Saturday, February 17, 2024

Hillsdale College: The Genesis Story: Video 3 Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar Narrative

 Lecture 3: Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar Narrative

“The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar illustrates the rivalry and pain that arise as humans struggle with divine promises. In spite of their failings, God remains faithful to His covenant and responds to the suffering of mankind.”

Ch. 15 Story of childbirth-Will Abraham have a male heir as the Lord promised?

VS. 2-6 

-Abram had a desire to have an heir so the setting of Ch. 15 is the  word of the Lord came to talk with Abram.

-In Abram’s frustration and feeling the promise will never happen he speaks to God:

“But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir?”

-notice above that “And Abram said”

Biblical Literature: when a character speaks a line, then the character speaks another line so it says twice that Abram said

-reveals that God didn’t answer his 1st question

-Abram asks 2 questions = Will I have an heir? or Will the prophecy be fulfilled through another line?

-Abram is trying to clarify to God and pushing for God to answer him 

-to me you have given me no seed? 

-then finally God responds

-notice it is urgent to Abram 

Ch. 16

-Abram and Sarah take things into their own hands 

-prose is stunning as it gives so much information in just a few lines

VS. 1-5

-Sarai tells Abram to take the slave girl names Hagar to fulfill the promise God gave to Abram about his heir will come from his loins and his line shall live on like the stars in in the sky

-Sarai blames God for not giving her the heir

-Sarai gave her slave girl to Abraham

-Sarai becomes jealous-blames Abraham for sleeping with her slave girl

Literary Quality: Details are in repetition 

-through repetition it is telling us the story by highlighting what is important there in the text

VS. 2 

-Pray, come to bed with my slave girl

***the issue of relationship is set

-Sarai is the mistress and Hagar is the Egyptian slave girl perhaps I will be built up through her

***the prose is exquisite in showing the relationship as is 

-Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s wife 


- unless you have forgotten reading the text there is repetition on the relationship making sure the reader knows who is who in this story

-the prose is trying to emphasis the precise relationships in the narrative

Twist in the plotline:

-the disaster in the relationship is in the line “and she gave her to Abram her husband the slavegirl as his wife”

-this set up a hierarchy Sarai the mistress, Hagar the Egyptian slave girl, so there is a distinction

-the text set up Sarai still stating the hierarchy that Hagar is below her, but Sarai gave Abram Hagar to be his wife-changes the hierarchy-Sarai and Hagar are now equals

Twist in the plotline: rivalry 

-this set up is the language of rivalry

-relationship gets worse as Hagar gets pregnant

-she conceived and her mistress seemed slight in her eyes as she is not just Abrams’s wife but she is now a mother 

-Sarai is not a mother and Hagar is so the hierarchy has been disrupted

Twist in the plotline: violence

-language of rivalry becomes a language of violence 

-Sarai is angry and confront Abram “let the Lord judge between you and me”

-Abram tells Sarai do what you want with your slave girl-do whatever you think is right

Question: Abram

-as a reader, ask what Abram is doing here?

-Is he relinquishing any responsibility he has to Hagar, the mother of his child? 

-he backed off-what would have happened if he defended Hagar? Abram could have said you cannot get rid of the mother of my child-so not going to end well

-what if Abram is trying to make obvious the relationship that Hagar has with Sarai

-Abram puts the responsibility back onto Sarai-do what you want with you slave girl good or bad is on your shoulders-you do what you think is right

-Abram then backs off


-results are that Sarai harassed Hagar

-Hagar fled from her

-Sarai wants her out of the house-out of this rivalry


-Lord’s messenger found Hagar by a spring of water

-interesting as the next time she flees she is found by a spring of water

-found her by a spring in the wilderness

-Hagar is asked questions but with her original title Hagar, slave girl of Sarai

-messenger reasserts the hierarchy

-she is asked: Where have you come and where are you going? 

-she responds she is fleeing from Sarai my mistress

-she asserts her understanding of the hierarchy 

-messenger tells Hagar to return to your mistress and suffer the abuse by her

-but also reassured her that she will multiply her seed beyond counting

Literary device: Silence

-the messenger speaks to her and there is silence so he speaks to her again

-her silence speaks volumes

-she didn't like what the messenger spoke to her that the messenger hears she is suffering but tells her to go and suffer some more

-you see the proximity of the relationships-Hagar will be part of the family that goes into Israel

Laying out the ancestry line:

-return to your mistress and I have heard of your suffering

-this line captures understanding of her suffering but in her suffering she is given a promise multiplication of her seed

Literary Device: Theme 

-messenger reassures her that she will bore a son and name him Ishmael for the Lord has heeded your seed

-Lord has heeded your suffering so now go and suffer some more

-Abram participates in this rivalry

-Hagar son is Ishmael

-Sarai will have a son Isaac

Ch. 17:15: 

