In Gen 15.1-21, we have the story of what is called the “Covenant between the Parts” or “halves.” The Lord appears to Abraham and says he will be a “shield” (magen) to him. Abraham says he is childless and the Lord says his heir will come from his own body. He then tells Abraham to count the stars (heavenly, spiritual descendants), and said Abraham’s descendants will be many. It was at that point Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. This is the basis for the concept of Emunah (faith, action, confidence).
Then the Lord tells him to bring a heifer, a female goat, a ram, a turtledove and a pigeon. He is told to cut them in half, except the birds. Birds of prey come down on the animals, but Abraham drives them away. This is called the “Covenant between the Halves.” A deep sleep comes over Abraham and a terror and darkness fell upon him. The Lord tells him that his descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. This oppression will include Canaan and Egypt. When the sun had set, a smoking oven (speaks of suffering) and a flaming torch (a “lapid” and term for the Messiah-Hab 3.4; Judges 4.4; Num 21.8)) came between the animals parts. The day this happened was Nisan 15, and this will relate to a day in the future. Exo 12.41 says “And it came about at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” And we know that was Nisan 15, so that is how we know that the Covenant between the Halves took place on Nisan 15.
After this, we have the account of the birth of Ishmael in Gen 16.1-16. Thinking the Lord was going to give him children, and Sarah his wife was barren, Abraham agrees to have a child through her maid Hagar. But this did not work out well at all. The Lord was going to give Abraham and Sarah a child. Abraham is 86 years old when Ishmael is born. Thirteen years later (Gen 17.1-27), when Abraham is 99, God appears to him again. He tells him that he will be the father of a multitude of nations. Kings will come from him, not only Jewish kings, but Edomite, Midianite and Arab kings. This is where the Covenant of Circumcision is established. The the Lord said that Sarah would have a son, and Sarah laughed, so the Lord said his name will be “Yitzak” or Isaac, which means “laughter.” Every time they called his name they would be reminded of this.
So, we will have the first born Ishmael and the second born Isaac. This will be a picture of the first Adam, who did not inherit the kingdom, and the second Adam Yeshua, who will inherit the Kingdom of God. Cain and Seth, Ishmael and Isaac are pictures of this concept, and there will be more pictures of this as we move on like Jacob and Esau, Reuben and Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, plus others, through the Tanak. This is a foundational concept that relates to the redemption.
Gen 18.1.33 tells the story of the destruction of four of the five cities of the plain, Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboiim and Admah. Zoar was spared. Three angels are representing the Lord as “Shaliachim” and they tell Abraham that he will have a son in a year. Which is harder for the Lord, to completely redo the womb for Sarah or to use a young woman and perform a miracle in her womb to bring forth a baby? Abraham entertains his guests, and this chapter is a chapter on hospitality. He “runs” to meet his guests (v 2) and offers to refresh them. He “hurries” (v 6) to tell Sarah to prepare a meal, and “runs” (v 7) to take a calf to prepare for his three guests. They again tell him he is going to have a son, and his name will be Isaac. You will notice in 18.8 that Abraham serves “curds and milk and the calf.”
In verse 16 it says they arose and “looked down” on Sodom. This means a “critical observation.” Then the Lord tells him through the angel who speaks that he is going to destroy the cities. Abraham pleads and prays for them. It is said by the Sages that he was looking for at least ten righteous people in each city, for a total of fifty. Abraham intercedes to ten,and as it turns out, Zoar is spared.
Lot now lives in Sodom and the Lord will deliver him and his family (wife and two daughters that are at home) from destruction. Gen 19.1-38 tells us that two angels (two witnesses) enter Sodom and meet Lot to rescue him. You will notice that Lot is told to take his wife and “two daughters who are here” from the city. His sons-in-law did not believe him because they thought Lot was joking. This tells us there were others in his family who rejected his plea. Lot and family are told to “not look back” and the application is this. They were saved because Abraham interceded for them (v 29) and not because of their own merit. So, they were not allowed to look on the destruction of the wicked, or to witness the suffering that he narrowly escaped from. This is in contrast to Psa 91.8 where it says that the man who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will look on with their own eyes and see the reward of the wicked. We have a picture of the Natzal in Gen 19.17. The verse says that the angels “brought him outside” and it uses the word “yanichuchu” there, and that word means “caused to alight (like a bird).” In other words, they flew them out.
