Vindication, Laughter and New (blog) birth

Vindication, Laughter and New Blog Birth

“To Sarah he said, Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver. It is a sign of your innocence in the eyes of all who are with you, and before everyone you are vindicated.” (Genesis 20:16).

My first entry in a new blog. It seems fitting to connect it to the birth of Isaac in Genesis 21. I’m preaching on Genesis 20-21 this Sunday and so have been absorbed in this passage in the week I am launching the blog.

1          Question:         What’s this blog about?             Answer:            The Bible and us.

First up, a short note about the purpose of this blog. I could spend all day expanding upon this one partly because its purpose will unfold as I write. A key component is to provide opportunity to comment upon Scripture and to give a voice to my reflections. So, without further ado, on with Genesis 20.

I’ve begun with Genesis 20:16 because in my reading of commentary on this chapter I have been struck by how little is said about this verse. What is this ‘vindication’ which Abimelech declares to Sarah? Why is this here and what is going on?

2          What is Genesis 20 here for?

I pulled out Bill Arnold’s commentary to see what he said on the verse. Very little actually. His overview of the two chapters is excellent – lots of gems on the way through. But not a lot on 20:16 basically: ‘after the king duly exonerates Sarah as well (v 16)’ (p 191).

I liked the way that Bill noted the link with the Sodom judgement experience: ‘Will God destroy the people of Gerar as he did the people of Sodom and Gomorrah?’ (p 190) Bill is picking up on Abimelech’s dialogue with God in the dream in verse 4. The reason I liked this is because when I was reading commentary on Genesis 20 I often had this feeling that the events of destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had been forgotten or had no relevance. Genesis 20 is this funny little chapter which slots in between that event and the birth of Isaac. What’s it doing here?

The general sense that I had as I read commentary was it’s just another ‘faith failing’ of Abraham like Genesis 12:10-20. And, at that point, one enters into this huge scholarly debate about sources and the like – I could rant and rave about that whole approach but that would lead to me being diverted in much the way that I have felt commentators have been diverted.

3          Biblical commentators – Hats off to you

At which point I do want to preface all of this with a comment about the commentators especially the ones whom I interact with both in this entry and throughout this blog. I have been reading biblical commentaries for the past 40 years. They have helped me to grow in my understanding of the Bible and I am very thankful to the Lord for the rich blessing of such commentary. After writing and preaching through those years I remain quite amazed by the labour, diligence and insight of these commentators. So, when I come to critique or disagree with any of their viewpoints or arguments I do so with some trepidation. And there are some that I feel quite unworthy to even critique – I am in awe at what they have written and I have learnt so much from them. 

Of course, all of this is the nature of biblical study and the conversations and disagreements which arise. Still, I want to emphasize that where I have conflict or disagreement with a commentator, and where I express my own differing opinion (and I dread that I might perhaps do so too stridently or dismissively which might convey an arrogance rather than appreciation), I do so with humble respect to them. My hat goes off to those who have laboured in writing these commentaries…and I recognise how much I have benefited from them. And, as I present my viewpoints, I am ever aware that I might well find myself ‘eating humble pie’ as my own reading or blog commentary is revealed to be severely lacking or off track. At the end of the day the goal is to give the Lord the glory…and as I blog I’m ever wanting this search for truth to be an expression of the joy which we find in Christ. As I ‘birth this blog’, I join with Sarah in declaring: ‘God has made laughter for me’ (Genesis 21:6).

The advantage of a blog is that one can put the viewpoint out there…and I’m ever mindful that it is quite another step for anyone to end up reading it let alone being interested in it. But in a way that’s quite liberating for me as I can be more chatty in these posts than I would otherwise be. The blog also helps provide a personal discipline in collecting my thoughts together. My prayer is that I will ever be open to correction myself in this search for the truth and meaning of the Holy Scriptures.

4          That said…when it comes to Genesis 20, I reckon that everyone is missing the point.

I have begun this way because of where I have landed in my thinking about Genesis 20. I have been reading the chapter and have read three of the finest commentators on the book of Genesis: Gordon Wenham, Dale Davis, Iain Duguid. I cannot speak too highly of these three commentators. But, on this chapter, I have found this rare moment of disappointment and dissatisfaction. I’ve gone further afield looking at other commentaries…but it’s the same old theme which, to my mind, completely distorts the text of Scripture.

Finding myself up against Wenham, Duguid and Davis – three of the absolute best – I’m feeling way out of my depth. Like a featherweight boxer stepping into the heavyweight championship…I’m in the wrong league. But into the blogging ring I step.

It’s going to take a few rounds…and so next blog post will start off round 1.

Here are my closing teaser questions: If Genesis 20 is about Abraham’s failure of faith then how does that relate to him being a prophet? Why is it Abimelech who is apologising? And why is Sarah vindicated in verse 16? And how does it all connect to Genesis 21?

Join me in the ring in a later post when I argue the case for a different reading of Genesis 20.

Leave a Reply