Significant Women

This week we begin a new series entitled ‘Significant Women’. Starting with Eve we will examine what the bible has to say about women who played a significant role in God’s plan of redemption. Some are well known, some are not. Some we know by name and others are anonymous; some are good some were not, but all had a part to play and together we will see what God has to say through them.

Eve

  1. All about Eve

Genesis 3:20

The name of Eve is inseparable from Adam and the creation story in Genesis. We know her as the first woman, she was also the first mother and wife and even dress maker but was never a daughter or sister. We don’t know old or where she was when she died though Jewish Legend is that she was buried in cave of Machpelah later secured by Abraham as a family burial place. W know from Genesis that she bore three sons that are named but other sons and daughters were born to Adam and presumably Eve (Genesis 5:4). Eve wasn’t the only name given to this first woman and there are two different accounts of her creation, just to confuse things. Despite all this she is undoubtedly the most significant woman who has ever lived.

The first account of Eve’s (as we will call her) creation is in Genesis 1:26,27. In this description we are told that God created man in his image, both male and female were created and they shared the title of the name ‘man’. This name in the original language is Adam and male and female were not distinguished from one another and shared the name. They were both created in his image and shared equal responsibility in caring for and managing God’s creation.

There is a Jewish legend drawn from the Babylonian Torah and is called the Alphabet of ben sirah that argues that Eve was the second woman to be created. Briefly it states that God first created a female known as Lilith who was entirely equal to Adam but felt she was treated as inferior. She rebelled and left Eden and while she was away God created a second woman to support Adam. This woman became Eve. There is not enough space to deal with this in more detail here but we will return to it in a future reading. For now we will treat it as a myth designed to explain why there seems to be two creation accounts and move on to Eve’s significance.

Genesis 2 provides the second account of Eve’s creation and at this time God instructed Adam to call her woman (Genesis 2:23) because she was taken out of man. In the story of creation we read that in every stage after God had had acted he declared that what he had made was good and after he created man, all of creation was very good (Chapter 1:31). However by the time we move to Chapter 2:18 God says that it was not good for man to live alone and so he decides to create woman. Most scholars belief this is a description of what happened in the account of man and woman being created in Genesis 1 and not something that occurred later.

God gives his explanation for the creation of woman. It was to provide companionship to Adam (it was not good for him to be alone) and to work with him in caring for creation. The word ‘helper’ is used in Genesis 2:18 to describe the woman’s role, many have understood this to mean that she had a lesser role, she was subordinate to Adam who was the boss, and she just did as he directed. The word in its original language is pronounced ezer and is used of God in Psalm 70:5: ‘But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help (ezer)and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay!’ So it is clearly not intended to mean that woman was inferior to man. It can also be translated as ‘complement’ not to suggest that man was somehow deficient, after all he was created in the image of God, but that together they would reflect God’s image in the manner in which the cared for his creation.

We have yet to get the passage where woman is named Eve and that occurs after the tragic events in the garden which we look at next time. What is important though is to note that woman was created in the image of God in every respect equal to man. God intended that man live in relationship with others and together with woman he and she are expected to care for God’s creation and show every aspect of his nature.  

  1. In what way do men and women reflect the character of God together?
  2. God said it was not good for man to live alone, why not?

Do you think that women are created as a little less important than men?

 

 

