Yesterday we focused on our relationship with God and dug into the idea that “what we believe about God affects our lives.” Unless we truly believe that God is good all the time, when bad things happen to us, we may struggle and lose our way. As we read through the story of Abram and Sarai, we will build a picture of who they are, including their relationships with God and with each other.
- The Hebrew word rakhamim is most commonly translated into English as “mercy,” according to Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg’s post on Israel Bible Weekly. The singular form, rakhim, looks identical (in Hebrew letters) to the word for womb, rekhem. They seem to share the same root, but this connection is not at all visible in the English language.
Why are we talking about this? Because we are trying to understand Sarai and what it meant to her and to her husband in their culture and historial era. If a woman was able to get pregnant and give birth, it meant that God looked on her with mercy and opened her womb (Luke 1:57-58). In pagan cultures, this view was credited to “the gods” or the personal family gods.
- Food production in Canaan depended on the rainfall each year in the region, and this meant that famine years were common in this arid land. Egypt depended on the annual flooding of the Nile, which made it less susceptible to drought and famine. Famine could also be caused by other natural events, such as destructive hail storms, rain out of season, or destruction of crops by locusts and caterpillars.
Usually drought and famine were temporary and local phenomena, but modern archeologists and geologists have found evidence of a sustained 300-year drought cycle that persisted during the times of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph).
A nomadic lifestyle allowed the residents of the area to move to where there was pasture for their crops and enough water to grow crops and survive.
In the United States and other developed countries of the world, many of us are no longer a part of the agrarian lifestyle. A speaker asked a group in a large coastal city to raise their hands if their grandparents were farmers. Many did. The numbers went down when he asked if any of their parents lived on a farm. Only one or two raised their hands when asked if they had any connection with the growing of food. I live in Iowa, the Midwest, the food belt of the US, and this speaker’s question would show a similar decline in our state’s connection to the land and individual dependence on eating only what we can grow or raise.
Weather for us is mostly a matter of convenience and comfort. We realize how privileged we are to be able to purchase what we want in the local grocery stores, even when it is out of season in our area. Abram and Sarai were dependent on food crops they grew, animals they raised, and what they could trade–not only for themselves but for their whole tribe and dependents.
This way of life may be hard for many of us in the modern era to identify with, but it is important to understand as we read the remainder of Genesis 12.
Coming Alive: God, Abram, Sarai
- What could you add to your character sketch of God that you learned from these verses?
- What has God revealed about Himself to Abram so far?
- In 9 verses, we are told of 3 instances where God talked with Abram. Was there a progression on Abram’s part in these conversations? Clue: review verses 7 and 8.
- What have Abram’s actions revealed about his relationship with God?
- We are only told that Abram took Sarai along for the ride. More on her as we read the rest of the chapter next week.
- Have you spent some time considering what you believe about God’s character?
- How has your family structure, your history, and your experiences colored your understanding of who God is?
I daydreamed (above)some conversations that could have happened between Sarai and Abram. Obviously, they were written from a wife’s perspective, and mixed my century’s ideas of moving with Biblical times. Moving is something I am very familiar with, having lived a maximum of 5-6 years in one place until I was in my 40s–and I’m sure that colors my daydream.
I heard this song yesterday for the first time, and it touched my soul. “Rejoice,” by Andrew Ripp