New Living Translation, Biblegateway.com
The Birth of Isaac
21 The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would. 3 And Abraham named their son Isaac. 4 Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.
6 And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter.[a] All who hear about this will laugh with me. 7 Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
Hagar and Ishmael Are Sent Away
8 When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. 9 But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac.[b] 10 So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”
11 This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. 12 But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. 13 But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.”
14 So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15 When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards[c] away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears.
17 But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.”
19 Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.
20 And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, 21 and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt.
A Treaty with Abimelech
22 About this time, Abimelech came with Phicol, his army commander, to visit Abraham. “God is obviously with you, helping you in everything you do,” Abimelech said. 23 “Swear to me in God’s name that you will never deceive me, my children, or any of my descendants. I have been loyal to you, so now swear that you will be loyal to me and to this country where you are living as a foreigner.”
24 Abraham replied, “Yes, I swear to it!” 25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelech about a well that Abimelech’s servants had taken by force from Abraham’s servants.
26 “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” Abimelech answered. “I have no idea who is responsible. You have never complained about this before.”
27 Abraham then gave some of his sheep, goats, and cattle to Abimelech, and they made a treaty. 28 But Abraham also took seven additional female lambs and set them off by themselves. 29 Abimelech asked, “Why have you set these seven apart from the others?”
30 Abraham replied, “Please accept these seven lambs to show your agreement that I dug this well.” 31 Then he named the place Beersheba (which means “well of the oath”), because that was where they had sworn the oath.
32 After making their covenant at Beersheba, Abimelech left with Phicol, the commander of his army, and they returned home to the land of the Philistines. 33 Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the Lord, the Eternal God.[d] 34 And Abraham lived as a foreigner in Philistine country for a long time.
Abraham’s Faith Tested
22 Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called.
“Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
2 “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”
3 The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 “Stay here with the donkey,” Abraham told the servants. “The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.”
6 So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, 7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.
9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. 14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[e] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then they returned to the servants and traveled back to Beersheba, where Abraham continued to live.
20 Soon after this, Abraham heard that Milcah, his brother Nahor’s wife, had borne Nahor eight sons. 21 The oldest was named Uz, the next oldest was Buz, followed by Kemuel (the ancestor of the Arameans), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel. 23 (Bethuel became the father of Rebekah.) In addition to these eight sons from Milcah, 24 Nahor had four other children from his concubine Reumah. Their names were Tebah, Gaham, Tahash, and Maacah.
The Burial of Sarah
23 When Sarah was 127 years old, 2 she died at Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron) in the land of Canaan. There Abraham mourned and wept for her.
3 Then, leaving her body, he said to the Hittite elders, 4 “Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.”
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Listen, my lord, you are an honored prince among us. Choose the finest of our tombs and bury her there. No one here will refuse to help you in this way.”
7 Then Abraham bowed low before the Hittites 8 and said, “Since you are willing to help me in this way, be so kind as to ask Ephron son of Zohar 9 to let me buy his cave at Machpelah, down at the end of his field. I will pay the full price in the presence of witnesses, so I will have a permanent burial place for my family.”
10 Ephron was sitting there among the others, and he answered Abraham as the others listened, speaking publicly before all the Hittite elders of the town. 11 “No, my lord,” he said to Abraham, “please listen to me. I will give you the field and the cave. Here in the presence of my people, I give it to you. Go and bury your dead.”
12 Abraham again bowed low before the citizens of the land, 13 and he replied to Ephron as everyone listened. “No, listen to me. I will buy it from you. Let me pay the full price for the field so I can bury my dead there.”
14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “My lord, please listen to me. The land is worth 400 pieces[f] of silver, but what is that between friends? Go ahead and bury your dead.”
16 So Abraham agreed to Ephron’s price and paid the amount he had suggested—400 pieces of silver, weighed according to the market standard. The Hittite elders witnessed the transaction.
17 So Abraham bought the plot of land belonging to Ephron at Machpelah, near Mamre. This included the field itself, the cave that was in it, and all the surrounding trees. 18 It was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate. 19 Then Abraham buried his wife, Sarah, there in Canaan, in the cave of Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron). 20 So the field and the cave were transferred from the Hittites to Abraham for use as a permanent burial place.
