Bible in a Year – Day 5: You Want Me to Do WHAT?
As human beings, there are a lot of things that we’ll never understand about God. We are simply not capable of fathoming his grandeur, wisdom, logic, etc. And those things which we can’t hope to comprehend have to fall into the category of the “mystery of God.” We encounter some of that mystery in these chapters of Genesis.
First, there is the question of “moral absolutes.” Some would say that everything is set in stone regarding right and wrong, moral and immoral. Others argue that though some things might be set in stone, others are a little more nebulous – something that might be considered wrong in one time and place may not be wrong in another time and place. And so, there are any number of opinions when it comes to the morality of Abram’s actions in this passage.
It seems that almost every sentence in the first six verses of Genesis 16 confronts us with a moral dilemma. Were these things sins, or were they just culturally acceptable practices that God didn’t have a problem with. Let’s take a look at what I’m talking about: In the first six verses, we are confronted with slavery (v. 1), “open” marriage (v. 2), polygamy (v. 3) and abuse (v. 4). In the verses in between, we see Sarai and Abram passing the blame to each other.
Now, I think it’s clear to see that the series of events that transpired, which left an Egyptian slave girl wandering in the wilderness, probably wasn’t a God-ordained solution. The passages also allude to the emotional turmoil that can be caused by people living in these kinds of situations and arrangements. However, it’s interesting to note that there is no mention of God reprimanding or punishing Abram or Sarai for their actions. God doesn’t speak out against slavery, extra-marital sex, polygamy or even the abuse that took place. Now, maybe that’s because it simply wasn’t recorded in the Bible, maybe it’s because God had other things he wanted to work through with Abram and Sarai or, perhaps, as some suggest, the Scriptures have been watered down over the years and filtered through cultural norms. Maybe God did talk to Abram about his actions and we just don’t read about it here.
Whatever the case, the next recorded encounter between Abram and God is one where God expands (or expounds upon) the covenant he made with Abram. He changes his name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah and he asks Abraham to honor the covenant by having himself, every male in his family and every male descendant circumcised. Now, if I’m Abraham, I might be thinking, “Um…you want me to what? To cut off part of my what?” I mean, it’s one thing to do that to a baby, but to a grown man with no anesthesia? Ouch.
WARNING: TMI ahead
Here, again, we see the mystery of God. Why did God require circumcision? He could have chosen just about anything as a sign or symbol of the covenant, so why this? Perhaps, as some have suggested, it was partially a health issue. In order for Abraham’s descendants to be “as numerous as the stars in the sky,” they would have to be sexually healthy. That would mean, of course, that their “parts” would need to be fully functional at all times, without infection or disease. Circumcision, then, is seen by some as God giving his people a slight advantage in the mating game, by having them eliminate that portion of skin which sometimes served as a hiding place for bacteria.
Maybe, as others insist, this was simply a test to see how serious Abraham was about this whole God thing. Or perhaps it was a ritual more akin to a frat boy hazing – an initiation into the family. Whatever the case, circumcision was required by God and we are told that Abraham and his family were circumcised that very day. From that point on, circumcision would become a requirement of the descendants of Abraham and would, indeed, serve as a lasting sign of the covenant God made with his people.
- Bible in a Year – Day 329: Slaves of Righteousness
- Bible in a Year – Day 33: Sin Equation
- Bible in a Year – Day 25: Rulez!
- Bible in a Year – Day 18: Victims of Circumstance
- Bible in a Year – Day 17: Flip-Flopped Blessings
- Bible in a Year – Day 13: Head Servant, Chief Slave
- Bible in a Year – Day 7: God the Provider
- Bible in a Year – Day 6: God’s Refreshing
- Bible in a Year – Day 4: Family Feud
- They Know Not What They Do