  1. The man and his wife
    Genesis 2:24,25Another term is introduced for this first woman, that is she is a ‘wife’. There is obviously no history to draw from to explain this word and it is the same Hebrew that is translated elsewhere as ‘woman’. The significant difference in Genesis 2:24,25 is that she was brought to the man to be united as one flesh (Verses 23,24) in what became the first act of marriage. This union is described as being indivisible and God creates in each of them a desire to hold on tightly (cleave) to one another.In some translations the word ‘cleave’ is used and the same word can to mean cut apart at other times, which can be confusing! Here it is used to put the new relationship of a husband and wife in the context of the husband’s (and wife’s) relationship with their parents. They must leave one in order to cleave to the other! This new relationship of marriage is the most important, historically the definition of marriage was understood as the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others for life. The husband’s first responsibility was to care for, protect, pursue and cling to his wife. It will not be long before Adam fails in this task.Both Adam and his wife were completely innocent at this stage. While the possibility of rebellion against God existed, it had not happened. Sin had not entered the world and therefore was no consciousness of evil, guilt or shame. This is summed up in the statement that they ‘were both naked and were not ashamed.’ There was no embarrassment, they knew nothing else. The also had no one to compare themselves with and so as far as they were concerned, whatever shape they were in was just as it should be, perfect.God had imposed one restriction on Adam, they he was not to eat of tree of knowledge of good and evil, and if he did he would die. Some scholars believe that this instruction was given some time before the creation of Eve and that he had already begun his work of naming all the animals and it was only after completing that task that the woman was created. Most, however think that both Adam and his wife were included in the warning.At some point, which may have been very soon after Adam and his wife were joined together or sometime later a serpent appeared and began to speak to Adam’s wife. There would be no reason for her to suspect anything, she was entirely innocent and naïve. There is no explanation of why a serpent would be able to speak or whether this was unusual either, but this one was craftier than all the other animals. He began to question Eve and challenge her understanding of what God had said. He accused God of misleading her and asked her to repeat exactly the instructions she and Adam were given. She did this but added an extra, she said God had told them that they could not even touch the tree while in fact he did not do that. She also described it as the tree in the middle of the garden while God had said it was tree of knowledge of good and evil.

    Eve gave into the temptation that was presented to her and encouraged Adam to do the same, which he did. Adam was with her and failed in his primary responsibility of caring for and protecting his wife. There is no suggestion that he tried to dissuade her or prevent her from taking the fruit. Instead he may even have been waiting to see what would happen next and when there was no obvious ill effects he was quick to join in. The basis of the temptation was not the attractiveness of the fruit, but that Adam and his wife could become like God and decode for themselves what was right or wrong. Immediately they gave into the temptation sin entrd the world and they were ashamed.

  1. What do you think an ‘indivisible union’ means?
  2. What do you think are the most important responsibilities of a man toward his wife?
  3. What are wife’s responsibilities to her husband?

 

  1. The Mother of all living
    Genesis3:8-24Once Adam and his wife realized they were naked and were ashamed they tried to hide themselves by sewing together some fig leaves. It seems like it was God’s custom to visit them in the cool of the day, whether he was visible to them or just made his presence known is not stated but they heard him and recognized who it was. Still ashamed they hid behind the trees hoping that God would not notice them. But he called out to them and asked where they were.When God asks a question, it is not because he is looking for information. Nothing is hidden from him, he knows all things – he is asking Adam to admit to what he has done. Adam betrayed himself by stating he was naked; he could only know that if he had eaten of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and God challenged him to confess that he had. Instead of just asking God’s forgiveness and mercy by acknowledging his fault he immediately blamed his wife. Rather than protect her he tried to make her responsible for his own failing. In fact he went a step further and blamed God. If God hadn’t given this woman to him none of this would have happened! God didn’t argue with Adam but turned to the woman and asked what she had done. She in turn tried to avoid responsibility and blamed the serpent.There was no defense and no justification, all three parties were guilty and all would suffer the consequences of their actions. First of all the serpent was condemned to live in the dust and be at war with the woman and all of her offspring. Even in this judgement God reveals that he has not abandoned the woman and it is through her that the final judgment on the serpent would come. In the very of act of executing the sentence on humanity God reveals his plan to redeem itThe woman receives a two fold judgement. In the first place she would experience increased pain in child birth. Since she had not yet given birth she would have had no idea what this meant, but she knew she was going to have children. God had not abandoned her, God’s decree that she and her husband multiply and fill the land had not been removed. God would still be with her and help her. Later in Chapter 4:1 She names her first son Cain, declaring that she had him with the help of the Lord. The second judgement had to do with the relationship between her and her husband. Where once they were to act in harmony, cooperating and supporting each other now there would be competition and disunion. Some translations state that verse 16 reads “your desire will be for your husband” while others put it that ‘’your desire will be contrary or against your husband’’. As this is a judgment or curse it must have a negative effect. The word ‘’desire’’ appears three times in the bible, once here, again in Genesis 4:7 when Cain is told that sin was crouching like a lion because its desire was contrary to him. The third time is in the Song of Solomon when it speaks of sexual desire which is a legitimate expectation in marriage (7:10). It is most likely that what is intended is that the cooperative relationship that should typify marriage would be broken. Wives would seek to control or make choices independently of their husband and he would try to impose his authority, to dominate and force his wife into submissionAdam was condemned to a life of toil, where once food would be plentiful, and labour enjoyable, now it become a burden. The seeds of decay had been sown. From the moment sin entered the world so did death. It wasn’t immediate but it was inevitable. God’s plan of redemption is to bring healing to all of these relationships, to restore marriage to his original plan that ‘creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.’ (Romans 8:21)

