Gen 20:1-25:11

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Home > The Old Testament > Genesis > Chapters 11c-25a > Chapters 20-25a / Verses 20:1-25:11
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  • Gen 20:2: Abimelech. The name Abimelech seems to mean "my father is mlk." The Hebrew letters mlk can mean either be vocalized as melek or malak to mean "king," there is also an ancient deity known as Molech (or Moloch, Malik, Malku, Malki) who is strongly associated with child sacrifice, esp. of firstborns (the Anchor Bible Dictionary has a good entry on this). Given the explicit discussion of human sacrifice in Abr 1, this way of thinking about Abimilech's name suggests rich possibilities for a Mormon interpretation of Abraham's relationship with Abimelech, as well as for thinking about the possible significance of Christ as both the Firstborn sacrificed and King/Annointed One.
What I find also very thought-provoking is the whole tradition of kings in Hebrew and Nephite culture. That is, although Abimelech in Judges and Samuel in 1 Sam seem to suggest that kings come from negative, outside influences, later it seems that kings are generally a good thing--except the intriguing discussions in the Book of Mormon about the danger of unrighteous kings and subsequent motivation for . . . well, democracy.
I was thinking about this recently because Remi Brague briefly discusses in The Law of God the Hebrew separation between kings and priests. Brague talks in terms of there being a sort of tension in Hebrew tradition between "nostalgia for an earlier period, either that of nomadic life in the desert or that of "liberty" under the Judges" (p. 32), and a "messianic dream" that is "held within a tension between "the pre-political and the meta-political, if not laminated between the two" (p. 32). I worry that this view underplays the role that a yearning for the golden period under King David had in Hebrew thought (I'm thinking maybe Brueggemann discusses this a bit in chapter 2 of his Theology of the Old Testament which I'm also currently reading...).
Anyway, this relationship between kings and blood-sacrifice is a very new idea to me, but it seems interesting, if not promising.
  • Gen 22:1: Did tempt. The Hebrew verb here, nacah, means to test or to prove. In other words, God tested Abraham or put him to the test.
  • Gen 22:2: Moriah. In Hebrew moreh refers to teacher and Yah is the shortened version of the sacred name of the Lord, Jehovah. Here, Abraham is being "taught of the Lord" that the firstborn son, the Lamb of God, who would be offered as a sacrifice at the same mount. (See Daniel Rona reference below.) Also see these comments by Daniel Rona here.
  • Gen 24: Rebekah as the ideal bride. Matthew's genealogy of Christ lists four women (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba) whose stories are unusual and are likely included to show that the story of Mary's virgin birth is more acceptable than it would sound in isolation (see the discussion of women in Christ's genealogy at Matt 1:1-17). The ideal bride, in contrast, would likely be Rebekah, Isaac's wife.
  • Gen 24: Isaac and Rebekah as the bridegroom and bride. This story can be interpreted symbolically in which Isaac as the bridegroom represents Christ, the servant represents a prophet who calls people to come to Christ, and Rebekah represents the ideal bride or follower of Christ who immediately heeds the call to follow Christ and does not tarry (compare Matt 8:21-22 let the dead bury the dead). Rebekah, the bride, was charitable in offering to draw water for Isaac's servant. (Gen __). She believed on the words of the bridegroom's servant without having yet seen the bridegroom for herself. (Gen __). Upon believing, she did not tarry in Haran, but departed the next morning and, when brought to Isaac, she hastened to meet him. (Gen __). This provides a model of conduct for the people of Christ, both male and female. We are all, male and female, the bride to Christ. Isaac also symbolically represents Christ when offered in sacrifice by his father Abraham. (Gen 22; discussion). Regarding the symbolism of the bride and bridegroom generally, see the discussion of the bride and bridegroom and the marriage supper of the Lamb in connection with Matt 25:1-13 (Parable of the Ten Virgins).
  • Like Tamar and Bathsheba, Rebekah later took an active role in the birthright succession.

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  • Gen 21:31-32: Non-family oaths. J. Gerald Janzen, in his International Theological Commentary, notes that "it has been observed that covenant relations arise as a form of substitute kinship relations. That is, covenant relations formally extend kin [/hesed] ethics beyond the range of kin relations, implicitly exploring the possibility that different kinship communities may treat one another within the horizon of a common human kinship under God" (pp. 75-76). To what extent does the bilateral nature of this oath/covenant contrast with what seems a more unilateral oath (i.e. promise) that God gives to Abraham? In what other ways does this human-to-human oath/covenant compare and contrast to oaths and covenants between humans within a family, and between humans and God? What does these similarities and differences tell us about our relations to neighbors, family and God?
  • Gen 22:2: Offer him there for a burnt offering. The Hebrew word translated here as "offer him" is `alah which is written the same way (i.e. has the same consonants) as the Hebrew word `olah which the KJV translated "burnt offering" (both words are related to the word holocaust). The word `alah has a strong connotation of "up." What is the significance of these words being used here? Is there a hidden or less obvious meaning that this word play points to? (In the LXX, the word used for "burnt offering" is olokarposin, which seems to be a somewhat rare word that is not appear to be used in the New Testament. Can the etymology here be traced to anything that is helpful for interpretation of this verse?)


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  • Gen 24:3: Why not a Canaanite? For a discussion of possible reasons why Abraham didn't want Isaac to marry a Canaanite, see the discussion here.


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