How many sons did Abraham have?

A Study in Contradictions #2 (refer here for series and reference explanation)

I haven’t forgotten about this challenge, I just haven’t gotten around to typing up my responses in a while. I know there are many of you out there who started following this blog specifically because of this study series, and I hope to be more consistent about this in the future.

The SAB asks the question, “How many songs did Abraham have?” and gives the following options:

A) only one — Heb. 11:17; Gen. 22:2

B) two — Gen. 16:15, 21:2-3; Gal. 4:22

C) eight — Gen. 25:1-2; 1 Chron. 1:32

The biggest part of this question is in the difference between Isaac and Ishmael, Abraham’s two sons. Abram (Abraham’s original name) was promised a son to carry on his line and inherit the promises from God (Gen. 15:4). This promise isn’t fulfilled immediately and, since Abram and Sarai (Sarah’s original name) have free will, they become impatient and take matters into their own hands to make an heir happen.

As was the custom of the day, Sarai, who was unable to have children of her own, provided Abram with an alternative – a selected servant girl who would bear his children and continue the family line. This woman, Hagaar, had a son named Ishmael, but he was not the son God had promised.

We know this because in Gen. 17:15-17 God visits Abraham again and reminds him that he will have a special son. Abraham tries to present Ishmael to God in v. 18, but God says, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him” (v. 19). God clarifies that Ishmael is not the son He had promised before who would inherit Abraham’s covenant with God. (Ishmael did not come directly from God’s power, but was instead the product of man’s own decisions. Isaac came from God’s blessing in allowing Sarah to conceive a child she was otherwise physically unable to have. 21:1)

So Abraham at this point in time has two biological children who are half-brothers to each other, but only one of them is the son promised by God. When God tells Abraham to sacrifice his “only son” in Gen. 22:2, He is referring to this only son of promise, Isaac. Ishmael and Hagaar have also been sent away at this point (21:8-21), so Isaac is also the only son growing up in Abraham’s household at this time to which God could have been referring. (Think about it – if you only have one child in the house and someone says “your son,” do you start looking for other children that may be out in the world or do you look at the one playing in front of you?)

As for the eight sons reference, Abraham went on to have six sons later with his second wife, Keturah, after Sarah has died, making a total of eight sons. Isaac is a grown man and married at this point, so those other sons – and possibly unmentioned daughters – came much later in Abraham’s life.

This supposed contradiction should be easy to understand because if a man today has one son he would say, “I have only one son.” That doesn’t mean he will never have any other sons or other children; it just means he only has one at the time that you asked him. All of the SAB’s offered answers are true – it depends on what time in Abraham’s life you asked him.

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How many generations from Abraham to Moses

A Study in Contradictions #1 (refer here for series and reference explanation)

When you sort the SAB contradictions list by name, as I have done, the third item on the list is a question of how many generations there are from Abraham to Moses. I feel like this is a good first topic because it clearly shows the way a lack of context and historical knowledge can make anything conflict.

The SAB quotes Genesis 15:16 as saying, “and they (meaning the descendants of Abraham) will come back here (to Canaan) in the fourth generation.” The SAB claims this means there are four generations between Abraham, to whom God was speaking here, and Moses, who physically brought the Israelites back to Canaan. The “conflict” given is in the genealogies given in Gen. 21:1-3, 25:21-26, 35:23, Exodus 6:16, 18 and 20. 

The genealogy goes like this: Abraham fathered Isaac (Gen. 21:1-3), Isaac fathered Jacob (Gen. 25-21-26), Jacob had 12 sons, including Levi (Gen. 35:23), Levi had three sons, including Kohath (Exo. 6:16), Kohath had four sons, including Amram (Exo. 6:18), and Amram had two sons – Aaron and Moses (Exo. 6:20). 

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses. Seven generations. The SAB is right.

But didn’t God tell Abraham his descendants would return to the land in four generations?

Yes, he did. This is where history comes in. 

Abraham’s descendants – or at least the main family line of inheritors – lived in the land of Canaan for a long time after God gave that promise. They didn’t leave the land until the famine while Jospeh was in Egypt. (This would be the same generation as Levi, who was one of Joseph’s brothers.) It was then, in Genesis 46 and the surrounding chapters, that the remaining descendants of Abraham left the land of Canaan and went to live in Egypt. 

Now, let’s go back to Gen. 15:16 really quick and back up to verse 13 and go through 16. “Then the Lord said to Abram (the name of Abraham, before he changed it), ‘Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs (Egypt) and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years (roughly four generations). But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you dhall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not complete.'” 

Did you see that? “They shall come back here in the fourth generation…”. Not that this will happen IN four generations from when it was spoken, but that they shall return four generations after they left to go to Egypt. 

The Israelites left Canaan and went to Egypt in the generation of Levi, as we saw in Gen. 46. From Levi to Moses is Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses.

Four generations. 

Genesis 15:16 and surrounding verses do not conflict with the given genealogies.

