Old Testament Reading Guide – January 30-February 5, 2012

How do I use this reading guide?

Genesis 14:8-24               Lot Lost (Kidnapped) and Found (Rescued)

Evidently there is continual unrest in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah.  A bunch of kings decide to do battle against Sodom and Gomorrah.  Who would ever have thought that Sodom and Gomorrah would become objects of pity, but that is what happens here.   The aggressors, (Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goiim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar –four kings) met for battle against Sodom and Gomorrah and three of their friends in the Valley of Shiddim.  So we have four “bad” kings against five “good” kings meeting toward the southern coast of the Dead Sea.

As the aggressors (the four kings) sweep through the area and put to rout the forces of Sodom and Gomorrah, they carry off anything of value from their enemies which include, in this case, Lot and his family.  Abram is advised of these events from an escapee whereupon he goes into action.  He takes 318 valiant men of war and put Kedorlaomer, Tidal, Amraphel, and Arioch to flight chasing them from well beyond Damascus to the border of Egypt and then back to Mamre (about 20 miles south of Bethlehem).

How did Abram do?
[“He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.” v. 14:16 NIV]

Who is Melchizedek and what did he do?  [see Hebrews 7] What is the significance of this action?
[He is the king of Salem (Peace {Jerusalem}); he brought out bread and wine and blesses Abram.  {Bread and wine become symbols of body and blood as memorialized by Jesus at the Last Supper.}]

What was Abram’s response to what Melchizedek did?
[“Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” v. 14:20b  This is where tithing comes from.]

Abram and the king of Sodom come to an agreement.  What was that agreement?
[The king of Sodom requests only that Abram return the captured people and that he may keep the goods.  Abram only wants “what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me.” v. 14:24a NIV]

Why does Abram limit what he gains from the king of Sodom?
[“I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread of thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’”

Genesis 15:1-11; 17-21                       God’s Covenant with Abram

What is the first thing the LORD says to Abram in this chapter?
[“Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.” v. 15:1]

What is Abram’s complaint?  On what is this complaint based?  Why is he having a difficult time trusting God?
[“O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? … You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” vv. 15:2-3 NIV]

To what is Abram referring when he makes this complaint?
[Re-read Chapter 12:2-3]

What is the LORD’s answer to Abram’s question?
[“This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars – if indeed you can count them. … So shall your offspring be.” vv. 15:4-5 NIV]

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  Verse 6 is one of the most important verses in all of Scripture with respect of righteousness.  It is so important that Paul quotes this verse in Romans 4:3.

Back in Chapter 12 the Lord said to Abram regarding the land of Canaan: “To your offspring I will give this land.” v. 7  We have just seen that “Abram believed the LORD …” how is this at odds with verses 7 and 8?
[“He also said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.’” vv. 15:7  Here the Lord reiterates the promise made in Chapter 12.  As quickly as Abram believes God, he also has his doubts: “O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” v. 8.

The LORD then tells Abram to bring to him “a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.” v. 15:10 (NIV)  “Abram brought all these to him, but cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however he did not cut in half.” v. 15:11 (NIV)

“When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces.  On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.” vv. 15:17-20.

This ritual requires some explanation.  I cite from The Archaeological Bible p. 1251.  This ritual was practiced throughout the Near East ({today’s geography} i.e., Eastern Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, and Palestine.).

“The Hittite Ritual of Passing between the Pieces of a Sacrifice

Jeremiah 34    Jeremiah 34:18-20 refers to Zedekiah’s covenant with God, in which the people passed between the parts of a calf cut in two.  A similar ceremony is described in Genesis 15.  What was the significance of passing between the pieces of an animal that had been split in half?  Ancient texts supply us with several parallels to the Biblical rite.

§ A Middle Hittite text describes a purification ceremony.  This ceremony required defeated troops to march between the severed halves of a human, a billy goat, a puppy and a piglet, with fires burning on each side.  The troops were first to perform the ritual near a river, where they would sprinkle themselves with water as they marched; then they were to enact it in the plain in like manner.

§  In an eighth-century B.C. Aramaic treaty between Ashurnirari V and his vassal Matilu of Arpad, Matilu and his sons are likened to a spring lamb whose knuckle is placed in the mouth of its severed head, lest he should “sin” against the treaty with his lord.

§   Esharddon (680-669 B.C.) of Assyria declared in a treaty that his vassal and the vassal’s children, if he were to break the Assyrian king’s covenant, were to be treated in the same manner as the animals that lay slaughtered and gutted before them.

  The Hittite ritual is similar to its Biblical counterpart, but the Assyrian texts may help us to understand its true significance.  Essentially, these rites served as self-imprecation oaths, by which people called down curses upon their own heads should they fail to keep their part of the covenant they were solemnly ratifying.  The ritual was a way of saying, “May what happened to these animals happen to us if we break this covenant.”  Zedekiah’s covenant symbolized what would befall covenant-breakers.  In this case Zedekiah and his people did break the covenant, and the death and destruction the ritual enacted were indeed the outcome.”

We understand from this passage that the “fire pot with a blazing torch” which passed between the halves of the cut up animals was the LORD.  He was the party which made this covenant with Abram and thus he was the only one bound by it.  By suggestion, if the LORD were to break this covenant, he would be calling down curses upon himself.   According to the local customs, this was a demonstration as to the seriousness of the covenant.


