Hello and thank you for sticking with the Daily Bible to this point (or for jumping in now)! Every day is a new opportunity, and if you miss a day feel free to just start again with the group even if you can’t catch up. In my experience of the life of faith, persistence is more important than perfection. Also, I’ve had several days of preaching commitments and now am in Arizona for a week of continuing education, so please bear with the scarcity of my comments in the excellent discussions of our group.
Today’s reading is Genesis 11-14, where we have the curious story of the Tower of Babel, then meet Abram and Sarai, whose family lineage we follow for the rest of Genesis (and in some ways for the rest of the entire Bible). The Tower of Babel is a mythical explanation for why there are so many languages on earth. It bears some of the same hallmarks of the Adam and Eve story—God walking on the earth, for example. Many have seen this as a cautionary tale about human ambitions going too far, and perhaps there’s something of that here. I think it’s more important to note that uniformity of language or custom is less attractive to God than a broad multiplicity of experiences. Diversity of language and human cultures is part of God’s hope for the world, which we might expect from the God who created all the different creatures as possible companions for Adam. It’ll be fun to refer back to this story in October when we look at the Pentecost narrative of Acts 2, which uses some of the same themes of Babel for a new purpose. The genealogies that fill out the rest of Chapter 11 are interesting in that they somewhat match those of Chapter 10 but highlight different descendants. The differences among those two lists make for interesting reflection on the motives of each family historian.
With Genesis 12, we cross over from general, universal stories about humanity in the “prehistory” section of Genesis, zooming in for an extended narrative of Abram, Sarai and their descendants. We’ll have more time to unpack this character Abram (whose name later changes to Abraham), so I’ll try (!) to keep my comments brief. The most noteworthy thing about Abram (and Sarai, whose presence is largely eclipsed but who undoubtedly played an active role) is absolute faith. Abram’s family and he set out in response to God’s call—not knowing where they were going, with only the promise of blessing and the assurance that God would show the way. Abram is not always an honest or nice guy (as his owning of slaves and the time in Egypt demonstrates), but his faith in saying yes to God’s call sets in motion all the biblical story that follows after. We see Abram’s power and influence grow with his possessions, but the story of his separation with Lot emphasizes his chivalry. God remains faithful to Abram throughout, adding the promise of countless offspring (chapter 13) to the earlier promise of land (chapter 12). Abram’s militia defends his holdings and his family, coming to the rescue of his nephew Lot in chapter 14. His unwillingness to accept payment for this rescue is another chivalrous act, and emphasizes again Abram’s total reliance on God. Stories about the mysterious king/priest Melchizedek develop into a long tradition, and we’ll hear about him later in the New Testament book of Hebrews.
For many, this is the first day back to work or school in 2016, so extra thanks for giving Daily Bible some attention as we all slide back into more ordinary time. Have a great week!
Please join discussion of this passage in the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. Tomorrow’s passage is Genesis 15-17. Thanks for reading!