Skip to content
Previous Next
July 2, 2024

Genesis Part 20

This morning we’ll be covering three chapters from Genesis and looking at a repeat (Chapter 20), a miracle (Chapter 21) and a test (Chapter 22).




GENESIS 20:1-22:24

This morning we’ll be covering three chapters from Genesis and looking at a repeat (Chapter 20), a miracle (Chapter 21) and a test (Chapter 22). First we have a repeat. Abraham repeats a previous lapse in judgment. He messes up exactly the same way as he had done before. Back in Genesis Chapter 12 Abraham and family traveled down to Egypt to escape a famine. In Genesis Chapter 20, v 1, Abraham and family sojourn down to Gerar. And just like before, Abraham becomes fearful. His faith wanes. In Egypt previously Abraham had lied about his relationship with Sarah because he was afraid the Egyptians would see him with this beautiful woman and find out that she was his wife and kill him. This was purely human reasoning and, frankly, it showed a lack of trust in God.

Well, in Genesis Chapter 20, some 25 years later, that same story basically repeats itself. This time Abraham misleads the king of Gerar, a man by the name of Abimelech.

READ Genesis 20:1-2

Abraham tells the same lie for the same reason, that Sarah is his sister and not his wife. And it should come as no surprise that it ends up in the same result. V 2 says, “And Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.” Just like before God has to intervene to save Sarah from being defiled.

READ Genesis 20:3-7

God comes to Abimelech in a dream. He basically says, v 3, “Behold, you [Abimelech] are a dead man!” Abimelech is shaken by this divine revelation. He has the same reaction that Pharaoh had. When he finds out that Sarah is the wife of Abraham he confronts Abraham about it.

READ Genesis 20:8-10

Abimelech asks Abraham, v 9, “What have you done to us?” He goes on to chastise Abraham, saying, “You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” So picture this: Abraham, a righteous, God-fearing man is being scolded by a godless pagan king for his wrong actions. Huh! The one difference between what happened down in Egypt and what happens here in Gerar is this next part of the story.

READ Genesis 20:11-13

Abraham defends his actions. He didn’t do that in Egypt. He tells Abimelech (1) he feared that the people of Gerar might be as godless as Sodom and Gomorrah; (2) he feared he might be killed and (3) he justified lying because Sarah is his wife but she is also technically his half-sister, v 12, “the daughter of my father, but not my mother.” So, Abraham tries to justify his actions.

READ Genesis 20:14-18

The end result is the same as before. Abimelech gives Sarah back to Abraham unharmed. In addition, he gives Abraham sheep, oxen, many servants and a thousand pieces of silver. So once again, Abraham messes up. He again shows a lack of faith and yet again God blesses Abraham materially despite his indiscretion.

This story reinforces not only the humanity of Abraham – that he was far from perfect – but also just how blessed he was by God. As a follower of the Most High God, Abraham is continually being shown grace and mercy. It’s certainly not anything he deserves. God is just that good!

Just to follow up on Abimelech, at the end of Chapter 21, which I will not get into, he and Abraham make a treaty that guarantees the control and sharing of the region’s limited water resources. This will go a long way to ensuring they continue to have a good relationship with each other thru the years. So it all ends well with Abimelech and Abraham.

Application from Genesis Chapter 20: God doesn’t expect perfection from us. We are fallible, sinful creatures and like Abraham we will have bad moments or even bad days, lapses in judgment. Abraham no doubt learned and grew from his failures. At some point in our Christian walk we too are going to mess up. But as followers of God we know what we need to do when that happens. Confess our sins, own up to what we’ve done, try to make it right, and then move on, living out our redeemed life by faith. If we do that, God will bless us.

Next we are going to look at a miracle. Back Genesis 18 Abraham and Sarah were told by the LORD Himself that in one year their child would be born. Well, that year has now passed, bringing us to Genesis Chapter 21. 

READ Genesis 21:1-3

“The LORD visited Sarah” indicates that God comes to Sarah and gives her the ability to conceive at the age of 90! Notice the emphasis in this verse – “as HE had said” and “as HE had promised.” God does for Sarah what He said He would do back in Genesis Chapter 17. And God does it in the timeframe that He had said in Genesis Chapter 18 – “at the time of which God had spoken,” one year. Abraham responds in obedience by naming his son Isaac, exactly as God had directed him to do.

