Lectionary Year A
February 24, 2002
Step IV: Context
A. Primitive Christianity
Genesis 12:1-4a has several parallel verses. They are found in NT according to LOCI CITATI VEL ALLEGATI (p771) in Nestle-Aland.
Acts 7:3-'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'
Hebrews 11:8-By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Acts 3:25-And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.'
Galatians 3:8-The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."
Revelation 1:7-Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.
Hebrews 11:8- By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
B. Old Testament and Judaism
(BD)The first step I took was a word search using the word "Blessing." I found the word hk'r'B. iiis used 24 times. The word is used as a blessing from God and sometimes translated as a present. It is always something that is given in response to obedience for following God's command or given through a birthright, which would be part of the blessing promised to Abram. In our pericope, the blessings and curses all are subordinate to the imperative "Go." The promise of blessing is central to the text. Blessing is used 5 times in the text.
The Encyclopaedia Judaica explained the term blessing was commonly used to express a deity pronouncement of good and evil. Blessings included health, long life, many children, wealth, honor and victory. Curses were wishing an ill fate, such as sickness, death, or having no children.
The Rabbi Berekiah quoted in the Midrash Rabbah wrote "be thou a berekah (pool): just as a pool purifies the unclean, so do thou bring near (to Me) those who are afar. Hitherto I had to bless My world, henceforth the blessings are entrusted to thee: whom it pleases thee to bless, do thou bless."
Within these verses the promise of blessing is central. According to Judaism, "God's blessing is manifested most obviously in human prosperity and well-being; long life, wealth, peace, good harvests, and children are the items that figure most frequently in lists of blessing such as 24:35-36; Lev 26:4-13; Deut 28:3-15" (Commentary).
*Abraham's obedience based on his faith
"The use of the verb upakouein, "to obey," in the context of the call of Abraham is striking because it finds no support in the detail of Gen 12 or elsewhere in Scripture. In fact, upakouein is used only twice in the OT to describe Abraham's response to God (Gen 22:18; 26:5 LXX); both instances denote Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son in obedience to the divine command. Reference is made to Abraham's faithful (pistos) heart in response to the call to leave Ur (Neh 9:7-8 LXX) but not to his obedience" (Commentary).
My brief comment
What kind of blessing do we see?
Abraham was blessed in prosperity, security, and a great nation. He, however, had to experience several terrible things in his life: he had to lie, and his wife, Sarah was taken into Pharaoh's house; Domestic conflict occurred between Sarah and Hagar; Ishmael was born; Abraham lost Lot. Abraham should experience such things although God promised prosperity, security, and a great nation through son to him. Even Acts 7:5 says, "He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendents after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. Does he get nothing from God? I don't know.
Anyhow, do we have to regard only 12:1-4 as blessing or to consider even his whole life as blessing? Did God fail to bless Abraham in some parts? No! His whole life, including all terrible things, should be God's blessing. Nobody can say, "12:1-4 is the only blessing." (God's blessing in 12:1-4 seems to be motivation, which enables him to obey God's command). Therefore, God's blessing should not be limited.
Christian may experience unexpected things such as disease, bankruptcy, or car accident although he/she was blessed by God. Although God never leave form His people as God promised blessing to Abraham, Christian might walk on painful way as Abraham did.
Abraham was not faithful, but God was faithful.
In class, Dr. Johnston said, "Where does the history of human without God emerge to?" when focusing on Gen 11:27-32. I think it is "disobedience." Humans forget God when there is not God in their history. I believe Gen 11:27-32 shows it well. Terah's family, including Abraham, was not qualified to be blessed. God, however, blessed Abraham and let human see God again.
Then, why did Terah settle in Haran? Why did Terah's family stop going to Canaan? Terah (meaning of "to delay or postpone") and his family were people who worshiped other gods according to Joshua 24:2. So Abraham's response may not be "Faithful obedience." His response possibly might be one of normal reactions to gods his family had worshiped. Nevertheless, God called Abraham from there and blessed him. So Abraham was not a faithful person and qualified to be blessed. God, however, was faithful.
C. Hellenistic World
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