Bible Genesis As A Whole Establishes Fundamental Essay

Length: 7 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Mythology - Religion Type: Essay Paper: #82003125 Related Topics: Female Circumcision, Descriptive, Exegesis, Coming Of Age
Excerpt from Essay :

Bible

Genesis as a whole establishes fundamental Biblical theology, defining the role of God in the world and God's relationship with and responsibilities to humanity. The establishment of patriarchal rule is a central theme of Genesis, evident in passages like Genesis 17:1-4. Although not Abram's first encounter with God, this interaction highlights several key elements of God's covenant with Abram, elucidates the necessity for total submission to God, and characterizes God as almighty and omnipotent. Also central to this passage is the promise to bless Abram's offspring, thus establishing Abram as the patriarchal leader of two distinct but biologically related lineages: that of Ishmael and that of Isaac. In Genesis 17:1-4, God bestows upon Abram the blessing of being the "father of many nations," and not just one great nation. The difference between God's injunction in Genesis 17:1-4 and the previous promise issued in Genesis 12:2 is powerful and has social, historical, political, and theological merit.

Genesis 17:1-4 underscores the value of procreation and the centrality of patriarchal rule. References to fruitfulness of Abram's household echo prior references to fruitfulness defined as quantity of offspring. As Bray (n.d.) points out, there is a considerable amount of "hope and salvation" embedded within the passage, albeit subtlety. When read in the context of Genesis 17 as a whole, the first four lines indicate that Abram has come to terms with God's power, which is presented as being qualitatively as well as qualitatively different from human power. The chasm between the divine and mundane realms is made abundantly clear.

Precursors to Genesis 17:1-4 include God's initial calling of Abram. Read as a continuous narrative, God is gradually establishing the children of Abram and their descendants as chosen people who are uniquely selected and blessed by God. God's promise plants the idea of faith as being fundamental to the relationship between God and His people. In exchange for faith, God bestows blessing. Genesis 17:1-4 also points out that obedience and submission are on par with faith as primary requisites for the mutuality of the covenant with God. The conversation between God and Abram is far from mutual or bilateral, though. God speaks unilaterally, and in this passage, Abram says not a word. The lack of bilateral discourse underscores the omnipotence of God and the relative weakness of the human being in the cosmological framework of the universe. God has established the order and structure of the universe. The entire Chapter 17 becomes a reaffirmation of the covenant between God and Abram. Its primary purpose is to show the supremacy of God's law over humanity, and how divine law takes precedence over all human law, including the laws governing human desire. After all, before this point in the narrative, Abram had slept with Hagar out of desperation to bear children. Based on Abram's age when Ishmael was born and his age in this passage, Ishmael is thirteen years of age when God delivers His speech in Genesis 17:1-4. Ishmael is therefore coming of age, a significant moment in the life course of a man and especially one that is uniquely blessed by God. Later, God will summarily differentiate between Abram's two offspring, Ishmael and Isaac, by delineating their respective lineages.

The centrality of patriarchy to God's social code also becomes apparent in his speech in Genesis 17:1-4. Sarah and Hagar have been females portrayed as impeding God's law and interfering with Abram. The women cause Abram to usurp God's will, Sarah by being barren, and Hagar for being sexually available. Abram's sexual desire and his desire to fulfill God's will for his offspring lead him to violate God's established heterosexual marriage morality, which might impede Abram's ability to be a good patriarch. Yet God here establishes his forgiveness....

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Abram was "impatient" with Sarah and eager to spawn children, so he has affair with the handmaid Hagar without God's approval (Bray, n.d. p. 1). Rather than censure Abram or withdraw his covenant, God does the exact opposite, which is to strengthen his promise. Abram will not only be the parent of a great nation, but of "many nations." Women are to be mere vessels or tools to be used in the endeavor. Later, God tells Abram that Sarah will conceive in spite of her having been barren up until that point. The immaculate conception of Isaac therefore foreshadows the immaculate conception of Jesus. Moreover, God establishes patriarchy firmly and entrenches it in divine law. Sarah has no control over her body; God and Abram have control over it. It is not even up to Abrahm to impregnate his wife; God must intervene. The imagery signifies a double rape, with both God and Abram controlling Sarah's body.

