This is part two of my look at the story of Abraham in Genesis chapters 19-25. You can read Part 1 featuring chapters 12-18 here.
Chapter 19 takes place soon after 18 (likely the same day or the next day), and we find out that there aren’t even 10 righteous people in Sodom, so God plans on destroying it, however for Abraham’s sake he wants to spare Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and his family. When the messengers arrive, they are not greeted with hospitality and no one would give them lodging, so they are left to sleep out in the town square that night (which was done on purpose) so that they could be raped. However, Lot came to their rescue and hid them in his house with his daughters and their husbands. The men found out where they were and demanded Lot bring out the visitors so they could rape them. Lot refused and even offered his own daughters, saying that they were virgins (even though they were married). The men refused to listen and tried to barge in and attack, but the angels intervened and blinded the men, and shut the door. The angels warned Lot that the city was going to be destroyed at sunrise the next morning. That morning when it was time to go, Lot brought his daughters and wife out and they fled on foot with the angels. Lot’s sons-in-law refused to come because they didn’t believe they were in danger. The angels told them to run to the mountains and don’t look back, and Lot asked if they could go to Zoar instead because he didn’t want to live in the wilderness. They okayed it and agreed to spare Zoar and the group headed there instead. Fire and burning Sulfur reigned down on Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot’s wife turned back (Sodom was her birthplace), and was destroyed by the shockwave and became like a pillar of salt. Then Lot and his daughters made it to Zoar, but he was afraid of the people there and decided to go live in the mountains. Meanwhile, as Lot was heading for the mountains, Abraham looked out across the plains and saw the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from afar and God assured him that Lot was spared. Lot’s daughters were desperate to have descendants, and since their husbands died and Lot was too afraid of the people of Zoar to marry them off there, they decided to have sex with their father to produce grandchildren. So they get Lot drunk and they each have sex with him, and their sons were Moab (father of the Moabites) and Ben-Ammi (father of the Ammonites).
Comment: The main sin of Sodom on display was a hazing ritual, one that the tribe of Benjamin repeated in Judges chapter 19 in the town of Gibeah. They tried to rape a Levite who came to the town with his wife and servant, but one old man hid him and his family inside of his house. When the men tried to break in, the Levite threw his wife outside and shut the door. They raped her all night until she bleed out and died. That Levite reported this to the other Israelite tribes and they destroyed Gibeah and nearly wiped out the Benjamites as a tribe (there were only 600 men of Benjamin left out of about 26,000 warriors). The Benjamites were copying the Sodomites in every step. First, they deny newcomers to town lodging which forced them to sleep in the square and then they raped them all night in the square. In both events, there was at least one righteous person who tried to get the visitors off the street and hide them in their house. However, in the case of Genesis 19, there were no ordinary visitors and they were there to execute judgment.
In Chapter 20, Abraham moves on from the oaks of Mamre near Hebron to the Negev in the south between Kadesh and Shur and then moves to Gerar. This happens presumably up to the 3 months after the events of Chapters 18 & 19. Abraham went back to his tactics of the past where he lied about his wife being only his sister, and King Abimelech purchased her. Abimelech did not immediately sleep with Sarah, he went through a bunch of other wives and concubines first. However the night before he finally got around to her, God warned him in a dream not to sleep with her because it would be adultery. Abimelech confronted Abraham and he reveals that Sarah is his half-sister through their father, but she is also his wife. Abraham had been misleading people everyone they go out of fear that he would be killed for her. (Since God already promised Sarah would have his son next year and since she wasn’t already pregnant, Abraham had nothing to fear, because he can’t be killed until the promised child is at least conceived.) Abimelech gave Abraham his wife back along with livestock and 1000 shekels of silver in front of witnesses to let everyone know that he and Abraham were in good standing. Abraham prayed and God then “open the wombs” of Abimelech’s other wives, because while Sarah was in his house, none of them could get pregnant.