The narrative shifts back to Abram and Sarai

-Sarai name changed to Sarah

-God says to Abraham that Sarai your wife shall not longer call her Saria but her name is Sarah

-God makes a promise that he will bless her by giving her a son and he will be blessed and she shall become nations Kings will come from her

-the promise of generations

-God had reminded Abraham of His covenant

-Then Abraham laughed 

-Isaac’s name means laughter


-rivalry between Sarah and Hagar

-the relationship between Sarah and her son Isaac

-relationship between Abraham and Sarah

-predicated on this one moment of laughter

Subtle literary device: ask why is her laughing

-is it a joyous laughter or laughter of disbelief or skepticism

-Is he laughing because he doesn’t believe it?

-this laughter holds that there is a tension in the narrative 

VS. 18

- I already have Ishmael. Why not just make him a great nation? skeptic

-joyous laughter he asks God not to forget my first born Ishmael-so may he live in God’s favor

Vs. 19-20

-God brings back his covenant

-reassure Abraham that Ishmael will be fruitful and multiply-to him a great nation

-God responds to both the skeptic and joyous

-skeptic-reassures him he will take care of Ishmael

-joy-reassures him that both sons will be blessed 

-returns to Sarah to finish the promise of the blessings to come

Ch. 18: 4

-Angels come to visit Abraham and Sarah

-Vs.10- they ask where is your wife Sarah?

-Abraham says in the tent

-Sarah overhears the promise of a son and she laughs-as she was old with no woman’s flow

-She is skeptical and refers to herself as shriveled and her husband being too old to have seeds left

-Lord hears Sarah and asks Abraham why is it that Sarah laughed 

-Sarah lied and says I did not laugh (maybe not out loud but God heard her thoughts)

-Lord calls her out for lying

-details are coming up:

are a mirror of Abraham's response 

-laughter has come up twice

-Sarah hears she will bare a son but it is biologically impossible

-again skeptical then how is God going to do this biologically impossible birth

-again Joy then expression of great faith in God

-but Sarah laughed inwardly which revealed it is a laughter of scorn but will turn in laughter of joy

-he asks Abraham is anything out of the hand of the Lord? Is anything beyond the Lord

-how will it play out? God is asking Abraham why is Sarah laughing because you too laughed

-God is responding to Abraham’s skepticism by asking him why is Sarah laughing?

-If it a joyful Abraham then you will need to go to your wife and convince her

-she doesn’t believe me so why does she not believe me

-I am God of the promises so go convince her of joy that will be there

-act of great faith for this to happen

-two skeptics in moment of faith to get the blessings

-they both must participate in the joy and belief in the Lord

-overcome their skepticism to get the blessing to come to pass

They do gain that faith

Ch. 21 

-Lord singled out Sarah and did for Sarah as he had spoken

-she conceived and bore a son they named Isaac

-whoever hears will laugh with me

-God has made me laughter

-her son Isaac is the laughter

-reasonable to think her laughter at joy of bearing a son, but worried that people will laugh at her having a son at age of 90

-it is miraculous but in the miraculous can look absurd 

-she can be seen as joyous with laughter or self-conscious at what people will say at her giving birth at such an old age

Twist in plotline: rivalry

-next part is that Isaac and Ishmael grow and Sarah sees Ishmael laughing

-Sarah tells Abraham to remove Hagar and her son 

-calls her a slave girl and her slave girl’s son

-for her son will not inherit alongside my son-the old rivalry is back

-Sarah sees Ishmael laughing, but in this instance it is more like mocking 

-Sarah picks up on the mocking

-so she could fear Ishmael will inherit too much and take over

-or Sarah may be protecting her son from the mocking for a reason

-at first, Abraham sees getting rid of Hagar and her son as evil

Ch. 21:12-13

-God speaks to Abraham to listen to Sarah 

-God reassures Abraham that both sons will be his seed to a nation

-his concerns for Ishmael will be taken care of

-reiteration that both sons will bear a great nation

-Have faith-promises will come to pass

VS. 14

-Abraham does as Sarah asks and sends Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness

-he does this early in the morning

-but when the water dries up she puts her son under the shade of a bush and goes a ways away not wanting to see her son die of thirst

-Hagar weeps

-Messenger comes and promises her that her son will have a great nation

-Messenger opens her eyes so she sees a spring of water and she gives her son water and he grows up in the wilderness

-God hears the child’s cries and responds

-parallel to Cain and Abel when Cain kills Abel and God hears the blood cry out

-God hears our cries

-God hears from us who have faith in him

-He hears those who are lamenting and suffering

-God hears the suffering and responds to the suffering

2 events in order:

