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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Assyria; Havilah; Ishmael; Ishmaelites; Shur; Thompson Chain Reference - Assyria; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ishmaelites, the;
Verse Genesis 25:18. They dwelt from Havilah unto Shur — The descendants of Ishmael possessed all that country which extends from east to west, from Havilah on the Euphrates, near its junction with the Tigris, to the desert of Shur eastward of Egypt; and which extends along the isthmus of Suez, which separates the Red Sea from the Mediterranean.
As thou goest toward Assyria — "These words," says Calmet, "may refer either to Egypt, to Shur, or to Havilah. The desert of Shur is on the road from Egypt to Assyria in traversing Arabia Petraea, and in passing by the country of Havilah. I know not," adds he, "whether Ashshurah in the text may not mark out rather the Asshurim descended from Keturah, than the Assyrians, who were the descendants of Asshur the son of Shem."
He died in the presence of all his brethren — The original will not well bear this translation. In Genesis 25:17 it is said, He gave up the ghost and died, and was gathered to his people. Then follows the account of the district occupied by the Ishmaelites, at the conclusion of which it is added על פני כל אחיו נפל al peney col echaiv naphal, "IT (the lot or district) FELL (or was divided to him) in the presence of all his brethren:" and this was exactly agreeable to the promise of God, Genesis 16:12, He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren; and to show that this promise had been strictly fulfilled, it is here remarked that his lot or inheritance was assigned him by Divine Providence, contiguous to that of the other branches of the family. The same word, נפל naphal, is used Joshua 23:4, for to divide by lot.
On the subject of writing the same proper name variously in our common Bibles, the following observations and tables will not be unacceptable to the reader.
"Men who have read their Bible with care," says Dr. Kennicott, "must have remarked that the name of the same person is often expressed differently in different places. Indeed the variation is sometimes so great that we can scarcely persuade ourselves that one and the same person is really meant. A uniform expression of proper names is diligently attended to in other books: perhaps in every other book, except the Old Testament. But here we find strange variety in the expression, and consequently great confusion: and indeed there is scarcely any one general source of error which calls for more careful correction than the same proper names now wrongly expressed. I shall add here, from the Pentateuch, some proper names which are strangely varied: first, twenty-three names expressed differently in the Hebrew text itself, and seventeen of them in our English translation; and then thirty-one names expressed uniformly in the Hebrew yet differently in the English.
|SAME NAMES DIFFERING IN THE HEBREW|
|1||Genesis 4:18||Mehujael||Mehijael||in the same verse.|
|2||Genesis 10:3||Riphath||Diphath||1 Chronicles 1:6|
|3||Genesis 10:4||Tarshish||Tarshishah||1 Chronicles 1:7|
|4||Genesis 10:4||Dodanim||Rodanim||1 Chronicles 1:7|
|5||Genesis 10:23||Mash||Meshech||1 Chronicles 1:17|
|6||Genesis 10:28||Obal||Ebal||1 Chronicles 1:22|
|7||Genesis 32:30-31||Peniel||Penuel||in the next verse.|
|8||Genesis 36:11||Zepho||Zephi||1 Chronicles 1:36|
|9||Genesis 36:23||Shepho||Shephi||1 Chronicles 1:40|
|10||Genesis 36:39||Pau||Pai||1 Chronicles 1:50|
|11||Genesis 36:40||Alvah||Aliah||1 Chronicles 1:51|
|12||Genesis 46:10||Jemuel||Nemuel||Numbers 26:12|
|13||Genesis 46:10||Jachin||Jarib||1 Chronicles 4:24|
|14||Genesis 46:10||Zohar||Zerah||Numbers 26:13, 1 Chronicles 4:24|
|15||Genesis 46:11||Gershon||Gershom||1 Chronicles 4:1, 1 Chronicles 1:16|
|16||Genesis 46:13||Job||Jashub||Numbers 26:24|
|17||Genesis 46:16||Ezbon||Ozni||Numbers 26:16|
|18||Genesis 46:21||Huppim||Huram||1 Chronicles 8:5|
|19||Genesis 46:21||Ard||Addar||1 Chronicles 8:3|
|20||Genesis 46:23||Hushim||Shuham||Numbers 26:42|
|21||Exodus 4:18||Jether||Jethro||in the same verse.|
|22||Numbers 1:14||Deuel||Reuel||Numbers 2:14|
|23||Deuteronomy 32:44||Hoshea||Joshua||Deuteronomy 34:9|
|NAMES SAME IN HEBREW YET DIFFERENT IN ENGLISH|
|1||Genesis 5:3||Seth||Sheth||1 Chronicles 1:1|
|2||Genesis 5:6||Enos||Enosh||1 Chronicles 1:1|
|3||Genesis 5:9||Cainan||Renan||1 Chronicles 1:2|
|4||Genesis 5:15||Jared||Jered||1 Chronicles 1:2|
|5||Genesis 5:18||Enoch||Henoch||1 Chronicles 1:3|
|6||Genesis 5:21||Methuselah||Mathushelah||1 Chronicles 1:3|
|7||Genesis 10:6||Phut||Put||1 Chronicles 1:8|
|8||Genesis 10:14||Philistim||The Philistines||1 Chronicles 1:12|
|9||Genesis 10:14||Caphtorim||Caphthorim||1 Chronicles 1:12|
|10||Genesis 10:16||Emorite||Amorites||Genesis 15:16, Genesis 15:21|
|11||Genesis 10:16||Girgasite||Girgashites||Genesis 15:21|
|12||Genesis 10:19, Jeremiah 47:5||Gaza||Azzah||Deuteronomy 2:23, Jeremiah 25:20|
|13||Genesis 10:22||Ashur||Asshur||1 Chronicles 1:17|
|14||Genesis 10:24||Salah||Shelah||1 Chronicles 1:18|
|15||Genesis 14:2, Genesis 14:8||Zeboiim||Zeboim||Deuteronomy 29:23|
|16||Genesis 14:5, Genesis 15:20||Rephairns||Giants||Deuteronomy 2:20, Deuteronomy 3:11|
|17||Genesis 25:15||Naphish||Nephish||1 Chronicles 5:19|
|18||Genesis 29:6||Rachel||Rahel||Jeremiah 31:15|
|19||Genesis 36:34||Temani||The Temanites||1 Chronicles 1:45|
|20||Genesis 36:37||Saul||Shaul||1 Chronicles 1:48|
|21||Genesis 37:25, Genesis 37:28||Ishmeelites||Ishmaelites||Judges 8:24|
|22||Exodus 1:11||Raamses||Rameses||Exodus 12:37|
|23||Exodus 6:18||Izhar||Izehar||Numbers 3:19|
|24||Exodus 6:19||Mahali||Mahli||1 Chronicles 6:19|
|25||Leviticus 18:21||Molech||Moloch||Amos 5:26|
|26||Numbers 13:8, Numbers 13:16||Oshea||Hoshea||Deuteronomy 32:44|
|27||Numbers 13:16||Jehoshua||Joshua||Numbers 14:6|
|28||Numbers 21:12||Zared||Zered||Deuteronomy 2:13|
|29||Numbers 32:3||Jazer||Jaazar||Numbers 32:13|
|30||Numbers 33:31||Bene-Jaakan||Children of Jaakan||Deuteronomy 10:6|
|31||Deuteronomy 3:17||Ashdoth-pisgah||Springs of Pisgah||Deuteronomy 4:49|
"Nothing can be more clear than that these fifty-four proper names (at least the far greater part of them) should be expressed with the very same letters, in the places where they are now different. In the second list, instances 6, 10, and 13, have been corrected and expressed uniformly in the English Bible printed at Oxford in 1769. And surely the same justice in the translation should be done to the rest of these proper names, and to all others through the Bible; at least, where the original words are now properly the same. Who would not wonder at seeing the same persons named both Simon and Shimon, Richard and Ricard? And can we then admit here both Seth and Sheth, Rachel and Rahel? Again: whoever could admit (as above) both Gaza and Azzak, with Rameses and Raamses, should not object to London and Ondon, with Amsterdam and Amstradam. In short, in a history far more interesting than any other, the names of persons and places should be distinguished accurately, and defined with exact uniformity. And no true critic will think lightly of this advice of Origen, Contemnenda non est accurata circa NOMINA diligentia ei, qui volurit probe intelligere sanctas literas? No person who desires thoroughly to understand the sacred writings, should undervalue a scrupulous attention to the proper names."-Kennicott's Remarks.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/genesis-25.html. 1832.
Abraham’s other descendants (25:1-18)
Before continuing the story of Isaac, the writer concludes the story of Abraham with a summary of his other descendants. Besides having a relationship with Hagar, Abraham had taken a minor wife, Keturah (1 Chronicles 1:28,1 Chronicles 1:32). But since Isaac was the promised heir, only he could remain in Canaan and receive Abraham’s inheritance. Abraham therefore gave gifts to his minor wives and their children and sent them off to establish independent lives elsewhere. They became ancestors of various Arab tribes (25:1-6).
There was a brief reunion between Ishmael and Isaac at the burial of Abraham (7-11), but Ishmael and his family remained largely outside Canaan. The promises given earlier to Ishmael were fulfilled in the many Arab tribes descended from him (12-18).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/genesis-25.html. 2005.
THE TOLEDOTH OF ISHMAEL
"Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bare unto Abraham: and these are the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth; and Kedar and Adbeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadad, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: these are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their villages, and by their encampments; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, a hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died, and was gathered unto his people. And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur that is before Egypt: he abode over against all his brethren."
These seven verses are all that are devoted to Ishmael's posterity, the chief focus of the sacred narrator's concern being, not the posterity of Ishmael, but that of Isaac, to which he turned at once. The information here was given to show how God fulfilled His promise to Abraham that Ishmael would be blessed, and even that he would dwell "over against," that is, adjacent to the Israelites, a phenomenon that has continued to the present day.
It is hardly profitable to follow each of these names into the racial history that followed. As a matter of fact, Morris correctly discerned that:
Through millennia of migrations and intermarriages, it seems likely that all of these peoples, the descendants of Keturah, together with the descendants of Ishmael, Lot, and Esau, along with earlier descendants of Shem, and, in some cases, Ham, have gradually merged and become the modern day Arabic peoples.
At the time Abraham was buried, Ishmael was nearly ninety years old; and by that time his sons were all grown into strong and powerful leaders with strongholds and villages of their own, so they were called, "Twelve princes according to their nations."
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/genesis-25.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
- Section XI. - Isaac
- LII. History of Ishmael
13. נבית nebāyot, Nebajoth, “heights.” קדר qēdār, Qedar, “black.” אדבאל 'adbe'ēl, Adbeel, “miracle of God?” מבשׂם mı̂bśām Mibsam, “sweet odor.”
