Abraham: The Hinge Point of Genesis

In Genesis, the author has not only repeatedly used specific terms (favor, blessing, cursing, etc.) but he uses them all in such a way that they interconnect across the entire book. I want to show that in this post but I know that this will be difficult without charts—but I’m going to have to make do without them because sometimes folk fall into reading the chart instead of following the argument.

Now, the argument I’m making isn’t a deductive argument (e.g. If p then q. p. Therefore q.) An inductive argument is where one concludes with the most probable answer as reasonable to hold (like you can’t deductively prove that there is someone posting this, but you can inductively support it to make belief in that reasonable).

So, taking a step back to the previous post, you would think that Genesis would be merely a mythology or a history of world events yet the author skips some pretty major characters(e.g. Dinosaurs) and completely ignores other areas (e.g. Chinese culture). Those things, it seems, are not the point of the text. In fact, after the last post I doubt a reader can ever look at Genesis again without thinking about blessings and cursing (and if you took my advice and looked at the book some more you would have believed me about favor and discovered some other things as well (genealogies, the book of the account of X-family).

The author writes his history by cutting the story arc in two. From chapter one to eleven (roughly) he deals with the general history of the world (within the sphere of a specific topic; let the observation stand for now) and for the rest of the book he deals with a history of a family.

This is nothing new; fairly old stuff. But it doesn’t end there.

The first half of the book is punctuated by three “Creation” accounts.

  • The first creation account (1-2:3) is concerned with the very beginning using careful wording and punctuated with the Father’s contingent blessing of his creation. This account covers all.
  • The second creation account (2:4 – 4) starts with the account of the heavens and earth and delves almost immediately into the beginning of man (the jewel of the heavens and the earth)—but it ends with catastrophe. This account focuses on the specific beginning of humanity.
  • The third creation account (5 -11:9) begins with the creation of Adam in the likeness of God and then has a genealogy of death, a flood (resulting in a major catastrophe) and finally a non-dispersing humanity that is forced to disperse at Babel (another catastrophe). This account deals with the broadening, the expansion, of humanity: the people.

The second half of the book begins with another account of creation, the creation of a family

  • The first creation-family account is the genealogy of Shem resulting in Abram (chapters 11:10-23) and a miraculous child (11 – 23) in the midst of several near catastrophe’s
  • The second creation-family account dealing with the promised son Isaac (chapters 24-26) almost ending in catastrophe
  • The third creation-family account dealing with Jacob (Chapters 27 – 50) expanded to Israel (the people), in the midst of several (apparent) catastrophes.

In each story, it is God who is working to preserve in the midst of the catastrophe. God provides (as Father) in story 1; God promises in Story 2; God preserves in Story 3; God promises in story 4; God preserves in story 5; God provides in story 6.

Note the catastrophe’s in the second half of the book:

  • The first creation-family story Abram the Wanderer loses his wife but gets her back, impregnates a servant-girl but she’s not the means of promise and finally God provides Isaac from Sarah just as promised but then seems to approach taking him away—but he provides himself a sacrifice.
  • The second creation-family story Isaac the Settled refuses to bestow the blessing on the proper son and is forced to bestow it and later almost loses his wife as well. But the promises were bestowed just as God had stated, preserving his word to Abraham.
  • The third creation-family story Jacob the Lying Wanderer is living away from the land, in enmity with his brother and finally finds himself in the midst of a famine with a quarter of his boys gone. And yet, at the end, Jacob gains two boys, gains his missing sons and bestows a blessing on them and Pharaoh.

The author goes out of his way to ensure that we see a correlation of Man’s Falling (and Promised Cursing) and God’s Favor (and Promised Blessing). By laying the stories across the material like this, the author is making use of the tools of pattern, structure and thought-flow to ensure that we note their importance and their effect.

Quickly jumping between two parts of the book:

  • The second creation story culminates with mankind being punished and the ground being cursed and this curse being evident as Cain is sent running. It ends with a serious low point: the repeated death of people. This is awful: Adam, the son of God becomes the cause for cursing of the land—and somehow the people, and Cain becomes a wanderer who settles (or builds) a city in opposition.
  • In chapter 11 (the ending of the third creation account )begins with a group of people wanting to make their name great but the first creation-family story in Chapter 12 begins with God wanting to make Abram’s name great by means of promised blessing. Here, Abram, the man of faith, is made a blessing to the people—and to the land—and becomes a wanderer in an unknown land for an unseen inheritance provided by God (recalling God’s provision of the first creation story).

All of this is to underscore that Abraham is the hinge point of the book by which the favor and blessings of God are made evident (1) to Abram, (2)  to the People (meaning [1a] the nations and [1b] the family of Abram) and (3) to the land (meaning both [2a] the land and [2b] the land that God had promised Abram).

Now that last bit I’ll have to substantiate with a long examination of the promises; that’s another post. Also a warning: it’s easy to jump from here to Paul and do some backward reading—but I want to avoid that in light of my Unifying Principle. I’m examining the text as it stands so that when we get to Paul’s use of the text we can see what he’s saying and what he’s not

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