SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Genesis 11:10 through 23:20
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2)
The first portion of text for this lesson, Genesis 11:10-26, gives a selective list of ten generations that traces the ancestry of the man Abram, whose name was changed by God to Abraham in Genesis 17:5. The account of Abraham marks a pivotal point in the Book of Genesis. Prior to this time, God had dealt with the entire human race. At this point in Scripture, He centered His attention on Abraham and his family, beginning the patriarchal history.
The themes of separation, faith, and obedience are interwoven threads that can be traced throughout the life of Abraham. God called Abraham from pagan Ur of the Chaldees, which was a well-developed city with approximately 250,000 inhabitants at that time. A call from God always necessitates a choice. Abraham had to forsake the heathen practices of his society, and anchor his faith in the one true God. He had to leave behind his country and all that was secure and familiar, and begin traveling at God’s direction toward a land that was unknown to him. As a result of Abraham’s choice to obey, God established a covenant with him, promising to bless Abraham and make of him a great nation. Then God led Abraham step by step on a fifteen-hundred-mile journey, ending in the fertile region of Canaan where His desire was to establish a moral, God-centered nation through Abraham’s offspring.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- God is generous with His promises, but often those promises are accompanied by conditions. What were the first promises He made to Abraham? What was required of Abraham if he wished to obtain God’s promises? Genesis 12:1-3
God promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation and would bless him, make his name great, and make him a blessing. In order to obtain God’s promises, Abraham had to leave his country and kindred and go to a land that God would show him. Point out to your group that Abraham seemingly did not struggle with the unknown details. He concentrated only on what he understood to do — that he was to leave and head in the direction that God indicated. This always applies to us as well.
You may wish to amplify the class discussion by pointing out that the words “shall” and “will” occur six times in Genesis 12:1-3 and twice more they are implied, thus indicating the certainty of God’s plan for Abraham. Discuss with your class the fact that we can never outgive God. While He may ask us to make what might initially appear to be “sacrifices” for Him, God’s requirements always have valid reasons behind them, and they are always for our benefit. The blessings He bestows when we obey far exceed whatever He requires of us.
- In Genesis 12:6-8, we read of Abraham’s first encounters with the Lord in the new land. What action did Abraham take in his stops at both Sichem and Bethel? What was the significance of his action?
Abraham built altars to the Lord and worshiped Him. Sacrificial altars were used in many heathen religions, but for God’s people, they symbolized communication with the one true God, and memorialized notable encounters with Him. The significance of Abraham’s action revolves around the fact that his altars were built for prayer and worship. Seemingly, he felt a deep need to renew his love and commitment to God on a regular basis. We, too, need to take time on a regular basis to pray, read God’s Word, and worship in God’s house.
Follow-up class discussion could center on specific ways our worship services — which could be compared to Abraham’s worship in these instances — help us to remember what God has done for us. For example, songs of worship help us reflect on the nature of God, the blessings He has placed in our lives, and the spiritual experiences He has given us. Testimonies memorialize notable encounters with Him, and sermons inspire and challenge us to continued obedience. Prayer services offer an opportunity to seek new spiritual ground, renew our consecrations, and enjoy fellowship with God.
- After settling in Canaan, a conflict arose between the households of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 13:2,5-7). Describe the situation, and then identify Abraham’s solution. Genesis 13:8-9
The herdsmen of Abraham and Lot disputed with each other regarding the shortage of available grazing land. To avoid strife, Abraham suggested separation of the flocks. He proposed that Lot choose which section of land he wanted to dwell in, and Abraham and his household would take the other section of land.
Ask your class to offer their thoughts regarding what Abraham’s solution reveals about his character. They should conclude that Abraham was unselfish, generous, peaceable, wise, and kind-hearted — all qualities that we would do well to develop in our own lives. It also shows Abraham’s continual trust in God and His leading. He allowed God to work for him, rather than trusting in his own wisdom.
- After ten years, with no fulfillment of God’s promise of numerous descendants, Abraham began to wonder how it was really going to come about. How did God reassure Abraham, and what was Abraham’s response? Genesis 15:1-6
God reassured Abraham that he would have a son of his own, rather than his eldest servant becoming his heir. Then God showed Abraham the stars and said that his descendants would be as the stars in number.