14. משׁמע mı̂shma‛, Mishma‘, “hearing.” דוּמה dûmâh, Dumah, “silence.” משׂא maśā', Massa, “burden.”
15. חדר chădar, Chadar, “chamber;” or חדד chădad, Chadad, “sharpness;” תימא tēymā', Tema. יטוּר yeṭûr, Jetur, “enclosure,” akin to טוּר ṭûr, “a wall,” and טירה ṭı̂yrâh, “a wall.” נפישׁ nāpı̂ysh, Naphish, “breathing.” קדמה qēdemâh, Qedemah, “before, eastward.”
16. חצר chātsēr, “court, village, town.”
According to custom, before the history of the principal line is taken up, that of the collateral branch is briefly given. Thus, Cain’s history is closed before Sheth’s is commenced; Japheth and Ham are before Shem; Haran and Nahor before Abram. And so the sons of Keturah are first dismissed from the pages of history, and then Ishmael.
The present passage begins with the formula, “and these are the generations,” and forms the eighth document so commencing. The appearance of a document consisting of seven verses is clearly against the supposition that each of these documents is due to a different author. The phrase points to a change of subject, not of author.
Nebaioth - Isaiah 60:7 is preserved in the Nabataei inhabiting Arabia Petraea, and extending far toward the East. “Kedar” Isaiah 21:17 appears in the Cedrei of Pliny (H. N. 5, 12) who dwell east of Petraea. “Adbeel Mibsam,” and “Mishma are otherwise unknown. The last is connected with the Μαισαιμενεῖς Maisaimeneis of Ptol. (v. 7, 21). “Dumah” Isaiah 21:11 is probably Δούμεθα Doumetha (Ptol. vi. 19, 7) and Domata (Plin. H. N. 6, 32) and Dumat el-Jendel in Nejd and the Syrian desert. “Massa” may be preserved in the Μασανοὶ Masanoi of Ptolemy (v. 19, 2), northeast of Duma. “Hadar” is Hadad in 1 Chronicles 1:30, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Onkelos, perhaps the Septuagint, and many codices. It is supposed to be Χαττηνία Chatteenia (Polyb.), Attene, and to lie between Oman and Bahrein. “Tema” Job 6:19; Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23 lay on the borders of Nejd and the Syrian desert. “Jetur” remains in Ituraea, Jedur, northeast of the sea of Galilee. Some suppose the Druses descended from him. “Naphish” 1 Chronicles 6:19, 1 Chronicles 6:22 lay in the same quarter. “Kedemah” is otherwise unknown. “In their towns and in their castles.” The former are unwalled collections of houses or perhaps tents; the latter, fortified keeps or encampments. “Twelve princes,” one for each tribe, descended from his twelve sons.
Ishmael dies at the age of a hundred and thirty-seven. “From Havilah,” on the borders of Arabia Petraea and Felix. “Unto Shur,” on the borders of Arabia and Egypt. This was the original seat of the Ishmaelites, from which they wandered far into Arabia. “In the presence of all his brethren” - the descendants of Abraham by Sarah and Keturah, those of Lot, and the Egyptians who were his brethren or near kindred by his mother and wife. “He had fallen” into the lot of his inheritance. Thus was fulfilled the prediction uttered before his birth Genesis 16:12.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/genesis-25.html. 1870.
18. He died in the presence of all his brethren (25) The major part of commentators understand this of his death; as if Moses had said that the life of Ishmael was shorter than that of his brethren, who long survived him: but because the word נפל ( naphal) is applied to a violent death, and Moses testifies that Ishmael died a natural death, this exposition cannot be approved. The Chaldean Paraphrast supposes the word “ lot ” to be understood, and elicits this sense, that the lot fell to him, so as to assign him a habitation not far from his brethren. Although I do not greatly differ in this matter, I yet think that the words are not to be thus distorted. (26) The word נפל ( naphal) sometimes signifies to lie down, or to rest, and also to dwell. The simple assertion therefore of Moses is, that a habitation was given to Ishmael opposite his brethren, so that he should indeed be a neighbor to them, and yet should have his distinct boundaries: (27) for I do not doubt that he referred to the oracle contained in the sixteenth chapter (Genesis 16:1) where, among other things, the angel said to his mother Hagar, He shall remain, or pitch his tents in the presence of his brethren. Why does he rather speak thus of Ishmael than of the others, except for this reason, that whereas they migrated towards the eastern region, Ishmael, although the head of a nation, separated from the sons of Abraham, yet retained his dwelling in their neighborhood? Meanwhile the intention of God is also to be observed, namely, that Ishmael, though living near his brethren, was yet placed apart in an abode of his own, that he might not become mingled with them, but might dwell in their presence, or opposite to them. Moreover, it is sufficiently obvious that the prediction is not to be restricted personally to Ishmael.
(25) “ Coram omnibus fratribus suis habitavit.” He dwelt in the presence of all his brethren.
(26) This is the interpretation of Vatablus, favored by Professor Bush, who says, “As Ishmael’s death has already been mentioned, and as the term ‘fall’ is seldom used in the Scriptures in reference to ‘dying,’ except in cases of sudden and violent death, as when one ‘falls’ in battle, the probability is, that it here signifies that his territory or possessions ‘fell’ to him in the presence of his brethren, or immediately contiguous to their borders.” — Bush.
(27) Calvin’s interpretation, though opposed to the Vulgate and to our own version, is supported by the Septuagint, the Targum Onkelos, the Syriac, and Arabic versions. See Walton’s Polyglott. — Ed.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/genesis-25.html. 1840-57.
Then in chapter twenty-five we find that
Abraham [after Sarah's death] took another wife, her name was Keturah. [The name means, "mother of us all".] And she bare him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, Shuah. And Jokshan begat Sheba, and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim, and Letushim, and Leummim. And the sons of Midian; Ephah, and Epher ( Genesis 25:1-4 ),
And so forth, and the names mean nothing to us and probably never will. As I told you so often, it'll follow a line just for a generation or two and drop them; that's the end of it 'cause this line has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. It'll follow it for a generation or so, and pop, that's it. Whatever happened to them, where they went, who they became, nobody knows. That's just they're not significant to the story. The story's about Jesus Christ.
Back here in Genesis, this story is about Jesus Christ. And we're gonna come on down the line that's gonna lead us to Jesus Christ. We're gonna let the others go. We might follow them for a generation or two, but we're gonna let them go, they're not important. It's whole story centers around the person of Jesus Christ. We say His-story. What is history? It is His story. The story of Jesus; that's what history is all about. And so that's what this record is all about. It's all about Jesus. And it's only gonna center in the one person, Jesus. It'll let the others go; go quickly. We'll have a name or two thrown in and then that's the end of it. We're gonna let them go because we want to center in-we want to concentrate on the central person of history. So follow out the rest of Abraham's children for just a ways.
And Abraham [and this is the important one, verse five] gave all that he had unto Isaac ( Genesis 25:5 ).
Isaac's the son of promise. All that he had went to Isaac.
But unto the sons of the concubines, which Abraham had, Abraham gave gifts ( Genesis 25:6 ),
Gave gifts to them, but everything that he had went to Isaac.
And he sent them away from Isaac his son, while he yet lived, eastward, to the east country ( Genesis 25:6 ).
So he gave gifts to them, sent them away. Isaac is the one in whom the story is going to center because Isaac comes in the line that's gonna bring us to Jesus Christ.
Now these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham gave up the ghost [or his spirit, literally] and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years, and he was gathered to his people ( Genesis 25:7-8 ).
A hundred and seventy-five years old and Abraham died; that is, he gave up his spirit. In reality what happened is that his spirit moved out of this old tent, because this old tent just couldn't manage it anymore. It was worn out. Once a tent is worn out and has no more value, doesn't keep out the rain or wind, rips and it just constantly needs patching and repairing, it's time to move out of the tent. And so Abraham moved out of his tent.
So now this was before Jesus Christ made access into heaven. So Abraham did not go into heaven, but he went into the grave, into Hades where he became the master comforter of all of those who went into Hades, waiting for the promise of God. So in the sixteenth chapter of Luke we find Abraham in Hades comforting Lazarus. And we find the rich man talking to Abraham and Abraham responding with him.
Now when Jesus died, before he ascended into heaven, he first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth. And he preached to those souls that were imprisoned, the spirits, Abraham's spirit, down there in prison. Jesus preached to him and to all of those who with Abraham were waiting for the promise of God, the Messiah to come. And so the prophecy of Isaiah, concerning Jesus Christ is that he would open the prison doors to those who were bound. That's the prison door of death, where these people were bound and he opened the doors so that when he ascended he led the captives from their captivity.
So that now as a child of God, when my spirit leaves this tent, because of the way that Jesus Christ has made for me, when my spirit leaves this tent, it's going into a new house that is not made with hands, a building of God, eternal in the heavens. I'm moving out of this old tent into a new house that the Lord said he had gone to prepare for me. For he said, "In my Father's house there are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you"( John 14:2 ). He's preparing me a new body. It is a building of God. It's not made with hands. It's eternal. This one is temporary. It'll never see the number of years that Abraham's body saw. That would be to me the worse thing that could ever happen to me, would be to live to be a hundred and seventy-five.
In fact, I don't even want to see the seventy-five! If God so wills it, fine, but I don't think I'll ever see it, because as this tent wears out, the Lord's already prepared a new building for my spirit, a new house, not a tent anymore. I'm getting sort of tired of the tent. The tent's getting sort of tired, too. The tent's good for awhile, but after awhile you begin to realize that there's not just the conveniences in a tent that you'd like to have. You get longing to move into a house. And one of these days I'm gonna move into a brand new house, a building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
That's why Paul said, "we who are in this body, do often groan, earnestly desiring to move out. It's not that we would be unembodied spirits but that we might clothed upon with the body which is from heaven" ( 2 Corinthians 5:2 ). For we know that as long as we are in this body, in this tent, that we are absent from the Lord, but we would choose rather to be absent from this body and to be present with the Lord.
Abraham gave up the ghost. Or his spirit left his body after dwelling in it for a hundred and seventy-five years. Good old age. An old man. Full, and he was gathered to his people.
And his sons Isaac and Ishmael ( Genesis 25:9 )
Notice they are joined together now. You know, there was that animosity that existed between them, but it seems that at least at their father's death they were brought together. And at their father's death they joined together. Ishmael is still there, and they
buried Abraham in that cave at Machpelah, the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is there before Mamre; And that field which Abraham purchased [in that, you know, cultural thing we got into last Sunday night]. Now these are the generations of Ishmael ( Genesis 25:9-10 , Genesis 25:12 ),
And so we'll follow Ishmael for just, you know, a little ways, and then we're gonna drop him because Ishmael isn't important to the story. And so he gives us the name of Ishmael's descendants and they are no more important to you as are the descendants of Abraham's concubines, and so I'm not gonna wrestle with those names. You can wrestle with them if you want.