READ Genesis 21:4-5

We were told back in Genesis Chapter 17 that Abraham was 99 when God told him that Sarah would conceive and Isaac would be born and then, shortly thereafter, He told Abraham and Sarah that it would happen in one year. Now we see that Abraham is 100 years old. So the miracle happens just as God said and exactly when God said it would.

READ Genesis 21:6-8

Sarah laughs with pure unbridled joy. She shares that laughter with those around her. “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?” Well only God could have known this. Weaning that is mentioned here is the discontinuation of breast-feeding. It is when a child begins to get their nourishment from solid food. In some cases this could extend to a child’s 2nd or 3rd birthdays. Isaac is probably around a year old, maybe two years old, at this time. So that would make Ishmael 15 or 16 years old.

At this point the focus becomes the covenant child Isaac. He becomes the center of attention. It is not just that Isaac is Abraham’s and Sarah’s miracle child, though he certainly is. The main point of emphasis is that Isaac is the one through whom God’s promises to Abraham will be fulfilled. The Abrahamic Covenant hinges on Isaac. Abraham KNOWS this. This is a vitally important point to grasp because soon Abraham is going to be tested on this point to see if he really gets it. I want you to understand something. Abraham knows that Isaac is the child of promise and all God’s promises to him are going to be fulfilled through Isaac and NOT Ishmael. God has made this crystal clear to Abraham. It is my contention that not only does Abraham believe this with his head, but he KNOWS IT!! He believes it with all of his heart.

READ Genesis 21:9-11

Notice that Ishmael is not even mentioned by name in these verses. He is merely called “the son of Hagar” or “the son of this slave woman” or “his son.” There is a literary point in play here. Moses, writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, downplays Ishmael while, as we will read, emphasizes Isaac. Ishmael was last mentioned by name in Genesis 17:26 and will not be mentioned again until Genesis Chapter 25. Meanwhile Isaac is mentioned by name 21 times during this same span.

 The ESV uses the word “laughing” to describe what Ishmael is doing. But his laughter is being done in a jesting or mocking sense. He is belittling Isaac. There is more going on here than just some teenager mocking, teasing or picking on his younger brother. And Sarah sees it. Ishmael poses a serious threat to Isaac. He’s mocking the promised seed, a one or two year old boy now – there is no telling what he might do later! Well, God uses this incident as the catalyst to drive out Ishmael and Hagar. He removes the threat. Naturally, Abraham, who loves his son Ishmael very much, does not like Sarah’s suggestion to “cast out” Hagar and her son. V 11 says that Abraham was very displeased by this.

READ Genesis 21:12-13

God directs Abraham to do what Sarah suggests and here’s why: “for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” Isaac is the child of promise, not Ishmael. The name of the great nation that God will make of Abraham comes through Isaac. He will have a son named Jacob and God will change his name to Israel. And that is the name God will use for his covenant nation. God knows all this already. God goes on to reassure Abraham that He will take care of Ishmael and make him a great nation.

We’re not going to take the time to read the rest of the chapter, but let me summarize. Abraham does as God directs. The next morning he sends Hagar and Ishmael away with food and water. God provides for them in the Desert of Beersheba. God allows Hagar to see a well of water, possibly one of the wells that Abraham had dug, and from that they were able to survive. We find out later in the genealogy of Ishmael, Genesis Chapter 25, that he will go on to have 12 sons as God had predicted in Genesis 17:20. Ishmael will die at the ripe old age of 137. Ishmael now fades from the scene and Isaac becomes the focal point of the Genesis narrative.

God will always come through and act in accordance with His word. He will do what He says He will do. He does it in His time, in His way and thru the people He chooses.

And this brings us to Genesis Ch 22. Isaac is God’s Plan A in the fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham. There is NO Plan B. And just so Abraham knows this for certain, that he really gets it, God has him send Ishmael and Hagar away for good. He just did that. Now He puts Abraham’s faith to the test… 

READ Genesis 22:1-4

God tells Abraham to do something and Abraham does as he is told. Abraham knows that the voice speaking to him is God’s voice and Abraham obeys, just like he has always done in the past. Abraham does not question God. He does not argue with God. Abraham does not struggle with God’s instruction. Abraham simply obeys God. That’s the character of Abraham. He believes God. He is a man of faith.