Who’s talking to you?

Our home congregation here just finished a short gospel meeting with Mr. Sidney White from Florida. His lessons each night were well-presented, however there was one statement in particular that really stuck in my head.

I forget the exact context of this example, but he gave the example of a young college girl that once came to their house in tears over a break-up. She told him and his wife that she had dated several young men and nothing had worked out. She felt that “maybe God was trying to tell her something.”

In response, he asked her,

“Have you ever thought maybe Satan is trying to tell you something?”

He went on to wonder if maybe Satan weren’t trying to tell this young girl – and all young people like her – to lower her standards, settle for less than the best, and look for a mate who might not have the Christian values she was looking for.

Mr. White said, “Sometimes we give God credit for things He doesn’t do.” God wants us to hold on and wait for the good things He has promised for those who obey Him. Satan wants you to give up early and settle for being just short of the goal.

So I know I’m still very young and relatively newly-married, but I would like to say this to those out there who are still looking (and yes, that includes those who might be engaged, because engagements can be broken but marriage is forever):

Hold on to the picture of a Godly spouse found in the Bible and have the strength to wait for him or her. Don’t settle for less because you fear being alone longer than society says is acceptable. It is better to wait than to find yourself yolked to a spouse who will not help you get to Heaven. That voice you hear sometimes, telling you that your standards are too high and you need to relax a little, or that no one else will ever love you if you give this person up, or that you’re getting too old to wait any longer and might as well go for it… that is not the voice of God. That is the voice of Satan, and he wants you to miss out on the joys of a strong Christian marriage and the help of a Godly spouse to get you and your children to Heaven. That is not to say that marriages to non-Christians never work; there are too many examples to the contrary to say that. But you do enter into what could be years of struggle and heartache and hurt until that conversion occurs, and even those who are strong going in run the risk of losing themselves along the way. Be careful, singles. Marriage is not just a pretty ring and social media congratulations and pinterest decorations and professional photos. It’s forever, and that’s a really long time to settle for less than what God has intended for you – which, by the way, is more and different from what you have intended for yourself.

And to those who aren’t looking for spouses anymore, but hear that voice in your head about other things – to accept that job, even though it will take you away from your family and from church services; to sleep in this Sunday morning because you don’t want to wake the kids; to skip church tonight because it’s too cold outside; to lower your standards of integrity and honesty to make a few extra dollars that “won’t hurt anybody”… that is not the voice of God. We must all learn to recognize that voice for who it really is, and for what he is really trying to do. Don’t give credit where credit isn’t due.

Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

We had two and a half more snow days from work last week, and in all the quiet time at home I’ve become strangely obsessed with animal cams.

Through the wonders of modern technology, I can use the web browser on my device to access a webcam attached to a branch hundreds of miles away to watch the apes at the San Diego zoo swing in their trees. They also have panda, elephant, koala and polar bear cameras there too (scroll down). You can watch the giant panda at the National Zoo eat his bamboo, sponsored by Ford Motor Company. The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California, has a webcam above their sea otter enclosure, and yesterday the Mister and I happened to check on them during their zookeeper presentation, so we got to see them being fed and doing tricks for the live zoo audience. I’m sure there are hundreds more, but these are the ones I have bookmarked for the time being, and I feel the need to check on them periodically to see what they are doing with all of their free time.

The camera I am most fascinated by, however, is not at a zoo or aquarium and the animals don’t do tricks for buckets of shrimp.

This camera is attached to a tree in Hanover, Pennsylvania, (wherever that might be) and watches the nest of a pair of beautiful bald eagles. The female is just sitting there now, warming her eggs, which are expected to hatch (according to the website) on or about March 21. You can bet I’ll be watching when I can.

Last night I was trying to think of a reason why I like watching this mother eagle so much, and I realized that it’s a calming sense of focus. This female eagle hasn’t left her nest in weeks – maybe months. She was covered to her neck in snow during the last storm, and still remained at her post. She’s simply sitting, protecting her eggs, with the instinctive knowledge that this is the task of highest importance, and that all other things can wait until this one thing is accomplished.

She isn’t worrying about the state of her nest. She isn’t worrying about what’s for dinner or what anybody else thinks of her personal decisions or appearance. She trusts that her mate will return with enough food to keep her alive; that her babies will develop and hatch as they should, when they are ready; and that the necessities in her life will be cared for. She doesn’t care about the wind or the cold or the cars passing on the road in the distance or the time passing as she waits. She only waits.

Something about that is so reassuring, as I work to finish all my assignments on time. She is propped up on my iPad by the desktop monitor, where I can check on her from time to time, and she is still waiting. Somehow that reminds me that I can slow down and do each task one at a time – I don’t have to be a whirlwind of anxiety at every moment – and everything will get done, even if it’s not all done in the next ten minutes.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34; NIV)

Happy Monday.