Verse sixteen, it says,
And these are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, he lived to be a hundred and thirty-seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. And they dwelt from Havilah to Shur, that is before Egypt, as you go to Assyria: and he died in the presence of all of his brothers. And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham's son ( Genesis 25:16-19 ):
Now we come to the one that's important, the one we will follow.
Abraham begat Isaac: And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. And Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife, because she was barren ( Genesis 25:19-21 ):
Now he married her, but yet she was unable to bear children. And so Isaac prayed for her, that God would heal and allow her to bear children. It is interesting how many children we have running around Calvary Chapel that are answers to prayer. Couples that could not have children, who came to the elders and were prayed for and God blessed them and now we have so many little children who are running around here that are just true answers to prayer. They're little miracle babies that God has given. And it is scriptural that Isaac entreated the Lord for his wife.
And the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. And the children struggled together within her; and she said, Why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD ( Genesis 25:21-22 ).
My, there was just all kinds of-she was pregnant, and man, there was more than just a baby kicking or moving. This was a real fight going on in there.
And this fight was continued after they were born. How much consciousness does a child have in the womb? We really don't know because we can't remember. How much consciousness did you have during the first year out of the womb? You really don't know. You can't remember. Now that a child is conscious out of the womb, I have no doubt. For out of the womb during the first year a child is capable of expressing feelings of contentment, happiness, anger, being upset. And yet none of you can remember that first year of your life outside of the womb. The fact that you can't remember it doesn't mean that you didn't have feelings.
So we have no proof at all that a child doesn't have emotions and feelings within the womb. Maybe some of those movements you're feeling are feelings of anger. The kid gets mad at the position and kicks you, you know, tired of this position. We don't know what feeling they may have preternaturally.
Now it is quite possible that these two little guys in the womb were angry with each other and were going at it. They were struggling in her womb. And when they were born, as soon as they were born, the one little guy reached out and grabbed the other guy's heels, still struggling with him. Fight's still going on and it really never did stop. So, she was concerned with all of this movement and so she prayed about it. "Lord, what's going on?"
And the LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from [their birth, or from] your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger ( Genesis 25:23 ).
Now this is before they were ever born. Before they ever did, ever did anything. How is it that God could already make this prediction? Is their fairness with God? Is it fair for God to say, "Well, the elder's going to serve the younger?" before they were ever born?
Paul takes this up in Romans; the sovereignty of God in election. But we must always remember that God's election is always premised upon His foreknowledge. "Whom He did foreknow, those He did also predestinate that they should be conformed to the image of His Son" ( Romans 8:29 ).
So God chose while the children were still fighting it in the womb, two nations are fighting. Nations that are gonna be different from each other. One is stronger. And so the two nations, Israel and the Edomites, who never did really get along. Now the Edomite nation has come to the end. The last known Edomite was the family of Herod, who was the king at the time of Jesus and still then he destroyed all the Jewish boys trying to get rid of the Messiah. The Edomites remained antagonistic toward the purposes of God.
When the children of Israel were coming out of the land of Egypt and wanted to pass through their land in order that they might come to the land that God had promised them, the Edomites came out to meet them; to fight them to keep them from coming through. Again seeking, or showing themselves antagonistic to the purposes of God. This is the characteristic of the Edomites from the beginning.
Esau was that way. He really didn't care about God or the things of God. He was a very natural man. He was the typical natural man, interested in manly kind of things to be sure, but not interested in godly things. And God, knowing in advance his disposition and his despising of spiritual things in advance, chose the younger one to be the heir and the one through whom the Messiah would eventually come. So the younger one is chosen by God over the elder while still in the womb.
And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first one came out red, all over like a hairy garment ( Genesis 25:24-25 );
So it's just a little kid covered with hair, and so appropriately, they called his name Hairy. That's what Esau means. And that was very common in those days. You would name your child after a circumstance of his birth.
After that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau's heel ( Genesis 25:26 );
And that was probably exciting. Oh look, he grabbed his brother's heel. And then someone said, "well then, call him heel-catcher". And Jacob literally means "heel-catcher". That's the literal interpretation. It came to mean "surplanter", but the literal meaning is "heel-catcher".
And Issac was sixty years old when she bare them ( Genesis 25:26 ).
So they went twenty years without any children. Forty when he was married, sixty before the children were born. So there are twenty years and he prayed and God gave her children, gave her twins.
And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field [An outdoors man]; but Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents ( Genesis 25:27 ).
Now I'm afraid that the translators have done Jacob a bad turn in translating this "a plain man". The word that they translated was the Hebrew word "tam". They translated it "plain". The word other places in the Old Testament has been translated "perfect". You remember when God said to Satan concerning Job "Have you considered my servant Job, a perfect man?" That's the same Hebrew word, "tam." Concerning Job, it was translated "perfect". And so the translators have done Jacob sort of a bad turn, calling him a plain man. The scripture's actually saying he was a perfect man, or a complete man, but he dwelt in tents.
Now we have a tendency to really put Jacob down, and I have to confess that I done my share of putting this guy down because of some of the tricks that he's pulled. But in reality, he was the man that God had chosen. And the interesting thing is that God never put him down.
And so about the last time I put him down, the Lord spoke to me and said "Hey, how come you keep putting him down?" I said, "oh man, look at those horrible things he did". He said "Hey, where did I put him down?" And I looked and I couldn't find where God put Jacob down so I quit putting Jacob down. For Paul said, "Who are you to judge another man's servant? Before his own master he either stands or falls and yet God is able to make him stand" ( Romans 14:4 ).
And God made Jacob to stand, so who am I to put him down? If Jacob were my servant then I would have dealt with him as I feel that maybe he should have been dealt with. But he isn't my servant. He doesn't have to answer to me. He is God's servant. Now if that is true about Jacob, then it is true also about each other. Who am I to put you down when God is lifting you up? Who am I to judge you? You're not my servant. If you were my servant then I could judge you. You're not serving me. You're serving God. And thus I have no right to judge you ,"oh, you're a rotten servant." I have no right to make that kind of a judgment concerning you. That's God's judgment. That's for Him to judge you because you're serving Him. And it's for Him to judge me because I seek to serve Him.
So Jacob was not a plain man, he was a "tam" man. "Perfect", actually or complete man. And he dwelt in tents. His brother, outdoors; Jacob loved the tent life.
And Isaac loved Esau, [But for base reasons] because he ate his barbecued venison ( Genesis 25:28 ):
Now that's no reason for loving one son above another, just 'cause the guy's a good hunter and can bring in some venison. You get hooked on venison and so he loved Esau because he ate the venison.
But Rebekah loved Jacob ( Genesis 25:28 ).
So sad, but true, that with the parents there was a displaying of favoritism among the children.
And Jacob was fixing some pottage: and Esau came in from the field, and he was faint. And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with some of that red pottage, for I am faint: and therefore his name was called [from then on "Red"] Edom [means "Red"] ( Genesis 25:29-30 ).
And his descendants were called the Edomites, because he wanted this red pottage. He was hungry and fainting.
And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright. And Esau said, Hey, I'm ready to die: what profit is a birthright to me? ( Genesis 25:31-32 )
He was very flippant about it. Hey man, what about the birthright? I'm ready to die; I want your pottage. But Jacob pressed the point.
And Jacob said, Swear to me then this day; and he sware unto him: and thus he sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau the bread and the pottage of lentils; which he did eat and drink, and they rose up, and he rose up and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright ( Genesis 25:33-34 ).
He didn't really care about the birthright at all. He wasn't interested in spiritual things. He could care less about birthright. He hated it; he wasn't interested in it. And thus he despised his birthright.
Now there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. [And like father, like son,] Isaac went to Abimelech the king of the Philistines unto Gerar ( Genesis 26:1 ).
Now, it was to Abimelech that Abraham went, but certainly not the same one that Isaac went to because this is a hundred years later, more than a hundred years later. So Abimelech was sort of a title of the king of the Philistines. And so Isaac went unto the land of the Philistines
And the Lord appeared unto him, and said, Don't go down to Egypt; dwell in the land which I will tell thee of ( Genesis 26:2 ):
Now this is God's direct command: "Don't go down to Egypt. Dwell in the land I show you".
Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I'm gonna give these countries, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham thy father. And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and I will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed ( Genesis 26:3-4 );
And so now God visits Isaac as he is going over to the land of the Philistines. God comes to him and visits and reiterates to Isaac the promise he had made to Abraham. The land is gonna be yours. I'm gonna multiply your seed, but then the heart of the thing is "through thy seed shall all of the nations of the earth be blessed". Not plural, but singular, referring to Jesus Christ; so the promise of the Messiah to comedown through Isaac. And thus, reiterated, the promise that he had made to Abraham, now that same covenant and promise is passed on to Isaac at this particular time in his life.
Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws ( Genesis 26:5 ).
So really it is because of Abraham that the promises come and Isaac is the beneficiary even of his father's faithfulness.
And Isaac dwelled at Gerar. Now the men of the place asked him about his wife; and he said [like I said, father like son], She's my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, the men of the place would kill me for Rebekah; because she was still beautiful to look upon. And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech the king of the Philistines looked out at the window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife [making love]. And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is your wife: how is it that you said she is your sister? And Isaac said to him, Because I said, Lest I die for her. And Abimelech said, What is this you have done to us? one of the people might lightly have lien [have laid] with your wife, and you should have brought guiltiness upon us. And Abimelech charged all of his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death. Then Isaac sowed in the land, and received in the same year a hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him ( Genesis 26:6-12 ).
So the king put out a protective custody over him, saying no one was to touch him or his wife. And Isaac went out and sowed and planted and God blessed it and he reaped a hundredfold from his planting.
And Isaac waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had a possession of flocks, and a possession of herds, and a great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him. For all of the wells which his father's servants had digged in the days of Abraham, the Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth. And Abimelech said unto Isaac, Go from us; for thou art much mightier than we ( Genesis 26:13-16 ).
So the same thing that happened to Abraham; they saw the blessing and the work of God upon his life and they became fearful of Abraham. And now Abimelech is doing the same thing concerning Isaac. Seeing the fact that God's hand is so much upon him and the greatness of his wealth and all, he became fearful and they asked him to leave.