The Death of Terah / 2031 or 1865 BC
32 Terah lived for 205 years[a] and died while still in Haran.
A Wife for Isaac
24 Abraham was now a very old man, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 One day Abraham said to his oldest servant, the man in charge of his household, “Take an oath by putting your hand under my thigh. 3 Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. 4 Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.”
5 The servant asked, “But what if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to travel so far from home? Should I then take Isaac there to live among your relatives in the land you came from?”
6 “No!” Abraham responded. “Be careful never to take my son there. 7 For the Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and my native land, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants.[g] He will send his angel ahead of you, and he will see to it that you find a wife there for my son. 8 If she is unwilling to come back with you, then you are free from this oath of mine. But under no circumstances are you to take my son there.”
9 So the servant took an oath by putting his hand under the thigh of his master, Abraham. He swore to follow Abraham’s instructions. 10 Then he loaded ten of Abraham’s camels with all kinds of expensive gifts from his master, and he traveled to distant Aram-naharaim. There he went to the town where Abraham’s brother Nahor had settled. 11 He made the camels kneel beside a well just outside the town. It was evening, and the women were coming out to draw water.
12 “O Lord, God of my master, Abraham,” he prayed. “Please give me success today, and show unfailing love to my master, Abraham. 13 See, I am standing here beside this spring, and the young women of the town are coming out to draw water. 14 This is my request. I will ask one of them, ‘Please give me a drink from your jug.’ If she says, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’—let her be the one you have selected as Isaac’s wife. This is how I will know that you have shown unfailing love to my master.”
15 Before he had finished praying, he saw a young woman named Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel, who was the son of Abraham’s brother Nahor and his wife, Milcah. 16 Rebekah was very beautiful and old enough to be married, but she was still a virgin. She went down to the spring, filled her jug, and came up again. 17 Running over to her, the servant said, “Please give me a little drink of water from your jug.”
18 “Yes, my lord,” she answered, “have a drink.” And she quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and gave him a drink. 19 When she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels, too, until they have had enough to drink.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jug into the watering trough and ran back to the well to draw water for all his camels.
21 The servant watched her in silence, wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission. 22 Then at last, when the camels had finished drinking, he took out a gold ring for her nose and two large gold bracelets[h] for her wrists.
23 “Whose daughter are you?” he asked. “And please tell me, would your father have any room to put us up for the night?”
24 “I am the daughter of Bethuel,” she replied. “My grandparents are Nahor and Milcah. 25 Yes, we have plenty of straw and feed for the camels, and we have room for guests.”
26 The man bowed low and worshiped the Lord. 27 “Praise the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham,” he said. “The Lord has shown unfailing love and faithfulness to my master, for he has led me straight to my master’s relatives.”
28 The young woman ran home to tell her family everything that had happened. 29 Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, who ran out to meet the man at the spring. 30 He had seen the nose-ring and the bracelets on his sister’s wrists, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man had said. So he rushed out to the spring, where the man was still standing beside his camels. 31 Laban said to him, “Come and stay with us, you who are blessed by the Lord! Why are you standing here outside the town when I have a room all ready for you and a place prepared for the camels?”
32 So the man went home with Laban, and Laban unloaded the camels, gave him straw for their bedding, fed them, and provided water for the man and the camel drivers to wash their feet. 33 Then food was served. But Abraham’s servant said, “I don’t want to eat until I have told you why I have come.”
“All right,” Laban said, “tell us.”
34 “I am Abraham’s servant,” he explained. 35 “And the Lord has greatly blessed my master; he has become a wealthy man. The Lord has given him flocks of sheep and goats, herds of cattle, a fortune in silver and gold, and many male and female servants and camels and donkeys.
36 “When Sarah, my master’s wife, was very old, she gave birth to my master’s son, and my master has given him everything he owns. 37 And my master made me take an oath. He said, ‘Do not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. 38 Go instead to my father’s house, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son.’
39 “But I said to my master, ‘What if I can’t find a young woman who is willing to go back with me?’ 40 He responded, ‘The Lord, in whose presence I have lived, will send his angel with you and will make your mission successful. Yes, you must find a wife for my son from among my relatives, from my father’s family. 41 Then you will have fulfilled your obligation. But if you go to my relatives and they refuse to let her go with you, you will be free from my oath.’
