Come home to Calvary
Today begins the program year of the church, even though many of our programs have been going all through the summer. Our choir is back to rehearsing Thursday nights. Adult Education classes will resume after worship. We call it homecoming Sunday here, and it is good to have us back together after vacations and holiday weekends, to be gathered as a community of faith.
We will mostly be preaching this year from something called the Narrative Lectionary, which is a four year cycle of readings that gives you a pretty good overview of the sweep of the biblical story. We start today at the beginning, in Genesis. We’ll read through the Old Testament and prophets in the Fall and then after Christmas, we’ll read through a gospel through Easter. After Easter, we’ll hear from the letters of the New Testament.
It matters that Christians know the stories of our faith. It matters, because as Presbyterian flavored Christians, we believe God speaks to us through scripture, when it is read and when it is proclaimed. It’s why our ancestors in the reformation fought to be sure the Bible would be translated into the languages people actually spoke, rather than hearing the priest read it in Latin.
I think it also matters because a lot of people talk about the bible, and how important it is for our nation to be ‘bible based’, but then they behave in ways that suggest they haven’t read much of it.
And I think it matters we read it in community, because it’s a tricky book. The Bible is a library of stories, written by people from different cultures, languages, and worldviews, compiled over centuries, and translated from the Hebrew and the Greek into Latin, and then into English. If you’ve ever learned another language, you know that a lot of choices are involved in translation.
And so, as 21st century, American Presbyterian Christians, we have to wrassle a bit over what a nomadic person who lived 2500 years ago on the other side of the world meant when they wrote what they did in another language. We need each other. More specifically, we need the Holy Spirit moving between us to help us make sense of scripture.
When children are baptized, we give them a story bible for their parents to read to them. Even if you were able to attend worship each week, that’s only one hour of faith development a week. It’s worth paying attention to in the other 168 hours of your week too.
So we encourage you to read your Bible. If you don’t have one, let us know, and we can get you one. If your kids were baptized somewhere else and you don’t have a story bible for them, let us know that too. We can get you one. If you want to purchase a study bible, but are overwhelmed by what the different translations mean and have questions, let us know.
Next week, we’ll be starting a 9 am Bible Study on Sunday mornings, led by one of the pastors. You can drop in any week you can get here that early. We have a men’s bible study on Monday mornings on zoom and a few different women’s monthly bible study gatherings. You can join one of those groups, or if you want to start your own, we can help with that too.
Maybe you’re thinking you don’t need one more thing to do in your busy life. And I get that. I don’t mean to be adding stress and anxiety to your life. But as a teacher and friend told me once, many years ago, “Marci, if you’re too busy for God, you’re too busy.”
I should cross stitch that and put it on a pillow where I see it all the time.
We’re glad you’re here today. That you’ve taken the time to gather together with other seekers, both in person and online. As we begin at the beginning, a very fine place to start, let us breathe in God’s love and mercy. Let us breathe out God’s love for a weary world. It is good we are here, together.
Today begins a new year in our Narrative Lectionary readings. Beginning with Genesis, we will read through the broad sweep of scripture between now and Memorial Day.
One of the reasons we read scripture every week in worship, and encourage you to read it during the week between Sundays, is that scripture is the story of our Christian faith, and culturally, we have lost the thread of the narrative.
When we don’t know our stories, we don’t know who we are.
Because we are story people.
We experience things in life and then assign meaning to those events by telling stories. The stories we hear and the stories we tell define and shape our world.
As illustration, here are some stories I was told as a child.
–The principal at my elementary school lost vision in one eye. We were told it was because he had run down the hall with a pencil in his hand.
–My shop teacher in junior high would hold up his hand and show us the missing digit of his hand as he told us to be careful using the lathe.
–My dad had false teeth since he was a teen, because he never brushed his teeth.
I think the early story of my life was that adults maimed themselves in order to serve as object lessons for me.
Don’t run with pencils. You’ll poke your eye out.
Pay attention by power tools. You’ll lose a finger.
Brush your teeth or you’ll lose your teeth.
(Fans of Arrested Development might recall J. Walter Weatherman.)
I was a careful child with well brushed teeth.
Twenty or more years ago, when we were taking my dad to have his dentures fixed, young Alden asked why his papa had fake teeth. I told him the story and my dad said, “I guess you can tell him that if you want.” “What else would I tell him, dad?”
Turns out my dad lost his teeth in a fight at a drive in when his face met up with a tire iron.