And so Isaac departed from there, and he pitched his tent in the valley of Garer, and he dwelt there. And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham: and he called the names after the names which his father had called them. And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and they found there an artesian well. And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is ours: and he called the name of the well "Strife;" because they strove with him. And he digged another well, and they strove for that also: and so he called it contention; And so he removed from there, and he digged another well; and for that one they did not strive: and he called it roominess; for he said, The Lord has made room for all of us, and we will be fruitful in the land. So he went up from there to Beersheeba. And the Lord appeared unto him in the same night, and said ( Genesis 26:17-24 ),
Now again, God is appearing to him just like he appeared earlier as he returned. Now though,
I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake ( Genesis 26:24 ).
"Fear not, for I am with thee". The presence of God in our lives should be sufficient to dispel all fears. We only get frightened when we forget that God is with us. If you get all filled with fear and just all shook and upset, it means one thing: you've forgotten that God is with you. "Fear not", God said, "for I am with thee". How many times had God made that the basis of dispelling fear? "Fear not, for I am with thee". Be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will help thee. I will strengthen thee. Yea, I will hold thee by the right hand of my righteousness ( Isaiah 41:10 ). "The Lord is my helper" David cried "of whom shall I be afraid?" "Fear not, I am with thee", and for Abraham's sake I'm gonna bless thee.
And so Isaac built an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD, and he pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well. And then Abimelech came to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath one of his friends, and Phichol the chief captain of his army [which is the title of the army general]. And Isaac said unto them, Hey why have you come to me, seeing you hate me, and you kicked me out. And they said, We have seen that the Lord is certainly with you: and we said, Let us now make a treaty between us, a covenant with you; That you will not hurt us, for we didn't touch you, and we have done nothing to you but good, and we have sent you away in peace: and now you're blessed of the LORD. And so he made them a feast, and they did eat and drink. And they rose up in the morning, and swore one to another: and Isaac sent them away, and they departed from him in peace. And it came to pass the same day, that Isaac's servants came, and told him concerning the well which they had dug, and they said, We have found water. And so he called it Shebah: therefore the name of the city is Beersheeba unto this day. And Esau was forty years old when he took a wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: Which were a grief in the mind unto Isaac and Rebekah ( Genesis 26:25-35 ).
So Esau, forty years old now, and he married a couple of girls of the Canaanites from the Hittite tribe. And these girls were just a heartache to Rebekah and to Isaac. Probably were so imbued with the customs of their own culture, and all, and probably their own gods that they worshipped, that it was just a heartbreak for Rebekah and Isaac. There wasn't really good fellowship with these daughters-in-law. There was just too much diversity for them to be close and have a close fellowship. So they became sort of a burden and a heartache to Rebekah and Isaac. And that is why, one of the reasons why, they encouraged Jacob to go back and to get his bride from the family of Abraham, back in the area of Haran again. Because Esau's brides, they were just a mess, and brought no joy to Isaac and Rebekah. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/genesis-25.html. 2014.
B. What became of Ishmael 25:12-18
"The last four toledot sections of the Book of Genesis follow a definite pattern: the lines in each generation that are not chosen lines are traced before the narrative returns to the chosen line." [Note: Ross, Creation and . . ., p. 429.]
This section records God’s faithfulness to His promises to make Ishmael a great nation and to give him many descendants (Genesis 16:10; Genesis 21:18). This is another of the 10 family histories that Genesis records (see the outline in the introduction to these notes). There is probably an intentional parallel with the 10 nations mentioned in the Table of Nations (ch. 10) suggesting that God would bless all the families of the earth through other special families.
These verses show that God fulfilled His promises regarding Ishmael (Genesis 16:10-12; Genesis 17:20). Ishmael, like Nahor and Jacob, fathered 12 sons. Moses drew his personal history to a conclusion before he moved on to concentrate on his brother Isaac.
"The mention of ’twelve tribal rulers’ . . . recalls the word of the Lord regarding the future of the line of Ishmael from Genesis 17:20, where it was promised that he too would be blessed and that ’twelve rulers’ . . . would be born to him and become a great nation." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 181.]
The Ishmaelites lived in Arabia. Arabia lay to the southeast of Canaan and extended from the Euphrates River to the Red Sea. [Note: Josephus, 1:12:4.] Probably the Ishmaelites were once a confederation of tribes like the Israelites.
"The names of the twelve princes descending from Ishmael are applied not only to tribal divisions but also to geographical localities (cf. Genesis 25:16)." [Note: Davis, p. 231.]
Ishmael died at 137 years, having lived 48 years after Abraham’s death. The writer probably included the fact that Ishmael lived "in defiance of all his relations" (Genesis 25:18) to show the fulfillment of God’s prediction to Hagar (cf. Genesis 16:12). The bedouin-like Ishmaelites later had many conflicts with their more settled Israelite relations.
God is faithful to His promises to bless whom He has promised to bless.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/genesis-25.html. 2012.
And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur,.... That is, the posterity of Ishmael, whose country reached from one place to the other; not from India to Chaluza, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; but the extent is that vast desert of Arabia, which eastward was called the wilderness of Havilah, and westward the wilderness of Shur; so that they inhabited it from east to west:
that [is] before Egypt, as thou goest to Assyria; which last place was over against Egypt, and bordered on that part where lies the way to the land of Assyria:
[and] he died in the presence of all his brethren; they being present when he died, or in peace with them, in all prosperity along with them: but since his death is spoken of before, and here the situation of his posterity, the words may be read, "it fell y in the presence of his brethren"; his lot, or the habitation of his posterity fell by lot between his brethren the Egyptians on one side of him, and the Israelites on the other; or between the sons of Keturah on the east, and the posterity of Isaac on the west.
y נפל "cecidit habitatio ipsi", Schmidt; "cecidit sors ejus", Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Ben Gersom, and Ben Melech.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-25.html. 1999.
|Genealogy of Ishmael.||B. C. 1822.|
11 And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi. 12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's handmaid, bare unto Abraham: 13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, 14 And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, 15 Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: 16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. 17 And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. 18 And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.
Immediately after the account of Abraham's death, Moses begins the story of Isaac (Genesis 25:11; Genesis 25:11), and tells us where he dwelt and how remarkably God blessed him. Note, The blessing of Abraham did not die with him, but survived to all the children of the promise. But he presently digresses from the story of Isaac, to give a short account of Ishmael, forasmuch as he also was a son of Abraham, and God had made some promises concerning him, which it was requisite we should know the accomplishment of. Observe here what is said, 1. Concerning his children. He had twelve sons, twelve princes they are called (Genesis 25:16; Genesis 25:16), heads of families, which in process of time became nations, distinct tribes, numerous and very considerable. They peopled a very large continent, that lay between Egypt and Assyria, called Arabia. The names of his twelve sons are recorded. Midian and Kedar we often read of in scripture. And some very good expositors have taken notice of the signification of those three names which are put together (Genesis 25:14; Genesis 25:14), as containing good advice to us all, Mishma, Dumah, and Massa, that is, hear, keep silence, and bear; we have them together in the same order, James 1:19, Be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. The posterity of Ishmael had not only tents in the fields, wherein they grew rich in times of peace; but they had towns and castles (Genesis 25:16; Genesis 25:16), wherein they fortified themselves in time of war. Now the number and strength of this family were the fruit of the promise made to Hagar concerning Ishmael (Genesis 16:10; Genesis 16:10), and to Abraham, Genesis 17:20; Genesis 21:13. Note, Many that are strangers to the covenants of promise are yet blessed with outward prosperity for the sake of their godly ancestors. Wealth and riches shall be in their house. 2. Concerning himself. Here is an account of his age: He lived 137 years (Genesis 25:17; Genesis 25:17) which is recorded to show the efficacy of Abraham's prayer for him (Genesis 17:18; Genesis 17:18), O that Ishmael might live before thee! Here is also an account of his death; he too was gathered to his people; but it is not said that he was full of days, though he lived to so great an age: he was not so weary of the world, nor so willing to leave it, as his good father was. Those words, he fell in the presence of all his brethren, whether they mean, as we take them, he died, or, as others, his lot fell, are designed to show the fulfilling of that word to Hagar (Genesis 16:12; Genesis 16:12), He shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren, that is, he shall flourish and be eminent among them, and shall hold his own to the last. Or he died with his friends about him, which is comfortable.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Genesis 25:18". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/genesis-25.html. 1706.
We have had hitherto God's account of that which He had made; then the trial and utter ruin of the creature, with the revelation of divine mercy in Christ the Lord. We have had in fine the judgment of the world before the flood, and the universal history, we may say, of the sources of nations, compared with which there is nothing safe or sure, even to this day, spite of all pretensions of men. Their true history, and, scanty though it seems, the fullest and most comprehensive, is in that one short chapter Genesis 10:1-32 which was before us last night; the following chapter (Genesis 11:1-32) disclosing the moral ground of that dispersion which was merely given as a fact before. Then the Spirit of God takes up not merely the source of that nation that He was about to form for His own praise and glory in the earth, but a regular line successionally given of the chosen family from Shem till we come to Abram.
This introduces Genesis 12:1-20 on wholly new ground It is evident that here we are entering a sensibly different atmosphere. It is no longer man as such, but a man separated of God to Himself, and this by a promise given to one chosen and called a new root and stock. These are principles which God never has abandoned since, and never will. Let me repeat that it is no longer mankind as hitherto, nor nations only, but we have the call of God to Himself the only saving means where ruin has entered before judgment vindicates God's nature and will by His power. For we know from elsewhere that idolatry was now prevalent among men even among the descendants of Shem, when a man was called out by and to the true God on a principle which did not change nor judge (save morally) the newly-formed associations of the world, but separated him who obeyed to divine promises with better hopes. Abram, it need hardly be said, was the object of His choice. I am not denying that God had chosen before; but now it became a publicly affirmed principle. It was not only a call known secretly to him who was its object, but there was one separated to God by His calling him out as the depository of His promise, the witness of it being before the eyes of all, and in consequence blessed, and a channel of blessing. For what might seem to man's narrow mind an austere severing from his fellows was in point of fact for the express purpose of securing divine and eternal blessing, and not to himself and his seed alone, but an ever-flowing stream of blessing which would not fail to all the families of the earth. God will yet shew this. For the present it has come to nought, as everything else does in the hands of man; but God will yet prove in the face of this world how truly and divinely, and in the interests of man himself, as well as of His own glory, He wrought in His call of Abram.
Abram comes forth therefore at God's bidding; he departs from his country; but first of all we find a measure of infirmity which hindered. There was one who hung upon the called out man, whose presence was ever a clog: the company of one not in the calling always must be so. Terah was not the object of the call; and yet it was difficult to refuse his company; but the effect was grave, for as long as Terah was there, Abram, in point of fact, did not reach Canaan. Terah dies (for the Lord graciously controls things in favour of those whose hearts are simple, even in the midst of weakness); and now "Abram set forth to go into the land of Canaan, and into the land of Canaan he came." The Canaanite, it is added, was then in the land.* "And Jehovah appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto Jehovah, who appeared unto him."
