Genesis 19:30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains. . . . He and his two daughters lived in a cave.
At one time they were influential members of a wealthy community but now they were living in a cave. Lot’s daughters were getting older, and feared not having a family. So they got their father drunk, slept with him, and bore his children. Sodom’s culture had clearly shaped their lives.
Two of the most important decisions parents make is how and where to raise their children. Those with every advantage often turn out badly, and those with no advantage sometimes turn out fine. But ordinarily, those who are raised well do better than those who are not. Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6), says Proverbs.
Besides their other mistakes, Lot and his wife raised their daughters in a wicked town. As a result, their family became an incestuous mess. In fact, Lot’s last recorded act was drunken sex with his daughters. This also led to future trouble since their offspring (the Moabites and the Ammonites) became the enemies of Israel. The way of sin is always downhill.
Genesis 20:1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar.
The king of Gerar wanted Sarah for his harem, and Abraham feared for his life. Again he said, She is my sister (Genesis 20:2). This is the same lie he told Pharaoh (Genesis 12:1-20), and may have told to others (Genesis 20:13). This was a serious character flaw, and made Abraham a repeat offender.
We are surprised at Abraham’s lack of moral progress after following God for so many years. I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless (Genesis 17:1), God had said. But Abraham was far from blameless, and did not always live up to what he believed. He had good intentions, but could also be weak.
Other than Jesus Christ, the main characters of the Bible are seldom moral heroes. They had good points and bad points, and needed salvation just like the rest of us. God was patient with Abraham, and even though he failed, he was still called God’s friend (James 2:23). God is patient with us as well, and does not reject us when we fail.
Genesis 20:3 God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken.
The king of Gerar might have made Sarah pregnant, and kept her as his wife, if not for divine intervention. This would have jeopardized God’s promise to Abraham: I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her (Genesis 17:16).
Abimelek claimed that he was innocent because he did not know Sarah was married. Then God said to him in the dream, Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her (Genesis 20:6), said God.
There may have been times Abimelek planned to sleep with Sarah, but lost desire. Or perhaps there was desire, but little opportunity. Somehow, God kept Abimelek from sinning against him for as long as Sarah was in his harem.
And if God did this for Abimelek, how often has he done it for us? Sometimes we have the opportunity to sin, but lack the desire. Or we have the desire, but lack the opportunity. Left to ourselves, there is little we would not be guilty of. But God has often restrained us, and kept us from sinning. If not for God’s restraining grace, the world would be far worse than it is.
Genesis 20:14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him.
Once again God treated Abraham better than he deserved. His lack of faith and obedience could have destroyed his future, as well as God’s plan to bless the world through him (Genesis 12:3). But God’s plan to bless the world depends more on God than it does on us. [I]f we are faithless, he remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13), wrote Paul.
Genesis 21:1 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.
Twenty-five years after the original promise (Genesis 12:2-3), God gave Abraham and Sarah the child they were waiting for. The long wait was not easy, but it deepened their faith and heightened their joy. God’s promises are always worth the wait.
This was the child through whom the world would be blessed (Genesis 12:3), because through him the Messiah would come (Matthew 1:1-2). Abraham and Sarah waited many years for Isaac, and the world would have to wait two thousand more years for Jesus Christ. Isaac came at the very time God had promised (Genesis 21:2), and Jesus was born when the set time had fully come (Galatians 4:4), wrote Paul. God may take longer than we prefer, but he’s always on time.
Genesis 21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.
God had said you will call him Isaac (Genesis 17:19), which means, he laughs. About a year earlier, Abraham and Sarah laughed in disbelief at the idea of having a child at such an old age (Genesis 17:17, Genesis 18:12). But when Isaac was born, Sarah said, God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me (Genesis 20:6).
The laughter of disbelief became the laughter of joy as Abraham and Sarah saw God’s promise fulfilled. Their faith was weak at times, but God was true to his word, and gave them what he promised. Their laughter makes us think of the joy that will be ours when God fulfills his promises to us in the age to come. We will laugh at our former doubts, and be amazed at the greatness of God, who does immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), wrote Paul.
Genesis 21:8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast.
Weaning took place around age three, and was considered a rite of passage, since many died before then. If children lived until they were weaned, they would likely make it to adulthood.
Ishmael was Abraham’s firstborn son, and heir to the family fortune. With all the attention going to Isaac, however, he may have felt his position slipping away. Instead of celebrating Isaac’s weaning, he began to mock him (Genesis 16:12). This was noticed by Sarah, and she reacted strongly.
Genesis 21:10 Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.
Abraham was greatly distressed by Sarah’s demand, but God told him to listen to her, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned (Genesis 21:12), said God. Then he assured Abraham that Ishmael would also become a nation (Genesis 21:13). So early the next morning, Abraham sent Ishmael and his mother away.
God cares about families, and normally wants to keep them together (Malachi 2:14-16). But if we have to choose between family and God, we must always choose God. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37), said Jesus.
Sending Hagar and Ishmael away was one of the most difficult things Abraham ever did. He was not perfect, but God was his highest priority. When God’s will was clear to him, Abraham was willing to obey no matter how difficult. And he is the father of all who believe (Romans 4:11), wrote Paul.
Reflection and Review
What was Abraham’s weakness?
Why did God make Abraham and Sarah wait so long for a child?
Why should we be more committed to God than to our family?