Clearly, God is more important in human affairs than the human is, raising potent question about the existence of free will. The passage begins with an affirmation of Abram's age, anchoring the incident in chronological time and linking it with prior Abramic narratives. Abram is 99 years old when God approaches him. God approaches Abram, not vice-versa, showing God's power over the human dimension. Abram never has control over God. God introduces himself using the term El Shaddai, or God Almighty. This name of God translates to "strong so as to overpower," (Bible Hub, 2014). The term El Shaddai was one specifically reserved for the patriarchs, revealed especially to them (Bible Hub, 2014). Root terms embedded in the name El Shaddai include "shdd," meaning "to destroy," (Bible Hub, 2014). The term El is a common one used to denote God, and it comes from the Akkadian root "to be strong" or "to be powerful," which means that essentially El Shaddai stresses God's power and destructive capacities using poetic redundancy in the language ("Genesis 17," n.d.). This suggests that God purposely stresses His willingness and ability to destroy creation if His law and will are disobeyed.

Thus, God speaks to Abraham as the almighty, the all-powerful deity and not as a personal God. The passage therefore reveals the inherent contrast between the God of Abram and Christ, who is in and of the world as well as transcendent to the world. Abram's God is fully transcendent and omnipotent, or "almighty." God's presumption of power and direct display of omnipotence follow from Abram's recent disobedient or faithless behavior in which, instead of trusting God would provide for his offspring, took matters in his own hands and slept with Hagar. He "took a wrong turn," notes Deffinbaugh (2004), by "serving God in the power of the flesh, and…acting presumptuously," (p. 1).

Next, God commands Abram to "walk before me." To walk before someone is to approach them as one would a King, foreshadowing the era of the Kings that would evolve from Abram's spawn. Walking before God also represents the relationship between God and His creation. God always has an eye on, and control over, His creation. Using the term "before" rather than, say, "with" establishes a great distance between the "Almighty" God and Abram. Although God chooses Abram as a special man, God implies there is no "closeness" in their relationship (Bible Hub, 2014). Abram is instructed to essentially follow God with all his actions and being.

Walking is a specific term signifying movement and progress. Abram is not to stand before God, but to "walk" before God. The emphasis is on taking action. There is also an implication of "progress" and the "continual realization of God's presence," rather than being a single moment in time (Bible Hub, 2014). God uses the adverb "faithfully" thus introducing for the first time the concept of faith as a specific act and not just a state of being. Abram is told to "walk faithfully," meaning to act in every way out of faith in God. Likewise, God mandates Abram "be blameless." Blamelessness is the condition of freedom from sin, lacking culpability for any unethical behavior. When Abram walks before God, his intentions must be pure.

Then, God will "make" his covenant between Him and Abram. God stresses his active role in human affairs and especially in the affairs related to Abram's offspring. The covenant is between God and Abram, not between God and anyone else. It is not between God and Sarah or God and Ishmael. The covenant is between God and Abram. God's promise to Abram is specific. It is to "greatly increase your numbers." The increase refers to quantity of offspring and their descendants, signifying political and social power. God uses a qualifier, "greatly" to show that the exponential growth will be palpable and potent.

After hearing God's words, Abram "fell face down." His falling may be construed as an involuntary and spontaneous act brought about by God and not by his own volition, or it may be interpreted as an act of submission as through prostration before God. Either way, the act of falling face down symbolizes total and utter submission. The motif of submission would come to signify the people of Ishmael and the covenant of Islam with God, entailing complete…

Sources Used in Documents:

References

Bible: NIV

Bible Hub (2014). Genesis 17. Retrieved online: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/genesis/17-1.htm

Bray, L. (n.d.). The divine prerogative. Retrieved online: http://lukebray.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/the-divine-preogative.pdf

Deffinbaugh, B. (2004). Grasping the great truth of God. Retrieved online: https://bible.org/seriespage/18-grasping-great-truth-god-genesis-171-27
Frethheim, T.E. (2009). Commentary on Genesis 17: 1-7. Retrieved online: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=257
"Genesis 17," (n.d.). Retrieved online: http://www.ibiblio.org/freebiblecommentary/pdf/EN/VOL01BOT.pdf
Harlow, D.C. (n.d.). Creation according to Genesis. Retrieved online: https://www.calvin.edu/academic/religion/faculty/harlow/Creation%20according%20to%20Genesis.pdf


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