Bible in a year: Genesis 17-20

On July 1, I started reading the Bible four chapters per day. Today I am up to

Genesis 17-20

1) Reading Genesis 17 really brings home why the debate over circumcision in the early Christian church was such a wrenching one. Any male who is not circumcised will be cut off from the people. Any male who does not bear this sign of the covenant is not one of God’s people. To live this for centuries and then to be told you are missing the essential point of the thing must have been just incomprehensible to so many people.

2) I love the bit in Genesis 18 where God debates whether to tell Abraham what he is planning on doing with Sodom and Gomorrah. Yahweh says to himself (and us), I’ve chosen Abraham and want him to teach his children and grandchildren the meaning of righteousness and justice, so I will let him in on the plan. I find myself wondering if God anticipated that Abraham would argue with him. Is that the reference to a lesson in justice? God gives Abraham an opportunity to appeal for justice even as Yahweh insists on righteousness.

3) A blow against Greek notions of God’s omniscience: Genesis 18:21. “I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.” So, God did not know about the sin of Sodom but had heard an outcry about it. (Reminds me of Exodus, too.) Is this a call to us for prayer?

3.5) Lot’s daughters. Whoa. I mean. Whoa.


The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time, I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”


2 thoughts on “Bible in a year: Genesis 17-20

  1. Thanks for this. I’m curious—can you expand more on your third point? I’ve always understood that God is condescending to us in the Old Testament when it refers to instances like that, as well as things like God “remembering” his promise.

    1. Please don’t misinterpret these reflections as carefully developed theology.

      I am sure you can interpret those as cases of God condescending to us, but it does not strike me as a necessary interpretation of things. If I start with the notion of who God is before I read the Bible, then I can see all kinds of adjustments, but in Genesis so far we have seen at least three instances of God not appearing “all knowing” — in the Garden of Eden, when Cain killed Able, and here.

      I’m not arguing for God’s limited knowledge, but it does raise interesting questions and issues. For me at least.

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