-reminder of the promise 1st

-opened her eyes to the water 2nd

-she see the water

-promise of a great nation

-her child will not die

-she gave up a little bit of hope

-resigned him to death

-but she is reminded of the promise

-her eyes open to the truth that her son will not die in the wilderness

-promise to Hagar can’t be fulfilled if he dies

-she must reconnect with God’s promise to her that her son will be a great nation

-the voice of God coming to the father who fears for the death of his child

-simultaneously, knows of the blessing to come

-God’s promise to come 

Literary Device: Repetition

-type scenes-repetition-what ways they differ from another

-Sarah, Rebecca, and Hannah

-what is the role of suffering in our relationship to the divine

-give up something of oneself

-look at book of Job

-those who do good get bad

-those that do bad get good

-Suffering moves from Old Testament to New Testament 

-New testament-Jesus tells them to pick up the cross

-suffering is being asked of them

Ch. 22 Isaac

-parallels here with the binding of Isaac

-Abraham has to have faith in the promise that through Isaac his seed will be a great nation

-Seems like he will lose both sons

-begins with God testing Abraham’s faith again

-offer Isaac as a burnt offering

Backup with history: perspective

-seems to violate many commandments from God

-How can Abraham have a seed over great nation if he murders his son Isaac

-1st reading: there is almost a blind obedience on part of Abraham

-nothing will stop him from sacrificing his son

-he will reveal he is a unique man of faith/believer

-known as a knight of great faith because it is only his own command that violates all these ethical responsibilities as commandments are contradicting one another

-he finds himself in no man’s land and must make the leap

-Abraham’s great faith that he will follow God no matter how horrific it may seem

-2nd reading: straightforward Christian in reading of the text

-Hebrews 11:17 reminds readers of Abraham’s great faith

-It was Abraham’s great faith that he offered up his son knowing full well that God would restore him to life 


-do such a thing not as if it would end God’s promise to him that he would have generations through the line of Isaac 

-faith that God would restore Isaac from the dead

 Christian Logical implications:

1. Follow the reading of Roshi: a medieval rabbi with keen insights on literary words of the text

-1st: Abraham’s word

-Abraham says “Here I am” Hebrew word is Henani

 -Henani is an ethical call to say I am present before you God or even a call to existence; my whole being is before you

-God says take hold of your son

-Abraham says but I have two sons

-God responds your true son; your only son

-Abraham argues but God each one is an only son to his mother

-Ishmael in the background because Abraham loved him very much also

-Abraham loves them both

-God finally says Isaac

Language shifts:

-Now go forth to the land of Moriah

-and offer him up as a burnt offering

-the word offer is Allah

-Allah, here is not to slaughter-verb-to offer up in Hebrew

-Allah has many meanings: simply bring him up, to prepare him as an offering, to offer him fully as a whole burnt offering, all the way from preparing the offering to offering him as a whole burnt offering, whole spectrum of meaning-ambiguity

-talk with Abraham with his son-fear and great faith


-In case you have forgotten Abraham got up early and took his son, Isaac

-moment of emphasis

-you need to feel the connection between Abraham and his son Isaac

-He had already sent his beloved son Ishmael off 

Gen. 22:3-5

-he split wood for offering, rose and went to place God said to go

-after 3 days Abraham said to lads to wait while he and Isaac to go ahead to worship and return to you

Kierkegaard’s reading:

-Abraham goes up to sacrifice his son and walk back down the mountain a murderer, then is he lying to the lads waiting that they will return to you including Isaac

Christian reading:

-predicated on that god would give Isaac back to him so they both come back down the mountain to fulfill the promise


-to prepare his son for the offering in this gesture it need not be a lie

-he took wood and torches up the mountain and a put the wood on his son ready to light the torches

-Isaac says Father and Abraham here I am (Henani) I am present with you

-2nd time language of pure presence with his son

-Isaac questions “Here is the fire and the wood but where is the sheep for the offering?”

-Notice Isaac doesn’t mention the knife or the cleaver

-Abraham responds God will see to it the sheep for the offering my son

This question raised:

-is this some sort of maniacal lie on Abraham’s part? 

-knowing that Isaac will be the sheep for the offering or we are going up the mountain to prepare you for the offering-without the sense of the slaughter of you for the offering

-Is Abraham’s words some sort of trickery?


look at is there something held back from Abraham

-that Isaac knew what was about to happen

-there is a close bonding between them as they head up the mountain

-preparing Isaac for what is about to happen

-Isaac is willful in the knowledge of what is about to happen


-the two of them went together(simple and beautiful) in this gesture of faith to this God who has asked of them to obey in the ambiguous request

Terrifying moment: 

-Abraham built the altar, laid out the wood, bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar on top of the wood


-In case you forgot which son-Isaac-repeated for emphasis

-at the point that Abraham lays him on the altar the test is over but there is still no sheep to sacrifice

Then a shift:

