Genesis Study #8

Bible Class – Study #8 (Gen 21-23) – Notes and Discussion questions

Related passages For:
Pt A: Ge 16:10-12; 17:19-21; 18:10, 14; Ps 113:9; Jn 8:35; Ro 4:19; 9:9; Ga 4:7, 21-31; He 11:11
Pt B: Ge 12:8; 26:26-9; 30:27; 39:3; Dt 16:21; 33:27; Jud 20:1; Isa 40:28; Mt 5:41; Ro 12:18; 1Co 14:25; Col 4:5; 1Th 4:12
Pt C: 2Ch 3:1; Ps 119:60; Jn 1:29; 8:56; 19:17; Ro 8:32; Ga 3:8-9; He 6:13-4; 11:17-9; Jas 1:2-3; 2:21; 1Pe 1:7
Pt D: Ge 11:29; 21:31; 24:15; Nu 23:7; Job 1:1; 32:2; Pro 25:25
Pt E: Ge 10:15; 13:18; 25:10; Lev 25:23; Jos 14:15; Ps 39:12; Jer 32:9; Ac 7:5; 1Th 4:13; He 11:13-6; 1Pe 2:11

Outline & Notes

  1. A transition in Abraham’s family– Gen 21:1-21
    1. The birth of Isaac – Genesis 21:1-7
    2. The banter of Ishmael – Genesis 21:8-11
    3. God’s direction regarding Hagar & Ishmael – Genesis 21:12-16
    4. God’s protection of Hagar & Ishmael – Genesis 21:17-21
  2. A treaty with Abimelech’s followers – Gen 21:22-34
    1. Abimelech’s concession – Genesis 21:22-24
    2. Abraham’s complaint – Genesis 21:25-26
    3. The covenant – Genesis 21:27-31
    4. The cohabitation – Genesis 21:32-34
  3. A test of Abraham’s faith– Gen 22:1-18
    1. The command to Abraham – Genesis 22:1-2
    2. The compliance of Abraham – Genesis 22:3-5
    3. The communication between father and son – Genesis 22:6-10
    4. The call from heaven – Genesis 22:11-14
    5. The commendation of heaven – Genesis 22:15-18
  4. Tidings from Abraham’s fraternity – Gen 22:19-24
    1. The return to Beersheba – Genesis 22:19
    2. The report from his brother – Genesis 22:20-22
    3. Rebekah’s birth – Genesis 22:23
    4. Reumah’s brood – Genesis 22:24
  5. A tomb for Abraham’s first lady – Gen 23:1-20
    1. The death of Sarah – Genesis 23:1-2
    2. The desire of Abraham – Genesis 23:3-9
    3. The designs of Ephron – Genesis 23:10-15
    4. The deal for Machpelah – Genesis 23:16-20

The Lord’s timing is always perfect and in the chapters of this study we see the Lord fulfilling His promise to Abraham in the birth of Isaac. Abraham has had to learn difficult lessons, including to wait for God’s time but finally, there is joyous laughter and celebratory feasting in Abraham’s household over the miraculous work of the Lord. As well as one of Abraham’s greatest joys, we will consider Abraham’s greatest test of faith and obedience as the God who called him out of Ur of the Chaldees now calls him to offer up his only son. In these momentous events, Abraham could see far beyond his own circumstances and as the Lord Jesus Himself said of him, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (Jn 8:56)

Textual notes

● Isaac immediately becomes the prominent figure upon his birth in chapter 21 while Ishmael fades quickly into the background of the story. Isaac’s name is mentioned 5 times in the chapter while Ishmael’s is absent. In fact, the next time we read his name is in chapter 25 in connection with the burial of Abraham, his sons and then his own death.

● In the culture of the day, children were weaned much later than in modern times so Isaac may have been anywhere from 2 to 4 years old at the time.

● In Genesis 21:15-16, the English translation of “boy” (“child” in KJV) and of “lad” in Genesis 21:17 and even the context of Hagar placing Ishmael under a bush makes it seem like he is a young child but we know that he was 13 when he was circumcised (Genesis 21:25) and if Isaac was weaned at 2-4 years, then he must have been in his mid to late teens. The two Hebrew words can both mean “youth” or even “offspring”.

● In 21:31, we read of “Beersheba” for the first time. The name means “well of the oath” or “well of the seven”. The Hebrew word for ‘seven’ (sheba) sounds like the Hebrew word for ‘swearing an oath’ (shaba).

● On the 3rd day of travel to Moriah, Abraham saw the place afar off. Moriah was about 48 miles from Beersheba.

● In Genesis 23:1, Sarah is the only woman in scripture to have her age upon death recorded at 127 years.

● The sons of Heth (or the Hittites) from whom Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah were descendants of Ham and Canaan (see Ge 10:15).

Discussion questions

1. What do you notice about the emphasis of Scripture as we read of the birth of Isaac in the first two verses of chapter 21? What do we learn from this?

2. Isaac is a clear type of Christ in several ways. What parallels can you identify between the births of each in the Scriptures?

3. How can we interpret Sarah’s statement in Genesis 21:6, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me”?

4. Reading about Hagar & Ishmeal being cast out of Abraham’s household can seem like harsh punishment for what might seem to be normal sibling rivalry when Ishmael scoffs or mocks Isaac. What clues from the text or from other scriptures might help us to see how this incident represented something much more serious?

5. The Abimelech in Genesis 21:22 is very likely the same man who was deceived by Abraham regarding Sarah in Gen 20. What might he have learned about Abraham in the intervening time? And how is the interaction between the two men different this time?

6. Abraham’s complaint to Abimelech concerns a well of water that his men had seized. What spiritual lessons can we draw out (no pun intended) of this incident?

7. Right in the first verse of chapter 22, we learn that this account is a test of Abraham’s faith. What are some details in the passage that show us how Abraham passed this test?

8. We have the first mentions of love (Genesis 22:2) and of worship directed to God alone (Genesis 22:5) in this passage. What significance can we take from these mentions as regards Biblical principles of each term?

9. The offering of Isaac in Gen 22 is one of the earliest and most beautiful pictures of Calvary in the Old Testament. What aspects of the cross can you see prefigured in the passage?

10. According to the numerical principle of hermeneutics, the number 2 can represent division and separation. But it can also symbolise witness and support. For example, Caleb & Joshua, Moses & Aaron, Paul & Barnabas, Peter & John, Moses & Elijah at the transfiguration, the two angels at the tomb of Christ and at His ascension, the Old & New Testaments. There are a number of pairs in Gen 22. How many can you find? How do you think the idea of witness is reflected in this chapter?

11. Abraham identifies himself as a “foreigner and a visitor” in the land of the Hittites in Genesis 23:4. How can we apply this spiritually to ourselves as believers in this world?

12. What practical lessons can we learn from the way that Abraham conducts his business in acquiring the field and the cave of Machpelah?