Genesis 16:1-14                        Hagar and Ishmael

Please keep in mind that “Abram believed the LORD …”

What appears to be the problem?
[Both Abram and Sarai believe that Sarai was barren and thus unable to provide Abram with a son.]

What is Sarai’s solution to the problem?
[“So she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children.  Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.’” Gen. 16:2 NIV]

In those days, their custom was that if one slept with another that constituted a marriage contract.

Wouldn’t you know what happened next!
[The servant, Hagar, conceived.]
After the great advice Sarai gave to her husband, whom does she blame for her problems now?
[Her husband Abram]

Sarai is envious of Hagar and begins to mistreat her so much so that Hagar then flees from Sarai.

Who finds Hagar and what advice does he give her?
[The “angel of the LORD” found Hagar and told her to submit to Sarai.]

What promise does Hagar receive?
[“The angel added, ‘I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count. … You are now with child and you will have a son.’” Gen. 16:10, 11 NIV]

What name does Hagar give to the LORD who spoke to her?
[“‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’”  We may infer from this that the “angel of the LORD” was a manifestation of God.]

Beer Lahai Roi =  well of the Loving One who sees me.

Genesis 16:15-17:14               The Covenant of Circumcision

What does Abram name his son? and Why?
[Abram names his son by Hagar, Ishmael which means “God hears”.  This was the name the angel of the LORD told Hagar to name her son when she was crying out in the wilderness.

Chapter 17 opens with an oft-repeated promise.  What is it?
[“I will greatly increase your numbers.” v. 17:1 NIV]

How does the Lord expand upon his promise and how does he confirm it?
[“‘This is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram {“exalted father”}; your name will be Abraham {“father of many”}, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.  I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.’” Gen. 17:4-7 NIV]

How is this covenant described in verses 17:14-15?
[The covenant is one of circumcision.  Every male (born or bought) is to be circumcised on the eighth day of life.  If the boy is not circumcised he is “cut off” from his people.  This covenant is everlasting.]

Genesis 17:15-27          Sarai is Blessed and Gets a New Name

What is Sarai’s new name?  What does it mean?  {It may be indicated in footnotes.}
[Her new name is Sarah meaning princess.]
What does the Lord say here that is so funny (according to Abraham)?
[“I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”  Abraham says to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?  Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”]

*Please keep in mind that “Abram believed the Lord…”

What does Abraham say to the LORD?
[“If only Ishmael might live under your blessing.”  v. 17:18 NIV]

What might one infer from what Abraham says?
[ I have inferred that Abraham thinks that the Lord doesn’t know what he’s doing.  This is a promise that the LORD cannot keep.  Can a man of 100 years have a son?  Abraham wants to “help” God by working around the LORD’s promise by means of Ishmael.]

What name does the Lord tell Abraham to name his son by Sarah?

What does the name mean?  {See the footnote}
[He laughs]

How does the Lord “read” Abraham’s mind by dispelling all of his questions?
[“Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. … But my covenant I will establish with Isaac whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”  vv.  17:19, 21 NIV]

What does Abraham do next?
[He circumcises all the males in his company – those whom he owns and all others.]

How old is Abraham when he does this?  How old is Ishmael?
[Abraham is ninety-nine years old and Isaac is but thirteen.  It may be supposed that the bar-Mitzvah which Jewish boys pass through at age thirteen is taken from this passage.]

Genesis 18:1-16                  Abraham’s Hospitality

The appearance of the three visitors at the opening of this chapter is universally recognized as a manifestation of God.

How does Abraham acknowledge his three visitors?
[He runs toward them (at ninety-nine years of age – this shows that he thought they were very important); he bows to the ground (a not uncommon method of greeting in that part of the world and at that time); and offers them refreshment.  He appears to be greatly honored by these visitors.]

What kind of a feast does Abraham prepare?
[Abraham has Sarah make some bread; he goes to the herd and selects “a choice, tender calf” and has that prepared; he gets curds and milk.  {It must have taken several hours for all this to be done.  I guess his three visitors had no pressing business elsewhere.)

What is their (the three visitors) interest in Sarah?
[“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” v. 18:10]

What is Sarah doing while this conversation is going on?
[She is eavesdropping… and laughs at the notion that she will have a baby by next year.]

What does Isaac mean again?  Do you begin to “get” the Lord’s sense of humor?

What did the LORD then say?  
[Why did Sarah laugh?  {Why not?  That’s what her husband did when he first heard from the Lord that he was going to father a child at ninety-nine.}]

What did Sarah say in response to this?
[“I did not laugh.”  But he said, “Yes, you did laugh” v. 18:15 NIV]

Where were the visitors headed as they left?
[They were headed for Sodom.]

Genesis 18:17-33         Abraham Haggles with the LORD

What privilege does the LORD extend to Abraham?
[He is about to show Abraham what He is about to do.]

What claims about Abraham (and his descendants) does the LORD make?
[That Abraham will become great; that the LORD has chosen him; that Abraham “will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just so that the LORD will bring about what he has promised him.” vv. 18:18-19 NIV]

What exactly does the LORD share with Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah?
[The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that the LORD wants to see it for himself.]

Abraham haggles with the Lord for Sodom.  How well does he do?
[He gets the Lord to spare the city of Sodom from destruction if fifty good men (souls) can be found in the city.  He haggles that number from fifty to just ten.]

Notice the increasing deference that Abraham’s shows as he continues to bargain for Sodom.


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