    On hearing this Adam named his wife Eve because she was the mother of all living. And then God hid their shame by making for them clothes from sacrificed animals.

  1. If God were to ask you were you are, how would you answer?
  2. When Adam and Eve were caught out they tried to avoid responsibility, how easy is it to do that?
  3. God plans to restore marriages to the biblical ideal, how do you see that reflected in your life if you are married, or in broader society?

 

  1. What about Lilith?
    Genesis 1:26-28There are number of myths associated with Lilith who, in some Jewish writing, is presented as the first wife of Adam. The most well known account of her creation and life is found in the Alphabet of ben sirah written sometime between 700 and 1000 A.D. It is sometimes used to explain what seems to be two different accounts of the creation of the first woman in chapters one and two of Genesis. Much of the ‘alphabet’ account is graphic and only suitable for adult readers and so will only be touched on here!According to the most popular account Adam and Lilith were created at the same time equal in every way with the shared responsibility for subduing the world and managing it. Adam however insisted that he had authority over Lilith and she had to serve him. This was reflected in their most intimate relationships: ‘They quarreled immediately. She said: “I will not lie below you.” He said, “I will not lie below you, but above you. For you are fit to be below me and I above you.” (Alphabet of Ben Sira 23a-b). Lilith would not accept Adam’s dominance and left Eden to live in the wilderness near the Red Sea where according to Jewish legend she became a demon. Adam complained to God that Lilith had left him so God created another woman who was named Eve.God sent three angels after Lilith to bring her back but she refused claiming: ‘’I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.” She is attributed to be the cause of child deaths, abortion and other sickness. Children could be protected if they wore a bracelet with the names of the angels inscribed on it. Lilith is also said to have had relations with other demons which produced demonic offspring and to assault males while they were sleeping alone and producing offspring through them.

    Lilith did return to Eden where she saw Adam and Eve embracing and was filled with jealousy. She then took on the form of a serpent and approached Eve with the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit which ultimately caused sin to enter humanity. This myth, and others with some similarities seem like fantasy and yet in recent times it or at least the character of Lilith has been adopted by sections of the feminist movement. There is a Lilith Fair and the magazine ‘Lilith’ was inspired by Lilith’s fight for equality with Adam. In that magazine Avina Zuckoff writes: ‘Not only does Lilith immediately recognize tyranny for what it is, but she immediately resists it, too. Nowhere do we see her complain (as Adam does); she states her case and takes risks for her dignity. She is courageous and decisive, willing to accept the consequences of her action. Her strength of character and commitment to self is inspiring.’ To these women Lilith is seen as heroic and a champion of the cause of equal rights. Of course that does require ignoring the unsavoury aspects of the myth.

    The Genesis account ascribes equality to men and women without the need to resort to the level of fantasy familiar to ancient pagan cultures. In the first statement of their creation it is clear that equal responsibility was given to man and woman to manage and care for God’s world and to reflect his character in their union together. Paul writes to the Galatians: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28). While he writes to the Christians at Ephesus about relationships in marriage he prefaces his comments with: ‘submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ’ (Ephesians 5:21) and he says this in the context of being filled with the Holy Spirit. While within marriage husband and wife may undertake different roles and responsibilities they do this from the place of equality and unity. There is no place for a domineering attitude or enforced submission to either party.

