Abimelech proved to be righteous by repenting of his actions. As a result of this repentance, Abraham interceded on Abimelech’s behalf, and Abraham and Abimelech enjoyed lasting peace and friendship with each other. 

This story spoke to the Israelites in Moses’ day about the attitudes they were to have toward the Philistines in their day. In a variety of ways, the Philistines threatened Israel. But when the threat of God’s judgment brought repentance among the Philistines, the Israelites were to intercede on their behalf, and to enjoy lasting peace with them. 

The third narrative of this section, found in 21:1-21, focuses on the difficult relationship between Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac and Ishmael were both sons of Abraham. But when tensions rose between them, God instructed Abraham to separate Ishmael from the family. God still blessed Ishmael, but made it very clear that Abraham’s only rightful heir was Isaac. As Moses informed his original Israelite audience of these events, he helped them understand the nature of their relationship with the Ishmaelites of their day. When tensions rose between Israel and the Ishmaelites, the Israelites were to remember that God had ordained a separation between them. Although God blessed the Ishmaelites in many ways, the Israelites were the true heirs of Abraham.

The fourth episode of Abraham’s later interactions with others is the story of Abraham’s Treaty with Abimelech in 21:22-34. This story reports how the Philistine Abimelech acknowledged God’s favor toward Abraham, and how Abraham agreed to live in peace with Abimelech and his descendants. It goes on to tell how controversy arose over water rights for Abraham’s sheep, and how Abimelech and Abraham entered a formal treaty at Beersheba, pledging mutual respect and honor.

Abimelech and his commander reminded Moses and the Israelites of the potent threat the Philistines were in their day. Here, Moses taught his followers that if the Philistines would acknowledge God’s blessing on Israel, then Israel should follow Abraham’s example and live in peace with them. The well called Beersheba still remained in Moses’ day, reminding Israel of the treaty made there, and of how they were to pursue peace and mutual honor with the Philistines. 

So, we see that the stories of Abraham’s later interactions involved many characters who corresponded to people who Moses and Israel encountered. By looking at Abraham’s actions the Israelites could learn many lessons for their day. 

About this Plan

Father Abraham

This reading plan explores the account of Abraham's life in Genesis from a distinctly Christian perspective in order to answer questions such as: What did these stories mean for those who first received them? And what do...

We would like to thank Third Millennium Ministries for providing this plan. For more information, please visit: http://thirdmill.org

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