Now, I see why he didn’t tell us that story when we were children. I trust though, you can also see why it was a little unsettling to hear the actual story after thinking I knew the ‘real’ story my whole life long. I’m also skeptical about what happened to my principal’s eye.
The stories we tell about our lives matter and they shape us. If we only tell what we think are the “good parts” of the story, where we are the heroes, and where we get it right the first time, our narrative is incomplete.
Similarly, if we only tell the stories of how we fail, how we do not belong, how we don’t matter, our narrative is also incomplete. We have to tell the whole story.
Telling the story of our life is also a communal act.
If we live by ourselves in a cave, there wouldn’t be anything exciting to tell about our story, for one thing. But without people to hear the story we have to tell, what is the story worth? To illustrate my point, in our story today, Adam doesn’t speak a single word until Eve exists and he has someone to talk to. Language requires community.
Also, stories are communal because they are mediated and negotiated between people. Last year when my family gathered in Spokane for my mom’s funeral, there was a fair amount of “remember that time when…”
Sometimes, we would all laugh and remember the story. Sometimes, though, I would have no idea at all of what they were talking about. Whatever the story was about was something that held more meaning for them than it did for me.
And sometimes, my reply was “that’s definitely not how it happened.”
We each have a particular story to tell and it matters that we give each other space to share stories and give each other time to listen to stories, even as we allow other people’s stories to be different than ours would be.
And I think it means sometimes we have to wrestle with the stories we think we know. Just because we’ve heard it told one way our whole lives doesn’t make it right. It just makes it true, or real, for us. We decide someone is the bad guy in the narrative because we’ve always been told they are the bad guy. But maybe it was more complicated than that?
And so, as we start through the readings for the Narrative Lectionary today, think about what it means to be people of the story. The story of the Garden of Eden, and of Adam and Eve’s decision to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, has had implications in our lives for thousands of years because of the way the story has been told.
And so I’ve been wondering what the tree of the knowledge of good and evil has for me to learn this time. Because each time I read this passage, it means something different to me, so I’m grateful for biblical stories that are so multivalent.
The Genesis account is a historically loaded text. It has long been used to blame women for all sorts of things, even in the New Testament. The author of 1 Timothy writes in my absolute least favorite passage of scripture:
I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.
Since you just heard the Genesis text read, I trust that you are wondering, “wait, Marci, wasn’t Adam a part of it? Didn’t he eat the fruit too?”
Why, yes. He did. Thank you for noticing. You are correct.
This text is used to keep women from full flourishing in the church. (Well, maybe not so much at this particular church. We’re doing pretty well here. But in other churches). This text is used to support the theological understandings of “The Fall”, where we left a garden of earthly delights for a life of labor in a hard world because of original sin.
But the word “Fall” does not occur in the text. Neither do the words “Original” or “Sin”. And, if you noticed, there was already labor in the garden. God put Adam and Eve in the garden to tend it, to protect it. They weren’t sitting on chaise lounges, drinking pina coladas all day. So the idea of work being a result of the Fall is not correct.
We’ve been telling this story poorly for a long time.
Do you have stories like that in your life too? My story about my high school years was that I was awkward and large and marginally near the popular crowd. And I thought everyone else had it figured out while I was fumbling around and not doing well. And a few years ago at a high school reunion, I commented something to that effect when I was catching up with friends and they all looked at me like I was speaking in tongues.
“What?”, I asked.
“That’s not what you were like in high school at all,” they told me. “You were the one who had it figured out. We all thought you were going to be the President of the whole country. Remember that? You were the one who had it together.”
It was an illuminating moment for me to consider that maybe I’d didn’t know myself quite as well as I’d thought. And that perhaps I’d been telling my story incompletely for a long time. Perhaps my experience of myself was different than other people’s experience of me.
We have to interrogate our stories. Always.
The story that I’ve gone to see again, and again, and again this summer is the Barbie movie. No joke. I’ve seen it in theaters 4 times and was unhappy it wasn’t available for me to watch on the plane the other day. I love this story.
The story in this movie also begins in an Eden.
I read an article by Daneen Akers, where she writes: “Barbie begins in an Eden-like setting where every day is perfect. (Barbie says…) “[Today] is the best day ever. So was yesterday, and so is tomorrow, and every day from now until forever.” Of course, it’s a very pink and plastic kind of Eden with a lot of sparkly outfits and choreographed dance parties, but to the Barbies, this is perfection. Women run everything and the whole of Barbie Land works for the empowerment and fulfillment of the Barbies.
