Abraham Tested, Genesis 22:1-19

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”                      -Hebrews 11:17-19

As evidenced in his second encounter with King Abimelech (The Treaty at Beersheba), Abraham’s faith in God had grown.

In Genesis 22 we arrive at one of the greatest crisis recorded in Scripture. God tests Abraham with someone dear to his heart, his long awaited promised son.

You may read Genesis 22:1-19 here: Bible Gateway.



Abraham had learned the hard way the importance of  obedience. This time he didn’t question or hesitate when God told him to sacrifice his only son. The next morning he saddled his donkey and gathered wood, two servants, and his son, Isaac.

I wonder what went through Abraham’s heart and mind as he journeyed three days—50-60 miles—to Mount Moriah. His heart undoubtedly agonized over the difficult task ahead.

Several questions surface from this passage. I found the following commentaries both informative and encouraging.

How are God’s tests different than Satan’s tests?

God tests to confirm and strengthen; Satan tests to corrupt and weaken.”  –Layman’s Bible Commentary

Why did God test Abraham?

God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character.”  –NIV Life Application Bible

Why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice?

The Bible does not explicitly give God’s reasons. Child sacrifice was common among the pagan Canaanite religions of the time. In this case, however, it was a test of faith, never an intention to eliminate a child’s life (Genesis 22:12). It was also a unique test that has not been used since and likely will never be used again. The test carries significance for us because it prefigured the act of God Himself offering His own Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice for us.” –500 Questions & Answers from the Bible

How does this account foreshadow Jesus Christ? 

  • Abraham placed God first by being willing to sacrifice his only son. God the Father loved us so much that He also was willing to sacrifice His only Son (John 3:16).
  • Isaac was willing to do what his father instructed. Jesus also obeyed His Father, even unto death (John 10:17-18).
  • Abraham’s sacrifice took place on Mount Moriah (Jerusalem). Jesus was sacrificed on the edge of Jerusalem (John 19:17-18).
  • A ram was provided as a substitute for Isaac. God the Father provided Jesus, the Lamb of God, as a substitute for us. He paid our sin penalty by death on the cross to spare us the eternal death we deserve. In exchange, He offers us eternal life (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • Abraham’s son (Isaac) was the child of the promise; he was connected to the idea of resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19). God’s Son, Jesus, is the child of promise (Isaiah 9:6) who is resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).




Just as fire refines ore to mine precious metals, God refines us through difficult circumstances.

Abraham trusted that God would keep His word, even if that meant raising Isaac from the dead. Abraham’s story—along with many others in the Bible—entails sacrificing lives, desires, and wishes.

Abraham received abundant blessings for not holding back. God not only gave Abraham’s descendants the ability to conquer their enemies, but also promised Abraham that his descendants would bless the whole earth as a result of knowing his faith.

God’s blessings far outweigh our sacrifices. His gifts are meant to overflow to others. The greatest rewards, however, await God’s children in eternity.

Is God asking you to give up something of great value? What can we learn from Abraham’s example?

The Treaty at Beersheba, Genesis 21:22-34

At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, ‘God is with you in everything you do. Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.” – Genesis 21:22-23


After waiting years, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with their promised baby, Isaac. God also took care of Hagar and Ishmael, remembering His promise to greatly multiply their descendants (see Birth of Isaac).

You many Read Genesis 21:22-34 here: Bible Gateway.


Abimelech reenters the picture with his enforcer, Phicol. Having witnessed firsthand God’s power and blessing in Abraham’s life (see Abraham and Abimelech), he respectfully approaches Abraham with a treaty proposal: “. . . . Do not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you are living as an alien the same kindness I have shown to you.”

Abraham complies.

We see a change in Abraham since his last conflict with powerful King Abimelech. Instead of being fearful, Abraham boldly confronts him with the issue that his servants had taken his well. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “The Hebrew verb translated complained implies that Abraham had to complain several times.”

And instead of Abimelech exhibiting generosity, Abraham supplies the sheep and cattle for their treaty.

The well is named Beersheba, which means “well of seven” (from the seven ewe lambs Abraham supplied), or “well of the oath”. Abimelech’s acknowledgment of Abraham’s legal right to water makes a permanent residence possible for Abraham. He now owns a small piece of the land God promised.

The existence of several wells may be the reason why Abraham settled in the land of the Philistines. His son, Isaac, also made his home in Beersheba, the southern city of Israel bordering a vast desert that stretched as far as Mount Sinai to the south and Egypt to the southwest. The phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” was often used to depict the traditional boundaries of the promised land (2 Samuel 17:11).