-Abraham took out the cleaver to slaughter his son


-picks up on the word slaughter

-this moment we are taken aback

-he reminds us that the command was not to slaughter his son but prepare him as an offering

-When Abraham raises the cleaver

Twist in plotline:

-messenger calls to Abraham

-Abraham responds with Henani

-here I am in the presence of you Lord

-here I am doing what I thought you have asked of me

-Lord responds: do not reach out your hand against the lad, do nothing to him, for know that you fear God and you have not held back your son, your only one, from Me

-God rejects the slaughter-rejects the sacrifice-

-patriarch Abraham dedicating the next patriarch, Isaac,  into the service of God

-Abraham looked and saw a ram in the thicket

-offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son

-he receives his son back and put the ram in its place as a thanksgiving

-recall the Hagar and Ishmael story-because the scenes are identical

-Just before the moment of the death of the son when Abraham lifts the knife to kill his son that the messenger comes to stop him

-same was when Hagar threw her son under the bush-left him for death even though there was a promise

-parallel: he raised his eyes to see the Ram

-he had not noticed it before

-his eyes opened to see the ram

-Hagar also opened her eyes to see the spring of water 

-the messenger comes to clarify the whole situation


 it is the accuser-satan-who has put up the obstacle of the the Ram so Abraham would follow through with the slaughter of his son

-God opens Abraham’s eyes to see there will be no slaughter of his son so that generations will come from his seed

Gen. 22:14

- Abraham called the name of that place YHWH-yireh meaning “on the mount of the Lord there is sight.”

-clarity and understanding of what God has promised them

1st question-where did the ram come from? 

2nd question-how old was Isaac when this event happened? 

-He is called a lad, but is used for ages 12-30 years old

-Absalom who was in his prime is called a lad

-we think he is a child like 10-12 years old based on paintings portrayal, but we are shocked when we think of him as an adult more like 36 years old

Why?-because in the next chapter

Ch. 23

-we are told that Sarah age was 127 years

-precisely after this event

-she was 90 when he was born so age is important to show how old Isaac was at time of sacrifice 

-if Abraham was 114 and Isaac 14 then awful thinking of tying up a child to make him a burnt offering

-but imagine him being a grown adult

-changes perspective

-he has to submit to the will of his father

-now not only a test of Abraham but of Isaac himself

-Does he trust in his father?

-Trust in his God?

-Is he going to be obedient to his father and God?

-does he understand he is going in the path his father is paving for him

-active passivity

-Isaac must offer himself to his father and to God

-in the future Isaac is seen as a passive character

he is always as acted upon

-even when time to find Isaac a wife, his father sends savant to go and find a bride for his son

Gen. 24: 13-19

-words are given specifically:  Poised by the spring of water-women come to draw water-ask for water for himself and she will also say your camels too-the woman who agrees and does so will become the wife of Isaac

-words had just finished when Rebekah arrived

Literary Device: Poetic

-she first says drink, pauses and your camels too(poetic touch)

Biblical literary type scene: betrothal scene

-it maps out what the relationship will look like

-the betrothal scene between husband and wife

-to give us some understanding of the husband, wife, or both

-ex. Moses finds Zamora when he is a shepherd-he chases away the other shepherds that are harassing her-Moses becomes the Great Shepherd 

-ex. Betrothal scene with Jacob moving a massive rock-Jacob will do anything for his wife Rachel-he served 20 years for her-he is intense in what he does-he strives and keeps pushing

New Testament connection:

-in Christian tradition-it is indicative in Ch. 4-you have Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman by the well-he speaks about her husbands-she becomes a mystical bride of Christ-form of a marriage-she follows him from that point


-Isaac’s character is so passive that he can’t make it to his own betrothal scene

-combined with a woman who is doing this herculean task of watering camels

-It is stunning because of the amount of water needed for one camel can drink

-he is passive and she is unstoppable

Isaac and Rebekah:

-this is going to map out for us what we see in the Jacob and Esau story

-Rebekah on side of Jacob and Isaac on side of Esau

-Rebekah shows Jacob in way of manipulating Isaaac to get the blessing

Why is the phrase “Hineni” so significant in Biblical literature?

-baring of one self in presence to other or God

-I am saying I am responsible to you

-in responding to you being here

-I am here willing to do your will

-circumstances repeated-Abraham tells his son I am here

-responsible to you to hear you in this moment

-it is a religious moment

-I am in your presence son

-Jacob, the son, becomes the liar to his father Isaac

-he uses the word Henani to tell his parent I am here fully when he is not

-going to use Henani as a deception

-marks out the importance of the line living the ethics of the moment

-interactions between characters or the divine

Why do Biblical narratives often begin in the middle of the action?

-quick change of scenes


-it happened after these things

-no in strict chronological order

-use of rough approximation

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