42 “So today when I came to the spring, I prayed this prayer: ‘O Lord, God of my master, Abraham, please give me success on this mission. 43 See, I am standing here beside this spring. This is my request. When a young woman comes to draw water, I will say to her, “Please give me a little drink of water from your jug.” 44 If she says, “Yes, have a drink, and I will draw water for your camels, too,” let her be the one you have selected to be the wife of my master’s son.’
45 “Before I had finished praying in my heart, I saw Rebekah coming out with her water jug on her shoulder. She went down to the spring and drew water. So I said to her, ‘Please give me a drink.’ 46 She quickly lowered her jug from her shoulder and said, ‘Yes, have a drink, and I will water your camels, too!’ So I drank, and then she watered the camels.
47 “Then I asked, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied, ‘I am the daughter of Bethuel, and my grandparents are Nahor and Milcah.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her wrists.
48 “Then I bowed low and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master, Abraham, because he had led me straight to my master’s niece to be his son’s wife. 49 So tell me—will you or won’t you show unfailing love and faithfulness to my master? Please tell me yes or no, and then I’ll know what to do next.”
50 Then Laban and Bethuel replied, “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. 51 Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”
52 When Abraham’s servant heard their answer, he bowed down to the ground and worshiped the Lord. 53 Then he brought out silver and gold jewelry and clothing and presented them to Rebekah. He also gave expensive presents to her brother and mother. 54 Then they ate their meal, and the servant and the men with him stayed there overnight.
But early the next morning, Abraham’s servant said, “Send me back to my master.”
55 “But we want Rebekah to stay with us at least ten days,” her brother and mother said. “Then she can go.”
56 But he said, “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful; now send me back so I can return to my master.”
57 “Well,” they said, “we’ll call Rebekah and ask her what she thinks.” 58 So they called Rebekah. “Are you willing to go with this man?” they asked her.
And she replied, “Yes, I will go.”
59 So they said good-bye to Rebekah and sent her away with Abraham’s servant and his men. The woman who had been Rebekah’s childhood nurse went along with her. 60 They gave her this blessing as she parted:
“Our sister, may you become
the mother of many millions!
May your descendants be strong
and conquer the cities of their enemies.”
61 Then Rebekah and her servant girls mounted the camels and followed the man. So Abraham’s servant took Rebekah and went on his way.
62 Meanwhile, Isaac, whose home was in the Negev, had returned from Beer-lahai-roi. 63 One evening as he was walking and meditating in the fields, he looked up and saw the camels coming. 64 When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she quickly dismounted from her camel. 65 “Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?” she asked the servant.
And he replied, “It is my master.” So Rebekah covered her face with her veil. 66 Then the servant told Isaac everything he had done.
67 And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother.
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Questions & Observations
O. (21:12): God seems to be saying that both women are important, but Sarah is Abraham’s wife and he should please her.
O. (21:28): Abraham added 7 ewes to the covenant he made with Abimelech. If you recall in Day 3’s answers, the number “7” signifies completeness.
Q. (22:9-11): It’s hard to imagine Abraham willingly ready to sacrifice his son and Isaac willingly lying on the altar ready to be killed. Abraham’s trust in God has grown since he was afraid of the rulers killing him, a foreigner, and taking his beautiful wife. Abraham willingly sacrificing Isaac foretells God sacrificing his own son?
A. This passage, above all else, demonstrates Abraham’s absolute trust in God’s goodness and direction, even when the direction itself did not make sense to him. Since Abraham had such great trust in God, however, we should understand a few things. Abraham understood that this was the child that God had promised him; all of Abraham’s descendants were going to come from Isaac. So there had to be some way that this was going to be true — God had proven Himself faithful to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience I think reflects this in his decision making. Abraham understood that God was going to provide for him in some way (see 22:8 and 13). Note that when Abraham leaves his servant and he and Isaac continue on together, he uses the word “we” when talking about his return (22:5). He fully expects to return with his son. The writer of Hebrews also points to Abraham’s thinking: that even if he killed Isaac, God was capable of bringing him back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19) and restoring him to Abraham. So there certainly was a great deal of trust in Abraham following God’s commands, but the text implies Abraham believed that the loss of his son would not be permanent.
