Introduction: There are no fossil record, extra biblical support, or other historical evidence for any of the stories in Genesis or Exodus. (As opposed to early New Testament texts, for which we have ample supporting texts written by other folds outside the tradition.) So, the genealogies provided may or may not have any measure of historical accuracy to them, and they are certainly not reliable for establishing timelines or supposed time elapsed. So, it is assumed these stories were passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition in order to reveal how people thought about God and how they imagined their own origins and development. So, it might be a good idea if you are leading a group to start a chart of what we are learning about the character of God and of humans
Student Learning Outcomes:
- Students will understand the story of Abraham and Sarah
- Students will explore what we learn about human nature through this story
Scripture Reference: Genesis 22:1-19
We are introduced to Abraham in the final verse of Genesis 11; his story begins in earnest in Genesis 12. It begins with a command and a promise that God will make a great nation of him and his family.
A few points will bear some explanation:
- God makes a covenant with Abraham (Abram)to make a great nation of him, but God takes a long time to deliver on that promise. In the meantime, Sarah and Abraham take matters in their own hands in multiple ways. Sometimes these efforts have heartbreaking consequences, and we can learn a lot about our own human nature from these stories. (i.e. Hagar/Ishmael)
- God is not always consistent in God’s response to human beings. Sometimes God seems quite frustrated and judgmental (i.e. when Sarah laughs), while sometimes God is quite forbearing (i.e. in his tolerance of Abraham having a son with Hagar and God’s later care for Hagar and Ishmael).
- Once Abraham finally gets his promised son with Sarah, we encounter this bizarre and disturbing story in Genesis 22, in which Abraham is “tested” and asked to sacrifice the very son for which he has waited so long. It may help us contextualize this story to know that first-born children were sacrificed in many of the surrounding cultures as a way to gain favor and power with various deities.
- Springboard Question: Have you ever wanted something really bad, but had to wait awhile to get it? Please share.
- What do we learn about human nature from the stories of Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael? Can you think of situations in your own life when you have taken matters into your own hands? Maybe were impatient about something? What happened?
- What troubles you about this story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22? What are some traditional interpretations of this story? What do those interpretations suggest about Abraham? About God? Do you agree?
- If child sacrifice was likely prevalent in the surrounding cultures at this time, how might it help us to reinterpret this difficult story?
- Does understanding the historical context of this story change your thinking about the story?
- Do you think God requires sacrifice from us? Are there other/better ways to think about loyalty/faithfulness?
- Abraham was called by God even though he was flawed. Where do you think God is calling you?