Well, Abraham responds quickly. Early the next morning he takes Isaac and two servants, the wood for the offering (which he chops up himself) and sets out on the three-day journey to the land of Moriah. Many reputable Bible scholars believe that this location may well be the same mountain where Solomon some 1100 years later, will build his temple. That being the case, this would be the site of the present day Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

READ Genesis 22:5-8

Notice, v 5, what Abraham tells his two young servants. “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” He makes it clear that both he and Isaac will be coming back. Abraham knows this. Don’t miss that statement. It indicates Abraham’s mindset. He knows, based on what God has promised him unconditionally, that a multitude of descendants is yet to come… THRU ISAAC! Knowing this Abraham knows that he and Isaac will be coming back.

As they are walking up the mountain together, Isaac asks Abraham a rather obvious question in v 6: “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” We have everything else, but where’s the sacrificial animal? Abraham answers his son honestly and with complete conviction, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” Abraham firmly believes that God will provide a sacrificial lamb. Abraham knows that somehow, some way, God is going to intervene.

Let’s just stop right here and think about this…one of two things has to happen. Either (A) God will provide an animal before Abraham has to kill Isaac or (B) Abraham will kill Isaac and then God will raise Isaac back to life. Abraham knows that one of these two scenarios has to play out. How does Abraham know this? The same reason I mentioned before, because of God’s promises to Abraham. They will find their fulfillment thru Isaac! Abraham’s reply to Isaac indicates what he either believes or hopes will happen – that God will provide a sacrifice. That being said, Abraham is fully prepared to plunge the knife into Isaac if he has to.

The best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews, again, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, adds this insight into what is going on here in Genesis Chapter 22… “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:17-19). This confirms what I just said about Abraham’s mindset. I’ll comment on the very last part of Hebrews 11:19, about God raising Isaac from the dead, at the end of this lesson.

READ Genesis 22:9-12

Abraham passes the test. Just as Abraham had anticipated, acting in faith, God intervenes, but notice God’s timing… God waits until Abraham has built the altar, placed the wood, bound his son and placed him on the altar. I imagine old Abraham, while he is doing all of this, is looking around the whole time and listening, just waiting for God to do something or say something. But he sees and hears nothing. So, Abraham, after he has everything ready, picks up his knife. The last step of faith… and only then does God speak up.

READ Genesis 22:13-14

Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. He catches it and offers it as a burnt offering to God instead of his son. Notice that it is not a lamb like Abraham had thought, but it IS an animal that God provided for the sacrifice. On that day God provided a ram for the sacrifice. But there would come a day some 2,000 years later near this very same spot where God would provide a lamb for a sacrifice for the sins of the world. John the Baptist pointing to Jesus proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, the Lamb of God, perfect, without spot or blemish, would be crucified on a Roman cross for the sins of the whole world. So, I guess you could say that Abraham was right when he told Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb.”

The test of faith is complete. Well done, Abraham!

READ Genesis 22:15-19.

An angel of the LORD reaffirms the Abrahamic Covenant – the land, the people and the blessing he will be to all the nations of the earth.

I want to go back now to the last part of Hebrews 11:19 – “He [Abraham] considered that God was able even to raise him [Isaac] from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Abraham had earlier ascended the mountain with the intent of offering up Isaac. Abraham knew that if that happened, if he actually offered up Isaac, if he actually had to kill him, that God could and would raise Isaac from the dead. As it turned out, God intervened and provided a substitute, a ram in the place of Isaac.

In the same way Jesus Christ in His death on the cross became our substitute. This is what is referred to theologically as a “vicarious” death – one’s death in the place of another. It should have been ME on the cross. That’s what I deserved! But instead, God’s Son, Jesus, took MY place. He was MY substitute. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) So then, Jesus’s sacrifice was for ME and for YOU. And Christ’s subsequent resurrection was analogous to Abraham's receiving Isaac back alive from the brink of death.

Abraham worshipped God that day just as he had told his two servants he would. So what the writer of Hebrews is telling us a pretty deep and profound truth: Abraham receives Isaac back from the dead, as it were, even though Isaac had not been slain.

There are a couple of applications that I want us to see from this chapter…

(1) Sometimes God tests our faith. James tells us that God tests us, sends trials our way for the purpose of refining our faith and making us more dependent on Him.

(2) It wasn’t just that Abraham had faith. The important thing is who the object of Abraham’s faith was – his faith was in GOD. His faith was based on what God had promised him and knowing that God cannot lie.

And so it is that we can operate fully in faith based on what God has told us in His Holy Word! We can take it to the bank.

GENESIS 20:1-22:24

Table of contents