Babel and Abraham

These small group studies take us through almost twenty of the key events in the Old Testament. Our Old Testament Survey contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Old Testament Survey Lesson 4 – Babel and Abraham

Tower of Babel – Genesis 11:1-9

Outline:

  1. One language (1)

  2. One city (2-3)

  3. One tower (3)

  4. One rebellion (4)

  5. God’s response (5-9)

How can we describe the people living in Babel?

Where is Shinar?

What was the problem with building a city and a tower?

What was God’s response to their rebellion? (So the consequences of sin tore humans further apart by making it so difficult for them to communicate with each other)

Teaching Points

The people gathered at the city of Babel, which was in ancient Babylon. They were direct descendents of Noah and surely knew of God’s command to fill the earth. Yet they decided to disobey God’s command (again, one of His only commands) and congregate. The very purpose for the tower was to create a rallying spot for humans so that they would gather together and not fill the earth. The tower also implies some false and man-made religion since God had never asked humans to build such a tower. It was also a matter of pride, to “make a name for themselves”. It is also a picture of human’s efforts to build their own way to heaven.

God responded to their rebellion by confusing their languages. Here He established the parent languages of the world, from which all the thousands and dialects come today. He did this to force them to scatter across the world as He had commanded before. Since every intent of the hearts of man was evil, if many gathered together they would be more powerful to do more evil.

Abraham – Genesis 11-22

Outline

  1. Genesis 11:27-32

    1. Abraham was born in Ur.

    2. His name meant “exalted father”

    3. He and Sarah had no child.

    4. They lived in Haran, where his father died.

  2. Genesis 12:1-3 (Covenant Passage)

    1. The command: leave your country to a country unknown (1)

    2. The promises (2-3)

      1. To make a great nation out of him

      2. To bless him and establish a close relationship with him

      3. To bless the earth through him (the eventual coming of the Messiah)

  3. Genesis 12:4-7

    1. Abraham’s response: obedience (4-6)

    2. God’s unconditional promise (7)

  4. Genesis 13:14-17

    1. Promise to Abram (14-17)

  5. Genesis 15:3-6, 9-10, 18

    1. God promises a son (4-5)

    2. Abram believed Him (6)

    3. Abram’s sacrifice (9-10)

    4. Covenant reaffirmed (18)

  6. Genesis 16:1-4, 11-12

    1. Abram’s and Sarai’s unrighteous plan to help God. (1-4)

    2. The long lasting negative results (11-12)

  7. Genesis 17:1-8, 15-22

    1. Reaffirmation of the covenant (1-8)

    2. Sign of the covenant: circumcision (9-14, 23-27)

    3. Rejection of Abram and Sarah’s plan to help Him (15-22)

  8. Genesis 18:10-15

    1. The promise: a son (10)

    2. The “difficulty” (11)

    3. Sarah’s unbelief (12)

    4. God’s response: “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (13-14)

  9. Genesis 21:1-7, Genesis 22:1-14

    1. Birth of Isaac (21:1-7)

      1. God did as promised

      2. Sarah now laughed for joy

      3. Humanly impossible

    1. Sacrifice of Isaac (22:1-14)

      1. The command of God: test of faith (2)

      2. Abraham’s obedience (3-7)

      3. His confidence in God’s provision (8-10)

      4. God does provide (11-14)

What command/commands did God give to Abraham in chapter 12?

Why was this such an important command?

What blessings did God promise to Abraham?

Were these promises unconditional or conditional at this period in time?

What was impressive about Abraham’s response to God’s command in chapter 12?

Here was God’s promise conditional or unconditional?

What event happened right before God again promised the land to Abraham in 13:14-17?

Is there any significance in this? (I believe it shows God was pleased with Abraham. While we cannot earn salvation God does reward faith and blesses obedience.)

How did Abraham respond to this? What does this show us about his character? (He did the same thing, building an alter to the Lord, several times after he moved to a new place or God appeared to him.)

What is so significant about God’s promise to give Abraham a son? Why was it important that it wouldn’t be through Eleazer, or later Ishmael, that Abraham was to have a son?

What is significant about the phrase that Abram believed and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?

What was the root of Abram’s and Sarah’s plan for Abram to have a child through Hagar?

How did God respond to their plans?

Did Abraham express doubt or faith in God’s promise again that he would have a son through Sarah?

What can we learn from the fact that God rejected Abram’s and Sarah’s plan? Does this teach us anything about God?

Teaching Points

  1. Genesis is a book that starts with the broad picture and then progressively narrows the field to discuss what God considers to be more important. First the generations of Shem, Ham, and Japheth are mentioned. Then God narrows the field to discuss Terah, and more specifically, Abraham and his family.

  2. This is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. Humans were deep in sin and separated from God. They tried to work their own way to God (Babel), but failed completely. So God “takes matters into His own hands” so to speak. He divinely chooses Abraham and decides to have a special covenant relationship with Abraham and his descendents. Abraham and the nation of Israel showed themselves unfaithful many times (especially his descendents) yet God continued to fulfill His promises to them. It was not based on their goodness. Even here where God extends this call to Abraham was not the first time and Abraham was slow to obey it. It first came to him in Ur (Acts 7:1-4). God did not choose Abraham because of his goodness. Abraham had faith in God and obeyed him because God had chosen him first. Here God extends a huge command to Abraham. He requires much of His followers. Abraham was to leave his country, his fathers house, and his family and embark on a “life of pilgrimage” (commentary) see Hebrews 11:9. God also extends His covenant to Abraham. It includes land, becoming a great nation, having a great name, becoming a channel of blessing to the world (the eventual coming of the Messiah. See 13:14-17, 15:4-6, 17:10-14, and 22:15-18 for renewal and enlargement of the covenant. Include points here on the nature and significance of covenants at that time.