Ken, well—Ken is a helper, a secondary creation. He’s really an accessory to the main creation, and they all know it. Helen Mirren’s narrator even says, “Barbie has a great day every day, but Ken only has a great day if Barbie looks at him.”
By going to the absurd extremes, with actors who brilliantly pull it all off, co-writer and director Greta Gerwig scores hilariously resonant points about the harms and ills of gender inequality.
But then Barbie begins to malfunction. She brings a dance party to a screeching halt, asking if anyone else has had thoughts of death. One morning, her Barbie high heel feet become very human looking flat feet. She wakes up with bad breath. Her toast burns and her milk goes bad.
To deal with her malfunctioning, she’s told she must leave Barbie Land and go to the Real World and fix the problem.
Barbie has a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil moment. Does Barbie choose to stay ignorant of complex emotions and the reality of death by staying in Barbie Land? Or does she choose to step into the real world, with all of its nuances, and pain, and beauty, and death?
Initially, she wants to return to the Eden of ignorance and bliss. But she has to go to Reality to solve the things that are going wrong. Because life is complicated. Full of pain and joy and success and heartbreak, and even death.
In the Barbie movie, Barbie gets to meet her creator. The woman who invented Barbie is played by Rhea Perlman, a comforting Jewish granny, with a heart full of pride and compassion at who Barbie is becoming.
As Akers writes: “She doesn’t control Barbie. She’s curious and even surprised to see the choices Barbie is making as she grows up and decides to become fully human, complex emotions and thoughts of death included.” She also warns Barbie of the consequences of the choice to become human: “Bering a human can be uncomfortable. Humans only have one ending. Ideas live forever.”
In other words, she can stay in the garden of Eden, perfect pink Barbie Land forever, or she can venture out into the world of humans, where people get sick and eventually die, where humans hurt each other, where wars rage and patriarchy rules.
Barbie weighs the consequences. She’s realized that she wants the complexities, and even the thoughts of death, that come with being fully alive. Because the real world is also where the magic happens. Where humans surprise us with kindness and beauty. Where we find community and love. And Barbie also wants creativity, which is a gift of the complexity of human existence. She wants to be “part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that is made.”
If Adam and Eve had stayed in the Garden, and not left it for the ‘real world’, the Bible would have been a much shorter book. And each and every day would have been the perfect day, just like yesterday, and just like tomorrow.
Maybe that has an appeal for us, on some level. Maybe, like Barbie first did, we think we want to stay in Eden and avoid the troubles of life. That maybe we can avoid pain and work. We think “doing it Eve, why’d you have to ruin things for us like that?”
But the ‘real world’ is also where the magic happens, and maybe Eve figured that out in her own way too.
The consequence of eating the fruit was that death became part of human experience.
It is past time for us to stop blaming Eve for humanity leaving the Garden. Leaving the Garden is what really makes us human.
Try as I might, though, I just can’t write a positive story for the serpent. We all know too many serpents in the world, who tell us things that are mostly, or partly, true, but interpreted in such a way that you have to wonder about their agenda.
But then it occurred to me that God put the snake in the garden in the first place. Even in the paradise God creates for us, we get smooth talking hucksters.
Maybe the snake was just playing their part in helping Adam and Eve figure out that to be fully human, we must leave the Garden. Maybe we’ve been misunderstanding the snake all this time.
I’m grateful for the world we live in outside of the Garden, for all its challenges, pain, strife, and snakes. Eve didn’t ruin anything for us. She showed us that life is worth the consequences of living.
It’s okay if you completely disagree with me about this. I recognize that early church leaders like Augustine would be rolling in their grave about what I’ve said. But they also wouldn’t have called me as your pastor in the first place, and they might also be scandalized by other modern inventions we have here, like live-streaming and the pipe organ.
The people who wrote Genesis were trying to make sense of the world they lived in. Why was life hard? Why did childbirth have to hurt so dang much? Why are there snakes and why are we so afraid of them?
The story of the Garden is a story of humans seeking to make meaning of their experience of life. And God enters into our exploration.
Barbie said she wanted to be part of the people who make meaning, and not the thing that is made. Maybe it isn’t either or. We are part of creation. God made us. God made this world in which we live. AND God gave us brains so we can make meaning of our experience.
Jess has made us some swag for today. On the tables outside the sanctuary, and in Calvin Hall for the homecoming lunch today, you can pick up a “Make Meaning” sticker.
Place it where you’ll pass by it during your day, and when you see it, I invite you to remember that you get to be the person who writes your story, who makes meaning out of your experiences. We believe that we know ourselves best in community. So be sure to surround yourselves with people who will help you reflect and interpret the things that happen to you.