Q. (22:11) The text says that an Angel of the Lord spoke to Isaac. I always thought it was the Lord himself. Angels seem to have a lot of authority with God. Will we learn more about angels later?
A. The word “angel” means messenger, and it is tough for us to understand that cultural understanding of the ancient messenger. Basically, an official messenger (sometimes called a herald) was seen and treated as though they were actually the king or ruler who sent them; the mindset was that they did not merely speak on behalf of the king, but AS the king (hopefully you can see the difference). In this light, it is more clear what the OT writers want us to understand: a messenger or angel of God should be read as the actual presence of God being there.
This helps explain why sometimes the language gets a bit murky when describing an angel appearing, but God doing the talking (we will see several more examples of this, notably in Exodus 3 in the call of Moses). This appears to be strictly an OT distinction: angels in the New Testament (such as Gabriel in Luke 1) speak on BEHALF of God, rather than as God. Honestly, I am not sure the reasons for this, but it might have to do with a cultural shift in the understanding of the role of angels.
One other note: the concept of angels is not one scripture appears very interested in fleshing out (no pun intended) for us. While scripture makes it clear that angels (and demons frankly) are real, it almost never provides detailed accounts of them. This ultimately is because the focus of the reader should be on God, not on God’s messenger.
Q. (22:18): This is telling of Israel. What is the significance of Israel? Or, do we get into this later? This verse says “all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” What does this say about predestination and the chosen that I have heard about?
A. I think that this question has multiple answers that will unfold over the remaining course of the Biblical story. On one level, we see in Exodus that God describes the Israelites (you’ll see where the name comes from shortly) as a chosen people to show what right relationship with God should look like- this is part of how the Ten Commandments will come into play (more on that later). The problem is that (he he, spoiler alert) the Israelites fail to live up to the promises that they make to God, despite Him remaining faithful. But where Israel fails, God sends the Messiah into the world to succeed where ordinary human fell short. A central theme of Jesus’ ministry is continuing this quest to reunite God and man: Jesus speaks of the ways that people can walk in right relationship with God, and that He himself is at the heart of this message. And since Jesus (the Messiah or Christ) is Jewish or an Israelite, Christians often assume that the promise to Abraham that the entire world would be blessed by his offspring refer to Jesus himself.
Q. (23:5): The Hittites respect Abraham calling him “my lord” and an “honored prince.” Is this because he had favor with God?
A. I think so. Abraham had clearly proven himself a force to be reckoned with (because of God, not because of anything Abraham had done), so that even the elders of other clans and tribes show their reverence for him.
O. (24:26-27): There is a strong respect between the Lord and Abraham. They both serve one another. Abraham’s servants carry the same trust in God as Abraham. Abraham must have been a successful champion for the Lord to his people. I like to see the strong relationship that God makes with his followers and how much He will work for them.
Q. (24:40): Abraham must be in God’s presence a lot if he can say that an angel will be with his servant on his trip to find Isaac a wife? How can Abraham order God’s angels?
A. Perhaps God informed Abraham of the way He would help Abraham’s servant. I don’t think Abraham is bossing any angels around.
Q. (24:48): Why was marrying relatives OK in Bible times?
A. Family relationships (which frankly border on what we would understand to be incest- the married relationship between close relatives) were more common in the ancient world than today. Though I would point out that even in the fairly recent modern world, we see things like closely interrelated monarchies of various countries who intermarry, so perhaps we are not as distant from this situation as we would like.
OK, here’s the bigger picture response: the big problem was not Abraham seeking a close relative for his son to marry; the big problem was intermarrying with the local tribes, which is clear Abraham does NOT want to do. Thus, when presented with the choices of either marrying close kin or intermarrying with other tribes, the choice is clear: Abraham and the generations of Israelites that follow him will choose to “preserve” their ethnic heritage. This will actually become part of the Law: there will be particular commands against intermarrying, again for the purpose of being a nation set apart for God’s purposes.
O. (24:54): Serving meals and washing feet have been shown to be proper ways to serve guests. I like to see the love for the Lord and love of one another displayed throughout Abraham’s extended family.