    Lilith is not a representation of an ideal that women can identify with as an independent woman who challenges the oppressive system in which she is placed. She is a myth. The ideal is presented for us in the pages of the bible and while the nearest we may find to an ideal is in Proverbs 31.  The reality is that all of creation, including men and women are flawed and their example will always be short of the ideal.

  1. Why do you think people find it necessary to create mythical a figure like Lilith?
  2. How should equality between man and woman be demonstrated?
  3. What do you think about women’s groups adopting the name Lilith to promote themselves?

 

  1. The Temptation of Eve
    Genesis 3:1-6We are familiar with the temptation of Eve, how a serpent spoke to her and encouraged to do the one thing God had told she and Adam not to. Like many of the stories in the bible this one doesn’t provide all the details and can lead to speculation or guesswork about how it all happened.It is curious that Eve doesn’t comment on the fact that a serpent spoke to her – was this usual? We don’t even know what language was spoken and how they learned it. Because we usually read these stories in a language and culture that is familiar to us we often project our own experiences on to the text. For example, as I come from a predominantly white and western culture where English is my spoken language, I imagine they are speaking in that language. It is said that Adam and Eve were both very beautiful and so I assume that they will look like what I think beautiful people should be. Of course as there were no other human beings there was nothing to compare their beauty with so whatever their appearance they were beautiful because they were made in the image of God and there was no sin or decay to spoil there appearance.

    Were the words spoken by the serpent said out aloud? When Satan tempts me, it is nearly always through a conversation in my mind and not something that is heard by others. Could this be the case with Eve and would it explain why Adam stood around doing nothing? As suggested above this is entirely guesswork, but there seems no reason and no audience for the words of Satan through the serpent, to be audible. Whatever the case, either mentally or out aloud the serpent engaged Eve in a debate. John Owen the Puritan scholar and preacher makes the point that all of us will be tempted and we cannot avoid it, but what we must not do is enter into it. Jesus told his disciples in the Lord’s prayer to ask they are not led into temptation. He was tempted, but he never entered into it. It has been said that you cannot stop a seagull flying over your head, but you can stop it making a nest in your hair, this makes the same point in a different way.

    The problem for Eve was not that she was tempted, but that she entered into it. Instead of walking away, or exercising the authority she had been given over creation and dismissing the serpent, or maybe even enlist the support of Adam, she entered into a discussion with Satan. Eve started to weigh up the benefits of eating the fruit compared with the possible negative results. In verse six we are given the three things that Eve considered: It was good for food, it looked good and it would make her wise. Story books usually describe the fruit as an apple, again reflecting the culture of those who write them. If these books were written elsewhere they may have suggested a banana, a lychee or even durian though most likely a pomegranate! It doesn’t matter what type of fruit it was only that God had told these first humans not to eat it.

    Eve had never encountered death or decay and perhaps she did not understand the enormity of what that would mean. Whether she did or did not know she listened to the serpent when he told her that God clearly did not mean what he had said and having compared that with all the good things that would come from eating the fruit, she made her decision to eat it. The basis of Satan’s temptation was to make Eve doubt God and to become independent of him. Why should she obey God when she could make her own decisions, why limit her personal freedom when there were things she could enjoy. Not much has changed since then; Satan continues to tempt us to seek short term pleasure over eternal benefit, to be free to make our own choices rather than accept God’s guidance and direction and ultimate salvation.

    You will always be tempted, be careful not to enter those temptations.

  1. Do you find that you argue with yourself or debating whether or not you should do something?
  2. Are there temptations that you struggle not to enter into?
  3. What can you do to avoid entering these temptations?

 

  1. Leaving Eden
    Genesis 3:22-24Adam was expelled from the garden of Eden after disobeying God. Eve is not specifically mentioned but it sems she accompanied Adam, although there are some Jewish writers who think that she may have followed sometime later. We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were living in the garden before the encounter with the serpent, but it was all they knew. Now they had to leave.

