Thursday 25 June 2009

Bible Book:

] brought him outside and said, 'Look towards heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness." (v.5-6)

Genesis 15:1-18 Thursday 25 June 2009


Sarai's barrenness persists despite God's promise that Abram,her husband, would be the father of a nation (Genesis 12:1-3).Abram laments their lack of a child in a sharp exchange with Yahweh(an ancient name for God). The word translated in Hebrew as'childless' ('aryiyriy) carries connotations of solitariness anddesolation.

Yet Abram chooses to believe in Yahweh rather than trust theevidence. He is not forced to believe. Nor does belief come easy.Look at the strength of his protest in verses 2-3.

Then Yahweh rouses Abram from his bed to look at the stars. Thisassurance of cosmic divine powers links the forthcoming covenant toYahweh's creation of the natural order. The circle in BrianTurner's painting Abraham, God and the Stars (above) reflects this.Sarai's barrenness is not fatalistically 'in the stars' but,rather, will be remedied by their creator.

The following verses are difficult. Some scholars draw attention tohow biblical accounts of covenant, the possession and rule of thePromised Land, and the imagining of Israel, have legitimisedviolent forms of secular government (see Regina Schwarz's The Curseof Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism [Chicago, ChicagoUniversity Press, 1998]).

When the Bible has been used as a manual for politics it hasauthorised nationalism and sanctioned all manner of violence andthe 'cutting' and 'recutting' of identities and geographical areas.In this passage, Israel's identity begins with the cutting of threeanimals and birds for sacrifice.

How then are we to read this text? With what degree of suspicion dowe view the motives hidden in the politics of biblical texts? Whosepolitical interests are served by particular readings of thistext?

Standing in front of this text today, we must surely acknowledgethe distinctive place of Israel in the history of God's savingrelationship with the world. God's covenant with Abram entails anextraordinary promise of blessing.

Yet this is not to the exclusion of God's interest in thewell-being of other nations. Remember the 'table of nations'in Genesis10, and that Abram is the father of many nations. Indeedthrough Hagar's son Ishmael, Abram is regarded by Muslims as theancestor of the prophet Muhammed.

To Ponder

Abram "believed the Lord; and the Lord reckonedit to him as righteousness." Was it rational or irrational forAbram to believe? Or is this the wrong question?

How far is it possible - in the sense of beingresponsible theologically - to thank God for the covenant withAbram whilst recognising also that Abram is the spiritual father ofJews, Christians and Muslims?

Previous Page Wednesday 24 June 2009
Next Page Friday 26 June 2009