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All Eyes on Israel
Chapter 1 - What is Your Name?
Page 3 - Abraham and Isaac
(Go Back to Page 2 - Abraham and Sarah)

Now we come to Abraham and Isaac who was the promised son - the story in Genesis 16 - 18. It is evident that the promise was to come through the child of Abram (or Abraham) and his wife Sarah, not Abram and an Egyptian handmaid. That Ishmael was not the right child is more evident when Sarai confesses that what she did was not right.

"And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee." (Gen 16:5)

Ishmael was born and raised in their household. Every time they called him they would be saying: "God shall hear." "God shall hear" come here. "God shall hear" pick up your toys."

It was to be a reminder to them that this was not the son of promise but that the promised son was yet to come. And, of course, this promised son pointed forward to the True Promised Son who was to eventually come through the lineage of Abraham and Isaac. It was also a rebuke to them, in a way, that they had done it their way, not God's way and, of course, they paid a price for it in the family strife they suffered. And, it appears, the world is yet to pay a price for it in the near future.

"God shall hear." It was a name that, in a sense, reflected their character, because they had gone and done it their way instead of waiting for the Lord. It was also a reminder that God had heard their plea and would answer. But they had to wait. It was both a test and a builder of their faith. And they waited several years.

"And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram." (Gen 16:16)

Years later, God again appeared to Abram and repeated the promise. Referring to Sarai, He said:

"And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" (Gen 17:16-17)

So Ishmael was 14 years old when his half-brother Isaac was born. When the promise was given to them that they would have a son, Abraham's reaction to the promise wast to laugh. Then, in Genesis 18, three men visited the old couple and again promised the birth of their son.

"And he [Abraham] lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground (Gen 18:2)
"And he [the messenger] said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed ..." (Gen 18:10-12)

What was Sarah's reaction when she heard this? - she laughed. When God appeared to Abram earlier to repeat the promise He did something else very significant - He changed the names of both Abram and his wife Sarai. A change that would reflect their reaction to his promise. At least in English it does and I don't know if this is significant or not in God's plan but it might help you to remember the change in their names and their reaction.

God changed Abram's name from Abram which means "the father is exalted" to Abraham which means "father of a multitude."

"Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee." (Gen 17:5)

Sarai's name was also changed from Sarai which means "my princess" to Sarah which means "a princess."

"And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be." (Gen 17:15)
This is not much of a change and doesn't look very significant. But in English something very interesting happens:

  1. "Sarai" - "i" + "h" = "Sarah,"
  2. "Abram" + "ah" = "Abraham,"
  3. take away "i" (I'll do it my way, thank you) and
  4. add "hah" because they laughed in their doubt of God's promise.

These changes were made before they had their reaction - God, who knows all things, can do this. It is also very interesting that a similar change happens in the Hebrew (opens in new window).

Abraham and Sarah finally had the promised son who was named Isaac which means laughter. Every time Abraham or Sarah said their sons name "Isaac" they were saying "laughter." "Laughter, come here." "Laughter, do your school work." They were constantly reminded of their doubt of God's promise and of God's ability to perform His promises. It would have been a gentle rebuke to them of their reaction to the promise and a constant reminder to Abraham. And Isaac grew up and married Rebekah which means "ensnarer."

And so we have, in the story of Abraham and Isaac, a lesson for us to be willing to wait on the Lord, to believe His promises and to be obedient.  


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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