By planting a Tamarisk tree—a long lived evergreen—Abraham shows his intentions of staying in that region. This tree also symbolizes God’s enduring grace, faithfulness, and provision. Abraham’s use of the Hebrew phrase translated eternal God not only emphasizes God’s never-ending nature, but also perhaps Abraham’s growth in understanding God.


This passage depicts Abraham as bolder, more generous, respectable and patient with King Abimelech. I wonder if Abraham ever questioned his progress in relationship with God, especially the dry times when he distorted the truth under heated pressure.

Tamarisk trees can grow in drought areas with rocky soil. Perhaps the Tamarisk’s growth reminded Abraham of his own spiritual growth as he worshiped God.

Because God is eternal, all His promises and covenants are also everlasting. I love His promise in Philippians 1:6: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When Christ took our place through death on the cross, He began His work for us. When we first believed, He began His work in us. Now we can be more like Christ daily because the Holy Spirit lives in us.

When God starts a project, He also finishes. Let’s not let anything rob us from the joy of knowing Christ or growing closer to Him in worship.

Have a great week!

Birth of Issac, Genesis 21:1-21

Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.”       Genesis 21:1-2

You may read Genesis 21:1-21 here: Bible Gateway.

Finally! After doubting repeated promises over the years, 90 year-old Sarah now has tangible evidence that God keeps His promises.

Can you picture Sarah cradling her newborn’s warm body against hers as she studies her son’s tiny features in adoration? In joy and awe she exclaims: “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me. . . . Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have born him a son in his old age,” (vs. 6-7).

Abraham, at the ripe age of 100, responds to his son’s birth with obedience: 1) He names the baby Isaac (17:19; 21:3). Isaac means “he laughs,” or “may [God] smile”; 2) He circumcises Isaac on the eighth day (21:4).

Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away

The ripple effect from Abraham trying to jump-start God’s plan by previously sleeping with Hagar now hits him with hurricane force.

After 14 years of Ishmael being Abraham’s only heir, Ishmael despises the crowding of this new addition. His bitterness boils into mockery of Isaac at his weaning party. Sarah’s joy and laughter flee as fury steps in. She demands Abraham get rid of Hagar and her son.

Aware of Abraham’s angst, God tells him: “Do not be distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned,” (vs. 12).

God encourages Abraham, “I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring,” (vs. 13).

So Abraham sends Hagar and Ishmael into the desert of Beersheba with some food and water. As the water empties, Hagar—unwillingly to watch her son die—puts Ishmael under a bush while she sobs several yards away.

But God hears the boy’s cries. (Ishmael means “God hears”.) He remembers His promise to greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants (16:10). God not only provides a well of water, but also fathers Ishmael as he grows up in the desert and becomes an archer. This section ends with Hagar retrieving a wife for Ishmael from Egypt when he lives in the Desert of Paran.

Who are Ishmael’s descendants?

“Ishmael became ruler of a large tribe or nation. The Ishmaelites were nomads living in the Desert of Sinai and Paran, south of Israel. One of Ishmael’s daughters married Esau, Ishmael’s nephew (28:9). The Bible pictures the Ishmaelites as hostile to Israel and to God (Psalm 83:6).” – NIV Life Application Study Bible


It seems a long stretch in reaching Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah’s 14 year wait for their promised son probably felt like an eternity.

But God’s timing is not our timing. His ways are not our ways.

Who could have guessed that God would use a barren elderly couple to birth and raise a boy whose descendant would be Jesus the Messiah?

But our compassionate God is in the business of doing the impossible. He sees all of our problems. He hears all of our cries. Where we only see a piece of the puzzle, He sees the whole picture.

God’s timing and ways are perfect.

Let’s not forfeit God’s peace through worry as Sarah did. Instead, let’s bring our burdens before God and leave them with Him. Then let’s not forget to thank Him for loving us and acting on our behalf.

Have a great week!

Abraham and Abimelech, Genesis 20

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, ‘She is my sister.’ Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.” – Genesis 20:1-2

You may read Genesis 20 here: Bible Gateway.

This account seems like a replay of Genesis 12:10-20 (see Abram In Egypt). As Abraham had schemed to protect himself from the Pharaoh in Egypt, he does so again with Abimelech. By falsely assuming the king is wicked, Abraham resorts to his half-truth/half-lie trick.

Believing Sarah is unmarried, Abimelech takes her as his wife. But God mercifully keeps him from the sin of adultery by somehow preventing him from touching her.

It must have been quite the shock when God confronted Abimelech in a dream: “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman” (vs. 3).