*It is wholly unfounded to infer that these words, or Genesis 13:7, imply that, when the writer lived, the Canaanites and Perizzites had been expelled from the land. They show that the first if not the second were in the land when Abram entered it; and that both were settled there when he returned from Egypt. That this was a trial to the patriarch we can readily understand; but he had not to wait till Moses' time, still less Joshua's, to know that they and all the other intruders were doomed. See Genesis 15:16; Genesis 15:18-21. No doubt their expulsion was yet future; but the writer like Abram believed in Jehovah, who knows and reveals the end from the beginning. I am aware of Aben Ezra's insinuation that the clause was interpolated, and of Dean Prideaux yielding to it, though the latter saves the credit of scripture by attributing it to Ezra, an inspired editor. But there is no need of such a supposition here, however true elsewhere and in itself legitimate.
Here we find for the first time the principle so dear to our hearts the worship of God founded on a distinct appearing of Himself (it always must be so). Man cannot reason out that which is a ground of worship. It flows from, and is presented to us as flowing from, the appearing of Jehovah. It is not merely the call now, but Jehovah "appeared" unto him. True worship must spring from the Lord, known in that which at any rate is a figure of personal knowledge of Himself. It is not only thus a blessing conferred, but in Himself known. Of course no one means to deny the fact that until He was known in the revelation of His own Son by the power of the Holy Ghost, there could not be that which we understand now as "worship in spirit and in truth ;" but at least this sets forth the principle.
There is another thing also to be observed here: it was only in Canaan that this was or could be. There was no worship in Mesopotamia; no altar, which was the symbol of it, was seen there. Neither was there an altar in Haran. It is in Canaan we see one first. Canaan is the clear type of that heavenly ground where we know Christ now is. Thus we see first Jehovah personally revealing Himself; and this next in connection with the type of the heavenly places. These are clearly the two roots of worship, as brought before us in this instructive passage.
Further, Abram moves about in the land; he pitches his tent elsewhere. This was of great importance. He was a pilgrim, not a settler in the land. He was as much a pilgrim in the land as before he came there. It was evident that he was a pilgrim when he left all dear to him, whether country, or kindred, or father's house; but when in the land he did not settle down. He still pitches his tent, but he also builds his altar. Who could hesitate to say that in the land Abram acquired a more truly heavenly intelligence? The promise of the land from God brought him out of his own land out of that which is the figure of the earth; but when in Canaan God raised his eyes to heaven, instead of permitting them to rest on the world. And this is precisely what the epistle to the Hebrews shows us, not alone the faith which brought him into the land, but the faith which kept him a stranger when there. This is precious indeed, and exactly the faith of Abram.
His worship then we have in connection with his sustained pilgrim character in the land of promise.
Then we have another thing, not mere infirmity but alas! failure open and serious failure. He who had come out to God's call, the stranger in the land that was given him of God, fearing the pressure of circumstances, goes down into the granary of the earth the land which boasts of exhaustless resources. Abram went there of his own motion, without God or His word. Not only is no altar there, but he is without the guidance and guard of divine power morally. Abram fails miserably. Say not that this is to disparage the blessed man of God; it is rather to feel and to confess what we are, which is as much a part (however low) of our Christian duty as to adore what God is in His own excellency to our own souls. Flesh is no better in an Abram than in any other. It is the same ruinous quagmire wherever trusted, in every person and in any circumstances. And there it is that Abram (who had already failed in the unbelief which induced him to seek Egypt, away from the land into which God had called him) denies his wife, exposing her to the most imminent danger of defilement, and bringing not a blessing on the families of the earth, but a plague from Jehovah on Pharaoh and his house. Thus Abram proves the utter hopelessness either of blessing to others or preservation even for ourselves when straying from the place into which God calls us.
But God was faithful, and in Genesis 13:1-18 Abram is seen returning to the place where his tent was at the beginning. He is restored, and so resumes his place of pilgrim, and along with it of a worshipper. Such is the restoring goodness of God. But here we find another encumbrance in Lot, if we may so say, although personally a man of God. The Spirit bears witness that he was righteous, but he had no such faith as Abram, nor was he included in that character of call which we must carefully discriminate from the inward working of divine grace. Let us bear in mind that Abram had the public line of testimony for God, and the place of special promise. It is mere ignorance to suppose that there were not saints of God outside that call, which has nothing to do with the question of being saints, for Lot clearly was one; and we shall find from the very next chapter that he is not the only one. But Lot's hanging upon Abram, though it had not the same neutralizing effect as his father Terah, nevertheless did bring in difficulties. And here again Abram, restored in his soul, shines according to the simplicity of faith. It was not for him to contend. Alas! Lot was not ashamed to choose. He used his eyes for himself. Fully owning him to be a believer, it is plain that he lacked faith for his present walk. He preferred to choose for himself rather than ask God to give. Abram left all calmly with God. It was well.
After Lot had thus taken the best for himself, disgraceful as it was that the nephew should have ventured so to act in a land which God had promised to Abram only, another thereon decides the matter. "Jehovah said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him." So the Spirit notes now that all was according to the simple will of God, who was no heedless spectator, and does not fail to clear off the elements that hinder. Now that it was so, Jehovah said, "Lift up thine eyes and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward and eastward and westward," He had never said so before "for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth, etc., then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land," Abram was to take possession by faith "in the length of it and in the breadth of it, for I will give it unto thee. Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plain of Mamre which is in Hebron, and built there an altar unto Jehovah." Well he might! Thus we learn that there is a fresh manifestation of worship, and under the happiest possible circumstances to the close of the chapter.
This part is concluded byGenesis 14:1-24; Genesis 14:1-24. For all these chapters may be viewed as forming one main section of the life of Abram. It is more particularly what pertains to him publicly; consequently we have as the public character of Abram the separating call, the promise secured, himself constituted manifestly a pilgrim as well as a worshipper in the land. It is all vain to talk about being a pilgrim in heart. God looks for it thoroughly; but He does not constitute us necessarily the judges, though no doubt those who are most simple will not mind the judgment of their fellows. At the same time it is well to judge in grace where we have to do with others. If there is reality, it will commend itself to the conscience of others; but I do say that to be manifestly, indisputably a pilgrim is the only right thing for one who is thus called out of God, as well as a worshipper, no less truly separate from the world than knowing and enjoying the God who called him out. Then we have seen the fatal absence of truth when the faithful are in the type of this world, Egypt; and the sustaining grace which restores and gives back the place of one who was manifestly a worshipper to the last. These were the great points of his public separated career.
The work is closed, as remarked, byGenesis 14:1-24; Genesis 14:1-24 where we see a raid made by certain more distant kings of the earth against those who ruled in the valley of the Jordan or the neighbourhood, four against five. In the affray between them, he who had chosen the world suffers from the world. Lot with all that he had was swept away by the conquering kings who came from the north-east, and thereon Abram (guided of God I cannot doubt) with his armed servants, goes forth in the manifest power of God; for the conquerors as thoroughly fall before Abram as the others had been conquered by them. Thereon the priest of the Most High God comes forth (mysteriously, no doubt) king of Salem as well as in his own name, king of righteousness. On this the apostle Paul enlarges in the epistle to the Hebrews, where he shows us the close of the public career of pilgrimage and worship for the man of faith. For the Lord Jesus Himself is the anti-typical Melchisedec who will bring forth refreshment when the last victory has been won at the end of this age. Then the assembled kings will have come to nought after fearful convulsions among the other potsherds of the earth; and the Most High will bring in that magnificent scene of blessing which was represented by Melchisedec. For God in Christ will take the place of the possessor of heaven and earth, delighting in the joy of man, as man will be made to delight in the blessing of God; when it will not be as now simply sacrifice and intercession grounded upon it, but when, besides this which finds its place elsewhere and which is now the only comfort for our souls, there will be a new scene and God will take another character, the Most High God, and then all false gods shall fall before Him. It is clearly therefore the concluding scene of this series and the type of the millennial age. The Lord Jesus will be the uniting bond, so to speak, between heaven and earth, when He will bless God in the name of Abram, and He will bless Abram in the name of God. This then, in my judgment, winds up the series which began withGenesis 12:1-20; Genesis 12:1-20.
It is worthy of remark on this occasion that Abram builds no altar here. And as there was no altar, so the course of pilgrimage is run. Separateness from the world and heavenly worship are no longer found. A tent and altar would be as unsuitable, reared by Abram at this juncture, as before they were exactly to the purpose. It is the millennial scene when God alone is exalted, His enemies confounded, His people saved and blessed.
Genesis 15:1-21 introduces a new character of communications from God. It will be observed therefore that the language indicates a break or change. The phrase "after these things" separates what is to follow from what had gone before, which had come to its natural conclusion. I think I may appeal to the Christian as to these things, without in the least pretending to do more than give a judgment upon it. Nevertheless, when you find a number of scriptures which all march on simply and without violence, clothed with a certain character, and all in the same direction, we may fairly gather that as we know it was not mere man who wrote, so also the confidence is to be cherished that it is God who deigns to give us the meaning of His own word. I grant you that truth must carry its own evidence along with it the stamp and consistency of that which reveals what our God is to our souls. Undoubtedly it becomes us to be humble, distrusting ourselves, and ever ready to accept the corrections of others. I believe, however, that so far as we have spoken, such is the general meaning of these three chapters. From this point you will observe a striking change. It is not only said "After these things," as marking a break, but also a new phrase occurs. "The word of Jehovah came unto Abram in a vision." We had nothing at all like this before. "Jehovah called," "Jehovah appeared," "Jehovah said," but not as here "the word of Jehovah."
It is a new beginning. And that this is the case may be made still more manifest when we bear in mind what the character of this recommencement is "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Adonai-Jehovah, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold to me thou hast given no seed, and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And behold the word of Jehovah."* Observe it here again. Clearly therefore it is a characteristic that cannot be neglected without loss. "The word of Jehovah came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir, but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in Jehovah." Is not this a fresh commencement? Is it not the evident and known scripture which the New Testament uses to great effect, and refers to repeatedly as the great note and standing witness of the justification of Abram? If we do not go back again with the type, but take it as following the scene of his worship and pilgrimage, and indeed the millennial shadow, it has no force, or would mislead. What! man justified after being not called out only, but a worshipper entering into such wonders as Abram had done! Take it as a recommencement, and all is plain. Justification is certainly not after the Lord had been leading on the soul in the profound way in which Abram had been taught. I grant you the order of facts is as we read; but what we are concerned with now is not the bare history, but the form in which God has presented His mind to us in His word. He has so ordered the circumstances of Abram's history, and presented them with the stamp of eternal truth on them, not only as an account of Abram, but looking on to the times of redemption, in order to form our souls according to His own mind.