Comment: It seems Abimelech didn’t sleep with Sarah right away, because the barrenness of the womb for multiple women could not be determined in one night, and since that barrenness was the result of Abimelech taking Sarah into his house, it must have only started when Sarah entered his house. This means this went on for a month or two, possibly even three since Isaac’s birth would have to be 9 months or less after conception, and Isaac’s birthday was preset by to be God exactly one year (12 months) after the encounter in chapter 18. Unlike the Egyptians who were hit with plagues, God only warned Abimelech in a dream. He seemed more repentant and eager not to commit adultery. It seems that like in Egypt, in Gerar adultery was considered a serious moral sin (more so than murder) by the people. The bible doesn’t tell us that God warned Pharaoh directly so it is possible the plagues triggered him to talk to his wise men and they told him what was happening. This may imply that Abimelech’s heart was more open to God than the Pharaoh and thus Abimelech was shown more mercy than Pharaoh.
In Chapter 21, exactly one year from chapter 18, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Abraham was 100, Sarah was 90, and Ishmael is 14 at this time. Then we jump ahead to when Isaac was weaned and Ishmael is bullying him, and Sarah has Hagar and Ishmael put out permanently. Abraham consults with God and God reminded Abraham that things would be good for them because he promised to bless Ishmael back in chapter 17. Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael away with food and water, and when they run out she sets him on his own and hides because she doesn’t want to watch him die of thirst and hunger. God appears and reminds her of his promise to her back in Genesis 16, and shows her an oasis in the wilderness, where her’s and Ishmael’s needs are met. There is a flash-forward to the future where Ismael becomes an archer and Hagar gets him a wife from Egypt where she is from and he has 12 sons and becomes the father of the Ishmaelites. Meanwhile, back in the present, after Ishmael is sent away, Abimelech and his army general Phicol came to see Abraham so that he can swear an oath not to deceive him again. Abimelech recognized that God’s blessing was on Abraham and wanted to be in God’s favor by blessing Abraham. Meanwhile, Abraham was having some trouble with Abimelech’s servants, who were taking wells from his servants by force. Abimelech said that was the first he heard of it. Abraham and Abimelech made a peace treaty and Abraham gave Abimelech some livestock, and then set apart 7 more female lambs as payment for the well that was in dispute. Abraham named the well Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”), and he stayed at Beersheba and planted a tamarisk tree, and worshipped God there.
Comment: Ishmael was most likely 19 and Isaac 5 years old when Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. God told Abraham back in Genesis 15:13 that his seed (Isaac) and his descendants will be persecuted and enslaved for 400 years. In Talmudic tradition, a baby is to be weaned no later than age 5. Paul says in Galatians 3:16-17 that the time from Abraham’s promise (at 75 years old) to the time of Moses’s Exodus (at 80 years old) was 430 years and that 430 years is referenced by Moses in Exodus 12:40 when the Israelites leave Egypt. The difference between 430 and 400 is 30, and since Abraham got the promise at 75 and Isaac was born 25 years later, 5 years later would make 30 years. That would make Isaac 5 years old and Ishmael 19 at the beginning of the Gen 15:13 prophecy of persecution and enslavement for 400 years. The persecution starts with Ishmael vs Isaac, then the Philistines (Abimelech) vs Isaac, and then continues with Esau vs Jacob, then Laban vs Jacob, and lastly Joseph being sold as a slave by his brothers in Egypt. Then when Joseph is 39 and Jacob is 130 all of Israel moves to Egypt and at least 71 years later when Joseph dies (at 110), the Israelites are enslaved for at most 144 years.