Naturally, Abimelech questions Abraham’s motives. And we see a not-so-glorious moment for Abraham. He blames his conduct on God, saying that He made him wander from home to a place that doesn’t fear Him (vs. 11, 13).

As sin usually snowballs, Abraham’s fear of being killed also compels him to pull Sarah into his deception: “This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”

God Punishes Abimelech

God punishes Abimelech for taking Sarah as his wife by preventing the women in his household from bearing children. In his dream, God commands him to return Sarah to Abraham. For “if you do not return her, you can be sure that you and all yours will die.”

This sounds harsh. But I found The NIV Life Application Study Bible footnote helpful when questioning why God would punish innocent Abimelech:

  1. Even though Abimelech’s intentions were good, as long as Sarah was living in his harem he was in danger of sinning. A person who eats a poisonous toadstool, thinking it’s a harmless mushroom, no doubt has perfectly good intentions—but will still suffer.
  2. The punishment, “closing up every womb in Abimelech’s household,” lasted only as long as Abimelech was in danger of sleeping with Sarah. It was meant to change the situation, not to harm Abimelech.
  3. The punishment showed that Abraham was in league with Almighty God. This incident may have made Abimelech respect and fear Abraham’s God.


Abimelech not only returns Sarah, but also generously showers Abraham with gifts and grants him permission to live anywhere on his land.

In response to Abraham’s prayer, God heals the women’s inability to bear babies. But so far in the Genesis account, Sarah remains childless.


Although Abraham is a hero of faith, c669c140df16d6b094cd11ae9bb1fc3dapparently he didn’t  learn his lesson the first time. He also risked setting the pattern of lying anytime he felt threatened by danger. But God watched out for Abraham, and He does the same for us.

Sin’s poison not only hurts ourselves, but also those around us. No matter how sincere our intentions or love for God may be, all of us are vulnerable to certain temptations. Thankfully Jesus, who endured temptation without sinning, is more than able to help us in our struggles.

God kept Abimelech from touching Sarah and sinning. It may seem at times that God is silent. But He works as much in the invisible realm as He does in the obvious. I wonder how many times God has protected us from sin without us knowing?

Old Covenant Vs. New Covenant, Hebrews 8

Happy New Year! I’m not sure how this past year has flown by so quickly. But I’m sure having two teens and a preteen has something to do with it!

Thank you for your visit(s) and encouragement; I appreciate you! 🙂 I love how God opens our eyes to His truths and rich blessings through Bible Study.

Although I’m a fan of New Year resolutions, I’m trying to stay within Scripture and use the “newness” theme. But instead of picking up with Genesis 20, I’m jumping forward—backwards for us—with an overview of God’s plans and timing through His old and new covenants.

You may read Hebrews 8 here: Bible Gateway.

Why did God initiate these covenants in the first place?

Scripture declares that “the whole world is a prisoner of sin” (Galatians 3:22). So God set into motion a means to provide forgiveness of our sins.

Old Covenant

Fast forward about 450 years from when God gave Abraham His promise (Genesis 17:7, 8). God temporarily remedied our sin problem through His Old Covenant.

Under the old Jewish sacrificial system sacrifices were offered daily for forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 7:12-14).

The law God introduced to the Israelites through Moses included three categories: Ceremonial, Civil, and Moral laws. Although the moral laws still apply to us today (Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-17), the ceremonial laws primarily pointed forward to Jesus Christ.

And although the old laws revealed God’s character and will, they also pointed out our sin. For no one could please God by completely obeying every law. Hebrews 8-9 shows that the old covenant was a shadow of the real Christ. So the old covenant—a covenant of law between God and Israel—are no longer necessary.


New Covenant

Although thousands of years have passed since God gave Abraham His promise (Genesis 17:7, 8), He has never revoked it. He saved Abraham through his faith, and blessed the world through his descendant: Jesus, the Messiah.

His new covenant reaches beyond Israel and Judah to include everyone. Christ offers a new way to forgiveness through faith. And instead of being bound to a temporal, external set of rules He writes His laws on our hearts and minds, reminding us of His words through the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice ending all need for further priests and sacrifices. “He sacrificed for their sins once and for all when He offered himself,” (Hebrews 7:27).

“Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith,” (Galatians 3:11).

Even though time marches on and circumstances change, I love that God remains the same. He doesn’t break His promises. We can be sure of His promise to forgive our sins through Jesus Christ.

Have you entered into this new covenant and enjoyed the better way with free forgiveness and unlimited access to God?

As you reflect on 2015, I hope you’ve evidenced God’s blessings through both the good and difficult times. Next week I will pick up with Genesis 20.