Genesis 20 will deal with Abraham and his dealings with Abimelech, king of Gerar, a Philistine city, and “Abimelech” is not a name but a title meaning “Father is king.” Abraham tells Sarah to say that she is his sister, or relative, which she actually is (v 12, 11.29, 12.13, 20.12). God warns Abimelech not to take her, and protects him from sinning. Abraham explains to Abimelech why he did not say she was his wife, and Abimelech blessed Abraham.
Genesis 21 deals with the birth of Isaac. This is the Torah reading for Rosh Ha Shanah. It says that God “remembered” Sarah and his promise. This reassures us that the Lord remembers his promises. This causes a problem with Hagar and Ishmael, and Abraham must send them away. Abimelech comes and makes a covenant with Abraham because he knows he will be a father of a great nation, and that the Lord is with him. So he makes a covenant that promises that Abraham’s descendants will not make war on Abimelech’s descendants (Philistines). This covenant will play a role in Judges 1.8, 21 because Joshua could not take the east side of Jerusalem because Abimelech’s descendants lived there. This covenant will come to an end because the Philistines attacked Israel in the time of Saul, and David cut off the head of Goliath to show that the covenant was rescinded from that point on.
Now we are going to Gen 22.1-24 for a very important chapter to the Jewish people. This chapter is called the “Akedah” which means the “binding of the sacrifice.” There are many messianic/eschatological concepts here such as time, place, substitution and age of the Messiah and resurrection. This is the most important chapter in the Tanak to the Jewish people. The most important verse is Zech 14.9. The Most important passage is the Shema in Deut 4.4-9 and the most important book is Leviticus, the book of Kedusha. God is going to test Abraham. God knew what Abraham was going to do, but Abraham didn’t. That is true with us. God will test us, not so he can see what we will do, but so that we can see what we will do.
He is told to offer his “only son” and although he had Ishmael, Isaac was the son of the promise. So, what we have is the Lord has chosen Abraham and his descendants,through Isaac, will be the “chosen” people who will bring forth the Messiah who will redeem man and nature. In the lives of these “fathers” we have been discussing, the Lord will “play out” the story of the redemption in their lives.
Abraham is told to go to one of the mountains he will show him in the land of Moriah. Moriah means “Yah is teacher” and it is in the area of Jerusalem. He is told to sacrifice his only son as an Olah (burnt offering), which is to be given with joy or not given at all. This gives us a glimpse into the heart of Abraham. It is to be remembered that this are was inhabited, and Melchizedek most likely lived there. Abraham will go to a mountain that was unoccupied, the future site of the Temple. So, he rose early and went on this journey. On “the third day” he lifted his eyes and “saw the place from a distance.” What did he see? He say the Hebrew letter “Shin” from the place he was standing. The phrase “the place” is an idiom for the Temple (Ha Makom) as we shall see in Chapter 28.
Abraham tells his two young men that went with him to stay there, and he and Isaac would go up the mountain and worship, and then return to them. This shows that Abraham believed that the Lord will resurrect Isaac. He lays the wood (cross) on Isaac and they proceed. Isaac asks, “Where is the lamb?” Abraham says “God will provide for himself the lamb.” They walked on “together” which is “yakdav” in Hebrew and means “one in purpose.” This shows the Father’s part at the cross.
Abraham built an altar, arrayed the wood and bound Isaac. Isaac was around 33 years old at this time and could have resisted. He could have overpowered his father easily, but submitted. He was not a young boy as so many picture this scene, Isaac was a grown man and fits the picture of Yeshua perfectly. As Abraham was ready to slay him as an olah (burnt offering), an angel of the Lord stops him. Now the Lord knows he fears God. Abraham sees a ram caught in a thicket. Tradition says that Abraham’s altar here is where the Temple altar would be. In Hebrew, it says that Abraham looked “westward” (achar), so the ram was where the Temple building would eventually stand.
Abraham called the place, “The Lord will see” or “it will be seen.” What will be seen? The Hebrew word “yiray” means “see” and “shelem” means “peace.” Yiray and shelem together is “Yiray shelem” or Jerusalem” which means God “sees peace.” Jerusalem has seen nothing close to peace yet. But, he saw Yeshua, our “shelem” die as a peace offering on Passover (Passover lambs were peace offerings), and he sees the peace that is coming in the Messianic Kingdom.
We will pick up here in Part 13.