    Eve and her husband had to leave the security of what they knew, and there was no going back. There is an unfinished sentence in verse 22. It is almost as if God had started to say something, but he didn’t even want to think about it, so he broke off and walked away. Immediately it seems he evicted Adam, and Eve went with him. Just to make sure Adam didn’t try to get back in God appointed Cherubim to guard the entrance. Cherubim is the plural form of Cherub which means there were more than one of them. Cherubs are often pictured as young chubby people, often with curly hair and wings. They appear on Christmas cards and at other times. In fact, the cherub was God’s warrior, Jewish scholar Nick Schaser calls them God’s bouncers. They are positioned alongside the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies to prevent unauthorized people from approaching the mercy seat and are said to have a frightening appearance.

    When Adam was questioned by God about his disobedience he put the blame on Eve, going further he said that really it was God that caused the problem because he gave Eve to him in the first place. There was no sense of repentance or seeking forgiveness, just an “It’s not my fault” statement. Not to be outdone Eve blamed the serpent. The entrance of sin had already begun to sew disunity in the relationship, neither was prepared to accept responsibility, and at least Adam blamed his partner. Having become aware of their failure and tried to hide their shame they had lost their innocence and each blamed the other.

    God intended that Adam and Eve live together in perfect harmony, complementing each other as they exercised dominion over all of His creation. Now they were avoiding responsibility and being thrown out of the garden. Once their work was an act of worship and fellowship with God, now it would be hard and arduous. Child bearing was intended to be a pleasant experience, now it was going to be painful and complicated. While they had always worked together as one, now they would be in competition for who was in control. Neither Eve nor Adam had any experience of life outside of the garden. All they knew was the peace, tranquillity and fruitfulness of Eden, not only would they have to leave behind this paradise, they would have to do it without the unity they had once shared.

    God’s plan of redemption is the restoration of all things and perhaps at the head of the list is the relationship between man and woman. Not everyone enters or stays in the state of marriage. Jesus himself was not married and is the perfect example of humanity. But for those who God does call into marriage his purpose is that together they are bound mystically into an indivisible union where there is no competition or blame shifting. Where each seeks the best interest of the other and recognizes the gifts and graces in each other. The couple will complement each other in completing the God given purposes he has established and be subject to another as they are led by the Holy Spirit. Marriage is the representation of how Christ relates to the church and it is where man and woman together make known the character of God. It is no surprise then that it is a primary target for satanic attack, just as it was in Eden. It should also be no surprise that Paul ends his comments about marriage and family with instructions to put on the whole armour of God as we face our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6).

  1. Have you had to leave the security of what you know? How important was it to be in unity?
  2. Does blame shifting go on in your relationships?
  3. Do you think your marriage is an object of spiritual attack?

 

  1. The first mother
    Genesis 4:1-2

    Eve and her husband, Adam left the garden and prepared for a life of hard work and uncertainty. We have no information about how they went about it, where they lived or what their domestic arrangements were, but at some time Eve became pregnant. This was not only her first child, this was the first child to ever be born, the first pregnancy. Unless God downloaded all the relevant information directly about reproduction and birth the only recourse they had was to observe the animals! How long did pregnancy last, what was birth like, what were they supposed to do and when should they do it? All Eve knew was that it was going to be painful.

    Most women are apprehensive about the birth of their first child, but usually they have the support of others who have gone through the experience, and trained people to help with the delivery. Not Eve she had Adam who knew as much or less than she did and of course God, but apart from that she was on her own. The whole process of conception to delivery is dealt with in about 12 words! There was no talk of ante natal classes or post natal depression, no epidurals or pain relief, no support from parents or friends. Eve was about to go through an experience that no one had ever gone through. She would need strength and faith beyond anything we can imagine.