The poet Mary Oliver said,
Instructions for living a life.
Tell about it.
And don’t be afraid to leave the garden. It’s a beautiful world out there. Go make meaning, and share it with others.
Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-25; 3:1-8
Adam and Eve
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth[a] and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams[b] came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man[c] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
The Lord’s Covenant With Abram
15 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit[c] my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring[d] be.”
6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
7 He also said to him, “I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.”
8 But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
9 So the Lord said to him, “Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon.”
10 Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other; the birds, however, he did not cut in half. 11 Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away.
12 As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi[e] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”
Hagar and Ishmael
16 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,[f]
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward[g] all his brothers.”
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[h] the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi[i]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
The Covenant of Circumcision
17 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[j]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram[k]; your name will be Abraham,[l] for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[m] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
The Three Visitors
18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord,[n] do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs[o] of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Abraham Pleads for Sodom
16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[p] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[q] 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[r] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
19 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”
3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry[s] his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords,[t] please! 19 Your[u] servant has found favor in your[v] eyes, and you[w] have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.[x])
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
Lot and His Daughters
30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children—as is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”
33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab[y]; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi[z]; he is the father of the Ammonites[aa] of today.
Abraham and Abimelek
20 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, 2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.
3 But 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; she is a married woman.”
4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? 5 Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”
6 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. 7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”
8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.” 10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”
11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”
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. 15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”
16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels[ab] of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”
17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
The Birth of Isaac
21 Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac[ac] to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
8 The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9 But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
11 The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12 But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring[ad] will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”
14 Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba.
15 When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16 Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she[ae] began to sob.
17 God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
20 God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. 21 While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
The Treaty at Beersheba
22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”
24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”
25 Then Abraham complained to Abimelek about a well of water that Abimelek’s servants had seized. 26 But Abimelek said, “I don’t know who has done this. You did not tell me, and I heard about it only today.”
27 So Abraham brought sheep and cattle and gave them to Abimelek, and the two men made a treaty. 28 Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs from the flock, 29 and Abimelek asked Abraham, “What is the meaning of these seven ewe lambs you have set apart by themselves?”
30 He replied, “Accept these seven lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.”
31 So that place was called Beersheba,[af] because the two men swore an oath there.
32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”
13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[ag] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring[ah] all nations on earth will be blessed,[ai] because you have obeyed me.”
19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
20 Some time later Abraham was told, “Milkah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: 21 Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), 22 Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel.” 23 Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milkah bore these eight sons to Abraham’s brother Nahor. 24 His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maakah.
The Death of Sarah
23 Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. 2 She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her.
3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[aj] He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”
5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”
7 Then Abraham rose and bowed down before the people of the land, the Hittites. 8 He said to them, “If you are willing to let me bury my dead, then listen to me and intercede with Ephron son of Zohar on my behalf 9 so he will sell me the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to him and is at the end of his field. Ask him to sell it to me for the full price as a burial site among you.”
10 Ephron the Hittite was sitting among his people and he replied to Abraham in the hearing of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of his city. 11 “No, my lord,” he said. “Listen to me; I give[ak] you the field, and I give[al] you the cave that is in it. I give[am] it to you in the presence of my people. Bury your dead.”
12 Again Abraham bowed down before the people of the land 13 and he said to Ephron in their hearing, “Listen to me, if you will. I will pay the price of the field. Accept it from me so I can bury my dead there.”
14 Ephron answered Abraham, 15 “Listen to me, my lord; the land is worth four hundred shekels[an] of silver, but what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.”
16 Abraham agreed to Ephron’s terms and weighed out for him the price he had named in the hearing of the Hittites: four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weight current among the merchants.
17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. 19 Afterward Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah near Mamre (which is at Hebron) in the land of Canaan. 20 So the field and the cave in it were deeded to Abraham by the Hittites as a burial site.
Isaac and Rebekah
24 Abraham was now very old, and the Lord had blessed him in every way. 2 He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. 3 I want you to swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, 4 but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.”
5 The servant asked him, “What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?”
6 “Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. 7 “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring[ao] I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. 8 If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.” 9 So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.
10 Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim[ap] and made his way to the town of Nahor. 11 He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.
12 Then he prayed, “Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13 See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.”
15 Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. 16 The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again.
17 The servant hurried to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water from your jar.”
18 “Drink, my lord,” she said, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink.
19 After she had given him a drink, she said, “I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have had enough to drink.”
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.