*Dr. Davidson (Introd. O. T. i pp. 21, 22) construes this into an inconsistency with Exodus 6:3. "In Genesis 15:1-21 it is recorded that God was manifested to Abraham, who believed in Jehovah, and therefore his 'faith was counted for righteousness.' There the Lord promises him a heir; declares to him that his seed shall be numberless as the stars of heaven, shall be afflicted in a strange land 400 years, but come forth from it with great substance. Jehovah too made a covenant with Abraham, and assured him that he had given the land of Canaan from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates to his posterity. Here is Jehovah the Covenant-Ggod revealing himself to Abraham in a peculiar manner, encouraging him by a fulness of promise, and confirming his word by a sign, entering into covenant with his servant, and condescending to inform him of the future of his race. That Abraham apprehended aright the character of the Being who thus revealed himself is evident from the words of the sixth verse, as well as from the language he addresses to Him in the eighth, Lord God. Hence on the hypothesis of one and the same writer of the Pentateuch, and the correctness of the alleged explanation, we argue that the contrast between the acquaintance of Abraham with the name Jehovah, and the full knowledge of that name first made known to Moses, is groundless . . . . If our view of Exodus 6:3 be correct, it is all but certain that one writer could not have composed the book of Genesis, else he would have violated a principle expressly enunciated by himself in the passage." The mistake throughout is due to the want of seeing that God only in Moses' day gave His personal name Jehovah as the formal characteristic ground of relationship to the sons of Israel. They were to walk before Him as Jehovah, as the fathers had walked before Him as El-Shaddai. But it is in no way meant that the words Jehovah and El-Shaddai were only used, or their import only understood, by Moses and the patriarchs respectively. The words existed and were employed freely before; but as God never gave the right to any before Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to wall; before Him counting on His Almighty protection, so He first gave Israel nationally the title of His eternal unchangeableness as Jehovah as that on which they might count. The use of each name has nothing to do with different authors or documents' but depends on moral motives. It is a question neither of antiquity nor of piety: not of antiquity, for from the beginning Jehovah was freely employed. not of piety, for the Psalms (e.g. Psalms 42:1-11, Psalms 63:1-11 etc.) show that there may be as genuine and fervent piety in exercise where Elohim is the staple as where Jehovah is. The absence or presence of the display of His covenant character of relationship, especially with Israel, is the true and invariable key.
I consider therefore that, as the former series gave us the public life of Abram, so this is rather that which belongs to him individually considered, and the dealings of God with him in what may be called a private rather than a public way. Hence therefore we shall find that there is this further series, which going on from Genesis 15:1-21 closes with Genesis 21:1-34, where again it is observable that there follows a similar introduction to a new series after that. For the beginning of Genesis 22:1-24 runs thus: "And after these things." Is it not plain then that the clause, "After these things," introduces us to a new place? I am not aware that the same phrase occurs anywhere between. Consequently there is an evident design of God regarding it. We shall now look at the current of this new section, and see what is brought before us in these chapters.
First of all there is founded on the wants which Abram expresses to God the desire that it should not be merely an adopted child, but one really of his own blood. It was a desire to which God hearkened, but as it was a feeling which emanated from no higher source than Abram, so it had a contracted character stamped on it. It is always better to be dependent on the Lord for everything. It is not a question of merely avoiding the painful way in which Lot exercised his choice, but Abram himself is not at the height of communion in this chapter whatever God's mercy to him; It is better to wait on the Lord than run before Him; and we are never the worse that He should take the first step. Our happy place is always confidence in His love. Had the Lord pressed it upon His servant to speak to Him with open heart, it would have been another matter. Abram however presented his desire, and the Lord meets it graciously. It is very evident that He binds Himself also remarkably. There was given to Abram a kind of seal and formal deed that He would secure the hoped-for heir to him. Who could gather from this that Abram is here found in the brightest mood in which the Spirit of God ever presents him? He is asking, and Jehovah answers, no doubt; he wants a sign whereby he may know that he shall inherit thus: "Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?" This does not seem to rise to that admirable trust in Jehovah which characterized him at other times. This is not presuming to find fault with one where one would gladly learn much; it is ours to search, as far as grace enables us, into that which God has written for our instruction.
Jehovah accordingly directs him to take a heifer and a she-goat and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove, and a young pigeon; and then "when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon him, and lo an horror of great darkness fell upon him." It appears to me most evident that the circumstances here detailed were suitable to the condition of Abram; that there were questions, and it may be doubts, connected with that prospect which Jehovah had put before his soul; and that consequently we may safely discover, if it were only by the manner in which the communication was made to him, his state of experience then. Hence too the nature of the communication: "Be sure," said he, "that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. And also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge, and afterwards shall they come out with great substance. And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace: thou shalt be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full."
This is not all. "And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp." The mingled character of all is plain. There is a smoking furnace, the emblem of the trial on the one hand, not without darkness; there is the burning lamp, the sure promise and pledge on God's part, the prophetic and sure intimation therefore of God's deliverance. Nevertheless it is not a bright vision, it is a horror of darkness which is seen in the sleep which had fallen upon him. Sifting and tribulation must come, but salvation in due time. But there is more than this. The very limits of the land are given and the races with which Abram's seed should have to do.
In short we see that the whole scene, clothed in a measure with a Jewish character, has naturally the elements of sacrifice which in various forms were put forward afterwards in the Levitical economy, and that it is also stamped with prophecy which never brings one into the depths of God's nature, but displays fully His judgment of man. Prophecy, admirable as it is, is always short of the fulness of grace and truth which is in Christ. Prophecy has to do with the earth, with the Jew and the nations, with the times and the seasons. So it is here: we have dates and generations; we have the land and its limits; we have Egypt and the Canaanitish races. It is not heaven, nor the God and Father of our Lord known where He is very far from it. It is God knowing what He means to do on earth and giving a doubting friend the certainty of it, securing and binding Himself to comfort the faith that wanted extraordinary support, nevertheless not without affliction for his seed, not without their serving a strange nation, but Jehovah bringing them out triumphantly in the end. Admirable as the vision is, it neither looks up at the heights of God's glory; nor again does it in any way go down into the depths of His grace.
It is no small confirmation of the condition of Abram at this time, if we read aright what follows in the very next chapter. (Genesis 16:1-16) Undoubtedly Sarah was more to blame than Abram: there was haste through manifest want of faith in short; and consequently Hagar was given to her husband, and the fruits of the connection soon appeared. As always, she who was most to blame suffered the most. It was not so much Abram as Sarah who smarted through her folly about her maid. But we have again in this chapter the faithfulness of God even in the case of Hagar, who is told to return to her mistress and humble herself before her. Jehovah here still carries on the prophetic testimony through His angel, and draws out the remarkable prefiguration of the Bedouins, who remain to this day a minor witness, but none the less a true one, of the truth of God's word.
In the next chapter (Genesis 17:1-27) we have another and higher scene. "When Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God: walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." Now here it is no longer Hagar, the type, as we know, of the Sinai covenant; it is not a prediction that man's way only brings the child of flesh into the house, a trouble to all concerned. But here Jehovah, unasked and of His own grace, appears once more to His beloved servant. "I am," says he, "El-Shaddai: walk before me, and be thou perfect: and I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly." God, not man, takes the foremost place now. It is not Abram who asks, but God who speaks. Abram accordingly, instead of bringing forward his desires and difficulties, fell on his face the right place "and God talked with him." There was greater freedom than he had ever enjoyed before; but it in no way diminished the reverence of his spirit. Never was he more prostrate before God than when He thus opened His heart to him about the seed of promise, and was about to make further communications even as to the world.
Elohim then "talked with him, saying, As for me, behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations." It is not now about his seed a stranger in a land not theirs. Now we have the wide extent of the earthly purposes of God beginning to unfold before us, even as far as the whole earth, and Abram was concerned in all. "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee." Not a word of this had been breathed before. That he should have a line to succeed him, one that should inherit the land and have it for ever: such was the utmost already vouchsafed. And when the doubting mind sought and would have security from God Himself, God deigned to enter as it were into a bond with him, but along with it gave him to know that many a sorrow and affliction must. precede the hour of His judgment in favour of the chosen seed. But here all is of another order and measure beneficence according to the grace and purposes of God. "I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee the land wherein thou art a stranger all the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man-child among you shall be circumcised."
Let none suppose that circumcision is necessarily a legal thing. In the connection in which it is put here it is the concomitant of grace the sign of flesh's mortification. Undoubtedly it was incorporated into the law when that system was afterwards imposed; but in itself, as our Lord Himself shows, it was not of Moses, but of the fathers; and as being of the fathers of Abraham it was, as we see here, an emblem significant of the putting flesh to death. God would have it dealt with as an unclean thing; and certainly this is not law. It may be turned to legalism as anything else; but in this case it is rather in contrast with law. It means flesh judged, which is the true spiritual meaning of that which God then instituted.
The chapter then exhibits grace that gives according to God's own bountifulness: at the same time flesh is judged before him. Such is the meaning of this remarkable seal. Accordingly we have the promise brought out when Sarah's name was changed from being "my princess" (Sarai) to be "princess" (Sarah) absolutely. So she was to be called thenceforth. "As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai; but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her; yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations: kings of people shall be of her." Then goes out the heart of Abraham even for Ishmael, with the historical notice that circumcision was instituted from that day.
The next chapter (Genesis 18:1-33) shows us that grace gives not only communion with Jehovah in what concerns ourselves, but that to His servant is granted to enjoy the communications of His mind even as to what is wholly outside. God had begun to speak with an intimacy such as Abraham had never before known: He would certainly not repent of His love. It is not God who recedes from us we from Him rather, never He from us. "And Jehovah appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre, and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day. And he lift up his eyes and looked, and lo! three men stood by him. And when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground." See the character of Abraham: it is very lovely genuine lowliness, but remarkable dignity. He "said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts. After that, ye shall pass on; for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do as thou hast said." At this time there seems no reason to suppose that Abraham had any knowledge or suspicion even who it was. We shall find how soon he does infer it, and has the consciousness of it. But he behaves with perfect propriety. He would not speak out openly; he does not break what we may call the incognito that Jehovah was pleased to assume. He understood it: his eye was single, his body full of light.
