Genesis Study #6

Bible Class – Study #6 (Gen 15-18) – Notes and Discussion questions

Genesis Study #6: The affirmation of promises to Abraham

Main passage of study: Gen 15:1 – 18:21

Related passages:
Pt A: Ge 22:17, 26:4, Ex 11:2, 32:13, Jos 10:12, Ps 3:3, 18:30, 28:7, Jer 34:18-19, Ac 7:6, Ro 4:3, 9, 18-22, Ga 3:6, Ja 2:23
Pt B: Ge 21:13, 25:12,18, 28:9, 32:30; Ex 3:2, 6; 1Sa 1:10-11; Ps 113:9; Zec 1:12; Lu 1:13; Ga 4:22-23; Tit 2:9
Pt C: Ge 6:9, 48:4; Lev 12:3; Dt 10:16, 18:13; Jer 32:17; Da 8:17; Lu 2:21; Ac 7:8; Ro 2:28-29, 4:11-20; Ga 3:16; 5:6; Phil 2:15, 3:3; Col 2:11-13
Pt D : Ge 4:9, 21:6-7, 24:32; Jud 19:5; 2Ki 4:16-17; Ps 25:14, 44:21; Jer 32:17; Am 3:7; Lu 1:7, 37; Ga 3:8; Tit 2:5; Heb 13:2

Outline & Notes

  1. Confirmation of the covenant– Gen 15:1-21
    1. Relying on the covenant – Genesis 15:1-6
    2. Verifying the covenant – Genesis 15:7-12
    3. Ratifying the covenant – Genesis 15:13-21
  2. Circumvention of the covenant – Gen 16:1-16
    1. Acquiescing to an alternate voice – Genesis 16:1-6
    2. Accepting an angelic visitor – Genesis 16:7-12
    3. Acknowledging the Almighty’s vision – Genesis 16:13-16
  3. Consequences of the covenant– Gen 17:1-27
    1. The sign of Abraham’s fruit – Genesis 17:1-8
    2. The sign in Abraham’s flesh – Genesis 17:9-14
    3. The suspension of Abraham’s faith – Genesis 17:15-18
    4. The support of Abraham’s faith – Genesis 17:19-22
    5. The submission of Abraham’s faith – Genesis 17:23-27
  4. Communion of the covenant – Gen 18:1-21
    1. Hospitality to heavenly visitors – Genesis 18:1-8
    2. Hilarity at heavenly vows – Genesis 18:9-15
    3. Harmony with heavenly ventures – Genesis 18:16-21

As we continue to progress through Abraham’s journey of faith, we shall see that it continues to be one of ups and downs, yet, it is one through which the Lord’s plan and the Lord’s promises will continue to unfold, unhindered by human failure and unbelief. Through this section, we see the Lord’s progressive revelation to Abraham as the details of the Lord’s unconditional covenant with him are disclosed by the established word of the One who identifies Himself as El Shaddai, the Almighty God.

Textual notes

● In Ge 15:1, we have the first mention of the phrase, “The word of the LORD”. It is also the first time that God addresses Abram by name. There is also a difference in the translation of the end of the verse. NKJV has “I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” whereas the ESV has “I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” In any case, it stands in great contrast to the earthly riches offered to Abram by the king of Sodom at the end of ch 14.

● In Ge 15:.6 – “He believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” – note, it doesn’t say that Abram believed the promise, though doubtless that is true, but that he believed in the LORD – so his righteousness is based upon his faith in the LORD Himself. This is the first use of the word “believe” to refer to an individual’s response to God.

● In Ge 15:13, we read of Abram’s seed in a foreign land that “they will afflict them 400 years”. Some think this to be a rounded number (as Ex 12:40 gives 430 yrs) but the text here says that they would be afflicted for 400 yrs but Ex 12 says that their sojourn was for 430 yrs, which would perhaps include 30 yrs from when Joseph brought his family to when a Pharaoh arose that “knew not Joseph”.