Chapter 22 is the most famous event of Abraham’s life, the near-sacrifice of Isaac. The event starts with God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on a mountain in Moriah. Abraham took Isaac and two servants and a donkey to Moriah, bringing along some freshly chopped firewood. After traveling 3 days Abraham and Isaac separated from the two servants with the donkey. When they got to the mountain he had Isaac carry the firewood up the mountain while he carried the torch and knife. When Isaac asked about the sacrifice Abraham simply said, “the Lord will provide”. At the top, he laid out the wood and tied Isaac to it and as he was about to kill him, God stopped him and revealed a ram in the bush and they sacrificed the ram instead. God applauded Abraham for passing the test and reminded him of the promised blessing. In Hebrews 11:17-19 it says Abraham believed that God would raise Isaac from the dead because Isaac must live to fulfill the promise. Afterward, Abraham learns that his brother Nahor has 12 sons (8 from his wife Milcah and 4 from his concubine).
Comment: We don’t know the age of Abraham or Isaac when this happened but it would have been old enough and strong enough to carry the firewood up a mountain. In the next Chapter, Sarah dies at 127 years old and that would make Abraham 137 and Isaac 37, which then means the sacrifice event happens before Isaac is 37.
Chapter 23 begins with Sarah’s death at age 127, while they were at Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), Abraham asked the local Hittites if he could buy a place to bury his wife, specifically the cave at Machpelah (near Mamre) owned by Ephron, son of Zohar. Ephron was willing to give it to Abraham for free, in fact, all of the Hittite elders were willing to do it because they respected him. Abraham didn’t want charity (nor to be indebted), so he insisted on buying the cave and paid Ephron 400 silver shekels for it. This field and the cave became a permeant burial place for Abraham and his immediate descendants.
Chapter 24 takes place 3 years later when Abraham is 140 and Isaac is 40. Abraham sent his oldest servant to go and get a wife for Isaac from amongst his brother Nahor’s offspring. He did not want Isaac to marry any local Canaanite women, so he made his servant swear an oath that he would find a wife for Isaac from his relatives. So the servant went to Aram-naharaim with a group of men, and 10 camel’s worth of gifts and supplies to pay the bride price and cover the cost of travel. He got to a well and prayed for God to reveal the wife by having her offer water to his camels and then he met Rebekah who came out to get water. He asked her for water, and she gave him some and then offered to water the camels. He asked her who she was and she was the daughter of Bethuel, one of the sons of Nahor, Abraham’s brother. He gave her two bracelets, a nose ring, and a present. Then Rebekah went home and told her family. Laban, Rebekah’s brother, came out to meet him and invited the servant and co. to stay with them and they took care of his camels. He then explained to the family why he had come, ate with them, and showed them the gifts Abraham sent. Laban and his father Bethuel agreed to give Rebekah to him. Rebekah agreed to go and her family blessed her and sent her along with her nursemaid Deborah and some female servants. Isaac at the time was living between Kadesh and Bered at Beer-lahai-roi (the well, named by Hagar when she first ran away). Abraham’s servant brought Rebekah to Isaac. He brought her to his mother’s tent and married her.
Chapter 25 is the end of the saga of Abraham. We are told that Abraham sometime after getting Isaac a wife got a wife for himself named Keturah and six children with her, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 35 years after Isaac marries his wife, Abraham sends his sons from Keturah away to the east with gifts and dies at 175 years old leaving everything to Isaac. Abraham is buried by Isaac and Ishmael in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron with Sarah. This happens when Isaac was 75 and Ishmael was 89. After ending the saga of Abraham this chapter gives the genealogy of Ishmael and his 12 sons Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah. Then Ishmael’s saga is wrapped up here stating that he dies at 137 (48 years after Abraham’s death). Ishmael’s descendants occupied the region from Havilah to Shur, east of Egypt in the direction of Asshur. There they lived in open hostility toward all their relatives. Then the chapter has a flashback to 15 years before Abraham’s death, which is the time of the birth of Jacob and Esau. Isaac and Rebekah got married when Isaac was 40, but they had no children for 20 years because she was barren. Then when Isaac was 60 (Abraham was 160), he prayed to God for his wife and Rebekah gave birth to twins, Esau and Jacob. Jacob and Esau were 15 when Abraham died.