    When the time came Eve delivered her first child who she named Cain, claiming that she had gained or acquired a man-child (or son) with the help of the Lord. What the nature of that help was is not stated, it may have been in providing the strength and comfort she needed or in more practical ways, but whatever it was God had not abandoned her. She was not left alone to face this traumatic experience, he was with her to help. Unless Abel was a twin, Eve was undeterred by her experience and conceived again. This time the baby that was conceived was called Abel. Genesis 5 records that after Adam was 130 years old he had another son who was named Seth and in the next 800 years he produced a number of other sons and daughters. Josephus the Jewish historian claims that Adam fathered 33 sons and 23 daughters and there have been a number of other guesses, but no one knows the exact number. It is assumed that Eve was the mother, but that is not stated and neither is the age at which she died.

    Eve was the first mother and with Adam one of the first parents. They had no one to guide them apart from God. When they reached adulthood both Cain and Abel had taken on farming activities. Cain looked after the land and produced crops while Abel kept animals. At some time they both decided to bring an offering to God, each from the result of their farming activities. Abel’s offering was accepted by God but for some reason Cain’s was not. It seems that the issue was with Cain’s attitude and God rebuked him, in a sense telling him he should do better and learn to exercise self control: ‘’If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Instead of accepting the rebuke Cain took his anger out on his brother and killed him. Cain was driven away from his family by God as punishment and in that one moment Eve the first mother grieved the death of one son and the exile of the other.

    Eve was the first mother of a rebellious child and tragically the first to lose one son to a violent death and the other thrown out of the house. We don’t know how she grieved or coped with the loss of both of her children only that a while later she produced another son through whom salvation would come. Eve was a woman of significant strength and faith. We know her as the person who rebelled against God and gave in to temptation. But she is the woman that God never abandoned, was still used to initiate God’s plan of redemption and to prepare the way for all those who have come after her.

  1. God never abandons his purpose for you, no matter how often we stumble – what do you think of that?
  2. How would you cope with the circumstances of life that Eve faced?
  3. Eve was the closest woman to God that ever lived and yet was mother to a rebellious child and gave into temptation. How can you draw comfort from this?

 

 

Sarah

  1. Sarah, a princess
    Genesis 12:1-6Sarah and her husband Abraham (named Sarai and Abram at the time but for sake of clarity we will stick with Sarah and Abraham) were a childless couple living in a place called Ur. It is not certain exactly where that was, but most scholars agree it was near the Euphrates River, perhaps in where southern Turkey is now. It was part of what is called the fertile crescent a rich and stable environment for agriculture. Abram was the third son of a wealthy family, his father and oldest brother had died and it seems he had responsibility for his nephew Lot, perhaps since his father, Abraham’s oldest brother had died. Sarah and Abraham were past middle age (at least in our times, maybe still young for then). Sarah was probably also from a prominent family because one of the meanings of her name is ‘princess’.

    There is no indication that Abraham’s father, Terah, and his family were worshippers of God but one day God spoke to Abraham. This event is recorded in Genesis 12:1. It is not said how God spoke, whether in a dream, a vision, directly to Abraham’s mind or in an audible voice, but Abraham heard him and understood that it was God who was speaking. The message Abraham heard was that he was to leave his home and his family and if he did God would bless him and make him the head of a great nation. There is no record of Abraham discussing this with Sarah, just that he gathered his things together and headed for the land of Canaan with all his possessions, Sarah and also his nephew Lot. Lot was a middle aged wealthy man by this time (Genesis 13:5,6) so there does not seem to be any reason to take him and it was also contrary to God’s instruction to Abraham to leave his family behind. It wasn’t long before they separated from one another.

    Hebrews chapter 11 remarks on Sarah’s great faith and the evidence of it begins in this event. She and Abraham were childless and yet were wealthy landowners and prominent citizens in their community. The land they farmed was fertile and productive and they were assured of a safe and certain future. Now this God, with whom it seems they had no previous contact somehow tells Abraham to leave everything behind and head to this desolate land. They probably didn’t know the language of the people where they were going or the cultural practices, they had no guarantee that they would succeed as farmers and sheep herders, assuming they even knew they were going to Canaan. The climate was unstable, the soil poor and the people unfriendly. All they had on which to base their decision to leave their home and security was a message given to Abraham. I imagine that Abraham did discuss this, and I suspect Sarah must have taken some convincing.