Outwardly it was simple patriarchal preparation for passing strangers. Some, you know, not forgetful to entertain strangers, have unawares entertained angels. It was Abraham's honour to entertain Jehovah. In due time he hears the question put to him, which I think is the point where he enters into the spirit of the divine action: "Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son." Could Abraham be ignorant any longer whose voice this was? Nevertheless there is no speaking before the due time. If Jehovah was pleased to appear with two of His servants there, if He put them in the common guise of mankind, certainly it was not for the faithful to break the silence which Jehovah preserved. And this was just a part of the admirable manner in which his heart answered to Jehovah's confidence in him. But Sarah shows her unbelief once more, whilst Jehovah reproving it, spite of Sarah's denial, remains with Abraham. When the men rose up to go towards Sodom, Abraham instinctively accompanies, but Jehovah remains with him, and says, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?"
As Genesis 17:1-27 had furnished Jehovah's communication of what so intimately concerned Abraham and Abraham's line for ever, this chapter reveals to him what concerns the world. Thus we see, although it be not the intimate relationship of the children of God, it is exactly the way in which the understanding of the future is not only profitable but becomes a means of sustaining and even of deepening communion. Let me call your attention to this. Be not deceived beloved brethren. Entering upon the future in the first instance, and making it pre-eminently our study, never does really deepen our souls in the ways of God, but rather leads them on in lower lines and earthly principles from which it is difficult to escape at another day. Nevertheless it is very evident that God has given it all, and that God means that what He has given should be used and enjoyed by our souls.
What then is the preserving power? Grace; when it is not a question about what is coming, when it is not above all questions arising from ourselves. Such it was inGenesis 15:1-21; Genesis 15:1-21; but now Abraham has been set perfectly free by Jehovah. He is at large as to what pertained to himself and to his seed after him. His heart is clear. Jehovah has abounded beyond his largest thought. There are infinitely greater prospects before Abraham than he had ever dared to ask of God; for He speaks out of His own thoughts, His own counsels, which must necessarily always be above the largest expectations of man; and then it is that the unveiling of the future, instead of dragging us down to the earth, on the contrary becomes a means only of drawing us into the presence of the Lord with longing after His own grace. Such was the case with Abraham. All depends on this, that we should not first yield to the bias of our minds before we enter into the perfect liberty and the enjoyment of our own proper place with Jesus Christ in the presence of our God. After that we can listen, and then all becomes profitable and blessed to us.
Such is the case with Abraham now. It is Jehovah again who takes the first step. It is Jehovah who says, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" What a difference for the man who wanted to know whether he should for certain have the line that God said he should have! Here Jehovah meets him and predicts to him the imminent ruin of the cities of the plain. Jehovah gives light to him here, and everything is made plain. But it is not a doubting heart or an inquisitive mind; it is one who bows down in heartfelt homage, withal confiding in God, who was pleased to confide in him. In truth God was going to act upon the world; He was going to judge this guilty scene; He was going to blot out that sink of iniquity Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain that was as the garden of Jehovah, but alas! now rose up with pestilential breath against God Himself, so that He must as it were mow down this iniquity, or else the whole world would be polluted by it.
So it is then that God speaks to His servant. He loved to make known His ways. Abraham was now in a condition to enjoy without in any way sinking into earthly-mindedness. Abraham could hear anything that Jehovah would tell him. Then, instead of in any way dragging him down, Jehovah was rather lifting him up into an enjoyment of the secrets of Himself, into confidential intercourse with Him, for indeed he was the friend of God. Abraham profits by all here; and we shall see the moral effect on his spirit soon. "Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. For I know him" Oh, what a word is this! "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him" what confidence in him the Lord expresses! "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Jehovah to do justice and judgment; that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. And Jehovah said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before Jehovah. And Abraham drew near" such was the effect "Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city."
It may not be now the fitting time to say much upon such a scene, but I will make at least this observation, that there is no anxiety about himself, and for that very reason his whole heart can go out, not only towards the God who loved him, and whom he loved, but also for his nephew, righteous Lot, who had played so poor a part, suffered for his folly, and once more had profited little by the discipline, and was about to be humbled yet more, as Abraham could not have anticipated. Not merely did the man of faith go forth to pursue the victorious kings of the earth for the rescue of Lot, but he now dares in the confidence of Jehovah's goodness to draw near and plead for him whose righteous soul was vexed in Sodom, and loved the Lord spite of his earthly-mindedness and his evil position. And was it not of Jehovah that Abraham interceded? Did He not strengthen His servant's heart to go on, until he was ashamed? As everywhere, so here, it was man who left off pleading with Jehovah, not Jehovah who refused to encourage and hear the voice of further intercession.
Here was the effect of prophecy taken into the heart after it was freed by the grace of God, and rendered practically heavenly. Instead of exercising a damaging character by indulging idle curiosity about others, or causing mere occupation with self the wanting to know what the Lord will give me we see the believer's heart going out after another. This is as God would have it. It is the spirit of intercession for others which we find to be the result of listening to the Lord, and delighting in the communications of what was still unfulfilled, not because they were about himself, but because they were the Lord's secrets about others (even the world itself) entrusted to him, and drawing out his affections after a divine sort. Is it so with us in our use of the prophetic word? Ought it to be otherwise? May we gather such fruit of our Old Testament study!
In the next chapter (Genesis 19:1-38) the blow of judgment is seen to fall. The angels arrive at Sodom, and Lot shows himself a scholar in the same school of courteous grace as Abraham; but the men of the guilty city justify Jehovah in that unexampled dealing when the sun next went forth on the earth. Lot meanwhile was brought out, and his daughters without their unbelieving husbands; but his wife! "Remember Lot's wife" his wife remains for ever the most solemn instance on record of one who was personally outside, but in heart attached to the scene of evil.
Yet Lot delivered is nevertheless but half delivered; and here again we learn how the blessed written word sets forth in great facts the moral judgment of God before the time came to speak with unmistakeable plainness. We had seen sorrowful enough results in the case of Noah, who, drinking of the fruit of the vine to the dishonour of himself, pronounced a curse on a branch of his posterity, though not without a blessing on the rest. It was a curse not causeless but just: nevertheless what a sorrowful thing for a parent's heart to utter! So here with Lot, delivered of angels from the worst of associations, even after his deliverance by Abraham, brought out again, but as it were maimed and wounded, to be yet more dishonoured. It would be painful if it were needful to say a word of that which follows. Yet was it not without moral profit for Israel to remember the source of a perpetual thorn in their side the shameful origin of the Moabite and the Ammonite, two nations, neighbours and akin, notorious for continual envy and enmity against the people of God. The only God marks all in His wisdom. Sin then as now produced a harvest, large and long-continued, if sovereign grace in some cases forbids that it should be a perpetual harvest of misery to those who indulged in it. "He that soweth to the flesh," no matter who or where or when, "shall of the flesh reap corruption."
Then follows a new scene, where Abraham alas I fails once more. (Genesis 20:1-18) There is no power in forms to sustain the rich triumphs of faith. As on the one hand after failure God can bring into depths of grace which never were proved before, so on the other from the most real blessing there is no means of strength or continuance, but only in God Himself. No matter what the joy for one's own soul, or the blessing to others, power in every sense belongs to God, and is only ours in dependence upon Him. And now it was even more painful than before, because Sarah was the known appointed mother of the heir that was coming. There was no question as to her any more than about Abraham. He had been long the designated father, as she was later the designated mother. In spite of all Abraham, for reasons of his own, is guilty once more of denying the relationship. What is man? Beloved brethren, we know One, who at all cost formed the nearest relationship with us that deserved nothing less, and who will never deny it. May He have our unswerving confidence!
But Abimelech was evidently conscientious, and God took care of him, although the seriousness of the case was not weakened to his mind. God made known in a dream how matters really stood, that he must not touch the man's wife. "He is a prophet and he shall pray for thee" a most instructive instance of the way in which God holds to His principles. He will even honour Abraham before Abimelech, however he may act in discipline with Abraham. Perhaps Abimelech would be ready to say, "How can Abraham be a prophet, a man that tells lies in denying his own wife?" Nevertheless, said God, "he is a prophet;" but we may be assured of this, that the Lord in no way restrained the mouth of Abimelech from a severe reproof, when he said to Sarah, "Behold I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved."* What a veil Abraham had been to his poor wife! He had better buy a veil for her with the thousand pieces of silver. It was a keenly cutting condemnation a rebuke no doubt addressed to Sarah, but how it must have touched Abraham to the quick! The Bible has recorded the sin of the father of the faithful for the good of all the children. Where was the faithfulness of Abraham now? God first took care that his faith should not fail. May the sin be a warning to us, and the grace strengthen our faith too!
*There is some difficulty here as evinced by the differences of translators Thus Benisch translates the last clause, "and thou mayest face every one," i.e. she was made right by the fine as an eye-covering. De Sola, Lindenthal and Raphall, in their version, go even further, "and unto all others as a vindication."
The next chapter presents the closing scene in this series. The child and heir of promise is given; the child of flesh is dismissed. All now is settled according to God. Whatever inconsistent with His grace had been allowed before must disappear. Hagar the slave must depart, and the child that was not of promise must be gone. Jehovah can no longer tolerate that the child of flesh shall be with Isaac and Sarah in the house of Abraham.
Remarkable to say, while the goodness of God fails not to care for Hagar, Ishmael too in His providence is seen winding up the whole scene. Abimelech comes in, seeking a covenant with the very man whose failure must have surprised and stumbled him not so long before. Abimelech, with Phichol the chief captain of his host, owns God to be with Abraham in all that he did, adjures him to shew favour to his race, and stands now reproved for the wrong of his servants. The Gentile king in short craves the countenance and protection of Abraham, "who planted a grove," as we are told here, "in Beersheba, and called there on the name of Jehovah the everlasting God." It is clear therefore that here we behold the heir of the world in figure brought in. It is not a question yet of introducing deeper relations; nevertheless it is the heir not merely of the land of Palestine but of the world that comes before us here. Consequently Jehovah is presented to us in the character not before named of the everlasting God (El-olam). This fitly terminates the series) and brings us down to another type of the millennial day. It is then that the Gentiles seek the protection of the faithful; it is then that Jehovah will show Himself the God of ages, the guardian and blesser of the true Heir; it is then that pretensions of flesh and law will be for ever put aside, and the promises will have their full course to His glory who gave them. This again concludes, as it would appear, in a way similar to the former section. We are carried forward to the millennial day.