You may wish to explain that the law prevalent around Haran, where Abraham had lived before departing for Canaan, allowed a childless couple to adopt a servant to take care of them in their elderly years and to attend to their burial. The expectation was that the servant would then inherit the wealth of the family. Eliezer of Damascus, referred to in Genesis 15:2, was a trusted servant who served as Abraham’s household administrator (see Genesis 24) and was also his heir if Abraham died childless. Though Abraham clearly regarded this man very highly, he naturally wanted a son of his own to carry on his lineage.
The Hebrew word chashab that is translated counted in Genesis 15:6 means “to think, reckon, calculate, imagine, to put one’s thoughts together.” God added up everything that Abraham’s belief meant to Him and concluded that it equaled righteousness (Romans 4:1-3).
- In Genesis 17, God appeared to Abraham again and renewed and expanded His covenant. At this time he changed the man’s name from Abram (which means “high father” or “patriarch”) to Abraham (which means “father of a multitude”). What was the significance of the new name, and how did it fit with the expanded promises God gave at that time?
The significance of the new name was that it reinforced God’s covenant with Abraham. It was another indicator that he would indeed become the father of a multitude — he would become the patriarch of the whole Hebrew nation, as well as the Arab nations.
You may wish to follow up with a discussion of how faithful God is to give assurance to those who follow Him. This encounter between Abraham and God seemed to be mainly for that purpose. God does not need assurance, but He knows that we do. Your class members could be encouraged to share times when God has offered them reassurance in personal and individual ways.
- While God was confirming and encouraging righteous Abraham, His judgment was about to be poured out on the unrighteous people who lived in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Why did God tell Abraham about His plans to destroy these cities? What does Abraham’s intercession reveal about his view of God? Genesis 18:16-19; 23-33
God told Abraham about His plans because He had confidence in him, knowing that Abraham would teach his children in a manner that would perpetuate “the way of the Lord” to future generations. What a wonderful commendation — and it came from God himself! Also, God knew Abraham loved Lot like a son and was aware of the younger man’s proximity to Sodom and Gomorrah, so He revealed the danger Lot was about to face, giving Abraham a chance to intercede.
In response to the second question, your group will likely conclude that Abraham clearly had faith in God’s justice and compassion. Abraham was aware that God must punish sin, but he also knew from experience that God extends mercy to sinners.
- After numerous promises, a visit by two angels, and the appearance of the Lord himself, Genesis 21:1-7 records how Sarah finally rejoiced at the birth of a son. How can the experience of Sarah and Abraham encourage us as we wait for our prayers to be answered?
Your group should conclude that Abraham and Sarah’s experience can encourage us to be patient and hopeful when we are waiting for an answer from God. In fact, many times “wait” is God’s answer. Waiting will also help us to grasp the truth that doing the impossible is everyday business for God. Our “unsolvable” problems may not seem so impossible if we let God work out His own solution in His own time.
- In Genesis 22, we observe Abraham’s response to a soul-wracking test of obedience: God instructed him to take his only son, Isaac, into the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering to the Lord. What details in this account emphasize Abraham’s unhesitating response?
He rose up early to do as God had commanded. Abraham and Isaac traveled fifty to sixty miles from Beersheba to Mount Moriah, a three-day journey that required sustained purpose, for no doubt Satan was interjecting all manner of thoughts into Abraham’s mind to try to dissuade him from obeying. Even when Isaac asked about the lack of a lamb for the sacrifice, Abraham’s answer reflected no hesitation.
As your class discusses this account, bring out how heart-wrenching it must have been for Abraham to face slaying his long-awaited son of promise with his own hand. Still, Abraham was steadfast in his determination to obey, even when he did not understand why God would require such an action. Hebrews 11:17-19 offers a further commentary on Abraham’s response.
- What spiritual lessons can we learn from the life of Abraham?
Class responses should provide a good way to conclude your class session. Suggestions may include such thoughts as:
• Obedience will be rewarded.
• God can make the impossible possible.
• God communicates with those who trust in Him.
• It pays to have faith in God.
• God keeps His promises.
Abraham was an example of a righteous man who clung to his faith in the promises of God in spite of impossible odds. The promises originally given to Abraham were eventually reiterated to his son Isaac (Genesis 26:3) and to his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:13). In the New Testament, Abraham is held up as the example of the faith required for the followers of Christ. He is viewed as the spiritual father of faith to all believers (Galatians 3:7-9).