GENESIS 20 – 21
Bible Study Notes Rev. Betsy Perkins
Repeating the Sins of the Past!
Both Abraham and Sarah struggle to escape patterns of sin that affect the people around them. Despite their struggles to trust God’s promises, God is faithful. The LORD is gracious and at long last, Isaac is born!!
Abraham and Abimelech (20:1-17):
o Think of someone who experienced a pattern of weakness in their life, repeating similar mistakes over and over. What perpetuated the pattern? What may have helped that person overcome it?
o Once again Abraham uses the “Sarah is my sister” ploy. What are the similarities and differences from the episode in Egypt in chapter 12:10-20?
o How God does intervene? What is Abimelech’s response?
o What reasons does Abraham give for again allowing Sarah to be taken by another man?
“Abraham is convinced there is no reverence for God here and no respect for other human beings (he thinks Abimelech would kill him to get Sarah). It turns out Abraham is projecting. It is Abraham who has no reverence for God and no respect for other human beings.” John Goldingay
o How did Abraham’s actions put God’s promise to Sarah at risk? How does it affect others? How might our sin affect those around us?
o What does Abimelech do to resolve the situation?
o How does God use Abraham in the restorative process? What does it mean that God calls Abraham a ‘prophet’?
“A prophet is someone admitted to God cabinet and free to speak there, and it is this freedom that God invites Abimelech to get Abraham to use. Abraham’s membership of the cabinet was not based on his being a godly person; ungodliness does not mean he cannot fulfill the role God chose him for, because that depends on God’s sovereignty and God’s choice, not on something about him that made him deserve to be given this role.” John Goldingay
o God still used Abraham despite his pattern of sin, but I wonder if this may have contributed to the long wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a child. How might patterns of sin interfere with God’s good plans for us today?
Isaac is Born! (21:1-7):
o Isaac means ‘he laughs’. Why did God choose this name for the long promised child?
o Sarah says ‘everyone’ will laugh with her. Are there ways in which we still laugh with her today?
Sarah and Hagar (21:8-21):
o Who else is ‘laughing’ about Isaac (this can be translated as ‘mocking’ or just as ‘playing’)? Why does it upset Sarah? What is the pattern we see repeated by Sarah?
o What is Abraham’s response to Sarah’s request? What is God’s response?
o Verses 21:14 and 22:3 begin the same way, “Early the next morning…” indicating a connection between the two stories. How is Abraham being asked to sacrifice of Ishmael?
o Ishmael’s name means ‘God has heard’. How is his name fulfilled in this story?
o Though God’s promise and plan will be fulfilled through Isaac, does that mean God’s care and compassion is limited to Isaac? How does God’s care and compassion flow beyond the chosen community of God today? How can we reflect this aspect of God’s nature?
A Covenant with Abimelech (21:22-34):
o What is it about Abraham that Abilelech recognizes and acknowledges in 21:22?
o Abraham raises an issue of conflict between his people and Abimelech’s people (not unlike an earlier conflict with Lot’s household in chapter 13). How is it resolved? How is this interaction between Abraham and Abimelech different from their earlier interactions?
o Are any of the patterns of sin recognized and corrected?
In light of this passage and our discussion, what one truth about God and about yourself stand out as something to “take to heart” this week?
Are there steps you will take, by God’s grace, to more fully apply it to your life?
Resources: Robert Alter, Genesis, 1996
John Goldingay, Genesis for Everyone, 2010
Max Lucado, Life Lessons with Max Lucado: Book of Genesis, 1997