    If you are a husband or wife how would your partner react if you came home one day and said: “I have just heard from God and he told me to leave everything: family, home and business and just start travelling. He said he would tell me where to go on the way and that one day I would be really successful and famous”? The bible tells us that when Abraham went he was considered righteous because of his faith. No mention is made of the faithfulness and trust of Sarah and yet she went with him believing God and in expectation of the promises of God being fulfilled.

    Sarah had to leave everything she knew, and which made her safe and comfortable. Not much is recorded about Sarah’s own family. She was the daughter of Terah, Abraham’s father but not of his mother, this made her his half sister, a fact that Abraham later used to deceive Pharaoh. She was reportedly outstandingly beautiful even though at the time she and Abraham left their home she was 65 years old. This prominent, wealthy and beautiful member of the ruling class gave up everything to go with Abraham in response to God’s command. Sarah was a woman of great faith and of great courage.

  1. Sarah left everything to follow God, what would you struggle to leave?
  2. Has God ever spoken directly to you?
  3. Are you prepared for a great adventure if God invites you to follow him into uncertain places?

 

  1. Leaving Home
    Genesis 12:4-9

    Sarah and Abraham began their journey toward Canaan, which was a large place already inhabited by people who may not have welcomed the presence of these potential colonizers. Abraham, Sarah and Lot didn’t travel by themselves, they would have with them servants, workers and their families, herds of animals and all of their possessions. In chapter 14:14 we are told that Abraham had 318 trained fighting men who were born in his household. This was large community of people, and Abraham was its leader and Sarah the first lady (to use the American idea).

    They didn’t seem to have a particular destination in mind and travelled in stages. They arrived at Shechem where they set up camp. For the first time God appeared to Abraham and so he set up an altar there. God promised Abraham that the land he was on would be given to him and his children. There were two problems with this though: Abraham didn’t have any children and Canaanites were already living in the land. Evidently this didn’t deter Abraham though he took down his tent and he and his people headed into the hills and set up camp again. The place names that are given in the account in this chapter weren’t used for some time after this journey but were called by them when the story was first written.

    At this second camp Abraham built another altar and for the first time we read of him calling on the name of the Lord. There is still no indication that Sarah participated in this or any act of worship or that any conversation took place between the two of them about their destination. They didn’t stay in the hills very long and once again headed south. The area they headed toward was called the Negeb which means dry, and it was a harsh place. There were no maps in Sarah’s day and certainly no GPS! They may have received information from other travellers which prompted them to head to this barren area or they may have been checking out the land that God had promised to them. They had left the fertile area near the Euphrates River because God had promised them a land of their own. What they had seen so far may not have filled them with enthusiasm, but they continued south.

    They arrived in the Negeb and presumably once again set up camp. We need to remember this was not a camping holiday, a whole community of men, women and children together with their livestock and all of their possessions were involved. No doubt the servants were trained not to complain, but they must have been a little discontented with what was happening. It is not stated how long they were in the Negeb, but a famine struck.

    The dream Abraham had, which he shared with Sarah and used to convince her to leave her home for the unknown, suddenly must have looked like a mistake. Leaving luxury, influence and a position in society for a journey through a barren land to end in the desert facing a famine would have tested the most faithful of saints and neither Sarah nor Abraham fitted that description yet. What had seemed so attractive, so promising at first now must have seemed an illusion. Sarah had faithfully followed her husband’s lead, trusted him and committed herself and her future to the message he had received from a god she didn’t even know. What now? Could she go home, would Abraham admit he was wrong or should she leave him. These are all speculation, we don’t know what conversations took place between Sarah and Abraham, but from what we later learn about her she doesn’t seem the type of person who would just meekly follow without making her opinion known! All we know for sure is that they packed up the camp and their belongings and left, not for home, but further away toward Egypt. They were leaving the promised land, couldn’t they trust God to keep them, did they need to take matters into their own hands?

  1. Have you ever started a something new with enthusiasm only to have things turn out to be disappointing?
  2. What happens when you convince others you have a great idea but it all seems to go wrong?
  3. When Abraham and Sarah left Canaan to go to Egypt did this show he didn’t trust God?