  3. Abraham shows his great faith (that puts him a spot in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11) by obeying God. He didn’t know the new land. It wasn’t a technological age. It wasn’t a fast or easy move. You think our move was hard?? Abraham was going from the known to the unknown, but one thing he did know, is that God was with him. God here unconditionally promises to give the land to Abraham’s descendents. This was a promise that wasn’t fulfilled during Abraham’s lifetime, but that God never forgot and did fulfill. Abraham offered a sacrifice to worship and respect God.

  4. God again unconditionally promises to give Abraham all that land which he saw and to increase his descendents like the dust of the earth. We cannot earn our salvation, but God does bless obedience. Abraham had just shown himself very unselfish and generous to Lot by letting him choose the land first.

  5. What God promised in the long-term He made a way for in the short-term. He had promised to make a great nation of Abram. This would have been difficult to do if Abram never had a son. It’s almost as if Abram prods God and says, “You promised to make of my descendents a great nation, but I still have offspring.” Yet even though God’s promises sometimes look distant or impossible to fulfill He always has a perfect plan. Here He showed it by promising a miracle to Abraham; he would have a son in his old age. God does not forget His promises or His people! Abraham again showed his great faith by believing the Lord. This was reckoned to him as righteousness. This is a very important phrase and one that Paul builds off of to prove that Abraham is the spiritual father of all who believe. It also shows that God’s plan for salvation has always been fundamentally the same: belief. Explain the symbolism of he sacrifice where God only symbolically passed through while Abraham watched. “According to the ancient Eastern manner of making a covenant, both the contracting parties passed through the divided pieces of the slain animals, thus symbolically attesting that they pledged their very lives to the fulfillment of the engagement they made. Now in Genesis 5, God alone, whose presence was symbolized by the smoking furnace and lamp of fire, passed through the midst of the pieces of the slain animals, while Abram was simply a spectator of this wonderful exhibition of God’s free grace.”

  6. Sometimes we have faith for a while and it gives out. It seems that Sarai’s and Abram’s faith had given out as they waited for God to fulfill His promise for a long time. They needed to remember that God is not slow about keeping His promises; He just does so in His own perfect timetable. So they enacted their own plan to “help” God. Indeed Abram did have a son, Ishmael. But this did not solve the problem, it worsened it. Its consequences live ‘till this day. When we take matters into our hands and doubt God’s promises bad results will come. The lesson to learn here is faith and patience.

  7. God uses the name He always used with Abraham under this covenant, “God Almighty”. He commands Abraham to follow Him and be blameless, yet this isn’t the basis for establishing the covenant with him. God changes Abraham’s name. Names have a lot of meaning in the Bible and often when God changes somebody’s name it shows a new beginning or path in their life. Here it reinforces God’s promise. God establishes a physical sign of the covenant, circumcision. This was sign that set apart His people from others. We know the act itself could not earn salvation and that spiritual circumcision, of the heart, is what is really important. For them God commanded this outward expression of their faith in Him. He also rejected their plan and Ishmael as the recipient of His covenant. God chooses those whom He will extend His promises and blessings too. We don’t.

  8. God once again reaffirms His promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son. This time He says it is imminent and will happen within a year. God NEVER FORGETS HIS PROMISES. If He says He will do something it is as certain as done. Nothing is too difficult. No miracle is too big. Sarah, however, was thinking in human terms and not considering the supernatural. We need to remember that God is not a human God.

  9. God did as He said. No one in the world would have thought Sarah could have a child, but she did. This time she was laughing for joy. God’s plan will bring joy and happiness. It is ironic that she was laughing out of doubt before, and now out of joy. Some years later, when Isaac was probably over twenty, God gave him a startling command. He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (2,12,16). This would have seemed very irrational, since Abraham knew what kind of God was and since sacrificing Isaac would have in effect ended the covenant. Yet Abraham showed his great faith. He didn’t delay at all, but rose up early in the morning to obey God. This is the kind of obedience God wants, quick obedience. Abraham had confidence in God’s character. He knew God so he didn’t doubt obeying God. When God tells us to do something we need to do it immediately without doubting, because we know what kind of God He is (yet He doesn’t work in the same exact way now that He did then). Abraham displayed faith and believed (see Hebrews 11) that God would raise Isaac up from the dead (or provide another sacrifice in his place). He showed this by telling those who went with him that he AND the lad would be coming back. He continued to show faith by telling Isaac that God would provide for the burnt offering. Here the idea of substitutionary atonement is introduced (Christ would be the ultimate fulfillment).

Main Points-

    1. Humans were separated from God with no hope. He took the initiative with Abraham to bridge the gap.

    2. God is immutable. He doesn’t change with the times or depending on the circumstances. He made eternal promises to Abraham and his descendents and those promises are still in effect today. We can be confident that God will fulfill His promises to us.

    3. God greatly rewards obedience and honors those who follow Him.

    4. God does things His way and on His timetable.

    5. God is also willing to make a covenant with us, a new covenant. This is a covenant of grace. We only need to believe, but He does expect us to give up everything we have to follow Him.

God’s covenant has several interesting facets. A command, promises, a sacrifice, and a sign. This is quite similar to the covenant with Noah, which featured the same aspects.

Old Testament Survey #5 – Call of Moses

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