After this a still deeper order of things begins, where the distinct light of God is seen shining, one might almost say, on every step. Here we survey a type before which almost every other even in this precious book may be considered comparatively a little thing. It shadows such love as God Himself can find nothing to surpass, if even to compare with it. It is the chosen figure of His own love, and this not only in the gift but in the death of His Son, who deigned to be for us also the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. A scene at once so simple yet so deep demands few and will not indeed bear many words of ours on what is happily the most familiar of all types to all Christians, as, morally viewed, it is an unequalled call to our hearts. For we must not overlook it as a most real trial of Abraham's faith, besides being such a precious manifestation of God's own love. For if Isaac was spared the blow to which Abraham fully devoted him in the confidence of God's raising him again to make good the line of promise, the type of death as a sacrifice was fully carried out by the substitution of the ram caught in the thicket and slain by the father. Then follows the oath of Jehovah founded on it, of which the apostle Paul makes so striking a use in the Epistle to the Galatians, where he draws the remarkable contrast between the one seed and the many. With the seed being Christ, where number is not expressed, we have the blessing of the Gentiles; whereas, when we hear of the seed numerous as the stars and the sand, the connection beyond all controversy is with the supremacy of the Jews over their enemies. If we closely examine the passage, it may be readily seen in all its force. "By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore." Here it is expressly the numerous seed; and what follows? Is there any promise of blessing to the Gentiles here? On the contrary it is a properly Jewish hope "Thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies." Is this the special place of Christ? Is it His relation to us now from among the Gentiles? The very reverse It remains to be verified when He reigns as the Head of Israel, and He will give them power and rule over their enemies. In its day this will be all right
But what is it that the apostle quotes, and for what purpose? Not this but the next verse, which is of a wholly different nature: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The force of the apostle's argument is that, where the scripture referred to says nothing of number, only naming "thy seed" as such, there the blessing of the Gentiles is assured. On the other hand, where He speaks of the seed multiplied according to the most striking images of countless number, Jehovah pledges here the earthly exaltation and the power of the Jew over their enemies a blessing in contrast with that of the gospel and the argument in Galatians. It is this distinction which the apostle applies to the subject with such depth of insight. The inference is obvious. The Galatians had no need to become Jews to get blessing. Why then should they be circumcised? What God gives them in the gospel and what they have received by faith is Christ, dead and risen, as was Isaac in the figure. (Compare Hebrews 11:17-19.) Of this seed He speaks not as of many but as of one: this seed secures the blessing of the Gentiles as Gentiles. Hence, where God speaks of Abraham's seed apart from numbers (ver. Hebrews 11:18), there is the blessing of the Gentiles. This is what we really need; but it is what we have in Christ. By and by there will be the numerous seed spoken of in verseHebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:17. This will be the Jew; and then the chosen nation will possess the gate of their enemies. I can conceive nothing more admirable in itself, or more complete as a refutation of the Judaisers who would fain have compromised the gospel, and sunk the Galatians into mere Gentiles looking up to their Jewish superiors by seeking circumcision after they had a risen Christ. But the truth is that both are divine, the Old Testament fact, and the New Testament comment. And as the fact itself was most striking, so the application by the apostle is no less profound.
In Genesis 23:1-20 another instructive event opens on us. It is not the death of Hagar, who sets forth the Sinaitic or legal covenant: we might have expected some such typical matter, and could all understand that. But the marvel is that, after the figure of the son led as a sacrifice to Mount Moriah but raised from it (the death and resurrection of Christ, as the Apostle Paul himself explains it in the Epistle to the Hebrews), we have the death of Sarah, of her who represents the new covenant, not of the law but of grace. And what is the meaning of that type, and where does it find its answer in the dealings of God when we think of the antitype? It is certain and also plain. In the Acts of the Apostles, not to speak of any other scripture, the true key is placed in our hands. When the Apostle Peter stood before the men of Israel, and bore witness of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the true Isaac, what did he tell them? This that if they were willing by grace to repent and be converted, God would assuredly bring in those times of refreshing of which He had spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. He added that they were the children not only of the prophets but of the covenant which God made with the fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
There we have the required solution For Peter presented after this the readiness of God to bring in the blessedness of the new covenant, if they by grace bowed their stiff neck to the Lord Jesus. But they would not hearken: they rejected the testimony, and finally put to death one of the brightest witnesses. In point of fact, the unbelief was complete to the testimony of the Holy Ghost founded on the death and resurrection of Christ; and, in consequence, that presentation of the covenant to Israel completely disappears. It was the antitype of Sarah's death the passing away for the time of all such overtures of the covenant to Israel. Nowhere do we hear of it renewed after that. No doubt Sarah will rise again, and so the new covenant will appear when God works in the latter day in the Jewish people. But meanwhile the presentation of the covenant to Israel, as that which God was willing there and then to bring in, which was the offer then made by grace, completely passes from view, and a new thing takes its place.
So it is here. Immediately after the death and burial of Sarah a new person comes before us another object distinct from what we have seen; and what is it? The introduction of a wholly unheard of personage, called to be the bride of Isaac, the figuratively dead and risen son of promise. It is no more a question of covenant dealings. The call of Rebecca was not thought of before altogether a fresh element in the history Then again we have the type, so familiar to us, of Eliezer, the trusty servant of all that the father had, now the executor of the new purposes of his heart, who goes to fetch the bride home from Mesopotamia. For as no maid of Canaan could be wedded to Abraham's son; so he, Isaac, was not to quit Canaan for Mesopotamia: Eliezer was to bring the bride, if willing, but Isaac must not go there. Nothing is more strongly insisted on than this, and to its typical meaning I must call your attention. The servant proposes a difficulty: Suppose she is not willing to come: Is Isaac to go for her? "And Abraham said unto him, Beware that thou bring not my son thither again." When the church is being called as a bride for Christ, He remains exclusively in heavenly places. He has nothing to do with the world while the church is in process of being gathered from among Jews and Gentiles. He leaves not heaven, nor comes to the world to have associations with the earth, while it is a question of forming the bride, the Lamb's wife. In relation to the call of the church, Christ is exclusively heavenly. It is the very same Isaac who had been under the sentence of death sacrificially. As Isaac is raised again in figure and must on no account go from Canaan to Mesopotamia for Rebecca, so Christ is to have only heavenly associations, and none with the world, while the church-calling is in progress. Ignorance of this, and, yet more, indifference to it where it seems to be known, must make the Christian worldly, as communion with Christ where He is makes one heavenly-minded. It shows how irretrievably false any position is which necessarily connects us with the world. The only sure way for the Christian to decide any question aright is to ascertain from God's word how it bears upon Christ and His glory. When Christ has His associations with the world, we may have our place there too; if Christ is entirely outside it, as He is manifestly apart from it now in heaven, so should we be. To judge and walk according to Him is what we do well to cultivate.
Never call it worldliness to discharge aright your duty here below. It is worldly-mindedness wherever the world or its things may occupy us as an object, instead of pleasing and doing the will of the Lord here below. It is not what you are doing which is so important as fellowship with His mind; it may be in appearance the most holy work, but if it links Christ and His name with the world, it is only deceiving ourselves and playing so much the more into the hands of the enemy. But, on the other hand, supposing it is connected with the world, there may be the most ordinary act, yet as far as possible from worldliness, even though it were only blacking a shoe. It is hardly needful to say that the power of Christianity may be enjoyed in the heart and ways of a shoe-black just as truly as anywhere else. Anything that is outside Christ will not preserve, and must have the stamp of the world on it; whereas, on the other hand, so great is the efficacy of Christ that if my heart is set upon Him, and seeking after what is suitable to Him at the right hand of God, we become truly witnesses of Him; and, supposing there is real occupation with Him there, this will assuredly give to what we do a heavenly stamp, and impart the truest and highest dignity, no matter what we may be about.
The details of this chapter of course it is not for me to enter into now. I have said enough to shew the general principle first, the novelty and unprecedentedness of what concerns Isaac and Rebecca It was not mere continuance of what had been known already, but a new thing following up not only the typical sacrifice on Moriah, but the death of Sarah. It is happy when the truth of Christ illuminates consecutive chapters of the Old Testament. We know alas! what it is to be uncertain and dissatisfied in presence of the written word, which is really simple to the simple. Again, there is the passing away of all covenant dealings. How long we have known confusion ourselves in all this! Sarah is dead and gone for the time. Then the bride is sought and called, and comes; for it is a question of a bride, not a mother. Again, we have Eliezer, the type of the Spirit of God, marked by this the heart going out towards the Lord both in entire dependence and in simple-hearted praise as he receives the speedy and unequivocal answer of His grace. Eliezer had his mission from Abraham: so is the Spirit sent from the Father on an errand of love in the church. Prayer and worship accordingly become the members of Christ's body, and should go forth intelligently with the purpose of God, just as Eliezer's prayer was entirely founded on the object that he who sent him had in view. He asked much and boldly about the bride, and nothing else swerved him from this as nearest to his heart.
It is all well for men in an evil world to be filled with enterprises for doing good; but here was one who with the utmost simplicity knew he was doing the best, and this we too ought to be doing. The best of all service, serving the Father's glory in the Son who is to have the church as His bride this is worth living for and dying too if it be the will of God that we should meanwhile fall asleep, instead of waiting for the coming of the Lord. It is not merely seeking the salvation of sinners, but doing His will with a direct view to Christ and His love, and accordingly not with prayer only, but the character of it naturally marking this. There is more about prayer in this chapter than in any other in Genesis; but besides there is more distinctly than elsewhere the heart turning to Jehovah in worship of Him. These two things ought to characterize the Christian and the church, now that Christ the Son of God is dead and risen, and we enjoy the immense results by faith prayer and worship, but prayer and worship in unison with the purpose of God in the calling of the bride, the church; not mere isolated action, although that may have its place and be most true for special need. Still the great characteristic trait should be this that God has let our hearts into His own secret in what He is doing for Christ. He has given us to know where Christ is and what He, who deigns to be the executive here below (the Spirit), is doing for His name in this world. Consequently our hearts may well go forth in prayer and praise in connection with it, turning to our God and Father with the sense of His goodness and faithfulness now as evermore. The New Testament shows us what the church was and should be; and there is not a chapter in Genesis which sets them forth as a type in anything like so prominent a form as this. Is it casual, or the distinct design of God that here only in these incidents should be the picture of bridal expectancy and confidence in the love of one not yet seen, and of going forth to meet the bridegroom?
Finally we have Genesis 25:1-34 closing Abraham's history, with his relation as father to certain tribes of Arabs, who as being of his stock, mingled with the Ishmaelites. These sons, unlike Isaac, received presents and were sent away. Isaac must be left the undisputed heir of all, and abides ever as son in the father's house. The purposes of love centre in him; as the inheritance was his in its widest extent.
But no more tonight. Though perfectly persuaded that a cursory sketch has its disadvantages, I am equally assured that it is not without advantages of its own; for it is well for us to have a broad and comprehensive view, as it is well also, when we possess this, to fill up the details. But we shall never approach to a clear or a full intelligence of Scripture if we neglect the one or do not seek the other. Grace only by the written word used in faith can give and keep both for our hearts to the praise of the Lord's name.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Genesis 25:18". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/genesis-25.html. 1860-1890.
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13