Wednesday

08 November 2017

“The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 119:1-16


Background

There is almost too much in today's passage - a divine visitation to Abraham, the promise of a son (something else Jews, Christians and Muslims have in common) and Abraham arguing with God to reduce God's requirement (mirrored in the Islamic tradition by Muhammad negotiating with God about the number of daily prayers). The appearance of "the Lord" should be regarded as shorthand for the divine messenger - an angel - rather than a prefiguring of Jesus and the three men make up an angelic delegation, rather than a visit by the Trinity.

God seems to be in an argumentative mood as well as Abraham, reporting to Abraham, in the presence of Sarah, the promise of a son. Sarah is more than entitled to laugh (it is supposed to be a humorous story) at the prospect of a miraculous post-menopausal, even geriatric birth of a child (it helps not to take it literally). She may have been an older mother, but the creation of a seemingly impossible child indicates great importance in this family origin story with its promise of life coinciding with the threat of appalling judgement and our realisation that, no matter how the kind-hearted Abraham bargains with God, Sodom and Gomorrah are doomed, with only three people surviving.


To Ponder

  • Why do you think that the Bible never tells us the story of the promise of a daughter?
  • How do you feel about arguing with God?


Bible notes author: 
Julian Bond

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