This is an overview of the story of Isaac with some commentary.
Isaac’s story starts in Genesis 21 when Sarah is 90 and Abraham is 100. While all of Abraham’s children are entitled to the blessing, the everlasting covenant is made to Sarah’s only son Isaac. Ishmael, Abraham’s firstborn through Hagar (Sarah’s maidservant), is 14 when Isaac is born. 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 Genesis 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 where she and Ishmael are taken care of. There is a flash-forward of 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.
Abraham nearly sacrificing Isaac can be quite a controversial topic but let’s explore what is happening here. Abraham trusted that God would keep the promise to make a covenant nation of his descendants through his son Isaac, the promised son of his wife Sarah. If God was true to this promise, God couldn’t eliminate Isaac because the covenant couldn’t be fulfilled. Abraham trusted that God would be faithful to the promise, so he went forward with sacrificing him, knowing that Isaac couldn’t be taken forever or God would be a liar and covenant breaker. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
This is part one of an overview of the story of Abraham. This is will look over Genesis 12-18. Continue reading
After the creation, fall, flood, and scattering from Babel in Genesis chapters 1-11, we are introduced to Abram (later Abraham) when he is 75. We aren’t given much info about his history, just that he descends from Noah’s son Shem and his father is Terah. Abram has two (likely older) brothers Haran and Nahor, and a half-sister whom he marries named Sarai (later Sarah) who is 10 years younger than him, and they all live in Ur of the Chaldeans. His brother Haran dies and leaves behind two daughters Milcah and Iscah, and a son named Lot. Milcah marries Nahor who is her uncle, and Lot goes to live with Abram and his wife. Terah moves from Ur of the Chaldeans after Haran’s death along with Abram, Sarai, and Lot toward Canaan but settles in the region of Haran (Paddan-Aram). There Terah dies at 205 when Abram was 75 (Terah was 130 when Abram was born).
An interesting translation discrepancy appears in Genesis 10:21 on the issue of who was the oldest son of Noah, Shem, or Japheth. It’s weird how some of the modern English versions of Gen 10:21 says Shem was the older brother of Japheth, but others including the KJV say Japheth is the elder. The Hebrew text has gadol (גָּדֽוֹל) after Japheth while the NASB lexicon places it before Japheth. Which is it? A similar issue arises with Abraham and his brothers. Continue reading
There are ideas that there was a pre-Adamic group of humans before Adam and Eve. A lot of this may be an attempt to reconcile scripture with naturalism. Some of it is driven by a misunderstanding of the Torah’s laws on sexual relationships, specifically “incestuous” ones. Unfortunately, some have taken this concept to the extreme and suggest that only those of certain ethnic heritage are true humans from Adam and Eve, meanwhile, other people groups are sub-human because they don’t come from Adam and Eve. This sounds like a syncretism with Darwinism being used to devalue some people as animals while others are seen as children of God. Continue reading
There is symmetry between days 1-3 and days 4-6 of creation week.
Genesis 1:1 is the initialization of space/time and matter. Genesis 1:2 describes the initial state of the cosmos as without form and void. In Hebrew this is tohu va-bohu (תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ). Tohu means “lacking form and purpose, unordered, desolate”, Bohu means “empty, uninhabited, wasteland”. The first 3 Days were the solution to tohu by bringing organization to the unorganized and the 2nd set of 3 days were solution to bohu filling the organized spaces with inhabitants. Continue reading
Most devout Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe that Moses wrote whole the Torah, including Genesis. Genesis takes place over 200 years before Moses’ birth. so how did he do it? It seems to me that he likely had the help of written records left behind by Joseph. Joseph was made vizier of Egypt at 30 and lived 80 more years, so he likely learned to write in Egypt or had access to scribes since he was a political figure. Then Moses who was raised in Pharaoh’s house for 40 years, would have learned to read and write in Egyptian and had access to Joseph’s writings.
Joseph must be the main source for what Moses wrote in Genesis because there are 12 chapters dedicated to Joseph, but only about 9 chapters for Jacob, and only about 6-7 dedicated to Isaac. Abraham has 13 chapters focused on him, but he is the beginning of the covenant of Israel, so of course, he gets the most attention. However, Genesis ends with Joseph and not with someone else between him and Moses. There are 144 years between Joseph’s death at 110 and the Exodus story when Moses is 80 years old, so Genesis could have continued up until Moses’s birth but it stops specifically at Joseph’s death and Exodus picks up at Moses’ birth 64 years later.
When one reads Genealogy chapters like chapters Genesis 5, 11, and 36, they are written like an index which implies Moses has his own “Wikipedia” via a scroll of the lineages. These passages are lists of toledoth (תּוֹלְדֹת) which is Hebrew for “generations” or “descendants”. There may have also been some tablets preserved from before Joseph’s time preserved in cuneiform, that Joseph used to get the genealogies and such going back to the time Abram meeting Melchizedek (the high priest of God at that time). Being the high priest of God, Melchizedek would have had access to the history of the world and all creation up until that time from God directly. He knew God and was able to operate as a priest to God in the midst of nations with different religions, so it seems reasonable that he would have had records of the history from Noah to Abram and everything before that.
In Genesis chapter 41 Joseph is reunited with the brothers who sold him into slavery and is pretending he doesn’t recognize them. They don’t recognize him because he is the Vizier of Egypt and his official name is Zaphenath-paneah. In the process of scaring them by accusing them of beings spies (a trick to get them to bring the whole family to Egypt), they are freaking out when he puts them in prison. They complain to each other that they deserve this and this is punishment for selling Joseph 22 years ago. However, they didn’t realize that Joseph understood them because as the vizier of Egypt, he was using an interpreter for them because they were foreigners. Joseph was using an interpreter unnecessarily since he is bilingual (speaking Hebrew and Egyptian) at this point which gives credence to the idea that he wrote the patriarch narratives before Moses in the Egyptian language. Then Moses who was raised in Pharaoh’s house would have grown up learning Egyptian, as well as the Hebrew language since his own mother was his nanny. Also later while he spent 40 years in Midian he may have learned the Proto-Sinaitic script from the Midianites, which is the first version of the alphabet that Semitic languages like Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, etc use. This script is said to have started from a simplification of the Egyptian writing system, so it’s also possible that Joseph or Moses, or someone else from the region invented it. This means that Moses was literate in two languages, knowing both Egyptian and Proto-Sinaitic and this would have allowed him to translate the creation story and patriarch histories from Joseph’s Egyptian scripts to the Torah’s version of Genesis in a Semitic language during the post-Exodus wilderness journey. I have an article on author ship in the bible that goes more into general ideas surrounding construction here.