● In Ge 16:7 – “the angel of the LORD” – we have the first of 48 references in the OT – most see this as a theophany – an appearance of God – (some even propose that these theophanies are also Christophanies – the preincarnate Christ)

● The name Ishmael means “God shall hear” or “God hears”. (Ge 16:11)

● “Abram was eighty-six years old..” (Ge 16:16) “When Abram was ninety-nine years old..” (Ge 17:1) Note that between these two chapters we have a 13 year period of a dearth of communication between God and Abram.

● Note in Ge 17:1-22, how many times God says to Abram “I will..” – God’s covenant with Abram was unconditional and based entirely upon what God said He would do.

● God changes Abram’s name to Abraham in Ge 17:5 and changes Sarai’s name to Sarah. Abram means “exalted father”. Abraham means “father of a multitude” . Sarai means “my princess/noblewoman”.Sarah means “princess/noblewoman”

Doctrinal notes

● God tells Abram in Genesis 15:1, “Fear not..” Fear is the antithesis of faith in the Scriptures. When we wholly trust God, there is no room for fear.

● Justification by faith is a doctrine that is fully developed in the NT but we see the seeds of it here in Genesis with Abraham, the father of the faithful, who “ believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” (Ge 15:6)

● We have an amazing picture of God’s grace in His revelation of Himself to Hagar, an Egyptian slave woman, who acknowledges this in her question, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Ge 16:13)

● Circumcision, in no way, brought any merit to Abraham or any of his descendants before God. It was to be carried out in obedience to God’s word as an outward sign of His covenant with His people.

Discussion questions

1. In Ge 15:3, Abram says to God, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!” Abram knew that the promises of God were linked to his offspring and that heirship is linked to sonship. How can we apply this truth to ourselves as children (sons) of God and His promises to us? (Hint: see Ga 4:1-7)

2. In Ge 15:6, we read, as noted above, that “Abram believed God” but then just two verses later, we read Abram’s question to God: “how shall I know that I will inherit it?” How can we explain this sudden apparent doubt in Abram’s mind?

3. Read over the details of the animals and birds that God asked Abram to prepare in Ge 15:9-11 for the covenant ceremony. What do you notice? Can you make any connections to Christ and His redemptive work?

4. Compare the first few verses of Ge 16 with the account of the fall in Ge 3. What similarities and differences do you notice?

5. In Ge 16:14, we have the first mention of a well in the Bible. With the details given in this chapter, consider these other passages that also mention a well: Ge 21:19; Nu 21:16; Jn 4:6. What truths connected with the context of the first mention of a well do we find weaving their way through the other passages?

6. Hagar is often seen as a sympathetic figure as a slave and a forced surrogate mother who is then dealt harshly by Sarai who conceived of the idea. But what lessons can we learn from her flight from Sarai and her eventual return and the Lord’s dealings with her in this chapter?

7. Why do you think the Lord revealed Himself to Abram in Ge 17:1 as the Almighty God, El Shaddai?

8. As noted above, there are 13 years between chapters 16 and 17 so that Abraham is now 99 years old when the Lord appears to tell him that he would have a son by Sarah in a year. Beyond their unbelief and taking matters into their own hands, why do you think the Lord made Abraham wait so long to see this promise fulfilled?

9. In Ge 35:9-13, the Lord appears to Jacob. What parallels can we identify between that passage and the Lord’s appearing to Abraham in chapter 17?

10. How does the Lord support Abraham’s wavering faith in Ge 17:19-21? What lesson(s) can we draw for ourselves from this passage?

11. We could say that Abraham is a model host to his heavenly visitors in Ge 18. What can we learn about fellowship with God from the actions of Abraham in this passage?

12. In Ge 18:21, we read of God’s intention to “go down now and see” whether the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was to the extent of the outcry against it. Obviously, the omniscient God already knew all about it so why do you think this detail of the Lord’s seeming investigation is given here?