Part 2…

I’m not going to post a link every time he updates (at least I’m not planning to at this point), but because of the interest I wanted to let you all know that this blogger is creating additional parts for his original post, which I linked to yesterday. Follow him on wordpress or scroll to the bottom of his blog and follow him via email if you’re interested in his additional thoughts in the coming weeks. 🙂

How I Know My Wife Married the Wrong Person (Part 2).

How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person

Obviously my wife didn’t marry the “wrong” person (haha – get the joke, people), but these are excellent thoughts by somebody that I don’t know, but I already respect just from reading this. Enjoy.

-the missus

How I Know My Wife Married the “Wrong” Person.

Be Careful What You Complain About

So my second “moment of clarity” is actually a series of moments from last Sunday (May 5th). The Mister and I were able to attend church services for the first time here on the island, and I was struck by several things over the course of the morning and evening services.

1. I, as an American Christian, am spoiled beyond belief.

Our taxi drops us off in front of the building and the first thing I notice is that the doors and windows are all wide open. We quickly discovered this is because the building has no air conditioning, which should not have been surprising, since electricity is an incredibly expensive luxury here on the island. The building is stifling hot, despite the ceiling fans and brief breezes from the coast, yet all the attendees are still modestly and respectfully dressed to worship the Lord. The evening service was slightly cooler, but mosquitos buzzed around our heads, a small lizard climbed the wall behind the pulpit and at one point a bat flew in the open door and hunted moths over our heads for several minutes. When was the last time that happened at home?

I won’t say it was all I could think about, because I did enjoy and appreciate the sermon and the worship service, but a prominent thought in my mind throughout was, “What would the little old ladies say about this?” Every congregation has those individuals who want to complain about how hot or cold the building is or how uncomfortable the seating is; we all know who they are. I would just like to remind them, and you, if you are one of those people, to say a prayer of thanksgiving every time someone goes to adjust the thermostat for you. Be thankful you have a thermostat to be adjusted, because so many of our brethren don’t.

2. We, as American Christians, often keep ourselves too secluded.

The doors and windows of this church building are wide open throughout the services. The minister, Brother Prentiss (they all use “brother” and “sister” here), speaks through a microphone, not caring that his words are booming out over Five Points (an outskirt section of Basseterre, the capitol) and might be disturbing someone in a house nearby. Our singing drifts out over the streets and housetops, not caring that someone might be trying to sleep or study. The gospel is for all; the gospel should be shouted from the rooftops; the gospel should not be shut inside a building and only available to those who venture inside.

3. The gospel is everywhere. Christians are everywhere. Christ will not be stamped out and conquered.

The Mister and I were surprised to learn of two St. Kitts congregations and one on nearby Nevis while we were still in the U.S. We go to worship on Sunday morning believing this to be true. There are two other new Ross students there, and two more regularly attending students expected back from break next week. Sunday night, on our way out to the main road to meet our ride to evening services, we are approached by a Ross security guard asking where we are headed. It turns out he is a Christian as well and worships with a third congregation just south of Basseterre. On a piece of land in the middle of the ocean, where we thought there would be few Christians, there is a Sunday school teacher guarding our dormitories.

It turns out there are three congregations on St. Kitts and two on Nevis. The largest, the one we’ve visited, has about 75 people on a good Sunday morning. The others range in size from about 35-50. They are just like our congregations at home. They worship three times a week, have a similar order of services and sing the same songs in the same ways. They have visiting preachers and singing services, and they have social gatherings and enjoy each other’s company (albeit they have potlucks on the beach, whereas we go to SportsCom). They greeted us like family and welcomed us into their arms. We are all connected. God is everywhere.

4. The gospel is still relevant, no matter where you are.

Sunday morning the Mister and I sat in the sweltering heat of the church building and swatted away the constant flies. We listened to the scripture reading and struggled to understand the heavy island accent reading in the King’s English. I thought of the beautiful (air conditioned) buildings of home and missed the beautiful singing. I thought about how coming to all three services might interfere with the Mister’s study and exam schedule, about how much it would cost per week to take a taxi to worship, about how it is hard to concentrate in such heat. I thought these might be good reasons to only worship on Sunday mornings and perhaps study alone in our apartment on the other nights.

Then the sermon was on excuses.

I have been struck on several occasions in my life with the feeling that a sermon was delivered especially for me. This time, the irony slapped me in the face. Satan wants to see if we will use our new surroundings as an easy excuse to drift away from God. If we take these excuses now, what’s to keep us from someday using crying children, hectic work schedules or unwashed dishes as reasons to avoid worship services? Life will always have mountains to climb, but as long as we keep our priorities in order the rest will work out. The Mister may have a lot to study, but if God is first, his schooling will work out. Our money belongs to the Lord first anyway, but if getting to service is the first priority, our finances will work out as well. (And already have, since we’re now on the pick-up list for the various members that run around the island picking people up each week.)

The gospel is the same, no matter where you go. Truth is always truth, sin is always sin, and God is always listening. You just have to be paying attention when He sends His answer.