Bible Reading Notes—Step 3: Week 4

Sunday – Genesis 11

The people building the tower at Babel were self-centred, wanting to make a name for themselves rather than seeking to glorify God’s name, and acting contrary to God’s instruction to Noah in chapter 9 verse 1 to ‘fill the earth’. The name Babel is the same in the original Hebrew language as the name Babylon. Babel/Babylon comes often in the Bible; in particular it was the Babylonians who eventually brought the kingdom of Israel to an end, destroying Jerusalem and taking the Jews into captivity. Many of the mentions of Babylon refer to the same type of false thinking that we see here in Genesis 11 – see for example Daniel 4:30-33, Isaiah 14:4,13,14,22. This pattern continues right through to the book of Revelation, where Babylon again symbolises those who seek to exalt themselves against God and true religion (see for example Rev. 18:5; 17:5,6,18; 18:2,18-21). There is a clear warning here for us that we should not follow this type of false thinking – see Revelation 18:4, Isaiah 48:20.

Monday – Genesis 12

In sharp contrast to the thinking of Babel, here we are introduced to Abram, later called Abraham, who at God’s call was prepared to leave one of the great cities of that age to become a nomad in a land God would show him. This is held out to us in Hebrews 11:8 as a great example of the faith that we too should have. The promises that God made to Abraham we will see developed over the rest of the book of Genesis, and after that throughout the Bible message. Verse 3 of this chapter is quoted in Galatians 3:8 as the gospel message being preached to Abraham, that a blessing should ultimately come upon the Gentiles: ‘all the families of the earth’.

Tuesday – Genesis 13

Abram again shows his faith in God’s promises in that he is not interested in the apparent wealth of the land of Sodom and the Jordan plain, but is prepared to let Lot live there. In this chapter God again repeats the promises he made to Abram in chapter 12 (12:2-3, 7; 13:14-17). It is especially worth noting one particular word that will keep coming up in these chapters – the word ‘seed’ (translated ‘descendants’ in some versions, although it is actually a singular word not a plural – see Galatians 3:16 for a particularly helpful New Testament comment about this word).

Wednesday – Genesis 14

Abram is called a Hebrew in verse 13, the first use of this term in the Bible. It comes from a word meaning someone who has ‘passed over’, probably relating to the fact that Abram had come from over the Euphrates and even after living in Canaan for a long time he was still thought of, by others and by himself, as a stranger (Hebrews 11:9,10). His lack of interest in worldly wealth is again illustrated by his refusal to accept riches from the king of Sodom.

Melchizedek, the king of Salem to whom Abram gives a tenth of all his goods, is also mentioned in Psalm 110:4 and in some detail in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 5:6-11, 6:20, 7:1-22). His name means ‘king of righteousness’, and he is described as both a king (of Salem, Jerusalem) and as a priest. Jesus is said in Hebrews to fulfil the prophecy of another priest who will come ‘after the order of Melchizedek’, and who would be even greater than Abraham, as shown by the fact that Abram gave the tithe to him.

Thursday – Genesis 15

God makes further promises to Abram in this chapter. In chapter 12 he had been promised a ‘seed’, and yet he still had no children. Now, when God promises that his seed will become as many as the starts of heaven, Abram believes what God says. This tremendous example of faith is held out as an example to us in the New Testament, see for example Romans 4:3, 20-24. We are told that Abram did not earn righteousness by anything that he did, but rather that God declared him as righteous on the basis that he believed God. In the same way, we too can have our faith counted for righteousness if we believe what God has said to us (Romans 4:23.24).

In the second part of this chapter there is a prophecy of the affliction that Abraham’s offspring would go through in the land of Egypt, before eventually coming back to Canaan. Even being part of God’s promises does not guarantee people a trouble-free life.

Friday – Genesis 17

Abram’s name is now changed to Abraham, father of many nations. The promise that he will have a seed is again repeated, and it is made clear that Sarah, Abraham’s barren wife is to be a mother even though she is ninety years old. God promises that the land of Canaan will be given to Abraham and his seed for ever, a promise that Abraham never received in his lifetime, but which is referred to countless times through the rest of the Bible (see for example Acts 7:5, Luke 1:55, 73 and Galatians 3:16 which identifies the seed as Jesus).

The covenant of circumcision was established in this chapter to be followed by Abraham and his descendants. In the New Testament Gentiles were not required to be circumcised (Acts 15:24. Gal. 5:6; 6:15), but are told they need to remove the fleshly way of thinking (Philippians 3:3, Colossians 2:11).

Saturday – Genesis 19

God brought punishment on the wicked people of Sodom, but delivered Lot and his family (see 2 Peter 2:6-10). Jesus makes a comparison between the days of Lot and the days before his second coming (Luke 17:28-30, 32). The description of Sodom in Ezekiel 16:49-50 includes not only sexual immorality, but also ‘pride, fullness of food, abundance of idleness’ and a lack of concern for the poor. God’s judgement of Sodom should cause us to question whether we recognise any of this in our own selves, and whether we might be too busy eating, drinking, buying and selling (Luke 17:28) to be ready for Christ’s coming.